5 Takeaways from RED’s Toronto Agency Night
Ramping up to the launch of RED Academy Toronto’s first full- and part-time classes, we opened the doors to our brand new space to host Agency Night. Here are five of our biggest takeaways from the Toronto agency evening.
We welcomed top Toronto agency pros Alex Chepovetsky, President of Havas Worldwide Digital Canada, Simon Craig, partner and creative at brand new agency Send + Receive and Aaron Morris, Technical Director at digital agency Jam3 to share some of their experiences and industry advice to a room packed with eager young professionals.
There are more agencies than ever before — find one that gives you the experience you want.
Alex Chepovetsky: “Ultimately you have to decide what, as a human, you want your life to be. No two people have the same experience. For some people perhaps a bigger agency is better, others will prefer working with a smaller team. At a big corporate agency your life will be measured; your day ends here, your career ends here. At a smaller agency it’s different, there are nights, there are weekends; you pitch during the day and your prepare the next one in the evening. It’s a challenge, but I would do it forever.”
Simon Craig: “Whether you’re working in a big agency or small agency, find somewhere that has a drive and desire to create great work. An agency I worked at had a mantra and that was ‘Innovate or die.’ It sounds intense but it was a strong ethic there and it made a difference. When that ethic changed, so did the agency.”
Mentors can be hard to come by, so once you find one don’t let them get away.
Simon Craig: “Mentorship is so important, and often it’s really not done. There is so much to learn and often it’s trial by fire — unfortunately sometimes that’s the nature of the beast. When you do find your person, however, be relentless. I found my mentor and I told them I will be here everyday on your doorstep; and I was. It might seem annoying, but chances are you’ll impress that person with your tenacity and your desire to learn.”
Alex Chepovetsky: “Don’t be shy. Don’t let people forget you. We’re all busy, we have our own personal deadlines and things are moving fast, so you can’t get lost in the shuffle. Assert yourself and you’ll find that people won’t turn you down; people want to say yes.”
Aaron Morris: “Ask lots of questions and listen. The only dumb question is the question you ask twice.”
It’s not what you learn, it’s how.
Aaron Morris: “5 or 6 years ago I was a flash developer. When Steve Jobs came out and essentially said ‘Flash is dead,’ I had to relearn everything. The tech world moves so fast and there is so much to learn; it was Backbone then Angular then React and onwards, it’s a constant churn. That’s why it’s more important for you to learn how to learn than any one specific skill. I’m still learning today, whether I’m on Reddit, Medium or whatever. Read everything, know the work and don’t stop.”
Bring lots of questions to your interviews.
Alex Chepovetsky: “ When you come into an interview, know the agencies work. Know their clients, be familiar with their projects. You should be able to point out a client and say, ‘oh I really admire this brand, this is why I like it, this is something I’d love to work on.’ Research your who you’re interviewing with — we all have the internet it’s not too difficult to find out everything. The more questions you ask, the less chance your interviewer has to ask you questions!”
Aaron Morris: “It sounds so basic, and you could probably find this in any online list about interview questions, but one of the best questions for us is ‘What does a typical day look like?’ Find the answer that’s going to let you work the most. Who will you be working with? What will you be working on? Find out what works for you and seek it out.”
Always know your goals — they’ll help you figure out the path you take.
Aaron Morris: “I talk to a lot of people who say, ‘Oh I want to be a developer/designer,’ or ‘I want to be a UX/graphic designer.’ That’s great but those aren’t really positions that exist. It’s important for you to set a goal and understand what that means. These types of positions take a lot of hard work — you have to understand that and always be working towards that goal.
Alex Chepovetsky: “You need to have passion about what you want to do. Think to yourself, ‘Ok I want to do this.’ What would that take? Always know that.”
Simon Craig: “Don’t ever lose sight of why you’re doing this. Projects will chew you up and clients will chew you up but keep going. Move forward and make something awesome.”
Dan Ophaug is a copy and content writer currently based in Toronto, Ontario. Born and raised in the UK, Dan has also spent time living in Montreal and New Brunswick. With a background in both journalism and film studies, he decided his real passion was in writing, and has since worked with everyone from arts publications to tech startups to produce creative content.