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I struggled as a creative at work — then I found Elsevier

19 May 2022

By Victoria Pearson Esser

Photo of Vicky Esser with monitor in background

I work at Elsevier because it’s a purpose-driven organization that values its people

We need talented people to help us inspire groundbreaking research.

I have always been creative. As a child, I would spend hours listening to my Walkman, drawing and redrawing people and cartoon characters until they were perfect. Once, I even used my mum’s baking paper to trace characters from Disney’s The Little Mermaid — on the TV screen!

Art was the subject I was always praised for and excelled at, which made me feel confident. Being creative was my way to cope with stressful situations, and even then, I knew this was going to serve me well when it mattered.

But I didn’t know just how much — or the challenges I would encounter that would put my creativity to the test.

Growing up in a sporty, creative, musical household, I was exposed to various cultural experiences and references through my life. By 16, I was swimming nationally, training on average 30 hours a week all whilst studying. I specifically remember a poster advertising a purple Speedoopens in new tab/window swimming costume in the gym. At the time, Fat Boy Slim’s “Right here, Right now” was playing on the radio. I thought, “I want to look like that, I want that costume.” I even drew it, albeit rather more elaborately perhaps.

I didn’t know then that I was being taken in by their branding, and to this day I’ll opt for Speedo swimwear over anything else.

I started to appreciate the power of branding. My favorite quote is by Marty Neumeieropens in new tab/window: “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s a gut feeling because we’re all emotional, intuitive beings.”

Ultimately, I would go on to use my interest in branding for a company whose mission I believed in.

But first, I pursued my education. I studied Sports Development and coaching at Northumbria Universityopens in new tab/window so I could continue my swimming training.

Then, during a short time travelling around the world, I took up photography. Wandering around Noosa, Australia, I fell upon a photographic gallery owned by the artist Peter Likopens in new tab/window. Once inside, you felt like you were walking into a rainforest, with faux trees, glass floors and light boxes that revealed the detail of his images. It was jaw droppingly good, and you just bought into his brand, even if you only could afford a key ring. It was there and then that I decided to go back to school and study my first love. After achieving high marks in Graphic Design and Illustration at De Montfort Universityopens in new tab/window, I got to curate and showcase my work at the prestigious Design & Art Direction (D&AD) Graduate Awards in London’s Billingsgate.

This was a good as it would get for a long time.

“I felt like my creativity and confidence were squashed …”

Over the next eight years, I worked for various companies and agencies in the Southeast of England.

It was a stressful time; my brother had recently been diagnosed with adult epilepsy. I had to drive 1.5 hours just to get to work, and the environment was fiercely competitive. At one point, I felt like my creativity and confidence were being squashed. I asked myself, “How did I end up like this?!”

I decided to look for companies with a more creative culture and a purpose I could relate to.

Finding purpose in a surprising place

That’s when my mum suggested Elsevier to me.

Publishing? Designing books wasn’t on my radar, but it was different, and Elsevier was a company with great employee reviews. So in 2014, I started work as a Book Designer with the Health Content Management team in Operations. It was the best decision for me, and I continue to thrive here.

I create covers, and my skills and ideas are helping to support the growing needs of the business. My role has developed, and I am now able to work on other brand-related creative projects.

Sample of book covers Victoria designed for Elsevier

A sample of book covers Victoria designed for Elsevier.

Elsevier has not only provided a professional, stable working environment, but my colleagues also helped me realize that personal development is very important. I am so privileged to be part of Elsevier’s Developing Talent for Gender Equity Program. There, I am receiving the guidance and support I have yearned for my whole professional career, and I am loving the opportunity. The program also allows me to form a mentoring connection with someone who is guiding me further in my career journey.Elsevier continues to teach me many things. I believe in a progressive world, a purposeful world and the empowering role of research. I believe in a healthy work-life balance. And what I love most about working at Elsevier is the culture of respect for each other. And I love being able to help, share and celebrate success. My parents had always advised me to always give my best, keep going and strive for better things. Working for Elsevier — where colleagues are passionate and where our work helps empower researchers and health professionals — is important to me. It’s easy to be passionate about our brand, and for the last seven years, I have found a home here working with fantastic colleagues.

Search for a career at Elsevier

Photo of Victoria Pearson Esser with some of Elsevier book covers she has designed
Photo of Victoria Pearson Esser with her GB team

Victoria with her team from Great Britain at a world championship triathlon event in Budapest.

Advocating for a brand I believe in

I’ve experienced a nurturing a culture that makes people want to be Employer Brand Ambassadors. So as a Senior Designer, it made perfect sense for me to become an ambassador, too. Becoming one has given me the opportunity to produce my own creative work, understand the brand better and develop my ability to work independently. It has helped me connect with more people, but more importantly, it makes me feel invested in the company and part of a broader team. It has also allowed me to take pride in my skills and work alongside others who are truly enthusiastic about the culture and opportunities here.

“Elsevier helped me get through this rocky time …”

Eventually, I fulfilled my dream of representing the Great Britain Age-Group team at a world championship triathlon event in Budapest. Then, in 2016, I took part in an event that meant even more to me: an Ironman distance triathlon to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UKopens in new tab/window.

At the time, my mum was bravely battling this cruel disease.

Witnessing my mum battle cancer twice, eventually succumbing to pancreatic cancer, I was heartbroken. Therefore, I vehemently believe in research and the ongoing drive to pursue cutting-edge treatments. Together, we can help unlock the power of research. Which is why I instinctively carried on designing book covers for our Health division and turned to the one thing that has always made me feel better: being creative.

Victoria Pearson Esser in ironman triathlon

When her mother was battling pancreatic cancer, Victoria Pearson Presser ran an Ironman Triathlon to raise money for pancreatic cancer research.

Elsevier helped me get through this rocky time by letting me work. I could at least feel like I was saving lives in some way, and I do think the Elsevier experience really does offer purposeful work.

I am now writing this for you. Grief softens but it never goes away. I suppose we learn to live with it, but I am also very blessed. I have my son and my loving, supportive husband, and I can pursue a career in a progressive, creative, passionate and rewarding way that at times is very personal to me.

Thank you for reading my story and thank you for sharing my creative journey. To paraphrase one of Elsevier’s slogans, we really can create possibilities.

Victoria Pearson Esser with her husband and son

Victoria with her husband and son.


Portrait photo of Victoria Pearson Esser


Victoria Pearson Esser

Senior Book Designer and Employer Brand Ambassador