Fake it ‘til you make it…as a creative technologist

In a piece that first James Bush appeared in Encore, James Bush, creative technology director at M&C Saatchi Sydney, tells us how to do his job.

What does a creative technologist do?
The million dollar question. To be honest, my answer is always different which is the best way to describe my job. Basically, I’m free to experiment and explore with technology and get to think up really creative ways to apply it.

What skills do you need to be good at the job?
Be inquisitive and ambitious. Say yes, not no. Believe the impossible is possible. Enjoy playing with technology. Be a good communicator and trust your instinct.
You have to want to be able to do something that hasn’t been done before, be that something fun and simple like a Chrome extension or something large and complex, like a real-time multiple-camera shoot feeding into a YouTube gadget.

Who are the people you work closest with?
Generally, creative teams. We spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas and thinking up ways to bring projects to life. I spend a lot of time with all departments from strategy, social, PR, developers to the CEO. It ensures that no day is the same and I’m constantly kept on my toes.

Is there any lingo we need to know to do the job?
Not really. Acronyms only confuse people and there are enough wankers using abbreviations in the world of advertising without adding to the mix. They are usually the same people who Cannot Understand New Technology. Sometimes when I use words like arduino, electroencephalography and haptic, I get blank looks. But the importance lies in the ability to explain something with brutal simplicity to people who may not understand.

What does a typical day on the job entail?
I wake up at 6am and lie in bed checking my email, Feedly and social feeds, bookmarking as I go before heading out for a training session on my bike. My journey to work is a 20-minute ferry ride which I save for daydreaming because it’s the only time during the day I won’t be looking at a screen. I try to get into the office early to catch up on everything that has been happening in Europe and the US overnight – one of the few benefits of being almost a day ahead of the rest of the world. The majority of my day is spent in meetings, brainstorming sessions, internal creative reviews and external client facing ones. Towards the end of the day I find time to prototype ideas and jot any thoughts down on paper. Yep, I’m old school like that.

What’s the best part of the job?
I get paid to surf the internet and play with gadgets. As my dad once said: “It’s not like a proper job is it?”
The variation of the projects I’m involved in means that most days bring something different. A new problem to solve, a different way of thinking. No two days are the same and I’m always learning something new, be that pointless facts from work colleagues or being exposed to a new technology.

What’s the biggest frustration?
As a creative technologist you can find yourself in high demand, leaving very little time to bring an idea to life in a way that you would like. Technology is often intimidating for clients and there is a misconception that it takes too much time and money to do anything interesting.

How do you become a creative technologist?
Start with an inquisitive mind and a vivid imagination. I was the kid who took apart everything to see how it worked and was obsessed with making things, whether it was with Lego or scraps of wood. Learn a programming language. The ability to illustrate an idea through a simple prototype will open many doors. Take inspiration from everything, appreciate the craft of design and finally, just make stuff.

Encore issue 35This piece first appeared in EncoreDownload it now on iPad, iPhone and Android tablet devices.



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