The New Job
By mehera o'brien on September 14, 2010
A month ago I posted the five lessons I learned in five years at AKQA. And a lot of people wrote me to ask what I actually left to do. But I've been so busy settling in (and moving house!) that I haven't even had a chance to explain.
My new position is Director of Miami Ad School's new Brooklyn campus. <Legal note> we are not open as an official school at the moment and we accept no enrollment. We only function as a quarter away program within the existing, global Miami Ad School network. </Legal note>
As an industry acquaintance summed up when I told her my news – I was clearly looking for BIG CHANGE. I'd take it a step further and admit that I was actually looking for a full reboot. A total life redesign, in fact, of which the new job is only one part. I'm just shy of a month into it, and I'm still in deep culture shock, but it's all good. Sometimes, feeling uncomfortable is exactly what you need to know you're alive.
So this blog is supposed to be about career development and the winding paths we all take to various new challenges, which is why I share this story. But I have to admit I'm more comfortable chronicling the people I meet rather than myself.
Like my path to AKQA, which happened quite by accident when a person I knew (Lars) randomly offered me a job in New York (unexpected), this path was similar. I was in the office one day when a copywriter, and a graduate of MAS, told me the co-founder of the school was in the office to meet with some of the CDs. He was surprised I hadn't been invited (I was too, and somewhat irritated I might add) and he suggested I head into the meeting anyway, which I did. That meeting led to a guest teaching invitation months later, which led to a conversation about the school getting more digitally savvy overall, which led to a discussion around a new school that would be a global innovation center. I suggested New York. Knowing Ron & Pippa's appreciation for bohemian, artistic settings and local eccentricity, I suggested Brooklyn. And Dumbo specifically. A bit over a year later, they'd rented loft space, gave me a tour, told me they'd done everything I suggested so far and I might as well just come run the whole thing.
I thought about it and about how many people I'd interviewed that were talented, but not ready to be hired at AKQA. About all the times the CD team and our recruiter lamented over ad school students in general lacking in craft, interactive experience and digital culture. And graphic design students lacking in storytelling, branding and _also_ interactive experience and digital culture. I thought about how the industry is growing as clients mature, and people in CCO and ECD roles break down barriers, but about how our entire industry is talent based. And that, without a ready pipeline, all those opportunities could go unfulfilled by people that don't exist to embrace them. I thought about all the cool sh*t out there that wouldn't get invented until years later as a result. I'm dramatic, but you take my point.
I have to admit, with a condo under contract in Dumbo, I also mused how divine it would be to have a five minute, subway free, lazy stroll to work every day. And no timesheets. And fewer airports. I went so far as to imagine adopting a dog and bringing him to work (I did a test run with my family's golden retriever last week – it was very nice) and taking pilates classes in the morning (who doesn't want better abs?). Most importantly, I like Ron & Pippa. I find them fascinating. And quirky. We share similar values, but totally different styles. I feel them gently removing some of my corporate polish and gloss, replacing it with gritty, start-up creativity. They are artists. They remind me of who I wanted to be when I was a kid. And at individual lunches recently, the first thing they each asked me was, "Are you enjoying the new job? Are you happy?"
I told them both I feel like an inmate that just got out of prison. On the one hand, thrilled with the freedom. On the other hand, terribly not used to handling so much of it. And it's not like I didn't have a lot of freedom in my old job, so you can imagine.
Catherine (as in, co-founder of this blog) gave me the sage advice to just design into the program the subjects and people I find interesting. And the odds will be that other people find it interesting too. So I'm looking for teachers next quarter. I'm looking for guest lecturers. I'm looking for people to stop by and have lunch with me and the chicklets, as I call them. People from advertising, product design, film, architecture, fashion, law, finance, strategy. If you can think it, I can find a way to make it inspiring to the students. Just contact me if you're in.