If you Google “What’s a digital producer?” you’ll get hits for work in video production, newsrooms, and ad agencies — but one result is a Medium post I wrote 4 years ago about Upstatement’s journey developing our own version of this vaguely-named job.

I wanted to share a quick update about how production has grown and changed as a discipline at Upstatement. We’ve hired a half dozen people into the job since that first blog post and I’ve had the joy of leading them for the past two years.

First update: we don’t call it a “digital producer” anymore — ugh, so 2015 of us! …

In April, I wrote about one of Upstatement’s internal projects to make our office and people more eco-friendly. I’m back, happy to report that we made a lot of progress! We hope the little bit of effort we took in our offices and lives inspires others to make more sustainable changes in their world:

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Lights, now powered by the god of WIND! Blurry people, now throwing away less trash.

Switched to 100% renewable energy

  • Citizens AND companies (even renters!) in Massachusetts have the right to choose their energy providers, which means we now have officially 100% renewable energy powering our computers and very loud fridge.
  • It cost us nothing — in fact, our current rate is slightly lower than the basic Eversource rate. …

I have a sweet little dog Noodle who has long-term, expensive, and mysterious GI issues. I’m dedicated to be taking care of her and keeping the vet in business ($$$$$$$), but one thing I found difficult about visiting all the specialists was trying to remember the order in which everything has happened to her.

When did we start this or that medicine? When did a certain symptom first appear? When did test results come in? Did I forget to give her a particular supplement?

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Baby Noodle, angel with the funny tummy.

Since I make a living from getting big, complex situations strategically organized, I decided it was time to optimize. …

Here at Upstatement, we recently asked our janitor Ellio if he was actually recycling the stuff we were putting in our blue recycling tub. He told us he’d love to, but the waste management company just dumps it all in the trash.

Gasp! For months, we’d been carefully separating our seltzer cans and paper into a bin that was getting sent straight into the landfill. When this happened, it made me (a person riddled with climate change anxiety) wonder what else Upstatement could do to contribute to a more sustainable day-to-day — both as a company and individual humanoids.

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Like any good hip office, we have succulents. But what ELSE can we do?!

How we make time for sustainability

This project seemed perfect for one of our Friday…

Lessons learned from executing redesigns sprint by sprint

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After publishing an interview about our Scrum-based process at Upstatement with one of our awesome clients (Harvard Gazette), I thought it would be helpful to write up a more detailed appendix for the Agile devotees out there. We’re often asked by these folks to get specific: When applying Scrum methodology in an agency setting, how does it actually work?

One personal disclaimer is that I am not an Agile/Scrum diehard believer. I arrived at Upstatement when the company was coalescing on switching from waterfall to agile framework, so I dove in to learn and helped make adjustments accordingly . But as time has gone forward, I’ve wished for longer periods for focused work (2 week sprints can be stressful) and more of a long-term plan for our projects. We’ve adjusted accordingly and continue to make smart exceptions. …

How to get traction on your hobbies without going mad

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Upstatement reserves chunk of time every week for us to work on non-client and self-growth work (we call that time Open Hack). I’ve always found it hard to pick an Open Hack project out of the million things I want to do — and then, once I pick a project, actually finishing it can be a battle.

But then, I went through a breakup. And another. And a few stupid dating scenarios. And I had some sad, angry energy to pour into something — but what?

I’m a big fan of the WNYC show Death, Sex and Money, and around this time they released a breakup episode — accompanied by a listener-created Breakup Survival Kit Google Sheet. That spreadsheet contained hundreds of suggestions for things to do, listen to, think, read, and watch during times of heartache — and I was obsessed with it. I pored over it religiously. It fascinated me that there were always other people looking at it too, since spreadsheets are not the most beautiful or user-friendly way to consume information. I thought, “What if there was a way for people to browse this amazing wisdom more clearly?” Bingo. …

It’s like a project manager, but it’s like a lot of other things too.

A year ago, Mike wrote about Upstatement’s investigation into whether the company needed project managers. Upstatement champions direct collaboration between clients and the creative team, so in a studio so wary of middlemen, where do project managers fit?

That investigation led to the introduction of the digital producer role: an organizer, facilitator and co-creator of Upstatement’s work. The job was theoretical back then, but now few people actually put our butts in those seats. We manage a few client projects each, but our biggest project of all is figuring out how this role actually works at Upstatement.

Some of our other producers have a few years of producer experience at other great firms like OHO and Instrument. But I’m a total newbie — an editorial designer and illustrator by trade, straight out of the newsroom. …


Emily Theis

Head of Producers at Upstatement. Designer, musician, and quilter. Hoosier turned Bostonian. Devoted dog mom. http://emilythe.is

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