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Alumni in Print – Where Are They Now? - Zachary Smith

October 9, 2017

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is publishing profiles featuring some of their more than 6000 former scholarship recipients. This series gives you an up close and personal insight into the thoughts and motivations of the former students who are a part of our industry today. As our current employees reach retirement and leave, replacing them becomes an increasingly important factor for many companies. Here is one story…

A Profile

Zachary SmithZachary Smith attended the School of Media Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. He graduated in 2012 with a BS in Media Arts and Technology, with two minors in Creative Writing and Marketing.

How did you first get interested in the graphic arts, or decide to focus on graphic communications in school?

I was always attracted to the arts, but it wasn’t until joining my high school’s literary and art magazine that I really got a taste of graphic arts. Over the course of three years, I made my way up to being a Managing Editor, which exposes you to procurement, content, production, and distribution. Everything followed from there.

Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career?

My high school was unique in that it was set up with majors, similar to a university setting. I was a Media Communications student, which exposed  me to the Adobe programs, web design, and content creation at an earlier stage than some others. Coupled with the magazine, where I was able to continuously practice those skills outside of the classroom, I felt well prepared for RIT and the publishing field.

How do you think going through your education process prepared you for the workforce?

The programs, professors, and culture of RIT were all instrumental in preparing me for the workforce. You find yourself in so many different situations during your time there that you become well equipped for handling “the real world”. From group projects with a collective force working towards common goals, or late night sessions alone in a lab to make a final deadline, you are equipped with the skills and confidence to get you through any challenge.

In the Workforce Today

What company are you working for now and what types of products and services do they provide to their customers?

I work for Pubworx in New York City. They offer production, procurement, and consumer marketing services for magazine publishers.

PGSF Donate NowWhat job did you first have with the company when you started, what position do you have now, and/or what else have you done since joining the company?

This company was a joint venture between Hearst Magazines and Conde Nast. I was a legacy Hearst Magazines employee working as a Pre-media Associate, and am now a Pre-media Account Manager for Pubworx, working on the pre-media and production of several magazine titles.

What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and the current industry environment?

I think experience is important, but also the willingness to tackle new challenges and be unafraid to learn something new. I believe enthusiasm and a strong work ethic speaks volumes about your abilities. Skills and procedures can be taught, but passion and drive are something found within.

Is there anything that you have found to be particularly different from what you initially expected, now that you’ve progressed through your work career for a period of time?

Working for a few companies since graduation, I’ve run into the wall of being the new kid up against upper management a couple of times. Upper management may not always take you seriously at first, but it should be fuel to your fire. Change is always imminent, but sometimes it doesn’t come fast enough. I would definitely tell my past self to be patient, your time will come. Frustration means you care about your work, and your company, and that will be recognized.

Have you changed your plans or ideas about what area or type of job you might like to have since you first considered the graphic communications field and began studying for a career in it?

Immediately after graduation, I worked in the marketing department for a print distributor. Following that, the positions I held were also in marketing for print related companies and non-profits. However, I never shook the desire to be back in the publishing environment. I eventually transitioned to Hearst Magazines to make that a reality. So it’s almost like I departed from the path immediately after graduation to eventually find my way back a few years later.

What do you see yourself doing a few years from now?

Hopefully continuing to grow in the publishing industry. I have family and friends who have asked the expected question of “Isn’t print dead?” And, of course, it isn’t. Changing for sure, but there is still too much to do. The combination of print and digital products continues to grow, and publishing is growing with it.

Was being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship important, or did it have an impact on your future or ability to succeed in the industry?

Absolutely. When I told my family that I wanted to go to RIT, I was told in no uncertain terms that we would not be able to afford it, but to try and make it work. Every loan, every scholarship, and every donation was welcomed and tremendously appreciated. It encourages you about the work you are doing, and who is rooting for your success.

Print and Graphics Scholarship FoundationPGSF works to inform young people about the opportunities that are available in the graphic arts industry and then support them during their educational phase. To learn more about PGSF, or how you can support its work, visit www.pgsf.org or contact John Berthelsen at [email protected]. PGSF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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