Blog

Kelly Schermer

Just because it’s tech talk, doesn’t mean it should be boring. Kelly taps her eclectic background—from biochemistry to children’s books—to infuse the unexpected into otherwise dry stories. Her ideas are proven to lengthen attention spans. 

Sr Storyteller | LinkedIn

01/16/2019

The email hack that steals your creativity

By: Kelly Schermer

The email hack that steals your creativity

Nothing shoots me to the top of the silly scale quite like someone trying to tell me how I should feel about something.

My husband loves to tease me about the time I dropkicked his basketball down a hill in college. The moment he turned to me laughing and said, “You will get that,” (because it WAS a jerk move, and up to that point I HAD been planning to get it) I felt the flirty fun curdle into a feral little gremlin in my belly.

While I’ve developed a few strategies for handling myself in these situations, they don’t always save me from the knee-jerk reaction that loads my adrenaline cannons.

Take for instance my mother’s email asking if I could join her and my sister for lunch. Totally unremarkable except that, for the first time ever, Gmail included 3 clickable response options at the bottom of the message.

By the time I finished reading those, my metaphorical guns were at the ready. 

Now, if I hadn’t seen those responses, I would have probably freehanded something like, “Order the yam fries for me!” But the mere presence of these Smart Reply buttons hijacked my conversation with my mom. They had me thinking in terms of yes/no, free/busy instead of yam fries/sister laughter.

In the scheme of life, email shortcuts seem trivial (especially at work!). But I believe voice and individuality accumulate through conversation strings like this to develop the chemistry that ultimately defines our relationships. If we cut our personality out of our correspondence, we could be cutting ourselves off from a genuine connection. By the time we get to email, we’ve already cut out the face-to-face and the phone. Do we really need to get less personal with people?

Email has serendipitously helped me realize that my flash-anger onset is a defense mechanism for times when I feel like my personal story (or my right to tell my story the way I want to tell it) is being threatened. Because what am I if not the story I tell? 

We all have the unique privilege of being exactly who we are. I want to see, hear, and read your story exactly the way you live it. After all, you do you best.  Why let a computer hack you with generic responses?

 

 

12/07/2018

See your story grow under Radhika’s green thumb for design

By: Kelly Schermer

See your story grow under Radhika’s green thumb for design

As a firm believer that good design becomes great when it has purpose behind it, Radhika wholeheartedly embraces the challenge of creating with intention. Her green thumb for storytelling is rooted in her openness to the unexpected, her trust in her intuition, and her ability to layer those elements together through rock-solid design fundamentals.

Welcoming the unexpected

Radhika works by the improv credo of “yes and…”. Not only is she open to experimenting and exploring with her process, but she welcomes the emergence of unexpected elements that stretch her thinking.  When she paints, she starts with a stroke and lets that element guide her journey from there. When she designs, she uses client feedback to expand her understanding and shift her point of view. Radhika appreciates fresh perspectives and enjoys trying on ideas to see where they lead.

Designing by intuition

Outside the office, Radhika feeds her creativity by experimenting with film photography, drawing, painting, collaging—she’s even a serial beginning salsa dancer (it’s a thing…more on that later). These different pursuits help her learn to trust her own process and to follow her intuition. Slipping into the zone can be meditative, heart racing, even frustrating for her. But, above all else, it allows her brain a safe place to unwind an idea while she’s obsessing over the smallest curve or following a stroke into its scene.

Building on the fundamentals

This past fall, Radhika completed her fourth salsa class for beginners in her fourth city. While she has more than acquired the skills to advance to an intermediate class, she’s not in a rush. All of her teachers, from New York to Seattle and in between, seem to agree that you can’t practice the basics too much. In the same way, Radhika relies on her solid grasp of design fundamentals and her rich variety of experiences to help her weave together the unexpected with the new ideas.

Wondering what intentional and intuitive design looks like in action? See for yourself how Radhika’s green thumb makes stories bloom!

10/15/2018

Thad’s not your typical flip-book kid

By: Kelly Schermer

Thad’s not your typical flip-book kid

The office at 2A is full of big personalities, but if I’m being honest, it’s the design pod that really brings it—each in their own way. I think of Thad as Thad Allen, partner in design, which I recommend singing to the tune of Transformers, robots in disguise because that is exactly what I mean. Thad has earned mutant robot status in my mind through his ability to transform copy and ideas into powerful stories in record time. Some might even say he’s got the touch.  While he did technically get a degree in this stuff (a BA in Interactive Media Design), his passion for finding ways to improve on things seems to be enmeshed in his DNA and the way he approaches the world. 

A PowerPoint prodigy turned professional

About the age most kids make their first flip book, Thad was playing around in PowerPoint, building cartoons for his own entertainment. Today his self-taught and school-perfected capabilities result in elegant, cohesive decks that delight our clients. Not to mention, every month, he brushes off his childhood hobby to build quirky animations for 2A Circle Time, when we share the projects we’ve been working on and the lessons we’ve learned with our team.

A maker who remixes and repairs

In his off-the-clock hours, Thad finds enjoyment as a maker (more in the tinker-DIY way and less in the homemade-honey-and-bread way). He gets jazzed building with existing things. He describes it as remixing or repairing which is an important distinction from building new in that it translates to how he views his work. Thad thrives on collaboration and input. For him, it’s not about building his own creation but partnering with others to bring their ideas and expectations to life. Some of his favorite projects have been those that challenge him to fuse together different elements—from audio and video, to coding, to graphic design—to create something more.

A conundrum unfazed by tension

Along with this mastery across media comes an eye for quirky combinations and an ability to quell the tension inherent in them—just by being him. Case in point, Thad wore a 2-piece, poinsettia-red suit to 2A’s understated holiday party last year and totally rocked it. His capacity to hold divergent ideas simultaneously fuels his work. Take the idea of a car being an alien in disguise. Does Thad believe it’s true? Probably not. But, it’s not his way to deny it, and in that tolerance lies so much opportunity for creating.

 

Find yourself in need of transforming what you have into something more? Give us call and we’ll see what Thad Allen, partner in design, can do for you!

09/25/2018

Like literary fiction best? You may be a marketer at heart!

By: Kelly Schermer

Like literary fiction best? You may be a marketer at heart!

Thanks to all the fearless story champions who took part in 2A’s Give a Book campaign, we donated 1,000 books to kids and gathered a few interesting nuggets about how stories shape our communities along the way. Wondering if you’re more likely to be surrounded by Cats in Hats or Big Friendly Giants in any one part of the city? Read on to find out!

Making readers one book at a time

Through our work with Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program to promote their annual luncheon, we learned there are tens of thousands of students in Washington state who live in low-literacy, low-income families and neighborhoods without access to books. The good news is that the simple act of giving new books to these children can help them learn to see themselves as readers and trigger lifelong learning. To help raise awareness among our local communities, 2A donated the cost of one book to Page Ahead for every participant who completed a survey. Six questions, one book, and a potentially brighter future. Who could say no?

Finding stories that unite us

People from all over the region—even across the country—volunteered to share their favorite childhood book with us and tell us which genre they prefer to read today. Given the hundreds of thousands of available kids’ books, we were excited to find a small handful of titles that reach across neighborhoods, industries, and professions. Here’s a glimpse of what we learned about these intrepid story champions:

  • Remember Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Giving Tree? Those were the three most popular stories.
  • Many of our story champions who live north of Seattle today grew up reading Roald Dahl, downtowners read a lot of Dr. Seuss, while those south of Seattle preferred Margaret Brown Wise (think Goodnight Moon).
  • Over 70% of our story champions read fiction as adults: marketers tend to prefer literary fiction, while developers reach for sci-fi.

Sharing what storytelling means

In addition to asking what people do and where they live, we also asked what storytelling means to them. This question wasn’t required, so it wasn’t expected, but au contraire! Most of our story champions happily shared with us how storytelling has shaped their lives and their careers:

  • Storytelling helps me visualize abstract thoughts.
  • It influences my creative and imaginative side!
  • It is a part of knowing where you come from.
  • Storytelling provides a common thread out of uncommon topics.
  • It opens a window to the world.
  • It is the essence of all collaborative action.
  • Storytelling provides alternative role models and voices.

We couldn’t agree more.

Page Ahead, we tip our cat-in-hat to you for recognizing, not only the importance of books in the home, but the power of storytelling to help children visualize themselves as successful readers. And a special thanks to all those who supported our Give a Book campaign! 

Did you miss the drive, but still want to get involved? It’s never too late to give a book!  

09/19/2018

Meet karaoke Don, our director of web development who makes websites sing!

By: Kelly Schermer

Meet karaoke Don, our director of web development who makes websites sing!

Director of web development, Don Selkirk, cranks out complex websites line by line while listening to the crispy lisp of vinyl, so when he says he’ll walk 1,000 miles to fall down at your door, you can bet he’s deep into the coding zone and bringing it home.

One part web genius, one part problem-solver extraordinaire, and a blazing spark of goofball, no one can diffuse stressful situations and clear roadblocks quite like Don. Over the course of his career, Don has walked 500 miles in a number of roles and figured out how to bring the best along with him. Today, his experiences provide him with a unique perspective across the web development process that he uses to architect brilliant solutions for clients.

A developer developing trust

While he’s built websites of all shapes and sizes, it’s developing trust that matters most to Don. Almost two years ago, he took a leap of faith and moved with his team to 2A in order to continue working with the colleagues and clients he loves. It may sound high stakes to some, but to Don, who’s been stranded on an island in the Pacific Ocean in the name of love, it’s not too far a stretch. For him, the chance to be part of a supportive team, one that would encourage growth and allow him to focus on helping others, was well worth the risk and it’s paid off in spades ever since.

The seasoned coder making space for what works

Like most tech guys you meet, Don loves checking out what’s new, but he understands the importance and value of preserving what works. He recently played an integral role in creating the Build Live website, which provides a new interactive experience for an established conference. Outside work, he’s focusing on making more time for woodworking, biking, and listening to his vinyl collection—all throwback passions of his that get his blood pumping and keep him young at heart. 

Our C# (and javascript) karaoke superstar

Ask Don a question and you’re likely to get the up-beat lyrics of an old classic as a prelude to the answer. Is it riddled advice in the form of well-chosen verse or stream of consciousness karaoke? Either way, you can bet on Don to show up and bring down the house.

 

Looking for someone to walk 1,000 miles for your next web project?  Or who will whip out the piña coladas when it rains? We know a guy. 

08/31/2018

Take your product launch to harrowing heights with Veronique!

By: Kelly Schermer

Take your product launch to harrowing heights with Veronique!

A gust of wind rocketed her parachute forward, blurring her drop zone into the patchwork of Northern California fields. She evaluated her options—a vineyard spiked with wooden stakes or a bustling airfield. Airfield it was. Now to hit the ground at a sprint and dodge large aircraft. Her mother was not going to like this.

Just then, a shift in the wind brought a hangar roof into range.  Veronique negotiated the distance, pulled her cord, and crumpled onto the metal sheeting. Before she could take stock of the damage, a gale grabbed her chute and hurled her 30 feet down to the blacktop. She died on impact.

A day later, she awoke in a hospital bed.

Fast forward 19 years. Today, Veronique Serruya runs equally harrowing (albeit non-life threatening) product launches for 2A clients. While she may have retired her skydiving license, her passion for adventure, her grace under pressure, and her pragmatic tenacity keep her soaring.

Not your typical adrenaline junkie

James Patterson could easily crank out dozens of best sellers based on Veronique’s life story. Her character’s adrenaline-seeking antics would woo readers, but in real life it’s her ability to forge friendships in moments of extreme adversity that builds fans. Since flatlining and coming back to life, Veronique has led a dogsled team across parts of northern Quebec, hiked the Annapurna trail through the Himalayas in Nepal, and kayaked alongside penguins in Antarctica. In her free time, she works as a project manager for 2A, specializing in high-stakes product launches. Whether it’s across a barren tundra of ice, or a boardroom table, Veronique thrives on seeking out new experiences and building connections.

On a quest to complete 1,001 things

Running product launches requires the ability to plan and follow incredibly detailed schedules, the resilience to adapt on the fly, and an endless reserve of patience, optimism, and energy. One might (reasonably) think this line of work would be exhausting. Not for Veronique! When she punches out of work, she goes home to systematically dismantle her guiding manifesto, 1,001 Places to See Before You Die. While she’s already traveled to over 30 countries, with China and India planned for this year, she has thoroughly researched and mapped out dozens more in her personal OneNote travel notebook.

In pursuit of the real story

The linchpin that makes Veronique pure 2A gold is her storyteller heart. Through all her travels and her projects, she seeks to understand and reflect the world around her. Rather than trying to force her personal agenda, Veronique’s success stems from her ability to find the truth of a situation and cultivate that story.

Looking for an intrepid PM to guide your next product launch? We know just the show-stopper for you!

08/21/2018

6 questions, 5 dollars, 1 book and the chance to change a life

By: Kelly Schermer

6 questions, 5 dollars, 1 book and the chance to change a life

For those of us who grew up with books sprinkled around our schools, homes, and beds, it’s hard to explain how our access to stories and our comfort with reading has shaped us.

Books can be our friends, our favorite destinations, even our escape. We use them to teach ourselves how the world around us works and to learn how storytelling can help us envision a future that’s all our own

And yet, tens of thousands of children in Washington state live in low-income, low-literacy communities without books to sweep them up in a current of learning.

Power up learning with books

At 2A, we believe deeply in the power of storytelling. That’s why, as kids head back to school, 2A will donate money for one new book to Page Ahead on behalf of each person who shares their favorite childhood story.

Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program works with schools, centers, and agencies across the state to help get new books into the hands and homes of children who need them. They help at-risk children see themselves as readers and start down a lifelong path of learning. 

Give a book and get a story

As part of our Give a Book campaign, we’re asking participants to take a trip of their own down memory lane.

When you share your favorite children’s book with us, not only will we donate a book to a kid who needs one, but we’ll also use the survey data to tell fun stories about how our favorite reads have shaped our communities.

Want to get involved? Share your favorite story with us!

08/15/2018

The future of your project begins with Drue

By: Kelly Schermer

DRUE!

The long stretch between summer blockbuster releases and Halloween costumes can have a comic book fan jonesing for a good superhero story.  Thankfully, at 2A, you don’t have to look any further than our own Drue Stewart. Unlike her fictitious foils, who rely on radioactive spiders and extraterrestrial rock for their superpowers, Drue’s fueled by her own optimistic, can-do attitude, her tireless perseverance, and her dedication to building up those around her. If Marvel ever meets her, they’ll probably make a problem-solving action figure that protects with a big-laugh forcefield and shirks olives like Kryptonite.

Drue is a present-tense action verb

Drue works as the Practice Lead for 2A’s team of Project Managers meaning she coordinates, fills, and oversees every PM position. She started with 2A as a project manager back in 2015, proving her mettle in steep ramp-up situations. Her passion for learning from experiences (both good and bad), as well as her ability to adapt to rapid-fire changes make her a natural at 2A.

Drue’s past experiences help her operate

Like all superheroes, Drue’s origin story stems from remarkable feats achieved in civilian clothing. Starting at age 15, as a receptionist for a small software company, Drue acquired a deep appreciation for service, efficiency, and people which established the foundation for her operations expertise today. Along the way, she honed her natural talents through experiences in home loan underwriting and end-to-end operations management for a semi-truck trailer skirt manufacturing company (yeah, that’s right, trucks can wear skirts too). Across all of that, Drue has sprinkled in accounting, business, English literature and nursing classes.

Drue wields a golden lasso of problem solving

Drue’s wealth of education and experiences across industries and organizations has given her a unique perspective on problem solving that shines in her role at 2A. She moves gracefully from 30,000 feet to the trenches, from outside the situation to in, until she lassos the heart of the issue and tames it.

From our view at 2A, there’s no limit to what Drue can accomplish. Need help getting your project off the ground? Ask Drue how a 2A project manager can take you up, up, and away!

07/05/2018

We know when to be strategically silly and creatively stoic: the yin yang that drives our gang

By: Kelly Schermer

We know when to be strategically silly and creatively stoic: the yin yang that drives our gang

Remember that one ad with the farmer in the dusty field and the cooing baby that took your breath away? Remember what it was for? Or what it wanted you to do?

Yeah, I don’t either (but I guess beer, or maybe trucks?).

I would ask if you remember the ad that told you exactly what you needed to know but was so boring you didn’t read it…only I didn’t read it either….so…

When it comes to marketing—whether it’s an ad, an animation, an ebook—there are endless ways to miss the mark. Some agencies do striking but empty, while others do focused but bland. At 2A, we believe there’s a third option that uses creativity and strategy to captivate and connect.

A lens for bringing stories into focus

It’s natural to want to think of creative and strategic as synonyms for design and content, but that’s not how it works for us. At 2A, creativity and strategy come long before design and content. They fuse together to make a single inseparable lens through which we view our client’s situation.

You’ve probably experienced a right brain/left brain gridlock that ended in a compromise no one really wanted. Imagine instead a fluid progression of ideas in which creativity and strategy hone one another for the purpose of defining what needs to be accomplished and determining how best to bring it to life. By using them together, they can take you someplace new.

It’s creative strategy or strategic creativity or really some fused-hybrid thing all its own. It’s the foundation from which we build the content and design that come together to create a story.

An approach used by everyone                              

No one person owns our process at 2A. It’s everyone’s approach—our designers think strategically; our consultants get creative. While it may upend traditional agency roles, it’s who we are. It’s how we captivate and connect.

Ideas, words, pictures and the way they intersect matter to us. Let’s see what we can make them do for you.

10/19/2017

Mastering effective communication, one self at a time

By: Kelly Schermer

Leadership training

While storytelling is a form of communication, it turns out that communication is so much more than telling a good story. A few weeks ago, Anya Jepsen, Executive Coach Extraordinaire, conducted a companywide training for 2A on the topic of effective communication.

We talked about how self-mastery practices can make us more effective communicators—at work, at home, even in our own heads. Essentially, self-mastery is the art of thinking about how our brains are thinking before we communicate. Here are three heavily paraphrased theories I’ve started using as mantras to try to improve my communication:

1. It’s only failure if you don’t learn from it
According to Carol Dweck Ph.D., there are two types of mindsets. People with a fixed mindset think they are born with a set amount of intelligence, athletic ability, musical aptitude, etc. People with a growth mindset believe they are born learners capable of improvement. An organization’s culture can act like a mindset. We can either judge one another for having failed or we can view failures as opportunities to learn and grow. By shifting our focus off the event’s failure (or success) and onto the process and effort that leads to improvement, we create a safe place that nurtures experimentation, creativity and growth.

2. You don’t have to go where your ladder is leading you
Our brains constantly turn selective observations about other people into assumptions and beliefs which shape our actions toward them. This subconscious process was named the ladder of inference by Chris Argyris. Depending on which observations our brains select and the meaning we assign them, it’s no surprise that our ladders can lead us astray. The good news is, if we know we’re on the ladder, we can pause long enough to challenge our assumptions and change our beliefs. 

3. Your brain may be trying to trick you
Cognitive biases are our tendencies to think a certain way, and they can really throw a wrench in good decision making. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cognitive biases that trip us up all the time. Anchor bias, for example, makes us overly reliant on the first piece of information we get. Imagine a car at a dealership listed for $45,000. If we let this anchor us, we may believe $42,000 is a good deal. But what if the car is actually worth $30,000? Bottom line: when we’re making important decisions, we need to be able to step back and consider what biases may be influencing us.

By no means have I mastered self-mastery, but the simple act of learning about my thought processes has emboldened me to try harder. You see, at 2A, I’m surrounded by wickedly talented colleagues. But if I want to benefit from all that smart, I need to be able to adopt a growth mindset, get off misguided ladders and check my biases at the door.

I can see there’s something better than any one of us at the intersection of all of us, and that’s where I want to be. Want to come along?