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Putting Out Fires & Other Sundry Items

By mehera o'brien on December 16, 2010

Categories: Academics

You know it's bad when it takes you about 15 minutes to successfully log into your blog's editing interface. Did I mention I managed to lock myself out of the F+S Gmail account awhile back as well? Of course not, because I've been decidedly absent. Shame on me. The last few months are a total blur. So much would happen in one week that I'd lose track, thinking something happened weeks before when it had only been the previous Tuesday.

But it's been awe inspiring.

Let's see, by way of measurement, in the last 10 weeks we hosted 50 students at the new DUMBO Studio (ok, 49 because Josh was technically at his internship at CP+B in Boulder). There were another 31 in New York City working at various agencies. We had 18 teachers in the Studio (+myself) in the end, and another six in the City. From traditional ad firms and digital agencies to boutique, hi-tech production shops and a handful of talented freelancers. We were joined by 13 Monday evening guest speakers and 5 lunch guests for chats about the industry (and in many cases life at large). We had one coffee hour, a successful Portfolio Review for our recent grads (congrats to those who now have health insurance!!) and hosted IxDA New York's "Body Storming" workshops on a very windy Autumn day. We entered Young Guns and heard Jeff Goodby interview Dan Wieden + Dave Kennedy at Art Directors Club. We created original photo collage artwork for a special show at the Kalahari Gallery in Brooklyn and managed, thanks to an internship partnership with Splashlight Studios (arranged with the help of friends at Ann Taylor), to meet Steven Meisel. OK, ok. I didn't get to meet to Mr. Meisel. But my student Leo did. He told me about it with such passion that I momentarily basked in the knowledge that I'd helped make that happen. (I told him when he's a famous photographer, I'll find a way for him to return the favor.) We also had a few parties. If you ever want to see a tab  v_a_n_i_s_h, meet my little chickens. 

We had a few growing pains too. For example, the old gas heater…… um……. well, no one got hurt is the point. And more importantly, the electric heater is finally working. In addition to fire there was also the water, but a mini-tornado is not typical for New York. It's just not. The 4 am security system false alarms feel like years ago now. The cabinet that arrived damaged, had to be shipped back, and then delivered again has been doing its job for weeks without problem, while the vending machines only ate someone's money once. The foosball table no longer precariously teeters atop dodgy legs. Ping pong has not only arrived and thrived, but a proper tourney took place the day after classes ended. A Swede named Per took the title. 

So what does this have to do with being a designer of user experiences? Everything, really. Because what we managed to accomplish this past quarter affects lives in a deep way. From internship and post-graduate job offers to renewed confidence, business etiquette and work ethic. Give me a few more quarters to work out some kinks, but we basically have a healthy, happy talent pipeline folks. That was the goal, wasn't it? 

This is what I've learned in the past 10 weeks. When you design an organization, it takes care and brute force. It takes a serious number of hours, lots of patience (not my natural talent) and the ability to separate the 'big deal' stuff from the 'not so big deal' stuff, which can be hard to differentiate when burnout sets in. Designing an organization also necessitates a big dose of humility, a broad sense of humor, and a certain perverse pleasure from having your ass kicked on a normal basis. I must say, having done it, that I highly recommend it. 

Thanks to everyone who shouldered the adventure of Miami Ad School New York with me this past Fall Quarter:

The chicklets, of course. Most especially my three student workers. 

Studio Teachers Marcqui Akins (Photographer), Christian Behrendt (R/GA), Leif Abraham (R/GA), Hong Ko (R/GA), Leo Vladimirsky (Ogilvy), Billy Custer (Kaplan Thaler Group and most recently Carrot Creative), Abel Lenz (HUGE), Damian Claassens (AKQA and most recently Publicis Modem), Darrell Whitelaw (MIR), Dominic Espinosa (Vectorform), Roy Torres (Y&R and most recently Droga5 Sydney), Ben Levy (Strawberry Frog), Mihnea Gheorghiu (Y&R), Amee Shah (Freelance Wonder Woman), Kurt Jaskowiak (R/GA), Ken Pao (Photographer), Keith Zang (Kaplan Thaler Group) and Marci Ikeler (Publicis). Also, thanks to Steve, Paul, Ren & Ale for filling in those last few weeks. 

Agency Teachers Stefan Haverkamp x2 (MRM), Nathan Archambault (AKQA), Tara Lawall (Y&R), Jeremy Straight (Concept Farm), Derekh Froude (DraftFCB) and Domenico Vitale (People, Ideas & Culture).

Guest Speakers Paul Collins (AKQA), the MIR Dudes (Darrell, Adam & Daniel), Ana Andjelic (HUGE) & Diana Hong (Createthe Group), Jordan Berkowitz (Ogilvy by way of Undercurrent), Ben Fisher (developer of seriously cool start up companies), Rachel Diesel (AKQA), Tim Nolan & David Schwarz (Hush Studios) and Jessica Baler-Greene & Ariston Anderson (HUGE). 

Lunch + Learners Lars Bastholm (Ogilvy), Natalia Cade (CP+B), Rebecca Renner (AKQA), Alessandra Lariu (McCann & Co-Founder of SheSays) and Jerome Austria (W+K). 

And to a hundred other people at Art Directors Club, Digital DUMBO, One Club, IxDA, Miami Ad School global staff, creative services managers, recruiters, corporate assistants, bartenders in Lower East Side and friends & family: thank you for supporting my vision. Happy holidays. I'll be asleep. :) 

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