If you heard Sandra Nam talk about her job, it might be hard to imagine that she began her career in finance. As Director of Creative Production at Squarespace, her role involves design, advertising, marketing, digital, and product. Though she started out as an analyst on the trading floor, she soon realized she wanted to build more creativity into her day-to-day at work.
After moving into advertising and then working on a creative incubator team at Google, Nam landed her dream job — she even got to write her own job description — at Squarespace. “There are quite a few things that keep me here,” she says. “The people and the work are no-brainers. I think the special aspect about working at Squarespace is that it truly is a design-driven company.”
Nam recently shared with Fairygodboss her best advice for career changers, why challenging herself in her various jobs has ultimately paid off, and why she’s never felt more fulfilled at work than she does now at Squarespace.
Tell me about your career path and how it led you to Squarespace.
My career actually started in finance. I was an analyst on the trading floor, but soon after starting, something inside me was itching to do something more creative. During this time, I luckily met someone who was moving and offered me her job, and that ended up being my ticket into the crazy world of advertising.
I journeyed from account management to project management to production — all moves so I could get closer to making creative. After many years in advertising, I got to a point where I was leading a team of digital producers but was feeling burned out. Advertising is a job that can take over your whole life, and it had been 8 years of it. My curiosity for “what’s next” led me to Google. I joined a small incubator team called Creative Lab and officially found myself to be producing creative work on the brand side. My time at Google made me rethink practices and processes that were hard-wired from my agency years and I found it so refreshing and challenging.
After 7 years on multiple creative teams at Google, I was succeeding there but my job was becoming increasingly managerial. I wondered if I could find something where I could lead but still solve creative problems every day. Squarespace ended up ticking all the boxes of being still in tech, based in New York and a brand and platform I admire. I also got to write my own job description and am able to draw on all the experience I’ve gained in my career from different types of production I’ve done: design, advertising, digital, experiential and product.
How long have you been at Squarespace, and what keeps you there?
I’ve been at Squarespace for almost 2 years now. There are quite a few things that keep me here. The people and the work are no-brainers. I think the special aspect about working at Squarespace is that it truly is a design-driven company. If you appreciate design in your life, it really is in every aspect of working here. The office, the furniture, the events, the deck templates, the snacks, the holiday parties… even the black coffee cups and coasters are all thoughtful, considered decisions. I really enjoy that part of Squarespace and feel it’s very distinctive compared to other companies I’ve worked for.
What advice would you give to other women interested in making a major career change?
A couple things: don’t quit your current job until you have a new job and do some legwork. Don’t take the first job inquiry you get. Instead, try to give yourself 6 months. Start making lists — list your strengths and weaknesses, list what you really enjoy doing at work and what things you put off or hate to do, and make a list of brands or companies where you’d dream of working and people who have jobs you admire.
Then meet people, search online, email, cold call — go out and talk to people, take notes, journal and self-reflect. The better you know yourself, the better this transition will be. Don’t quit your current job before finding a new one because companies will respond to your inquiries better and you’ll have more confidence as well. By doing these two things, I feel like it will prepare you to make a leap and give you the confidence and clarity to know why.
I did these very things when I first talked to Squarespace. I essentially “cold-called” Squarespace through some mutual contacts and asked if they needed someone with my background to help grow the business. There was no open job posting for a Production Director and I continually met with people for 6 months. Pursuing this job and now being here, I’ve never felt more fulfilled, because it was the first job shift where I had a clearer picture of what I wanted and what was important to me.
What are some unexpected or unusual ways that your past roles help you in your current role?
I didn’t think knowing how to produce radio or OOH would come in handy in 2018, but it has at Squarespace! A lot of interest in traditional advertising placements are popular with tech companies now — subway takeovers, wild postings, OOH billboards, taxi tops, print and radio — and the creative team at Squarespace now does almost every medium of traditional, digital and content generation for our marketing. It’s come to be helpful in guiding and overseeing the work coming out of the team for the last couple years.
What values do you find most important in a company when you choose a role? Are there any consistent themes across the different roles you’ve had?
The thread that has consistently connected all the jobs I’ve had is the notion of being “the first” — the first interactive producer, the first agency producer, the first content producer, the first integrated producer, the first creative producer, the first product lead on a marketing team, etc. I’ve been a trailblazer and educator in a lot of the roles I’ve had. It’s been a little exhausting to be honest, but something about hearing “it’s never been done before” really drives me. Sometimes I tell people I’m an expert at walking into a fog; I have no problem putting one foot in front of another without knowing where I’m going. It hasn’t made it easy or clear for my trajectory, but it’s been nice at Squarespace to have it all come together and have all those “firsts” benefit in one place.
Are there any unexpected skills you’ve developed in your current role?
Celebrity talent management.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
I would say my taste level is something that has flourished during my time at Squarespace. It’s the first place where I feel my personal aesthetic and interests cross over into work so seamlessly. Knowing what the Squarespace aesthetic is comes naturally to me because it’s so close to my own.
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