In celebration of W. W. Norton & Company’s 100th year of publishing, we’re offering readers a behind the scenes glimpse into the bookmaking process—the people behind-the-books and the products we create! Through our “Behind the Book” blog series, discover who plays a role in creating a book, what daily life looks like at Norton, and what being part of an independent and employee-owned company means.
Jordan Mendez joined W. W. Norton, Inc., in 2011 as a regional manager in the South Central region. He started out managing six representatives, five in Texas and one in Oklahoma. After a couple years, he inherited the Louisiana and Alabama territories and added another representative in Texas with an expansion territory in Houston, bringing the region to nine territories. After several years of overseeing growth in the region, he was promoted to vice president and regional manager in 2018.
How did you end up at Norton, or what enticed you to apply?
I wanted to work for Norton since my publishing journey began in 2001 due to its reputation, but mainly from the good things I heard about Norton from my Austin College classmate Karl Bakeman. I had the good fortune of meeting Karl’s first manager at Norton, Lib Triplett, early in my career, and she and I kept in touch whenever we saw each other at our exhibit booths at the Texas Association of Community Colleges meetings. Years later, she kindly put me in touch with Mike Wright, who was looking for a Texas-based manager. We hit it off over biscuits and gravy at Schilo’s Deli in San Antonio, and I haven’t looked back since. I like to tell my colleagues that I wasn’t born at Norton, but I got here as quickly as I could.
What is your current role, and what part do you play in the book publishing process?
As a regional manager, my job is to hire, develop, and retain the best talent we can find to promote our books and courseware, and ultimately help them become the best consultative sales professionals possible. Thus, we work to guide our sales professionals toward their strengths and a career path where they can make the biggest impact for the firm and improve their own lives. We also collaborate across a number of departments to help our representatives and faculty clients be successful. Oftentimes that means working with editorial, marketing, and specialists on what strategies, messaging, and product demonstrations are working in the field. But we also collaborate with the good people at the National Book Company warehouse, our campus bookstore partners, the amazing customer success managers, our help desk, and others to make sure our books and courseware are being successfully sold, supported, and fully utilized by faculty and students.
For your current role, what’s your day-to-day look like?
My day-to-day varies depending on where we are in our sales season, but ideally, I am making sales calls on campus with my representatives, attending high-profile workshops and presentations, and supporting my representatives in winning new adoptions or competitive rollovers from the current edition to the new edition for our textbooks and media. During office days, I’m typically corresponding with faculty and bookstores and collaborating with colleagues across departments, typically through Teams or Salesforce. Managers will also pitch in on helping interview each other’s candidates, and at times candidates for other departments like Customer Success.
What skills do you need to succeed in this job? Did any previous work or life experience help you in your role?
The Regional Manager role is a bit of a calling. You have to believe in the mission of the company and effectively communicate and align those aims with the strengths and needs of our representatives. It’s challenging, but it is necessary to nurture both of those areas for everyone to succeed and grow. Patience, restraint, and a willingness to listen intently are some of the most important ingredients to be successful in the role. However, it is equally important to be firm but fair, candid, and decisive. It helps to come in with a strong set of soft and analytical skills and continually improve on them. Every manager has the opportunity to add something different to the table in order to make our collective team stronger. Some are more analytical, strategic and marketing oriented, or operational oriented. Ultimately, the ability to adapt to the constant changes on campus and in the market while zooming in and out on any given territory in the region will serve a manager, their team, and the company well.
Going back a bit, my role as a media and product specialist in my former life at another publisher taught me the importance of cross-departmental collaboration, strong presentation and demonstration skills, and the ability to listen to your clients with the intent to understand their needs before selling the benefits or telling the product story.
Outside of publishing, being a student athlete from elementary school all the way through college taught me the importance of discipline, camaraderie, and goal setting. More important, it instilled in me that my teammates and I need to do our best to positively represent the coach and the school or organization.
I have always looked up to coaches who help their athletes see their strengths, and don’t shy away from telling them where they need to improve. I have benefited from great coaches, managers like Mike Wright and now Dennis Fernandes, and personal mentors throughout my life. They are the reason I’ve made it to where I am, and they have shaped my own approach to coaching and management.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in publishing?
Be open to the possibilities in publishing as a career path and engage with your colleagues. It takes a large village to publish a successful book, so there are an abundance of job opportunities in editorial, marketing, sales, production, publicity, graphic design, and more. Plus, there will probably be new jobs created based on digital demand in areas of software development, UX, and accessibility. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that our contribution to society as book publishers makes a difference. It’s needed now more than ever.
Also, consider getting involved with your local community with regards to education and literacy. It can be as simple as supporting your local library, volunteering at an elementary school, setting up a book exchange, hosting a book club, or shopping at your local independent store.
Lastly, what do you like to do outside of work? Any fun hobbies or recent reads you would recommend?
Now that I have a teen boy and preteen boy, I try to spend as much time as possible showing up for them and helping my spouse with their schoolwork, but I mostly chauffeur them to school, soccer, kung fu, swim, ultimate frisbee, and summer camps. Outside of work and family, I try to stay in shape by swimming, playing tennis, and occasionally riding my road or mountain bike on the weekend.
I recently read Morgan Talty’s short story collection, Night of the Living Rez. It’s fantastic, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys short stories or Native American literature.