This blog is supposed to be about my future. Finding out what I want to do with my life. And I hope that is what it will mainly be about. But for this post I’m going to go over my recent history, and why I am here today writing this blog.
I recently left a job that I had been at for 4 years. The longest time I had stayed at any one job in my life. In one way I knew I had it good there. I had carved out my own little niche. I could come and go as I pleased. But if there was one adjective I would use for my overall workplace it would be “dumb”.
I sort of had three roles at my work, although only one of them was official.
The official one was of “Digital Artworker”, a title created especially for me and part of the Production/Artwork department. This department was separate from the design department. It was my job to do all the web and animation work that came through the agency. The problem was much of the web work was kept within the design department and then farmed out to an external web agency. The other problem was that we weren’t getting very much animation work (or web work for that matter). This was because the partner in charge of New Business didn’t understand digital in the least, and didn’t want to understand it. He wished it was the 90s and that he could only deal with the work that he knew from the 90s. Dumb.
My second, but unofficial, job was that of IT/Office Management. My IT was supposed to be stop gap until we got an proper IT person, but it was obvious they were never intending to get a proper IT person, or spend the money they needed on proper technology. Dumb. The office management bit was that I often found new and better ways to do things that they had just done in dumb ways for years. For example labelling of drawers, instead everything thrown into whatever draw. Sorting out electronic stuff like cords and charges, boxing them and labelling them. Centralised calendar system. Centralised WIP (work in progress). Live TV in the waiting room. Rearrangement of furniture. etc. etc. None of it within my remit, but I seemed to be able to take a look at a situation and make it so much better. Many times colleagues have said that they don’t know what the office would do without me (well, they are finding out now).
The problem with this second job is those at the top didn’t get it. Didn’t understand that IT was a necessity, even though it had been demonstrated to them time and time again the perils of IT failure. And didn’t understand office management. Indeed the aforementioned partner, upon a recent office move, successfully positioned me out of these tasks, made them his responsibility. Not listening to a single person that things might be able to be done in a better way, even when the entire office argued with him. Dumb.
My third, unofficial, job was to pick up all the little crappy job within the artworking department, when I didn’t have much to do in the other 2 jobs. As there was not much coming in through the first job, and indeed I had been maneuvered (whether deliberately or not) out of the second job, much of my time was doing this third crappy job. Stuff that a junior could do. The least satisfying job.
Ultimately I could see all my problems, and indeed many of the agency’s problems all led back to the same person, the aforementioned partner. This is a guy, for whatever reason, just wanted to create an agency that he had had the fantasy about in the 90s. He didn’t want a particularly modern agency (although in his mind it was modern, because in the 90s it was modern). He didn’t want anybody to have other ideas about the agency and he would fight as hard as he could for his vision. This was easier for him, because he had little real work to do. Whereas anyone else in the agency had a full-time job to do, and really couldn’t expend the energy to try to out-maneuver this guy. And he wouldn’t listen to logic. Wouldn’t change his mind. As far as he was concerned he was never wrong. But if you never make mistakes (in your own mind), you never learn. My mantra at the end was “you can’t argue with stupid”.
As far as I could see there were two camps at this workplace. Him, trying to hold all his projects close to his chest, just in case anyone could (probably quite rightly) correct him and point out a better way of doing it. And everyone else, trying to keep him out of their project, lest he screw it up.
He was Peter Griffin from Family Guy. The Pointy Haired Boss from Dilbert.
The slogan of the company was “Design Matters”. And I always added “Because nothing else does”. Not quality. Not accuracy. Not commonsense.
But now that I’ve been away from the business for a while I can add another modifier. Design matters, because creativity doesn’t. The business was supposed to be creative agency. But all the most creative people are nowhere near the creative (design) department. The most creative people were a couple of the client services people, the office manager and me.
The designers, chosen by that partner, are those that have been through design school and approach design in a very particular way. And if they don’t, they are soon indoctrinated in the business’s ways. There is little real creativity.
So I left. And I’ll try not to talk about this business again. I could find another business like this to work in. But I wonder if there is something better for me out there. So instead I’ve taken time off, to reflect and to expand my horizons. More of that in another post.