Thoughts On My New Educational Journey

Life really does come full circle sometimes.

It’s interesting that I spent my formative years observing my parents as professional educators – and now I find myself in the same place.

Some people have told me I was destined to be an educator. I don't know if that's true. But even though everything in my extremely busy life indicates I don’t have the luxury of surplus time right now, I felt the need to jump at an opportunity that recently came my way.

I took an adjunct teaching position at the University of Central Florida, in the Nicholson School of Communication. This foray into teaching is not something I take lightly. In fact, I approach it from the perspective of a student hoping to get an instructor who will adequately prepare me for the integrated marketing industry.

So where does one begin?

That is the question I have been asking myself over and over. Of course, there was the very humbling experience of creating a syllabus. Extremely thankful that professor Joan McCain gave me hers as a foundation.

From there you can see the extreme degree of craft required in this profession. It's fascinating. Take five minutes after this post and try to determine how you would break down your profession within sixteen weeks. All the strategies, nuances, challenges, and of course all the social mores that play a part within any business. #mindblowing

It seems the task would be relatively easy. You know what you do professionally, and more than likely you do it pretty well. Then you need to take into account all the things you take for granted, all of the granularity you bypass on a daily basis because it's old hat.

Then there's the interesting caveat that I will be educating fourth-year students. I know that in my fourth year at Ringling School of Art and Design, I was most eager to leave and tackle the world on my own. What I was unaware of at that time was that I was grossly unprepared about how to do that.

I had a good portfolio and a fantastic foundation of best practices, but there was almost zero strategy when it came to entering the war zone that is my industry.

Chances are the students in my class will be in pretty much the same place. What I can do is advocate that I'm not a teacher, I'm simply a consultant that they hired to properly prepare them for what lies ahead. The teacher to me has a mastery that I have yet to possess. Having seen both my mother and father teach, I won’t disrespect the profession by suggesting I have already arrived.

However, I do have an interesting inside track, because many students who come out of this program have applied for employment with the agency where I work. I hear about the ups and downs of their searches. And while many of them are very good, most just push through their last year when they could have accrued valuable knowledge that will help theme tackle the world.

Again I don't blame them. But in many discussions with our interns from various universities nationally, I’ve seen how they victimize themselves with a sense of entitlement prior to walking in the front door.

Jesus, Justice, get to the point!

My intent is to give the students in my class exactly what they want – a job. At least in the most realistic sense that I can construct within the class environment. When I look back on my classes, I think the most profound lessons I learned were the ones that got me as close to the street as realistically possible. I'm the guy that prefers the IKEA pictures instructions to the written, even if they did not give me all the wooden dowels I needed!

I think I railed against my 'street wise' instructors at the time. In hindsight, however, I know nothing benefited me more than those experiences. 

Which brings us to next week, when I open the doors to an advertising agency on the the University of Central Florida campus. There, the agency employees will dive deep into a Basecamp project management system. They will be bound in a micro-level of every conceivable challenge I can give them, while learning to realistically achieve success within the scenarios. 

And what do I want from this experience?

Most of my professional peers refer to me as “FOMO," which in layman's terms stands for the fear of missing out. This is absolutely, 100 percent true. Any advertising, social media, web design, mobile design, user interface design, user experience design, experiential, conceptualist who tells you they don't fear not knowing what the next upcoming trend is – is a liar and a fool.

And what better way to capture the energy and passion that we as integrated marketing specialists crave, than to tap into the youth of right now? I want to see the industry through their eyes.

What would you look for if you had access to a focus group of 20 progressive minds tapped into every conceivable brand, technology and trend? It's an incredibly rare opportunity. I only hope I can bring them the same.