5 Minutes with… Sarah Ritchie

4 years ago by

Ahead of Design Assembly’s upcoming half-day workshop on “how to run a profitable, successful design business” on Saturday 10th November in Wellington, we spoke with design and advertising account management expert Sarah Ritchie to find out a bit more about what she does and lessons she’s learnt to get to where she is today.

Tell us about yourself? What do you do?

I do a lot, and I’ve done a lot. Right now I am the founder of AM-Insider.com, a Business and Recruitment Consultant, and the author of ‘How to Wrestle an Octopus: an agency account manager’s guide to pretty much everything’. I’ve been immersed in the advertising and design world for over 25 years, including ten years as the Director of a successful design business. I have been a tertiary design teacher; a Business Mentor; and I had a long tenure in advertising and design account management. When I am not writing (my second book) I can usually be found playing my 100-year old piano or competing in a local pub quiz.

What was your first job?
My first part-time job was as a shop assistant in a 1-hour photo lab. Those were the days when people used film, and you should have seen some of the photos my 16-year-old eyes were asked to develop! My first full-time job (and what started me on a career in design) was as a Photolithographer. This was ‘graphic design’ before computers came into the industry (remember, it’s not polite to ask a woman her age).

What project are you most proud of?

My first book was published in March this year, which is a significant achievement and something of which I am super-proud. However, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to write the book had I not completed another project, a few years earlier, which I titled ‘Canvassing My Friends’. I had always loved to paint as a child, but adult-me was afraid to paint. I was bound by a fear of failure, and a fear of what other people would think. I determined that the only way to get over that fear would be to make myself accountable to a group of people, and so I decided to paint my way through my list of Facebook friends, using each person as the inspiration for one painting. I then gave the painting away to that person, and uploaded a photo to my website and Facebook, no matter what the result looked like. That project taught me to feel the fear and do it anyway; and that the only person stopping my dreams coming true was me.

What’s been your biggest lesson in getting to where you are today?

I learned that there is no one ‘right’ career pathway. We are all different with different life experiences, different circumstances, different interests and abilities. Some people take a ‘direct’ route through their career, which helps them to climb the ladder quickly. I took an ‘eclectic’ route that suited my interests and transient lifestyle. Whilst mine wasn’t a ‘traditional’ career, the choices that I made led me exactly to where I am now. I’m content with that, and have no regrets.

It’s that time of the year when many students are finishing their studies and thinking about entering the industry, what are your top tips for those starting out?

Tertiaries focus on equipping students for the workplace, but they often forget to teach you how to get a job, or where you could look for jobs. They also tend to focus on the big agencies and studios, but there are over 700 different agencies and design studios in New Zealand (and that’s not including one-man-bands)! My advice is to do your research and try to identify ten different companies that you would like to work for (and have a solid rationale behind why you’ve chosen each). Then, get in touch with the companies directly. If you sit and wait for job ads to arrive in your inbox, you may be waiting for a very long time. Sometimes you have to make it rain for yourself.

Workshop Details

How to run a profitable, successful design business
Saturday 10th November
Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Room LT2

$350 Professional / $250 Design Assembly Friend / $95 Student + GST
(Not a DA Friend? Details on how to sign up can be found here).

Tickets on Eventbrite


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