We recruit across the digital product lifecycle. This means we get to spend our days working with generally awesome people who are doing interesting work across technology, product management, user experience, digital design, project management, analytics and insight, marketing, change and transformation and leadership roles.
We also love exploring what makes digital minds tick. To that end, we launched a new interview series FFS – Futureheads Five Stories, where we speak to interesting people to find out about the important markers of their career and their thoughts on the future of their industry.
And we couldn’t resist the acronym.
This week, we sat down with Anne Trouillet Rogers, Art and Innovation Consultant.
What’s the story of your career so far?
If you had asked me what my career plans were when I was a teenager, I would have told you that I wanted to be a surgeon. I studied pre-med my first semester in university. I shadowed surgeries at the local hospital. I even worked at the medical library, trying to build up my tolerance for guts and gore by reading various (illustrated!) medical journals. But, while I was invested in the idea of being a surgeon, the education associated with that career was a tough pill to swallow. I was incredibly bored in my pre-med classes. And while my grades in the first term were decent enough, there was little to no excitement when I plotted out the next term’s schedule. Organic chemistry? Ugh.
In the US, there is relative flexibility to your university degree framework. While you have many core requirements, you are also given the opportunity to choose electives. So while I lamented the required pre-med courses, I nose-dived into the electives – all creative, all rooted in art and design. Not surprisingly, I performed better in those classes and by my second year, I’d dropped biology and physics in favour of art history and art studio. I knew nothing about the art world nor the career paths it created, but I trusted that studying subjects I liked would motivate me to find interesting work. Or that interesting work would find me if I stayed alert to timing and opportunity. I still live by this. Each job, project, opportunity and choice is a layer – whether a success or failure – that builds your story and is advantageous to your growth.
While completing my MA in art history, I interned at Artnet and built databases for client inventories. At the time, Artnet was one of the first digital platforms for the art market and a great source for gathering information about gallery inventories, art pricing, and art news through a subscription service. It was also my first experience of collecting and using data to better understand the art world from a digital perspective. After I graduated, I applied for a lot of entry-level roles in traditional art historian sectors – auction houses, galleries, and museums – but the first job I took was (arguably) on the fringe of the art world. I moved to NYC and became an Account Manager at Gander and White Shipping. I maintained art inventories, planned installations, and managed shipping logistics for a number of accounts for galleries, private collectors, and interior designers. It was this unique, behind-the-scenes work that ultimately led to my next job at Peter Marino Architect.
Ask not, want not…
The opportunity to work at Peter Marino Architect (PMA) resulted from a good relationship that I built with one of the firm’s interior designers. After almost two years at Gander and White, I realized that even though I had a knack for client and project management, I wanted to do more creative work. Managing accounts with designers piqued my curiosity into the field of interior design, so I decided to covertly ask the interior designer with whom I was most comfortable how “a friend of mine” might transition into design with a background in art history. He told me that learning on the job at a top firm was the best way to transition into the field. Working for an established firm opens doors to the best contacts and future opportunities but you also get access to some of the industry’s best vendors.
When this interior designer found out that “ my friend” was actually me, he offered to submit my CV for a junior interior design position at PMA. I interviewed with the Materials Specialist. She liked my background in art, asked if I was a fast learner, and saw my French language skills as a bonus as the projects we would work on were mainly Dior retail design. I was sold at Dior. Working at PMA was a fantastic crash course in floor design layouts, fabric measurements, upholstery, furniture design, art commissioning, and materials. Spatial design became an experience of texture and pattern used to tell the story of a brand. Artists were commissioned to complement this storytelling and I became obsessed with brand heritage, development, and design. My main projects were Dior store design, but I also worked on projects for Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Chanel, and MGM City Center. I loved it. It was a fast-paced environment. I was surrounded by creative and talented colleagues and I felt genuinely proud of the design we created.
The opportunity to work at Tiffany and Co. resulted through a recommendation by my manager at PMA to the new creative director of the brand’s store design department. He was hired to assemble a concept design team to re-brand the store environment. The team consisted of architects, interior designers, stylists, and a manager of decorative arts. The latter role was created to manage the “decorative layer” in the store environment, which was considered the artwork, accessories, and specialized materials used as visual storytelling for the brand’s heritage and aesthetic. I was about ten years’ less experienced than their ideal candidate, but they took a chance on me after a successful series of interviews.
To say I was enthusiastic is an understatement. I WANTED this job. I was passionate about building something new for such a legendary brand and I saw the role as an incredible career opportunity to train me as a manager. For the first year, it was like working for a start-up business but within a well-established corporate structure. 80-100 hour weeks. Fail fast, fail often. Baptism by fire. Lots of travel and lots of networking intra-company. It was a continuous state of prototyping and I learned an incredible amount with every mistake and every success. I managed a team that included an art curator, a materials specialist, and assistants, who helped me implement a global decorative programme for Tiffany stores and offices for close to six years. Some of my favourite projects included the store locations on Champs-Elysées in Paris, Pařížská in Prague, Soho in NYC, and Design District in Miami.
Savannah, graduate school part two, and remote work
After almost a decade in New York, I was ready for a change of scenery and took the role of Director of Exhibitions Initiatives at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. I managed programs for the college’s events and museum exhibitions and my work evolved further into the digital space as these programs needed creative content built across different platforms. My largest project saw me as an art consultant and curator for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Art Collection in Atlanta, GA.
Over the course of two years, I sourced, pitched, and managed an array of public and private art commissions for the stadium’s various interior and exterior spaces. It was an opportunity to display artwork to an audience of thousands in a venue not traditionally considered for an art collection. Brand design and development were still important factors as the collection was not only a reflection of the client’s values but also a nod to the community of Atlanta. Some of my favourite commissions included the iconic mascot sculpture by Hungarian artist Gabor Miklos Szoke, an experimental light installation (using AI) by Random International, and a community-wide participatory art commission called Scrollathon by Steven and William Ladd.
Working for a college reawakened my curiosity for further education. So after much internal debate, I decided to start an MSc degree in Management of Innovation to address some of my knowledge gaps, but also to explore my interest in the intersection of technology, art, and society. I took courses in Consumer Behaviour, Project Management, Innovation, Digital Research Methods, and Organizational Culture, among others. Applying my career experience to these classes enabled me to develop a new approach to my work and it opened new pathways for consulting opportunities. I also continued to manage art commissions for the Mercedes-Benz stadium project while completing the full-time course.
As a remote consultant, much of my communication relied on conference calls, emails, images, and texts to convey vital information. It was challenging at times, but also gave me an excellent perspective on stakeholder management as impacted by technological tools for communication. This interest contributed to my choice of dissertation topic: how stakeholder management could evolve with advancements in AI tools, particularly with tools marketed for strategic communications.
The origins of my consultancy Culture A started during my work at Tiffany and Co. but fully emerged after completing my MSc degree. I wanted to do more diverse work that extended from the skill-set I built over the last ten plus years: curating campaigns, developing strategic partnerships, and designing art initiatives with brands, artists, and art/design institutions. I consult on global art programs, site-specific commissions, immersive experiences, and co-creation initiatives. I rely on digital research tools to investigate brand strategy and impact as related to artistic collaborations and I see immersive technology as a vital way to engage audiences through experience design. As of January 2018, Culture A will be based in Amsterdam so if you’re ever in the NL, give me a shout!
What advice would you give to yourself when you were just starting out?
Surround yourself with talented people. Be resourceful. Be patient. Be scrappy. Be kind. But also be firm when communicating with colleagues and clients. You won’t necessarily change anyone’s perception or attitude overnight, but if you learn to communicate strategically (timing is everything!) then you’ll pitch and persuade in a confident manner. Also, it takes a village. Draw strength from your network and align yourself with friends and colleagues who support your ambition and interests. Support the people who genuinely encourage your success and avoid insecure or toxic peers. Be aware that not all friends make for good business partners or work colleagues. And vice versa. Do not feel guilty for drawing a line between your personal and professional life.
You will limit yourself and your team by not learning technology and skills to evolve your work, so keep up with the times. At Tiffany and Co., I wasn’t required to use tools such as Adobe Creative Suite or AutoCAD, but I realized that both programs were useful ways to test, design, scale, and present my ideas in an easily discernable format. I learned the basics by asking colleagues for user tips and by researching the programs online. I don’t know many art consultants that can use all of these programs, so it definitely helps differentiate me in the market.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that my work isn’t defined by one field or industry and encourages me to mix the genres of art, tech, and commerce to produce innovative content. I like blurring the sectors. It gives me a unique perspective to experience design and puts me in the company of talented, diverse, and forward-thinking people who genuinely want to create exciting and impactful work. I enjoy working with artists, both emerging and established, on projects that challenge their usual studio practices. I also enjoy working with clients who may or may not be familiar with the art world but discover new passions as a collector, commissioner, or distributor.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Actively participate in your career development and measurements of success. Do not become complacent and be aware of how your role can add value to the business as a whole. Blur the sectors – how does your work add value to the entire operation? Good feedback from managers and colleagues is important, but if this doesn’t exist in your current work culture, be proactive in your own research and development. If your current gig doesn’t encourage curiosity, smart risk-taking, and personal development, I suggest looking for a new job.
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next five years?
The art and strategy of communication as it changes and evolves with technological tools – the need to build trust with stakeholders is more and more crucial. Good stakeholder management is fundamental to building trust between teams and clients. As more tasks are automated and our communication becomes driven towards voice-activation (such as Amazon’s Alexa) and AI personal assistants (such as X.ai’s Amy), I think about how these tools will communicate on our behalf and reflect the personality of our businesses.
How we communicate with these tools, how we collaborate with them to input and output information will redefine stakeholder management. Conversation etiquette has already changed with the introduction of text and emoticons as primary forms of expression. So what, for example, will be the evolved etiquette of voice-activated technology? AI tools may enhance our decision-making, but will they risk our creativity? And is there a risk of the tools being too transparent in sharing information across digital platforms? These are the communication challenges I’m currently thinking about.
A little bit about Anne
Anne Trouillet Rogers is the founder of Culture A. She’s an art and design consultant with over ten years’ experience in visual storytelling, strategic partnerships, and arts programming for brands and corporations. Her primary interests lie in projects that bridge relationships between art and technology, exploring the impact of technology through innovative, participatory art practice. After a stint at world-renowned design firm Peter Marino Architect, she led the Decorative Department at Tiffany and Company and curated artwork for the company’s global stores and offices. More recently, she served as Director of Exhibitions Initiatives for the Savannah College of Art and Design, focussing on programming for the college museum but also as an art consultant for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Art Collection in Atlanta, GA. Anne has worked extensively with emerging and established artists on site-specific commissions and collaborative projects. She holds an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and an MSc in Management of Innovation from Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Want to take part in our FFS series? Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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