Just over six months ago, I started working as the Production Designer at Actionable. For those of you wondering what that means, you can think of me as a Graphic Designer with a really big to-do list of things that need sprucing up. Having transitioned from the position of Junior Graphic Designer at a small design agency, where I designed 80+ page magazines cover-to-cover, this was a bit of a creative step down for me. That said, the opportunity to join Team Actionable and be encouraged to grow, as an employee as well as a person, was just what I was looking for, and I was thrilled to be offered the job.
Always optimistic, I perceived taking a step back from long-term creative projects as an opportunity to get better at multitasking, time management, and paying attention to the details.
What I was overjoyed to realize almost immediately, was that the responsibility of managing smaller design projects actually offered me the opportunity to be creative in a way that was very unique to me. Let me explain.
My favorite part about being a designer at Actionable is that we’re all working toward the same goal. While Anna is technically my manager, and the only other graphic designer on the team today, I rarely share my ideas through her as I would in an agency setting. Instead, I often turn directly to the team as a whole to share my ideas, and I’m able to get creative, constructive and positive feedback almost immediately. This openness makes the process of project completion a lot more enjoyable and creative, but also more effective, because I get the opportunity to not only develop my designs, but implement them.
As I started to get more and more involved with implementation, using e-mail software and terms like “double opt-in” and “drip campaign,” I realized that my skills as a designer were very much one-sided. Getting my degree taught me how to make things beautiful, and my work experience taught me how to use creative software to do so effectively.
What I didn’t know was how to calculate the results of my work, and pivot to make improvements that were not only beautiful, but valuable based on their context.
In November, I attended the annual Actionable staff retreat, and left feeling motivated and encouraged to collaborate on a wide range of projects. At the same time, I felt frustrated that my skills were limited to design, which is often subjective. Though being a graphic designer was my “job,” I wanted to learn how to strategize to drive sales, improve the performance of our social media graphics, drive traffic to our website using SEO, create more effective campaigns, and encourage engagement with our brand. And I wanted to do so creatively, as a designer would.
I started researching different things that I could do in Toronto that would keep learning and development in my life in ways that I could apply to my work at Actionable. I came across BrainStation’s 10-week course in Digital Marketing, and based on the course package, I found that a lot of what they taught in the program was related to the work I was doing as the Production Designer – or work that I wanted to be doing, but didn’t know how. I spent a few hours excitedly writing a proposal to Chris, asking nicely whether he would consider making the investment in order for me to contribute to the team in a bigger and better way, despite having only been with the company for a couple of months.
Fortunately, Actionable walks the talk on our values—we don’t just write about the skills 21st century teams need or why organizations should create a learning culture, we embed these valuable lessons in our daily work. I was delighted to receive approval to attend the course.
Since completing the Digital Marketing course at Brainstation, digital strategy has become a significant part of my day-to-day job at Actionable. I strategize with my team, build keyword lists for content, and use Google Analytics to answer questions on a regular basis. In combination with my existing skills as a designer, I’ve become a more valuable, helpful and insightful team member. When it comes to implementation, I’m able to approach problems not only creatively but strategically, knowing what will make our marketing efforts most effective, and how design can help. I’ve also been able to share what I’ve learned with my team – specifically search engine optimization and growth hacking, two things that I feel can really make a difference to us as a startup.
At Actionable, we’ve recently been encouraged to rethink our roles, spending 70% of our time working on core responsibilities and 30% on projects that align with our development goals.
Six months ago, when I was hired as Actionable’s Production Designer, I would have been really confused by this concept. Aren’t I a designer? Shouldn’t I always be designing? Isn’t that what you hired me for? After stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing the learning culture at Actionable, I know now that marketing is just as interesting to me as design, and I’m thrilled not only to be allowed, but encouraged to learn more about it.
The best part about learning more about digital marketing is that I’ve found something that can help me continue to grow. While I’ve always been interested in becoming a better designer, the idea of also becoming a better marketer and digital strategist excites me. Now that I’ve completed the course, I’m looking for more learning opportunities. Contributing to my team in a way that I’m passionate about is fun, interesting, and a great feeling, and I feel energized by the work I do each and every day.