Blog: Adrian Pittman

Adrian Pittman is co-founder and CEO of Velocity Matters and SOMTU MMS. An Ann Arborite, Adrian has more than 15 years of high-tech marketing and brand development experience. He will be writing about entrepeneurship and innovation in SE Michigan.

Post No 1: Man With No Name

What follows are stories, vignettes and little narratives that describe one perspective of the world. Perhaps it's one you share.

"So what is it exactly that you do?" The inquirer and his companions look at me intently. Likely realizing I have never volunteered that information before. Adhering to the strict rule of never mixing business and pleasure, I don't often talk about work in social settings. Yet I find myself inevitably pulled into the topic of discussion. Today is a perfect example.

When asked this question, I'm always struck with finding an effective way to respond. I have not yet discovered exactly the formal name for what I do. Depending on what initiatives are under way at the time, the title might be Creative Strategist, Aesthetic Engineer, Brand Image Consultant, Technologist, and so on. In all honesty, these are just fancy names for a modern-day Jack-of-All-Trades — a Professional Swiss Army Knife, if you will. No stand-alone description describes what I do. At any given moment, I might require multiple skills to solve myriad problems during my latest expedition.

I counter with a clever, semi-self-deprecating joke to throw them off the scent. The group smirks at my wry wit. But the primary inquisitor persists, "No really." He will not be deterred.

I think I just don't like the question … because every time I answer, people respond with either continued bewilderment or non-geek disinterest. It's probably because what I do isn't really as interesting as why I do it. For me, the reward is in the result. This quest to strongly impact the outcome lead me to add an ever-broadening skill set to my professional repertoire. First, as illustrator and graphic designer, then as web developer and designer, and finally as marketing and business development strategist.

The latter two-thirds is where it really got interesting. For a time, I was simply a creative — like many of my artistic contemporaries — content to let the engineers deal with the messiness of building what we designed. Once I crossed the divide and became a creative who could also script and code, something interesting happened: developers took an interest and started showing me their tricks. Before long they were teaching me things that stretched far beyond mere aesthetics. Suddenly I was no longer "just a creative," morphing into an Interactive Experience Weaver. I also discovered something else: there were others like me — creatives who had spliced their artistic genes with engineering chromosomes, learning new skills and crafting some truly remarkable things.

I found my new skills took me all over the country … then all over the world. Agencies large and small clamored for the benefits of a multi-tasking, multi-functioning, elegantly pivoting player — part creative, part developer. But I didn't stop there. I went further … imagining the strategic benefits that could be experienced by a brand or company when technology becomes synchronized with business goals instead of despite them. What a concept! I began to toy with business models — researching market needs, designing technological products to satisfy those needs, and building emerging companies around those products. Suddenly I was a Strategic Technologist. And I wasn't alone. There were others like me. Completely comfortable toggling between pragmatic business strategist and technological dreamer. They could spot a trend, tell the difference between a fad and a paradigm shift, and build a fresh strategy around it.

As they moved up the responsibility (and pay) scale, there became a new hybrid of executive – the Strategic Expeditioner. An extreme adventurer with the ability to anticipate the right direction, adeptly evaluate each potential course, and react quickly, thoughtfully, efficiently. Leading the right moves with an innate understanding of the technology that drives our lives and sets our next direction.

What I found was this. Although the new breed's skill was highly sought, many established businesses were slow to adapt to the look, shape and agility of the Expeditioner. In fact, in most large companies, very little had changed. Us new adventurers found ourselves unable to access all of our capabilities, skills and interests. The companies we teamed up with had titles and roles they were loath to change. So, frustrated, we tore off on our own and began creating — without advent of a regular paycheck or health care — seeking better results through versatility, impact and elegant control.

As newer technologies and techno-centric social movements arise, some sense the oncoming capabilities crunch, challenging the more traditional strategic minds. Within the established business world, some are coming to terms with our existence — realizing their business need for such flexible, skilled thinkers and doers. Creating hybrid positions that are defined more by outstanding challenges than by traditional roles and responsibilities. But a lot more structural change is needed if established companies hope to successfully engage and retain us. At the heart of the matter, the old guard does not yet fully understand the multi-tasking, layered-thinking type of explorer.

Much like my inquirers now.

Their gaze is fixed upon me with keen interest, waiting on my reply. What name will I give myself this time?