Guru Talk: Laurel Calsoni – Digital Archivist

LaurelCalsoniLinkedInPhotoWorking in digital asset management for a variety of companies over the past 10 years, Calsoni knows the value of keeping tabs on the industry and staying up on trends through several leading DAM news providers.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have always worked in the advertising and graphic arts industry in some capacity.

Long before I had ever heard the term DAM or Digital Asset Management I worked at an ad agency, Harrison Wilson, as an Art Buyer/Digital Archivist. That was the first time I had “Digital Archivist” in my title. At that time all assets were organized on a server and in a physical archive. As a hands-on digital archivist I applied the trade within the boundaries of a taxonomy and schema on a server. I loved it. Portfolio made a presentation to us on the concept of using a DAM. Unfortunately, the dotcom bust happened, the agency closed and Portfolio was never instituted.

I really got to know DAM and digital archiving through an Assistant Photo Archivist position I held at Chevron. I was part of a large team, each person offering a different set of skills, to build a huge new company-wide DAM system. The strategy of building this DAM was well planned, well organized, and took 2 years to implement. The tasks at this position were very hands-on, such as the digitizing of incredible photography and, to this day, some of my favorites.

For 5 years I held the position of Digital Archivist at Landor, working with servers, a tangible repository, a DAM and historical assets. I had tools and varied assets to work with from design files to photography to historical.

Most recently I was a Digital Asset Manager for MRM McCann. And, for the record, I will mention that for years I archived for a landscape architect who still did blueprints outside of CAD.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Self-taught. I learned on the job. It was a natural segue from the old school methods of organizing and tracking information, data and assets: databases and spreadsheets.

I regularly follow DAM News, CMSWire, DAM Coalition, Another DAM Blog, among others to keep up on the trends and news.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Working with DAM’s cousin, the eCommerce platform in some capacity.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My problem with DAM stems from DAM staffing – lack of or just lopsided. It seems that companies are willing to license and install the DAM software but stop short of having a proper DAM team in place for the initiative. There are requests for managers to lead a DAM effort but not to implement. My question is, who then is doing all of the work? As a hands-on digital archivist, my love is the content and I want to stay as close to the assets as possible.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I don’t know where DAM will be in 5 years, the industry is evolving so quickly. However, I do know that wherever DAM goes I want to be there – surrounded by oodles of digital assets. Cataloging, metadata, tagging, organizing, tracking, ingesting them into a DAM. This would be a super modern state-of-the-art DAM, of course, with API-palooza. Throw in a tangible assets archive and/or repository and I will be in heaven.

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Guru Talk: Allison Pearce – Weber Shandwick

Allison Pearce - Content Manager

Having enterprise success with digital asset management systems for multiple companies, Pearce understands the importance of always being willing to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of this industry.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I started working in Digital Asset Management as an intern at advertising agency JWT. At the time, the company was going digital and as part of an intern team I helped to transcode and compress decades of television advertisements to store on the DAM. I was eventually hired by the agency and helped to manage and organize new post-production projects. Additionally, I worked as part of a global team that helped to showcase and elevate the best of the best content produced by the agency across their network.

I also worked for retail giant Victoria’s Secret in their corporate headquarters. There I managed the ingest and trafficking of their extensive library of photography assets, direct from the photo shoot to final output on their website and in catalogues.

I am currently the Content Manager at Weber Shandwick, helping to grow the internal brand.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

As most people aren’t quite sure what I do professionally, I usually explain my job in a simple way: “I organize content.” Content is broad term, so when I elaborate, I usually explain that by using keywords, I help to build structure around assets. The goal is to use data to help make the work our agency produces more accessible to other teams.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

DAM wasn’t something I initially thought I would go into as a career, so most of my learning was on the job. I was fortunate to work with some other talented professionals and be part of vendor scoping and implementations. I also think that one of the key ways to be successful in this arena is to stay relevant. I am constantly staying on top of what is out there in terms of technology, vendors and idea workflows.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Be willing to change and innovate. Technology is here to aid companies not drive how they do things. Data should help a company move forward and constantly adapt to changing needs. Not all DAM solutions are going to fit with company culture, so try not to standardize your way of doing things. You should always be prepared to evaluate what the company really needs and focus your efforts in that direction.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Photographer or lawyer.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

I find that, especially when it comes to implementation, it’s hard to get others into the right mindset for what the ultimate goals are. I think companies tend to want a solution to help better organize their assets, but the challenge is always getting there. I think that setting expectations when you begin that journey is key. Try a staged approach. Set clear goals for your road map so that you will see success along the way.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I think the industry is changing, especially as cloud-based storage becomes a big priority for companies. I am hoping to see more vendors adapt to the changing environments and offer partnerships versus a service to its customers. Some of the best DAM vendors I’ve worked with recognize that they need to work with a company to develop their tool.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I’ve had some experiences in the past where we have tried to fit a digital asset management solution into a scenario where it was not needed. I think better discovery sessions with the teams would have helped to show that—also keeping those groups smaller with key stakeholders. A larger group can get caught in the weeds with simple customizations and lose sight of the ultimate goal.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

As simple as it sounds, I think after implementing a DAM with a team for the first time and seeing how excited they get when the tool helps to cut down on search and make them more productive is a sign of success.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Learning from other professionals about their experience is the best way to learn. Seeing other examples in practice can help you maybe move forward with an issue you may have been stuck on.

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Guru Talk: Collin Rickman – Special Counsel Information Governance

Collin Rickman - Digital Asset Manager

Coming from library sciences and archival collections, Rickman now focuses his efforts on helping global teammates find the marketing materials they need to succeed.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I am a recent arrival to digital asset management. I am an Assistant Digital Assets Manager through Special Counsel Information Governance, working for a client to manage photographic and marketing assets and get those assets into the hands of a global group of stakeholders.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

To those unfamiliar with any kind of information work, I usually draw a quick comparison between the idea of a traditional public librarian organizing physical things like paper books and making them accessible to an external audience, and a digital asset manager organizing digital things like design files and making them accessible to an external audience. A librarian for digital files.

I also give them the example of organizing their own digital music collections at home. How do you find things if the titles are wrong or missing? What happens if you need to replace some files? What happens if the software glitches? What kinds of file types and qualities do you decide to use? And so on. These are obviously simplifications, but putting it in terms that they can identify with in their own lives usually gets them interested to know more.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

It might be a bit premature to say I’ve “learned” DAM, but on-the-job training is always the best teacher, as well as working alongside a more seasoned professional, if you have that luxury. I also have immersed myself in the subject by taking advantage of great online resources. A couple of my favorites are DAM Foundation and Henrik de Gyor’s Another Dam blog. I’m also looking forward to devouring Elizabeth Keathley’s Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I’d like to think I’d be a novelist living in a remote lakeside cabin, chain smoking and pounding away furiously on a typewriter at all hours. But, I’d probably be working in a role similar to that of an archivist or special collections librarian, which was what I was doing before getting involved with digital asset management.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

The complexity inherent in workflow process and asset distribution in a large company and how things can change at the drop of a hat. I’ve learned that it is impossible to account for all the various silos that people use instead of a DAM solution because they find the solution inadequate, don’t know it exists, or prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them. The challenge is to keep pushing towards that solution that centralizes and standardizes how a company manages its assets, knowing full well you’ll never reach that 100% on-board participation mark, but constantly reaching out to others, investigating how people do things, and improving your own processes anyways. Always be moving.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

For me, the biggest success is when the stakeholders I support thank me and say I’ve made their jobs a little easier and their workloads a little lighter. That recognition and appreciation of what digital asset management does when it’s working the way it’s supposed to work makes all the detail-oriented work behind the scenes worthwhile in the end. This doesn’t happen very often (we don’t often hear anything until something goes wrong) so it’s extra special when it does happen.

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