It was a chain of blessings in disguise that led Indiana State University alumna Kelsey Darin, ’17, to the desk she now occupies as a product developer at McGraw-Hill Education’s Burr Ridge, Ill., office.
“When I was a sophomore, the Principles of Macroeconomics class that I had originally planned to take was cancelled a few days before classes started. The only one available that worked with my schedule was Bob Guell’s,” said Darin, who was a marketing major.
After completing the class, Guell asked Darin to serve as a supplemental instructor for one of his classes. Guell’s mentorship extended further when he asked her to assist with the eighth edition revision of his textbook.
“It’s crazy, because I may not have discovered my passion for product development had I not met Bob in that class and had he not given me the opportunity to help him. He saw potential in me,” said Darin, who was a junior at the time. “He instructed me to revise the graphs, figures and tables in his book by navigating to government websites to find new data and update the files appropriately.”
When summer rolled around and the text revisions were complete, McGraw-Hill Education reached out to Guell to help revise his text’s PowerPoint presentations, instructor’s manual and test banks. Guell tapped Darin for assistance yet again.
“I love formatting and I knew the book really well, so I happily agreed. During that time, I met my first contact at McGraw-Hill Education,” Darin said. “I became more involved in the communication process, which allowed me to stay in contact with other team members. McGraw-Hill Education also has a digital product, LearnSmart, which functions as an adaptive e-book. Bob and I collaborated to create the foundational pieces necessary to launch it.”
By the time the revision concluded in May 2017, Darin, of Port Byron, Ill., was preparing to graduate.
“I was contemplating a job offer, but I had developed a true passion for editorial work. I couldn’t walk away from my dream,” she said. “Bob was highly impressed with my contributions, so he introduced me to a couple of contacts. Meanwhile, I continued to pursue a position with McGraw-Hill Education, as well as with other publishers.
The Monday after graduation, Darin and Guell received a call from McGraw-Hill Education about the opportunity to work on another project together.
“The internal team asked me if I was interested in working on a new project, and I was ecstatic. Soon after, I also started contracting as a project manager with Agate Development in Evanston, Ill., a company that completes editorial work for educational publishers,” Darin said. “I freelanced until the fall, which gave me a platform to meet a lot of great contacts, including people I work with now, as well as develop my editorial skills. I performed a variety of tasks with McGraw-Hill Education for an upcoming digital-first product. With Agate, I was finalizing supplements, developing LearnSmart titles, managing schedules and collaborating with several subject-matter experts and product developers.”
In the fall, McGraw-Hill Education had a product developer position open, and Darin immediately applied. She started her full-time job with the company in October 2017, working with textbook authors and contributors to enhance and design products.
“Product development can mean a variety of things. Some days, I am reviewing pages or confirming layouts, and other days, I am discussing concepts with authors,” she said. “Recently, I developed market surveys to learn what instructors desire in a new edition or to discover features competitors offer that we don’t currently have in our titles. I’ve also been designing mini-simulations, which are educational games that help students reach content mastery by linking scenarios and decision-making points to learning objectives.
Darin couldn’t be more pleased with the unexpected turns that helped her earn her dream job.
“I feel incredibly lucky, because this is the job that I wanted more than anything else in the world. I was fixated on a dream and to actually accomplish it feels amazing,” she said. “This is exactly where I wanted to be, and here I am.”