null In the Spotlight: Jakob William Bühlmann Quero


In this latest edition of our In the Spotlight series, we interview Jakob William Bühlmann Quero, Assistant Editor. Jakob tells Communications Assistant Josie Hough about the linguistic and cultural intricacies of his role and his realisation that books are the medium through which ideas become practice in society.

Josie Hough (JH): Jakob, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s always interesting to hear what our team does behind the scenes, and particularly this month with World Book & Copyright Day coming up, it’s great to learn more about the Publications and Library departments! So, tell me a little about yourself…

Jakob Bühlmann Quero (JBQ): Thank you for the opportunity! So, I was born in Catalonia, Spain, in the little town of Figueres, and spent all my life there until the age of 26. I did my Philosophy undergraduate degree at the University of Girona. Currently, I’m about to finish my Masters in Philosophy.

Shortly before finishing my first degree, I started an internship with Fundació Campus Arnau d'Escala, a private foundation that works in collaboration with the Catalan government. The foundation is focused, amongst other things, on providing training and fostering good practice for professionals in the social services sector.

There, I started to gain knowledge in the fields of human rights, training, and education - experience that would end up marking my career pathway. In fact, just before the end of the internship, I was offered a position at the foundation. This was a really interesting opportunity for me and also gave me the chance to work with a knowledge centre called DIXIT, which serves as a hub for books, learning, and knowledge, and aims to help professionals in social services and the third sector in general to develop their knowledge and strengthen their contacts and collaborations.

After three years working there, I decided I wanted to expand my career. As I had family links to Switzerland, and because Geneva is the place to go for third sector positions, I made the jump to move and try to find a job here.

JH: So you’ve been with now for around six months. How did you get to know the organisation and what has your experience been so far?

JBQ: Yes, I’ve been here since October 2021. I actually already knew of I had found it online one day when looking up organisations in Geneva. So, when I saw this job opportunity for Assistant Editor, and having worked in the fields of training and human rights, with the majority of my previous job having been editing and preparing texts, I applied for the position with high hopes. I was very interested in the work being done here, and it really seemed to be related to what I had been doing in my former work.

JH: What does your role entail?

JBQ: My role as Assistant Editor is twofold. First of all, we receive a text and make sure it is readable, and that it respects the structure and guidelines that we set for our publications. I edit the main parts to standardise the format and basically make it a readable piece of work. The second part of my work is making sure these texts make it to the market: exporting and sending them to the printers to print copies and disseminate them around the world. As an Open Access publisher, one of the objectives of Publications is producing and making knowledge impactful and accessible following our ethical guidelines. Included in that, is that our Publications are always free to read and grant presence to authors that would be neglected by large publishing houses, always preserving the highest academic standards.

JH: What would you say are the main challenges in your role?

JBQ: Working with major languages like French and English, you see that in every corner of the world there are linguistic differences. This is something we try to keep in mind when editing texts written by authors from around the world. You’ll find different vocabulary, use of words, phrases and structures in the same language between authors from different countries and regions. This is one of the main challenges because when you’re trying to standardise a text and make it accessible to all readers, you still want to preserve its original spirit and respect the culture from which it has been derived.

JH: Seems like a very interesting challenge to have!

JBQ: Definitely! Another challenge in the work we do here is that when we publish a book, we want to make it popular; make it a lively piece of work that will be read and downloaded. That’s where you need to work very precisely while editing to ensure there are no mistakes because this book is - hopefully - going to be read by tens of thousands of different people. You don’t want them spotting an error that you missed!

JH: Would you say this drive for precision and quality is something that motivates you in your role?

JBQ: I would say that my main motivation is that I am finally seeing the way ideas impact the world. As a Philosophy graduate with studies in history as well, I have always learnt about impactful ideas and wondered how theories have come to be concrete in society. I have discovered that it is books that impact society, they influence the worldwide stream of ideas, and being a part of this mechanism and process is fascinating. It’s like being backstage at a global concert - getting to know the musicians, or, in this case, the authors.

JH: Great analogy. So what has been your most impactful project or publication since working with

JBQ: The book that I have felt to be most impactful, that I felt was really something special, is Walking with the Earth. Not just because of its objective impact in terms of downloads and so on, but in a value-related sense. Walking with the Earth is a case where, strangely, “you CAN have your cake and eat it too”. You can have two good things: it both preaches and practices intercultural values and cultural dialogue.

When you read the book, you see not only the theoretical difference between cultural values, the building of bridges and fostering of public debate, but you also see it embodied in the book. Comparing the diverse theses presented in the publication, you actually see that the same ideas are repeated and echoed in different texts from completely different cultural contexts.

JH: So it highlights the common values we hold across cultures, without being planned as such?

JBQ: Exactly.

JH: This seems to be something reflected in itself… it’s such an international organisation and yet we’re all working together towards the same common goal.

JBQ: Agreed. Here, I have had the chance to meet people from all over the world. And I think what also sets us apart as an organisation is our focus on education as an asset. It is a very interesting and intelligent way of trying to impact the world. When you invest in training, in education, you are building conditions for an infinite set of things to happen.

JH: Of course, when you invest in education, you’re investing in people, ideas that are embedding in every area of society. I guess that answers my next question of why ethics in higher education matters so much!

JBQ: Exactly. One of the strongest ways of impacting society is to first impact individuals. If we break down societies, issues, and problems, we always find that the things to be solved involve actual people. So, if we impact these individuals, if we foster and improve ethical behaviour, we can easily start seeing change.

JH: I agree! So have you got more studies planned in the future?

JBQ: Well, I am actually also studying for a degree in International Relations. Shortly before moving to Geneva, I was wondering how I could improve my training for a career working with people and ideas. I saw this degree as a way to understand global trends and to better design impactful campaigns. The degree gives you a strong command of concepts that are important for finding solutions to the missions of foundations like Also, well, I chose to study Philosophy. So I’ve signed myself up for a lifetime of training and reading!

JH: You’re in the right place then! Jakob, thank you again for this enriching and enlightening conversation. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JBQ: Yes, actually, especially with it being World Book & Copyright Day… I would really like to highlight the impact of books again. For me, this was an important discovery. I’ve always worked with books and texts, but I never really understood the true impact of reading before. Now, I really believe that ideas make a concrete impact on societies through books.