A standard business bio is a must. On the web, they’re one way prospective clients gauge expertise and experience before taking the time to call or e-mail. But good gravy can they be boring.
If you’re like me, your eyes begin to glaze over after you’ve read one or two, especially if there’s not much more to them than a bulleted list of credentials.
These days I’m primarily a website nerd. But with years of business writing experience under my belt I sometimes can’t resist suggesting a client’s bio ought to be spruced up.
Or completely trashed and rewritten.
I recently admitted to my husband that I’d succumbed to this urge while working on a website project. He asked if I’d “jazzed up” the bio like the ones I wrote for my former employer.
I hadn’t (my client’s needs were different from those that drove me to rewrite the design firm’s bios), but it started me thinking about how engaging those bios were. Fun to write. Not boring to read.
Can we get a little respect?
Although clients hired us for our expertise, it often felt like they only wanted our hands to produce what they told us to. I guess they were just trying to get things done in a way they could get their heads around, and that their corporate cultures didn’t always know how to deal with creative collaboration.
It was rare for one of our designers to go off the rails and throw in a color or font that clashed with the company’s logo or some other such non-corporate craziness. Why the fear, I wondered. What could we do to build trust and respect?
I thought the disconnect might be due at least in part to the way we showed our team’s experience and expertise.
Now that I think about it, it’d be more accurate to say we didn’t show it.
We needed a bigger audience
Every time we sent out a proposal for a prospective project, we included bios of team members that would work on the project. I wrote many of them. They were the usual, straight bio, minus the bulleted list.
I wanted to believe that people actually read them but let’s be honest: they probably arrived in a flurry of other RFP responses or capabilities brochures and languished on someone’s desk until they were tossed in the recycle bin.
How could we expect people to respect our capabilities when more likely than not they hadn’t even seen them?
During one website redesign, we put all our bios online, hoping to get in front of future clients while they were in the tire-kicking stage. This was before website analytics were commonplace, so we initially didn’t have data around how well trafficked they were.
I knew one thing, though: they were written for no-nonsense corporate types and mind numbing to read in any quantity.
Beyond tossing around acronyms like RISD and AIGA, they didn’t even hint at our creative abilities. But at least they were out there. And not in the recycle bin.
More engaged readership
Since our firm tended to work mostly on corporate projects like annual reports, brochures and the occasional website, we spent a lot of time at the more constrained end of our creative occupations.
No matter how creative the designer, the solution had to answer the client’s challenge. In other words, our portfolio was pretty mundane.
Whenever we got (or volunteered for) a project in the more-creative realm, we went crazy. People raved about the results. Most of these projects are long gone, but a few fragments survive here and there.
We wanted projects that demanded more creativity, but we needed to be able to show how creative we could be. With a portfolio full of corporate annual reports, that feat was difficult to impossible.
We tried, though.
I don’t remember exactly how I got the idea to inject more creativity into the website via fun versions of our bios, but everyone jumped on it.
We retained our “straight bios” and headshots, but relegated them to a separate page linked only from their more-creative counterparts. I wish I still had the photos we took to go with each bio; they riffed off the content and were a blast to photograph.
I don’t know if the more lighthearted take won us any more jobs, but the Our Team area of the site was among the most visited. Surely not all of its visitors were our relatives : )
Writing on the wall
When the firm was acquired by an ad agency in 2007, the new owner wanted all of the bios removed. Unlike our firm, the ad agency was mostly a revolving door that relied heavily on contract production workers. It was risky to sell your creative folks if they might not be around for the next project, y’know?
Within a few years of the firm’s acquisition, a combination of factors led to its demise.
Fortunately for one of the design firm’s original owners – he’d stayed on through all this – the new owner sold him back the firm name for $1. He and another former colleague now run a lean incarnation of the business from home offices in two separate states.
How to lighten up your bio
When I wrote the “fun bios,” I worked in at least a nod to the person’s experience and avoided anything that could diminish respect for their expertise. The result was an engaging and more memorable take on who they were and what they had to offer.
In more recent years, people have loosened up when it comes to their website bios. Thank goodness. But back in the day, our fun approach was adventurous.
I was glad to find the bios in the Internet Archive, and wanted to salvage and display them for posterity’s sake and (hopefully) sharing laughs with former colleagues. Below are those I could recover. Hope you enjoy them.
Writing bios not your idea of fun?
If you’re struggling to put together an engaging bio, you need Sonya Schweitzer. Sonya works with a range of people who are passionate about their businesses but struggling with marketing. Check out her post on humanizing bios, and partner with her to banish your boring bio. Visit Sonya »
Though her chief ambition is to one day control the entire Internet, Teresa busies herself in the meantime running see see eye’s Web site, planning and producing Web development projects, writing copy and rewriting others’ copy. Originally from L.A., she relocated to Atlanta in 1988 because she thought it would be nicer to look at trees while stuck in traffic.
In her spare time, Teresa promotes Greyhound adoption by chauffeuring her two former racers around to various public appearances on behalf of Southeastern Greyhound Adoption.
Stacey Anne Avery
Stacey joined see see eye in 1999 and is responsible for overseeing all of our financial matters – corporate and client – as well as handling many HR-related activities. She holds a BA in Mathematics from Cleveland State University and, like funny man Drew Carey, thinks her native Cleveland rocks.
As if being a financial and math whiz weren’t enough, Stacey also earned Human Resource certification from Kennesaw State University as well as Professional in Human Resource (PHR) certification from the Human Resource Certification Institute.
Even if she didn’t handle payroll, Stacey would still be tops on the list of people fellow see see eye staffers want to hang out with. Seems like she’s always wearing a radiant smile, even when things go awry, as they sometimes do…when running lengthy month-end reports…late Friday afternoon…preceding a three-day weekend.
In 1999, see see eye was fortunate enough to snag Karen when she left UPS after six years as a senior designer. We suspected she still had brown blood running through her veins, however, when one of her first projects at see see eye was a national award-winning annual report – for UPS.
As a Washington state native and former WSU student, Karen will always be a Cougar at heart, despite graduating summa cum laude from the American College of Applied Art. Karen has assembled an impressive resume that includes more than 14 years of design experience, a board position on the Allied Design Council and several prestigious design awards. Her other achievements, though, pale in comparison to her most notable work: designing the original logo for Atlanta alternative rock station 99X, now found on everything from t-shirts to CDs to static cling decals. Karen is a member of the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Tanya, a 2005 addition to the see see eye team, does a super job as an Account Supervisor helping us keep our many ducks in a row. Her managerial skills are only part of what she brings to the table – Tanya is a certified geek who ranks coding in Cold Fusion and watching Star Trek reruns just a bit too high on her list of fun things to do. For the record, she denies ever having dressed up to attend DragonCon.
Tanya grew up in Upstate New York, and sorely misses summertime walks along its waterfronts and, in the winter, racing around on a snowmobile. A dislike of snowmobiling’s requisite snow drove her to Atlanta, where she has yet to find a decent spot to ride the thing. She settles instead for pedaling her bike through town, which offers plenty of sport given the city’s large number of both narrow streets and crazy drivers.
A perfect day for Tanya would have to include rolling through town in her dream car, a Cadillac DeVille, with the BeeGees: Their Greatest Hits CD playing on the stereo. And it wouldn’t be complete without a stop at el restaurante Los Loros, en donde ella tiene el gusto de beber margaritas con su prometido.
Clients who work with Kesha appreciate her warm and gracious demeanor, and the fact that she always goes the extra mile taking care of their projects. Fellow see see eye staffers also appreciate these qualities in Kesha, and agree they more than make up for her all-out obsession with WWE Wrestling.
In addition to her responsibilities as an Account Executive, Kesha serves as Marketing Coordinator, spearheading see see eye’s direct mail campaigns and other marketing efforts. She joined see see eye in 2000 after relocating from Albany, Georgia, where she was director of marketing for the Albany locations of two prominent hotel chains.
When she’s through with work, Kesha likes spending time with her family, especially cats Red and Siam, and Lil’ Man, her maltese/yorkie mix. She also enjoys writing romance novels, and is hoping to hit the bestseller list soon so that she can fund her penchant for Coach and Burberry bags.
Lawson joined see see eye in 1996 after several years in corporate communications and public relations. He is a member of the Atlanta chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, and served five years as director of the group’s Web site. A 1988 graduate of the University of Georgia, he is one of two “Dawgs” at see see eye (the slightly less rabid one). Prior to attending UGA, Lawson enjoyed a seasonal career as a costumed character at Six Flags Over Georgia, masquerading as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Bogey Orangutan and sometimes Pammy Panda.
As see see eye’s President, Terry is at the hub of all creative goings-on and oversees the company’s business development and strategic planning activities. She’s well versed in the art of communication, in tune with business, encouraging of others and, to top it off, she knows all the disco hits!
Terry’s communications clients have included BellSouth Corporation, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, IBM, UPS and others. Beginning her career in 1982 with Johnstown American Companies, Terry later became director of corporate communications and investor relations for the company. She worked for several leading southeastern communications agencies before founding see see eye in 1992. Terry is past president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute.
After more than a decade under Terry’s leadership, see see eye is going strong. Pretty impressive when you consider it all started with one desk and a (mostly) paid off VISA card.
Having the dubious honor of being the most frequently called upon see see eye staffer, James (or “JAMES!” as he’s known around here) oversees the operation and maintenance of the company’s computer systems as well as general facility operations. Invariably calm, cool and collected, James seems to effortlessly head off every potential crisis, though we sometimes wonder about the large collection of stress-busting toys around his desk.
James joined see see eye in 1999, bringing extensive hands-on Macintosh technical experience and an impressive talent for tracking down the best computer deals. He graduated from the University of South Carolina Spartanburg with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. In other words, he majored in communications and journalism while keeping a university computer lab up and running and perfecting his Quake game.
Always perky. Always smiling. That’s Jeanie. Even after putting in extra hours several days in a row, she’s still on top of her game. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there are seven Starbucks locations on her way into the office.
Joining see see eye in 1999, Jeanie brought public relations and office management experience to the company. She holds a B.S. in marketing from Oglethorpe University, and thus must endure Stormy Petrel-related teasing from the Dawgs and Hokies of the office. As if it weren’t enough that her alma mater’s poor mascot is an extinct bird…
Jeanie supervises project management responsibilities and has co-managed several of see see eye’s self-promotion campaigns. On weekends when she isn’t press-checking or photo-shooting, she can often be found “deep in the heart” of her native San Antonio.
Scott joined see see eye in 1999, after more than eight years undercover in the commercial printing industry. His fluency in printer lingo and ability to make sense of a myriad of on-press scenarios enables see see eye to provide clients with a top-notch production experience (“Hey, Chuck! Would you pick the hickies off of key three in the black unit?”).
As an Account Supervisor, Scott is responsible for managing projects for clients such as Alfa Insurance, Align Technology, Bowater, Colonial BancGroup, Cousins Properties, Goodrich Corporation, Massey Energy and NetBank. Several of his projects have been recognized for excellence by industry experts. But it’s his encyclopedic knowledge of UGA football trivia and tales of his days on campus as a Social and Leisure Activities major that really impress us.
Scott is a member of the National Investor Relations Institute.
Jamie came on board in the summer of 2004 and made the jump into Account Services a year later. In her original position as Office Manager, Jamie ran the show from the front of the house without having to put up with the rest of the team’s shenanigans. Alas, word got out about her marketing degree and she was yanked from the quiet comfort of the front desk so fast her head is still spinning.
Jamie’s a quiet one, at least relative to most of the see see eye team. She likes reading, movies and people watching, and admits “Court TV” is one of her favorite ways of getting a glimpse into others’ lives. Thanks to people like Judge Judy, Jamie has seen enough to know she should never room with a restaurant manager who might later serve time for check fraud then subsequently sue her for stealing his dogs while he was in prison.
With Jamie’s penchant for travel to cities as far flung as San Francisco, Nassau and Paris, she’s lucky to have a mom who works for a major airline. That airline discount means bonus dollars for serious shopping in whatever locale she finds herself. Getting around to shop, however, can be a bit of an adventure for her when the native tongue isn’t English. Naturellement vous ne parlez pas français, cheri – vous êtes un Americain!
Amy joined see see eye in 1996, and her position involves providing graphic design, typesetting and production support to the design staff. What that all boils down to, especially in the eleventh hour with deadlines looming large, is that Amy is everyone’s right hand man (although she happens to be left-handed and a woman, but that’s beside the point). Amy is also see see eye’s resident paper expert and printer liaison extraordinaire.
In addition to studying graphic design at the Atlanta College of Art, Amy holds a B.S. in psychology. She says having a psychology background comes in handy around here. We’re not sure what she means by that comment.
Gillian arrived at see see eye in 2006 after stints at a swanky NYC design firm and an Atlanta branding and design studio. Those gigs followed graduate studies in Graphic Design here in Atlanta as well as in Uruguay. Yes, Uruguay – more on that in a moment.
Shortly before she was to graduate from UGA with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, a Minor in Photojournalism and with honors, Gillian felt something was missing from her life.
While familial pressure more often dissuades someone from pursuing a creative career, having an interior designer mother, wood-turning father, sculptor/painter grandmother and artist/musician brother may have given Gillian a slight inferiority complex. Fortunately, her two degrees, magna cum laude distinction and the fact that she was an honor student had some redeeming value: they netted her a post-graduate scholarship to study anything, anywhere in the world. So she packed up her love of the Spanish language and headed to South America to study graphic design at Universidad ORT in Montevideo, Uruguay.
While Uruguay was great and NYC nice, Gillian loves Georgia’s big, open spaces, hearing “y’all” on a daily basis and hanging out with her family here in the Atlanta area. We’re glad she now calls see see eye home during the workweek, and that she didn’t just settle for a couple of UGA degrees.
Rodolfo Ruiz Sosa
Rodolfo, or Rodolfo Ruiz Rosales Sosa Figueroa, Jr. as we like to call him, joined see see eye in the spring of 2003 after realizing that entering the priesthood would require severe adjustments to his lifestyle. He opted for a different career path and earned a B.A. in marketing from Georgia State University.
Born in Hospital Roosevelt in Ciudad Guatemala, Guatemala, Rodolfo came to the U.S. at the tender age of eight. Though he has embraced the North American lifestyle (i.e., baseball, beer and burgers), Rodolfo has fond memories of his days in Guatemala and often reminisces about family trips through the Guatemalan jungle to visit his Tio Chepe a.k.a. “El Machete” en la carcel. He also retains a fierce loyalty to his hometown futbol team, Los Cremas, against whom the evil Los Rojos do not stand a chance.
A lifelong sports fanatic and former star outfielder, the highlight of Rodolfo’s baseball career came when he was named Player of the Year and honored with an all-you-can-eat pizza party at Chuck E. Cheese. When he’s not updating schedules or cranking out press releases, Rodolfo enjoys watching the Braves (especially when they’re pounding the Yankees) and Thrashers (he claims he’s Metro Atlanta’s only Hispanic ice hockey fan) and lobbying against the destruction of Guatemalan forests by mansion-building rock stars.
As a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, a.k.a. “RIZ-dee,” Kevin is echelons above the constant college football banter usually heard in the see see eye offices. But if he did decide to brag, you could be certain RISD’s competitive glass blowing team would thrash those pesky Bulldogs.
Kevin joined see see eye in 1995 and oversees the company’s graphic design activities and financial operations. Since earning his BFA in 1987, Kevin has designed a wide range of award-winning graphic materials for both national and international accounts, including print, Web and environmental graphics for The Coca-Cola Company, Hands On Atlanta and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He’s also logged many hours in service to the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, including service on the board, and was a founding board member of the Allied Design Council. We’re not sure how he finds time to do it all, but the sleeping bag stashed under his desk may be a clue…