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If you’re a creative person with a passion for tech, you might feel at a crossroads. Should you go to coding bootcamp and become a programmer? Or should you study marketing and join a team of creatives?
As a creative technologist, you don’t have to choose between the two. This role is at the intersection of tech, design, user experience, and marketing.
They bridge the gap between these teams while devising solutions that have never been tried before. It’s this kind of innovation that Gracie Page, a creative technologist at Y&R London, enjoys about her job.
“The role is extremely varied, and that’s what I love about it,” says Gracie. Read on to learn Gracie’s story, along with her advice for new grads.
Creative technologists have a variety of skills
As creative thinkers that know how to code, creative technologists typically work in companies that rely on digital media. Marketing and public relations firms, for instance, might hire creative technologists to help develop ideas for marketing campaigns.
Because this role is so interdisciplinary, its exact job description is tough to pin down. Some people in this role work more in technology, while others are more deeply rooted in user experience. Gracie has one foot in both arenas.
“I can be developing digital content ideas in collaboration with creative teams, working with strategists to define user journeys and design the user experience, or in pitch rooms [selling] digital-first executions of creative ideas,” she says. “On top of my day-to-day client-facing work, I’m the agency’s technology spokesperson and I regularly publish thought pieces in trade press.”
In other words, Gracie shows creative teams how they can use technology to market their brands or products. For example, a creative technologist might help develop a virtual reality experience or a customized mobile app. Then, a marketing team will show off the program at a trade show to connect with new customers.
Gracie also thinks deeply about how her company can use creative tech to improve experiences for its customers.
“If a new technology, platform, or functionality in a tool used by the masses (e.g. Facebook) comes out, my job is to think about ways to apply this to our clients’ problems to deliver a magical experience for their customers,” she says. “It’s about thinking laterally, to come up with something no one’s ever done before.”
A creative technologist’s job is all about connecting the dots. If you prefer to specialize in a specific field, this role might not be for you. But if you’re skilled at solving problems in unusual ways, you might enjoy the challenges of this multifaceted career.
You must take ownership of your work
As a relatively new job title, there’s no guidebook for how to succeed as a creative technologist. Many people in this role write their own rules, a responsibility that can be both freeing and challenging. Gracie understands that even some of her coworkers find her job title to be “bamboozling.”
“I often find people are not really sure of what I do, and I always get a question [or] joke in external meetings when we go round the room shouting out names and job titles,” she says. “It can be a struggle to show how you can add value when people don’t instantly get what you’re bringing to the table.”
But according to Gracie, the solution is simple. “You have to show them,” she says. As you establish yourself in the creative tech field, you must be proactive and outspoken about your ideas. And you can’t be afraid to think outside the box.
“Coming at briefs that seem to have an obvious answer and flipping the status quo on its head is both gratifying and fun,” says Gracie. While creative technologists offer a good deal of technical expertise, they also bring serious innovation to the table.
There are different paths to this job
Most colleges don’t offer a major in creative tech. Just as the role calls for a variety of skills, people come to it from diverse backgrounds. Gracie says her own trajectory was “incredibly convoluted.”
“I studied molecular biology in university, so I think like a scientist,” she says. “I went on to do a masters in tech entrepreneurship, which is where I picked up a love of agile thinking and developed my problem-solving attitude — and thick skin — a lot.”
After graduating with her master’s, Gracie tried her hand at starting a company. She eventually had to walk away from the project, but she realized she needed a deeper understanding of target audiences and how to talk to them.
“I started in advertising [and] production, learning the nuts and bolts of how to get things done,” Gracie says. “Now I get to be involved a lot earlier on in the process and really spend time understanding the psychology of our target customers. It’s fascinating.”
By cross-pollinating in science, tech, and the humanities, Gracie learned the skills she needed to work in creative tech. Plus, she filled in any gaps in her knowledge by reading as much as she could. So, her advice to new grads is simple:
“Read,” she says. “A lot. Soak up as much knowledge as you can, and exercise your lateral thinking. When you see an interesting new advancement in technology, ask yourself how a brand could leverage it. Be proactive and try things out — what’s the worst that could happen?”
Working as a creative technologist, by the numbers
Although labor data on creative technologists is scarce, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs in computer and information technology will increase by 13 percent in the next few years.
Glassdoor estimates the average yearly salary of a creative technologist is $86,360, with a range of salaries between $52,000 and $140,000.
Knowing how to code is a must for this position, so studying computer science in college or attending a coding bootcamp could help you work toward a career in creative technology.
In addition to programming skills, you’ll need to develop soft skills. You’ll need to demonstrate effective communication, innovative thinking, and an understanding of user behavior. Work experience in UX design or marketing could help you forge a path in this career.
Besides developing your skill set and gaining experience, you might also seek a mentor who works in creative technology. A mentor could offer invaluable guidance as you build your dream career.
Do you have a modern job you wish others knew more about? If you’d like to be featured, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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