‘Teach Yourself and Figure It Out’

Nicole StoryBy Nicole Story, Vice President of Creative, Poo~Pourri

Seven years ago, I was living in my parents’ garage. With an advertising degree from the University of Texas and no job prospects, I was the quintessential definition of a millennial who graduated at the height of the recession. But this wasn’t the first time I’d faced a setback in my young life, and I had developed a mantra to help me move forward, “Teach yourself and figure it out.”

Early Disappointments

My first big setback happened during college. I’d always dreamt of working in the creative field and enthusiastically applied to the Texas Creative program in the University of Texas’ advertising school. It’s an extremely competitive program that only accepts 40 students every year. I applied—twice. And I was rejected—twice.

This was a major roadblock to the path I had envisioned. Without the opportunity to build a portfolio through the creative program, my chances of landing a job in the hyper-competitive, post-recession economy were close to zero.

After the second rejection, I had a moment of realization. Nobody was going to teach me the skills I wanted. I was going to have to teach myself and figure out it.

Self-Starter on Steroids

So I bought and started teaching myself design programs. I got a DSLR camera and lights to learn photography. In school group projects, I volunteered to go above and beyond project needs by designing and creating campaign books, ads, whatever I could think of to get experience.

This led to an internship at a magazine where I would watch the art director sitting next to me, ask questions and study the keyboard shortcuts. Then I worked at a local publisher where I taught myself how to run a magazine—by starting one myself. I used to take my huge iMac home wrapped in a blanket in the car every night so I could keep working and playing at home.

The grit and drive it took to be the photographer, designer, writer and editor of six monthly magazines is the reason Suzy Batiz, the founder and CEO of Poo~Pourri, hired me. I applied at Poo~Pourri for a social media manager position, but was hired on as marketing director instead. That day I went out and bought as many marketing books as I could find! I knew little about what the job would entail, but I knew I could teach myself and figure it out.

My Current Role: Creative Director of Number Two Productions

While working as the marketing director, I was drawn to the creative work at Poo~Pourri. I would jump in to help with creative and was especially interested in the video production aspect of our marketing. I watched and learned as we worked with filmmakers and directors on different videos. And I played an increasingly larger role with each viral video we produced. I started co-writing, then solo writing, and then directing.

So when Suzy asked me to help launch and lead an in-house production company, Number Two Productions, as creative director earlier this year, I had no qualms about answering with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Suzy and I knew that starting our own in-house production company would allow us to save money, make sure the brand stays strong and true, move fast, and cut out the middleman. But it also meant that I would have to take on the risk and responsibilities for the videos’ success and play yet another role that was new to me. I’d have to teach myself and figure it out.

And I’ve found the more risks I take, the better the reward.

This fall we launched four videos from our in-house production company which I wrote and directed, “How to Poop at a Party,” “How to Poop on a Date,” “How to Poop at Work” and “History of Pooping.” Some are performing better than our first viral video “Girls Don’t Poop,” which is such a reward. I have a super top-secret notebook that’s full of video ideas that I can’t wait to get started on.

A few months ago, I was humbled and surprised to learn that only 11 percent of creative directors in the U.S. are women. The creative field has a major need for female mentors and teachers—and I hope to be one of them. That’s why I’m writing today to share my personal mantra that has kept me moving forward and climbing the ladder: Teach yourself and figure it out.


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