Gayle Gossen holds a degree in Library Science from The University of Western Ontario and is currently a Sales Specialist for Dow Jones working to introduce a new division of Dow Jones in Canada and in nine states in the U.S. In doing so, Gayle coordinates with the market and product managers in order to understand how to best sell and implement the Dow Jones solutions. The bulk of her responsibility, however, is to find buyers for the product itself. In my dialogue with Ms. Gossen, I was fascinated to learn how someone can go from a having a degree in Library Sciences to penetrating a high profile, competitive job in the business field.
Question: How did you go from being an information professional to what you do now? Where did it all start: how did you get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’?
“My mother worked for Oakville Public Library,” says Gossen, “and she was very overprotective, so in the summer, when I was about 11 or 12, my mother wouldn’t let me stay home alone, so she told me that I would become a library volunteer. I became a page and did shelf reading anytime my mom was working.”
In the early 90’s, when Gossen graduated from university, with a degree in English Literature, she knew it would be difficult to find a job during the ongoing recession (sound familiar?) So, she did some asking around and decided Library Science seemed like something interesting to do. Upon completing the 12 month, full-time program at Western University, Gossen looked up every library in the Micromedia Directory of Libraries in Canada and “papered” every single library within a set geographic region with her resume, and was finally offered her first job at the Toronto Star where she worked for a year and a half as a news librarian.
Question: How did your information training and background prepare you for the job you now have?
“Good question,” Gossen says through a smile. Throughout school, she had become familiar with, “a plethora of information resources and databases,” and various product lines, which she says, made it very easy for her to come along and try to sell one of them: “I understand about the structure of information. I understand about licensing. I know who publishes what, whereas people who come in from outside, that I’ve trained – they don’t have that kind of background and they find it very challenging to just sell Dow Jones.” Gossen’s familiarity with the competition gives her an additional edge, as she has a firm grasp of respective strengths and weaknesses. Her previous experience as a librarian has also taught her about information-seeking behaviour and what is important for users to be able to access.
When asked about the current economic situation and possibility of pay cuts/loss of a job, Gossen kids, tongue in cheek, “You’re happy to get a pay cut, if you still have a job!”
Question: What advice would you give someone who is currently doing his or her Master in Information? What skills and experience should they be building up at this point, if they would like to work in this kind of field?
“Try to get exposed to as many things as you can, on a general level and not specialize in any one thing. Also, be open to learning.” Gossen believes that too many people think it is enough to, “do your job and go home”, but it was her “natural curiosity” that has kept her learning, updating her skills, and willing to confront new challenges as they present themselves. She also emphasized the importance of building up management and people skills, which can be done, she says, through job or volunteer experience, and also mentoring relationships within your desired field. Finally, she emphasizes the importance of not being afraid to take on additional, or different, work when you have the opportunity, as you may be recognized for it and find that you are good at it.
Question: What lessons did you learn early on in your career, and how do they still apply today?
“Definitely, be solution oriented, not problem oriented,” she says in reference to dealing with a problem with a coworker or in a particular job. Gossen asserts that it is far more impressive to an employer to be proactive, and come to them with, not only the problem but also some possible solutions. She says that it is very important to be open to new opportunities, as well. When Gossen was initially approached to work in sales, she turned down the opportunity: “I could’ve made a lot more money, a lot faster,” in recognizing that, “they see something in me that I don’t see or don’t want to see.”
Gayle Gossen remains very active in the Special Libraries Association where she “tirelessly,” works for information professionals. Although it is true she does not work for a traditional library, her sales career has not been that much different than becoming a reference librarian – what she originally wanted to do. “It’s funny,” says Gossen, “once I moved into a sales role people told me that I’m no longer an information professional, and I take offence to that.”
In her sales position, Gossen tells me that she still has question and answer dialogs, similar to a reference librarian, which maintains her sense of curiosity.
Gossen enjoys working from home and having a great deal of professional freedom and flexibility in what she does, but what she enjoys the most about her position is, “building something from scratch (there is a lot of reward in that), and saying, I did that. That exists because of me.”
-Interview by Stella Palikarova