April 13, 2010

Is Your Interactive Agency a Zoo?


By Wendy McHale

I talk to as many people as possible each day and I love it! It helps me keep touch with the heart and soul of Madison Avenue. I hear all sorts of things. Everything from the warmth of the sun shining on someone's shop due to new business, as well as other times. When people feel like they're being hung out to dry due to an unhappy client. Like they're locked up in a cage and can't breathe.

One thing for sure is that it's always interesting.


In the October 15th issue of the New Yorker Magazine, John Cassidy profiles Victor Niedlerhoffer in an article titled, "The Blow-Up Artist". It's a great story and Niedlerhoffer is quite a character. No surprise, he grew up on the streets of New York. You get a sense from reading about him that it was his city-kid's "in the neighborhood" training that has enabled him to weather losing and making several fortunes "on the job." Victor is known for being unintimidated playing against the big brokerage houses on Wall Street.

One of the many sound bytes in the article that resonated with me was when he told Cassidy a certain truism; "in 28 years as a professional investor, I haven't had a single truly satisfactory trading day."

Can you relate? In a New York minute, everything can change.

In the interactive space, all aspects: emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual can change in a flash. What's unique is that it all happens out in the open so everyone can see. But since everyone is dealing with the same issues, that commonality often creates a sense of community. Within it, what sometimes comes about is a "safe space." For many it's still a young enough business that many feel "we're all in it together."

Recently Sara Holoubek gave me some truisms from her high school kids enrolled in CampInteractive. They also feel like we're all in it together. Here are their thoughts and feelings of what it's like being in the program, and being thrust up against two normally foreign environments, nature and technology. What a combo, especially for inner-city kids.


Inalen: "It's emotional and cool how people step out of their comfort zone and share with others."
Kyron: "I'm surprised at the stories I hear."
Steven: "I already knew how intense it was going to get from my previous experiences.
Anthony: "It's emotional because of what we hear from others."
Donette: "It's very emotional on many aspects."
Zamira: "It's very personal, but relieving."
Zach: "People are pushed outside of what they deem as their comfort zones to finally feel release. I see a lot of transformation through the sessions alone."
Melody: "I shared part of my story in front of the group and I don't think I could get any other type of reassurance of a 'safe space' anywhere else."


I personally think that what makes the interactive business so different than "business as usual"-type environments is that it's up-close and personal. Most shops have such little square footage per person that you're often almost literally sitting on the person next to you.

You're working at a "needed it yesterday" speed. Everyone is focusing, emailing, IM'ing and communicating about the same set of codes back and forth all day long. It's the only way you can get it out the door with as few bugs as possible. That pressure forces you to challenge your own limitations, since there's no "safe space" where you can walk into an office and close the door.

It's like that in the streets as well. So CampInteractive is preparing high school kids to integrate and succeed in our brave new world. Don't close the door on them now when they need it most. Sara's putting up $5,000 of her own cash to help you double your money, to help them get the training they need to get out of the city slums and into positions where they can make a difference.

So far, just from her article recently, six of our readers have responded and have gotten the annual CI fund-raising campaign going. She needs more.

Think about that this weekend if you've gotten out of town and are thrust up against two very comfortable environments, nature and technology. When the sun is shining and you're not feeling closed in on as if you're locked up in a zoo.

Sara Holoubek is a free agent consultant serving the interactive sector and its investors. She can be reached at saraholoubek@gmail.com.



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