Adam is an Associate Creative Director of Experience at Publicis Sapient.
Along the way, we have got to know the team pretty well and have been amazed by the intelligent, inspiring, and genuinely lovely folk that make up the organisation.
So we invited a few of them to share their stories with you all as part of FFS (Futureheads Five Stories), our regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell.
And we couldn’t resist the acronym.
What’s the story of your career so far?
As is often the case with many creatives, my career has been shaped and influenced by the agencies I have worked for, the teams and cultures I have been exposed to and the individuals whose ideas have inspired and driven me on.
For almost 20 years I have been working full time as an ‘experience designer’ across most sectors, in roles that have constantly evolved from basic print and web design to service design and experiential installations.
Having started in a large German agency based in London called Springer & Jacoby I was immediately immersed in an egoless environment with a flat management structure that empowered individuals to manage their client relationships whilst also developing their craft.
It was a million miles away from what I expected to face when I entered the agency world. I was trusted, valued and empowered. My eyes were opened.
When I left to join Salterbaxter, I began to understand the impact that strategic, creative thinking could have on businesses, their customers and their stakeholders. Creatives were no longer the people who ‘coloured stuff in’ but those people who could help shape, influence and communicate businesses strategies and build trust with customers.
Creative thinking must have a seat at the top table of business.
It was whilst working at SB that I got married and had the first two of our three children. My young family gave me a renewed purpose at work but inevitably brought new demands upon us all, and when faced with tough times only the understanding, support and trust shown to me by the owners helped us to juggle all the challenges we faced.
On leaving Salterbaxter I then became Creative Director at Pancentric Digital, whose passion for User-Centred Design, UX, Design Thinking, and Service Design reshaped my creative approach to collaborative, multi-disciplinary experience design and business transformation.
I have taken these tools with me ‘on my journey’ and continued to build on them as I moved through The Bio Agency, Conran Design Group, Southpaw and others whilst pursuing my passion for using digital innovation to enhance customer experiences.
I am now settled at Publicis Sapient, where I hope to stay for a long time. The creative leaders and management team are leading from the front to build teams around talented people and their needs – putting their happiness at the core. They are carving out a new way to help their clients prepare for an everchanging future and I feel reassured, liberated and empowered to be a part of it.
How do you balance your work and parenting commitments in a busy studio?
When you have a family, your purpose and priorities naturally change. My first 10 years were your stereotypical ‘agency life’ – working hard, playing hard, largely free from any real responsibilities, focusing instead on honing my craft and climbing the ladder.
Having a family requires a lot of adjustments and reprioritisation between work and life. My wife put her own creative career on hold, to raise our children. She clearly made the biggest sacrifice and as a working dad, you cant compete – just try to emphasise and compensate. You won’t always get the balance right – I haven’t, and I have not always handled the different challenges well – but I have done the best I can with a learning curve that is steep and one that constantly evolves.
As time has gone on, I feel my work/life balance is under control, and I want to enable a flexible environment that promotes progressive thinking, trust and teamwork like the ones I have experienced.
Getting this right is not always easy and I have learned as much about what not to do from bad leaders as what we should be doing from good ones – if we don’t get the balance right in the studio and tolerate or accept cultures that are less forgiving then the negative impact on people’s health, wellbeing and family life will become immeasurable.
I want my team and the people I work with to be happy, I want them to feel empowered to work with freedom and know they can rely on my support so they can be their best selves and go above and beyond to deliver amazing work that positively impacts the clients they work with.
Putting humans at the heart of everything we do – from our family to clients, our customers or colleagues we work alongside is the key to creating a successful and healthy environment.
Your family helps you retain a perspective on what’s important. I may not always be able to get home on time on the busy days and I may have to miss those team socials that I used to enjoy so much, but embracing change and being there for moments like sports day or homework, are the moments you won’t get back if you can’t work in a way that helps you to live a richer life.
What do you love most about what you do?
What I have loved most about what I do has changed over the years. It started with crafting beautiful things – designing for myself, then it evolved into solving problems for other people or using cool technology to make jaws drop, but there are two things that have always remained constant.
Firstly ‘storytelling’ – taking clients or colleagues on a journey and engaging them on a human level is something I have always enjoyed and never been intimidated by whatever their background or position.
Secondly, and what drew me back into a permanent position in an agency like Publicis Sapient, is ‘cultivating’ talent, shaping teams and working with people who inspire and support each other.
I want to use my experiences in work and life help other people forge successful careers in an environment that I have helped to create.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
- You must never stop trying to learn – through good experiences and bad there is always something you can take away from it to make you a better at your job and as a person or parent.
- Balance and perspective are key and it is not always easy to maintain them without the support of good people around you.
- Talk ‘with’ people not ‘to’ them and listen, then attack everything you do with a passion that shows how you are different. Talent only gets you so far, it is how you connect with people on an emotional level that is key to building trust.
- Understand what is most important to you, and find a culture and a team that suits your needs and supports your growth.
- Don’t be a dick.
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?
I think the biggest challenge facing our industry over the next year is how agencies need to prepare to protect themselves against the rise of the gig economy and a more transient workforce focused on community, experiences and flexibility.
Equality, diversity and inclusion will continue to drive a lot of immediate changes and education, but the real challenge is less, thinking of one group or another, but how we can open ourselves up as a team or agency to attract any type of super talented individual – be they, old/young, female/male, black/white or able/disabled.
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