Category: DGP Member Interviews

Guru Talk: Fred Robertson

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

Since 2005 I’ve worked for the following companies as a DAM professional.

Liberty Mutual Insurance
Arnold Worldwide
Bose Corporation
Biogen

Most all of these DAM positions – minus the actual agency position at Arnold – were internal agency scenarios.  In each of these roles the need for a DAM was primarily undertaken and initiated in collaboration with the studio, where the responsibility for finalizing and releasing creative work was dependent upon a well-managed and organized library of assets.

What’s interesting about my internal agency work as an asset manager was that all three companies were looking for someone to come in and more fully establish a DAM.  In each case I was not taking over for a prior asset manager or simply continuing to manage assets as part of a legacy DAM system.

At Liberty that meant ultimately creating a brand new platform for managing and sharing assets, at Bose it meant providing new ways to organize and manage files within an established system which eventually would be replaced.  And at Biogen it was as part of a new DAM initiative which had begun before my arrival.

In hindsight my role at Liberty was a great starting point, providing an opportunity for me to establish my own working method and build a checklist to solving for problems which would recur with each new role I took on thereafter. This meant that I could initiate relationships throughout the agency and with (internal) clients who regularly engaged with the creative group. It did not take long for me to realized that my success as an asset manager would be entirely dependent upon maintaining and growing these relationships, establishing trust and providing value across and between all of these touch points in the lifecycle of any piece of creative work.

After six years at Liberty Mutual I spent next two years at Arnold Worldwide (primarily) supporting Dell, who was a new client at the time, and who required a dedicated asset manager within the agency. This was a somewhat new thing for Arnold – since they had two existing asset managers on staff who handled various accounts but were not dedicated to one particular client. At Liberty my interaction with outside agencies was very limited and once I was inside a large agency like Arnold, I was able to see a side of the creative process which was not visible to me at Liberty Mutual. Here again I realized that my success would be dependent upon my ability to establish relationships across many avenues of the creative workflow.

My work managing digital assets at both Liberty Mutual and Arnold Worldwide would come together fully at Bose Corporation in 2013. At Liberty my main focus was managing and purchasing stock imagery while tracking usage and licensing. At Arnold I was able to interact and support an established DAM system (with Dell), while also supporting other clients and the greater asset management team within the agency. This meant handling photo shoot files, building metadata schemas and uploading large batches of files for use throughout the agency.

At Bose my role as the digital asset manager was all encompassing. From handing all photo and video files, distributing files to outside agencies and vendors, to assisting the studio to finalize product and lifestyle imagery, managing production and library servers and supporting internal and international marketing partners. The DAM challenge at Bose was particularly huge and an ongoing opportunity for improvement and change. Implementing changes within an established framework and working around product launches which were continuously ongoing was difficult. My success in this role was very much incremental at first. It took time to build relationships and find a voice in the role. Responsibilities which were once handled by a number of different people took time to consolidate into one role. I think my greatest success at Bose was my ability to eliminate the number of touch points in the life cycle of asset creation. Knowing the one true source of truth and being the vehicle for it was very rewarding on many levels.

My most recent role at Biogen has been very different than previous roles in the DAM space and has presented many new challenges and scenarios to solve for which I had not (entirely) considered previously. While Biogen uses an internal agency for some of their work, they also use many other outside agencies to support their nearly half dozen different brands. So it’s a lot to try and wrangle into one cohesive DAM process. Finding the single source of truth was hard. As I mentioned previously, I came to this role after the DAM initiative had started and at the point where it was ready to launch – so my ability to understand the process and then participate in establishing DAM protocols which best supported those processes was limited.

I am leaving Biogen as this year comes to a close – my family is relocating – and I very much look forward to my next role as a DAM professional. Always looking for challenges and opportunities to expand my knowledge base in this space.

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

The most important thing for anyone new to DAM to understand about DAM is that it’s everywhere. Which is to say, we all need our own personal DAMs for the myriad of personal assets we create, accumulate and share throughout our days. So if you can think of that, then imagine the needs of a company (of any size), how they present themselves to the world and how they need to be organized. And then, if you’ve come to realize the need for a DAM within your organization and have decided to embark on that journey, don’t hesitate, make excuses or cut corners. If you say you’re doing DAM, then by all means, do it across the board. Within an organization of any kind, DAM needs to be everywhere in the thinking of people who are involved in the creation of content, delivery of files and the preservation of assets for continued used.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

In all my years of doing this, the biggest ongoing challenge is finding someone within the organization who understands that DAM needs a seat a lot of different tables in order to be successful. DAM needs to be a part of many conversations. And it needs to be able to speak for itself. I am yet to find a DAM role where the voice of the asset manager can be heard over the systems, operations and/or product owner leads who get invited to meetings where decisions are made about DAM. Decisions largely made without the asset manager activity participating. I see this as my (personal) ongoing challenge simply because I haven’t been able to have that voice when the management structure is a roadblock to meaningful success in the role and therefore the overall DAM strategy.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’d like to learn more about other DAM systems and about other ways of managing assets and content. My roles up to now have all been very similar in terms of the content, the work and even the systems used to support the role. So an opportunity to work with other tools would be great. I also would love to shift gears and work less on the agency/creative side of the things and delve into archives and collections. Either at an institutional or educational level; at a museum, university or foundation of some sort. I feel like my engagement would be maximized by my interest and feel the personal reward would be greater than any previous role. I don’t have a library science degree but have begun to think that pursuing one would help me to further this pursuit.

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

I like this question a lot. Because I don’t think there’s any way to avoid doing DAM in one form or another for me. I truly think it’s in my blood to be an asset manager of some sort. Personal librarian, archivist, photographer, hoarder, etc. I really do believe that I can’t not be an asset manager even if it weren’t my primary profession.

Guru Talk: Ian Matzen – Tame Your Assets

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

I have worked as a digital asset management professional for six years, four of which have been as a remote worker. I have a background in digital video post-production: having post-produced spots for advertisers, episodes for reality television, and short videos for corporate clients.

Currently I am one of four DAM Librarians working in the Marketing department at Wells Fargo. Prior to this, I was the Digital Asset Manager for America’s Test Kitchen, a Boston-based publisher. At Net-a-Porter, a luxury brand online retailer headquartered in London, I was a Digital Asset Technician.

In these positions, I applied my skills in asset migration, workflow automation, user adoption, digital preservation, digital rights management, data analysis, metadata modeling, controlled vocabulary (taxonomy) design, user-centered interface design, and auto-classification.

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

DAM as a practice is heavily influenced by those company staff who create and use digital assets. While most companies will benefit from having a DAM system, it will likely become a “shelf-baby” — DAM software left unused due to lack of attention — without the proper setup based on the needs and practices of its users. Consequently, you will excel at your work once you learn to partner with and influence stakeholders to arrive at governance standards that are both agreeable and steeped in standards and best practices.

You will likely spend less of your time managing assets than you will working on other tasks. Most days you will find me configuring, testing, and troubleshooting the DAM system and providing reference desk services to users. Most DAM systems were put into place to manage and make accessible a very large number of digital assets. Expecting a single person to upload, catalog, validate, classify, update, migrate, and distribute them is wishful thinking. We enable others to manage digital assets for themselves.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

I can think of more DAM challenges than I have room to write! The greatest challenge is how to communicate the value that DAM brings to the company so that it is understood by upper management. DAM professionals, our immediate supervisors, and DAM conference attendees are obviously well aware of its value. I get it: considering DAM is too “in the weeds” for C-suite management. While I acknowledge this, the lack of understanding can have some serious ramifications to our work: from insufficient resource allocation — limiting us from increasing DAM’s value — to being threatened or affected by staffing cuts. Ultimately users are left to bear the burden. A large part of our work as DAM professionals must be to advocate for ourselves and advertise our accomplishments. Finding a means to communicate this message to upper-management is an ongoing challenge.

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

Currently, we seem to be going through a hoarding phase, amassing and storing most of our digital assets without first carefully selecting what to keep and then reconsidering this selection at regular intervals in the future. In five years, unless companies are ready to destroy much of this content, they will turn to archiving much of this material. This will be a great opportunity for archivists!

In the next five years, I hope vendors will adopt a set of common standards to support out-of-the-box system integrations. This may be wishful thinking, but system vendors must realize that by adopting such standards their products will be attractive to companies that value efficiency and interoperability over spending money on overly-complicated customizations.

Guru Talk: Deb Fanslow – ICP

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

I’ve been working in DAM for over 6 years, with experience across the pharmaceutical, CPG, library, museum, and education industries. After earning my Master of Library Sciences degree, I began my career in DAM within academia, working as a graduate intern at the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies to implement an enterprise document management system to manage the library’s special collections. To gain more experience, I then interned with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, cataloging their marketing materials to support the museum’s rich holdings. At the same time, I volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, digitizing rare historic library manuscripts and archival materials.

My first foray into DAM in the private sector was a position with Schawk, working as the Lead Digital Asset Coordinator for their client, Campbell Soup Company. In this role, I managed and administered Campbell’s library of over 115,000 packaging/brand assets, oversaw creation, review, cataloging, and distribution of product renderings, and got my first taste of workflow design and optimization, as well as the challenges of upgrading an enterprise system and aligning stakeholders across a global company. I then moved into a challenging role at Campbell as Marketing Content Platforms Manager, coming onboard mid-project to lead a global team in launching Campbell’s first enterprise DAM system and integrating it with their established workflow system.

Next came a role as Content Steward with Aquent Studios, working with a team of librarians at their client, Merck, to develop global modular content automation capabilities. It was here that I learned the complexities of modularizing master content for local reuse using an XML workflow. I was heavily involved in developing standards and processes, as well as training and documentation.

From this experience, I transitioned to a much broader role at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) as Content Management Capability Lead, where I focused on developing a strategy to drive content reuse across the business, traditional digital asset management, and development of modular content capabilities. In this role, I led projects to analyze and update BMS’s metadata schema, augment DAM reporting capabilities using data visualization, upgrade the DAM system, onboard a new business unit, identify what we called the upstream “content pipeline,” and last but not least, customize their DAM system to support creation and management of dynamic modular content.

As a proponent of documentation, my next role was a foray into knowledge management, a close cousin to DAM. In this temporary position I worked as a consultant with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), where I led a project to develop an online knowledge base to support ETS’s flagship item banking system—the hub of an extraordinarily complex ecosystem that stands as a stellar example of end-to-end modular content creation and delivery.

All of these experiences have led me to my current role as Migration Manager for ICP. I work with their client, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, to manage a library of References to support commercial and medical materials. After migrating their Reference library to a new platform, I am now responsible for ongoing content curation and governance. With the rollout of the new system, I have contributed to developing new metadata standards and processes, system configuration, training, and user support. I work among a team of talented DAM professionals, and benefit from their collective experience.

 

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I actually started learning about DAM before I knew what it was. At the beginning of my 17-year stint working as a graphic designer in the publishing industry, I was creating digital assets and managing all of the content created during the process on servers. My first exposure to DAM was on the user side, where I used one of the first enterprise DAM systems (remember the days of Artesia?) to store and distribute book cover images. Coming into DAM with an understanding of the creative process and the user experience is invaluable.

Although not mandatory for a successful career, I absolutely recommend investing in a Library/Information Science degree that focuses on managing digital libraries. DAM today is heavily marketing-focused, but the principles of centralizing, structuring, managing, and distributing information for findability are much broader than that, and are evergreen across industries, content types, and every DAM use case I have ever heard. And the focus is always on the people using information systems to access and use information in all of its various forms.

Some of the best DAM education I’ve had came as a result of working as a School Library Media Specialist. It was in this role that I learned about the reference interview (what is the user’s underlying need?), teaching (accommodating different learning styles, scaffolding, and continuous reinforcement), change management (personalization is key), user experience (how many interfaces do students need to learn to find the right article?), and most of all, the importance of patience!

Apart from work experience, I would of course recommend visiting the DAM Directory, a curated launching pad to a myriad of DAM resources. Attend DAM conferences, find a mentor, join professional associations, sign up for DAM Peeps, and read everything you can from consultants, analysts, vendors, and practicing DAM professionals—keeping in mind the source.

You can learn many of the core principles of digital asset management by managing your own digital content using a personal desktop DAM system designed for the professional photographer’s workflow. Last but not least, for those new to DAM and the experienced alike, keep an eye on job postings to learn the skills that employers are looking for—then go out and acquire them!

 

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I have a voracious appetite for learning, so my list is long! At the top currently is learning more about the larger ecosystem of DAM—strategy and orchestration of data and content that flows upstream and downstream throughout the digital supply chain.

I’d love to get a peek under the hood of a DAM system from a developer. Also on the list is learning more about system integration, Master Data/Metadata management, modular content, data aggregation, Media Asset Management (MAM), product management, analytics…there’s always something more to learn!

Guru Talk: Kathleen Cameron – Nest

Kathleen Cameron - digital asset managerKathleen Cameron’s digital asset management experience over the years has shown her that DAM is about the ease in discovering content. If done correctly, users no longer need to be reliant on knowing someone else’s folder structure.

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

My first digital asset management gig was organizing content for the Headlands Center for the Arts in exchange for studio space. I built them a DAM system and created the metadata schema (pre-VRA core). From there I worked at Quokka, which was a sports content provider, and each production team had their own instance of a DAM system to utilize, while the IT department looked into an enterprise DAM solution. It was my first experience working with an IT group and requirements gathering. I learned Dublin Core and built the taxonomy for the Sydney Summer Olympics. I was responsible for building out the workflows to get content into the tool and also responsible for digital rights management.

After my time at Quokka, I began working at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as their Manager of Digital Content Development. It was not traditional DAM but more of a blended role of digital project manager and DAM manager. My first project was to build a DAM for the health sciences based on HEAL and my last project was submitting the requirements for a systemwide digital library for the University of California. In between I took on digitization projects for the library, as well as helping other departments organize their assets.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business hired me after they licensed at DAM system to manage the school’s content. This was a make-it-work situation as the tool was not the right fit for their requirements, but the IT manager was committed to the product. I grew the collection from 0-36k assets in 3 years with a focus on migrating existing digital collections from outdated servers to the ECM. I built in connectivity with social media so that users could easily push content to YouTube or Facebook, as well as connectivity with the CMS being used and a new LMS (learning management system).

My current role at Nest Labs has returned me to a more traditional digital asset management role. I function more as a Digital Archivist where I am actively collecting and describing content, thinking through content lifecycle and improving workflows. I’ve built out the taxonomy, migrated content from a non-traditional DAM system they were using, conducted user-training and revisit requirements annually.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

DAM is about the ease of discovering content. No longer reliant on knowing someone else’s folder structure, users can find content more readily through structured and unstructured metadata.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

First, it helped that I had a background in analog archives and understood the power of organization and description. In 1992, I looked at one of the first digital asset management tools while working as a library manager for a photo archive in NY. From there, we began planning digitization. I had a great mentor that I worked alongside when I was a photo editor at Benjamin-Cummins. I did a lot of research. I felt it was important to understand structured metadata so I learned Dublin Core – all other metadata schemas are somewhat based on this, so picking those up later was easier. I spent a lot of time working on preservation and taxonomies in grad school. This can be learned outside of the MLIS process, but are important to understand. Active preservation is part of the conversation in higher ed but less so in non-academic environments and is essential to protecting the investment we make when building a DAM.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Right now it is change management. People get used to the tools they use even if those tools are not efficient. I work with a group that would prefer to work in Smartsheets, Google Team Drive, Box, Jira, etc. instead of one place. We lose efficiency and I don’t always get final assets.

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

The DAM industry goes through cycles. Right now we are in an upswing with a lot of products out there, some of which are too complex and some of which are simply too buggy for the price. I expect that in 5 years, the choices will slim down again with the most stable products remaining available.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

One of my biggest mistakes with DAM was being talked out of the right choice for an organization and being stuck with the wrong choice! The effects of something like that last a very long time.

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Guru Talk: Keith McKeon – Hogarth Worldwide

Keith McKeon - Digital Asset ManagerKeith McKeon is a Digital Asset Manager who understands that chasing features, without having a clear vision for the goal of a company’s DAM system, will lead to frustration and failure.

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

I initially started as technical support for clients using our digital asset management system while employed by Hogarth Worldwide. After a year, I took over technical account responsibilities for a few clients. For some of these clients, a full rebuild of their site’s configuration was necessary; others needed more guided training for their administrators. Strictly speaking, I have been a full-time Digital Asset Manager for Johnson and Johnson’s DAM instance. This role was comprised of user-management, training, implementing a quality control process and a full rebuild of their taxonomy among other projects. I currently mentor 2 junior Digital Asset Managers for Hogarth Worldwide and represent the professional services team for Hogarth in the Americas which includes close partnership with out DAM product team and London professional services teams.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Most of what I know about digital asset management in the commercial, practical sense, was learned by rebuilding and repairing DAM implementations. However, I took a number of classes on image archives and collections while getting my Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS). I have also had the opportunity to assist the technicians in building the Frick’s image library and scan, and organize a personal library of slides and negatives from my family. There are lots of great places to learn about DAM. One of the best ones has been the Meetup NYC Digital Asset Managers. I’ve gained some insight and had many a conversation with some great panelists. I also recommend attending one of the Henry Stuart DAM conferences if your budget permits.

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

Understand that the best software for DAM will not solve the simplest implementation of DAM unless you know exactly what you need and have a committed team to bringing the use of the DAM into your organization’s existing structure. I’ve seen too many instances where the client chased features and either oversold or did not clearly communicate to their internal teams what the DAM software was for. Lastly, make sure the software you choose has a stellar support team and by support, I mean beyond a simple front for answering technical support tickets. In your first year, it is worth paying a little more for at least %20 of a person from the vendor to ensure you are capitalizing on your investment and they hear where your pain points are. If the product isn’t performing, don’t rely on a support ticket alone to give you the final answer. It is highly possible an alternative method of working can solve your problem and any good support team will be grateful for constructive feedback.

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

This depends on the industry. For creative and marketing agencies I see it becoming nearly indistinguishable from other parts of operations. The proverbial “upload” button or, event that moves content from one stage to another will become more transparent in creative operations. Creative software can publish directly to a DAM and integrate with custom metadata requirements set by other tools in the workflow process. As DAM is better understood, it will become integrated as part of the larger content management strategy. Success will be measured by the ability to meet tighter deadlines and less time scrambling for information across other channels of communication. For other industries, like archives and libraries it’ll remain much the same on the surface, but I expect deeper levels of metadata and more connections to other archives will develop and hopefully, unique collections will be easier to find. The so called ‘invisible web’ will become more visible by AI provided paywalls and standards continue to develop.

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Guru Talk: Mark Leslie – Adidas

Mark-Leslie-Digital-Asset-ManagerDigital asset management professional, Mark Leslie explains the full power of DAM can only come into play after you completely understand the business processes of where the assets are created and how all audiences that make use of the assets.

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

For the last 14 years, I have worked with adidas in North America, specializing in licensed professional sports apparel and headwear product creation. During that time I held multiple roles: Production Art Manager for apparel, Senior Design Manager for all adidas licensed product, and Senior Manager of DAM for all North American product teams. In all of these roles I drove a high level of collaboration across teams in multiple geographic locations and very high volumes of product related asset creation and delivery.

I have always been a passionate thought leader and very energetic driver for continuous improvement in the Visual Art, Design and Creative Operations space. One of my core beliefs is to leave everything better than I found it, so my natural tendency has been to promote and give back to the DAM community. I have written numerous blog posts and articles about DAM and Digital Supply Chain topics. I have been a frequent panelist and presenter at Henry Stewart DAM in North America. I was invited by Adobe to present a case study at SUMMIT in 2017. And I’ve received peer recognition in the DAM space – DigitalAssetManagement.com interviewed me as part of their DAM Champ series, and I have been featured on an episode of Another DAM podcast.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

How I describe DAM depends on my audience. For the business user, I like to describe DAM as the virtual counterpart to the physical supply chain by using the term Digital Supply Chain. Business people understand the processes by which products are made, held in inventory, and sold. Raw materials come together to create the product. Finished products are stockpiled in inventory until they are delivered either to a retailer or sold directly to the consumer. A remarkably similar value chain exists for digital source files, which when combined with other files and descriptive information attributes, become digital assets. These assets are held in the centralized and structured storage called DAM, where they await future manipulation or delivery to their ultimate audience.

If I’m talking about what I do in a casual setting, I describe digital asset management as similar to trying to wrangle the mountain of digital photos we all have, or creating playlists in iTunes. Everyone has some experience with the challenges of trying to organize and locate more digital assets than they know what to do with!

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

The most important thing to understand for someone new to digital asset management is that its full value and power can only come into play after you completely understand the business processes where the assets are created and all the audiences that make use of the assets. DAM is simply software and technology used to accelerate and empower work getting done. And once DAM captures those assets, more opportunities for collaboration and delivery are possible because there is now a single source of truth. And while the technology of DAM is a powerful enabler, the needs and methods it supports must relate to the human factor.

On the creation side are people who imagine, request, and create assets while they are seeking ways to collaborate and be more effective. In the audience for assets are people searching for the latest fashion, the sleekest cars, or exciting food or adventures at their fingertips. All the ways we capture assets, describe them in detail, and instantly deliver them where they are needed are parts of the big picture. DAM plays a key role, as part of the overall Digital Supply Chain, to make all of these things happen seamlessly when we do our jobs well.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

With the depth of experience I have in the design process, leading creative operations, workflow automation and DAM, I would love to extend my horizons out beyond DAM into the marketing and use analytics realms. The insights into what makes the appropriate asset resonate with its intended audience not only create the payoffs for the marketing process, but could also be folded back into the creative teams to accelerate the front end development of those same visuals. Technology is constantly changing, markets are constantly changing, and Digital Transformation will continue as an ongoing process. Couple all of this with machine learning and AI and this is an exciting time to be directing these intersections between creativity, people, and technology.

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Guru Talk: Yumiko Saito – Amazon

Yumiko Saito - Digital LibrarianWorking as a digital asset management professional can take many paths. Yumiko shares her’s with us, and helps to illustrate the importance of one’s collective experiences when in a DAM professional role.

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

Technically my role here at Amazon is my first official role as a DAM professional. The road that got me to this point had a lot of turns and dead ends. I started my librarianship career as a Catalog Librarian at Syracuse University. In that role, I was creating metadata to describe physical library collections and managing physical locations of these library materials. I was very happy working as a Catalog Librarian but I felt there was more to do, more information resources to organize than just library collections.

I wanted to expand my experience outside the world of academic libraries so I moved onto roles such as a Content Manager for the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center where I was organizing institutional resources to aid in passing accreditation.  Then onto the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as an Assay Data Coordinator in the hopes that I would be assisting with organizing research data. That unfortunately was a dead end but that role positioned for my next role as Sr. Metadata Librarian at ProQuest.

For those of you who don’t know what ProQuest is, ProQuest a global information content and technology company. In my role as Sr. Metadata Librarian, I had to manage the migration of data from our providers onto the ProQuest platforms. It is during my tenure at ProQuest, through varying roles (Metadata Librarian, Content Production Lead, Content Ingestion Developer), I started to bridge the gap to being a DAM professional. Working at ProQuest gave me the opportunity to work with not only digital print (newspapers, journal articles, etc.) but also art collections, video, audio, market data, etc. While I was technically working with content management systems, it was a hop, skip and a jump away from DAM systems.

I have just entered the next phase of my career as a digital librarian here at Amazon. The needs of the user base are vastly different just as they had been in all of my previous roles but the outcome is the same. All users have the expectation of using a system that will store and organize assets and make them searchable and retrievable in the easiest way possible. That has been the theme of my career path. A winding, twisting and turning road it has been.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

One of the most easily digestible definitions of DAM I have found that explains DAM to lay people is from www.damglossary.org:

“Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a collective term applied to the process
of storing, cataloguing, searching and delivering computer files (or digital
assets). These may take the form of video, audio, images, print marketing
collateral, office documents, fonts or 3D models. Digital Asset Management
(DAM) systems centralise assets and establish a systematic approach to
ingesting assets so they can be located more easily and used appropriately.”

If that doesn’t work, I tell people, “I organize things so people can find them later”.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

As you may have gleamed from my introduction, I did not have the most direct path to DAM. My path to DAM was certainly through trial and error and on-the-job work experience that evolved over time.

I made an effort through my career to get as much extra training as could be afforded by myself or the companies I worked for. I took continuing education classes through local community colleges and universities to improve my technical skills like SQL, Python, CSS and HTML. I was lucky enough to work at a university where I was able to take classes at the School of Information Studies and get a second Master’s degree. I attended relevant workshops through ALA (American Library Association). I took free online courses available through Coursera and Lynda.com.

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

If I were not in my current role, I would still be in librarianship. My strengths are in my organizational skills and experience with metadata management. I would be happy moving into a role where I got to utilize both, whether that be in the academic, public, or private sector. Or I would be a helicopter pilot.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My current challenge is looking beyond the DAM and foreseeing what future features users will be expecting 5, 10, 15 years from now with their DAM system. I misplaced my crystal ball so through a lot of user interviews I am collecting the wants and needs from our user base and extrapolating what features we will want to develop to make our DAM the best tool for our users.

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Guru Talk: Annella Mendoza – MAM Librarian & Archivist

Annella Mendoza - MAM Librarian and ArchivistStraight and to the point, Annella offers a clear look at what it takes to own the success of media asset management systems over the long-term in this industry of DAM professionals.

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

I’ve had a long-term practice as a moving image archivist focused on film. Then I moved on to television librarianship. In 2006, I was tasked to establish the digital video archive at The Weather Network (Canada) and, as Supervisor of the Content Archive, lead a small archive team.  The digital archive started out as proof-of concept and to attain a critical mass of digital video assets. A relatively simple MAM solution was used, out-of-the-box, no customization. E-mail advisory support from the developers was the only added feature. My research on digital archiving was self-directed. Operations were mainly a discovery of the organization and “behaviour” of the digital media, with plenty of valuable input from the archive staff, middle management, and the users. I was slowly coming to the realization that digital archiving was not an isolated undertaking but required the participation of its users and stakeholders.

By 2013, with the roll-out of a 2nd generation MAM system, my role evolved from archivist to Media Asset Management Specialist. It came with new responsibilities to regulate content metadata, provide training to new users, ensure user satisfaction especially from the creatives, and submit reports using the MAM analytics – all these on top of the maintenance and promotion the archive. By that time, I had standardized metadata practices, experienced two major migrations of digital assets, evolved policies on high value digital media assets and rights management. It was also exciting to function within a evolving DAM community of users and stakeholders.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Digital asset management or DAM is organizing, regulating, and making accessible works or properties in digital form to a community of users within an organization, utilizing a work group or enterprise system developed specifically for DAM. Equally important is the awareness that DAM functions effectively within a community of DAM users and stakeholders (always have to emphasize this), each one aware of their responsibilities towards the DAM and consequences of non-action.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I first learned about DAM when I was hired by The Weather Network in 2007 to operate and regulate the media assets – in analogue and digital formats – and establish its first digital media archive. It was from an archive and library perspective. Much of the learning was first self-directed through research, some networking, and gaining insights into my day-to-day practice.

I later learned that DAM can be formally studied; then signed up and earned my certificate in Digital Asset Management from the DAM Foundation in 2015. It was good to know that my practice before studying the course were sound and valid.

Today, there are many sources about DAM.  For a beginner professional, I would recommend Elizabeth Keathley’s Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order Out of Media Chaos: Second Edition as a textbook or main reference work.  DAMNEWS and Planet DAM will familiarize the new practitioner with up-to-date professional issues and developments.  Whenever possible, practitioners should attend meet-ups and conferences.  Networking is even more important today to continue discussions about DAM as it continues to change and evolve.

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

There are two important things to understand DAM, for someone new to DAM.

a.    Digital assets created or acquired by the organization can easily be found and shared by many who are authorized to use these assets.

b.    DAM operates best in an environment where there is shared responsibility by all its users.

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

My foundation discipline is librarianship and archiving, so it’s likely I will practice this profession. I imagine that DAM is inevitably in the picture, more like DAM in librarianship or in cultural practice. I enjoy writing; for my professional writing now, I write about DAM. I have done a travelogue and family history writing and self-published 2 works along this line. There are a few projects lined up so that will continue.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My greatest challenge was backtracking on the digital assets that I’ve already worked on in the MAM.  It’s usually completing metadata. Metadata standards were still developing and I would have liked the complete information to be applied to all assets, even if that meant revisiting thousands of them. At that time, the MAM was not yet so sophisticated and batch processing was not always a reliable practice using our MAM solution. Having the vendor do this meant added costs which were not recommended. I ended up with adding extra time. In hindsight, I had to learn to let go and accept that there are imperfections and gaps found in the earlier works and that it simply got better with the more recent submissions.

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

I would like to see total integration of DAM with other business functions: with creation / production / acquisition, marketing / sales, library / archive, analytics and finance, other relevant functions that should enable assets to move smoothly from one function to the other. Associated metadata are being updated and made accurate as the assets move from one function to the other.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

My biggest mistake was not speaking well of the first MAM system given to our group when I was supposed to advocate it. Those were early days; our MAM system was limited to an out-of-the-box application. However, showing my frustrations to users other than my department was not helpful and delayed any satisfaction that should have resulted in their using the MAM. I ended up with more work providing service when the first MAM system should have been a self-serve solution.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success was user satisfaction achieved when using the 2nd generation MAM to effectively search and retrieve the assets that they need and want. Bear in mind that there were users who also expressed their difficulty with it; but positive responses from others encouraged me to be more patient and customize my training to suit individual needs. Equally successful were other users successfully submitting their works and associated metadata to the MAM.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I wish to learn how DAM is used in marketing, media planning, social media, and external customer experience. I know best how it is used in creative operations. I wish to know the differences between using DAM for creatives and DAM for marketing, social media, and monitoring customer experience.

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Guru Talk: Kelly Pepper – InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Kelly Pepper - Digital Asset ManagerDigital asset management systems require the admin to have a variety of skills to be successful. Kelly Pepper has experience across the spectrum that clearly illustrates the benefit of this need.

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

I started out in digital archives after graduate school—first digitizing content for genealogical research and then for a grant-funded project at a state university library.  The experience I gained through those roles translated well into the business sector for my first DAM job with UPS as an Archives and Digital Asset Management Supervisor.  I kept my pinky toe in the archival world, but really dug into the administration and use of a DAM in a corporate setting.  I did mostly outreach to expand our audience, led user training, organized quality audits of our legacy metadata, and lots of testing and troubleshooting.  I joined InterContinental Hotels Group as a DAM Manager (a title that never gets old) to launch our first true DAM and am in the middle of that implementation now.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It can be a tricky topic—my mother still doesn’t “get” what I do.  But I try to tell people that digital asset management systems (DAMs) make our important files findable, rather than losing everything in your email inbox or on several hard drives.  They allow groups of people to better share and collaborate with their important files, something that resonates with businesses when they associate time and money with those actions! It’s simply making information accessible, whether it’s archival materials or brand/marketing collateral.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned digital asset management on the job.  Nothing is as powerful as experience, particularly considering how unique each system and business can be.  Of course, you can build foundations through resources like Henry Stewart conferences and webinars.  I was fortunate to work with The Real Story Group on a DAM strategy project while at UPS, and found their knowledge and direction to be a great help to my overall understanding. They also taught me the importance of knowing your users and their use cases, so sometimes your best resource is your co-worker or customer!

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

You’re going to need a plethora of different skills! You’ll probably be the lone DAM admin or on a small team, so you’ll find your remit ever expanding.  You need to be technically astute and have the soft skills required to persuade new users/teams to come aboard.  Another important thing is to be patient—DAMs bring change and often resistance.  Be strategic and keep pushing.  There is more and more data available to prove that you’re fighting the good fight.

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

I’d likely be using my history degrees in an archival institution or museum.  Although most days, I wish I owned a cat café.

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

Assuming the robots haven’t taken over completely by then, DAM should continue to be more automated and more integrated.  It’s not just a repository anymore, and I see more vendors really pushing to make that sentiment a reality. The less manual processes involved and the more systems integrate, the easier user adoption will be, which is my ultimate vision.  I think it’s a good time to be in this field, as more organizations are realizing the power of a strong DAM and need the resources and expertise to implement them.

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Guru Talk: Alice Cameron – Northwestern University

Alice Cameron - Digital Asset ManagerDigital Asset Manager, Alice Cameron, clearly understands that every system is different, and there’s no definitive resource. Respecting the uniqueness of each DAM system will help improve the end user-experience.

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

When I decided to pursue my MLIS, specializing in Archives & Cultural Heritage, I really never expected to become a “DAM Professional”! I dove into the profession at McDonald’s Global Headquarters as a Metadata Specialist, working with multiple DAM systems. My role really encompassed every area of DAM management: user relations, backend testing, troubleshooting, taxonomy & metadata schemas, and later on migration to a new tool. I left McDonald’s to pursue my career as Digital Asset Manager & Head Digital Archivist for Northwestern University, in the Office of Global Marketing and Communications, where I work with a single DAM system. At Northwestern, I’ve brought our “MDAM” (Marketing DAM) into existence; from customization to implementation, with daily oversight to streamline the integration of content from 36 marketing units within our schools & departments.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I think most DAM professionals can agree – we love our jobs, but explaining what we do can take some time. I usually say, “You know when you want to find something on Google, and sometimes it takes a while and you have to mess around with your search terms, and sometimes you get exactly what you want right away? I make that happen for my organization’s content.”  It doesn’t get into the full depth of rights and asset management, but it gives friends and colleagues an idea they can relate to. Usually people ask how my Library Science degree comes into play, and I explain that I’m still a librarian, I’m still an archivist, I’m making content and information accessible to the end user, and doing my best to make that process as seamless as possible.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I first learned about DAM in my time at Dominican University, and I consolidated that knowledge with on-the-job experience. Every system is different; there’s no definitive resource, every system is unique, and collaboration with your vendor along with working through the complexities of your solution is essential to becoming a DAM expert.

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

The complexities of it. From the initial implementation to daily use, there’s always something to fix, to improve, to work on. DAM is not a self-contained solution that can run on its own. DAM isn’t “outside” of librarianship or physical assets anymore. You’ll get out of it what you put into it, and you have to put quite a lot of work into it. Your end users are the single most important measure of success in DAM. If their work life is easier because of DAM, you’re doing something right. I am constantly asking my end users for recommendations or suggestions for the tool. I always tell them nothing is too far-fetched technology wise. I put every new idea on my wish list, and if it’s not something that’s technologically possible yet, I put it on our vendor’s roadmap.

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

Probably working more closely with physical archives again. Or volunteering at an animal sanctuary somewhere.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My greatest ongoing challenge with digital asset management is that there are only 24 hours in a day. It seems as though there’s never enough time.

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

I’d like to see stronger integration with other platforms. There’s a massive disconnect in institutional DAM tools (usually as a result of there being a variety of different vendors and processes). I see huge storage improvements in the future, too.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I got to a point where I was working 12-14 hours a day, 6 days a week, and eventually I realized DAM is a process; it’s never going to be “completed.” If I’d gone on working like that forever, it would have driven me mad! Prioritizing is key.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My approach to implementing and maintaining MDAM at Northwestern. It was the first DAM where all of my decisions were brought to life. It’s so important to have a close relationship with your vendor. You’ll never get functionalities or improvements that you don’t ask for, and I’ve been really lucky to work with a great vendor, who consistently take my requests and make them a reality. Our tool has already evolved so much in the past year. Constant emails and weekly vendor catch-ups make all the difference when they result in incredible feedback from your end users.

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