Technological Disadvantages: 9 Experiences My Children Will Never Have

One night as my family was watching a Netfllix movie, the TV froze and my four-year-old said to his younger sister: “Cora don’t worry, it’s just buffering.” This coming from a kid who can’t tie his own shoes.

Whether we like it or not, our children’s upbringing is, and will continue to be, very different from our own. Information is everywhere, privacy has become non-existent, and everyday it feels like we’re moving closer and closer to a real-life Skynet.

I’m no luddite. I’m a Senior digital strategist here at TJA. My job literally entails adopting new technologies and applying them to our clients’ marketing needs. But as much as I enjoy how technology has enhanced our lives (iPads, Netflix, the cotton gin?), I’m still sad my children won’t share some of the same experiences that sparked so much joy in my childhood.

1. Going to Blockbuster
I can still smell Blockbuster if I close my eyes: worn carpet, plastic and packaged candy. I could walk around Blockbuster for hours. There was no IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes to help decide which movie to choose. You judged a movie’s worth by A) How many copies of the movie were on the shelf, and B) How many of those copies had been already rented. In a zero-copy scenario, finding a copy at the return counter felt like winning the lottery.

2. Getting Lost
Until very recently, humans relied on a large piece of paper to help them navigate the world. Although there was always a slight panic when it dawned on us we were lost, for me, there was also a tinge of excitement. Will I get back on track? Will I cave and ask for directions? Will I take a wrong turn and get stuck near an old nuclear site that gave rise to a group of mutant monsters who have developed a taste for human flesh? We’ll just have to keep driving and find out.

3. Dial tone of modem
When dial-up internet was still in use, the internet was in its infancy. That unmistakable tone of the world wide web downloading itself through a landline conjured a wide range of emotions, from excitement to sheer confusion. Pavlovian conditioning at its finest!

4. Driving a car
This one might be a stretch, but in 2029 when my kids are learning how to drive, I’m hypothesizing that self-driving cars will have been fully adopted. Unless there’s a “just drive nowhere specific so I can clear my head” button on their self-driving car, they’ll be missing out bigtime.

5. Privacy
As great as social media can be, I’m so thankful that it wasn’t around when I was a child. When it came to your social life, you only knew what you knew. There was no feeling left out because you saw pictures that Tommy’s GF posted on VSCO from Janey’s party that she purposefully didn’t invite you to.

6. Making a mix tape
Sure, this is something my kids will be able to do digitally with playlists, but there was something extra special about giving a tape to someone that you worked hard on and spent hours perfecting. The timing had to be meticulous, and the presentation had to match. The effort was what made it a great way to show someone you cared.

7. Being off the grid
“Be home by 11!” Being out of touch was liberating. There was no changing plans, or constant checking in. Life was just better off the grid. I’m pretty sure Stranger Things would have been a horrible TV show if those kids had cellphones. Where’s Will? Launch Find My Friends!

8. Using a camera with film
Growing up, there was a limited amount of shots in a roll of film. The perfect picture was almost non-existent. We didn’t constantly have cameras in our hands and we certainly didn’t take 15 pictures of our eggs Benedict. It was a total crapshoot. The anticipation of waiting for the film to be developed was worth the unexpected surprise of the perfect shot.

9. Talking on the house phone
It’s crazy to think how quickly house phones became a thing of the past. There were no cell phones growing up (which means there was no texting, duh). Those 6th grade late-night phone conversations have been replaced with abbreviated shorthand text. SMH, man. SMH.

Maybe my feelings about technology and my offspring will be passed down from generation to generation. I just had Siri make a reminder for 2049 to have my son to write a follow up. Oh the irony.

Me, as technology continues to advance:
Doug

TJA Team Talent: Samara Pohlmeyer

We sat down with Samara, the right hand woman to our CEO, to learn a little more about her first month at TJA and what she loves most about her new role!

1.) Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, but my family roots are back east in Boston. I went to high school at Desert Mountain High School and Arizona State University.

2.) What got you interested in the marketing/advertising industry?

Specifically what sparked my interest was a “marketing & new technologies” course of sorts that I took my senior year at ASU. It created this drive and interest in myself that I hadn’t known before. I thought to myself ‘wow, this is really something I see myself doing’.

3.) What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

I overcome challenges everyday in my role. My biggest challenge yet has been developing a new mindset. I am green—newly graduated and new to experience a career outside of the typical college level job. For the past 16 years, I have had it instilled in my mind to “learn the material” or the correct approach to tackling a project, etc. and applying that to each situation that is presented to me—i.e. essay formats, nutrition application, etc. But that is the furthest thing to grant me success in my role. Every situation is unique, and I cannot apply what I learned from one situation to the next. Breaking out of the academic mindset has been one of my biggest challenges.

4.) What success have you had in your role at TJA?

I’ve succeeded in personal growth and developing a stronger work ethic with increased determination. This opportunity has taught me so much in the short amount of time I’ve been here. So far, the success I have had has come directly from learning opportunities, which translates to personal growth. Seeing the day-to-day demands of the company that result in the success of TJA is eye opening, and drives me to become a better version of myself for this position.

5.) What is your favorite part about your job?

How much time do you have? There isn’t anything that I do not like about my job. The culture at TJA is everything that makes this job so great! But if I had to chose my favorite thing that I feel benefits me most, it would be having Veronique as a mentor.

6.) What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

This is the start of my career! But what I have learned transitioning from an academic career to an actual career are the benefits of failure and struggle. In school, failure meant that I didn’t understand the material, I wasn’t making progress or growing. But in my position now, if I struggle or fail at something, I learn from each and every opportunity. Now, failing at something doesn’t mean that I’m not going to pass in my job or in life—it means I’m going to excel at the next task.

7.) What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

I was a receptionist at a salon called Hydrate Salon and Day Spa, and before that I worked at The Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch in the spa as a receptionist. Customer Service has been a big part of my skill set. And its interesting now to have a job that isn’t as heavily influenced with those skills. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly aim to deliver the utmost satisfaction to our clients at TJA—But it isn’t as straight forward as my previous jobs were.

8.) What would you tell someone who is starting their career like you?

If someone is just starting out in establishing their career, the best bit of advice I can give them is this: do not be afraid to fail and do not take for granted any opportunity that presents itself to you. If that opportunity is to learn, to develop your skill set, or to realize what you DON’T want to be doing, great. But learn from it; grow from it. Starting out at TJA, I was nervous—I won’t lie. I work side by side with a bad-ass boss lady, and that can be intimidating! It is imperative to my generation, the incoming workforce, to appreciate the tears, sweat and blood that someone has shed in order to give you the opportunity that is in front of you.

TJA Team Talent: Michael Escoto

This month, we sat down with the newest member of our web team, Michael! Though he may be quiet, there are many fun facts to learn about him. Sit down, settle in and read more about our web developer.

1.) Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Ajo, AZ.  It’s a very small town south of Phoenix. Fun fact: Most people stop there on their way down to Rocky Point to get gas or buy Mexican insurance.

2.) What got you interested in the marketing/advertising industry?

I had always wanted to work for an advertising agency because I thought it would be a good opportunity to be exposed to and work on a lot of diverse projects.  So far, that has definitely been the case.

3.) What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

I’m not the most artistic person in the world, so when tasked with doing both the design and the development of a website, the design part can be kind of a struggle.

4.) What success have you had in your role at TJA?

I work with some very talented designers here at TJA, which makes my work as a developer a lot easier.  I think, together, we’ve managed to create some very cool looking websites for our clients.  I’m particularly proud of some of the work I’ve done on the Tilted Kilt website.

5.) What is your favorite part about your job?

The people I work with.  Everyone here at TJA is very supportive and friendly and it makes work a lot of fun.  

6.) What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

That it’s okay not to know everything.  As a web developer, you encounter a lot of problems when a solution isn’t always clear. This used to really frustrate me but, as I’ve learned, it’s okay not to know how to fix something right away. As long as you persevere to find a solution, you usually will.      

7.) What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

Most days, I can get by with just using my favorite text editor, Sublime Text, and my Spotify account.

8.) What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

I think in general there seems to be an emphasis on performance lately. There is increased focus on how quickly we can get a website to load on a user’s computer or smartphone and what we, as developers, can do to improve that.

9.) What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

A number of customer service or operations type roles.  Originally, I wanted to be a journalist, and I was lucky enough to do some freelance work for the Phoenix New Times and AZCentral before finally settling into web development.

10.) What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as a web developer?

Becoming a good developer is a marathon, not a sprint.  Really take your time to learn the basics before moving on to some of the more advanced techniques.

TJA Team Talent: Adam Hansen

This month we sat down with our copywriter, Adam Hansen, to learn a little bit more about where he came from and how he got started in the advertising industry. Read on to get to know our office jokester a little better!

1.) Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Marshall, Minnesota—a tiny midwestern town that’s only known for Schwan’s trucks, ice cream and frozen pizza.

2.) What got you interested in the marketing/advertising industry?

I originally went to college for music production but always loved English classes. When I realized that music wasn’t a good fit, an advisor suggested I try advertising to stay within a creative industry. Once I started the program, I realized how much I loved it and knew I wanted to do it for a living.

3.) What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

Since I work on projects for nearly every client at TJA, I have to flip a different switch in my brain dozens of times throughout the day. This helps me write in a different voice for each brand. It can be challenging at times, but definitely keeps me on my toes and ensures every day is interesting.

4.) What success have you had in your role at TJA?

I’ve worked with the team to bring some really fun, interesting ideas to life. From talking kabobs and corned beef sandwiches to in-depth bios for imaginary people, we’ve created memorable work that’s backed up by real-world results.

5.) What is your favorite part about your job?

I love having the the chance to work with each of the departments within TJA. Depending on the project, there’s a good chance that I’ll get to collaborate with someone different each day.

6.) What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

I wish I had known how much of a role social media would play in our everyday lives and the way brands communicate. There’s really no other medium quite like it, so it takes a whole new way of thinking about your message and how it will translate to that space.

7.) What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

I always end up using two things on a daily basis: a thesaurus and Google images. Looking through synonyms helps me find new twists on headlines, body copy or even entire concepts. Similarly, browsing hundreds of different photos while I’m writing can jumpstart new ideas or help me think of something that was hiding in plain sight.

8.) What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

I think both established and new brands are seeing a lot of success when they concentrate on storytelling. This is true for advertising, but also extends to social media and in-person interactions. Providing people with memorable, relatable stories helps them form an emotional connection and can lead to life-long brand loyalty. This is especially important now that consumers have endless choices in pretty much every product category.

9.) What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

I began working in the creative industry during college. I started out as a design and photography intern before realizing that I’m better with words than pictures. I also worked as a DJ and marketing coordinator at an independent radio station in North Dakota that played indie and metal music for anyone who would listen. Once I moved to Phoenix, I started writing for brands in many different industries and locations—including McDonald’s, Talking Stick Resort, The State of Arizona and international brands in China and Europe.

10.) What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as a copywriter?

Learn how to translate any concept into a thousand different executions. It’s important to ensure your idea will work for every medium while remaining recognizable and cohesive. That way your target audience gets a similar experience each time they interact with the brand, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

5 Ways to Stay Sane in An Advertising Agency

It is no secret that the advertising industry is a fast paced and stressful industry. While short deadlines and high pressure situations are a part of the gig, I’ve picked up a few habits over the past couple decades that help me keep my cool in a volatile and unpredictable environment.

1. Stop and Stretch

Stretching helps more than flexibility and posture, it clears my head and forces me to stop what I’m doing. Stopping what you are doing periodically throughout the day will make you more efficient and will help reboot your brain. If you are in the groove, keep on going, but if you are in a rut, raise your arms up, touch your toes and go for a walk. It may seem counterintuitive if you are crazy busy, but it makes a huge difference.

2. Breathe like a baby.

Out of all my life hacks, this is the one I do the most. I’m sure I heard this from a wise yoga wizard atop a fog covered mountain, but it always helps. This is what I do:

  • Take 3 breaths:
    • Inhale and expand your tummy so you have a beer belly [a baby beer belly]
    • Controlled, in through your nose, out through your nose
    • When you exhale feel your muscles and mind go clear
    • Combine this with #1 and you might levitate or become a Jedi

3. Isolate Yourself With Music

Everyone needs some ‘me’ time and during the work day is no exception. I would explain this the same as a sound machine for people that can’t sleep. Music seems to fill mind gaps and smooths out my train of thought. Slap some headphones on, stream to your latest wireless speaker or close your door and blast some tunes. There’s something about music that helps me focus and keeps me positive. Depending on the task, it’s almost harder to concentrate when it’s too quiet. You could be in a crowded room, coffee shop or high-stress situation and the music will give you some much needed solitude.

4. Empathize

Empathy will set you free. When talking with clients, employees, colleagues and vendors, I always try to understand where they are coming from. If you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you have accomplished the most important part of being human. Having an understanding of someone else’s point of view helps you. Let me repeat that one more time. It helps YOU. Empathy is not just about the other person, it’s about making a connection to help you move forward, understand, or take the next step.

5. Look At All of Your Options

Feel like you’ve lost hope on that big project or that you have hit a creative wall? You’re not stuck, there are always options. Take a step back, look around, where can you go? Find a path that will move you forward. It doesn’t matter what situation you are in, there’s always more than one option. If a client comes to us with a tight deadline, I choose to find a solution and handle the task at hand. I see no reason to react with emotions that impede my decisions. Granted, there are going to be situations where that is just not possible and goes against human nature, but for all intents and purposes, in a creative environment, this is the case.

Next time you find yourself facing a difficult task, take a step back and try one of these tips to calm you down and allow you to handle the problem at hand. Do you have any other good habits that help you navigate your daily path? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @thejamesagency!

Hiring Quality Team Talent

The old saying is “hire slow, fire fast.” When first starting out, I didn’t really know what this meant. Then, I acted in haste, made some REALLY bad hires and paid the ultimate price. Detangling a bad hire from a tight-knit culture like TJA’s is like trying to cure the entire team of the plague. Not to mention the impact that hiring talent has on external brand perception with our trusted partners, vendors and clients.

So, at TJA, we take a different approach to hiring quality people that will fit into our work family. I am confident that we have some of the top talent in the industry in this building, but sadly, this is not enough to be a quality agency. We thoroughly vet potential new team members and do our best to include as many appropriate opinions into the process as needed. Speaking of process, it’s a long one. This goes back to that “hire slow” mantra.

The mistake we made in the past was that we hired solely for “school” and not for “cool.” While hiring for the right technical talents is crucial, there also must be a genuine personality with integrity, drive and respect for their peers and the trade.  We’ve carefully crafted a hiring process that allows us to vet “cool” and “school” simultaneously, which inevitably results in top-notch hires.

Step One:

When bringing in an applicant for the first time, the department head or director whom that person will report to day-to-day performs a more classic interview, discussing experience, work examples, work tendencies and expectations.

Step Two:

Should that candidate make it past step one, the “skill interview,” I am brought in for a tail-end discussion for about 30 minutes to learn more about the candidate and their character. I’m not asking the questions about how they do their work; instead, I ask questions about what inspires them, transformational travel experiences, more about their family and hobbies/interests. This is really where the rubber meets the road. If I can’t have a fluid conversation with this person or feel like I can go have a beer with them after work, they aren’t the right fit for the company.

Step Three:

Ok, so they’ve made it past the Boss Lady gauntlet. Depending on the position level, we might ask the applicant to perform a test project to evaluate their work ethic. The projects usually entails a deadline and instructions of some sort. When giving this test project to an applicant, we are looking not only for the quality of work, but also what questions they ask, how they collaborate, what their process is and if they turn it in before the deadline. We love when that happens.

Step Four:

Work experience – Check.

Character – Check.

Technical skills – Check.

Let’s get to business. This is the unique part of our process compared to most agencies. We invite the candidate out to lunch with some key TJAers who that person would work with regularly. The kicker – I don’t attend. WHY? We don’t want to inhibit the conversation with Boss Lady’s presence. The lunch should be focused on chemistry and how that person will work within our ecosystem. Sure, some important questions are asked, such as work experience, what they hated and loved about their past job, etc. Really, though, we just want to know if you are COOL.

You would be surprised. We’ve had candidates make it all the way to the lunch, but not ultimately get hired. It’s a crucial part of our process and it works. One time, we were in a hurry and we skipped the lunch. This ended up being a disasterous hire. Great technical abilities, bad cultural fit.

Every industry is different and this approach may not work for all businesses, especially since it takes time from your hiring manager and team members. For us, however, this process positively impacts our workplace culture and is one reason we ranked #2 on Phoenix Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” list.

TJA Team Talent: Keller Perry

Public relations may be his M.O., but this month’s TJA team talent, Keller Perry, has more to him than that! Get to know Keller’s background and what he loves most about PR and working at TJA. 

1.) What college did you graduate from? Major?

Arizona State University with a major in Journalism and Mass Communication, Digital Media

2.) Where did you grow up?

Mesa, AZ

3.) What got you interested in the marketing/advertising agency?

My first internship was a PR position at an agency in the Valley. I was immediately hooked by the fast-paced, no-one-day-is-the-same culture and the broad opportunities a public relations career had to offer.

4.) What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

Staying ahead of the game with media. Doing the research, getting to know contacts in the media and figuring out what a reporter will be interested in, and then providing them with the content or source right when they need it.

5.) What success have you had in your role at TJA?

Placing a story for a client that makes a tangible difference is always a win. With some of the media stories we secured, the PR team has helped sell out events, make reservations and put butts in seats at happy hours.

6.) What is your favorite part about your job?

I love that every day is different. I could be prepping a client before they go on camera at a news station one day, writing a press release another day and then having happy hour with a reporter the next day. The variety each day brings keeps things interesting and keeps me on my toes.

7.) What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

That there isn’t a formula to this job. You get out of it what you put in, and there are always more ways than one to get to a solution.

8.) What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

There are the PR and media-specific tools, like News Exposure to track client media hits and Cision to search journalist databases. News consumption also is important, so I use feedly and am constantly reading headlines on local news websites.

9.) What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

I see the gap closing between PR and digital media content creators. The foundation of the job will be the same: get your client in front of people’s eyeballs. But the way we do that, whether it’s an in-depth newspaper article or a behind-the-scenes video on Facebook, will fall under our department’s responsibilities.

10.) What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

Unsuccessfully selling real estate.

11.) What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as a Public Relations Junior Account Manager?

Know your grammar, practice your writing and make as many connections as possible. In this line of work, you’ll never know when you’ll see someone again.

TJA Team Talent: John Glynn

The James Agency is filled with some pretty big personalities, but one of the biggest and larger-than-life personalities of our agency is none other than our public relations senior account manager, John Glynn. In this month’s TJA team talent, get to know John’s background and what got him started in the industry!

1. What college did you graduate from? Major?

Drake University, in Des Moines, IA. I majored in public relations and minored in business administration.

2. Where did you grow up?

Modesto, CA

3. What got you interested in the marketing/advertising agency?

I learned early on that I was an effective communicator and was able to get my ideas across in a clear, concise, convincing way. I always liked the idea of being able to craft the message that others would consume.

4. What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

Timing. Life, and particularly pr, is all about timing. We’re constantly competing against other companies and agencies for air time, real estate on page in print and digital space. We have to have a great reason for media coverage, as well as time it perfectly. So, we have to be both strategic, unique and timely.

5. What success have you had in your role at TJA?

We’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty great accounts and win some pretty prestigious awards. Our department has won Spectrum awards, MarCom awards, PRSA awards and Copper Anvil awards.

6. What is your favorite part about your job?

Helping clients tell their stories and helping their businesses succeed.

8. What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

Email email email. Our department also uses Cision to track down journalists we don’t already have a relationship with, and we use News Exposure to track client mentions in the media.

9. What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

Lots of people say the press release is dead. It’s not. The days of bcc’ing hundreds of editors and producers on a press release is dead. We often get asked for a press release when a reporter picks up a story we’ve pitched, so that they have all the relevant information in one place.

10. What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

I was director of public relations at a golf ball company.

11. What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as a Senior PR Account Manager

Intern. Learn what makes a story. Watch TV. Read the news. Learn how to make and maintain friends. Learn that everything you do professionally must be mutually beneficial. Learn what makes a good placement for your client.

TJA Team Talent: Jennifer Adler

Each and every team member at The James Agency brings their own personality and skills to the table to help create stunning work for our clients. In this month’s TJA team talent, get to know TJA’s director of public relations, Jennifer Adler!

What college did you graduate from? Major?

I went to UCLA and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Go Bruins!

Where did you grow up?

Ventura County in Southern California

What got you interested in the marketing/advertising agency?

I have always had an interest in PR, but initially fell into real estate development when I moved to Arizona during the market boom in 2005. When the real estate market crashed in 2008, I got my first job in PR at Martz Agency, which no longer exists. It was there that I discovered my passion for PR and decided to make it my career.

What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

The challenges I face in my role at TJA are the same challenges most PR pros likely face. The shrinking media landscape, especially locally, is challenging because there are fewer outlets and reporters to pitch our clients’ news. Quantifying PR results also can be challenging at times, since it is often difficult to tie PR efforts directly back to sales.

What success have you had in your role at TJA?

Since I’ve been at TJA, the PR team has been fortunate to work on some really cool campaigns that produced great results and moved the needle for our clients. One project I’m particularly proud of is the Hunger Action Month campaign we executed for Pei Wei last year. We recommended a title partnership with St. Mary’s Food Bank and coordinated a donation of more than 600 Kids Wei meals to a Title I elementary school in Phoenix. These efforts not only resulted in an impressive amount of earned media coverage totaling more than 4 million impressions but, more importantly, they funded more than 70,000 meals for Arizonans in need. The campaign was so successful locally, that Pei Wei decided to roll it out regionally this year.

What is your favorite part about your job?

There are a lot of things I love about my job – I love that every day is different and unpredictable, which keeps life interesting. I love the people I work with – both TJA team members and clients. And, I love producing great work and securing valuable media coverage for the brands we represent.

What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

I wish I knew how quickly things can change in business – To appreciate the good things while they last, whether it be a good boss or cool client, and that challenges are fleeting. In hindsight, there are many things in my career I took for granted, and other things I unnecessarily stressed about.

What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

The media database and clipping services we subscribe to, as well as Google alerts. These tools help us compile target media lists and capture the coverage we secure for our clients.

What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

Similar to all other industries, technology has significantly changed PR as a practice. With more and more media bolstering their online presence or moving to an online format completely, it has become necessary to educate clients who still want to see their name in print on the significant value of online coverage. The line between PR and digital is now more blurred than ever and will become even more so in years to come. At TJA, we keep our clients relevant by staying on top of industry trends and integrating new technologies with tried and true traditional strategies. 

What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

Before joining TJA, I worked in PR at two other full-service advertising agencies – LaneTerralever, the largest marketing firm in Phoenix, and Martz Agency in Scottsdale. Prior to going into PR, I worked in real estate development and still hold a current Arizona state real estate license.

What would you tell someone who wants to start a career in PR?

I would advise them to get a PR internship first, either with an agency or in-house. Real world experience is priceless and the best way to determine if a career in PR is a good fit. It’s a fast-paced and often stressful profession that isn’t for the faint of heart. However, most who choose to make it their career live and breathe it, and find it extremely rewarding.

TJA Team Talent: Jayne Gaskey

Every person at The James Agency brings his or her own unique genius and, um, offbeat personality to everything we do. We’re like weird puzzle pieces that fit together to make one whole, kick-ass picture.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan. I moved to Oregon at age 18, where I lived and raised a family, until 2014 when I made Arizona my home.

What got you interested in office management?

I liked the diversity of being able to work in many different fields of business as a career, without defining it. I always liked helping people and working for a purpose with attention to detail.

What do you bring to your position as an office manager?

I bring my diverse experiences with a friendly and professional first impression. Whether it is in the office or over the phone, I am able to interject another generation’s point of view. I enjoy the teamwork and helping my colleagues achieve their goals.

What success have you had in your role at TJA?

I am most proud of having been able to help with the extremely fast growth of the company. We doubled our workforce in 3 years, and yes, we will continue to grow.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is working with the creative and talented people who work at our agency. My daily schedule is busy and varied, and yet, teamwork and laughter always play a part in it.

What do you know now that you wished you knew at the start of your career?

I now know that keeping an open mind and continuing to learn is key; creating a happy and positive environment is contagious; change is positive for growth and everyone is important on a team.

What are some tools you use that are specific to your role at TJA?

Organization, diversity, willingness to help all coworkers, flexibility and a smile.

What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

For six years I ran the front office and maintained six active phone lines for a very successful organic and sustainable farm in Oregon. The staff fluctuated seasonally from 250 to 750 people across three farms.

Prior to that, I ran a home-based business for 16 years. It was a full-service, in-home, custom drapery and blind business. It allowed me the flexibility to raise my two children and to be a

part of their active sports and school lives.

What would I tell someone who wants to work for TJA?

I would say you would be a fortunate person to work here.  We are recognized as one of the best places to work in Phoenix, year after year, by the Phoenix Business Journal. We were voted into the Fortune 5000 list for Businesses. We produce award-winning work for great clients. We enjoy team events every other month, along with so many other great benefits.  We have the best owner and the best staff of any organization, in my opinion. We have fun daily.  What more could you ask for?

What It’s Like to be a Newbie at TJA

What we do isn’t about following the rules. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s about who we are – and you don’t need auto-tune when you’ve got genuine, rock star talent (but without the attitude, infighting and bad fashion sense). Every person at The James Agency brings his or her own unique genius and personality to every project we do. When you put us all together, you have a virtual planetoid of awesomeness.

Take a look at what it’s like to be a newbie at TJA from the perspective of our five newest team members.

Justie Lim

Junior Production Manager

TJAer for 5 months

Aside from re-watching Dawson’s Creek from start to finish (don’t judge me, you know you’ve done it too or at least wanted to), I never thought I would hear so much of Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait”. And yet, I’ve somehow found myself spending 40 hours a week in a room where that’s a regular in the rotation. I couldn’t be happier or more grateful that I get to spend my days surrounded by this stone-cold pack of weirdos in what’s lovingly referred to as the “Creative Bullpen.” These amazing people spontaneously buy hula hoops for the office; hold bubble-blowing competitions when Double Bubble comes flying out of a Cinco De Mayo piñata; and build portraits of team members out of paint swatches, leaving them for passersby to admire in the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Coming into TJA, you’ve gotta learn pretty quickly to roll with the punches and embrace the weird, because you never know what shenanigans are gonna happen in any given day. One thing is guaranteed though: we will never stop debating over the age old question of “Cake or Pie?”


Kirsten Haberer

Junior Web Developer

TJAer for 3 Months

This is my first creative job and my first agency job, so I was a mix of nervous and excited energy coming to work on my first day. To my surprise, I was instantly welcomed, everyone knew my name and I became part of the TJA family pretty much immediately. There is a unique family feeling here – from the loud, opinionated uncle and the big brother that likes to tease you, to the sweet, yet firmly rule-following mom (and everything in between). I have worked at several “family-like” companies, but this is the first that truly fits that label. We eat together, work through issues together, have fun together, talk about really weird things together (see Justie’s perspective for more information on our quirky Creative Team shenanigans) and do our best work together. So, if you can imagine working with a group of funny, passionate people who care about you and your work – like really, truly care –that is what it’s like to work at TJA (even when you’re new).


Michele Carter

Executive Assistant

TJAer for 3 Months

Joining the team at TJA marked the beginning of a major shift in my life.   From a young age, I had dedicated all of my time and energy into training for a professional dance career.  Following a year and a half on the road for performance tours, I was ready to trade the lifestyle of constant planes, trains and automobiles for a more balanced one.  I wanted to plant my roots somewhere and the stars aligned here in Scottsdale.  I didn’t know what working at The James Agency would be like, but I was ready to make the leap.  It was the best leap I have made in years (and let me tell you, dancers leap at least fifty times daily). 

On my first day at TJA, I assumed it would be nothing like the work days I was used to as a performer, but boy, was I wrong!  We work together much like an ensemble of well-trained performers, each individual elevating the quality of the performance with their unique talents.  When the steps get difficult, we focus in and find a way to keep moving.  We feel the ebb and flow of the work day and keep in rhythm with one another.  We know that in order to keep our audience wanting more, we must deliver excitement and passion. Working at TJA is like dancing an elaborate piece of choreography on opening night.  Our clients are our audience and we are going to give them one hell of a show.


Keller Perry

Junior PR Account Manager

TJAer for 2 Months 

My first few weeks at the The James Agency were a whirlwind, and it was awesome. On the first day, I experienced my first company icebreaker: newspaper bocce ball.  Everyone competed to roll a wad of newspaper as close to a bowl across the room as possible. I wasn’t even close, but all that laughing and cheering first thing on a Monday morning was enough to make me realize this wasn’t going to be a conventional office job.

Fast forward a month and I’ve been up in a hot air balloon, beat a piñata and won a pack of shot glasses – and that’s just the team building side to TJA. The work is collaborative, well-organized and fearless. So far, I’ve helped manage a hotel grand opening event, networked with members of the media and facilitated multiple TV segments.

Every day is different and every day I have the privilege to work with the most compelling, constructive and creative group of people. What more could you ask for?


Ina Lee

Graphic Designer

TJAer for 2 Months

The phrase work hard, play hard didn’t really resonate with me until I joined TJA. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always worked hard in the past, but didn’t quite grasp the play hard part. People here at TJA are the epitome of work hard, play hard; all the raw creative works and accomplishments that TJA has achieved are the results of this. As a culture, we know what it means to play hard to generate new ideas and creativity; it helps us understand each other’s talents and personality, and as a result brings us together as a team. But more importantly, we know what it means to work hard as well; bringing the creative ideas and fun together to create something beautiful and exciting by staying focused and driven.The leadership here always encourages everyone to have fun, and even the smallest conversations aren’t ignored but are turned into interesting topics for us to laugh and share. Since working at TJA, I’ve come to realize how precious time can be during work, whether it is spent on collaborating and executing the tasks given, or spent on making small to grand memories here with everyone.

TJA Team Talent: Hallie Bolonkin

What we do isn’t about following the rules. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s about who we are – and you don’t need auto-tune when you’ve got genuine, rock star talent (but without the attitude, infighting and bad fashion sense). Every person at The James Agency brings his or her own unique genius and personality to every project we do. When you put us all together, you have pure awesomeness.

Get to know TJA’s  production manager, Hallie Bolonkin!

What college did you graduate from? Major?

The University of Arizona, BFA in visual communications with an emphasis in graphic design.

Where did you grow up?

The beautiful bluegrass state – Louisville, Kentucky.

What got you interested in the marketing/advertising agency?

I was always interested in art growing up. From painting my bedroom door with doodles, to going on weekend photography adventures, I knew I wanted to attend art school for something. When it was time to decide on a major, graphic design was something my parents suggested to me. It’s a structured art profession that incorporates creativity but would lead me away from being that typical ‘starving artist’ trying to sell doodled bedroom doors on the street. I figured they knew what was best for me and decided to give it a try. It was kind of a shot in the dark, but luckily I ended up loving design and was very happy with my decision to try new things and trust my inner creativity.

What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

A challenge that I am faced with as a production manger is trying to utilize out-of-the-box printing techniques such as a funky die-cuts, embossing or even printing on materials other than paper, but often times these concepts don’t align with the client’s budget. It’s always a challenge to present unique ideas to the client that will have an impact on their target audience, but still stay within the numbers.

What success have you had in your role at TJA?

As an employee of 3 years, I have gone from being a graphic design intern to a junior production designer to production designer to my current role as production manager. I have gradually gained responsibility over the years, but most importantly I have learned many new skills along the way.

What is your favorite part about your job?

No two days are the same. There are always new projects to be started, new ideas to be expressed, and new things to learn. Being able to watch an idea grow from a list of key words and raw sketches into a tangible finished product is really rewarding. Being surrounded by such an amazing, talented, and interesting group of people makes coming to work everyday a treat.

What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

Limitations aren’t always a bad thing. When I first started working at TJA, I was straight out of college where most design projects gave students complete creative freedom to do what they pleased. No one to impress but themselves, their peers and their professors. When working for clients in the real world, there are restrictions when starting a project such as budgets, visions, and outside opinions. It can be challenging to design a project with very specific limitations and guidelines, but working within those circumstances can teach you to push the boundaries, look outside of your comfort zone, and can strengthen your ability to problem solve.

What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

I always have a sketch book and pen at hand. Jotting down ideas, notes, and sketches is the easiest way to stay on track and ensures you don’t forget about that awesome split second idea that popped into your head at the most random of times. My team members are also a very important tool. Each person has a different perspective and can provide constructive criticism, answer questions, or help solve a problem.      

What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

Digital and interactive advertising is something that has become more prominent the past few years. Digital advertisements are animated more often than not, and even logos are being animated to create a new type of brand expression. While digital marketing is becoming more aggressive and prominent, the world of print continues to be a necessary counterpart to branding and advertising. A wide variety of printed techniques can be used to enhance your work. Subtle things such as raised clear ink, embossing, or textured paper can make your printed pieces have just the right amount of character. The world of promo items has also kept up with the times, and you can pretty much brand anything from portable speakers to wine aerators, so you can represent while you drink and boogie!

What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

This is my first real-world job after graduating from college, but while in school I worked at Campus Health at the University of Arizona as a graphic designer and was also a photographer for the Daily Wildcat, U of A’s on campus newspaper.

What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as a production designer?

Learn to work as a team, be willing to give and receive criticism, be prepared to communicate with a wide variety of people, make friends with vendors, always ask questions, be able to justify your decisions, be thorough and detail oriented, pay attention to quality, and speak up if something didn’t come out as promised. If you’ve got an eye for design, passion, and a positive attitude, you can do anything!

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