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2012 Recap

Checkin this year is brief. The iPad has opened convergence and tablet computing experience for me, Evernote is a tool I live, and I finally found a place where I don’t have to compromise my business smarts or personal professional vision. I’m selling out in a different way, but at age 41 it’s more like “buying in”.

Now all that’s left is to move to the city, repay student loans in full, and I can get on with my life, whatever that will look like then.

 

One day at a time. Happy New Year.

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2011 Check In

Keeping this minimal, but I wanted to at least nod to this last year in review. I feel like I’ve come full circle once again, since this past semester I taught ICM590: Project Planning, as an online core required course at Quinnipiac University as an adjunct professor. Nothing brings fresh perspective like teaching a new course or a new subject… or teaching something within a formal framework to begin with. I liked the experience overall, though I’d change plenty about course structures and expectations and … well, I’d tinker, because I see what worked and what didn’t, and how to use the online medium in better ways for my students and myself alike.

I started 2011 in one full time gig whose pipeline went south by September due to some very questionable business decisions by senior management. The followup gig I landed a week after giving notice at the first. It was an odd fit, but there was promise… so I signed on full time… and then the oddness turned weird and it was a quicksand slow sink from there until December when I excused myself and pointed out the elephant in the room, I was a bad fit for the culture of the company. Loved a lot of the team, but the timing was off.

So I took December off. For two years now I’ve been handling a NYC commute which adds 4-5 hours to my days. It means all I did was work. I don’t recommend it to anyone, but we do what we have to do to make ends meet sometimes.

Truth be told, the ICM still continues to let me lead a charmed existence. True, I bring a lot of my own experience to the table already, the Master’s just helped to finish out everything and tie up the knowledge into a more focused tool set. Street cred doesn’t hurt either.  I think it’s a sign of our times. The economy is struggling because the older mindset (I don’t say the people are necessarily older, just the older business mindset) is still holding the majority rule, although year by year interactive thinking is gaining in numbers. But we’re not yet at the tipping point.

2011 helped me to figure out what I want as a professional. My dream job is to work for a boutique agency or client-side but in a department with a decidedly agency feel to it, even though it’s internal to a larger company. And I think it’s time to move from Project Management to Strategy.

Fingers crossed. I think I can make it happen. I know that I’m tired of chasing everyone else for their deliverables. As a Digital Strategist I can start following market research and applying my ICM knowledge about digital communications theory and history to help turn research into insights, and insights into strategic recommendations of options for the client to choose from. Having years of agency experience as a Project Manager only helps my applications, because I can make recommendations for project deliverables as a Strategist knowing full well what should be involved in making them.

It just feels like the logical next step.

 

And that’s 2011 in review, and my hopes for 2012. Happy New Year.

One Year check in

I graduated with the MS in Interactive Communications in January 2009. (Well, the program was finished in 12/08, but the degree awarded officially in January 09, the ceremony in May 09). It’s been roughly one year since I received it, and I thought it would be good to post a check in.

This year has been rather interesting. Two days before actually completing the program, I lost my full time job as an Interactive Producer. This was unexpected, and part of the purge at this time last year, when the economy was the darkest I’ve yet seen in my life. I had issues with unemployment being “overpaid” from the last go round, and it took me until April to start my first job with the Masters.

The job was horrible. The employers set up the PM department to fail, and to fail spectacularly. It was under the guise of the “bad economy”, but it was just abusive. Unintentionally so, I do believe. But heavy enough that after 7 months of not seeing my spouse, I quit without having a job to go to.

That’s right. I quit.

Nuts you say?

The jury is definitely still out on this one. I’m between jobs at the moment, been interviewing, got some irons in the fire, but nothing has come to fruition. It’s a little scary, but at the same time it’s a source of pride for me. I’m not going to accept less than the best from my employers, just as they expect nothing less than the best from me. It’s this reciprocity which was missing from my 2009 job as a Project Manager/Account Manager.

Yet, on the whole, I feel rather positive. It literally got to the point in my old job where there just weren’t enough hours in the day, and the PM department was putting in crazy mad hours while the Tech department played company-sanctioned video games “during their lunch hour”. Funny how “lunch” sometimes turned into spending half an hour organizing who was going to order from where so that everyone could spend that lunch “hour” on the game. And then the food would arrive and everyone would eat “real quick” before jumping into the game. Come 5pm, unless you had something absolutely dire in the works, the tech crew usually went home. A late night to them was working until 6pm. A late night to the PMs was working until 2am. And it happened regularly.

With the overloaded work docket, it got to the point where I was taking the hit in credibility as the Account Manager/Project Manager 2-in-1 job role. There was no redundancy on accounts… it was just me and my 20 clients with no one who could just jump in and help without requiring more effort than just doing it anyway. No one to delegate to, no management structure above me to rely on, the kiss of death to any sort of schedule was having things escalate until they got to the point where Sr. Management had to step in, because then you had to not only handle the mess, you had to handle the internal process of investigating the mess, and justifying why it got that way, and all of the associated baggage.

First time fired from a client account

I’m not proud of it, but when one of my clients asked to have a different PM assigned to their account due to the fact that I couldn’t get to all of their requests as quickly as either one of us would have liked, I was actually relieved. Having spoken with management, followed proper procedure, documented my work balance issues, and then finally generating a spreadsheet with charts demonstrating how 2 quarters worth of workload was falling unfairly on the PM department, meeting with the CEO and HR and doing everything you could possibly want done… it became very clear that working for my employer was actually beginning to hurt my own professional reputation. Something had to give.

That something was me being employed there. I had asked for their suggestions on how to balance things. None of their suggestions worked because the simple fact was that the volume was just too intense for each of us to handle. The rest of the PMs were equally stressed. There would literally pass days where we wouldn’t say 2 words to each other because of how stressed we all were. And when I would look over and see the new girl playing Farmville and with an entire extra monitor full of IM messages… well, let’s just say that I was unimpressed with that “Senior” PM’s work ethic.

From what I understand after I left they hired on three people. I’d like to say it was to replace me, but they were just responding to my concerns finally. A day late and a dollar short. Well, actually, $10K short. I took a pay cut to land that job. Yes, that’s right, I made more working my “waiting tables” job during school. Immediately upon actually getting the MS I took a pay cut.

More effects of the Masters so far

While that may seem horrible, let me put it in perspective. I was still making more than I had as a senior level graphic designer and art director, although the contributions I was making to the team and the pay scale were inversely proportionate. Too many people thinking that an Interactive PM and a print-based PM should be billed at the same level. No. There’s much more specialized, technical, and communications knowledge required to do the Interactive PM/Producer job the right way. Few people are comfortable with the process, so it requires an educator and a communicator on top of a Producer/Project Manager.

Having the Masters might have resulted in me taking a pay cut for my first job with the credentials, but it also meant that during the worst economy I’ve seen, I found a job and got hired for an April 09 start. Last time it felt like this was just after 9/11 when no one was hiring designers, and I managed to get a long term contract position to ride out the tough times.

On the team at my last job, I discovered just how valuable the ICM program prep really was. There wasn’t a member of the team I didn’t understand at least the basic fundamentals of how they worked. I was frequently pulled into planning sessions for new business pitches which required knowledge of mobile media, or Facebook builds, or whatnot. I realized just how valuable my new skill set really was. And I also realized how it’s going to take a little while before people realize just how much value a good Interactive Producer brings to the table. I know that eventually I’ll move over from the Producer’s role to the Strategist role, or IA role, but it’s all just choosing how to focus within the professional toolbox I’ve assembled from grad school and my life’s experience in ad agencies.

Was it worth the price of admission?

Yes. I may not have a job at this moment, but what I do have are credentials and prospects. That’s golden. Absolutely golden. I’m in a bit of a weird holding pattern right now, hoping a dream job position I’ve done three rounds of interviews spanning 4 months for will present an offer. Praying. It’s the job I really want, now that I know what I’m looking for, and it’s a place which needs the kinds of skills that I can provide in spades. I’ve got a good relationship with many key management players and other stakeholders for the job. I think I can make a positive impact in noticeable ways for the interactive department considering me.

Now I just need that chance. Seems like the pain of every new grad school graduate is that of finding a job. Luckily for me, I’ve got history and experience adjacent to the interactive field, and that sets me apart. I don’t think it’s enough any more to just settle for a job. I’d like to believe that with the Masters I’m now at the level of my career where I can start focusing on finding the plum jobs which are perfect for me at this point and time. I don’t want to climb the corporate ladder necessarily, but to do the kinds of work I’d eventually like to do means that I’ll be climbing it anyway. Strange to think that the ladder is a side effect of the work, but I believe that’s the way it really should be, not the ladder for the sake of the job ladder.

Yes. The ICM program was definitely worth the price of admission for me. I was in the right point in my career and knowledge seeking to be ready to kick my game up that final notch.

See you next year for the next check in.

The Adventure Continues

Sorry for taking so long to post the update here. I thought I had gotten to it but I realized just now that I haven’t.

My new home on the blogosphere is at Internet Kerfluffle. Originally designed to showcase what was new and exciting on the Net, right now it’s more just a personal blog with vaguely ICM-topics. It’s sort of the ‘Happily Ever After… Later’ kind of approach. Now that I’ve got the ICM Masters (you may address me as ‘Master’ now if you wish, I shan’t stop you though I may decide to blush and pretend it wasn’t my idea) the new blog shows how it translated for me into my career… and beyond.

As much as possible. See you on the flip side.

Troll Women Who Run With the Turkeys

Just some fun screenshots which make no sense unless you a) play Warcraft and b) use [Critter Bites] to turn harmless little critters into your minions.turkey2turkey1

Wrapping it up

This blog was started to accompany my journey through Quinnipiac University’s Interactive Communications Master’s program. It was assigned in ICM501 by Alex Halavais, and I kept it around for the rest of the time at QU. Of course, later professors would try and make it so that blogging was required on a -separate- blog, naturally, but this remained my main squeeze.

On Saturday of last week, I finished up my coursework at QU for the degree. Anything beyond it is gravy in the form of an Alumnus Audit. I’ll probably make use of one or two of them. Maybe.There’s a lot to keep up with in this field, and a lot we didn’t cover in the curriculum while I was at QU. And lots of positive-sounding changes coming in with new professors and curriculum realignments.

But now, it’s time to go.

When I get settled elsewhere in the blogosphere, I’ll post the link here. But I think it’s time to head into different pursuits for a little while. Let my brain recover from the rush of new knowledge injected and processed over the past 18 months. Let the theory get applied to the business world and see what survives, what becomes more subtle, and what isn’t ready to flower yet.

Thank you for reading along with this journey. I’ve learned a lot, and more importantly, I’ve recalled how to learn and how to do thesis-type involved projects on my own. There’s lots of knowledge out there to be explored and expanded upon, and I do fully intend on continuing the quest forward as a thinking person.

Thanks once again, and I wish everyone luck in their own endeavors of growth and exploration. Peace.

Laid Off

In yet another repetition of one of the least pleasant work routines, I was laid off today. My company, which I no longer feel compelled to keep nameless, Colangelo, decided to really shake things up. They sliced through a major portion of their interactive team, and I was one of the casualties of war.

Next.

Actually, they were nice enough to give me a full day off tomorrow to finish up some of the other projects that need to get done. Like my homework for Visual Aesthetics.*lol*

So it will all work out well in the end.

I guess I’m back to “Hire me!” But I don’t feel sad. I’ll miss the crew I worked with, but I’m equally happy to move on. Now I can take those periodic freelance gigs and get more of a breadth of experience. I walk away from Colangelo with one massive accomplishment under my belt, too. I was Producer on developing and launching the Memorial Tribute pages for Paul Newman’s passing. We had to work against an open-ended deadline with utmost urgency, coming up with ways to ensure that the new site wouldn’t just launch within hours of Paul’s passing, that it would be able to handle the site visitors. And the site visitors were there aplenty. 1.3 million hits the first day. We had to work in utter secrecy, too, and against a budget that was practically non-existent.

Not too bad for the professional equivalent of waiting tables while finishing grad school.