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Erwin Chamorro - Studio Director – Ogilvy & Mather

Erwin Chamorro is a ’95 graduate of Columbia College. With 18+ years experience in the industry, Erwin manages a team of production artists at Ogilvy & Mather’s Chicago office. Ogilvy & Mather is one of the top international advertising agencies in the world, handling a wide range of leading brand accounts, such as Adidas, American Express, BMW, and Kraft. Erwin Chamorro sat down with current Columbia College student, Anna Bartolai, to discuss his career.

Tell us about yourself and your current career. 

At Ogilvy, my job as studio director is to manage a team of production artists. Our team does all the print work for all the different agencies in Chicago, and we also work on global campaigns.

I lead our team through various projects involving almost all media—Out of home, magazine, newspaper, events, packaging, in-store displays, etc. You name it, we do it. 

Many Columbia College students are interested in digital media; do you encounter digital media at work?

Things are broken up slightly different in the digital world, than in the print world. Digital is trickier; there’s more skill specialization. With print one person can do more than one thing, but with digital the process is a little more rigid.

My team is responsible for a lot of static ads on the web and on digital devices. Digital media continues to grow and so does the demand for those skills. 

What aspects of Columbia College prepared you most for the real world?

Columbia’s faculty and teachers prepared me most for the real world. Since Columbia teachers are also working professionals, I looked at my instructors, as I would a boss or a client.

Having a point of view and a strong skillset are critical, but you also need to be able to adapt these skills to what your boss wants, whether your boss is a client or a manager. You separate yourself from others most effectively by demonstrating you really understand what people want and adapting your skills to forward their goals. 

Also, Columbia’s downtown setting was a very important aspect. You can reference things around you, the networking, the experiences, the friendships—all of these things are a part of urban work life. The late hours in the office are similar to the late hours you spend in the study hall. Even the transportation aspects, there isn’t much of a difference. I didn’t see much of a difference after graduation in my life.

What computer programs do you use and what should students be proficient in when they leave school?

Definitely the entire CS suite by Adobe—I mean the entire thing. You need to know more than just Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. The more features you understand, the better. You never know what certain skill will become indispensible and save a project, but there’s always one that maybe you didn’t necessarily see coming.

And we don’t exactly know where technology is going, so any of these tools you can use. At Ogilvy, Keynote users are highly sought after. We have a hard time finding people that know Keynote well. There is a growing need for designers who can execute things through Keynote.

What did you like most about Columbia College’s Marketing Department?

The marketing/communication department gave me the opportunity to become refined. Coming from a graphic design background, it polished me up for business. It transformed me from being a designer to being able to think strategically.

I was a graphic design major at first, and moved into Columbia’s marketing/

communication department. The marketing aspect helped me develop skills that helped me better communicate with other departments at Ogilvy. I’ve become a business guy with a design eye. You should never pigeonhole yourself as simply a designer, you need to look at every opportunity. 

What was your first job after graduating?

Since I graduated, I haven’t stopped working for Ogilvy. I got hired out of an internship, and as soon as I graduated they hired me.

What does Ogilvy look for in its employees?

Ogilvy looks for the best of the best. It’s a very fast-paced and demanding environment. The biggest challenge is to find people who can function at a high speed, all the time and not burn out.

To be honest, we look for people with great positive attitudes, who are self-motivated and up for the challenge.

Any final advice for students?

If you think you’re going to be done learning after school, you’re not. You’re always going to be learning. Figure out your learning style in college.

For example, I’m a visual learner. If there is something new I need to learn, I already know the best way for me to teach myself. Therefore, I can learn it in the most efficient and beneficial way possible.

Some students come out of school and into a job thinking, “I know what I am doing.” Students need to come out with the perspective “OK, I have a lot more to learn.” Employers will expect you to know the basics, but to have a rewarding career you need to challenge yourself and continue to learn.