Some folks are trying to drive a wedge between mobile and traditional use of digital, they don’t see it as a continuum. I believe this is a difference that will fade.
Now Chief Digital Officer at Watch Me Think, a video-based consumer immersion agency, Ste has worked in the fields of copywriting and environmental conservation – the former as an employee and the latter mostly as a student and volunteer. His two passions converged when he landed at WWF’s global HQ in Switzerland, where he worked for 14 years, leaving in 2011 when Head of Online.
What sort of formal education would you say is an absolute essential for your profession?
I know that a lot of jobs in my line of work now ask for a degree or Masters in digital disciplines. Some say they’ll take equivalent work experience. But increasingly they want the stamp of a Master’s Degree as proof you know something about the job. The UN does this for example.
Also, could you share with us the kind of internship or experience that would be helpful for a young person considering this line of work?
Volunteering to do digital work for any charity will go a long way to proving
- You can do the job.
- That you care about gaining experience in that job.
- Doing it for charities is no bad asset to have either. You’re also more likely to get first-hand experience and your work accepted/published/used in such settings, and that can be diamond when going for a paid job.
If you had to draft that pitch for your profession, what would it be?
Effectively you are like a film producer, bringing to the table, the many varied talents needed to produce a blockbuster. Actors. Directors. Scriptwriters. Lighting. Gaffers. Tea ladies.
You have to know a little about a lot of things, “translate” between those who participate, then you get to have a lot of fun meeting some fantabulously gifted people … who always end up making you think you know nothing after all!
What are the new trends you notice that are changing the complexion of your profession? How do you see this profession faring 20 years down the line?
Some folks are trying to drive a wedge between mobile and traditional use of digital, they don’t see it as a continuum. I believe this is a difference that will fade as we get used to a continuum of multiple formats for digital consumption.
What do you do when you are stuck with a problem?
Have a beer.
No, seriously, I try and look at it from upside down; inside out. I search to see if anyone else has had a similar problem. I examine the parts of the problem to see if there are bits that actually don’t need to be a part of it and can be ignored, so making the problem simpler. Or I revisit the person presenting the problem to see if how they’ve defined it can be redefined or solved in some other way.
Or I find partial solutions. Use them, see how they go, then see if there is a next step to getting the whole solution. Sometimes part solutions can lead to the bigger solution you were first after, but you’d of never seen it before without taking this first step.
Failing all that, I stop thinking about it. Sometimes that helps a lot as the solution rises to the surface by itself.
When we’re in school, we’re told cheating is bad – ‘Don’t talk to each other, don’t discuss.’ And then as we come out of it, we begin to realize that there’s something called “collaborative thinking” and it’s not bad! What’re your views on collaborative thinking?
After all that top-down from teachers, how many billions are spent by companies around the world trying to do the opposite and get their employees to discuss and talk with each other? To team build?
I never solve a problem on my own. I never build something on my own. I am never inspired by myself. Everything I do, everything I am is based on the wonderful set of people who collaborate with me in my life.
How do you overcome roadblocks in your profession?
Smash ‘em down! 🙂
Ok I used to do that kind of thing. Bulldoze. Push on no matter what.
But I’ve since found its better to take time to understand the roadblock. Talk to it. Empathize. Get it to talk. Then use how it sees the impasse to unblock the impasse. Get the roadblock to actually be the thing that helps you move forward is a wonderful feeling when it happens.
Did you ever want to change the world?
No. Just my world. Constantly.
Describe a typical (business-as-usual) day and an atypical (screw-up-fairy-lives-here) day at work.
There is no typical day as I don’t go to an office, have no time boundaries (the company I work with spans the world so 9-5 doesn’t really work … nor does Mon-Fri…) Sometimes I’ll work from a room in the house – sometimes from a cafe – sometimes from a pub – sometimes from this rock that has view over the nearby hills. Sometimes I’ll work just from my phone while taking the dog on a 3 hour walk. It’s more limited in what I can do, obviously, but I can keep things ticking along,
A screw-up day is if I get my head down a rabbit hole and spend too much time trying to solve a minor issue that I could have ignored/delegated. Hate days like that. Ones where you feel like you haven’t achieved anything.
What would your advice be to a young person at the start of his or her career and confused about pursuing passion versus being pragmatic?
Use your pragmatism to get to your passion. All ladders have a first step. Use your pragmatic side to get on that first rung, because then you’ll be nearer to the dream rung you want to stand on.
All experience in work can lead towards an extra step towards the dream rung, because it all goes towards proving you can do the things you set your mind to doing.
Knowledge and experience are forever transferable.
If you could do some time-travelling and go back to meet yourself at 17, 25, 35, what would you say to your selves then?
@17: Stop being such a miserable git and gain some confidence. Life is better than you think it is.
@25: Stop being so arrogant. People won’t like you just because you are you. You have to earn it.
@35: Steady as she goes, you’re not doing too badly my son.
What are the pitfalls of your profession and how do you mitigate them? Did you have any fears when you were just starting out about this line of work, and were any of them justified?
As then, the same now: I never think I know enough.
I constantly feel a need to learn. And it is exhilarating. But it is also exhausting. Especially in digital as it crosses so many disciplines. So to stop me sinking under so much to read and learn, I use my peers to recommend things they have read. They therefore do the filtering for me, and I also pass things on. It helps us all equally I believe.
What is the kind of supplementary informal learning that will give you an edge on the job? Any specific reading you recommend – trade magazines, blogs, courses?
There are too many to mention – but I use Feedly to gather and Pocket to curate.
What is most rewarding about your job?
I feel I am free. Mainly because of being my own boss in a company I part own. It is very fulfilling. But you have to have some discipline to do the work you need to get done.
Do you still have days when you think, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?’ How do you get over that, if you do?
I think it is always healthy to question what you are doing and why. But not in a desperate “get me out of here” sense. More a gentle prodding so you don’t fall into ruts and dead ends.
What’s your advice for a resume that’s just about to enter circulation? What are the musts it should have that recruiters look for? And the absolute don’ts, if any?
Be yourself. Show your personality and shine. Too many people can become drones in how they present themselves. Dare to be different. Stand out. Say what you believe in (within reason, of course). If the person who is reading your CV doesn’t like how/what you say (if that is truly you), then you’re not going to like working for them anyway.
How does one network in the beginning to get that initial presence felt, in this profession?
But more than that (or perhaps better: in conjunction with that …) gather friends and peers whenever you can and never lose contact. You’ll be amazed at how people from your past can reappear in your life to help you on and up.