The Right Disposition for the Job
Earlier in my career, I worked as an animator and a designer for years. I found that I was constantly struggling with aspects of it, mostly concentrating on working in front of the computer for 8–12 hours at a time. I was starting to get carpal tunnel in my wrists. I also found myself just looking for any opportunity to talk to people and connect. I would just stop working and talk to the people next to me. Luckily, at that time, we often had to “render” our video footage, which was a time consuming process which locked the computer up, so it could turn your timeline of animations into a video file, allowing you to check your progress. This allowed for frequent breaks and time for ping pong games and chit chat.
About 13 years ago, I started my own business. It was a design and animation studio. I concentrated on a mix of interactive development, animation and video graphics. I was developing my own properties and characters. I had a steady client with VH1. At the same time I was studying psychology and spirituality at a school in New York City called the Helix Training Program.
I found myself taking long lunches instead of working. Even though the dream of having my own company and working on my own creations was something I wanted for many years, as it was happening I wasn’t in love with it. The reality of it was far different than what I had in my mind. I yearned for human contact and I had a lot of trouble staying on track. A classmate of mine had an apartment in the building my studio was located and it was all too easy to meet him for coffee, or happy hour, or just talk accompany him while he took his dog for a walk.
Part of the studying I was doing with the Helix Training Program required that I was in therapy. The therapist I was working with diagnosed me with ADHD. As I learned and read about it, I realized how true it was. I was capable of deep focus for short amounts of time but I was easily distracted and often would go down a rabbit hole and not remember what I was supposed to be working on and I had a difficult time getting back on track. I had a small shop and I was just getting off the ground so more often than not, I was the only person there.
In 2008, the market crashed and my wife left the workforce to care for our newborn. I was faced with a number of issues, a huge amount of business debt, a terrible business market and a family to support. I was luckily able to find myself a job which was billed as an interactive flash developer but ended up me managing a large application development, teaching C++ developers how to work in flash and managing a team of developers and artists. This required me to dig deep inside myself.
While running my own company, my wife showed me how to use Microsoft project. I had to learn how to write scopes of work and budget for the work I was doing. These skills I had to develop running my own business, I wasn’t just designing and animating, I was writing contracts, making timelines, responding to proposals, and managing a team. I didn’t quite realize that at the time, but walking into the company and learning for the first time what officially was the thought process behind production management was very interesting to me.
Instead of spending 8–12 hours a day in front of the computer, I was spending smaller chunks of time and then meeting with the teams, having standups and leading the team. I was checking in on people’s progress and helping everyone connect the dots.
This work environment was well suited to my ADHD. I learned task management techniques and I quickly applied them to my job to help me stay on task and communicate with the teams what needed to happen when. I thrived in a chaotic environment because I was able to react quickly and eventually create process around how things worked and what needed to happen.
What happened next was that company folded. That’s a story unto itself but as people were getting laid off I reached out to my network of people and I was able to get a position at an interactive production company as a producer. I was quickly promoted to senior producer and get even deeper technical production chops for working on additional applications and large enterprise site builds. As the market stabilized, I started to freelance again and for the first time I was getting calls from world class advertising agencies and was seeing a pathway of success that I didn’t have as a designer or an animator.
Some people wonder why I would chose to be a Producer rather than a creative, especially since I have such a creative background. Although I love to draw and create, I didn’t love to do it for other people. I often found myself resentful around the choices my clients were making. It wasn’t bringing me peace and love. It was making me feel terrible both emotionally and physically, which is very often one in the same.
I also didn’t have the disposition for it. I was too easily distracted and found it difficult to focus on doing one thing over and over again. I liked working with multiple people on a single task. I once took the Myers Briggs vocational testing and i scored very high and related very well with being a Bus Driver. I look at projects being the bus I drive and I am able to navigate it through different territories while I pick up the user experience team, the creative team and the development team. All the while making sure we still have the budget for gas and working with the account team to make sure we are heading in the right direction.