Blog: Iain Lanivich

Iain Lanivich is a Digital Creative Director for Campbell-Ewald, directing all phases of creative work from concept development through production. He has also played the Detroit hard rock scene for the last 10+ years as a singer.  Iain believes it's a small world so you better start networking. He'll be writing about finding and keeping talent in Detroit.

Post No. 1

To Live and Die in the D  - PART 1

What’s up all my MM readers out there. I have to admit that I’ve been blogging for years, but usually always for the bands I’ve played in, so this is a bit of a challenge. But I’m up for it – rockin’ out to some old skool Michael Jackson while I write (Billy Jean to be specific…haha). Every year, off and on, I usually try to maintain a journal. It’s usually pretty fun to look back on it years later. So, looking for tips on what I want to write about, I pulled it up today – turns out a year ago today, was the day I made the decision to propose to my longtime girlfriend, now fiancé, Margaret (thanks for saying "Yes" babe). I was also in the middle of the planning for what’s currently my biggest creative project to date, Alltel’s Man Cave

Well, anyway, before I launch into talking about finding talent and effectively using people who are experts at things you're not, I guess I’ll tell you a bit about growing up in the D, and how I managed to get to where I’m at (in regards to my career). For more info about me, feel free to check out one of my social networking profiles on LinkedIn
, MySpace, or Facebook


I guess I grew up like a lot of other eastside suburban Detroit families around my age – divorced household, with a predominantly blue collar family. Both my Dad and Mom worked for Chrysler, as did a lot of my other family members (sister, brother-in-law, uncles, etc.) Other than my Mom, everyone worked in the plants (either on the line, or in the skilled trades). My Dad often worked multiple jobs, so I was always staying at other people’s houses – which I think helped in the development of my social skills. 

As a kid, I was always trying to be creative. Lego’s and Erector sets were my favorite. Or, if left alone, I’d take something apart – but couldn’t always figure out how to put it back together. I was also very much into computers…from back in the day with my Commodore 64, then Amiga, then finally a PC. I was always playing games and MUDs, writing code, trying to be like Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science with a modem, and messing with Prodigy and BBS when they first came out. There used to be a really cool BBS that was run out of New Baltimore called "Industry". We also used to run "Super Sunday" football leagues at my house on my C64, way before any fantasy or stat-tracking systems were around. Each year, my aunt and uncle would take my cousins and me on vacation. We went to Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Cancun, and camping at Higgins Lake.

However, my most memorable of the vacations was a trip to Hollywood. We went to Universal Studios, and I managed to get picked to ride the E.T. bike, act in a video skit, and I also entered some joke contest at a pilot airing of some game show. I stood in front of a large audience and told the joke "Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Cuz he was dead." I was probably only around 7-8 at the time. 


My Dad had always wanted me to go to private school, so he sent me to St. Barnabas in East Detroit from 1st-4th grade (until they closed down). He always wanted me to go to St. Anne’s in Warren (where I grew up), but their waiting list was too long. So, when Barnabas closed, I was transferred to St. Clement in Centerline. Here is where I would spend the rest of my grade and high school years. I was a pretty active kid, so I couldn’t wait to get involved in organized sports. I started playing hardball in 2nd grade, and did the karate thing for a bit, but the thought of playing football and basketball blew me away. As I was getting ready for high school, my Dad was pushing me pretty hard to goto DeLaSalle (which was only a block from the house). I didn’t like the thought of an all guys school, so I purposely bombed the placement test. Whoops…didn’t go over too well with the old man (he got over it). In my years at St. Clement, I was your typical jock. I hung with the in-crowd, partied, got in trouble, had fun, etc. But most importantly, learned some key morals and words to live by that stick with me today (i.e. "Give 110%", "Reckless Abandon" and "Controlled Insanity"). Football was my life through most of high school – we did pretty good too; went to the state semi-finals three years in a row, and broke some county records (but it still hurts all of us, that we never went to, and won the state finals).  


When it was time to start making college decisions, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I wasn’t a straight A student, but I took all the college prep courses, and when I wanted to, I would pull good marks (Note: "when I wanted to"). At this time in my life, I really didn’t know much (in regards of options). St. Clement was a small school, with little to offer, when it came to career prepping. All the adult influencers in my life were saying to become an Engineer. With an entire family that worked in the plants, all I ever heard about was pension-this, and pension-that. So much that I had NO CLUE how a person not working for the "big three" would ever be able to retire. It was all very confusing to me (much like the word "equity" when your first buying a house, or "brand" when you first start working in marketing/advertising). 

Eventually, I made my decision – me and a friend were sold on Michigan Tech University, after the recruiter mentioned they had a "sky diving" club. My Dad had set me up on the MET program, so I had to attend a school within Michigan.  And I knew I would never get a sports scholarship. 

During the summer of 1995, before leaving for MTU, I was selected to work in Chrysler’s summer program. The first summer was pretty rough – I worked at Davison/Dequindre, and my hours were 4:30am to 1pm. I was a FREAK. I made really good money for an 18 yr old, would hang out with my friends until pretty late, get an hour or two of sleep, and goto work. By the end of the summer, I was pretty burned out.  

I got to MTU, looking to major in “Mechanical Engineering,” but I have to admit that as soon as I stepped into my first ME class, I knew that I wanted no part of it. I later switched majors to “Computer Science.” This was much better since I understood the logic behind coding. But still, I knew in the back of my mind that MTU wasn’t going to last that much longer. I Aced my CS classes, but wasn’t putting much effort in my other courses. I also thought I was superman, and tried to take 18 credits, have a full-time social life, pledge a fraternity…it was only a matter of time. 

However, I made it thought my first year, doing alright (but no where near where I should have been). Chrysler had called me back for the next summer. This time I went to work at the McGraw Glass Plant in Dearborn. I worked the afternoon shift from 2pm to 10pm. It was perfect for me – I was 19 now, and going to Canada. I got off work with enough time to go out, and got home with enough time to sleep before work. My job foreman started talking to me about staying on full-time instead of returning to MTU. I was pretty on the fence, since I knew that I probably wasn’t going to be at Tech much longer, but I was scared to commit to a 30 year job. So I chose to return to school. 


My prediction came true – I was home by Christmas, for good. During college, I met a person who changed my life forever, his name was Eli Parks (from Romeo). He introduced me to music. Eli and I would joke around about starting a punk band, he could play guitar and I would sing (I’ll come back to this in a bit). My only music background was the fact that I was really into early-90s rap, and used to create my own mix-tapes with my dual-cassette recorder boom box. Basically, if it had a “parental advisory” sticker on it, I had it. 

I started getting some pressure on the home front, as to what I was going to do with my life. My family had their fingers crossed that Chrysler would call back for another summer, and hire me on full-time. I really didn’t care that much, or have any worries – I was 19-20 and having fun. I worked as a grunt ripping and laying carpet. I did some telemarketing (had some fun with some peoples names). I even sold art – it was a crazy job. I only had it for a weekend. We had to drive out to Fort Wayne Indiana in a crazy storm. I had just leased my first car a week earlier (Dodge Stratus), and on the expressway, the car in front of me ran over some log, and shot it up at my hood and off my windshield. I drove that car for the next 2 years with a caved in hood, and got it fixed a week before lease turn in. Oh, and I quit my art selling job on my third day. It felt weird going into businesses and trying to force art on people. The worst thing was, about 10 frames broke in my trunk, so I actually lost money on the job. 

So, I got a call from Chrysler, a bit before the summer. It was to take a placement exam into the skilled trades. I showed up, selected my top three trades (electrician was number one), and took the test. My family was ecstatic. At the same time, Eli had dropped out of MTU, and asked me to start that band. So, I was going out to Romeo 1-3 times a week for jam sessions. It was a blast. I loved the songwriting and lyric writing process. Not to mention the feeling of a good jam. 


A month or so after taking the skilled trades test, I got something in the mail. It was a letter saying that I passed the test, and will be receiving a call to start an electrician apprenticeship as soon as a plant has an opening. Again, my family was soooo happy. But I wasn’t. I was scared. I knew that if I took the job, then you’re in it for the long 30-year haul. And on the other side, if I didn’t take the job I was stupid. 

I continued to jam, and have fun. At this time I was now working for a company called Paragon in Warren, as a Shipping and Receiving clerk. A few weeks went by, and then I got the call from Chrysler. It went a little like this: 

    Chrysler: Hello, can I speak to Mr. I-E-OIN Lanivich?

    Me: This is IAIN

    Chrysler: Hi, I’m calling on behalf of the electrician apprenticeship you applied for.

    Me: Yes

    Chrysler: Well, we have a position open at the Gear and Axle plant, starting in two weeks.

    Me: Oh, that’s great. However, I’m actually going to school this summer, so it wouldn’t be good timing. Can you call me when something else becomes available after the summer?

    Chrysler: Are you sure sir? You do realize that there’s a long list of people for this position, so another opening may never happen.

    Me: Yeah, I’m aware. I’d just hate to cancel my classes.

    Chrysler: <a bit puzzled> Well, alright sir. Good luck.

    Me: Thanks.

    Chrysler: Bye

    Me: Bye 

I hung up that phone and just sat there thinking HOLY S*#T, did I just do that. I can’t say that ever happened. I can’t tell anyone. Did I just mess up. Oh no! 

About two or three months went by (early 1998), and I was thinking to myself – “What am I doing? I’m better than this. I know a bunch of stuff about computers. There’s got to be a job for me.” Just when I was thinking that way, I heard a radio commercial on WRIF (101.1 FM) for a computer job fair in Troy, in two days. be continued tomorrow