2010 Hall of Fame: Ken Brooks
Ask a sampling of your book industry peers, and you will find that most publishing careers do not begin with an engineering degree. Yet, that is precisely the path that led Ken Brooks, senior vice president, global production and manufacturing services, Cengage Learning, through 17 successful years in the industry and now to the distinction of being inducted into the Publishing Executive Hall of Fame, the nation's most prestigious honor in print production.
"Mine is a little bit of a different path than probably most folks [in the publishing industry]," says Brooks. "My background is as an engineer. I have a bachelor's and master's [degree] in industrial engineering."
Brooks' foray into book publishing came in the early 1990s, when he joined Bantam Doubleday Dell and took over the production department, after years of working as a consultant. The change was a positive one for Brooks, and he began a varied publishing career that has included positions with Simon & Schuster, Barnes & Noble (B&N) and now Cengage, as well as founding and operating his own digital content services company.
"It's more than just manufacturing widgets. … You're contributing to people's state of being," says Brooks about what appealed to him about a career in the book publishing industry. "It sounds kind of soft and ideological, but that's what gets me going. It's not just any old industry; it's a really important one. And then being able to pull in things that make people able to work more effectively and deliver more effectively—that's the other piece. … Those two things have really made it a fun career."
'A Serious Change Agent'
To become acquainted with Brooks and his career, you quickly learn that he is laser-focused on technology and the future. "He is a serious change agent … and he has the leadership ability to execute change," says Charles S. Siegel, who hired Brooks at Cengage Learning and most recently served as president of Cengage's Academic & Professional Group before his retirement. "Ken has a passionate curiosity about technology, and its use and application in production, content management and business/operations process."