Professional Development on a Dime

14708headerEver wonder what it’s like to design for brands like Coca-Cola, Hershey and Kraft Foods? Or the White House? Come to HOW Design Live 2015 and ask top in-house manager’s how they professionally develop their teams. Register today and use discount code INHOUSEOBS.


Do you work with a guy or gal who seems to know everything about anything? These confident individuals appear to be experts not only within their chosen profession but yours too. Maybe they work in accounting, R&D, administrative services, engineering or marketing. No matter the division they work in, their tendency is to over share in project meetings, filling the slightest pause between someone else’s update with their own take on every aspect of the topic being discussed.

Others may brand these folks as know-it-alls, smart alecks or even one-uppers, but there is a great lesson to be learned from these voracious knowledge miners. They never stop seeking out opportunities to develop themselves—that’s an admirable trait that should be bottled and distributed. How some of them go about sharing their newly acquired knowledge can be a little annoying, but at their core is a burning desire to learn.

As in-house managers, one aspect of the job is to make sure every member on the team develops professionally. In fact, contributors to in-house teams who are provided the opportunity, resources, and time to educate themselves, produce more strategic creative using a much wider range of communication tactics. But the reality is not every in-house manager is given an adequate budget for staff development. This reality forces both managers and employees to find creative ways to professionally develop on a dime.

The following three options will unleash your inner knowledge miner and set you on a path to finding the best professional development opportunities for yourself and your team, no matter how big or small the budget.

1. Join a Tribe

Internal: There was a time when print designers, copywriters, videographers, Web developers and others worked in solitary confinement without mingling beyond the familiar faces contributing to their in-house team. Those were the dark ages in-house; today, managers and team members are expected to contribute their expertise on all sorts of cross-functional teams.

Whether it’s planning an employee celebration or collaborating with senior leadership on updating the company’s strategic direction, the chance to connect with people from different departments can provide opportunities to learn new operational insights. These new contacts can potentially serve as mentors for individual contributors and eventually become advocates for the entire in-house team.

External: There are many professional associations and clubs that provide programming that will educate each in-house team contributor. The experience networking with like-minded professionals at AIGA, AAF, PRSA and AMA events is a priceless return on a nominal yearly investment to become a member. There are also organizations like InSource that are free to join and provide useful information designed especially for in-house managers through regional roundtables that tackle broad topics like managing the growth of your in-house team and creative leadership.

2. Bite the Bullet and Register

Attending a conference or workshop and committing to taking a deep dive into the sessions are a great way to build both hard and soft skills. With so many options in every practice area of the advertising and design industry available, you’re bound to find one or more priced to fit your budget.

Each of the professional associations mentioned earlier along with several consulting firms have designed options for their members, non-members, fans and clients to consume. For example, AIGA has developed a workshop called Facilitation: By Design that will be held in Chicago, San Francisco and New York. It’s a two-day workshop led by design strategist Renna Al-Yassini where participants will learn how to manage group dynamics and lead design-thinking activities.

Creative Mornings is a lecture series concept developed by Tina Roth Eisenberg in 2008. People come together one Friday every month for breakfast to hear talks on every facet of creativity. Today, there are Creative Mornings occurring in more than 100 cities across the globe. The speakers and themes vary, reflecting the interests of the local talent living and working in the host community. Creative Mornings’ lectures are always rich with content and they’re free too.

HOW Design Live. Those three words have excited, inspired and educated creative professionals throughout the world. In 2015, HOW Design Live celebrates its 25th anniversary and could not be more jam-packed with the most sought after design, branding and marketing luminaries working today. If you contribute to an in-house team, you don’t want to miss this conference.

14828headerYou’ll learn how to pitch your ideas more persuasively to internal stakeholders, tear down departmental silos through the creation of brand-building super teams that develop innovative new ideas, you’ll learn the best ways for in-house teams to collaborate with outside agency teams, as well as gain new insights on how to implement and manage workflow processes that will be embraced by all your stakeholders. Plus, you’ll get to meet Ashleigh Axios who is the creative director at The White House and learn what it is like having America as a client.

The truth is, this conference is worth ever penny in your staff development budget. It’s also a great time for your in-house team to develop together and grow stronger bonds.

3. Get Certified

HOWU is a phenomenal resource for folks who contribute to an in-house teams looking for professional development. Many of the courses can be completed anywhere on any device, whether you’re having lunch at your desk at work or you’re at home after the kids are in bed asleep. You can control the pace of your learning with course library that ranges from mastering your typographic skills to learning how to supercharge your in-house team. Here’s how the folks at HOWU describe themselves:

“HOWU offers graphic design tutorials and courses for both seasoned creative professionals and entry-level graphic designers.

Take a design course online to learn new skills and stay up-to-date with the latest design trends, professional development tools, graphic design software and best business practices.

All of HOWU’s online courses are developed and taught by iconic designers and knowledgeable industry experts who can help you become a more productive and versatile creative professional.”

There is a new in-house management certification program being developed. Be on the look out for more information about this new certification program that will educate both seasoned in-house managers and those looking to move into management to become the best of the best. If you’d like to demo a HOWU course, try the one my designer completed recently taught by Jim Krause based on his book: D30: Exercises for Designers.

The good news is that there are numerous knowledge-mining options for you to professionally develop yourself and the talented folks contributing to your in-house team. As you dive into one or more of these options you will find that they will fit easily into any size budget, starting at free. So, what are you waiting for? Dig in and become one of the smartest folks in the room!

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