Following our recent award announcement, we thought it only right for you to get to know this year’s Trailblazers. Up next is Ain-Deheb Bensenouci.
Ain is currently Partnerships and Events Manager at Penguin Random House, after joining the Penguin Connect team as Events Programme Manager in 2019. She is also the Founder and Co-Chair of the International Community at Penguin Random House UK. Before this role, she was at Oxford University Press, where she managed the UK & Ireland inside sales team at Epigeum. This position, together with her work as UK Chair of The Society of Young Publishers in 2018, earned her a nomination in The Bookseller Rising Stars list that same year. In her spare time, Ain is a career mentor, speaker and digital creator. She runs several platforms, including a website, YouTube channel, Instagram and a newsletter to demystify publishing and share career advice.
What did winning an LBF Trailblazer Award mean to you?
Winning the LBF Trailblazer Award is a big career highlight for me. It’s such a joy to be recognised by the industry for my work as an events manager and my passion for publishing. When I started my journey in the publishing industry as an immigrant with no contacts and no idea of where to start, I would have never imagined that I would be winning an award like this one day. Like many others in the industry, I grew up loving books, and I daydreamed about working in publishing since I was little, so this is a pinch-me moment.
As a Trailblazer, what impact has the recent changing world had on you, and how are you coping under the current climate?
It has been a challenging time, both personally and professionally. We are going through something that is changing the way we work, think and live. Personally, the biggest challenge has been to be away from my home country and my friends around the world. Not knowing when I will be able to see my loved ones safely isn’t easy, and I know many other international publishing professionals are struggling with this. Professionally, it was quite the year for anyone working in events. I am proud of how our team at Penguin Connect was able to pivot and thrive in the digital space. I work with brilliant colleagues who have been incredible at spotting opportunities and adapting swiftly to the different approaches required to produce virtual live events. It’s been intense, but if anything, it’s confirmed for me the fundamental role that live experiences, whether virtual or in-person, play in keeping us connected and inspired.
Tell us what you do in 20 words.
I connect professionals to the ideas and books that make a difference through live events with the most amazing authors!
What was your first job in the book industry?
My first paid job in the book industry was as a bookseller in Waterstones for the Christmas months. It was such a great experience, and I learnt so much from other booksellers. At the time, I was still working as a waiter to support myself financially, and I remember feeling so lucky I had somehow managed to get this job where I was immersed in books for hours.
What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out in publishing today?
Publishing is a competitive industry, and it can be challenging to find your path. Focus on what you love, and don’t be scared of chasing something that nobody has done before. You can build your journey and open up new opportunities for yourself and those who will come after you.
What was the last book you read, and where did you buy it from?
The last book that I read was Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I bought it at my local Waterstones on my first visit after the lockdown restrictions eased. It has been on my list for a while, and it felt like the right time to pick it up. We can all do with a bit of magic!
You’re stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you?
Untamed by Glennon Doyle, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
Has a book ever changed your life?
Yes, it was an Italian translation of The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner. It was sold as part of a magazine deal around the time that the movie with Will Smith came out. That book inspired me to give my dreams a chance, and it was the first story I read about someone who made it against all odds.
If you’ve been to a London Book Fair, what do you love about the fair? And, what piece of advice would you give first-timers?
I LOVE London Book Fair. I still remember the first time I attended as a student and then my very first fair with Penguin. It’s a unique and amazing opportunity to truly appreciate the breadth and scope of the publishing industry worldwide. The buzz and excitement of LBF is a yearly highlight for loads of us in the industry. In normal circumstances, I would advise wearing comfortable shoes and bringing lots of good snacks with you to keep your energy up during the long days. In this virtual world, I would recommend getting ready to network digitally and be prepared to take notes on all the industry trends and knowledge that will no doubt be shared.