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Your Oxford Story: Rob Dalby
25 January 2023
I was born and raised around Oxford – both sets of Grandparents spent their adult lives there and my parents grew up in the city– so the University and its Press have always been part of my hinterland. Indeed, my Great-Grandfather Albert was apprenticed and then worked at Oxford University Press (OUP) as a monotype operator in the years before the First World War. His father was landlord of a local pub which now forms part of the labyrinthine Great Clarendon Street office in Oxford. One of my grandmothers worked for Sir Basil Blackwell (a titanic figure in 20th Century Oxford-based publishing and bookselling) so you could say the Press is in my blood.
Books have always formed a big part of my life – as a teenager my bedroom consisted of piles of books with a bed somewhere in the middle of it, and I’m writing this next to a floor to ceiling wall of bookshelves in my study at home, not a few of them products of our Academic business (with our history list very well represented). I studied Law at University and then as a postgraduate but ultimately drifted into Procurement, and worked in several different industries including Media, Nuclear Medicine (the stories I could tell!), Retail, and FMCG, and it was nearly 20 years before my career path brought me to OUP.
I joined Oxford University Press in 2017 as Head of Procurement, subsequently taking on responsibility for our Manufacturing organisation in 2020 and Inventory Planning in late 2021. I lead a global team of operations professionals who manage the commercial engagements with the Press’ suppliers, and organise the planning and manufacture of the physical product which we offer to our customers – working with colleagues in sales and product teams to deliver the right amount of product at the right cost, to the right location, at the right time. There’s nothing like the look, feel, and even smell of a book, and even though the Press is an increasingly digital business, we still print approaching 100 million books per year in support of our mission. The sustainability implications of that are increasingly important to us, and we work closely with our suppliers to use certified papers wherever we can and to make sure that we minimise the carbon footprint of our production. Like most businesses, our supply chains have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruption which has followed it, but I’m proud of how the teams I lead and their colleagues throughout the Press have risen to those challenges to make sure we’ve kept books arriving in the hands of educators and learners around the world.
Oxford University Press is a very special organization – driven by our mission to advance knowledge and learning of all kinds - but its greatest strength is its people. I am proud to lead a truly global team of dedicated, professional and passionate people who put their heart and soul into delivering for our customers and partners.