I’m currently one final capstone presentation away from completing my masters program. I ordered my graduation gear tonight! The impending end of this adventure calls for a bit of reflection…
In October, I celebrated my 9th work anniversary at A Media Company by going to lunch with a motley crew: my boss, my coworker, and my intern. I had seniority at the table by about 4 years, and I worked at another media company for 5 years before that. Starting in the field upon graduation in 2003, I don’t have to tell you that the landscape was dramatically different. As such, I’ve seen a lot of rapid-fire changes in a short amount of time that have completely shifted how we produce, provide, and promote content.
The multimedia, multi-platform, mobile world evolved while I was learning my job – and I was always quick to explore The New Thing. Social media didn’t become a big deal for many media organizations until later – debates over whether or not posting videos to even the station-branded website cannibalized viewership were still going strong!
I helped switch my current company over to HDTV shortly after I started there, completely rebuilding everything in full 1920 x 1080 glory. That turned out to be nothing compared to the digital revolution around the corner.
Being there on the ground floor often meant 2 things:
- I was excited to help take the reigns of The New Thing and experiment within that space.
- It wasn’t long before someone much smarter and with actual training came along and knocked everyone’s socks off with a more sophisticated approach. (My boss and the coworker there at the table with me are two fine examples of this.)
I’m a maker. I’m a creative type. I’ve never been the strategy guy – I see something that needs to be done or work better, and I figure out a way to make it happen. More problem fixer than problem solver, if that makes any sense.
At least…I used to be.
I’m surrounded by marketers and analysts now, as opposed to writers or producers – savvy people who understand process management and strategy and graphs and data in a way that was never natural to me.
I’m learning – after all, that’s part of the reason I felt compelled to pursue a master’s degree. While we’ll always need content, and I’m in my heart still a writer-producer, I felt frozen and obsolete. I needed to change and learn some new tricks, or I was going to become irrelevant, a curmudgeon sitting in a seat that belonged to someone younger, hungrier, and better prepared for today’s media world.
Institutional knowledge is good. Historical perspective is good. But there’s no substitute for actually knowing what you’re talking about in the current day. The skills that brought me to the dance were no longer enough – I was always adaptable, but the tools I needed to speak the new language of marketing and promotions weren’t in my arsenal.
Enrolling in the Digital Innovation in Marketing program was a big step for me. I had been out of college for 13 years, and had concerns about whether or not I could still hang. I didn’t know if I could keep up with the work. I thought I might be proven out of my league…crash and burn.
I was in a bad place personally and professionally, and I needed to get myself moving and motivated again. In the past year, I’ve found ways to mix strategy with on-air production. I’ve developed and implemented a new television break strategy, working in elements of brand and communications guides I helped to write. I’ve contributed to social media in a greater capacity, handling many of our social media ads. I still have to create engaging media and write clever copy – it’s just strategically targeted in a way that broadcast could never be.
My signature was all over my company’s air for several years, but mixing knowledge of user experience and product development with my playful promo work has made me rethink my approach to every project. I was always one to zoom out and look at the big picture to make sure we were framing the question or project properly – now I know how to communicate it more effectively, and in a way management is more likely to take seriously.
- I’m not just in the room for off-the-wall ideas anymore. Nor am I the guy who can provide an outsider’s perspective anymore. I’m the establishment now.
- I’m calmer and less stressed at work and in life, these days. My perspective has shifted. I’m more useful, and I feel less like I’m being outpaced by people 15 years younger than I am. I got my groove back.
- I don’t know what the future holds for me professionally, but I know that I’ve reestablished my ability to think big, innovate, and contribute in ways that make me a vital asset to the business.
- I can speak the language of marketing now. I never intended to be part of that world, but I went from skepticism to begrudging respect for the discipline.
- I stopped moping and started moving.
Started at rock bottom, now we’re here. Some of this ancient history lesson and recent search for meaning was recounted over lunch that day. Everyone there will continue to see rapid and unpredictable change in their careers, and while it felt good to take them along through my Old Man Flashback, it felt better to be able to end on a positive note.
I am in a much happier, healthier, better place.
This experience has introduced me to some wonderful, impressive people and helped me regain control of my own narrative.
Thank you all.