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…
Mike Grady attended Illinois State University, College of Applied Science & Technology. In 2015 he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Communication with a specialization in Packaging.
How did you first get interested in the graphic arts, or decide to focus on graphic communications in school?
I became interested in graphic communication when co-founding a non-profit called BeInstrumental.org. I was working in finance and pouring my free time into developing branding and marketing materials for BeInstrumental. I had so much fun creating the original logo, website and event flyers. In addition to helping make a difference for kids through music education, I found a new direction for my profession. I decided to go back to school to learn about graphic communication. At first, I had a focused interest in digital media and website development. However, that changed after working on a flexo project. Developing a design for print, preparing the files, making printing plates and running a printing press was fascinating. I realized that understanding both digital and print would prepare me for a future in an omnichannel world.
Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career?
In high school, I took several art classes and some introductory computer networking and coding classes.These were both helpful to have had taken. I wish I had paid more attention to Chemistry and Physics in high school! They both play an important role in color science.
How do you think going through your education process prepared you for the workforce?
My education at Illinois State University provided a broad knowledge base of all aspects of Graphic Communication from print to digital. Understanding the importance of both print and digital helped me jump right into a rapidly evolving omnichannel world. There was also an important emphasis on developing critical thinking and management skills. This helped prepare me to tackle increasingly complex challenges that helped me earn new responsibilities within my company.
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 sgsco based out of Chicago. Sgsco is an omnichannel package design and digital graphics company. Services include package design, adaptive design, pre-media, image carrier manufacturing, print quality management, CGI content production, workflow and digital asset management solutions, and product content management and distribution.
What 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?
My first job with sgsco was as an intern for the Global Business Development team. Today, I am the Global Marketing Director. I support sales and marketing initiatives for several of our companies involved in all aspects of design, production and digital services for the CPG and retail industries. Additionally, I am a subject matter expert on interactive print technologies and lead labeling initiatives such as FDA nutrition label reform and USDA Bioengineered Foods Disclosure.
What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and the current industry environment?
When hiring, I look for entrepreneurial individuals that learn quickly. Additional important skillsets include problem-solving and public speaking.
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?
Change happens incredibly fast. It’s important to keep looking ahead and anticipating what’s next within an industry. It’s very important to stay current on trends and think about how new technology and approaches to business problems could disrupt how things are currently done.
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?
Yes! At first, I thought I would focus on the digital side of graphic communication. I learned that it’s about both print and digital. Communication occurs in many ways and successful organizations must use all forms to meet the expectations of “anytime, anywhere” consumers.
What do you see yourself doing a few years from now?
I see myself leading a team of graphic communication professionals to advance the industry. We’ll still be focused on the consumer, however, as the power of mobile phones continues to increase exponentially, we’ll be adding a whole new set of digital technologies to our approach.
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?
Being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship was very important. It helped me pay for tuition while allowing me to focus on my studies and limiting work to internships. By the time I graduated, I had completed my studies and had already started developing as a professional.
PGSF 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.