It’s not easy being a creative in a world that increasingly favors those with technical skills. There’s a lot of pressure to enter into high-demand occupations like software engineering, data science or finance. And while there are a lot of benefits to entering fields like this — ever-increasing demand, job security, high pay — the truth is, these careers just aren’t for everyone.
Take me, for example. I’m a right-brained thinker through and through — even if I had listened to conventional wisdom and studied something like computer science or business instead of English, I truly don’t believe I would be very happy in a more traditional role. In order for me to thrive, I need a position where the vast majority of the work I do is creative, preferably in the realm of writing or campaign ideation — and I know there are others like me out there.
Unfortunately, the job opportunities available to creatives aren’t quite as numerous as those available to folks with a STEM or business background. Sometimes, it’s enough to make you feel like you should abandon a creative career altogether. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no demand out there for creative skills like writing, design or photography — just ask Jana Krinsky, Director of Studio at online retailer Zulily.
As Director of Studio, Krinsky is responsible for the cohesive look of the Zulily app, and all of the creative assets — images, videos and GIFs — that live within it. To do so, she leads a team of hundreds in building sets, shooting products and editing the final pieces every day, resulting in over one million images taken per year. Glassdoor’s Emily Moore recently caught up with Krinsky to learn more about her day-to-day job, how she ended up in her current position and what advice she has for aspiring creative professionals — here’s what she had to say.
Glassdoor: What does your role as Director of Studio involve, and what do you enjoy about it?
Jana Krinsky: As the Director of Creative Studio at online retailer Zulily, I oversee a team of 350+ creatives support staff and leaders across our HQ in Seattle, WA and our corporate office in Columbus, OH. With our storefront being completely digital, our photographers, copywriters, graphic designers and stylists have the crucial role of telling the stories of thousands of products and brands, generally only available for 72-hours. It’s our job to make each brand (we offered over 15,000 just this past year!) a hero for the day. To help our customers easily transition from click to cart, we process over 2M samples per year, write thousands of copy descriptions and create compelling imagery on one of our 50+ studio sets — this is where our styles build hundreds of scenes, work with models of all ages, sizes and species, hosting plenty of pets each week!
The best part of my job is every day at Zulily is an opportunity to win as a team, one of our core company values. With so much of retail moving to mobile — 73 percent of Zulily’s orders come from mobile (Q418) — storytelling has become an integral part of our jobs. It’s really rewarding for me to see an individual push boundaries within their craft, and convert a fun idea into a serious business driver. For instance, this year, we’re continuing to test and try animation and video within the Zulily experience, launching hundreds of different pieces of creative involving this medium in Q119.
Glassdoor: What did your career path look like — how did you end up as Director of Studio at Zulily?
Jana Krinsky: I’d spent over a decade working in traditional retail and learned the power of visual storytelling within this industry. I wanted to apply this knowledge to my next endeavor, which is what drew me to Zulily in 2015. Zulily was doing, and continues to do, something truly different with a low-inventory business model that gives shoppers great deals on both big and boutique brands, across a diverse selection of product categories — women’s & kids apparel, footwear, consumables, beauty and wellness, pets and more. I originally led our copy and photo editing teams, and from there was promoted to lead our Editorial Studio, and now hold my current position overseeing all of our creative studio division.
Glassdoor: Did you know from an early age that you wanted to pursue a creative job, or did you discover your passion further down the line?
Jana Krinsky: I knew early on I wanted to work in a position and company that allowed me to be creative, but also a highly operational business-minded and educated person. One of the unique qualities of Zulily, and specifically their creative studio team, was how different and dynamic the work is and how it was all built on an incredible operation platform — every day is a new challenge and provides a new opportunity to test and try in creating a compelling customer experience but in balance with protecting cost and timeline. In traditional retail, you have a physical storefront or seasonal catalogs that are very calculated and take a year plus of planning. But at Zulily, our work is agile — and what we create and design today makes an immediate impact on our business tomorrow. Creative is an integral component to every part of the ecommerce process — it’s how a customer identifies your brand, shops your app and remains a loyal customer. At Zulily, we launch a new store every day, meaning my team must move quickly to visually pique shopper interest and clearly communicate what makes each product a must-purchase. This creativity and momentum are what fuels my passion for my job, each and every day.
Glassdoor: In an economy that increasingly values technical skills, do you feel there is still a demand for creatives?
Jana Krinsky: While technology is becoming increasingly valuable, creatives are still very much in demand, and provide the human touch element technology still can’t provide. At Zulily, technology is core to what we do, and we use proprietary tools built by our in-house engineering team to provide us internal processes and real-time data and analytics to ensure our creative is resonating with customers.
We are a data-driven culture, and my team keeps a close pulse on customer data, such as product reviews and returns, to internalize how we make creative decisions at both the sale and product level. We use technology to not only keep us optimized, but additionally, to track the success of specific images, helping creatives make decisions on how we style and photograph upcoming sales, brands and products as we learn from customer behavior.
Glassdoor: Creatives are often told not to pursue their passion as a full-time job, but rather to explore it on the side. What’s your response to that?
Jana Krinsky: If you are passionate about having a career as a creative, you can absolutely pursue it as a full-time job. To me, ecommerce is an industry with so much potential; there are so many ways creatives can push the industry forward as more people around the world shop via mobile, and on-the-go. Design and creativity are at the heart of propelling the industry forward, with a key partnership with merchandising and technology, and creatives are vital to providing an essential human touch that brings visual storytelling to life.
At Zulily’s Studio, we employ over 350 individuals, both support staff and creatives, including photographers, graphic designers, stylists, photo editors, copywriters and more, and our work is integral to the Zulily shopping experience. What we create today impacts our business tomorrow — so the volume is huge, and with that, our creative team gets tons of practice at their craft and new challenges every day.
Glassdoor: What’s your best tip for those looking to pursue a creative career?
Jana Krinsky: The advice I would give to individuals looking to pursue a creative career is to understand what your day-to-day job will entail and how your own creative vision will fit into the process and the company. You should absolutely bring your own creative style to projects, but it’s important to remain flexible and allow your ideas and vision to align cohesively with the style of the brand. It is unlikely that your personal aesthetic and taste will fit every client’s need or vision, so embrace the creative challenge of compromise and strive to impress them and stretch yourself.
Glassdoor: Anything else you want to add?
Jana Krinsky: At Zulily, Creative Studio is a team focused on career development, both within a team member’s current role and in succession to their next position, within Creative Studio or within the organization as a whole. We have opportunities for a multitude of skill and experience levels, making us not only a great place to be a creative, but to also grow into a leader.