E-commerce visual content solution provider Splashlight is offering a “Master’s Program” for its team members aimed at mentoring and nurturing the creative talent within the company. The program aligns with company founder Benoit Lagarde’s vision of offering hands-on training for employees.

Here, Robyn Dutra, vice president of creative at Splashlight, discusses the program, how it works and why it helps empower the company’s creative team.

WWD: Where did the idea for the master’s program come from?

Robyn Dutra: We wanted to create a structured and streamlined way to mentor and grow emerging talent across our company. There’s a lot of talk about mentorship in our industry, and less action. We’re doers and thinkers at Splashlight, and this program with its unique curriculum is the culmination of that way of working. In sharing our passion for visual content making, we’re able to attract a higher level of talent — and therefore make the kind of creative that gets us, and our client and brand partners noticed.

WWD: What is Splashlight’s goal of implementing this type of program?

R.D.: Our goal is to not only discover, but shape the next generation of creative leaders. At Splashlight we’re committed to the professional growth and development of our staff through sustained and inspired mentorship. We’re striving to evolve and support the next generation of emerging talent across art direction, photography, styling and hair and makeup artistry.

Robyn Dutra

Robyn Dutra  Courtesy image.

We launched the master’s program in 2018, fulfilling company founder Benoit Lagarde’s original vision, offering invaluable, hands-on training and dedicated guidance in a paid position from leaders in the creative industry and beyond. While the master’s program is available to the whole company, currently only our creative department is participating.

WWD: Overall, how is the program structured?

R.D.: A “Splashight Master” is an expert and innovator, proven to have exceptional talent and skill in their respective fields. We’ve chosen our masters from across the editorial and advertising worlds, each selected to lead our unique program under my direction — with Benoit’s continued input, of course.

Participants in the program receive feedback on a weekly and monthly basis. Weekly feedback is given per our discipline-focused curriculum; photo art direction, beauty (hair and makeup), styling (on-figure) and photography with their direct report/master. Then monthly feedback is given to assess progress to date. We’ve discovered talent to grow in-house, in addition to making new hires, most recently moving one of our digital technicians into a junior photographer role on the creative team.

WWD: Why do you think this type of program and mentorship is critical for professional development?

R.D.: Without sustained mentorship, there is no movement, no motivation for our employees, or anyone working anywhere, really. We want to set our team members up for success, by equipping them with the right tools which include the opportunity to learn on the job. What is unique about the Splashlight Masters Program, is that our participants are already on staff, essentially functioning as competitively paid apprentices to some of the best talent in our industry.

WWD: What advice do you have for others in the industry looking to start their own mentorship program?

R.D.: I have an academic background, teaching media and women’s studies for several years at NYU and Hunter College, and belong to a number of mentoring groups in the advertising industry including SheSays. The Splashlight Masters Program has been a really rewarding extension of some of that work. So I recommend pulling and polling from your professional networks, find out what your employees want and need in terms of career growth, and then commit to creating a clear path to get there.

With gender and diversity top of mind, we, as an industry, can make great and positive change by further redefining and reshaping who is making that content — which I believe only then will satisfy consumer wants and needs with creative content that is just more authentic and more meaningful.

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