I got the chance to catch up with an old professor at the FIR Advertising Open House. Dr. Tim Christy [EDIT: formerly] of Portland State University’s hosted the event to showcase the crews work, including their 6th place finish at the 2012-2012 National Student Advertising Competition. Congratulations!

I remember plenty of projects and my thesis defense with Dr. Christy as my instructor at the University of Oregon. His teaching philosophy encourages students to combine courage and strategy with any branding or advertising project, whether in class or along their career path.

I can proudly say that I use plenty of his principles on a daily basis.

So to you students on the grind out there, it’s worth seeking out talented instructors who want to impart career-building skills and sticking with them. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of your education that way.

Taking the freedom of experimentation into the professional world.

The graduating members of the FIR team may move on to full-time creative careers. Some will join in-house strategic teams that plan and develop brilliant marketing. Some join other freelancers in independent solidarity. Each path is dynamic, challenging, and full of crazy twists and turns along the way. The paths also test the freedom of experimentation from educational days to its limits.

Freedom of experimentation can vary when you’re on someone’s payroll. Some employers enjoy the fresh, innovative thinking. Others may encourage new talent to stick with proven, tested machines and processes.

I thought about where the most wiggle room exists in the industries. Is it all in the small firms, creative boutiques, and the greater ad agency? Can we really assume that in-house has less creative influence and impact? Is there no nimble corporation?

We could argue and assume all day until we turn blue.

I’m sure we can all agree that it totally depends on the employer. I’m a firm believer in working in an environment where you, your work ethic, and work style fit well.

For those of us who have been there, you can definitely tell when it’s not a good fit. Your heart hurts. Your brain wishes it were elsewhere.

You can count on a few things though.

Regardless of where we are, if there’s a problem for us to solve, we have the opportunity to becomes designers of the solution. This, of course, takes a bit of courage and strategy to pull off. It’s grinding out user research, discovering new insights, and acting on those insights to encourage the results that you and your crew desire.

Growth comes to the people who attack these problems with the willingness to research, plan, execute, and adapt to the challenges at hand. Strengthening those design, research, and planning muscles only comes from continual practice and learning. That part’s not quite for everyone, but it’s definitely worth sharing a few beers, meeting new people, nerding out from time to time.

That being said, PDX Web & Design’s “Hardcore HTML” is tonight at Webtrends. See you there.