Recently on the InHOWse Designer Blog, blog editor Andy Epstein posted his interview with Jackie Schaffer, a consultant who works extensively with in-house design teams. Both are speaking at the InHOWse Managers Conference coming up in June. Jackie is a former in-house design manager now with Cella Consulting, which helps corporate creative groups to improve processes, manage their operations, organize their teams and more.
Here’s a snippet of Andy and Jackie’s conversation; read the full interview here on the InHOWse Blog.
Andy Epstein: I know you’ve been consulting for a number of companies. From your perspective, what are some of the biggest opportunities available to designers working in corporations today that they may not be taking advantage of?
Jackie Schaffer: We typically work with the leadership ranks of the creative organizations, and based on the outcomes of our engagements, I would encourage more designers to be open with their managers about (1) their career ambitions and (2) challenges they encounter in their current roles. Regarding career ambitions, designers shouldn’t be overwhelmed to respond with their 10-year goal or with a specific role. Just make sure your manager knows what you enjoy most about your job and what you want to do more of and then ask their support in determining what a logical next step to work toward might be. When discussing challenges with your managers, please don’t provide a list of problems. Proactively share what you’ve done to try and address the challenge and other ideas of you may have—sharing your thought process and demonstrating you are investing in helping solve the challenge will show your manager that you aren’t just complaining, but are truly investing in improving the department.
How about the biggest challenges?
This one is a tough one, because I don’t think most people want to hear the answer. Being an in-house designer means you provide a function for your company that is not the core competency of the company. For example, if you are a designer at a pharmaceutical company, you don’t research, manufacture or sell the product. And while marketing strategy is extremely important to the success of these products and creative execution of that strategy is also important, it’s not the company’s core service. What this means is there are less opportunities for career advancement for those in the creative department vs. someone in sales or product development. That doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity, but creative team members need to recognize that sometimes the best career opportunities are outside of their current company, not always within in it. The other part about advancement that designers need to keep in mind is that to make more money you need to learn new skills and your business must have a need for those new skills to pay you for them.
Could you give us a hint about what you’ll be presenting at the InHOWse Conference?
Of course! I’ll be presenting on the three major financial models that in-house teams are structured under—allocation, chargeback and a hybrid approach. I’ll spend most the session discussing the key benefits of chargeback models and time tracking, as well as what creative leaders need to consider when they advocate for a chargeback model. Many creative leaders tend to think that becoming a chargeback department is a silver bullet to solving their challenges—so we’ll also discuss the drawbacks.