Ben Suazo ’14, a business analyst at the educational publishing company Bloomsbury Academic Publishing, juggled majors in English and Global Studies while he was a student. Many English students are focused on the writing and editing aspects of publishing. Suazo, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa, found his niche working with data and interpreting industry trends.
N@H: What prompted your decision to major in English?
Ben: My decision to major in English was an act of rebellion. There were a number of headlines staring at me throughout high school, all of which questioned the value of a humanities degree. I remember seeing an op-ed in a Hartford (CT) newspaper around 2010, written by a college student in defense of her English degree. She declared that no matter the professional outcome she believed the degree would prove worthwhile.
One week later, the successful CEO of a local company responded to that piece. She stated she had started her career with an English degree and found her education to be very fruitful. What I loved about those two op-eds was reading what each graduate expected to get out of her degree. They made me realize that English leaves you with a very flexible path to the future.
N@H: You majored in English and Global Studies and came close to a Physics minor. How have those different areas helped you professionally?
Ben: I owe thanks to every one of my professors of English, who gave me the tools to think critically about the world and taught me how to communicate with clarity in an essay or an email. I use those skills at work, whether I am crafting an argument for a company stakeholder or explaining to a client that there was an issue with a book order. I am grateful, too, to each of my professors in Global Studies and Geography for showing me the world from different cultural frames of reference. Like many companies today, Bloomsbury is an international operation with offices in Sydney and New Delhi in addition to New York and London. It helps to have a wide frame of reference when dealing with issues like international copyright law or differences in language.
I never completed the requirements for a physics minor, but I enjoyed the challenge of the classes I did take. I have a bookcase back home that is full of pulp science fiction. The novels I read by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and others had a heavy influence on me. I always felt that science had a place in my English studies and vice versa. The great thing about being an analyst is that I am always tying the worlds of English, math, and science together into one big universe.
N@H: What are your responsibilities at Bloomsbury?
Ben: Previous to my role as a business analyst, I used to manage our sales relationships with a select few accounts, including Amazon and local bookstores scattered across the country. Now my responsibilities have to do with developing metrics for success and growth. Those metrics could be quantitative – measuring units of books sold or annual change in revenue – or they could be more qualitative – what are the company’s areas of strength? How can we apply those strengths in order to generate growth? I enjoy the daily challenges of being an analyst, which require me to be on the lookout for patterns behind the chaos of data.
N@H: Most people associate publishing with writing and editing. What can you tell English students about your part of the industry?
Ben: If any student is mulling over sales or wondering how to best contribute or break into the publishing world, I will say this: find and recognize your strengths. In my case, I enjoy working as an analyst, because so much of my role is driven by numbers and metrics. Interpreting data is just one form of discovering patterns, and in a way it’s like working on a puzzle.
I also enjoy working as part of a sales team, because I have acquired skills for relationship-building. A good salesperson needs strong interpersonal skills to recognize when and where you can make the most difference.
N@H: Do you have any other career aspirations?
Ben: For the present, I aspire to learn as much as I can about the publishing industry. After that, who knows? I am a lifelong learner. I want to be a better writer. But lately I have been doing more reading than writing, so I know I have some work to do.
N@H: What do you miss most about being a student?
Ben: What I liked best about being a student at Hofstra was the diversity of people I met in the residence halls and classes. I still keep in touch with many of my former classmates. I also miss learning in class and having scholars put challenging, new ideas into my head. So I read news articles every day with the goal of learning something new about the world. I watch videos and listen to podcasts. Eventually I may find myself back in the classroom. The world keeps changing, and so I jog to keep pace with it.