Transform Your Team From Ticket Takers to Strategic Partners
Take your creative team from “producer” to “partner.”

It’s easy for creative departments to get so bogged down in delivering on requests that they lose sight of the big picture — the real WHAT behind the work they’re doing. When that happens, creativity takes a hit.

Katie O’Brien saw the impact first-hand. As head of creative for luxury & specialty brands at Wayfair, Katie’s first priority was to shift her team from acting as reactive order-takers to becoming strategic and collaborative design thinkers.

In this episode of Real Creative Leadership, Adam Morgan and Katie discuss what it took to make the transformation happen and how her creative team continues to iterate and evolve — and it’s benefitting not just Wayfair, but also their dedicated customers and partners.

In this conversation with Katie, you’ll learn:

  • Why many creative departments settle into the role of ticket takers and the problems that creates
  • How to shift your mindset from efficiency to long-term growth
  • Why creatives should always tie ideas back to the business and include business partners in their process early on
  • How embracing mistakes can help creativity flourish
mentioned in this show:
adammorgan
Adam Morgan
Executive Creative Director Adobe
stoke-logo
The Stoke Group
Digital Marketing and Full-Service Content Agency
Guest Speaker

Katie O’Brien

Katie O’Brien serves as Head of Creative over Wayfair’s luxury and specialty retail brands—Joss & Main, AllModern, Birch Lane, and Perigold. With nearly two decades of design-thinking, creative directing, and storytelling for brands that span every industry, Katie now reimagines experience marketing for the online shopper by setting the creative vision for each of Wayfair’s distinct retail brands. Prior to joining Wayfair, Katie spent 17 years developing immersive brand experiences—digital, analog and live—at various agencies in San Francisco and Washington DC.

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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Hey Adam.

Adam:

Hello, hello. Can you hear me all right?

Speaker 1:

I can hear you. Sound good.

Adam:

Move the microphone up a little bit.

Speaker 1:

I've been on back-to-back meetings today, and I'm just hoping Katie, didn't [inaudible 00:00:23] on me and say she can't. [Inaudible 00:00:25]

Adam:

Oh, I hope. Yeah. I had back-to-back this whole day and then I had one cancel. So I was like, "Oh, that sucks. But at least I have a moment to think."

Speaker 1:

I know sometimes you're like, "I just need 15 minutes in between."

Speaker 1:

I'm working on trying to heal a hip issue and the physical therapist is he's like, "I want you to stretch 15 times a day." I was like, "What? Where do you think I'm going to get the time?" [Inaudible 00:00:55].

Adam:

15?

Speaker 1:

15.

Adam:

Oh, man. [crosstalk 00:00:58] Oh, that's funny.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Hi Katie! Oh, she might not be able to hear me yet. Anyway.

Katie O'Brien:

Hello.

Speaker 1:

Hi Katie. How are you?

Katie O'Brien:

Oh good, you can hear me.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:01:14]

Katie O'Brien:

I'm having the worst issues with my internet. So please, tell me if I'm okay.

Adam:

I have too. I've been having the same problem and I go out and yell at all my high schoolers and college kids and say, "you're still in my bandwidth", but they've claimed that they're not. But I swear.

Katie O'Brien:

We just, my husband did like a rerouting of it. Like basically I was on vacation at the beginning of this week and we just decided that our internet took a vacation too and they weren't ready to come back. So let me know, is this okay? Or am I delayed?

Speaker 1:

You're delayed right now.

Katie O'Brien:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

At least you're delayed for me. I don't know if I'm delayed for you, but you're coming through sketchy, a little bit. [crosstalk 00:00:02:00].

Katie O'Brien:

Alright, let me try on my computer and see if that's a little bit better. Is this okay? Sorry [inaudible 00:02:08] to see your recording. I'm working through some tech issues.

Adam:

Oh, but we'll cut this up later. I wouldn't worry about if we have snafus. We'll cut it all out.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Yeah, yeah. We can edit this out.

Katie O'Brien:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

So what happens Katie, is that we'll start the interview. You'll try and go as clean as we can. But if something is like, "that doesn't sound right", just answer the question and just say, "let me start over", and just answer the question again. And we can totally cut it out so you don't have to worry about things like that. So just be like, if you're answering the question, then you're like, "okay, that didn't come out right", Just say, "start over." And then the team will know and they'll cut it out.

Katie O'Brien:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

So yeah.

Katie O'Brien:

I know.

Speaker 1:

So, not a big deal.

Katie O'Brien:

I'm joining from another browser. Cause I'm hoping this is a little bit better. Gosh, it looks terrible. So hold on a second.

Speaker 1:

What was I going to say? Oh, I was just going to just kind of go over the process, so we'll record it today. And then this goes over to our creative team and they will layer in bumpers and then clean it up, however we need to, and it'll probably end up around 30 minutes, a 30 minute conversation. And then once we actually already have, so we're working on the previous episode to this one right now that will go into production next week. And then after that, we'll start promoting this webinar.

Katie O'Brien:

Okay.

Katie O'Brien:

All right. Is this better?

Adam:

Oh, so much better. Amazing.

Katie O'Brien:

Is it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Katie O'Brien:

Oh my gosh. That's wild. Okay. Well, I mean, I guess I thought I was trying to solve something with the phone and I wasn't so my bad.

Adam:

Yeah, No worries. All good.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible 00:04:11].

Katie O'Brien:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1:

Okay. So what happens? And then the other thing is, is that I'm going to just go on mute. So I will be your silence, unseen audience. So you guys will just have the conversation. I'll just come back on the end to wrap it up. Is there anything you want to go over before we get going?

Adam:

No. And just so you're aware, Katie, it's going to be recording both of us separately. So when we do the final edit, we can cut back and forth between the two of us. So whatever you're seeing, isn't what the final video will be, it's just the [inaudible 00:04:40] .

Katie O'Brien:

Okay. That's fine.

Speaker 1:

All right, guys, have a great class.

Adam:

All right, we'll get started. Welcome back to Real Creative Leadership, where we talk about the day to day things a creative leader needs to be successful because now that creativity has a seat at the table, what are we going to do with it? At Real Creative Leadership, we dive deep into the topics that help you build the right team environment and find a future creative vision for your company. So today I'm excited to talk to Katie O'Brien, Head of Creative Lifestyle and Luxury Brands at Wayfair. And our topic is how you can transform your team from ticket takers to strategic partners. And this a really interesting topic. Katie and I spoke earlier about some of these things, so we're going to just dig right in and get your experience of how you've transformed your team. So let's start.

Adam:

When you first joined Wayfair, what was it like? What was the model like? How are you a ticket taking model? And tell a little bit about that journey.

Katie O'Brien:

Sure. Hi and thank you so much for having me. So when I started at Wayfair two years ago and I was handed an incredibly talented team of designers and copywriters, project managers, all this sort of thing, then in all of them were really strong aesthetic on the ability to operationalize, literally anything that could cross their path. Marketing would enter tickets and creatives would pull together and apply a brand guidelines that met their requests, which were interpretations of the data, their interpretation. So click through rate and engagement, those sort of things.

Katie O'Brien:

So this structure really left creative out of the strategic piece, right? So the business partners out of the production too. And so it wasn't collaborative and a lot of things got lost in translation. So with that and over the last two years, we still use the ticket system. So I want to make sure that it's clear that we didn't go from ticket taking to nothing at all. We, [crosstalk 00:06:45] yeah.

Katie O'Brien:

I mean, it's a necessary evil. You still use that to order, to organize, and manage and track all of our projects, but it's about the conversations before and throughout that have produced the better outputs. So that's kind of where we've grown from in the last two years.

Adam:

Gotcha. And we've talked even on the last session, we talked a little bit about, there's a maturity model in a creative department. Not that low maturity is bad. It's just, that's where you start usually. And it's high quality talent, high quality work, but it's just more production focused. And so moving up that scale of the model to where you're more of a strategic partner, where you're thinking about strategy, creative strategy, marketing strategy, business strategy, and the creative team is actually helping become a valuable asset versus just a center of excellence. That's at least some of the direction that we've been talking of. How do you get there? What are the steps you take? And have you seen that in other places you've worked? That different maturity model?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Well, I think we were talking about it as like a set of hands. Cause it was just that sort of extension of your hearts or as I think of it anyway. My experience has been mostly an agency, so of course, with that, because the success of any pitch relied heavily on the collaboration with our client partners and buy-in from them. So that's always been like second nature, and in-house, you'd think that it would be tighter, right? Because you're working right alongside, literally alongside, you're sitting across the aisle in some cases from these partners, but it wasn't as focused as that because Wayfair was started as a very tiny startup and then just blossomed, especially in the last four years, really.

Katie O'Brien:

Some things sort of broke down in that sort of process where I was like, okay, this will just be faster if we have this group here. And then we were able to hand it over to this group and then they're able to execute and then that'll just be the fastest thing, but really you'll lose all the conversation and it's kind of over. There are definitely creatives that I think prefer to work. There are the ones that want to just go into their special place and come out with that diamond. And it's perfect and it nails it every time, but I don't find that to be the best way to work. And so my whole history has been really collaborative.

Adam:

Let's talk a little bit more about, so on this journey, cause you're right, production is still valuable. Any mature creative departments still needs production. They still need some of those functions, but you just need to mature into where you are thinking broadly about the business and partnering with strategy and other stakeholders. So talk to me about some of the steps you took to help your team get to more of a strategic role.

Katie O'Brien:

So introducing briefs, which it might seem so simple, but I was frankly surprised that they weren't using briefs before I started. And that was something in the first month that was already in process, which is great, that they had realized they needed something like that. But in the ticket form, there was enough information, but people didn't really, they skipped over a lot of steps within that. So understanding that we need an input.

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:10:04]

Katie O'Brien:

We skipped over a lot of steps within that. So understanding that we need an input brief from our marketing partners and a creative brief from our creative team to be able to say, "Okay, let's align around an idea." That was a big step. And then yes, there was training and things to sort of get them to that place, training on both ends, to make sure that people are following it. Honestly, it's something that we actually continue to iterate on, where it has been constantly refining. Is this too much information? Are there ways to make it better? And that sort of thing, which makes total sense. So that was a big part. Creatives just learn to tie all ideas back to the business and bring partners in earlier. Learn how to be a little bit scrappier before you show a round one because you might actually not have a round three at that point because you're bringing them in for the nugget of the idea before it turns into that gem.

Adam:

Yeah. That's interesting. Are there other milestones that as others are trying to transform their team that you saw? So the brief is definitely kind of an early process. What are other things that or just signs that you could tell, "All right. My team is definitely working at a more strategic level"?

Katie O'Brien:

Sure. Well, I will say that not everyone is equipped. Not every creative is equipped for this kind of creative thinking. I think our team shifted a lot over the last few years and we found that more strategic thinking resulted in less churn, right? And so it did cut a good chunk of our team because we had built up a team that could just sort of execute on a lot of the things that weren't necessarily the right things. And then when you build in all of these efficiencies and you have these better conversations that's not needed, so that's something to keep in mind. That's not the fun thing to start to talk about, but it's something to just sort of think about.

Katie O'Brien:

And so it is kind of a milestone that you do reach a point where you're like, "Okay, the people that we had in our leadership positions were managers." They were essentially really strong project managers, but weren't really able to go to the table with a CMO or a GM and talk through like the business priorities. That wasn't the way that their brain though. They were really strong at executing and motivating a team to be able to execute the most efficient way possible. And so that's something to kind of keep in mind. Is that what you mean?

Adam:

Oh yeah. We just had a conversation an hour ago where it goes back to this idea of, well, a couple of things. First of all, it's always like the battle between the big three things. Is it speed, quality or time?

Katie O'Brien:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam:

Or sorry. Money, quality, or time, right?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah.

Adam:

What are the three things you have to focus on?

Katie O'Brien:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam:

And a lot of times I found that new startups or younger organizations where they're moving just so fast, it often is just all speed, right? It's that's why we start with production. We need the ticket takers because we're balancing all these things. Everyone's wearing a million hats and we've got to get this thing out into market. And that's why startups are in that mode of just pump it through, right?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam:

And as you're mature even as a company, even here at Adobe, it's like we're a mature company and we should really focus more on the quality and the creativity, less so on the speed. And now that doesn't mean that we're going to be slow and lame.

Katie O'Brien:

Right.

Adam:

Maybe some projects take a lot longer because we're focused on it, but it absolutely is we'll have the production arm take care of the speed part.

Katie O'Brien:

Yep.

Adam:

And take those who are really thinking strategically to focus on that quality and really get good storytelling, good art, good video. Whatever it may be.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Well, and the key there, too, is that you, it's easy to get caught up in that speed, right? We just had a, we do these state of creative conversations where we talk to our marketing partners, all of our channel partners about just sort of what's been going on in the last six months and the progress that we've made. And we had this whole conversation around cost per asset and all that, we're very focused on the value for the output and all those sort of things. And we had to take a step back and say like, "We are actually in a position right now" because you introduced me as the Head of Lifestyle and Luxury Brands. We're actually shifting right now. Our lifestyle brands, no, no, no. This is brand new, hot off the press.

Adam:

Okay.

Katie O'Brien:

So we're shifting those to focus more on the specialty retail space. And that is going to take some thinking and some slowing down and the things that we have automated now, have been completely automated. We're like, "Okay, now we're talking to a different type of customer because re providing a new offering, so we're going to have to, cost per asset is not really our focus anymore," but it's, we constantly have to remind ourselves of this because it's easy when you're a train, just making it happen to not step back. And so it's good that we can hold each other accountable with our partners.

Adam:

Yeah. Tell me more about that. How do you balance it? I'm sure people are like, "Sounds great. Let's move to a new model," but how do you balance getting things done and efficiency and then making space for creativity and creative strategy?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Well, it's constantly a conversation around prioritization, which sounds also super boring, but it is like, "Okay, great. If we're going into this way and we're talking about specialty and now we're talking about introducing catalogs and other type things that our specialty competitors offer their customers, we need to rethink how our teams are structured. And then we need to rethink how the current team in place is able to respond to these kinds of, this new channel that we haven't really explored before." And so then we carve out the time and we say, "Realistically, here's what it is. Here's what I know you want, but here's realistically what we're expecting" and you break down the process so they can understand what it takes to be creative, right?

Katie O'Brien:

Because as, when your partners are analysts and they look at data and they're just making sure it's all chopped up and whatever you have to sort of explain, like, "Okay, I understand that, but here's how the thinking works. This is the iterating loop, the stuff that has to happen before it comes back to you and we don't want to lose any of those steps because then you're going to get a basic idea and you don't want that," right? And so then the more that they understand, just like the more that we understand the data on the other side, when they're saying, "Okay, this is what it means for click through rate and this is why this is our interpretation" where before we weren't even understanding either language, you know? So it's really important.

Adam:

Let me go into this new direction. So there are so many times we talk to theory of like, "Oh, you've got to change. You've got to do this. This is how you run it," but so many people that I talk to in their organizations have a problem doing that. So what I'd love to hear your personal journey when you joined this team and you're like, "All right, I've got to make my team be more strategic." How did you sell that value up? Who did you talk to, both sideways and up, to try and say, "This is ... We're going to do it a different way." And were there meetings where their emails? What was the process and the experience for you to get that value demonstrated and then therefore get approval for it?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah, I think it's a great question. I think in the way that you asked it though, I think it makes it seem I came to that conclusion on my own, where quite honestly, especially in the first ... Wayfair is all about the proper onboarding. They're so good at it. It's, I mean, just two and a half days to start where you're really just eating up the brand and all of those sorts of things, really just understanding the inner workings, but because they expect you to move so fast, they throw you right into the deep end without any kind of situation. You just have to figure it out. But a big part of our culture is coffee chats, one-on-ones, talking to all sorts of different people and starting to understand why they think what they think.

Katie O'Brien:

And so then when I jumped in with each individual brand that I oversee and the senior most partners are just like, "What have been your issues today? What are some of the things that you wish?" All that kind of stuff and you bring it back together. It's just so obvious. At this point, you don't even really need to make that case. It's just there, right? And so then once you reach that position and then you start to, you have check-ins, periodic check-ins where you're sort of saying, "Hey, this is what I'm seeing." I outlined a three year vision, which honestly, three year vision at Wayfair is like, I'm in my second year and I've already nailed it because it's like, "All right," and that's evolved. It evolves every couple months because you really move that fast.

Katie O'Brien:

But it's when I outlined, this is what I see. I position that and I shop it around to all the key stakeholders that I have to say like, "Does this make sense? I want to iterate on this," all this kind of stuff. And then at a point you're just actioning on it and everybody expects you to because you've already talked through it. So it's really about all of that. It's not really very formal. It's rather informal, but it's something that you just continue to ... People are so quick to adapt that it tends to just land, right? I made it sound very easy. I think it probably was a little harder than that, but it's all about bringing people along for the ride.

Katie O'Brien:

Well, I heard somewhere it's real decisions are made in one-on-one conversations, not presentations. So that makes sense to me where it's the workshopping, right? It's you had to build relationships with all those different key important people, talk to them, reason through it, and have it just a good just heart-to-heart conversation. I think that's exactly the way I would approach it. I would just go up the list, one by one and talk to them.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Well, and my background, the agency that I was at previous to Wayfair, I worked in the live event space. So doing experiential brand experiences, all that kind of stuff. And we were very focused on design thinking. And so we would do these really immersive workshops that were so helpful to get, to have these conversations. And I was able to do it on a lighter level with my teams. And so that's how you're able to get to it even more quickly than you would just a coffee chat. So it's just making sure that you're carving out the right time to really look at people in the face and unpack like, "Oh, have you thought about it this way? Or "Workshop on an idea," get people kind of out of their, whatever their day-to-day is I find to be incredibly useful.

Adam:

So it sounds like everyone needs to get trained in a design thinking workshop.

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:20:04]

Adam:

So it sounds like everyone needs to get trained in a design thinking, workshopping certificate, maybe not, but at least learn the [crosstalk 00:20:08]-

Katie O'Brien:

There are tons of tools out there that can allow you to fake it.

Adam:

That's awesome. All right. Let's see, the next question. Another hallmark of ... Part of being a creative leader is creating the right environment, so not just selling up, getting the approvals, getting the vision sold, but also how do you make the space for it to really happen? What are some hallmarks in your opinion of a good creative department that has matured to this higher model? What are some of the signs that they're working well when you're creating that environment?

Katie O'Brien:

Right. It's a great question. I think the key one is psychological safety, so just making people feel okay to screw up, to just make a wrong answer because that's kind of the whole point of all of this. I think sometimes people, especially when you're in production mode and not in strategy mode, you're focused on that ... Just executing, it has to be right the first time every time. And so, making sure that you're creating a space where, "Hey, it's okay. We learn from it." And so, celebrating failures I think is a really big one, as well as wins, not just celebrating failures but just making sure all of that is happening. I think those are the keys to me.

Adam:

How often do you check in on that? Is it constantly or is it quarterly you're going to look at things or how can companies do an audit to make sure they're doing more, being better? What's kind of [crosstalk 00:21:33]?

Katie O'Brien:

That's a good question. Yeah. I don't know if we're necessarily doing that perfectly right now. I think it's about that being part of the culture, so being able to call out certain things. We have a thing where ... a way where you can give people [Wayfair 00:21:48] bucks, so everybody has a certain amount of money that's just Wayfair dollars that you can spend on more furniture and decor and things like that.

Adam:

[inaudible 00:01:59].

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. And so, you have a certain amount a year that you can give to people for just crushing it or knocking it out of the park, but also encouraging that be about somebody that just worked through something and maybe just took a full dump on it, just really didn't ... But it's knocked it out of the park in terms of moving onto the next thing. We don't focus on the past or what we screwed up. It's like you focus on that future and just making sure that's happening. It's constantly a conversation in our one-on-ones, like me as a manager to my managers and then for them to their team to make sure that we're surfacing all of that kind of stuff.

Katie O'Brien:

We talked once about having a fail wall. We had a blank wall and just having things where something that's just super bombed or maybe that went really well in terms of collaborating with our partners and we were all really excited about the work that we did, but the click through rate wasn't there because of one reason or another, but we were still super proud of it. And so, making sure that we're hanging that stuff up. I've seen at various places and I think it's fun, just to make sure that you're celebrating that.

Adam:

Maybe that by doing an outward facing thing, that's what makes it okay. It makes the team feel safe and maybe even stakeholders when they see it, they're like, "Oh, okay. I definitely don't want my project on that wall, but I understand that it's part of growth. That's fair."

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. What did we learn from that? Celebrate that.

Adam:

What about when your team is scaling? It's great when it's like you get your house in order, everyone's all on the same page, or I don't know if it's for you but for me at Adobe, it's a big company, 22,000 people. Stuff's changing all the time. We'll get a new partner, a new marketing manager, a new something, just attrition. How do you ensure that when you're scaling, you just find that you're just constantly fighting the same things over and over or trying to organize the same thing over and over. How do you do that?

Katie O'Brien:

Yes and no. I think it's a good question. Our marketing partners actually turn over a lot more than our creative partners, I would say, because we have these analysts that are just really strong analysts and they don't necessarily want to be in direct mail forever. They're like, "Okay, nailed that. Now I'm going to move over to email." And I'm like, "Wait, we had a great relationship. We really worked through this. We were getting somewhere." And so, that part can be tough, but we have a marketing creative strategy group that kind of helps with that internal training and education to make sure that we're able to pick up right where we left off.

Katie O'Brien:

We set certain expectations and things like that it's easier for people to be onboarded, because I think it was a little bit of a crapshoot beforehand. We've really reached that point where the second somebody was like ... I mean, I had two people start while we were working from home, two leaders start for while I was working from home, which is tough. Those coffee chats that I was talking about and things like that, those are a little bit harder to do virtually, though we're doing it right now and I don't have a [crosstalk 00:24:55].

Adam:

Trying, trying.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But just making sure that you have all of the proper processes in place so that they can do it no matter what happens I think is really important. So that's why process still is a big part even though you're trying to shift to be more strategic thinkers.

Adam:

Well, and here's another thought. As you talked about analysts and I think metrics and I think process, how do you measure if it's not ... Because ticket taking system is great because it's like things come in, we take account of the time, and here's how long it takes, and this is the price, and XYZ. How do you measure projects or success or people or the department?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Because it is, there are parts of it that are just click through rate, like to purchase, that kind of stuff like. That are definitely the ones that we focus on. But then we have brand trackers. We have a brand team that focuses on awareness and loyalty and all of that kind of stuff. We have a full team that's dedicated to doing full on research on that end to make sure that we're resonating with people on that. Because that's stuff that isn't measured in just general data and so, you just want to make sure that that stuff is constantly being looked at.

Katie O'Brien:

And then it's also like some of this work is how people are following it and living the brand within. So a lot of my work because, it's strategic, were revolutionizing our brand guidelines. Really, we're taking that to another level and so it's how somebody on merchandising or somebody on the store, or we call our user experience team, our storefront team that are building the product, how well they can articulate our messaging. And so, doing internal surveys and understanding all that kind of stuff, I think those all feed into the success of any of the work that we do.

Adam:

I love that I didn't hear, "Oh yes, we put RFID tags in every creative's wrist and we track their time and where they are." It's just nice to know. It's like, "No, we are going to look at the general health of the brand, health of the company, sales, other things, and how we're contributing to that." I love that. [crosstalk 00:27:03] instead.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam:

Awesome. Well maybe any advice you would have for other leadership roles and creativity, how they can better shift from understanding business or showing more of a value in moving away from production into a higher value role?

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. It's a good question. I would say care. It's interesting. The reason why it's a good question and why I guess I'm stumbling over the answer is because I majored in communications design, so it's very specific to communicating an idea and a strategy. That's always been the most interesting thing to me. How it looks doesn't really matter. It's really the framework for whatever the meat is, the heart is. I think if you are focused on, because I do need people that are just focused on how good it looks and how great it sounds and and all those sort of things and I can help guide that, but if you want to be more strategic, it's about really learning, translating for the business what is exciting to you because if it's exciting to you and you can translate that for the world, then I think it will be more impactful.

Katie O'Brien:

When you think about creative without strategy, it's just the what and without the why. And so you can see, the what can be gorgeous but without the why, you don't have really the legs for it to continue to evolve and really that connection with your consumers that they're going to be able to have. I think getting jazzed about that I think is the first step. And then, you can dig in and learn about it. It was the way I was with ... I wasn't very excited about psychology and things like that. I wasn't really into it. It just didn't translate in my brain when I was in college, but then once I was able to find that hook, I was all in. And so, just make ... And also, I use it now to apply to anything that I do, but get excited about it and then your viewers will too.

Adam:

Yeah. Absolutely, in my experience it's the thinkers. You want to find or become a person who's focused on thinking deeply about the feelings, the why, the where it's going, and getting at a higher 20,000 foot view of everything rather than just deep in the weeds. It's hard to find, but a hundred percent. Those are the skills that make you a great leader versus just the hard skills.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah. I love that.

Adam:

Well, great. We're kind of at time now, so thank you so much, Katie, for a wonderful chat about how to transform your team and move it onto more of a strategic partnership with other stakeholders in your business. I really appreciate you coming.

Katie O'Brien:

Of course. Thank you so much.

Adam:

And thanks everyone for listening in to this episode. Again, if you are listening to this on podcast, please subscribe, share it with your friends. These are great conversations. We want to make sure Katie is heard from the rooftops everywhere as ...

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:30:04]

Adam:

... great conversations. We want to make sure Katie is heard from the rooftops, everywhere is possible, or if you're watching it on one of our other platforms in more video form, thank you for watching again. Just want to remind everyone that this was brought to us by Stoke, they're handling the production on this, which is super awesome. I'm Adam Morgan from Adobe, so we appreciate you joining us. We'll see you next time.

Speaker 1:

Awesome guys. That was perfect. Hey Adam, I wondered if you wanted to do a quick bio on Katie.

Adam:

Oh.

Speaker 1:

Just a little story about her background and where she came from. You've got a cool bio, I think, Katie, and just your experiences that kind of brought you to Wayfair or maybe just kind of your creative journey because I think that's interesting to the audience as well, as we build creative leaders. What are your thoughts on that, Adam?

Adam:

I think it's great. I think it's probably better if it comes from Katie, rather than me saying, "Here's what I'm reading off of LinkedIn." [crosstalk 00:30:59] I can ask that question then you can give a little bit of your journey, I think that's great.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah.

Adam:

Lets do it.

Katie O'Brien:

That sounds good. It's unfortunately not a tight story, so I'll try to make it as tight as possible.

Speaker 1:

Well, I feel like-

Adam:

Every story, it's a compass, not a map. That's exactly what creative history is like, every single person I know in this industry, one wanted to be a lawyer, someone else was going to be doing this, I was going to be a chemical engineer. And then somehow you end up in this crazy world of advertising, marketing and creativity, so.

Katie O'Brien:

Agreed.

Speaker 1:

Well Adam, I think this could play really well into your next presentation-

Adam:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 1:

... just, how do people end up where they end up? Because a lot of times you don't necessarily strategize that way when you're in college or, I mean-

Adam:

No.

Speaker 1:

... sometimes we do, but most people I find have a... Their road is a little wiggly.

Adam:

Okay. [crosstalk 00:31:52] I'll start off with a question then, and we'll just jump into a good answer.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah, sounds good.

Adam:

All right, so as we introduce Katie, I would actually love to ask her, tell us some of the milestones of your career. Talk about some of the things that, not necessarily all the places you worked, but what are the things that you learned as you moved along and got you to where you are today?

Katie O'Brien:

Sure. Well, I think, it's a little bit rare for people to go into college knowing exactly what they want to do, but I did identify that actually immediately and went specifically to Syracuse for communications design because of their program. I interned at a tiny little agency, and I'm from the Massachusetts, the South Shore area, and they did a lot of work for Disney and things like that. And I worked there mostly doing their time entry and picking up their lunch and building boxes and packaging up their mechanicals and things like that, but I did it because I loved designing record albums or mix CDs and mix tapes and things like that.

Katie O'Brien:

And I loved the idea of creation, and so I went to school specifically for that, but I think the road that I took in order to get to Wayfair is not as you would expect, so it's all laddered up into creative. So I started in house at a tech company, I lasted there about a year because I got bored. I had done their brand and was, "All right, is there really anything else to do?" There probably was, but I think I got a little bit over it.

Adam:

Yeah.

Katie O'Brien:

Then I went to a small magazine company to do magazine design there, then I went to event branding and marketing doing more high level branding, but it was really a lot of [wredge 00:33:32] brochures and things like that, not able to... Having a handover guidelines to people that would bring it to life within the event space. Then I went to a communications firm doing advertising and PR and did a lot of really interesting work there. But I then moved on from that, I built up teams within digital immersive spaces and got to extend it out to various things, and then went back to the event world but on that other side that I didn't get to do before, where I got to bring all that branding, do the branding, but also bring it to life, person.

Katie O'Brien:

to person. And then I came here because I wanted to do it for a single brand, I wanted to be able to really immerse myself with my partners, live and breathe everything and help influence how the brand is created and shown to the world. So it's all creative, but it's a little bit weird because it seems like I get bored easily, but I stick with creative as the theme.

Adam:

I don't think that's unusual. I think a lot of creative spirits just have to wander a little bit, because that wanderlust of just learning and growing and trying different things until you land on a space where you feel like you've got something to offer the world, so.

Katie O'Brien:

Totally. I call it following a vibe because I've also moved, I was in DC for nine years, in San Francisco for eight years, and now I'm back in Boston where I was born but hadn't lived in for 22 years. So, you just got to follow a vibe, I think it feels really good.

Adam:

All right, follow the vibe. That's the start here, thank you. All right. I think that's a good cut right there. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thanks. That was great. Okay, I don't have any other questions, are we good?

Adam:

No, I think we got it great, that's a great show.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Adam:

There's a lot of great nuggets in there, we'll just get it edited together and make it look like showbiz magic.

Katie O'Brien:

Awesome, how much did I cut in and out, was it bad?

Adam:

No, you were clear.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Katie O'Brien:

Oh, really?

Adam:

[crosstalk 00:35:31] super clear. So, huzzah.

Katie O'Brien:

Yeah [inaudible 00:35:34] nervous. Adam, I wanted to tell you, because your name, when your name keeps popping up, Adams Morgan is a place in DC, you know that?

Adam:

I've taken my picture there. I definitely have-

Katie O'Brien:

Did you?

Adam:

In fact, the funny thing is, Adam Morgan is just two common names, right? Adam, and then Morgan. I even once looked, if you look on LinkedIn, there's, I don't even know [inaudible 00:35:55], about 200 Adam Morgans. And you think you're so unique in this world, and then it's like, then I'll do a search for Adam Morgan's in marketing and there's 30 of them. Adam Morgan's who like rock climbing, or, there's 3 of them. So, I have this idea, I'm going to do a game show, Who is the Real Adam Morgan? And we'll put 30 of them on there and they'll give a challenge every time and you have to prove how you're unique, and I bet we'll come back and half of us will be doing the same thing and then you're all out. And you just keep doing [crosstalk 00:36:20], Adam Morgan.

Katie O'Brien:

I would check that out for sure. But I will say, you know that there's a million bars named after me.

Adam:

Oh, that's true. That's true.

Katie O'Brien:

People are, "Oh, have you ever been to Kate O'Brian's? And have you ever been...?" I'm, "Yeah, I have. I've been, yes. And I don't get to drink for free and it's a bummer."

Adam:

You don't have a lifetime membership? That's funny.

Katie O'Brien:

I should. I should.

Adam:

You should.

Speaker 1:

[crosstalk 00:36:47] your name, if the place has your name on it, it seems like a no brainer, right?"

Adam:

I own this [crosstalk 00:06:51], excuse me.

Katie O'Brien:

I know. My name is on your checks, so, let's just a round on the house.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Adam:

I should just go to Adams Morgan and just be, "I own this town, everyone. Excuse me. Here's the way I want it to be run."

Katie O'Brien:

Yes.

Adam:

I hope you all are wearing masks.

Katie O'Brien:

Off the streets, masks, yes, definitely. I like it.

Adam:

Oh, that's funny. Well thank you so much for taking some time, I know this and the other hour, we really appreciate it.

Katie O'Brien:

No, of course. And I'm sorry I had to bail I'm at the end of the... I was on vacation at the beginning part of this week, and then when it came, it was, "I can't do it." So I really appreciate you guys.

Adam:

Oh, we're super flexible. That's great. We appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

No problem.

Katie O'Brien:

All right, well cool.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Adam:

We'll let you know when this comes out and we'll let you see so you can see it on the social networks and know when it's about to go. And then we'll do a live recording, it's just because there's... This last one, there's some confusion. We're going to do a live webinar that's just showing this video so that people can sign up. And then after that, we'll turn it into a podcast that's just a long tail. And then there's-

Katie O'Brien:

Cool.

Adam:

... and maybe a YouTube channel. So, but if you see all these things like, "Join us, join us." It's just for that webinar where we play this video once it's edited.

Katie O'Brien:

Okay. All right, fun. Well, I appreciate it.

Adam:

Same.

Katie O'Brien:

All right.

Speaker 1:

Take care. Talk to you [crosstalk 00:38:06], bye.

PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [00:38:08]