Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Marrisa Joseph

When my work was commissioned by Palgrave Macmillan it was a touching moment. Much of my research is framed around understanding what the Macmillan brothers did back in the nineteenth century. Now I have become a Macmillan author, I feel like I have joined an illustrious club!

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What did you study at Queen Mary and what are you doing now? I studied for a PhD in Business and Management. Now I am a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship in the Henley Business School, University of Reading. I also graduated from Queen Mary with a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning.

How does it feel to be on the other side of the teaching spectrum now? Do your own experiences from your time as a student influence the kind of lecturer you are now? My experiences as a student have definitely shaped my approach to teaching. I think what I draw on most is how I was taught by various academics, from little things like the types of examples used in the classroom to ensuring that students feel supported throughout their studies by being approachable in and out of class. I remember that the academics who brought lots of energy and excitement to the class made them more enjoyable, so I always try and make my classes something that students definitely want to keep coming back for.

Why did you choose to study a PhD in Business and Management? What was it about this particular subject that sparked your interest? When I did my Masters I studied different aspects of management in the context of the publishing industry. For example, I learnt about editorial management, marketing management and rights management and I wanted to bring this knowledge to my PhD research. Business and Management as a subject is very diverse and interdisciplinary, therefore I was able incorporate my previous studies and to some extent work experience – as I used to work in the publishing industry – into my thesis.

Huge congratulations on having your monograph titled ‘Victorian Literary Businesses’ (based on your PhD thesis) published by Palgrave Macmillan. Can you summarise the main points of your monograph? The monograph explores how the business practices of publishers, authors and literary agents – referred to as literary businesses – developed in the Victorian era, analysing the formation of their business practices and how they influenced the development of the British publishing industry. It discusses how practices were pushed forward by influential individuals using a variety of mechanisms such as creating professional associations and networking at prestigious gentlemen’s clubs. Examining the period 1843-1900; the year the Macmillan publishing house was founded to the establishment of the Net Book Agreement, Victorian Literary Businesses discusses the role of creative businesses in society and the close relationship between culture and business. Developments in copyright law, gender and literary culture are analysed from a management perspective through the histories of some of publishing’s most influential businesses; including Macmillan, Routledge and Longman. Drawing on new institutional theory, the study traces how the practices of literary businesses were developed, reproduced and later legitimised, bringing to the foreground the formation and adoption of institutional processes in these organisations. Through an analysis of archival sources, Victorian Literary Businesses provides an insight into the decision-making processes and strategies that shaped an industry, many of which can still be seen today. For example, literary agents today especially when it comes to general titles are in a position of power acting as gatekeepers connecting authors and publishers. Yet before the twentieth century agents were on the fringe of the industry. One of the book chapters details how Victorian literary agent A P Watt used contract law to empower his business. The practices he used on his contracts in the 1880s have influenced publishing contracts today, with some clauses even having similar wording.  

How does it feel to have your work published by such an acclaimed and respected publishing company? Amazing! When the work was commissioned it was a touching moment. Much of my research is framed around understanding what the Macmillan brothers did back in the nineteenth century. Now I have become a Macmillan author, I feel like I have joined an illustrious club!

What inspired your PhD thesis and how did your ideas evolve throughout your writing process? The topic of my research was inspired by my time working in rights management for a Military History publisher. I became interested to find out how the job I was doing came about, so I decided to trace back where the business practices came from. The first chapter I wrote was about AP Watt and his literary agency which became my first published journal paper. As my thesis is based on archival sources, my ideas were framed around the nuances of information I would find. For example, I visited The Garrick, a members’ only club in London, to see if anyone of interest had a membership there. The archivist showed me a menu card signed by the Macmillans and famous literary figures including poet Matthew Arnold and author Henry James. This source sparked further exploration into the role of the gentlemen’s club in forming professional networks in the Victorian era. For this research I won an award for best International Paper in the Management History Division at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Furthermore, going through the progression process after the first year of my PhD was very helpful. One of the examiners really helped me to establish my theoretical framework and her feedback also helped me to determine my research questions.

What are some of your broader research interests? Stemming from my experience of working in the publishing industry, I am interested in Intellectual Property Management in the Creative Industries. When I was a student I was active in helping to improve the student experience by being a rep, so now as an academic I am also interested in ways in which universities can improve.

Your LinkedIn profile states that you have a history of working in the Higher Education sector. Would you recommend a career in the Higher Education sector to our graduates and current students? If so, why? Absolutely! I love working in the Higher Education sector and would recommend it to anyone who wants to make a difference through education. Teaching is definitely my passion and I have been fortunate to teach my interests and create new modules and teaching content which reflects this. It is a very dynamic activity and so fosters creativity and communication skills whilst allowing you to bring your personal touch to your career. It is very rewarding when you see the students you have taught at their graduation ceremony celebrating with their cap and gowns knowing that you helped them to get there.

Can you give an example of a new module or teaching content that you have created?  I co-convene an undergraduate module titled Management in Media Industries which I co-created with my colleague who does research about the film industry. We cover topics such as business strategy in media industries, the production and distribution of media content and the regulation of media organisations. I also recently designed a postgraduate module in Intellectual Property Management which explores how businesses make money from their intellectual property and how they can be exploited for entrepreneurial opportunities.

What advice would you give to our most recent graduates as they embark on their careers? I would advise graduates to be aware of opportunities within their jobs and potentially their professional network which provide development. Whether that be attending a networking breakfast on behalf of your employer or volunteering to give talks at a local school to children aspiring to be in your career. Experiences help to give knowledge, different perspectives and insights that may not be intrinsic to your daily tasks. These opportunities may benefit you in your career and beyond.

Can you describe what a typical working day looks like for you? No two days run the same way which I love! I usually start with checking my emails. As part of my academic role I am the School Director for Academic Tutoring which involves me strategically overseeing pastoral care for the students in the Business School; so I check to see if anything urgent has come in overnight. Once emails are answered I will usually have a quick run through teaching materials that I will be using that day, especially if I am teaching in the morning. If I am teaching later in the day then I will be working on my research in the morning which can include visits to archives or writing books/journal papers. I may have meetings with students in between classes or catch ups with other members staff who need support in regards to being Academic Tutors. Teaching is my favourite part of the day; no class is the same. The conversations and activities always have different dynamics so I am continuously learning and evolving as an educator.

Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary?  I choose Queen Mary as I was able to do a PhD about Management and Organisational History which I think is quite an interesting area of research. In my previous education I had studied about Literary History, and so this research area enabled me to bring my knowledge into a different discipline.

How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development? I have always wanted to teach and I was drawn to working in academia and the PhD qualification has enabled me to do this. In addition to the research I did for my thesis, having the opportunity to attend international conferences and meet other students and academics in my research area was invaluable to understanding different approaches to theory and methodology. Furthermore, I was a seminar tutor which allowed me to gain a wealth of experience in teaching. I also graduated from Queen Mary with a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning which was an important part of my professional development as an academic who wishes to focus on teaching. The certificate is accredited by Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy) therefore I was also awarded an Associate Fellow Membership of this professional body. I have since done further professional development and I am now a Fellow working towards Senior Fellowship.

Do you have any role models or influencers that you look up to? Michelle Obama. She was from a humble background who through her education went to one of the top Universities, became a lawyer and an admirable and strong voice internationally for women’s rights and education for young girls. I am so proud that I had the opportunity to watch her speak and briefly met her afterwards. As part of my archival research for my PhD I spent time at the University of North Carolina as this is where the business archives of AP Watt are held. The Obama administration was holding an election rally there to garner support for re-election. Being in the crowd and hearing Michelle Obama speak was a wonderful experience, she came over to us supporters to say a quick hello at the end of her talk.