Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Benjamin Koren, the founder and CEO of Frameology, knows how important it is to use your time wisely and to push yourself. Having majored in International Relations at Brown University, Benjamin went on to study at Columbia Business School. After he spent time working abroad in Brazil, he started his own company that focuses on making printing and framing beautiful and easy.

Benjamin has had a variety of experiences that he has both learned and grown from, and he shares some of those lessons. Whether he’s living abroad and working, studying to earn a degree, or making the most of every day to build his company, Benjamin seizes his youth day in and day out. Read on to learn more about what a day in his life looks like, what he’s learned from being an entrepreneur, and what books influenced him at different parts of his life.

Name: Benjamin Koren
Education: Brown University and MBA from Columbia University – Columbia Business School
Follow: frameology.com / @BenKoren

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Benjamin Koren: Taking the opportunity to really push yourself to learn and have experiences. It’s about using your time wisely and getting the most out of a very unique phase of your life.

CJ: What did you major in at Brown University, and how did you determine what to study?

BK: I studied International Relations. Honestly for me it was a bit of a cop out. IR allowed you to take classes in a lot of different things, and as I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, it seemed appropriately broad. And I love to travel so there’s that…

Ben 2

CJ: You later attended Columbia Business School. What inspired you to earn this degree, and how did business school help you?

BK: I kind of fell into business. I originally wanted to be a lawyer. My first job out of college was as a paralegal at Shearman & Sterling working on IPOs (initial public offerings). These are transformative events for most companies and are super interesting for that reason. However, I found myself most drawn to the business aspects, not the legal ones. After a year at the law firm I was fortunate enough to get a job at a merchant bank that was one of Shearman’s clients.

CJ: You’ve spend time working as a paralegal and in a private equity company in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What is it like working and living in another country? What were those experiences like?

BK: It was awesome. Living in another country for a period of time is something I would recommend to everyone. It’s challenging – you’re forced to be independent and figure things out that are not so easy to understand (either because of cultural or language barriers). For me it was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve had.

CJ: You are the Founder and CEO of Frameology, a company that makes printing and framing beautiful and easy. How did you come up with this idea? What were the steps necessary to execute your idea?

BK: I came up with the idea when I wanted to buy a framed photo for my girlfriend as a gift for Valentine’s Day. To my shock, I couldn’t find anyone online who would allow you to upload a photo and get it printed, framed and shipped to you. A light went off. Framed photos are awesome – they make the ultimate personal gift and they help people focus on the things in life that are most important – their best memories. And my dad owned a frame shop so I knew a bunch about the business already. Starting Frameology was the logical next step.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned so far from being an entrepreneur and running your own business?

BK: Starting something from scratch is hard and it takes much longer than you think it will. I’ve truly learned so much. But if I had to highlight just one lesson, it’s the following: stay focused on your vision. Products will change, branding will evolve, the people helping you will change, but the founding vision is what provides the real consistency in your business and life. I (as founder) believe strongly that the people and experiences in life are what really matter. Our vision, as a company, is to help our customers to focus on the things that matter. Everything we do is a function of that vision, and we constantly test new tactics to bring that to life.

Ben 3

CJ: Every day in your life must vary depending on the time of year and project you’re working on, but what does a Monday look like for you? Take us through your day.

BK: It does vary constantly! But let’s see. This Monday I woke up at 5:25AM to go to the gym (I know, it’s really early). When I got home I checked my Google Analytics account to monitor our key performances metrics from the weekend. I usually get into the office around 9AM. We have our company standup at 10:30. Then throughout the rest of the day I strategized with our Marketing Director about how best to promote a new program we launched for professional photographers. I fielded some questions from a TV producer that hopefully will put us on her show for a holiday gift spot. I spent time QA’ing some of the new features being built on our site. I participated in a planning meeting to decide on inventory levels that we would carry for the holiday season. I’m sure there were some other things as well.

CJ: What advice do you have for those interested in running their own business one day?

BK: Don’t give up. Starting a business is really hard. Things often don’t go the way you plan, but that’s OK. You will figure it out. Also: test, measure, analyze, repeat. When you have a startup, you actually know very little about the market in the beginning. You need to put together tests to figure things out. Measure the results. Analyze them and figure out if there is a better way to achieve your desired outcome. Then test again using what you have learned.

CJ: How do you stay organized and keep everything running smoothly?

BK: Asana. And hiring great people that I can trust.

CJ: With such a busy schedule, how do you keep yourself energized and inspired throughout the day?

BK: I try to stay in shape and eat well. I think that’s really important to maintaining energy. Most importantly I try to keep focused on Frameology’s vision. We want to help people focus on what’s important. Our customers upload such meaningful moments to our site, I’m constantly reminded of why we do what we do. One customer contacted me recently to tell me how he framed a photo from his wedding for his father in law, who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He broke down in tears, because he was so moved by the gift. Hard not to be inspired by that.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

BK: Professionally, there are a lot. I read The New York Times and The Economist regularly. I’m also digging the new Apple News app. Personally, here are the books that really influenced me at different parts of my life: Catcher in the Rye, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Song of Solomon, and The Old Man and the Sea.

CJ: When you’re not working on growing Frameology, how do you like to spend your time?

BK: I spend all my time growing Frameology. But I do find time to hang out with friends and family (while working on growing Frameology).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon, and how are you doing so?

BK: Right now, really all of my attention is on my company. I don’t think much about personal growth and improvement these days. That’s not to say that I don’t have things to improve upon – I have a ton of things. But starting and growing a company just comes first right now at this point in my life. This goes back to what we discussed before about “seizing your youth.” When you’re young, you can put yourself first (or at least a lot of people can – some aren’t even that fortunate). Later in life you are responsible for others – employees, investors, children, etc. I’m sure I’ll have other periods in my life that at a later date.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

BK: Don’t force things – figure out and focus on what you love. Everything else will follow into place.

Ben Koren Qs

Images by Ben Koren

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We’re very excited to introduce you to our Travel and Culture Columnist, Aysia Woods. You’ve likely seen her work all over our website (and if not, check them all out here). Currently a graduate student at The George Washington University, Aysia has a passion for all things travel. She has explored many corners of the globe, and we’re lucky enough to get a peek into her adventures through her articles.

We are inspired by Aysia’s honesty, optimism, and determination. Passionate about helping others and living a balanced life, Aysia is someone who 100% seizes her youth. Get to know Aysia, her top travel tips, and how she overcomes struggles below!

Name: Aysia Woods
Education: Graduate student at The George Washington University studying Anthropology and Journalism 
Follow: Twitter: @AysiaWoods | Instagram: @FloralGumbo
Location: Washington, D.C.

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Aysia Woods: I define it as taking advantage of all youthfulness has to offer – energy, creativity, and adaptability. These characteristics are at their peak in our early years, so I think it is extremely important to nurture them now, rather than later.

CJ: As the travel columnist for Carpe Juvenis, you share your insights and explorations with our community. What inspires you to travel?

AW: I think it’s just in my blood. My parents and the majority of my family grew up all over the world because they were in the military, and they’ve definitely taught me the value of travel at young age. I get restless very easily and exploring is the only thing that quenches that sensation. The fascinating people I meet along the way and those moments where you think, “I can’t believe this is my life,” are what inspire me the most. For example (true story), walking at 1 a.m. along a boardwalk near Cape Town, South Africa, with three European friends, and then happily stumbling upon a club full of Australian tourists hosting their “Latin Fiesta night.” Perfectly random, uniting moments like this are so priceless and inexplicable. I honestly believe if people traveled more often, there would be less conflict because there would be more understanding. The world would be a happier place.

CJ: You recently graduated from college. What has been one of the most surprising changes you’ve dealt with so far being in the “real world”?

AW: I can’t say it was surprising, but I’m still learning just how much self-motivation it takes being the “real world.” Going from being told what to do from teachers the past 18 years with rigid daily schedules to complete independence is definitely a learning curve. Because no one is forcing you to do anything, I think the key to curbing complacency is forcing yourself to stick to a strict agenda and maintain those short-term goals.

Aysia 2

CJ: If you could give yourself a piece of advice the day before you started college as a freshman, what would it be?

AW: Start networking long before you graduate. Connections are everything.

CJ: You just started graduate school at the George Washington University – congratulations!  What factors influenced you in your decision to both apply to and attend graduate school directly out of college?

AW: Thank you! I am actually in a combined 5-year B.A./M.A. program for Anthropology, so I started my first graduate classes during my senior undergraduate year and now I have just a year left. Because my major had this option, I decided applying to its 5-year program would be a logical choice because it would allow me to save money and time getting a master’s degree elsewhere. Working on a master’s thesis right after graduation isn’t so easy when all you want is the typical post-college Euro trip, but I know it will be so worth it!

CJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

AW: “Treat everyone like they are special,” which is from my dad. The best advice I get is always from him.

CJ: How do you measure success?

AW: I measure success in positive influence and overcoming challenges. I like to say this rather than something like “100% pure happiness” or “supporting my family” because I think a lot of the time, those are not realistic. It doesn’t matter if someone is a middle school teacher, trash man, CEO, or unemployed. The most successful people, in my eyes, are those who spread joy to others and are resilient.

CJ: You were part of the college club George Washington Women in Business (GWWIB). What was an important lesson you learned through participation in that group?

AW: GWWIB taught me so much about teamwork and the importance of personal branding, which I am forever grateful for. I was mostly involved in their Annual Spring Conferences, which was a great way to learn how to work with a large group, and also an opportunity to learn from and interact with successful professional women. The opportunities that exist in this organization are wonderful and should be taken advantage of. For anyone reading this, I urge you to get involved with GWWIB (men are welcome, too)!

CJ: What is your dream job?

AW: Having a massive family-owned company that publishes a travel magazine and has an accompanying travel agency, opening a few trendy lounges around the world, and eventually opening a retail store. That would be amazing.

CJ: You dedicate a lot of your time to community service. Why is this and would you recommend other young adults get involved in volunteerism as well?

AW: I believe giving back is an integral part of being a good citizen and overall person. If all we do is take from the world, we are leaving behind a void, rather than a legacy. I absolutely recommend other young people get involved in volunteerism. Two organizations I am familiar with are Global Vision International and D.C. Central Kitchen; they both do amazing work in their local communities. There are so many amazing programs – you just have to find one with a cause you are passionate about.

Aysia 1

CJ: Where did your interest in food justice and sustainable living come from? What advice would you give to someone new to developing on a healthier lifestyle?

AW: I always knew I was interested in food, but it was my Introduction to Sustainability class I took as a sophomore that truly opened my eyes. In one of the classes, I learned about food deserts for the first time and remember feeling so upset. I couldn’t image growing up with such limited access to fresh produce and not having the power to change it.

From that point, I quickly declared a sustainability minor and loved learning about the relationship between humans and our environment. I feel like the topics covered in this discourse should be taught to everyone! For someone new to developing a healthier lifestyle, I would say try to live a balanced life. To me, healthy living is equal parts nutritious food, physical activity, and mindfulness of your lifestyle.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move past them? What have you learned about overcoming struggles?

AW: This is an embarrassing question for me, but I’ll answer honestly. My first response to a difficult situation is to get a moment to myself and cry it out. At this point in my life, I have learned to just accept shedding some tears as my natural reaction and not fight it. I think that is what overcoming struggles is all about – letting yourself be momentarily upset, de-stressing however works best for you, then finding a solution. Overcoming struggles is a constant in life, so figuring out how you deal with them early on gives you the upper hand for the difficult days in your future.

CJ: What are a few travel tips you always use?

AW: I like to always bring a fuzzy pair of socks in my carry-on for those freezing flights, keep chew-able Pepto Bismol in my pocket at all times (you just never know), and take notes. It’s so sad when you’re back home and trying to remember that song you heard on the radio or that cool shop you are meaning to go back too, but can’t. So, I always type little notes on my phone or whatever scrap of paper I have lying around.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AW: The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes.

CJ: What advice would you give your 14 year-old-self?

AW: You are on the right path, so don’t try and follow behind anyone else telling you otherwise!

Aysia Woods Qs

Images by Aysia Woods

Book PostsYouth's Highest Honor

We are thrilled to share with you the final cover of our book, Youth’s Highest Honor: Your Guide to Earning the Congressional Award and Building Life SkillsIt’s pretty crazy to us that our first book will be released into the world in a little over a month (August 17th!). We loved writing this book and putting it all together. This cover has been through numerous variations and concepts, and it’s been a fun process and huge learning curve.

In Youth’s Highest Honor, we offer a roadmap to optimizing the Congressional Award experience by explaining the Award program areas and guidelines in an easy-to-understand format and by providing real-life examples of what to do – and what not to do. This step-by-step guide – filled with useful tips, advice, and resources to consult when needed – demystifies the process of earning the Congressional Award.

ign up for exclusive updates!

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to leadership role models, Doris Daif is someone we look up to. As Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience, Doris gets to know the people she works with both personally and professionally. She also believes in flexibility and balance. Having studied marketing in college, Doris interned at Revlon and ended up working there after undergrad. After working at Revlon, Doris decided to continue her education and enrolled in Stern School of Business at New York University to earn her MBA. Now at American Express, Doris leads a team of over 130 people.

Throughout our interview, Doris emphasized the importance of passion, hard work, and finding mentors. We not only found Doris to be motivating and empowering, but what she shared resonated with us deeply. When it comes to her advice about living more in the moment and not being so prescriptive, we couldn’t agree with Doris more. Read on to find out how Doris thinks young people can demonstrate confidence and poise, what her daily duties involve, and how she unwinds from an occasionally overwhelming schedule.

Name: Doris Daif
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Rutgers University; Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Follow: @ddsethi

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Doris Daif: Seizing your youth means living in the moment and not apologizing or feeling that you should be doing something other than you’re doing at that very moment. At least for me, that’s come as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger there was a lot of “shoulda coulda woulda” mentality around wondering if I was keeping up with what other people were doing or feeling like I was missing out on something. Seizing your youth is about feeling passionate and excited about what you’re doing at that time, knowing that it’s the right thing for you, and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

CJ: You majored in Marketing at Rutgers University. How did you determine what to study?

DD: I didn’t have a great plan when I was in undergrad in terms of what I wanted to do. My parents were both very academic and have master’s degrees, and they both wanted me to be in a stable job that earned money. I was in school in the early 90s and there was a lot of pressure around getting jobs post-graduation. It was a very tough time.

Before I went to Rutgers I thought about going to Carnegie Mellon and studying engineering. I ultimately decided to go to a state school. I may have headed toward marketing because I wanted to study something in business, and I knew I didn’t want something accounting and finance-related. Marketing really wasn’t planned at that point in my life but I knew it would give me the most options.

CJ: What did you do once you graduated from college?

DD: I was interning at Revlon when I was at Rutgers. I helped the chemists in R&D test their products on customers. It was awesome! All these women would come in to test out everything from shampoo to lipstick, and I really started to love the interaction with customers and thinking about what made them tick.

When I graduated from Rutgers, it was a difficult time economically. A lot of jobs available for undergrads with marketing degrees were sales jobs. I ultimately decided to go back to Revlon in a sales role. Going back to what I was saying about seizing your youth, it was not a typical job to start at with an undergraduate degree, so it was a risk but I loved the work and the people. After a few years, I turned the job into a full-blown marketing research opportunity and moved to the headquarters in New York City. I had the opportunity to work under really seasoned market research people where I could take what I learned in the R&D labs and translate it into more qualitative and quantitative market research at Revlon.

It was while I was at Revlon in NYC that I realized that I wanted to go back to graduate school and continue my education. I didn’t want to go back full time, though, so I applied for a part-time MBA program at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Then there was an opportunity that presented itself at Colgate Palmolive, and I got a call from them for a similar role where I would be working on much larger brands and doing more business analytics. That’s really what led me to leave the position at Revlon and go to Colgate.

Doris B

CJ: You are currently the Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience. What does that mean and what does your role entail?

DD: I lead a team of 130 folks located in New York and in the United Kingdom. We have responsibilities for making sure that when customers have a digital experience with us – whether they come onto our website or get an email or a text message – that we’re not only meeting their needs but that we’re delighting them.

We think about features that customers want to see, but we also actually listen to the voice of the customer. We have an internal design team that will sit down with customers and prototype and design with them. When we have a design that we think is really good, we figure out ways to put it into market and test it. It’s a really active place to work and there are no two days that look alike. I work with a really passionate group of people who are excited about what they do. The team ranges from data people to designers to operations people to product developers. There are some people who are in charge of the site or content management or personalization. We all work together to give the customer a great experience.

CJ: In an interview with theglasshammer.com, you noted that “confidence and poise are two of your greatest assets.” How can young people demonstrate confidence and poise?

DD: I’m so passionate about this topic because I didn’t have either of those growing up. I was a very shy, introverted kid. I didn’t fit into a natural clique, so to speak. What’s important to remember is to not put people in a box. People can be in many boxes or not in a box at all, and that is okay. The right kind of reinforcement is important for kids at a young age. Being able to celebrate not just the clear successes but also the effort is very important. You don’t just try once and get something; you have to develop the ability to come back repeatedly. You also have to learn how to step away. Take time to immerse yourself in why something failed, but then get up and try it again the next morning. We’re in a culture of wanting things to happen immediately, but that’s just not reality.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in working in the digital space with customer experience?

DD: During those first five to seven years, you want to work your tail off. You want to create great work that is meaningful and has high integrity. Go into something where you’re going to be happy putting in the extra hours.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a couple of early leaders and mentors who I observed. I watched them in action and saw their mistakes and what they did right. To a certain extent, they turned into advocates for me.

Also, you can’t fake it. Early on in my career I had a very false idea that I’d get one position and do it for two years, and then I’d get promoted and do that for two years. It’s not all that prescriptive, but the common ingredient is passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s way too much time and way too forced to amount to anything. Younger people get caught up in what they should be doing, but this comes back to haunt you later. Knowing that you’re passionate about something allows doors to open that you wouldn’t have expected.

CJ: Finding that passion when you’re young can be difficult. In your experience, how do you think young people can find their passion?

DD: There’s not a magic bullet with this one. Passion can ebb and flow for different things throughout your life. Some of it is not being so prescriptive. If you’re overly sensitive to finding your passion and figuring out a plan, it can get really stressful. I’ve been caught up in that! You learn as you go.

Having great mentors and leaders who have been honest about what I do well and what I don’t do well has helped me figure out what I am interested in. Family does this very well – they will put a mirror up and tell you what you do well and what you don’t. Be receptive to this feedback and ask questions. Sometimes we have a very self-centered view of ourselves. I tap my team a lot to tell me what I can improve upon. What would my biggest fan say and what would my worst critic say?

CJ: You mentioned that you didn’t really fit in with any certain “clique” in high school. It can be hard thinking you don’t belong to a certain group. How did you navigate that when you were younger?

DD: Not well. I latched on to academics. I really worked my tail off. If I had to be 98% prepared, that should have been good enough, but at the time I was so insecure about myself that I would do whatever it took to get to 110% preparation. Looking back, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been told that I am extremely hungry for the next thing, and I think that resilience comes from the feeling of wanting to excel. The flip side is always having that insecurity of having to do 110% which is not always a good thing.

For me, I love American Express because some of my most formidable years have been at this company. I came in at an entry level job and now I’m running a large team. I appreciate that I work for a company that has put a lot of confidence in me, which helped me build my confidence.

We as a company talk about diversity a lot, which is important. Diversity in terms of the products we offer and the kinds of customers we want to attract. Therefore, your employee base needs to be diverse to reflect that. I’m first-generation American, and both of my parents are from Egypt. There weren’t a lot of other Egyptians walking around in the schools I was in. I don’t know how much that contributed, but I definitely always felt like a fish out of water and that I had to try harder to integrate with any given group of people.

CJ: Leadership plays an important role in your job. How have you learned to lead and how do you bring the community together?

DD: I always make an effort to get to know the people who work for me, both on a personal level and professional level. I think that’s really important. I don’t just get to know my direct reports, but I like to dig in and have deep relationships with all of my people. I like to do it in an approachable style, even if it’s not in-person; using instant messaging is great.

The second is giving people flexibility. Everybody has different needs in terms of what’s going on in their personal and professional lives. One thing I’m extremely passionate about is seeing women advance. Women in particular need that flexibility as children come into the equation.

We afford people the ability to have a full life. I feel like people’s best ideas come when they’re out living their lives and they’re outside doing other things. I try to ensure that people are balanced.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

DD: There are two areas. When you rise in an organization, you spend a lot of time removing roadblocks for your team. One thing I’ve become aware of is not losing my technical skills, so I’ve been doing a lot in the area of digital technology.

The second is doing even more to figure out how to collaborate with people across different lines of business in the company – that’s a lot more fruitful. A lot of times, rather than going to people when you’re in crisis mode, it should be about how you can help them. This notion of “giving to get” is an important thing to understand, especially for youth. When you’re a millennial, there can be a focus on yourself and how you can get ahead. It’s amazing how much can get sent back to you when you’re outwardly facing and helping other people. When I get stressed out and so focused on my issue, I figure out how to call someone and help somebody with his or her problem. As an old Revlon mentor would tell me, “you get more bees with honey versus vinegar.”

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

DD: I value balance but for me that balance doesn’t mean I cut off work when I leave the building or vice versa. I self-regulate. There are times when I know work will be busier than other times, but there are other times when I end my day on time and go exercise. I make an effort to be more active. Meditation is something I’ve been wanting to try. I try to maintain connections with people who I’ve come across in my professional life. I enjoy going out to eat a lot. I enjoy reading.

CJ: What is your favorite book? 

DD: The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz.

CJ: What is a book you’ve read this year? 

DD: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DD: I would have carried myself with greater poise and confidence. I also would have had more fun and not been so paranoid about what the next thing was going to be. I’d try to live more in the moment and not be so prescriptive. I’d also try not to be as introverted. There are people who are naturally introverts, but I was holding back on a lot of things that were in my head that I thought that no one wanted to hear or weren’t valuable enough to be said or done.

Doris Daif Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first saw Alexander Chinnici’s film reel, we were blown away. You hear a lot about actors, actresses, and directors, but rarely do you know a lot about those who are in charge of the artistic and technical aspect of the image, the cinematographer. Having watched movies such as Aliens, Predator, and Apocalypse Now growing up, Alex learned early on good films can influence you. Alex pursued film in college and by the time he graduated, he knew that cinematography was what he was most passionate about.

Alex is thoughtful in his artistic and technical approaches. He emphasizes the importance of building a solid foundation of knowledge and technical expertise, as well as highlights the value of collaboration, whether it’s with directors, producers, or the team he manages. These days, Alex spends a great deal of time on airplanes traveling between coasts for shoots. We were fortunate to meet Alex before he jet off for another shoot the next day, and he shared with us what it means to be a cinematographer, what films and which directors deeply influence him, and how he seizes his youth.

Name: Alexander Chinnici
Education: Film and Video; Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts
Follow: AlexChinnici.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Alexander Chinnici: Seizing Your Youth, to me, means “breaking convention.” First off, youth is subjective in and of itself. To me, a child, a teenager, or even someone in their early 20s is expected to do certain things. Depending on where they’re from, their race, gender, etc. …It’s expected that they do certain, specific things that are molded for them before they’re even born. Seizing that is about control. You can do whatever you want; you just have to want it badly enough.

For some people the stakes are much higher and the obstacles may be much greater, but anything is possible. I don’t mean to make it sound easy – sometimes it is, some people are born privileged. For others it can be very difficult. I’m very fortunate that I didn’t really experience that difficulty. Seizing Your Youth is about taking control of what’s yours and not giving in to conventions. They’re usually connected to fear and it ultimately hurts our culture. I’m very lucky to have grown up in a home and an environment that encouraged the opposite of convention. I have very little patience for excuses. Seizing Your Youth is about throwing those excuses away and taking control of what you want.

CJ: You majored in Film and Video with a concentration in Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts. How did you decide what to major in?

AC: The School of Visual Arts Film & Video program is set-up in such a way that your first year is an overall review of the general aspects of the film industry. They teach you the basics, but most importantly you can get your hands on cameras and just shoot away. At the end of the first year you have to choose a focus: Directing, Writing, Editing, Cinematography, etc.

My friends and I made many movies together in high school – basically since 6th grade – and I naturally gravitated to the camera. (I should also mention that my Dad is a photographer). Toward the end of high school we got more and more serious. After three of us went to SVA together, I naturally took over when it came to the camera. 16mm was introduced into our lives and we were terrified (“Wait, you can’t see what you’re doing!?”)

I can’t really say why, but when students in the class (and my collaborators and best friends from high school) asked “Can someone shoot my film?” I jumped at the chance. I had never shot film before and admittedly I was very scared of it. At the time I was struggling with the idea of becoming a director simply because in the world of film you’re told that’s exactly what you should be, especially in film school. Not having full control worried me but in the end I continued to gravitate toward the camera. This was also my first experience with lighting. I simply had no clue about it beforehand and now a brand new language was being introduced to me.

Combine the romance of film (like a first love), discovering the language that is constant lighting, my natural instinct, and the older thesis students telling me that graduating without a focused skill would mean certain death led me to the choice of majoring in Cinematography. Needless to say it was the right choice. It is a skill that takes a lifetime to learn and I plan on doing just that.

You are also a cinematographer for narrative and commercial work. What does it mean to be a cinematographer? What do your daily tasks look like?

AC: The Cinematographer is in charge of the overall visual language for the project. It is always this person’s task to put story first and foremost with the directors vision in mind at all times, to serve them, and to collaborate with them (the amount is usually dictated by the director). Consistency is also very important; making sure that the style stays consistent throughout and only changes when necessary. A cinematographer is one part technical, one part artistic. It is a wonderful meeting of the two. The goal is to achieve an image that the audience doesn’t think about. The technical becomes hidden in the background and the emotion of the image takes shape, hopefully affecting the audience in the exact way that the two of you conceived. In my personal opinion, this is when it is most effective.

The Cinematographer works with other department heads to strive for that consistency. Collaborating with them is extremely important and I try my best to make this happen each and every time. They’ve also spoken with the director and usually we’re all on the same page. We work hard to make the director’s vision come true, but we’re hired as the experts in each of our respected fields. We’re also usually hired because of a particular ability, style, technical know-how or even personality. We spend a lot of time together on set; you have to respect and trust the people you’re around. It is filled with constant decision-making and compromise. Those tasks are not easy if you don’t get along.

My daily tasks depend on what’s going on with the project. While in pre-production, my life is about preparing for production. Seeing locations with the director, locking in my crew, shaping the schedule with the AD and working within the budget constraints. I do my best to squeeze the most out of the amount that’s been allotted to me. The director and I work closely to discover the style of the film. We may watch films; review photos or works of art, discovering the right references helps us get on the same page. We also work hard to choose the correct camera and lenses. This is based on a desired look, the budget and specific logistics often shaped by the script. Often we compare past experiences and watch projects shot with similar combinations. The camera and lenses is arguably the most important choice before we get to set.

On set my daily tasks are always very different each and every day. That is one of the most exciting aspects of the job. To be broad I’d say that it usually begins with a strong plan that we had settled on the day (or days) before. I meet with the Assistant Director (AD) and the director to discuss said plan and we see if we can improve it. Or if a disaster has struck, how do we deal with it? If I’m lucky the AD will get a blocking rehearsal going and we can watch the scene. This will inform everyone of what’s happening. Not every set is so organized, but when it is you can do your job much better. I’ll quickly review this with the heads of my team and they’ll delegate and convey what needs to happen to their crew. After that it often comes down to maintaining a groove, time is extremely important on set.

We usually have 12 hours per day to get everything we need. We face many obstacles like the movement of the sun, actors and/or actresses becoming restless, locations only allowing a certain amount of time, etc. The clock is always running and you have to race against it. It’s often my job to keep us on track and constantly make sure that the shooting order is correct. I need to be thinking five shots ahead at all times. While this is happening I’m placing the camera in the correct place for said moment, with the correct focal length and such. These decisions are often shaped by the location and the blocking of the actors. I work simultaneously with the Gaffer on the lighting of the scene.

Moving a camera around is one thing but lighting a set or a real location can become very complicated. The two are strongly connected and affect one another greatly. The order of how all of this works must be taken into account. The director and I often discuss the editing as well. How is this scene going to take shape? This certainly informs the decisions we make. “Making our day” as we call it is extremely important. If we love the footage and we’ve made it, it’s considered a success. My day is about making those two things happen.

Alex E

CJ: When you’re on set, what aspects of the story and the characters’ movements do you have to consider? At what point do you come in – has the scene blocking been done, do you work with them while doing that?

AC: I think it’s very important that everyone witnesses the blocking rehearsal. Doing any job well is about education. Without knowing what’s happening, you’re only guessing. This only wastes precious time and ultimately hurts many aspects of the day. I often find myself compromising simply due to a poor management of time on someone else’s part. It eats into my shooting time, thus forcing myself to set-up faster. It also forces the director to make faster decisions, do less takes, etc.

To answer your question, no, I am not that involved in the blocking. It is a time for the actors and director to thoroughly discuss the scene and to discover new things. We always come in with a strong plan but you quickly realize that certain things won’t work. You must be nimble and quickly change your approach. Sometimes it’s the location and sometimes it’s the blocking. Often the scene gets much better. If you have a specific idea that you come in with you can manipulate the situation to fall into it. This happens sometimes and it is usually a technical approach that can be effective. It’s important for us to know the difference between the two and when not to get in the way. I constantly try to pick my battles and know when the blocking of a scene has gotten better for the story and/or actors. If a “baby” of mine has to go, then so be it. The scene is usually much better this way. However, I will step in when necessary but only after they’ve discussed it a few times.

As for the characters’ movements and such, this is usually determined by the directors and actors discussions that they’ve had before and even throughout the scene. I often work around this and find a lot of inspiration from it. When an actor is cast so well you inherently trust them right away. If you’re fast enough, you can keep up and come up with new ideas on the spot based on what they’re doing. They know the character better than you so you better trust them and revolve the ideas around that. I always have the story in mind. The director, actors, and I will often collaborate on what’s happening in the scene since they constantly affect one another. With that said, marks can be very important, especially when it comes to lighting. Unfortunately, we’re in a time right now where the craft is being threatened due to the ability of how fast the cameras are and their ability to work so well with natural light. I believe that a combination of the two is the best recipe. Take advantage of what the new technology has allowed us to do, but don’t lose sight of the potential that film language holds. I see A LOT of movies nowadays that simply ignore that. They excuse their lack of ability, low budget, and poor planning as a “style” that is just plain bad.

I do personally like a moving camera (when necessary of course), but I do my best to make sure that the movement is correct for that particular moment. It can be hand-held, a dolly, a Steadicam, a jib, etc. …These are all tools that convey different emotions. It’s up to us to choose what’s right and to execute it correctly. This is directly affected by the blocking and that dance can be one of my favorite parts about cinematography.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AC: I read the script a few times so that I can have shorthand with directors. You better bet that they know it a whole lot better, and they’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you know it well. This also helps me make fast decisions later on. I need to be very close to it, I need to care about it very much. When my instincts take over, they’re often the right ones because I know it so well and I care about it so much.

I like to meet with the director often. Getting into their head is very important for me. I need to have a very good understanding of what they want. Most aren’t that technical so they describe things in broad strokes. I have to be careful because I may take one sentence as meaning a very specific technical solution, but the director may mean something else entirely. I’m not at a point of being able to afford tests in pre-pro, so if I read that incorrectly we’ll often find out when it’s too late.

Showing examples and explaining things thoroughly often solves any issues. But it’s my goal to learn these things so that when we’re on set I can turn from the eyepiece and say “You happy?” When a director looks back with a huge smile, you know that you did your job right. I love that moment and I strive for it. I trust my director and if that smile is genuine then I know that we’re doing good work together. Ultimately that leads to a good movie, which is always the goal.

CJ: What is the most difficult part about being a cinematographer? The best part?

AC:  The most difficult part about being a cinematographer is the lack of control. You’re constantly striving to achieve as much of it as possible, but it’s constantly slipping through your hands. You have to pick your battles and know what (and when) to fight for what you feel is necessary to have control over. At times it can be liberating and exciting, your old ideas become new ones, often better ones. However, it can also crush your ability to do your job well. But if good people surround you and if you’ve come fully prepared and made the right decisions beforehand, you should be able to avoid this issue. Filmmaking is about constant compromise and working to react the right way so that you can make the most of it.

The best part about being a cinematographer is that you have the chance to live many lives. This is actually a direct quote from filmmaker Robert Altman. It’s stuck with me for years. I constantly travel, meet many different people from all walks of life, and immerse myself in the subject matter, which educates me and opens the way I look at the world. Sometimes the projects are set in different time periods and I get the chance to live in that time between action and cut. It also just feels right; many pieces have to come together. When you witness the best take you see all of your planning come together to make a great shot or sequence, its incredible exciting. We work in a 3-dimensional space for a 2-dimensional presentation that has constant movement. It’s absolutely fascinating. It’s the best job in the world.

Alex B

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a cinematographer do now to set him or herself up for success?

AC: This is said pretty often but it’s true…shoot, shoot, shoot. Pick up a camera and go for it. The beauty of film school is that it gives you the freedom to fail. You have the equipment, the faculty and the crew ready to make anything and everything. Unfortunately, at the time the projects are naturally seen as the most important thing in the world. It’s hard to understand at the time, but the stakes are actually very low and this should be taken advantage of.

With that said don’t ignore the technical knowledge that’s needed. It’s great that anyone can get their hands on a camera, see the results immediately, make a decision, and be able to hit the record button for very cheap. But it’s so easy that it has put the technical know-how at risk. It has simply made people lazy. This element is essential since it is directly connected to the creative decisions that you make. You simply cannot pull off certain techniques without understanding how and why and what tools you need to do so. Not to mention the time and cost it takes. It’s one thing to be able to shoot, but to be able to manage a crew, understand a budget and run a set…that’s really what a Director of Photography (DP) is, it’s not only about having a good eye. You’re the head of a very important department that interacts with everyone at all times. You can’t be an introvert behind your small camera. If you want to be a real DP, you need to learn how to delegate and manage. Film school allows for this experience early on.

I’d also recommend purchasing a photo camera. Learn how everything affects one other. First learn the different aspects of the camera. Shoot in manual and experiment with different ISO’s, apertures, shutter angles, color temperature, and focal lengths. You can learn all of them specifically with something you can carry in your bag. With digital, you can see the results right away. Once you start to truly understand these aspects you can try different combinations and understand how they affect one another.

Editing in Lightroom or Photoshop is also very important since color correction is a huge part of my job that I take very seriously. Actual movement and frame-rate can’t really be understood as well when practicing this, but the other aspects can be constantly educational throughout your day. You can learn A LOT from photography, certainly the basics. You need a good foundation to become good at anything.

It’s just as important to educate yourself as much as possible. Actually shooting is the best form of education but you also need to read about it. Get a subscription to the American Society of Cinematographers magazine and the International Cinematographers Guild magazine and read it front to back. Google everything you don’t understand. At first it will be very daunting, but in time you will start to understand more and more. There are many blogs and websites that discuss all sorts of aspects of cinematography and you can learn a lot from them.

I’d also tell them to consider film-school. I have issues with the current model – it’s very behind and needs a major revamp. The film industry has changed drastically and they haven’t caught up. However, I still advocate going and making the most of it. Trust me, the school will fail you in certain ways but you can get A LOT out of it and that is only up to you. I’ve met some of my best collaborators through film school and that was worth the cost alone. It really is an industry that depends on who you know. That’s not just a saying.

Oh and shoot film at least a few times. Trust me.

CJ: What are the three top skills you need as a cinematographer?

AC: This is the hardest question for me to answer since I think it requires many skills. Some will probably disagree with me, but I think these are the top three: Lighting, Camera placement/Focal Length, and Management skills.

Lighting: To understand the use of constant light is absolutely essential for a good cinematographer. Personally, it’s what defines the difference between the good and the great. Lighting sets the mood, time, genre, and emotion among many other things. Of course the camera can convey these things as well, but I believe that lighting is the most powerful aspect of conveying the visual image that you set and the director set out to make. I could go on for many pages, I should just stop here…

Camera Placement / Focal Length: This involves the director much more but you usually place the camera exactly where you think it should be. The director often has a very clear idea of what they want to see and when they want to see it, but it’s up to us to execute it correctly. A lot of my skill and talent is in executing these ideas well. The right camera placement comes down to millimeters; I’m very specific and exact about this placement. I often start with the farthest background, usually a wall or vista that I simply can’t change. This is because I can usually move everything else to make it work in the composition that I’m striving for. Focal length plays a huge part in this and I will often discuss this with the director. Some are very specific while others simply don’t know, luckily apps like ‘Artemis’ allow me to show them a rough idea very quickly. Depending on the format that you’re shooting (S35, Full-frame, 16mm, etc.) and your focal length combination can lead to many, many different choices. Every shot is different and discovering them is always a blast. I haven’t even mentioned moving shots and editing which greatly affect the above choices. But again, I’ll stop right here.

Management skills: This is overlooked a lot of the time in articles and write ups on Cinematography. It is one of the most important aspects of the job. You’re running a big crew and constantly interacting with the other departments. You also need to play politician before, during, and after the shoot with the production team. You need confidence and you need to be able to delegate. Surrounding yourself with a good crew can make this part of the job much easier. Plus, if they’re great they can make you look really good!

CJ: What films or which directors have inspired your filming style and work?

AC: When I was roughly six years old my Dad showed me all sorts of movies I probably shouldn’t have seen: Aliens, Terminator 1 & 2, Predator, etc. It completely blew me away, but I was hooked. At that time I only thought of movies as very basic genres. Of course I couldn’t articulate this at the time but it was simple: Disney movies, action movies, scary movies, funny movies, etc. On our large, rear projection TV in the basement he eventually showed me one of his favorites (on laser disc!), Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. I was probably 8 years old? I had no clue what I had just seen but I fell deeply in love with it. This was unlike any movie I had ever seen. I couldn’t categorize it; the intrigue was through the roof. The film is shot by Vittorio Storaro (one of the masters of color) and he’s one of my personal favorites. I personally didn’t truly understand cinematography until the year I graduated college but the moment I saw it and all throughout the years in between the film stuck with me for some reason. I love it for many reasons, but I know for a fact that it had a lot to do with the cinematography. Coppola and Storaro’s collaboration is one of the reasons I do what I do and it had an effect on me from an early age.

Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino are probably my favorites. I’m aware that this is a very modern, American list. My film knowledge is pretty good, but it certainly pales to some people that I know. But from the films that I’ve personally seen those people have really shaped my education, love, and approach to filmmaking. I think of them very often while making decisions and I constantly study their work.

Kubrick is my first love, and I love Paul Thomas Anderson for his incredible story-telling and use of the anamorphic format (don’t get me started, I’m nuts for it!), Fincher for his absolutely perfect execution, The Coen Brothers for being so unique every single time, and Tarantino for having the most fun. I don’t think anyone enjoys his or her job more than that guy and it comes through. I love that and I want my work to feel the same way.

Recently my girlfriend and I watched Billy Wilder’s The Apartment on Netflix. It was shot Panavision, anamorphic in 1960 by Joseph LaShelle. The compositions and camera movement were simply perfect. The use of the anamorphic format was lovely. Rarely do we see modern filmmakers hold wide shots for that long, it’s a shame. After the film ended, Netflix suggested we watch Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, another favorite of ours. Of course we couldn’t say no. Shot by the brilliant Charles Lang in 1954 and in academy 35 (a more square frame), this film was done perfectly as well. Both films we’re directed by Billy Wilder roughly six years apart, both using two completely different formats. Both were shot in lovely black and white but by two different DP’s. What we witnessed was a master at work. Wilder completely mastered both formats and used their strengths wonderfully. The locations, the sets, the blocking, everything was completely different but worked so well. Watching them back-to-back was very educational and inspiring. I highly recommend it.

Last but not least I need to mention Star Wars. Specifically The Empire Strikes Back. There’s not much to say here other than “Thanks George.”

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AC: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AC: Take more risks, loosen up, and experiment more. At the time I took each project very seriously, I always have and always will, and I don’t regret that. But in school I could have experimented more with different film stocks, techniques, and especially different lighting techniques and approaches. I could have done shoots on my own more often and simply played around more. By now I feel that I have discovered most of what I would have. But I simply would have learned it earlier thus effecting projects from years ago that could have been more well shot.

My brother is very involved in the world of racing and there’s a saying called “seat time.” It amounts to how much time you’ve sat in a racecar and actually performed in a race. Seat time is very important with any skill. I always want more and I only get better each and every time. I’m very hard on my work and I’m very rarely satisfied. It can always be better, always. The more seat time, the better.

Alexander C Qs

Images: Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It was a pleasure meeting Debbie Oberbillig on a gusty and grey Seattle afternoon. As Founder and President of Allen Partners, a business coach, and board member, Debbie is extremely busy. She was kind enough to sit down with us for an exclusive interview about her career path, what she would advise her 20-year-old self, and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Debbie is intelligent, insightful, and an inspiring leader, and we were very impressed, to say the least.

As further proof of her success as an entrepreneur, Debbie was a 2015 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards winner. We are not at all surprised by this, as Debbie has grown her company, which provides finance and accounting talent optimization services for companies of all sizes and industries in the Pacific Northwest, from the ground up. We admire the fact that Debbie is a hard worker, but that she is also curious about the world and gives back to her community. No matter how busy her schedule is, Debbie will make time to help others. We’ve been inspired by her, and now it’s your turn.

Name: Debbie Oberbillig
Follow: @AllenPartners

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Debbie Oberbillig: “Seizing Your Youth” is appreciating who you are in this moment, being open to opportunities and exploring the world around you. I have observed that people are really getting serious early and kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore. I think that your twenties should be spent figuring out who you are. Don’t be afraid to try new things – be bold and be brave. See the world, join the Peace Corps, or move to a new city. Discover who you are in order to determine what you want. That might be counter-intuitive to what you think you need to do – there’s a lot of pressure to start your career right away – but now is the time to learn who you truly are, which will help you pursue a career that you can truly be passionate about.

CJ: What school did you attend for undergrad and how did you determine what to study?

DO:  I never graduated from university. I started working at 15-years-old and didn’t go to college until my thirties. My parents were children of the Depression so work was highly valued in my family. I also loved working and having money and the freedom that money gave me so I did not go to school right away. In my thirties I thought about getting a degree, so I started attending classes at a community college. I also took some classes at the University of Washington, but I got recruited by a great company and never finished. I originally was going to get a degree in business, but if I were to go back now I’d do something more fun like philosophy or psychology

CJ: You are the Founder and President of Allen Partners, a company you started in 2003 that provides finance and accounting talent optimization services for companies of all sizes and industries in the Pacific Northwest. What motivated you to start Allen Partners?

DO: My mom owned a successful agency similar to Allen Partners and I worked for her, which was where I learned the business. About the time my mom was getting ready to retire, I was recruited to work at Hall Kinion, another staffing firm, by a really smart woman who quickly became one of my professional mentors. With her guidance my specialty became organic growth, opening up new offices around the country. We grew the company from $3 million to $300 million while I was there. That experience and training is what led me to take the next step in my career, which for me was to start my own business.

CJ: What does your role as President entail?

DO: In the beginning I used to do everything. I’ve been a recruiter, a salesperson, the accountant – virtually everything. As we grew over the years I brought in two partners who also worked for the company and were passionate about its success. One of them is Director of Sales and Recruiting, running the sales division on a day-to-day basis, and one is the Director of Operations and Finance. As President, I focus on promoting the company by networking and continuing to grow our business with new clients.

CJ: Allen Partners focuses on employment intelligence and hiring smart. How do you go about recognizing and developing top talent? What are the most important skills to have in order to be considered “top talent”?

DO: Recognizing top talent is hard. It’s what all of our clients struggle with. It’s really a combination of practical and soft skills. A lot of people go to school and get their degrees and have practical work experience, but the determination of their success is equally based on soft skills. It’s just as important to be able to get along with people, communicate what you need, articulate what you’re looking for, and know what your values are. These are things that are not regularly taught or easy to teach and rarely thought about when attending college, but they are just as important.

Recognizing talent requires more than just looking at a resume, it takes a good conversation and asking the right questions to determine if candidates have the interpersonal skills, critical awareness and thinking abilities to not only do the job, but be an integral part of the team. It’s finding the right combination of hard and soft skills. It’s a secret sauce. Some people have it intrinsically and some people have to learn it.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

DO: I’ve learned a lot of lessons. When you have a business, it’s imperative to remember that culture and profit are equally important. If there’s no profit, there’s no company. Profit is not a dirty word. You can have fun and have a great culture, but in the end, if the company’s not making money it doesn’t succeed. There were times when I didn’t think enough about the bottom line, and other times when I thought about the bottom line too much. A successful company learns to balance people and profit. You have to really care about both.

CJ: In your role as President, leadership is important. How have you learned to lead and what does it meant to be a leader?

DO: I’ve learned a lot over the years through trial and error that has made me a better leader. You have to care about your people and be empathetic. You have to also hold people accountable and recognize that people won’t always like you or the decisions you have to make as a leader. You want to take care of people, and you also have to do the right thing for the company.

CJ: As a recruiter and leadership advisor, you have observed many different types of leadership. What are some ways young people can become better leaders?

DO: You can be a natural leader but also have leadership challenges. One of the biggest things that I’ve observed is that young leaders struggle with holding people accountable because they want to be liked. New leaders many times avoid the tough issues, but to be a great leader you have to address issues right away. If something comes up and it’s a problem, it’s up to you to tackle it. Giving people feedback isn’t necessarily bad, although you have to learn how to do it effectively.

The other thing is that sometimes people feel like they have arrived when they’ve been promoted, and they stop doing the work needed to be a great leader. Great leaders lead by example, which is an old-fashioned saying, but it’s really true.

CJ: Bellevue LifeSpring is an incredible organization that fosters stability and self-sufficiency for Bellevue’s children and their families through programs that feed, clothe, and educate. What do your duties as a Board Member involve?

DO: When I first joined the board, Bellevue LifeSpring was building up their staff, so I was able to put my recruiting skills to work right away, as well as offering human resources assistance until we hired someone who could handle it. I really believe in the organization so I am always involved in our events, either by sponsoring, volunteering or both.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

DO: Lately I’ve been spending a good part of the day working on something I’m really passionate about – growing my professional coaching business. Coaching helps people see things in a new way by asking specific questions that transform how they observe the world. By simply looking through a different lens, you can change the choices you make and consequently, the results in your life. I love helping others to change their lens.

I’ve also recently become a Daring Way™ Facilitator candidate, which is a bit of a different coaching style based on the philosophy and findings of Brené Brown; a research professor, bestselling author and a top TED Talk contributor.

Of course, I’m still very involved in Allen Partners, although I’ve been able to step back a bit, as I’ve mentioned, to allow myself time to grow these other areas of my life.

CJ: How do you stay organized and efficient?

DO: I’m naturally very detail-oriented, which helps me stay organized. I use Outlook for scheduling, and I’ve just started color-coding to track how much time I spend on my projects. There is no secret to balancing, whether you’re going to school full-time or working full-time. It takes practice and dedication.

I’ve started a new thing: in the morning I write in my gratitude journal while I have my first cup of coffee. I just sit by myself and I think for about 30 minutes each day. I’ve noticed that we just don’t spend enough time reflecting. After that time, I prioritize my day by writing down the top five things I need to do. I do those five things first, and then after that anything goes. When you limit it to the top five, you’re usually able to get it all done.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

DO: Right now! I’ve had a great career and I’ve been really lucky. I love everything that I do and it keeps getting better. My first jobs were office jobs where I worked 8am-5pm, and I just think right now is really fun because I have so much flexibility.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DO: In my twenties, I didn’t have much of a life besides working and socializing. I would tell myself to travel more – try new things, meet new people. I got very serious about work too soon, which is why I now really encourage young people to “seize their youth!”

Debbie O Qs

HealthRecipes

Let’s be real, it takes energy to Seize Your Youth. When you’re feeling under the weather and all you want to do is sleep, it’s hard to make the most out of your day and be productive. That’s why you need to get better ASAP. While chicken noodle soup (with heart-shaped carrots!) is more of a meal and less of a “snack,” meals just don’t sound as appetizing when you’re sick. This chicken noodle soup will get you warmed up and feeling better in no time, and it doesn’t take too long to make. If you can’t muster up the energy to make this soup, kindly ask a friend or family member if they would be willing to do so. Get healthy fast, enjoy this soup, and get back to seizing your youth!

SONY DSC

What You’ll Need:
1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
2. 2 or 3 large carrots
3. 1 medium onion – diced
4. 2 celery stalks, cut
5. 2 stalks fresh thyme
6. 2 bay leaves
7. 4 cups of water with 3-4 tablespoons of chicken bouillon, or chicken broth (All-Natural Swanson works well)
8. 2-3 cups water
9. 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
10. salt and pepper, to taste
11. 2-3 large chicken breasts, cooked [Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and top with thyme, and cook in oven for 35 minutes] 12. 1/2 pound small pasta

Heart-Shaped Carrots:
1. Wash and peel a large carrot
2. Cut a wedge in the top of the carrot so that there is a V-shape
3. Peel around the carrots and on the sides so that it resembles a heart, with a sharp-pointed bottom – this will take a lot of peeling
4. Cut the carrot as you normally would, but instead of rounded pieces you have hearts!

How to Make Soup:
1. In a large pot combine: olive oil, carrots, onions, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.
2. Cook and stir for about 10-15 minutes until ingredients have softened.
3. Add water and chicken bouillon, with vinegar. Cook until soup is boiling.
4. Add salt and pepper for taste.
5. [Pasta]: In another pot, boil water and make the pasta until al dente.
6. In bowls,  add the pasta and shredded or diced chicken.
7. Serve the soup over the pasta and chicken.
~For extra flavoring, add another branch of thyme and let the soup sit with all the ingredients for an extra 5-10 minutes to get a richer flavoring

SONY DSC

What comfort food do you like to eat when you’re sick?

Culture

It seems like most of the people my age and younger have that you-only-live-once mentality. I honestly don’t have a problem with the concept of YOLO because, to be completely honest, I’m all for people realizing that we do (depending on what you believe in) ONLY have one life to live. It helps put a lot of things into perspective.

It makes you realize that there are no do-overs; no second chances. Once your time is up…it’s up. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but that’s the hard truth. Upon reading that, you shouldn’t get the urge to go out and do something crazy. You should, however, try to make the most out of the time we are given on this earth.

That is why seizing your youth is so important. That is why NOW is the time for you to do something meaningful with your life. I’m not saying that you can’t do meaningful things when you’re older but why wait until then? You don’t know what tomorrow holds so there’s no better time than the present to do something that matters.

Don’t ask me to tell you the meaning of ‘doing something that matters’ because it’s your job to figure out what that means to you. We all have different goals and dreams so when I say do something meaningful with your life, I don’t mean you have to find a way to cure cancer or step foot on the moon (although both of those accomplishments would be AMAZING and if you want to do either of those things, I say go for it!) but what I do mean is that you should do something that will make you proud of your younger self 60 years from now.

There is no right or wrong way to live but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of videos on Facebook where young people are participating in the fire challenge, the pass out challenge, and whatever other crazy challenge that’s popular these days. I’ll never understand why teens and young adults are willingly setting themselves on fire or making themselves pass out, but I do know that when they’re doing these things, more than likely, there’s a little voice in the back of their mind saying, “you only live once.”

I get it. When you’re young, you feel invincible; like you’re always going to be healthy, like you’re never going to die and you can pretty much do anything because you’re young, and when you’re young you can make mistakes or get so drunk you get alcohol poisoning or forcibly stop the oxygen from going to your brain so you can pass out. You only live once so it makes it okay to do things that won’t better your life in any way. You only live once so why not go to parties all the time instead of focusing on your schoolwork or if you’re not in school, saving up to travel the world and experience other cultures.

I can go on and on and on but the point is, this generation, with our you-only-live-once mentality, turned the concept of YOLO into an excuse for doing irresponsible things and posting it on YouTube or Facebook. I’m not saying this is every young person because it’s not, but people who do something like participating in the fire challenge or getting drunk at a party will get more ‘Likes’ and shares on Facebook than someone who graduates from high school with good grades or someone who spent their summer in a different country doing charity work. The media also tends to focus on teens and young adults who do things that don’t reflect how amazing our generation is. This doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of young people doing great things, it just means that more young people need to be proactive and do the things that matters.

Once you figure out what that means, DO IT. Don’t just sit there. Get up and make something happen. Take this life, the one you only get to live once and make something out of it. You don’t want life to pass you by because when it does, there’s no pushing a rewind button.

This is why you have to start living now. I like a good party as much as the next  person, but that’s not all there is to life. Your age is not an excuse for you to purposefully make mistakes. If you know what you’re doing is wrong or irresponsible but choose to do it because somebody said YOLO, then now is a time for you to evaluate your life. Too many young people lose their lives because they do not-so-smart things and they feel that seizing their youth equates to doing something dangerous or something that they’ll probably regret the next day.

Yes, we only live once, but you don’t know how much time you have. Don’t waste it doing something that doesn’t mean anything to you. A lot of people believe that youth is wasted on the young because, often times, we take this time in our life for granted. But I say take these years for granted. Only take them for granted in a positive way. Seize your youth. I know I keep saying that but it is exactly what I want everyone who reads this to do.

You alone are the author of your own story, so write a good one.

​Image: morguefile

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It’s not every day that we see an illustration, design, or logo that makes us feel something. However, when we see Kate Harmer’s illustrations and designs, we are immediately inspired and moved.  Kate drew constantly when she was a little girl and she hasn’t stopped since. After following her passion and enrolling in Cornish College of the Arts, doing internships, getting job experience in design and illustration, and completing graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design, Kate launched her own design studio, Hum Creative, that focuses on creating and developing brands. More recently, Kate illustrated a fun book based on the popular Twitter feed @tweenhobo.

Kate is not only amazingly talented, but she is smart, kind, and thoughtful. We are encouraged by her self-starter attitude, work ethic, and of course, her creativity. Kate not only has the ability to draw and design, but she also knows how to build an incredible team of people with serious creative skills. Through determination, hard work, and learning how to grow a thicker skin, Kate has excelled in her field, and she generously shares the lessons she has learned during her journey. Read on to learn more about Kate Harmer, a true inspiration!

Name: Kate Harmer
Age: 32
Education: BFA in Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts; MFA in Design from Rhode Island School of Design
Follow: Twitter / Hum Creative / Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kate Harmer: It’s common to hear successful people look back and say, “We were so young, we were so crazy, we were so brave!” They’re talking about times that were challenging, but they are able to look back and laugh. I try to remember that I’m in that time right now for my future self. Knowing that all of these things won’t seem as hard or scary once they’re done encourages me to take big risks.

Yes, I’m 32, but that’s super young! Someday I’ll hopefully laugh at my failures and be proud of having challenged myself. Both are positive outcomes. To me, seizing your youth is embracing that now is the time to be free and brave.

CJ: You received your BFA in Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts. How did you determine what to study?

KH: My career has been a process of elimination. When I was in high school I didn’t know what graphic design was. I just knew that I liked to draw and wanted to do something creative. I went to school for Illustration and worked as an Illustrator for a while. I tried to follow my passion in a broad sense, then tried lots of things to see what I enjoyed and to get more focused.

CJ: What sparked your love of illustration and design?

KH: As a kid I would sit in my bedroom for hours and draw fake advertisements for the commercials I heard on the radio. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was thinking like a graphic designer. I wasn’t super social, so drawing was a natural way for me to process the world and express myself.

Because I drew constantly, I had good foundation of skills by the time I was looking at colleges. I definitely think most things can be learned, but you have to put in the time.

d

CJ: You also received your MFA in Design from Rhode Island School of Design. Why did you decide to go to graduate school, and would you recommend it?

KH: I went to graduate school to learn new skills and jump start the next phase of my career, which was more about design than illustration.

I would recommend graduate school, but only for people who are really ready for change and have fully explored on their own first. I don’t think graduate school is required to be successful, and some life experience first is key. You can create a condensed learning experience on your own, but some people need help. I needed grad school to push me.

Graduate school was both awful and great. The workload was almost unbearable at times, making it one of the toughest experiences of my life so far. It was a critically intensive, so I graduated with a much thicker skin. I also made amazing friends, learned a ton, and I felt empowered to do what I do now. It was a full, amazing experience.

CJ: You are the Principal and Creative Director at Hum Creative. What do your roles as Principal and Creative Director entail? 

KH: When I first started the company I was doing a bit of everything – designing, sweeping floors, and writing invoices. Now my role is to think about this entire company as a design project. I am responsible for our overall strategy and goals, getting the best team of people together, and directing the creative process. I also play on our kickball team.

CJ: Before Hum Creative, you were a designer at Starbucks Creative Group. What kinds of projects did you work on at Starbucks?

KH: I got to illustrate coffee bags, draw lots of little croissants and coffee mugs, and help design seasonal merchandise and packaging. I was fresh out of school and supported senior designers and creative directors with illustrative tasks that were needed to fulfill their vision.

I think about that job every day while building Hum Creative. When I was at Starbucks, it really felt like everyone was happy with their jobs and coworkers. A lot of what I learned there has stayed with me.

e

CJ: You illustrated the book Tween Hobo, which is based on the popular Twitter feed @tweenhobo. What was that illustration process like?

KH: Alena Smith knows the Tween Hobo character so well. I flew down to LA to brainstorm initial ideas for the book with her, then worked remotely for the next few months. Alena sent me in-progress chapters every couple of weeks. I would read them and keep a running list of possible visuals. We would Skype to discuss and narrow them it down. Most of the process was brainstorming with Alena. I would sketch the illustrations in pencil first, and then once they looked good I drew over them in Sharpie.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being an illustrator and designer?

KH: Professional creatives need to be open to criticism and flexible to change, but they also must stand up for what they believe in – when it really matters. Grad school and client work has helped me grow a thicker skin and to understand that everyone’s input is valid. You can’t be too precious about your work – sometimes people won’t like it. That’s okay. Not all battles are worth fighting… when you do push back, it should mean something.

CJ: What is the best part about being a designer?

KH: The best part of designing for me was seeing my work out in the world, successfully doing its job. As a creative director, it is so fun to see this whole group make work that they’re proud of. Knowing they worked hard, made beautiful work, and enjoyed the process is hands down the best part about what I do.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

KH: My day involves a lot of time reading emails and meeting with our internal design teams to check in on projects moving through the studio. I also meet with clients often to present work and discuss feedback. Some days are spent on the set of photo shoots or visiting the printer for press-checks.

c

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an illustrator and designer do to set themselves up for success?

KH: Make a lot of work. We look at a lot of portfolios here, and the people who really stand out have been making up their own projects and designing things on the side. Drew Hamlet, a Lead Designer at Hum, started an online radio station in high school and he designed the branding, website, and collateral for it. I’m very impressed by self-motivation. You learn so much by just being active in your field, even if it’s just practicing. Don’t wait for people to ask you to do something, just do it yourself.

It is also important to have a sense of the design community and what has come before you. Look at blogs, read design books, and absorb a design education as much as possible.

CJ: How do you like to spend your free time?

KH: I work long hours and am a homebody when they day is over. My husband and I love to cook and enjoy big dinners outside, then take our two French bulldogs on long walks.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

KH: Professionally, this team motivates me. The responsibility of having people who come to work in an environment that I make is both very intimidating and very inspiring.

My husband is very motivating and inspiring outside of work. He is a creative that has worked really hard since he was a teenager and he’s done well. He’s always wanting more and imagining fun things he can do. He’s constantly learning and dreaming. He’s a really good reminder to keep your mind open and active.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KH: I’d tell myself to be braver sooner. It took me a little while to start realizing that taking risks almost always pay off in some way. It might not always be in the way you planned, but taking on challenges is the fastest way to grow.

Kate Harmer Qs

Professional SpotlightSpotlightTravel

A guy who travels the world interning at cool companies in exchange for a place to sleep and something to eat? His name is Mark van der Heijden and he’s The Backpacker Intern. After spending years as a creative copywriter, Mark had an urge to do something different with his life and see the world. He had worked since graduation from school, and he felt that there was something missing.  Instead of just quitting his job to travel the world simply as a tourist, he came up with a creative solution. He would intern at companies for a couple of days in exchange for food and shelter.

The result? Companies such as Red Bull, the Adventure Film School, and Nile Rodgers Productions, just to name a few on a long list, have exchanged survival basics for Mark’s skills. Mark blogs, tweets, and posts on Facebook about all of his cool experiences, and it’s as if we were traveling right alongside him. It takes courage and an acceptance of the unknown to travel the world and leave the comforts of home.

During some stops along his journey, Mark didn’t know where he would be the following week, where he would be working, or if he would have a place to sleep. By utilizing friends, contacts, and social media, Mark has been able to accomplish something unique and inspiring. Mark paid attention to the voice in his head craving something more out of life, came up with a solution and plan, and has been creating his own path every single day. If that isn’t seizing your youth, we don’t know what is.

Name: Mark van der Heijden
Age: 28
Education: Bachelor, Creative Communication (Copy, Concept & Strategy) at Fontys Hogeschool Communicatie
Follow: TwitterThe Backpacker Intern

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Never put yourself in a situation where you are following the common track. Create your own path. Don’t listen to what people think you should do. Do what’s best for you.

What did you study at Fontys Hogeschool Communicatie and how did you determine what to study?

I studied Communications. I specialized in copy concept and strategy. After two years you could choose a direction, and I chose that because you could make a TV commercial. I wasn’t thinking too much about the future, but that major felt good. During my studies I did an internship and sold my first creative idea. It gave me goosebumps, and it was cool to be able to use my talents.

How did your journey as The Backpacker Intern begin?

I used to work in advertising in Amsterdam for six years as a creative copywriter. I had a good job, great friends, lived in a great apartment, and Amsterdam was amazing. I couldn’t complain, but still I had the urge of some kind of feeling. I wanted to see more of the world and do more. Right after school I had a job, so I never had a big break to see the world like other people sometimes do. I had a feeling that I was missing that, and thought that I needed to do it. I wanted to do it all the way and see where I would end up, so I quit my job and started The Backpacker Intern.

I booked seven tickets for six months. That was the original plan. I realized I didn’t have enough money to do all the things I wanted to do. I thought I could come up with an idea or two to make some money along the way. Then I discovered that it wasn’t about the money, but it was about the experience instead. The only things I actually need on a trip are food and a bed. I came up with the idea to exchange my skills for those things. Not money, but the things I need to survive.

b

How long was the process from when you had the idea to actually leaving?

I had the idea six months before and worked towards the departure date. In that time I crafted my idea and made it better. I procrastinated along the way, but the idea was too cool to pass up. I came up with a lot of names, but The Backpacker Intern stuck. I talked to a lot of people in creative industries and they helped me through my ideas and look at them with a different perspective. I bought the URL, and that made it official. The best feeling was when I had the logo. It was something. It wasn’t there yet, but it was alive.

As the departure date got closer, it became more real. One of my best friends and I brainstormed about making a video, and then we came up with the idea to use my cardboard sign in a film. We told the message in one take. I spread the video through my social media channels. I didn’t expect the project to get this big.

How did you determine your route?

I wanted to go to Asia, so I booked a ticket from Amsterdam to Bangkok. Then I wanted to go to San Francisco and Hawaii because I have friends there. From Asia I could go to Hawaii and San Francisco. I saw that I could go to Iceland from New York, and then from Iceland I’d go back to Amsterdam. The route is based on things I haven’t seen yet, the rates for the travel season, and where my friends live. It’s like an endless summer. I only have one sweater with me.

What have been the greatest challenges in your journey so far?

Planning everything is a challenge. I can now imagine why people who do a lot of things have an assistant. Usually in the daytime I’m working somewhere, but I also get a lot of emails throughout the day. I also want to stay in touch with my friends and family. I need to keep people updated with blog posts. If I don’t have a new internship, I have to decide what to do. I don’t sleep a lot, maybe three hours a day. I enjoy every minute, but it’s also work.

What would you do differently if you could start the journey over?

Nothing because then it would be a totally different journey. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that you learn from your mistakes.

A lot of companies have reached out to you. How do you choose which companies to work with?

I try to do a mix of work. I work at agencies, brands, and charities. Big companies and small companies. If I’m almost to a new city, I’ll coordinate with companies that have emailed me and arrange the internship. I Googled charity organizations in San Francisco because I wanted to work with dogs. I worked with Mutville Senior Dog Rescue, which was so cool. I emailed them and the owner replied. I worked there for two days and stayed at the owner’s house. It was so different.

What kinds of things do you do at your internships?

It’s like I’m a human pocketknife. I can do a lot of things. My profession is creative and advertising. I’m best at making concepts, ideas, and solutions for brands, companies, and people. I can originate concepts, write copy, and create strategies. I make films, but I also clean dog poop.

I worked at a soup kitchen in Malaysia and I was making food for homeless people and drug addicts. That was the internship and nothing else. I’ve enjoyed many different experiences. The whole goal is to help people and to learn from them at the same time. I’ve enjoyed working with people from different professions and cultures.

Leaving your comfort zone in Holland must not have been easy. What did you do to prepare yourself for this adventure?

I am not scared about stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m used to eating crazy foods and jumping out of airplanes. I’m not a rebel but I enjoy trying new things. I enjoy traveling so much that I don’t get homesick. My longest trip was four weeks, but I still wanted to do more. Of course I miss my friends and family, but with Skype I can still stay in contact. The best friends will always stay with you even if you don’t talk for a while. You can pick back up where you left off.

Have you experienced any major culture shocks after traveling the world?

I was pretty shocked by the amount of homeless people in the U.S. Especially in Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. I wasn’t aware of how big of a problem it is.

Mark photo backpacker intern

What advice do you have for youth who are interested in advertising?

Just start and make a lot of ideas. It’s all about your portfolio, so show how creative you are. There are a lot of creative competitions you can attend. It’ll help to win a competition and have people notice you.

It’s good if you try to find a mentor, someone you find inspiring. Just reach out to him or her and ask for 30 minutes of time to talk. If he or she says no, then move on to the next one. Sometimes you need advice from people who are way more up the ladder. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Don’t be scared that your ideas are not good enough. I failed a lot and made a lot of campaigns that weren’t approved. I’ve worked for six months on a project and then the week before have it pulled. Just keep on going and keep on trying.

What are the top three traits that make a great intern?

Be open-minded. Don’t judge. Be crazy.

What motivates you?

I read a lot of books about creativity, watch great films and check out new and interesting products. It inspires me to make great things like that. It’s a really great feeling to make something.

The best feeling is if you create something that didn’t exist before and you can improve people’s lives. It’s so cool to make a change in people’s lives just by a thought you came up with.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Do as many internships as possible without getting paid. Besides school and a part-time job, learn as much as you can from inspiring and successful people. Offer your help for free. Work at places for free to learn new skills. Knock on the doors of Apple, Nike, Red Bull and ask to work for free because you want to learn. Learn how to help people without doing it for money.

Mark van der Qs

SkillsTravel

The jet lag struggle is real. Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when you cross two or more time zones. When we travel quickly and go from one time zone to another in a short time frame, the rhythm of our biological clock is thrown off. Jet lag can be overwhelming, exhausting, and frustrating, especially when all you want to do is get out and explore new cities and sights. Instead of sitting around in a hazy state of mind, use these tips to prevent and get over jet lag during your travels. This is the time to seize your youth and explore new cultures, landmarks, languages, and to meet new people. You’ve come this far and traveled great distances; you want to make the most of your time traveling. Don’t let your valuable time be monopolized by jet lag.

Pre-Trip Prep

Make Small Adjustments

Figure out what time it is in the country you will be traveling to. A week before you leave for your trip, start slowly adjusting to that time zone. Go to sleep earlier or wake up earlier and schedule your meals for later or earlier in the evening. Small adjustments like this will get your body used to doing things a bit differently, so when you are all of a sudden functioning to a new clock you won’t experience as much shock. When you advance or delay your body clock ahead of time, studies show that you will adjust faster and can reduce the effect of jet lag.

Hydrate

This is just good advice for every day of your life. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. While you can’t bring liquids through security, as soon as you make it to the other side, purchase a big bottle of water or fill your water bottle up. Planes can be very dehydrating, and you don’t want to have to wait for the drink cart to roll past to get your fill of H20.

Use Plane Time Wisely

If you are traveling somewhere far away, use this long plane ride to catch up with the time zone you are flying into. As soon as you sit down in your seat, set your watch. If where you’re going is midnight, sleep on the plane so when you arrive in the morning you feel fresh and awake. Use a sleep mask and earplugs if the light and noise bothers you.

If you need to sleep on the plane, avoid caffeine and sugar as best you can. If it’s the daytime, even if you are tired, try your best to stay awake and keep yourself busy. Get up and walk up and down the aisles and stretch. You can sleep when you arrive, since it will then be nighttime.

During the Trip

Make Wise Food Choices

During the first couple of days of your trip, make wise food choices. Your body will already be trying to catch up with a different time zone and won’t be metabolizing as efficiently, so go easy on spicy foods and large meals in the evening.

Prepare Your Room

Before you drift off to sleep, prepare your hotel, hostel, guest room in a way that will be conducive to a great night’s rest. Shut down your electronics and television an hour before bedtime, close the curtains or blinds, dim the lights, turn the temperature down if you can, wash up and get ready for sleep, and get cozy in bed with a book, magazine, or your gratitude journal.

Schedule Activities

When you are exhausted and feeling jet lagged on a trip, it is unbelievably tempting to just sleep until you feel awake and ready to explore. However, this temptation might get the best of you, one hour turns into five, and then all of a sudden your day of exploring is gone. If you purposely schedule activities at times you want to try to stay awake, you can mentally adjust faster than if you know you have the entire day free. Scheduled activities are a great way to keep you going because you are held accountable for paying and showing up.

Get Moving

Try to exercise as much as you can when you travel. By keeping your body active, you’ll feel much more alert and ready for the day. Exercise first thing in the morning or when you feel sluggishness coming on midday. It can be as simple as walking the block a few extra times, slipping a jump rope into your suitcase, or doing some push-ups and crunches on the floor. Anything to get your heart rate up will be sufficient.

Enjoy a Breakfast of Champions

Start your day with a breakfast of champions. Water, protein, and fruit are great breakfast staples. Don’t forget to try some of the local food if you’re abroad. Just because you’re not hungry now (maybe back home it’s the middle of the night), try to get something in your system so you can start the day on an energetic note. Live by the rules of the time zone you are in.

How do you prevent and overcome jet lag?

Image: Picjumbo