Meri Pentik.

The ideas business and other interests


23 September 2016
by Meri

Why I’m doing an MBA

It’s the end of my third week at Imperial College Business School, where I’m doing an MBA. I can tell it’s going to be a lot of work – in some ways more work than my job at Little, Brown was, because the student timetable eats into my Me-Time quite a lot. So it’s important to know why I’m doing it. I’ve already self-diagnosed as a Questioner (see this post about Gretchen Rubin’s expectations framework), which means that when it comes to expectations I set for myself or others set for me, I can do it all as long as it’s clear to me why I should. Let this post be a reminder to myself…

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Imperial College

21 September 2016
by Meri

How to get a decent GMAT score in 10 days

I’m a brand-new MBA student at Imperial College Business School. To get in, most MBA schools require a good score in a gruelling test called the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). I too had to take this test, which measures all kinds of critical reasoning as well as verbal and quantitative information processing skills.

My problem was that I was a late applicant in an admissions process which normally takes a year. I had only ten days in which to prepare for the GMAT, and I managed a score of 620. The difference between my first practice test and the final test was pretty stark:

Total score Quant score Verbal score Quant % Verbal %
Practice test (estimated ranges) 370–470 6–18 37–39 0–6 83–89
Final test 620 32 44 24 98

Contrary to most of the advice I read online, it turns out you don’t need a minimum of three months, a private tutor or to be a maths savant. Here’s what I would say about preparing for the GMAT at short notice.

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19 September 2016
by Meri

Publishing and the five competitive forces

Michael E. Porter is a management writer and thinker, whose most famous essay is The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy. I finally read this essay a couple of weeks ago, and it was natural while reading to think about how the five forces relate to publishing. Here’s what I think. Continue Reading →

The view from my brother-in-law's summer house's veranda.

12 August 2016
by Meri

Slow living in Finland

At the start of this month I was in Finland, discovering new sides to my home country. I’ve lived abroad for nearly six years now, and I’ve found that different things about Finland have been more conspicuously absent than others, at different times. For example, to begin with, I missed foods I couldn’t get in the UK. Then I really felt the loss of ‘feeling native’. At various times I’ve lamented not having this or that in the UK, and there was even a phase where I started noticing all the things I can have in the UK, that I couldn’t have in Finland (a job?).

This trip was a little different. Continue Reading →

London Book Fair 2016

8 August 2016
by Meri

A SWOT analysis of publishing

If someone was considering (trade) publishing as a career, what might they take into account?

Note that some of these points are based on my best guesses, so if you’re here because you’ve got a job offer, do do your own research into a company as they might have very different policies and culture. I know all of this hasn’t always applied to the companies I’ve worked at. Continue Reading →


20 June 2016
by Meri

The cult of the editor

Most people who want to work in publishing dream of being an editor (I was one of them, too). In the minds of most people, editorship is wrapped in an aura of prestige, sophistication, importance and exclusivity. Editors are tastemakers, gatekeepers, discoverers and improvers of great literature, confidantes of authors and sometimes courageous revelators of truths.

Some of this has echoes in my job as a commissioning editor, but real work is more mundane: mostly project management and email! I’ve written about a typical ‘day in the life’ here. But the ideal and its associated expectations persist, and can affect how the whole publishing company operates, if not challenged. In fact, I think the Cult of the Editor is at work in most companies. Continue Reading →

Body language

17 June 2016
by Meri

Experiments in body language

The inspiration behind this post comes from observing my fiancé. I say this with love: he is someone with a natural sense of entitlement – and I don’t mean in the millennial sense. I mean that he seems to feel entitled to exist and occupy a space in the world, and not ask for permission nor forgiveness for it. You can see this in his body language – for example, the way he stamps his feet coming up the stairs, or the way he belly-laughs at funny things on the internet. When he’s around, you hear it first.

Contrast this with me. My natural instinct is to deflect attention. I’m inclined to walk lightly, close doors gently, speak at the lowest volume that will still allow people to hear me, automatically walk on the edge of the pavement in case somebody wants to pass by, and generally behave as if I’m trying to minimise the signs of my presence.

Lately I’ve become really aware of the ‘minimising’ behaviours and tried a number of experiments to ‘maximise’ my presence, instead, and let me tell you – it’s fun. These are some of my experiments: Continue Reading →

Making a profit

13 June 2016
by Meri

In defence of profit

I was recently at a lunch where the discussion turned to some subscription service that a few of the people had tried. They compared their favourable experiences and then one of them said the best thing about this service was that they didn’t make a profit – they just reinvest the money back into the business. Everyone around the table thought it was indeed the best part.

It upsets me that profit is such a dirty word in my circle of friends. I know it’s sort of hip now to profess to hate ‘greed’, but some people do it to an extent where it seems they think that any time somebody profits financially from something, it’s evil. But profit-making is actually one of the morally best things you can do, and more people should be trying to make a profit. Continue Reading →

American email

10 June 2016
by Meri

The rich world of email etiquette, and Americans

(This is a very silly post.)

I was always taught that you start work emails with ‘Dear X’, and that you may perhaps move to ‘Hi X’ if the other party does it first, as a gesture of the connection becoming slightly more intimate over time. Then, if you’re sending multiple emails a day, it’s okay to drop the greeting completely (and sometimes even dropping the sign-off at the end is fine). This is what most of the Britons I email with seem to do; they’re all in on The Rules.

However, I also communicate a lot with Americans over email, and I love the happy jumble of completely informal greetings many of them use. Continue Reading →