I need to be reminded sometimes that work, my professional life, is not the same thing as my LIFE. Learning to differentiate making a life vs. making a living is a lesson that, for me, came late. While I’ve always considered myself fortunate that I’ve always loved the work I do and the challenges it presented. Riding the Vespa added a point of view from which I could see the difference between the energy invested in making a living and what I did making a life.
Family and friends — they’re components of a life that are like treasure.
Just a few feet away my wife writes a text message to her sister about our dog Lily becoming a woman — her first heat. Life is always spinning and calling, sometimes at a distance and others right in front of me. When work is added to the mix it can grow more complicated.
When asked what I do for a living I almost automatically think first — photographer. That answer is fueled by a desire for something easy to understand and long years of use. But the reality is I’m not a professional photographer anymore. Just an enthusiastic amateur.
This picture was made a couple years ago on assignment — an environmental portrait of three students who were building a portable food production system out of old truck bodies. I can always gauge whether a photo shoot was successful if I can get the art director to buy in enough to hold a reflector.
Until the end of December I was also the editor of Penn State Ag Science magazine — a twice a year publication of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. It was one of the more enjoyable aspects of my professional life affording me exceptional access to a wide range of people and projects and creating what I would offer regard as being a professional tourist.
I pasted the spreads of the first issue I edited on the wall of my office at the insistence of the art director. As each new spread arrived from design I stuck it on the wall. As he suggested, I was able to recognize a rhythm from page to page (or lack of one) and begin to see how content work together across the entire issue. I’m fortunate to have always been able to work with people who knew more than I do. Makes learning fast and fun.
Not long after becoming editor I was also made Associate Director for Public Relations and Marketing. A position I held until the end of December 2015.
This morning a colleague made this picture for me. There are large posters in our conference room of some of the products produced for the college — magazines, advertisements, posters — things that reflect the public relations and marketing activities of our unit. Products I had the good luck to be part of. Looking at the magazine cover I recall two goals I set for myself — be a representative for our readers, not the college. And always surprise people with the depth and breadth of agricultural sciences. It’s not always what you think it is.
For the past couple years I’ve been doing two jobs. The PR and marketing tasks, and overseeing development of a new, non-credit online course development team for Penn State Extension. And that bit of business grew from an idea of a colleague that has become what we call the ATLAS Project. At the end of December I shed the role of editor, photographer, and leader of the PR and Marketing team to become the Assistant Director for Digital Education.
Expanding Access and Reach to Information
ATLAS is a complex project conceptually and technically. The video helps explain the scope.
ATLAS reaches across a wide range of people and processes to do one basic thing — expand the access and reach of the educational resources and opportunities of Penn State Extension. Traditionally, extension engaged people in face-to-face interactions — in workshops, during farm and home visits, and a range of other personal connections with customers. But as expectations grew by the legislature and others that model wouldn’t be enough. The online experience had to be added to the mix.
Think of ATLAS as an umbrella under which lives CRM (a massive new database for customer relationship management), digital strategy (a customer focused web experience including marketing automation and e-commerce), and product strategy (the educational product line by which we’ll connect with customers — face-to-face or online). That’s where I come in.
My new position, aside from a role in the overall development of ATLAS, is focused on online course production. My team consists of twelve people working hard to transition educational opportunities that exist as face-to-face courses and workshops to an online experience. There are 26 courses in active production, about as many on deck, and almost 130 total identified for production. Later this summer when ATLAS is scheduled to launch our goal is to have 50 or 60 courses complete and in our edX learning management platform.
Makes my head itch thinking about the work left to be done. Like a ride on the Vespa in winter weather, it’s an exciting challenge. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to participate in something like this and be able to say, “That’s my job”.
And that’s the challenge to — balancing making a life vs. making a living.
It’s a full time job…