In 2008, I applied and was accepted into the Masters of Science Communications Design program at Pratt Institute. At first I deferred admission, and then ultimately decided to decline admission. But not because I didn’t want to go — I did! While there were a number of factors that influenced my decision, I decided to defer admission so that I could challenge myself to learn as much a I could in nine months. If I found that I hadn’t elevated my role as a web and multimedia manager by then I would invest in (another) advanced education.
During the 9 months, I didn’t adhere to a strict syllabus, but every time I found myself saying “I wish I knew how to…” I’d do what I could to teach myself how to do it. Sometimes it involved Googling the internet for instructions, other times it meant finding the time to experiment until I figured it out. I also read a lot — from The Design of Everyday Things and How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer to blogs like Core77 and A List Apart. Happily, at the end of nine months, I found that I had improved my expertise and confidence. Sure, I was sad not to attend Pratt (and spend 2 years in NYC!), but I also saved myself $90,000.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s important to note that as web technologies emerge so must our skills. The best way to do this, short of enrolling in class after class, is to spend time experimenting and figuring out how things work. Though I call myself a social media strategist and marketing consultant, essentially I have become a communications designer. I spend time researching new communications and collaboration tools, while designing and strategizing ways they can be used to communicate with prospective customers. My clients expect my toolbox to be full of the latest and greatest tools. Though, the latest and greatest tools may be new and shiny, they might not be the best fit. Sometimes they are. It’s my job to know this.
The web (whether it be mobile, social or virtual) is a 24-hour operation. My job doesn’t end at 5 p.m, nor should it. My genuine curiosity in how things work, makes what I do both fun and rewarding. I love discovering new sites like Quora and understanding the impact of new technologies like the semantic web and cloud computing. I love learning. I enjoy designing. I am passionate about making communications effective and seamless for the businesses I help manage.
Being curious is the best skill new media strategists and designers can have. Not only does it keep ideas fresh, it ensures that we evolve alongside new technologies, products and concepts, making their integration more strategic and effective.
What do you think? Is curiosity the best tool in your skill set? If not, what is?