02 May 2007

both ways

I have been on a tiny hiatus, although I'm thinking nobody might have noticed, since my blogging is erratic anyway.

So, I'm on holiday on the West Coast. Right now I'm in a coffee shop called Simple Pleasures somewhere in San Francisco.

Yesterday I met up with my former professor, Charlie, who now teaches at the Academy of Art advertising school here. It was really spur of the moment, and I was a little nervous. I wondered what I could possibly say that was interesting, and what a room full of students could possibly learn from me.

So I just talked about what I knew. I told my story. How I found planning, what I went through at the Adcenter, my meeting with two Naked offices, etc. I talked about what Naked does, what I do there, some random plannery stuff, etc.

About a quarter of the way through talking, I noticed something. People were giggling at some things I said. They were intently listening. They started asking questions. Towards the end, they REALLY started asking questions. They were genuinely interested (I think), really wanting to know things. They seemed like sponges. This was no huge surprise, since they're young, curious, and at an art school that provokes thought and encourages ideas. But I was not used to this kind of energy being directed at me. I am like this, but am used to looking to other people and places. People I look up to and consider smarter and greater than I. This was different. It was disorienting and gives me optimism. It reassures me that perhaps I'm doing the right thing in my life. Man, I love young minds. Oh! Speaking of, here is my most recent New Next article. I interviewed Heron, who is brilliant and inspiring.

If any of Charlie's current students happen to come across this silly blog: Hello, thank you, and you truly made my entire trip.

EDIT | I was just alerted to the fact that you need a login to read the article. Here is the body, until I can scan a PDF.

We’ve probably all experienced life as an intern so that we could gain more practical knowledge of our industries. Depending on where you worked, though, your experience was either richly rewarding or very deeply tedious. If you are an employer and relish internship season, ask yourself why that is. Is it because you are finally approaching that time of year when you can pay somebody next to nothing to get your dry cleaning picked up, articles scanned and copies made?

If yes, then shame on you. You should relish it because you would be tapping into the minds of an emerging generation of potential employees. Interns and first-time hires (although they may lack experience) often know more about culture, trends and the new digital world than the corner-office suit - because they viscerally live it. To show this, I have interviewed Heron Preston, one of our part-time collaborators. He hails from San Francisco and currently studies design and management at Parsons.

>>Heron, how did you get into this industry?

When I first moved to New York City, I was a curious sponge. New to the design and management field, I attended lectures given by industry leaders. My tipping point was one given by Darrel Rhea, CEO of market research/consulting firm Cheskin. He was describing the different roles of CEOs in the innovation process. What really did me in was when he described a job he was working on that involved redesigning Australia’s tax system. My prior knowledge of design disciplines was typical: graphics, interiors, fashion. I never knew design could be considered a form of organization, a way of thinking, or a process.

>>What changes in this industry are you most excited about?

What I am most excited about right now are the creatively-thinking youth (DIYs) and the platforms that foster their inspiration, and crowdsourcing. What’s so cool about these two changes in the market occurring at the same time is that when they work together, they can produce some meaningful value.

Web 2.0-supported Web sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Wikipedia continue to inspire kids everywhere to create content for themselves in hopes that their content will reach an audience. We show off our lives and work, and now we can network and share. At the same time, we have Web sites like psfk.com that keep us in touch with marketing and business.

Tapping into the talents of the world is a pretty hot concept to me. Could this threaten traditional models? When you look at sites like Opened.net and Coroflot.com, you have to think about what this means for the future of the business. Our industry is moving so quickly that it’s created a culture of experimentation.

>>What do you want to do when you graduate from Parsons?

I want to focus on how I can turn my passions for people and culture, creativity, networking, travel and skateboarding into a lucrative service. I’d love to continue learning from Naked because of the entrepreneurial spirit it has, and the different talents on the team.

The hiring is very strategic here - Naked celebrates diversity of experience in a calculated way. Another intern is from Luxembourg and speaks six languages; we have youth culture and entertainment marketing experts; we have digital jacks-of-all-trades; we have management and research veterans; we have creative strategists, and lots more. With all of us coming from interesting places and having strengths in interlinked areas, we can pool resources to develop more well-rounded (and less generic) solutions to our clients’ business issues.

Whether you’re hiring an intern, a junior or anybody else, always keep your eyes open for the brilliant misfits. You might find them straight out of school, breaking out of a traditional agency or at a recording studio. The key is to look for good people rather than a skill set. Young people are eager to consume and produce stimuli; they have unrestrained and untainted views on the changes that happen every day in our industry. This new generation has fast-forward futures ahead. If you ignore them, you surely will have a future behind you.
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