WE’RE A CREATIVE, INTERACTIVE & MARKETING TALENT RESOURCE

Happy Anniversary to…Us!

This month, smartdept. inc. is celebrating our 15th anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since we began our lives as smarties back in Seattle, with just me and Michelle. Boy, have we have come a long way! We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and in between we’ve managed to accomplish a number of positive things that relate to staffing – like matching more than 3000 creative professionals with more than 500 of our clients! And, while not quite related to staffing, we witnessed the Cubs win a World Series.

We would not be here today (still going) without YOU, our amazing clients and creatives. You are (all) the reason we keep those creative wheels turning. So, as I wipe a tear from my eye, thank you for the past 15 years and cheers to 15 more! High fives all around (or a fist bump if you prefer)!

For fun, we decided to look back and pick our top 15 highlights from the past 15 years. And yes, there will absolutely be a Cubs World Series win in there! Enjoy!

from the desk of Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

Happy Anniversary to…Us!

 

This month, smartdept. inc. is celebrating our 15th anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since we began our lives as smarties back in Seattle, with just me and Michelle. Boy, have we have come a long way! We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and in between we’ve managed to accomplish a number of positive things that relate to staffing – like matching more than 3000 creative professionals with more than 500 of our clients! And, while not quite related to staffing, we witnessed the Cubs win a World Series.

We would not be here today (still going) without YOU, our amazing clients and creatives. You are (all) the reason we keep those creative wheels turning. So, as I wipe a tear from my eye, thank you for the past 15 years and cheers to 15 more! High fives all around (or a fist bump if you prefer)!

For fun, we decided to look back and pick our top 15 highlights from the past 15 years. And yes, there will absolutely be a Cubs World Series win in there! Enjoy!

15th-anniversary

 

 

from the desk of Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

 

 

smartdept. Chicago and smartdept. Grand Rapids Team Up for a Volunteer Opportunity

Back in September, Leah Bye, a Chicago smartie, and Hannah Morgan, a Grand Rapids smartie, teamed up and utilized their talents to help out the Grand Rapids community during Weekend Blitz.

Weekend Blitz, an event that unites local professionals and organizations with big hearts and a fierce need to collaborate for the good of the GR community! This is a weekend long design challenge, conceived and coordinated by AIGA and Design for Good Western Michigan*. Teams of 8-10 professionals volunteer from a wide variety of industries (design, tech, marketing, etc) are paired with ten local organizations in need of their skills and talents. A team lead works with a mentor to define the organization’s greatest need and then strategically assigns tasks to teammates. From there, the teams closely collaborate with each other and a representative from their organization throughout the weekend. Weekend Blitz reimagines the essence of design and playful thinking through the lens of an accelerated timeframe.

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* “Design for Good is a platform to build and sustain the implementation of design thinking for social change. This platform creates opportunities for designers to build their practice, their network, and their visibility. Design for Good recognizes the wide range of designers’ work and leadership in social change which benefits the world, our country and our communities.” Learn more >

 

Happy Holidays, It’s Nice to Meet You (and Other Fun Traditions)!

From the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

The holidays have returned once again. And, just as in years past, I made the most of my opportunity to fill our environment with holiday cheer. The tree is back, the lights are up and the stockings are once again hung by the front door with care. But this year’s celebration had a new twist. For one thing, we doubled up on the parties! “Wow, party animals,” you’re saying to yourself. Well, maybe. But actually, smartdept. Vice President Matt Crook (sdVP for short) and I made a visit with a purpose — to Tulio’s restaurant in downtown Seattle to celebrate the season with our wayward team.

As some of you are finding out, the Seattle smarties have two new teammates. Yira Martinez and Hannah Schwartz (or Yannah, if you want to go the celebrity couples route) joined our team just after Thanksgiving. These ladies are professional, passionate about creative, and eager to find new opportunities for people in the Pacific Northwest. We’re very excited to have them aboard.

Exactly one week later, we enjoyed Christmas party #2. This time, it was Penrose Brewing Company in Geneva, Illinois. The fine folks at Penrose opened their doors to our Chicago team and treated us to a brewery tour and access to a private room, which was lined (wall to wall) with barrels of beer. Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Once more, I’ll take “Getting to know you” for $1000, Alex! The new additions in Chicago in 2015 include our HR Generalist, Angi Budnick, and Jaime Sklar and Nina Strolia, who joined our recruiting team. In addition, we extended an invitation to our trusted in-house creative catch-all, Jamie Brizzolara. Even though we were familiar (by now) with their work, it was great to get to know them (and a couple of their spouses) in such a quaint and laid back setting.

Finally, we added another first to the holiday docket this year. At the request of Chicago’s own Jaime Sklar, we held a gingerbread house building competition. I’m calling it, “The smartdept. inc. First Annual Gingerbread House Building Competition.” Yep, came up with that one on my own. Who won? Maybe you should decide.

Happy Holidays!

Chicago smarties Celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Win with 2 Million of Our Closest Friends

From the desk of the Chicago recruiter: Leah Bye

Last Thursday, the Chicago smarties invited our families to stop by the office in prep to hit the street and celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win. Back in 2013 and 2010, we were able to watch from our office windows – as many of you know we’re located on Washington St. – but this time we gathered in the office before heading over to Monroe.

We were hard pressed to find anyone downtown that wasn’t celebrating, and it was thrilling to be in the heart of it all. Even if you aren’t a hockey fan, it would’ve been pretty difficult not to hop on the bandwagon. Chicago is a city full of dedicated and determined people that also know how to enjoy themselves, and we feel lucky to be here, working with – and for – such passionate and interesting individuals.

It’s times like this that we remember toughing out the arctic blasts of the winter are for a reason, because Chicago is such a spectacular city to call home. Congrats Blackhawks, on your huge successes in the past several years, and thank you for sharing your excitement with Chicagoans all around!

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The 5 Year Club has a new member!

From the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

The “5 Year Jersey” (Club) started with smartdept. Vice President Matt Crook. Many of our longtime friends and associates will remember a picture of Matt sitting proudly at his desk sporting his custom-made smartdept baseball jersey. This finely crafted cover-up was highlighted by an orange 5 year patch, stitched tightly into the left sleeve and driven home with his name and number 1 gloriously displayed on the back! The jersey was made and presented to Matt in celebration of five years with smartdept. inc. And, since that cold January day in 2012, I’ve been waiting patiently to distribute yet another.

Enter Leah Burkhardt, from the great state of Oklahoma (where the winds come sweepin’ down the plain). We met Leah in mid-April 2010 and were immediately impressed by her contagious brand of enthusiasm and her willingness to try her hand at something new. I recall being impressed that she had a mix of professional attributes we’d recognized in other successful smarties. So we went for it – and offered her the job of Junior Creative Consultant.

Fast-forward five years. Leah’s star still shines brightly, but now as a Managing Creative Consultant. Leah has blossomed into a leader, not only to her Chicago teammates, but to her coworkers clear across the country. Our entire organization is proud to call Leah a colleague and a friend and we congratulate her for accomplishing so much in the five years she’s represented smartdept. inc.

In ceremonies held earlier, Leah was presented with her very own smartdept. 5 Year Jersey. Finally, Matt has someone to share the honors with!

– Eric

 

Life at smartdept. inc. Through One Recruiter’s Eyes

From the desk of Chicago recruiter: Leah Bye

Lately we’ve been discussing in our Chicago and Seattle offices the way the workforce is changing, both for employers and employees/job seekers (case in point, Beth’s last blog post).  While the job seekers are looking for extra perks in the workplace to engage them, employers also are looking at what job seekers are bringing to the table in addition to their career experience.  Look on any career information site, and you’ll see article after article about employers needing to be capable of motivating their employees to keep them engaged and happy. On the flip side, you’ll also see discussions that encourage hiring managers to bring on individuals that have inspirational attitudes, are a cultural fit, and can contribute something extra to the team. Obviously, experience is also part of the hiring process, and position details and potential to grow are players in the searching process (but let’s not worry about the minor details).

So, with that being said, I thought I’d share a bit about our workplace, how we keep engaged and how I, personally, have wedged my way in so my coworkers will suffer from sugar withdrawals if they decide they don’t need me in the office.

Here’s a little insight into what it’s like at smartdept. inc.:
As you may know, we have “boutique” spaces, both in Chicago, and Seattle. So, making sure that our teams work and interact together well is extremely important. On the work/motivational side, we keep each other in check, we encourage each other to push boundaries when applicable, and we always keep it constructive. On the interaction/frivolities side, you’ll occasionally see us at Cubs’ or Mariners’ games, or the Thai place around the corner. You may even see one of us walking around in our new “Winner’s” belt (see Eric’s last blog post). Our office competitions might sound silly, but the winner is always rewarded with something special, like pork rinds, which in turn creates a lot of running office jokes.

What I contribute outside of my job description:
Because I’m a narcissist, so why not talk about myself? I’ve positioned myself as the resident baker (in Chicago, sorry Seattle) – mostly birthdays, occasionally just because, always because I want to make something and can’t be trusted to keep it in my apartment. My contribution outside of what I actually do as a recruiter here at smartdept, inc. is that I make treats, hopefully well, and will even put together your own personal stash to take home if it’s your special day.  There have definitely been a few guinea pig moments. I’m thankful to have such an accepting crowd (especially Eric, don’t tell Michelle).

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I’m not saying your workplace has to be your everything, but, you do spend an awful lot of time there. So why not be somewhere that keeps you at your best, better than the rest?

– Leah Bye

 

A Little Friendly Inter-office Competition

From the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

We have greatness among us. Our very own Amy Amato has now scored inter-office victories in 2 straight Oscar pools, our SD Fantasy Football league and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. That’s right, she had the Badgers (not Kentucky) in the final! Obviously these are strange occurrences, so I immediately sent her file to the White House where I’m certain they will be involved in the future monitoring of the situation.

In the meantime, I’ve been inspired by Amy’s ability to win literally any inter office competition she has been involved in. So, in the spirit of great sports promoters like Don King and Vince McMahon (two people who may also have their files being looked at by the White House), I would like to introduce the Wild and Wacky Exhibitions (WWE) Championship Series. 

You got it, buddy! Each week our Chicago, Seattle, and National offices will come together to compete against each other in a wild and wacky challenge. The winner of each challenge will receive the honor of sporting the WWE Intercontinental Championship belt. The winner of the current challenge will remain in possession of the belt until the next challenge is completed and a new champion is determined.

Oh, by the way, in honor of Amy and her ridiculous ability to win the past challenges, I am officially naming the belt after her. You read me right, from this day forth the belt will be referred to as the Amy Amato WWE Intercontinental Championship Belt. And, for her NCAA tourney victory Amy has earned the pleasure of being the recipient of the very first presentation of the Amy Amato Wild and Wacky Exhibitions Intercontinental Championship belt (okay, let’s just call it the AAWWEICB). 

Congratulations, Amy, on you most recent victory! 

P.S. Since this was originally written, Amy was defeated in the championship match of our rock, paper, scissors tournament by Leah Bye.

smartdept. inc. Chicago Kicks Off Their 2015 Volunteering with a Day at Lakeview Pantry

Inspired by the Seattle team and their involvement with Food Lifeline, one of the Chicago team’s goals for 2015 was to get more involved with the community and volunteer our time to a local charitable organization.

Last Thursday marked our first group volunteer activity of the year! We spent most of our day at the Lakeview Pantry, one of the oldest food pantries in Chicago. Their mission is to eliminate hunger and poverty in the community. They do this by providing on-site food and clothing distribution as well as offering food deliveries to homebound clients. They also have a social services program that helps clients connect with other services they need to address the causes of food insecurity.

We helped the team unload deliveries from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and other grocery stores in the area. We also restocked and repacked food, organized, cleaned and washed windows! It was nice to get out of the office and work our muscles for a good cause. I think I speak for everyone when I say that my arms are just starting to recover from all the lifting. We’ll need to get in shape for next time.

We’re looking forward to more volunteer days with Lakeview Pantry in the future!

#smartdeptinspires

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Chicago November Networking Events

The holiday season is ramping up, and so is the professional networking events calendar! Check out what’s happening this month in Chicago and get out there!

Leadership Circle Program, “Disruptive Thinking: Preparing for Unpredictable Futures”
11.10.14 / 7:15 am / Chicago

At this program hosted by the Executives’ Club of Chicago, Anders Sorman-Nilsson, an innovation strategist and the founder and creative director of Thinque, discusses how to win the digital minds and analog hearts of tomorrow’s customer.

Innovation through Human-Centered Design Workshop
11.11.14 / 9:00 am / Chicago

Product managers, designers, researchers, user experience professionals, marketers, innovators and others can attend this two-day workshop that uses lectures and workshops to introduce participants to the ins and outs of human-centered design. Attendees also learn about how an innovative company operates, improving a company’s design process and more.

Momentum 2014
11.12.14 / 12:30 pm / Chicago

Momentum 2014 brings together technology and marketing to focus on one of the topics that is mission critical for businesses today and tomorrow: Customer Engagement and Big Data: Closing the Gap. This must-attend marketing technology event brings together senior marketing leaders to focus on creating a strategic, unifying vision for customer engagement and experience management within their organizations. This ½ day conference will balance learning the critical strategies from best-in-class marketers, with actionable takeaways and implementation tools, no matter your industry.

Network After Work Chicago at SHAY
11.12.14 / 6:00 pm / Chicago

Join Network After Work on Wednesday November 12th at SHAY (222 W Ontario St) from 6-9pm. Network After Work is comprised of nearly one million like-minded professionals from around the country. Network with attendees from all industries and career levels interested in expanding their professional network and creating new business opportunities. Events take place monthly which allows guests a chance to foster new professional connections in a relaxed atmosphere conducive to business and social networking.

Social Media Masters Summit
11.12.14 / 9:00 am / Chicago

Those in the digital marketing sphere can hear from companies such as BuzzFeed, RedBox, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Orbit Media at this summit. Topics covered include digital strategy, consumer marketing, content strategy and more.

Breaking into Chicago’s Startups: What it Takes to Find a Job in the Tech Ecosystem
11.12.14 / 6:00 pm / Chicago

At this event – the second in a three-part series – attendees can listen to a panel of hiring mangers, employees and Startup Institute alumni who discuss their success and what got them there.

Cheng, Dilts, Haasch and Reyes: ON Technology
11.13.14 / 6:00 pm / Chicago

Join us for ON Technology, a panel discussion of major topics at the intersection of technology and design—from the growth of the sharing economy, through the evolution of grassroots movements, to the rapid, digital-driven changes we’re seeing in the design industry. The conversation will be hosted by Morningstar and moderated by WBEZ’s Lauren Chooljian, with participation from some of Chicago’s leading design and technology thinkers in what promises to be a candid take on a range of topics. Afterwards, we’ll continue the discussion over drinks at State & Lake (the bar, not the intersection) down the street.

Shark Tank Social: Tech Talk Edition
11.14.14 / 7:00 pm / Chicago

Those who have an invention or an idea can head to this event, where they’ll learn how to position themselves as an author, public speaker, product marketer or brand strategist. In addition, attendees can learn about technology awareness, the integration of social media in digital marketing and the basics steps for how to start a business.

Strengthening Human Capital: Make The Investment
11.18.14 / 7:30 am / Chicago

At this educational session, attendees can learn the ins and outs of training as well as what a well-trained human capital is and why it can be the key to an organization’s success.

Chicago Event Tomorrow – Friday Night Speaker Series

Jason Fried, Chicago Portfolio School

Jason Fried is the co-founder and president of 37signals,  a Chicago-based company that builds web-based productivity tools that, in their words, “do less than the competition — intentionally.” 37signals’ simple but powerful collaboration tools include Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, Campfire, Ta-da List, and Writeboard. 37signals also developed and open-sourced the Ruby on Rails programming framework. Jason will share how these tools and the success of his company have come from solving problems through design or “designing solutions.”

 Get the full details for this free event on aigachicago.org!

Chicago Event Tonight – AIGA Chicago Mentor Program

Firebelly Design

Need a Little Design Therapy?

Winter’s in the air, and with it, another season of the AIGA Chicago Mentor Program. Anyone interested in joining the group sessions, getting great advice and sharing your resources is encouraged to attend our winter session kickoff event at 6:30pm on Thursday, January 27 at Firebelly Design, 2701 W. Thomas in Chicago.

The focus of this session’s small group is on mixed disciplines. Whether you’re a print designer looking to learn more about web design or a photographer wanting to know what art directors want, it’s a great opportunity to learn from your peers.

See the full details here on aigachicago.org!

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