Hi, have you met Erin, Melody, and Joel?

On Friday November 20, 2015, our guests (all Sheridan Web Design grads!) beamed in via Skype call
from “the secret location”. We spent the first part of our conversation learning a little bit about each of our guests; so let me introduce them now.Erin

First to speak was Erin Ackerman, she graduated from the Sheridan years ago and met Noora the Executive Producer of The Secret Location at the grad show! They hit it off and Noora offered her a job right away after already seeing her work online from the grad website. She has been working at Secret Location for one year now.

Next, we have Melody Tam. Melody graduated a year after Erin and she did her undergrad at Sheridan in Illustration and realised
that she wanted to take another course that would lead her to more profitable work and choose Web Design to do so. When she took the Web Design course she was caught off guard about how difficult it was, but she said that she doesn’t regret it. She didn’t get into The melodySecret Location until a while after graduating, but Noora discovered her work and contacted her and offered her a position, which she eagerly accepted.

“Secret Location was the first choice on my list” – Melody Tam

Lastly, Joel spoke to us, he graduated from Sheridan the same year that Erin did and they were classmates (he even claimed that he and Erin are “mortal enemies” ha-ha). His story is very similar he studied at OCAD first before attending Sheridan. The grad show is also were Joel met Noora and although they clicked they didn’t have a job available at the time so he wasn’t hired (yet). Joel went to work at SapientNitro for a year and decided he needed a change and contacted Nora and low and behold he also was offered a job.joel

I’m glad that we had the chance to hear about these three grads journeys after the program it was very encouraging.

Now that we know about our guests, we should talk about Secret Location. Secret Location is a company that is associated with EONE (they produce television shows and movies). They created the Sleepy Hollow, and Insidious VR experiences, and work on TV shows like Big Brother, Portlandia (awesome!) and a lot of children shows too!

Erin, Melody, and Joel told us about how they work at Secret Location and its pretty neat; it works a little different from our normal ad agencies. Here’s why, they work in teams of people, the teams will contain a project manager, designer, developer, and sometimes a floating person that has strengths in what ever they are needed for. These teams usually work together all the time. Which is great because it allows the them to develop a great relationship and working rhythm. After a big project the team will get together and do what they call a “Post Mortem” which means they the project they just completed and pull it apart and figure out what worked for them and what didn’t so that they know what to do next time. I love the way this process works because of how in tune everyone can become with each other, making things as efficient as possible.

After learning about each guest and how Secret Location worked, we got into a great Q and A question period let’s look at some!

Questions and Answers:

Question: What other designers in Canada or around the world inspired you guys?

Answers:  Joel: Honestly I’ve never been one to model someone’s career after someone else’s. There are so many talented artists and designers out there and I get my inspiration from all over.

Melody: I have an illustration background, so I look at some illustrations and take some of my inspiration from the illustrations themselves, like their backgrounds or color scheme. This is how I work my illustration skills into my designs. We have so much variety in our projects you never know where your inspiration is going to come from.

Erin: Every situation requires you to open your mind and look for your inspirations depending on what kind of project your working on, we work in a lot of different mediums, they could be VR, websites, mobile websites, apps, and a whole lot more.

Question: What’s your typical day like?

“Come in make coffee… drink your coffee….ha-ha but seriously,”

Answers:  Erin: We work really hard, we usually start with a “scrum” in the mornings this is these are important because they are the time where our teammates are able to touch base with each other and tell what they have been working on, any obstacles or pet peeves that are stopping them from getting the job done. It’s really a great chance to touch base and make sure everyone is on track.

Melody: We party hard to!

Erin: We have this thing called “No meeting Wednesdays” this means, we try not to have meetings on this day so we have a solid day of work flow, so that we don’t get distracted mid way though a project.

Melody: Friday mornings are creative check ins and the developers and designers gather together in a group and talk about their concerns with each other, or share information about different projects to see what everyone else is working on.

Erin: I love it when designers show what they have been working on, it’s a totally different way of seeing things and it’s refreshing to see and hear about it from your peer’s point of view

Another thing we do is, on Fridays we do “check this out”, we work 10-6 most days, and at 530 on Fridays someone will share a project of what ever they may be interested in and present it to a group while enjoying beer and snacks, it’s a great way to end the week.

Question: Do you still code?

Answers:  Melody: Code is definitely helpful so you understand the capabilities when you design, it also helps when you polish any sites and you can be able to change it within inspectors.

developers love that ha-ha” – Erin

Melody: But we as designers work on design more, as it is more needed.

Joel: We do very little or any code, but the most valuable aspect about learning code was that it helped me conceptualize the idea and design it then build it and I was able to own the entirety of my work. This made me more sellable when trying to get a job.

Erin: I could see having coding experience in a smaller agency being helpful.

Melody: It’s also nice to have coding for motion projects, to adding animation to design.

“To summarize, no we don’t code, but its not time wasted.” – Erin

Question: How did each of you adapt to working from school?

Answers:  Joel: That’s a good question because one thing that Sheridan does really well, is that they teach you hard skills as quickly as possible, but you have to work on your soft skills like building personal relationships.

All agreed on this point: The place where you work is your second home, knowing the culture of where you want to go first is super helpful, and knowing what your office supplies is really helpful, finding your fit at a company with a strong culture is worth it.

Erin: Every situation requires you to open your mind and look for your inspirations depending on what kind of project your working on, we work in a lot of different mediums, they could be VR, websites, mobile websites, apps, and a whole lot more.

“Culture is really important.”

Your work will go up and down, but where you work must make you happy.

Question: Share with us what has been your biggest challenge, and how did you solve that challenge.

Answers: Erin: The hardest part is whenever you get a creative block, when your battling with yourself and your own mind, and you start to question yourself as a designer etc. It’s not usually the technical stuff, it’s the creative block, my solution for that is to take a breath, take a walk, look for inspiration, have a nap, you have to get your brain away from that thought process, and come back at it fresh.

Question: How did you guys decide what kind of agency you wanted to work for?

Answers: Melody: When Pete came in for a guest speaker, the presentation made me go I really want to work here(the secret location). I just knew they where on the top of my lists.

Erin: When I graduated I wanted to work for a small to medium agency, I just thought that would fit me the best, when I graduated I did work for a small agency, the downside for that is I wasn’t challenged enough and got bored, but when I had options I choose based on what I would like most culture wise, s

tay in contact un who ever I would like to talk to. Maintain your relationships.

After the Q&A was finished, Erin left us with some food for thought.

“When you like something, ask why you like it, so that you can bring it into you next project with out stealing.” –Erin

I think this is an excellent statement. It’s a good way to think when looking for inspiration.


Questions are fun! And informative.

How to get in contact with our guests

Erin Ackerman:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/erin-ackerman-59860a16

Melody Tam: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melody-tam-0830a075

Joel Reliquette: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joel-relliquette-36825466

Company Website: thesecretlocation.com


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