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Joel’s presentation notes, EMC1 April 2014

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Making the Web

As referenced in Episode 12, Joel presented at the Southern Oregon University Emerging Media Conference. Below are his notes from that presentation.


How Work Works

Joel looking like he knows what he is talking about.

Joel looking like he knows what he is talking about.


About me:

SOU Alum (Warren, Craig, Lawson)

Writing is my first love but my second career: I worked in the SOU telecommunications office as a tech. That training gave me actual job skills when I left school. Worked in telecom and IT for 5 years out of school  including a two year stint at Ashland Fiber Networks.


Hated tech in all the ways that I did not love it. Discovered that companies like Microsoft needed someone to write all that content on their websites and the white papers people download to learn about products. Did that for six years as a salary guy, then started Word Lions five years ago.


Business meeting bingo?


Who are you?

What skills are in this room?

What are you people thinking that you will do for a living when you graduate?


How Work works.


Walking through a project. Let’s say it is a project that will proliferate training for an international sales team.


Client asks an agency that they hire for similar work. The agency account manager says “sure.”


let’s name this agency


Some of the staff has relevant experience, but they will need some other people.


So, a typical agency has the following roles:

be aware that no agency thinks of themselves as typical.


* Account manager

* Project manager

* Creative directors and Artistic directors

* Senior designer

* Possibly a front end developer



For this project, they will need some other skills:


*    Video production.

*    Databases

*    Writers capable of writing for learning (sometimes rather stupidly called ISD for “Instructional Designer”)


They will also need to have translations done.


[ Draw these folks on the board ]





[ Assign people to these tasks ]


The agency is going to supplement their skills with freelancers and with other small companies that have the skills this project requires.


How do they find these people?

  • most likely, they are folks in the agency staff’s personal network. People hire and contract people that they know.
  • They may use a service that matches skillsets. This is more expensive for the agency and the contractor gets paid less. Kind of awkward contractually  the freelancer can then not directly work for the agency for some number of years. Convenient labor saving device for the hiring agency, however.
  • I am trying to imagine if I can think of anyone just finding an online portfolio and hiring someone. Nothing comes to mind.


So the following staff folks are going to be put on the job:

  • One senior designer who is simultaneously on two other projects. Here we can talk about a salary person vs. a contract person and the way they are treated.
  • Their front-end web developer, also on two other projects.
  • A junior designer


They are going to contract. Not unusual, perfectly normal.


The managerial/directoral roles here:


Project manager  you will talk to her most of all. She is to get you resources and see that you are on schedule. PMs call a lot of meetings.


Account manager  disappears once the deal is closed unless the client becomes dissatisfied. They know the client’s deeper feelings that are not in the requirements docs.


Creative director/art director  the soul of the agency’s identity. Trying to scale their own creative efforts and knowledge by inspiring teams. If you are not on his staff, he will be friendly with you but just be interested in making sure you don’t embarrass him.


They staff up.


  • Hire a small video production outfit
  • Hire a writer
  • Hire an additional designer
  • Hire a back end database developer with experience in the platform they have chosen.


Everyone gets an @<agencyname>.com email address. This kinda sucks.


OK now, you. Who is your boss?


Matters on the criteria. Who is telling you what to do? Who can fire you?


Let’s find out.


Project kicks off. There is a big meeting. No client, but all the team members that have been thus far selected. Project manager throws a Gantt chart up on the projector.


The project is parted out to granular rectangles. There are dependencies and a time line. It looks pretty complicated.


Everyone is introduced. No one is a total stranger. Lots of rah rah. The account manager pops in to say hi, talks a little about the client persons we will be working with.



The agency has an office, a pretty fancy place, and they will hold regular meetings in their conference room. Otherwise, most folks will work from their own office — probably home office.


Email will be critical to success. Do you know how to write a good email?

See if they want to talk about this.



OK, now the database guy asks a couple questions. It is apparent to him that the estimate and assumptions they gave him are  uninformed. He and the project manager decide to take that conversation offline (bingo)


It is decided half way through the project that we need to do some animations. It will be the best way to illustrate the message. So, we hire on an animation fellow [Hire someone in the crowd, add them]


The budget and the gantt chart are bleeding at this point, but the client needs the project done, so we are just heading forward.


For instance, the animation is waiting for some look and feel elements to be approved by the client. The client and the contract designer are going back and forth.


Delivery of the animation is not going to be delayed, however. That will scrunch the amount of time the animator will have to finish their work.


Important to note that we have to work in a way that we are dependant on each other. One can have a dark mind about that or a sympathetic, collaborative mind about it. I recommend the latter.


:: Firing


Completion: Success!


Relationships = next project.