reinstall and restart

In the last nine years since I joined the adult workforce, I’ve had Homer Simpson-esque list of jobs. Chambermaid (1996), computer salesgirl (1997), HTML freelance (1997), HTML author (1998), Internet Marketing Manager (1999), webhosting tech support (2000), temp admin assistant (2000), vo-tech college instructor (2001), closed captioner / transcriptionist (2001), tourguide / deckhand / bartender (2002). And finally, online media planner, 2003. And the same job, again, 2004. This is the first time I’ve ever worked in a straight line, using actual past jobs to move forward on a path to some semblance of a career.

And, based on that idea, I’ve made up my mind to accept the offer from iMedia tomorrow. Which means that, as soon as I do, I’m going to hand in a resignation letter to the key people at Tribal. I’d like to thank the many people have helped me come to this decision – many of you have listened to me, or offered advice, or helped me analyze the situation, and I appreciate it to no end.

I keep replaying a part of my job interview in my mind, when the woman in charge of the L.A. office told me what she was going to do if I took the job. “Your career is here,” she said, holding her hand just above the table, “but you have good experience and a great personality. Tribal’s a great shop, but they can’t help you move forward. I think, if you come to work here, I can take you here.” And she moved her hand up six inches, to indicate that she was going to make the investment in me.

I’ve also met with the other three guys that I’d be working with. One was a West Coast VP, the other two were on the level of my current boss. I’d be junior again, low girl on the totem pole – but I’d still be higher up in the overall Media Planner Food Chain than I am right now.

Unfortunately, it’s the right thing to do. But this isn’t quite the same sort of company as I work at now. I have been at Tribal/DDB Los Angeles for the last year. Tribal is a separate company, an online-only spinoff of DDB. Tribal does creative concepts and campaigns, does the graphics and websites, and has a media buying division who spread the work all over the Internet from there. I’m on the media buying team. iMedia, by contrast, is a media shop that also has a creative department. Tribal in inverse, with a focus on the media and the campaigns, rather than the branding, strategy and overall picture.

I love working in an integrated agency. Although Tribal is separate from DDB, we have worked with the “offline” side on projects. And I loved being in that environment. My ultimate goal on my current career path is to manage integrated strategies, ways to tie offline and online together. I want to build and execute campaigns that bring a brand to a consumer across every one of their media inputs – TV/TiVO, Web, radio, print. I want to use each different medium in the best and most complementary way to convince someone they need to buy the product. So working at an integrated agency like the Tribal/DDB system puts me on that goal. I’m just not sure how to go about climbing the ladder towards it.

Getting out and fast-tracking my career as a media planner at iMedia doesn’t take me out of agencies altogether though. They’ll expect me to be able to handle more account management, more strategy and analysis, more planning and buying and research. It’ll round out a lot of my skillsets. And if, at the end of the two years I’m informally promising them, I want to go to an agency again, then I’ll go into an agency that I feel fits my goals. But by then, I’ll have much broader range of experience than I’d get as a cog at my current job, and I’d be able to push harder to get on a track to those ultimate goals of just being in charge of complete media strategy, not just online.

(I love online – I’m good at it – but it works so much better when you back it up with offline branding. Witness clicks’n’mortar.)

I will, however, miss Tribal a lot. It’s been a good place to work. My office is a pair of giant frickin’ binoculars, after all. It’s been wonderful being in that kind of creative environment. My boss is a great guy to learn from, and also signs off on vacation days for, say, Nine Inch Nails. And on days when I’m stressed out, I can go down to Venice Beach and watch the lunacy of the boardwalk a block away.

Moving on for me is never easy, but I’ve been able to figure out, in the last seven years since I left the Island, when it feels right and when it doesn’t. The San Francisco opportunity with AtlasDMT wouldn’t have felt right, and I would have pushed it out of misguided logic – and homesickness for a Vancouver-esque city. This opportunity feels fine. And I already can’t visualize continuing at Tribal anymore, as much as I love it, and as much as I will cry when I box up my desk.

This is my year two in Los Angeles, year two on a path that feels, thankfully, like my destiny is turning out all right. I’m going to hope that the luck and good fortune that have surrounded me thus far in this city, continue to bless me in this new endeavor. And hell, if not? I can always go back to piracy in Seattle.

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