Role Models: Jon Gabriel, Digital Producer at REQ

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Today’s Role Model is Jon Gabriel. Jon attended the University of Delaware and studied computer science. While he didn’t want to code for a living, he wanted to stay in the tech space. Immediately out of school, he traveled across the U.S. as a freelance photographer covering action sports. He spent some time in photo studios learning about portrait lighting, and later moved down to Maryland to work as a Traffic Coordinator at Sabre Hospitality Solutions. One year later, he transitioned into a hybrid Product Manager role. Currently, Jon is a digital producer at REQ, a brand management agency.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

I am a digital producer at REQ and I have been in the role for one month!

What attracted you to this role?

I have a background in producer roles. Someone in a producer position is well-connected with the development and design teams and has a high-level view of the landscape of resourcing and project health. My background in computer science and design combined with my overall extroverted nature made me a particularly good traffic coordinator at Sabre. I wanted to return to this position in a different industry to see if I could learn more.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

I get in early to assess the day’s client work deadlines. I run through all the creative and development responsibilities and make sure that the design and tech teams are in a place where they can be successful. As new projects come through the pipeline, I pop in and out of meetings discussing what resources may be best for the client’s requests. I run cost/analysis operations with the different teams. Analyzing their time time tracking shows us how we’re doing compared to how much we’re generating and producing.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Being organized and having a caring personality are the most important skills for success in this role. I believe that a company’s success is generated by happy people, so I try and keep that in mind when I request work from individuals. We ask a lot of design and dev teams, so I strive to maintain a caring mindset towards those team members. I rely on my organization skills to keep track of specific tasks and forecasting timelines for the future.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

A digital producer position is a bit of a Swiss Army knife of a role. For the most part, the bulk of the work revolves around efficient resourcing of design and dev. But just like a lot of other positions at a smaller / medium sized company, you will wear a lot of hats. There is a lot of project management in this role which can be fun. Depending on what work is coming in, there can also be a bit of business development. I enjoy the variety of what’s asked of me and I dive into whatever I can get my hands on. I love learning about the business as a whole.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Since the digital producer role sits between client services and the design / dev teams, I need to interact with a range of personalities. Not everyone’s working style / personalities may be effective at efficient project and resource management, but you have to work through those challenges. For the most part, everyone means well and is trying their best, so having an understanding and caring mindset is important.

Another challenge is keeping design or dev teams to a timeline. When someone has something due and you need it from them, the relationship can quickly turn to a ‘means to an end’ interaction. Balancing an ask with humor and understanding is critical.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

I frequently work with all teams within my organization – business development, client services (account management), design, development. Recently, we received an ask from a client to develop an email template and then build it out. This project involved first working with the account manager to understand what was being asked. Then, I brought the idea to design to create a standard email template that matched their brand. Once we had a design, the project moves to our copywriting team to write engaging content for the emails. Finally, I brought the completed designs to development to work through creating the actual HTML that would be sent out.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

Forecasting the future is incredibly valuable for project management and efficient resourcing. I would say planning against multiple project deadlines and limited resourcing timelines is something I’m still trying to refine as I grow in this role. Mastering this skill helps organize and turn around good work at the same time giving a better work life for co-workers I care about.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

A strong EQ is necessary, since you’ll need to interact with a lot of people in this role. Critical thinking and organization is important as well, because timelines shift daily. Having an opinion about design can help, too. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to chime in on what you think about work. 

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

I am a lot more organized than I have been in the past. I have also tried to be conscious of how I come across to others more. In this role, it’s important to stay level-headed and kind regardless of how you feel, since colleagues across the other teams will feel your sentiments reverberate.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Project progress versus client timelines determines my success. As long as we’re making good progress and hit our deadlines as a design and development team, I’m doing pretty well.

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