Interviews – Media – Sally Muggeridge

Sally Muggeridge is management development director for media giant Pearson plc, which own well-known brands, including Penguin books and the Financial Times. She is based at Pearson’s London headquarters, but makes regular visits to the US where the majority of the group’s 22,000 employees work

What is the importance of your role?
We recognize that in a media organization such as Pearson, people are our prime asset.
We seek to retain, develop and inspire our staff. If people are happy and fulfilled they won’t listen to headhunters – and will also produce their best work.

How exactly do you inspire staff on a day-to-day basis?
We have developed specific activities and programmes based on the needs we’ve identified for our people. The core of our 22,000 staff receive regular reviews to see what their skills and development needs are.

And our own Intranet site enables people to learn about topics which interest them or help them with particular training needs.

Senior management have regular programmes in which we update them on their skills and expertise relative to the industry, and changes within the industry. We also use academic input to improve their learning and management skills.

Further down the organization, we have programmes for our high potential people. We focus on them, track them and bring them together from time to time. My small team helps them update their skills and expertise, and keeps them aware about what’s happening within the organization.

How strong is Pearson’s culture across your different brands?
The culture is distinct in each of the businesses. We wouldn’t do anything to change that. However, we add to the value of Pearson by making sure people understand the broad spectrum of the organization and the opportunities that exist. You may be in Penguin books and be comfortable with your role there, but you also understand there is a broader organization that is there with you.

What does the company offer new graduates?
An organization like Pearson with strong brands and different and diverse businesses can provide numerous career opportunities for people.

Our graduate scheme brings in a small number of highly talented individuals each year. We move them around our different companies – television, publishing and journalism – to develop their skills and expertise. So any graduate joining one of our businesses may well, over a period of time, be developing themselves in our other businesses.

You may be in television, you may be in journalism, you may be in consumer or educational publishing – but the core set of skills you have are very much based around the creative talent you use in all sorts of media.

What are you looking for in potential employees?
They should be able to show commitment and enthusiasm to the media industry. They should possess leadership skills and evidence of organizational skills outside their academic study – perhaps by getting involved in a club or society.

Any tips on how candidates should conduct themselves at interview?
Be themselves. Show enthusiasm and be able to demonstrate their interests. Show in a relaxed way that they are interesting people who have done things and are excited by the media. People who communicate clearly and well.

What is Pearson’s management philosophy?
We’re a jargon-free organization. We try to be very creative in what we do. What most people are short of is time. That’s why we like to read management texts that are going to help people associate what they’re learning, with what they are actually doing. We don’t encourage people to spend time learning things they can’t apply to the workplace.

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