2020Shift’s More Than Code series highlights technology and digital media professionals that are rising in ranks in the space...but not necessarily hacking or coding away on the daily. These techies are excelling in today’s top hybrid, or “non-technical” roles.
Written by Pauline Hsia
Lover of Nike Air Max 95 and Kanye West, Shaton Winston is the Senior Copywriter at IBM Interactive Experience. His portfolio boasts of copywriting for MetLife and Citi mobile apps in addition to advertising and art direction for top brands like Gatorade, Pepsi, Ford, United States Marine Corps, and more.
By “mining people data,” this award-winning freckled creative crafts stories that capture human experiences and has a knack for “bridging an emotional why to the physical how.” Charismatic and innovative, Shaton is paving the way for creatives in digital media.
fun fact: he intentionally and often chooses to ignore capital letter.
What does a typical day at IBM entail?
I don’t think we have any typical days. What I’ll do is go through Google News, Yahoo! News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times. I try to make sure that I have a clear understanding of what’s happening around me and also around the world. I spend a lot of my time trying to delve into the world of pop culture as well as delving into any piece of business or information that could affect the client that I’m working on.
How did you find out about your current job? Why did you choose to work for IBM?
I was recruited with my creative partner from the advertising side. IBM launched this idea, in early 2014, of recruiting folks who worked in creative disciplines, design shops, advertising agencies, marketing firms, to bring them together to be more creative in our approach to solving business problems.
What’s a challenge for you as a copywriter?
Consistently knowing the audience because the audience is always changing; they’re always evolving. Customer needs change and because those needs change, the demands of your client changes. We try our best to stay ahead of the curve in our specific business sector.
What’s the best part about working for IBM?
I get the opportunity to work on amazing projects for really great brands and a lot of the time, the projects have high visibility. We were the first creative entity to bring a financial management app to the Apple Watch. IBM Interactive Experience produced the Citi Mobile Lite app, which was the first of its kind, a banking app that was on your wrist for the Apple device.
Effective leadership is key in any company. How do you serve as a leader in your current role?
I try to understand the people that I’m working with. Leadership is two-fold. Give instructions to people who look up to you, but also be able to articulate myself and provide balance and value to the folks above me. What I try to do is treat everyone equally and try to learn to be a better listener, and then speak. Once we fully have an understanding of what the situation is, we’re better able to solve problems.
How do you stay creative, innovative and focused while you work?I try to immerse myself into things that I like. I like sports. I love music. I love learning new things. When I find myself stuck in any particular situation, whether I’m writing an instructional piece of copy to teach someone something or writing something more persuasive to change behavior, I try to imagine myself going through a similar situation. If that doesn’t work, I’ll often write a letter to myself, highlighting and articulating what it is that I specifically want to say.
How do you recharge from a demanding work week?
I try to step entirely away from the work from the minute I’m done. Let’s say I’m done at 6pm on Friday, I try not to touch anything that’s work related until I have to again on Monday. That doesn’t always work because in our line of work, it’s never in a box. It’s never in a specific time frame. I just allow myself to turn off and step away from it.
Why is it important to step away from a project, especially as a creative?
We fall in love with ideas. If we don’t step away from it, we won’t be able to maximize the value or we won’t be able to see whether or not it’s truly good. As humans, we all want to believe that we’re capable of good ideas. For the most part, we are, but we also have to have a level of validation that will not come from our perspective.
If you think about it like painting a picture, you may love it. It may be the greatest piece of work that you’ve ever done but when it comes time to sell it, are you going to be able to sell it to someone who thinks as highly of it as you do? That’s how I think of creativity in the professional sense. Even though I’m creating something, is it the value that is being asked? Is it the value that is being required? Does it have any intrinsic value other than what I think of it?
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Be more patient. Trust the journey. Even in times when things look bad, they are never as bad as they are because you have tomorrow. If you have tomorrow, you have a chance to make it right.
EDITOR’S NOTE: When this article was written, Shaton Winston was the Senior Interactive Copywriter and Content Strategist at IBM. Currently, he is freelancing as a creative director.