I’ve Become “The Man”

I just realized that I’m entering the ranks of management.

For the longest time, I’ve railed against the idea of becoming a manager. For one thing, it’s hard to maintain the rather entertaining us-versus-them banter when you’re one of “them.” But more significantly, it seems that once you enter management, you cease to produce. It’d be one thing to be something along the lines of an “art director,” where you’re still making significant creative contributions, but it seems that of all my creative friends who’ve taken the leap upward have given up the ability to create work of their own. And for artists, that’s a pretty significant sacrifice.

For some of those friends, it’s worked out pretty well; they’ve developed new skills and bid farewell to their old lives (and the pay is usually better). For others, it’s often been a death sentence, at least from a career fulfillment standpoint. Across the past several years, I’ve been largely removed from the hierarchical structure of my department, by virtue of the unique nature of my work; even so, I’ve always been careful to avoid being labeled a “manager.”

But things have changed around here of late. The traditional hierarchical structure is gone — everybody (almost 40 of us) answers immediately to the director of the department. “Managers” fulfill specific roles to help facilitate the operations of the department, be it scheduling, staff management, technology, process improvement, what have you. I’ve been moved from a cubicle to an office — less due to my own position than to secure all of the equipment I work with. And I’m working with a series of “interns,” designers who for a stretch work exclusively on video projects. Two reasons for that last: One, I’ve got more work than I can do myself, and two, I want to build up a cadré of folks who can serve as backups in the future.

It’s taken a while to get used to having someone I can effectively tell what to do. I know that doing a lot of the “grunt work” is necessary for teaching purposes, but it’s tough to tell someone to do work that, to a large degree, I just don’t want to do myself. I think it’s a little easier not having the intern directly responsible to me, though — I’ve historically been more comfortable (and confident) directing projects rather than people (though I’m getting better at the latter through experience).

My boss and I have been working to figure out a new title for my position. Theoretically, Video Producer would work just fine, but we’re concerned about the “video = amateur” stigma in the corporate world (and beyond, but we’re limiting our focus here). We briefly toyed with Cinéaste, but figured it was a little too esoteric (we did print it on my director’s chair, though), finally settling on just Producer for now. As of April first, however (the start of the new fiscal year), she wants to try to fit “Manager” in there somewhere, as a more accurate reflection of the impact of my role. And as I look at it objectively, that’s what I’m doing: I may not be officially supervising others, but I am effectively doing so, at least in a lot of respects.

I think it’s going to take a little more getting used to.


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