On Creative Technologists
I’m out of the agency game now, but I still think about it and obviously still have a ton of friends spread across the advertising world. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately (for the last two years really) is the rise of the “creative technologist.” In theory, at least as I understand it, creative technologists were meant to bridge the gap in understanding between the advertising world and technology, as well as help to elevate the position of engineers within agencies to the pedestal that the creative department is held at. This was all nice in theory, but there are lots of things wrong with this, not the least of which is that changing titles hardly ever actually has the deeper effect of understanding and respect that it intends. But that wasn’t all, the other big effect of the new title was that schools started creating programs that taught people to be “creative technologists,” except those people were far more creative than technologist.
And so it became that there were a lot of creative technologists around who couldn’t write a lick of code and that made me sad because there are plenty of technologists, even in agencies, who are very creative. They were creative even before they got the title and then, after they got the title, absolutely nothing changed except they got more competition for their jobs from people who couldn’t actually do their jobs.
All of this is a long introduction to Igor Clark’s long piece about how you shouldn’t hire creative technologists that can’t write code, which made me very happy inside. He talks about a lot of stuff, some micro and some macro, but generally his point is that it’s the ability to make things, really good things, that matters and hiring someone who can imagine, but not execute, is besides the point. As Igor notes (and I agree), agencies are going to struggle for awhile to figure out how to attract engineering talent, especially in the current startup climate, but to thrive they are going to have to figure out how to acquire and retain the sort of people for whom being creative and being a technologist was never a thing they needed a fancy title for, but instead was a thing they followed out of passion.
Basically I’m glad someone wrote this.