Words From the Industry with Jamie Rodriguez
TXADPR had the pleasure of speaking with UT alum Jamie Rodriguez, who didn’t waste any time out of college finding (or rather creating) a job he loves. Rodriguez shares his experiences from finding his passion in advertising at UT to starting up Tilted Chair, a local advertising company in Austin.
What made you want to major in advertising?
I damn near flunked out of the Government program! I found myself disenchanted and with a 2.25 GPA and decided I needed the complete opposite. I came across the Texas Creative Sequence and literally said to myself, "THAT is what I want to do."
Looking back at your time at UT, does any professor or program stand out to you?
A few. Heidi Jewel, who taught my E 314V class (Native American Literature and Culture), really opened my eyes. We read two great books that semester, both of which I finished way ahead of time because I couldn't stop reading them or thinking about them.
In advertising, two others really stand out: Matt McCutchin and Maria Rivera. Those two left me with so much great knowledge and inspiration about how to think about advertising and the world. I reflect often on some of the lessons they imparted upon me.
Did you join Tilted Chair Creative right after graduation? If not, what were some other jobs you did leading up to it? If so, what has made you want to stay?
Me, Hua, Mike, and Rachel started Tilted Chair three months after graduation. It's all I've ever known as a true working professional. This is my only career-style job that I've ever had. I worked as a bank teller for six months before starting Tilted Chair and in hotels for three and a half years during college. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm so freaking glad this business exists. It's a home for misfits like us!
What has been an impactful moment (or person) that has helped shape your career?
My boss at the bank, Melissa Moore. She offered me a full-time position at the bank, which I accepted for one day. I came in for training, went home, and thought to myself, "I can't do this." I called Mike, Rachel, and Hua, and said, "Let's do this." Then I came into the bank the next day and told Melissa. She smiled and said, "So, you're just gonna do it!" I'll never forget how understanding and encouraging she was. We needed that confidence and support early on!
Who has been your favorite client to work with? And what has been your favorite work that you've created?
Hard to beat Torchy's Tacos. Brittany Platt, in particular, was very inspirational. Much of the work that came out of our relationship during working with the brand for two years was a distillation of her personality. She was the "damn good" in Torchy's Damn Good Tacos.
In terms of importance, the work we did for Cavender's takes the cake. It transcended marketing. We helped depict a portrait of the modern American West that will live on for years to come. If aliens landed in a thousand years and found our Cavender's work, they might go, "Oh, this is how these people lived."
What is a challenge you've faced in your career and what advice would you give yourself now regarding that challenge?
Getting work! Early on, the best we could do was to explore our personal networks to see if anyone needed simple design or web work. But, if you hang in there long enough, you'll get opportunities that you don't deserve and if you go all-in on those opportunities, every once in a while, you'll land one.
I would have told myself to develop a branding/marketing philosophy much earlier on. Having a guiding framework around which all of your work is built is invaluable.
What is the most rewarding thing you do in your work?
Creating. At the end of the day, getting to MAKE stuff is just unbeatable. Something I've learned from being around highly creative people is a fact that seems really dumb: creators create. Makers make. Creative people find a reason and a way to make things and to add beauty where before there was none.
Best ways to get your creative juices flowing?
Any career goals you hope to accomplish in this field? What's next for you?
I want to grow. I want to grow our capabilities, our client relationships, and our relationships with our peers and employees. We don't need to be the biggest or the richest, just the best.
What advice would you give aspiring creatives?
Be obsessed, work super duper hard, never give up. Oh, and websites are never finished.