7 Questions with...
This is a monthly series called "7 Questions with..." where we'll highlight someone we think is cool, fun and inspiring in the hopes of picking up a few pieces of wisdom from his or her life journey. Let us know what you think in the comments, and if you have a recommendation for a future interview, drop us a line!
So without further ado, here's our second installment.
7 Questions with... Sylvia Vaquer, Creative Director & Co-Founder at SocioFabrica
Agency Guacamole: Hi Sylvia! Thank you for hanging out with us. To start, please tell us about yourself and your area of expertise.
Sylvia Vaquer: Sure! My name is Sylvia Vaquer. I am the Co-Founder and Creative Director of SocioFabrica, a full-service digital agency based in San Francisco that works at the intersection of design, technology and marketing to create interactive solutions that help brands build better and more meaningful connections with consumers. Most recently, we’ve created Nicho, a tool that brings visibility to discussions happening around particular topics in the internet’s social sphere. (Disclosure: SocioFabrica and Nicho are clients of Agency Guacamole.)
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I first moved to the states after earning a scholarship to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where I majored in Graphic Design. After graduating, I joined branding firm Wolff Olins, where I assisted molding brands like Starbucks, Target, WaMu and Project (RED) to drive positive change in the world. Later, I pursued a Master’s at UC Berkeley studying how brands and visual communication help construct people’s identities.
My experience, which ranges from experiential marketing and branding to product design, has informed my views on design as generative systems and brands as experiences, that in order to be successful and deliver a clear message, need to be cohesive.
AG: Very cool! Since you're in the digital/social media space, tell us about your favorite social network and why you like it.
SV: To consume, Instagram because of it’s highly visual user experience (as a designer it is hard for me not to be drawn to simple and very visual UIs, though it has now become a highly curated and beautifully edited version of our lives verging on the edge of unrealism) and Medium because of the quality and range of long format, and what feels like unmediated and authentic content.
To express oneself probably Snapchat, even though I do not frequent it as much as other social media platforms, the mere principle of vanishing content liberates users to be freer, funnier, sillier and to provide a glimpse to their life that feels sincere.
AG: We love Snapchat, too! So fun. OK, now let's go beyond social and talk about you. What or who inspires you?
SV: People leveraging design + technology to create real positive impact in the world and to question and redefine previously accepted structural paradigms—economical, professional, social, political, etc, such as:
- Those democratizing access to resources: Coursera (access to higher education), code for america, all those powering micro-lending
- Those redefining central tenants—like ownership —of our prevailing economic system: most companies/startups in the shared economy space (including early pioneers like Zipcar)
- Those bringing awareness to highly ignored issues of social justice and our impact on the world: Malala Yousafzai, Sheryl Sandberg, JR (the artist), Olafur Eliasson
The underdogs: those who persevered and with hard work succeeded against all odds
....I could go on ;)
AG: What's one part of your routine you can't live without?
SV: My yoga practice helps me rebalance and refocus on what matters most in life.]
AG: A good yoga session can be so effective. Great answer. OK, as someone who has been a leader in her field, how do you balance professional success with personal happiness?
SV: Ja! It’s an art I am still learning to master. One thing is for certain: when you do something for too long and your heart is not in it, it is very hard to keep yourself motivated and ultimately thrive doing that. As Gianpiero Petriglieri best said it in the article "Turn Your Career into a Work of Art," in the Harvard Business Review:
"To thrive and lead with passion in a world in flux, requires finding a space, and I mean both a psychological and social space, where what you do is tied with who you are and what people around you care about — a community where commitment feels enabling, liberating, rather than just constraining."
For me being able to grow personally and professionally in whatever undertaking I have put myself in is paramount. Having a solid base of family and friends and a real partner who provides perspective when I need it has been crucial to achieve a healthy work/life balance.
AG: What's a tip you'd give to someone who wants to follow in your career footsteps?
SV: Take risks and trust your intuition. No one is perfect.
Often I see peers (particularly female peers) shy away from an opportunity even if they know they have almost all the necessary skills to complete it. Make an honest assessment of your skills and what is necessary to complete the task at hand; if you are 80% there, be confident to give it a try.
Don’t be afraid to fail, but learn from your mistakes and bounce back.
If you are in a challenging environment in the ever-evolving field of technology, at the end of the day, no one ever really knows what they are doing. Like you, they are all trying to figure it out and learning by doing. And in such a scenario, mistakes are inevitable. When you fail (it should never be if, but when) make sure to understand why, learn from it and rebound with stronger focus and purpose. (After all, you have one less solution to try. ;))
Seek great mentors and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
When in your career, your craft, your life you meet someone you admire, don’t be afraid to reach out and respectfully ask for their advice. You will be surprised of how many times people are willing to lend a hand. Cultivate meaningful relationships with those whom you have great rapport with. If you are lucky, they can save you from pitfalls and have long-lasting impact in your life.
AG: OK, last question: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
SV: Figure out what fulfills you and what you want to achieve and work backwards.
While you are still finessing the purpose of your life and coming to understand what you really want to do, make sure you are continuously aggregating and honing in tools for your toolbox (new skills, experiences, resources) so that when you do know what you want to do, you are better prepared to achieve it.