As part of my work at Atlanta Metadata Authority, I help place new employees or train existing ones at companies deploying DAM (Digital Asset Management) systems or retooling their DAM strategies. And recently a small but curious pattern in the hiring (or not hiring) of digital asset managers has appeared.
Three digital asset manager positions at Fortune 500 companies have stayed vacant for more than six months in the last fiscal year. These were positions that desperately needed staffing, but no hires were made after repeated rounds of interviews. The field of DAM staffing and consulting is a rather small one, so I was able to talk with colleagues in different parts of the US about these positions. We all had been contacted about the same jobs. We all offered staffing, consulting and in at least one case, help re-writing the job description for free, yet the positions remain unfilled.
It’s not that these positions lacked for qualified applicants. I, and my colleagues, are regularly approached by knowledgeable information workers with backgrounds in library science, IT, design and photography looking to move into DAM. People want to work with DAM systems. It’s not that those working directly with DAM systems aren’t desperate to hire. A host of posts on many forums acknowledges that a DAM system without dedicated, full-time staffing will most likely fail. Why spend millions to buy, launch and populate a DAM system without the staff to make sure it works?
I have three reasons why I believe high-recognition DAM positions have stayed vacant in the past fiscal year:
1. Recruiting firms and HR don’t know or understand DAM yet
In all three cases, the companies involved were outsourcing the finding of a Digital Asset Manager to a recruiting or staffing firm, believing that their own HR staff was not capable of finding the talent. Unfortunately, these firms also lacked the specialized knowledge of the field.
Digital Asset Management is a new career path, and most in recruiting or human resources don’t know any more about DAM or ECM than the companies trying to make the hire. Often basic questions about the job weren’t answerable by those trying to hire — such as: What DAM system is the corporation trying to launch? What types of assets will be loaded — just images, or video, multimedia and rights documentation as well? Is coding required for the job, and if so, what language is being used?
A lack of knowledge also led to contracts only being offered for a year or six months — something experienced DAM managers often aren’t likely to jump for, especially if they’re in a good position already.
A lack of basic knowledge about what DAM work is, and how it is done was shown by recruiters in all three vacant positions. It’s reasonable to conclude that not knowing what job they were trying to fill resulted in the job not being filled at all.
2. Unreasonable expectations outlined in the job description or interview
In at least two of the jobs that went fallow, the corporations really needed to hire a full DAM consulting firm — not just one employee. The description for one position asked that the person hired launch a full system in four months, complete with metadata dictionary, new taxonomy, and global access to an audience that sounded like it needed at least six access control lists defined and maintained. The company — which has thousands of product lines — expected the newly hired digital asset manager to do all of this with the support of an existing team of four other people, who would be learning DAM in the process. I’m assuming the job applicant should also be able to walk on water.
One of the other positions was similarly complicated, but had a timeline of six months, so I guess that digital asset manager would only have to part the Red Sea.
3. Pay doesn’t match the job description
A job description doesn’t just include expectations for results. Descriptions also include important details that make or break an applicant’s decision to take a job, like location and desired experience.
The cost of moving, or a flat moving stipend, was not offered as part of any of the high level positions that have remained unoccupied. This did not make the positions attractive to potential employees with experience, who tend to be clustered in cities like NYC, Atlanta and Southern California where DAMs are more common.
Does your corporate office exist in a remote suburb surrounded only by expensive housing options geared toward families? If so, a young person seeking to rent will have to get an apartment some distance from the office. Likewise, if your office is located in a nasty traffic area without good public transit options, that can be a deterrent.
In Atlanta, the Sandy Springs exit off of 400 — right where 400 meets 285 — is notoriously stopped up. Home to UPS, Rubbermaid, Wendy’s International, Cox Communications and now Mercedes, the traffic is a total mess on a good day. Far from downtown and Buckhead, Cox and Wendy’s luckily sit nearly atop a public transit station, but the other corporations — and a large medical facility — sit about a mile from that relief. A private shuttle bus runs to and from the station every 30 minutes, but is subject to the same traffic jams as the cars around it.
Why move from a job that makes $75,000 a year to a job paying $5000 more if that extra money is burned up by commute time and/or costs? If you’re going to sit in traffic for an hour each day each way, the paycheck must account for that time and vehicle expenditure.
All three positions wanted someone who already had worked with a DAM system. In Digital Asset Management, pay is commensurate with experience, and none of these positions offered the correct pay level for the experience desired. For a Digital Asset Manager with five years of experience, an offer of at least $90,000 per year with moving expenses is generally needed to fill a position outside of NYC or Southern California, where experienced digital asset managers most commonly already live.
If any of the employers had been willing to take on a less experienced person who was ready and willing to learn — and here I mean information professionals from libraries, graphic design or photography who had studied DAM but not yet had a chance to practice, or who had practiced at a lower level, or for less time — their positions would have filled with relative ease. Since the corporations are just learning about DAM themselves, why not hire someone who is also learning?
A Growing Profession
Perhaps the high-stakes world of DAM deployment, where millions spent on a system are seeking an ROI to justify a necessary expense, engenders such unfilled and unfillable positions. It is my hope that all three of the jobs I have seen stay vacant at Fortune 500 companies are filled in the next year. I hope to greet those new hires at DAM meetups or conventions, and welcome them to the growing profession of Digital Asset Management.
Title image by John Morton
Title image by John Morton