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Meet Mary: Recent Graduate & Fellow Creative Technologist

Like myself, Mary Toves is a graduate of the VCU Brandcenter’s Creative Technology track. I learned during my final year at the Brandcenter, and as Mary’s 2nd year mentor, that she was perfect for the track. And a huge asset to our industry.

Fresh out of the Brandcenter, (and I mean that quite literally – her ceremony was only 6 days ago), Mary is ready to take on her next challenge. She recently accepted a job at BBH in New York as a real live Creative Technologist! A question commonly posed to most CTs is “What exactly is a Creative Technologist?” A fair question for many, being that it is, in fact, a very new role in our industry. So, its safe to assume that by week 60 of grad school, most CTs are armed and ready to answer this exact question. We’re basically trained to. 🙂 When I asked Mary, her response was second nature:

A creative technologist is a multidisciplinary, technically-minded person working in the creative department at your advertising agency. This could be one of your dev guys who’s whip-smart with code, but also kick ass at copywriting. Or an art director who has taught herself user experience design and front-end development. What’s great about creative technology is that each CT differs from the next. But whole-heartedly I believe that a CT should be able to code well enough to develop a working prototype. And that experience design should be an essential part of the creative technologist’s role. We design with the experience in mind. And, as Mark Avnet says, “We sketch with technology.”

As Mary mentions, and I agree with her 100%, one thing that’s unique about CTs is that no two are alike. Everyone has strengths routed in a more traditional agency role first, but we all have an innate curiosity in the digital space and emerging technologies. We appreciate and understand the value of a well thought out user experience, as well as the necessity for actually thinking through the Information Architecture of any online project.  As Mary explains above, we are at least capable of coding in some capacity and understand what’s possible in the digital space. Some, like Mary, are stronger in that area than others.

Because of how new and misunderstood the role of a Creative Technologist still is to so many in our industry, a lot of us (myself included) fill other roles that we are fit for. But, of course still utilize the skills acquired as a CT. Because whether or not all agencies realize it yet, UX design, IA, and a thorough understanding of what actually makes sense online for a project/brand is absolutely essential in EVERY creative department. I strongly believe that the industry desperately needs more of us. That being said, none of us would ever recommend using technology for “technology’s sake” for any brand or project. And we will happily recognize when technology may not be the solution at all.

Though, many of us do hold other job titles in our respective agencies, one thing that I think is really awesome about Mary was her determination to be a Creative Technologist. Not a digital strategist, not an interactive Art Director or Copywriter, but a CT all the way through. When I asked her if that job title was important to her and why, she replied:

It was absolutely essential. While I believe that a CT could be lurking in any agency under any title … it was very important to me to plant a flag in the ground and say, “This is what a CT is. And this is what a CT can do.” I want to prove the value of creative technology. And I want to do it by relentlessly pursuing well-designed, innovative work.

In my two years of knowing Mary, I’ve always been amazed by her dedication to her chosen track and her optimism in general. Heck, her website clearly states in bold type: I am an optimist. And frankly, BBH is lucky to have her. I asked her what she hopes to accomplish in her new role and she confidently responded:

I just want to do good work. Work that adds value to the brand. Work that I can be proud of. Work that gets noticed.

I have no doubt in my mind that Mary will do just that.

In closing, I’d like to leave everyone with a few nuggets of advice Mary learned from her 60 weeks at the Brandcenter:

Wake up early. Read … everything. Carry a pen.

And more importantly,

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Master Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

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