Ready to Take Flight

IMG_1272I always thought travel would play a huge role in my life. When I was young, I was fortunate to have parents who took me places during summer vacation. I loved our regular camping excursions throughout Western Canada and the US, and I was fortunate to experience Disneyland. Disney World, too. Every few years, we were able to go to Europe to visit relatives on my Dad’s side of the family; mostly around Munich and Austria, but I do have vivid memories of a trip to the Mediterranean and the former Yugoslavia.

My hunger for travel grew during my university years. During the summer semester breaks, I spent time exploring Canada and Europe. My first solo European trip involved a ten countries in twenty days adventure aboard a Contiki bus full of Aussie and UK “pub enthusiasts”. OK, as it turned out, it wasn’t quite my style of travel – but I did return to Europe a few years later for a summer backpacking adventure.

Perhaps the highlight of my travels was a year spent in Australia following graduation, coupled with time spent in Bali, New Zealand and Fiji. When I left for Australia, I felt the world was my oyster. I hadn’t yet established a career. In fact I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, except for one thing: travel and experience everything that the world, and the people of the world, have to offer.

Then, a funny thing happened.

I returned from Australia, not having met the beautiful Australian woman of my dreams to marry (which of course would also allow me to say down under!). I stumbled into a career in marketing, which mostly for the better, has engulfed much of my life. My career path, however, has not been straightforward. While I have traveled a bit over the last number of years, for a variety of reasons my adventures have not been as grande nor as adventurous as I would have liked.

The time has come to change that. For me, I am happiest when I am focused on true, genuine and awesome life experiences. “Experiences” is the key word. It’s a cliché, but life is short, and it’s time to start living it.

Recently I have been inspired by the local travel blogger community, through Toronto Travel Massive, as well as my good friend Jason Baker who is getting set to go on an adventure and share his experiences through The Imperfect Traveller.

I am working on an overall life bucket list, which I will post on this blog shortly. In the meantime, here are some travel-related highlights of what I currently have on the list.

Within the next year:

  • I will visit Chicago
  • I will travel to Peru, for the first time, and do the Inca Trail
  • I will do a multi-day bike trek, in either Eastern Canada or Europe

Within the new three years:

  • I will travel to Costa Rica
  • I will travel to Europe to visit distant relatives (and ski the Alps)
  • I will travel to India
  • I will do an adventure trip with my parents

With the next ten years:

  • I will visit all seven continents. Yes, including Argentina.
  • I will climb Mount Kilimanjaro

There’s more, but I think this is a good start.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, it’s time to start planning my next trip.

Thoughts on Rebooting

Thoughts on RebootingI recently finished reading Mitch Joel’s latest book, CTRL Alt Delete. In his book, Mitch shares thoughts on how businesses and professionals essentially need to do a reboot – transforming both processes and ways of thinking in order to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.

Personally, over the last few years I have initiated a number of significant changes in my own career – shifting my focus to digital and social strategy after having gotten my start in traditional marketing, with a strong desire to play in the intersection of culture, technology and media. I can definitely relate to much of what Mitch articulated. What I have really come to realize however, is that the process of “rebooting” isn’t a one time deal – far from it. The truth is that businesses and professionals, from a career lens, must now constantly examine and adjust things as technology and people’s behaviours evolve.

Here are a few things that I am now thinking about:

1. Creating Utility Through Content

It almost goes without saying that any content a brand produces, whether for social, web or email, should somehow provide a tangible benefit and level of utility for readers. However, the stark reality is that people are getting absolutely inundated with content from all directions – and many brands are still not putting enough thought into what they produce. The end result? One big, giant mess of content.

It’s true that most content has value when it comes to search optimization and the long-tail. However, I think brands need to think much harder about what content they’re producing – perhaps with a “less is more” mindset. I am definitely keeping this in mind for a content strategy I am currently developing. I am also looking for ways to extend the overall experience people have when engaging with content – creating a richer experience through multimedia and deep-linking to my company’s website.

2. Escaping the Box

Over the last few years, I have invested a significant amount of time in digital and social strategy education – including reading an endless stream of articles online, maintaining a healthy diet of books through Amazon, and attending a number of events and conferences. I’ve certainly had my fill of digital and social. What’s missing, however, is exposure to new learning – perhaps not directly related to the discipline of marketing.

Gaining insights from a variety of subject areas can fuel inspiration and enhance creativity, potentially leading to unique and compelling solutions to customer pain points. Understanding digital technologies, including underlying architectures and opportunities for evolution, represent one such notable opportunity for strategists. Another might be learning a new language? Why? Because language is a gateway to culture, and a preliminary step in leads to better understanding – an asset given Canada’s diverse population.

To add further context, my friend (and digital strategist) Rachel Lane shared some thoughts on how she learns in her post “The Education of a Social Media / Digital Strategist“.

So, I am now looking at ways to branch out and broaden my exposure to new ways of thinking. In the immediate future, I am endeavoring to learn more about Design Thinking. Down the road, I intend to learn another language – this goal has now been added to my five year plan. There will be more added, but I think this is a good start.

3. Finding the Right Mix

This topic could entail an entire blog post … or even a series of blog posts. Lately I have read a lot of articles related to personal needs to “disconnect” more. I have felt the need myself. While I enjoy connecting with people online, much of the interaction is very “surface” in nature. At the same time, from a career perspective, it’s clear that 9 to 5 does not cut it anymore. At least not for those of us who work in marketing. The continual need to learn, combined with increased business demands and competition, necessitates that people spend more time focusing on their jobs and their careers.

It’s a reality, and one that I don’t mind because I love what I do. It’s not work. Case-in-point, I wrote the majority of this blog post on a Sunday afternoon.

However, I am still adjusting, and I realize that I need to find the mix that’s right for me. Increased career and job demands don’t necessarily mean that I need to be online all the time. So, I’m striving to manage my time better. I’m seeking (and planning) opportunities for quiet – for deeper thought, learning and reflection.

I’m also going to drink more coffee. No, not just for the sake of it!  I want to spend more time with people, reconnecting with people I’ve met before while also making new acquaintances – hearing their stories and learning from them. Hat tip to Elena Yunosov in part for inspiring me to do this.

These are a few things on my mind. What are some things that you’re thinking about?

Why Every Vancouver-based Marketing Professional Should Consider Leaving

I am a Vancouverite. The city is my true home, and will always be near to my heart. I was born and raised there, my beloved family is there, I have many dear friends there, and I literally live and breathe the West Coast lifestyle – the mountains, the ocean and yes, even the odd yoga class

It was for all of these reasons I diligently tried to build my career, in the wonderful world marketing and communications, in Vancouver. I worked hard, and was fortunate to gain significant experience in both B2C and B2B marketing through progressively senior roles at Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company, Ethical Funds and Texcan.

However, there was an underlying problem which at first I ignored, but in reality would have to face head on.

Vancouver is a small city that is not at all conducive to career growth and opportunity for marketing and sales professionals.

I first thought about this when my first boss and mentor Frank Dennis, the President & CEO of Swiss Water, recommended that I move to Toronto to advance my career. Through several subsequent information interviews that I had with marketing and advertising professionals, with experience in both Toronto and Vancouver, their advice was consistent: “move east, young man”.

A few years later, after spending a couple of years too long in Vancouver and an an awesome stint with Chaordix, a Calgary-based startup, I find myself writing this from my apartment in the the High Park area of Toronto. I have a job that I love at Asigra, and have settled nicely into my new city.

If you are in Vancouver, or in another small city looking to develop a career in marketing, I urge you to at least consider moving to a city that will provide you with better opportunity and resources to flourish in your career.

More Opportunities

Canada is unique, particularly compared to the US, because so many tier one and tier two companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area.  With so many companies operating here, there also are numerous ad agencies, communication firms and startups doing work with notable brands. In Vancouver, one can easily count on one hand the number of employers that have large marketing and communications departments.

It is true that competition for jobs is fierce, given the area’s population base, but Vancouver honestly just does not even compare to Toronto when it comes to opportunity. Not even close.

Consider Your Future Lifestyle

There are plenty of smart people in Vancouver, some of whom have cultivated great, rewarding careers in marketing and communications. However, there are also a lot of “consultants” – which honestly means there are a lot of people in Vancouver who are looking for work.

Sadly, salaries are also suppressed in Vancouver. It is a “destination” city, and that fact combined with fewer opportunities and lots of people looking for work means that employers just don’t need to open the salary vault. Simple economics, actually.

In a city which the Economist magazine recently ranked as the most expensive to live in in North America, the math starts to become dangerous – particularly when it comes to assessing one’s lifestyle and savings over the long term.

With a fair degree of certainty, I can say that marketing and communications salaries are higher in Toronto – I estimate by as much as 15 to 20%, when compared to an equivalent role (if you can find one!) in Vancouver.

Learn, Learn, Learn

I have found that both Toronto and Vancouver are rich when it comes to opportunities for learning and meeting people through networking events and seminars. I relish the opportunity I had in Vancouver to contribute to the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, and I always enjoyed attending social media events such as Third Tuesday.

However, there is a very distinct difference when it comes to the opportunity to career-related learning opportunities in Toronto – particularly with respect to social business and digital media.  In Vancouver, there are far too many people who profess to have social “expertise” without any proven, tangible business results to support their claims. These are also the people, in some instances, that are speaking at events. Sorry, I have a problem with that!

In Toronto, because of the size of the marketing and communications ecosystem, the people who who speak at events are able to do so leveraging tangible knowledge that they have developed through experience with top tier national brands.

Through events such as Social Media Week, PodCamp and Third Tuesday Toronto, and through many information interviews I have had since my arrival, I can honestly say that my rate of learning has greatly accelerated over the last year – for which I am very thankful.

Having said all of that, I can honestly say that the social life in Toronto isn’t all that bad either. Actually, it’s a very active, rich and culturally vibrant city. Yes, I am missing the outdoors lifestyle – the mountains and the ocean can’t be replaced. By hey, one can always make do with what one has access too.  Here’s a post I co-authored with Toronto native Debbie Horovitch on how to establish social roots in a new city.

I hope you found this post to be helpful. If you have any questions about making a move for career purposes, or about Toronto in general, please feel free to get in touch – eric.buchegger@gmail.com.

Read and Recommended (Oct 23)

To keep abreast of the latest trends and changes in marketing and social media, I believe it is very important to scan through other blogs and articles – and learn from the experts.  Inspired by Briana Tomkinson, a Strategist at Fjord Interactive, I intend to share articles of interest on here from time to time.

Here are a several articles and blog posts that caught my attention over the past couple of weeks.

Why It’s Time To Do Away with The Brand Manager

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) — Managing a brand has always been a slightly odd concept, given that consumers are the real arbiters of brand meaning, and it’s become increasingly outmoded in today’s two-way world. That’s why a new report is going to recommend changing the name “brand manager” to “brand advocate,” and fundamentally changing marketer organizations in response to the onset of the digital age.

The report, due out next week from Forrester, finally puts the onus on marketers to change their structures — a welcome conclusion for media owners and agencies who keep hearing how they should change, but often complain that their clients have done little to shift their organizations to cope with an increasingly complex world of media fragmentation and rising retailer and consumer power.

Social Media and the Gentle Art of Management

(Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation blog) If there is one question that circulates around boardrooms, organizations and enterprises, it is: how do we manage Social Media from a management perspective?

Companies Seek Social Butterflies

(The Toronto Star) Calling all wired-in twentysomethings with a flair for Facebook and a talent with Twitter: You can make a career out of your perpetual online presence. As employers have moved to crack down on staff using office time to post photos to Flickr or tweet ruminations about their misadventures, the savviest companies have instead mobilized their cyber social butterflies as a key part of business strategy.