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Jobs In Skateboarding International : Footwear Designer

Jobs In Skateboarding International : Footwear Designer We met Jeff at the...

Jobs In Skateboarding International : Footwear Designer

We met Jeff at the start of the year and tried to get him to do this interview, he refused to do it without shooting a legitimate skate photo of himself, to quote 'So, about 9 months late on this…my bad', the picture is worth it and so is the key advice at the bottom. 

Desk Portrait by Nick Zegel

Frontside Noseslide by Justin Ponce 

 

What's your name?

Jeff Mikut 

What is your current role and who do you work for?

I work as a footwear designer for New Balance Numeric 

What is it that you actually do? / What takes up a majority of your work time?

I wear many hats in my role but most of what I do is focused on creating new ideas and helping see them through to completion.  

We design every shoe from sole to upper both internal and out. We also manage all the colours you see in the catalogues and all the collaborative or team rider colorways. A lot of my time is spent managing that process while finding the gaps to be creative. 

Did you have any roles in the skate industry before this?

I worked at Vans and Lakai as a footwear designer prior. It was cool to see the inner workings of a large-scale business compared to a smaller, more family-owned operation. Having Rick and Mike as bosses was pretty all-time too. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

Seeing the footwear you worked on in the wild. It never gets old and always makes me smile. 

What’s the worst thing about your job?

Knowing every millimetre of the inside of the soles. It makes me think a little too much about what I’m feeling when skating – can be problematic! Ha 

Any advice for skateboarders out there who want to pursue your line of work?

It’s important to have a strong skill-set in the adobe creative suite and 3D seems to be bubbling up as a mandatory skill too. Just like skating, practice and learn from the styles you like. Pay attention to detail and be willing to design something that doesn’t perfectly line up with your personal aesthetic. Lastly, take opportunities as they arise – even if they are small. Experience is one of the best ways to learn this profession.

Jeff Mikut - Jobs In Skateboarding - Welcome Skate Store
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Jobs In Skateboarding International : Marketing Director

Jobs In Skateboarding International : Marketing Director  Probably one of the most...

Jobs In Skateboarding International : Marketing Director 

Probably one of the most well-known TM's in skateboarding Sam Smyth heads up a whole bunch of stuff over at the Crailtap camp. Read below to find out how it all started and where it's going in our international edition of the Jobs In Skateboarding series.

All imagery stolen from Sam's instagram - https://www.instagram.com/samsklub/

All the interviews so far here - https://welcomeleeds.com/blogs/welcome-blog/tagged/jobs-in-skateboarding

What is your current role and who do you work for?

I still go by Talent Manager (tongue in cheek version of Team Manager). But in the corporate world you’d call me Marketing Director. 

Did you have any roles in the skate industry before this?

I started in the warehouse of a small skate brand in San Francisco, Pure Wheels and Experience Skateboards. Later that became Profile and Cream, then FIT, where I played more of a team manager role. But when I started at Girl I was doing sales. I took what was available. About 6 months later the TM at the time asked me to take over. It was a natural fit. 

What is it that you actually do?/ What takes up a majority of your work time?

That’s tough. It’s all over the place. Anything that involves marketing. The team is the biggest marketing asset. Need to stay in touch with them. They love to travel. So plan trips to keep them stoked, and promote the brand in other regions. Speaking of, I need to stay in contact with team riders in other regions. Development of potential riders. I weigh in on product development. 

When products go into production we start planning the launch. Whether it’s just a photo on Instagram or an event or video, we start planning as soon as possible. Video is something we love to do. I’m always involved in the production of those. Managing our staff videographers and social media manager. Connecting with photographers. Making an ad schedule and hitting those deadlines. Calling Carroll to let him know to check his email. That kinda stuff. 

How have you seen your job role change over the years?

Social media has been the biggest change in all our lives, mine included. Seems it’s got us all ramping up everything. Need more photos, more videos, more products. Feed the machine. It’s never enough. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working amongst people I love. Skateboarding has its ups and downs. You could bounce around chasing the hot new thing. Try to climb the corporate ladder. But I’m happy seeing my friends everyday. Working for something I believe in. 

What’s the worst thing about your job?

Disturbance in the force. It’s not always perfect. Hate when something wack kills an otherwise awesome vibe. 

Any advice for skateboarders out there who want to pursue your line of work?

Befriend the best skater in your town. Hope that one day he starts his own company and gives you a job. Hahaha. That was part of it for me. But really you just have to be willing to do anything. Start at the bottom. Get your foot in the door and be cool. 

 

 

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Jobs In Skateboarding International - EMEA Marketing Manager

 Jobs In Skateboarding International After our Jobs In Skateboarding series became a...

 Jobs In Skateboarding International

After our Jobs In Skateboarding series became a minor-success we've attempted to push who would talk to us from across the world. As that outside perspective of lack of jobs began to open up more and more we almost couldn't figure out where the 'careers' in the industry could end up. 

Learn something new below from our French-Canadian buddy and take a moment to get acquainted with the rest of the 'Jobs In Skateboarding' interviews here

 photo :  Nathan Ethier-Myette

What's your name?

Alex Forbes

What is your current role and who do you work for?

My current role and for the last 4 years is Marketing Manager for Skateboarding in EMEA (Europe, Middle-East and Africa) for Vans.

What is it that you actually do?

I do a lot of things, but to simplify it, I can put it in 4 different buckets. Those buckets are Product, Team, Content and Events.

For product, I’m responsible for regionalising the strategies shared by Vans Global for the European Market. While this might seem just a trickle-down, we do spend a lot of time with each country marketing manager to nuance and adapt each marketed story for each country / region. I’m also responsible for creating the marketing and strategy for European collaboration projects such as Vans x Civilist, Vans x Palace, Vans x Sour, Vans x Rassvet, Vans x Pop Trading, Vans x Danny Wainwright…just to name a few. We try to do 2 to 3 regional collaborations a year so there’s actually much more than that. 

For the skate team, I’m responsible for establishing the vision and support for our team riders with opportunities that will fulfil their needs. We obviously grew the European and Country skate teams a lot in the past 4 years as we believe it’s one of the best ways to support the progression and skateboarding at a local level as well as paving the way to the Global team. For this part of the job, I’m working with Chris Pfanner as he’s our main Skate Team Manager in Europe and overseas the European skate team. Then we pretty much have a TM in each country/market in Europe.

For content, I’m responsible for establishing the projects and working as a producer. With the Vans Europe team we try to make up to 2 videos edits a year. One will be a trip video and the other one will be a full-length video. Then, with each country team I’m creating a brief and a vision that I share with the local TM’s so they can create their own projects. As the projects start, I touch base every now and then with the TM’s and filmers to review their timeline and drafts until we have a final edit. Part of this is making sure everyone has everything they need to make their projects the best they can. If there’s a Vans logo and if it’s coming from Europe, I want to be sure we have the best content out there. Also need to work on music licensing and I’m also working with skate media partners to release articles and the projects on social media.

For events, even if it’s been a while since we’ve done an event because of the Covid situation, this still falls under my responsibility. While the local marketing managers are mostly responsible for organising the local events, I’m responsible for the overall strategy and supporting them. When it comes to bigger events like Vans Shop Riot Finals or when we used to do Vans Park Series, I was responsible for organising and conceptualising those events. 

Did you have any roles in the skate industry before this?

As a lot of people in the skate industry, my first skate industry job was in a shop called Infiny-t Skateshop located in the south shore of Montreal. I worked there for almost 9 years. I started as a retail employee but I really liked it so they started to give me more hours and responsibilities while being flexible to let me travel and go skate.

After 2 or 3 years I became the assistant manager and main buyer, moving up to manager a year later. I really liked working there and was and still am a good friend of the owner at the time. I took that job super seriously and was also taking the opportunity to organise small events in Montreal, at the shop and our local skatepark. This is exactly where I learned how to organise events and marketing. Unfortunately, while I was working there, he sold the shop to start his own distribution company and I stayed working there for a few years but the new owner wasn’t connected to the skateboarding scene so I eventually left and started at the previous owner’s distribution company. 

From there I was helping my friend manage his distribution company and was doing a bunch of graphic design (as throughout my years at the skate shop I finished a DEC in Art and a formation in graphic design). 

After a few months at the distribution company, an opportunity came up to go work at Vans. I basically had to go through the whole hiring process and was super stressed because I didn’t have any diploma in Marketing but Vans gave me their trust and I started at Vans Canada in October 2009. Working there gave me the opportunity to be on another level and I was able to accomplish so many things for skateboarding while I was responsible for all categories at Vans. After my 6 years at Vans Canada, I was looking for my next step and definitely wanted to stay at Vans so I waited until the right opportunity arose. When I saw the position I’m currently at I knew this is what I wanted to do. I did everything I could and went into a very long process of interviews and then get the job and started Jan 2018.

I still can’t believe this journey is now 21 years long and already 4 years at Vans Europe…quite crazy to think about it.

What’s the best thing about your job?

There’s so many good things about my job. I would say first and foremost it’s to work in something that I’m really passionate about.

The next thing is being able to help shape what skateboarding is today and influencing what it will be tomorrow. I’m saying this because I can make decisions such as sponsoring a team rider to pursue their career to the point that person can make a comfortable living out of skateboarding. Or, when I arrived in Europe there was also no women on our European team so Pfanner and I decided to add Helena Long, Shani Bru, Lucy Adams and Amy Ram to the Vans Europe Team. Last year we also added Louisa Menke and we’re looking at growing our women’s presence this year so be on the lookout for some new team riders. I think women should have the same space as men do in skateboarding, so I work to give them the opportunities and support they need, so one day all brands understand it’s an important thing.

One other thing is to be able to work on projects such as Tom’s Tales, Incompiuto, Kingdom For A Cooler, Super Kruto and give local TM’s the space to make their own projects with their teams such as Delay Scene, Iberico, Going Nowhere and so many others…Since being in Europe we’ve released nearly 60 videos and when you look at them all it’s so nice to see everyone’s progression.

Lastly, it’s being able to travel and meet people. Either it’s meeting some skate shop owners, staff, skate photographers and skaters around the world. This job has given me so many opportunities to meet people that I would of never have met before. I’m definitely super grateful for everything this job gave and still gives me.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

Spending 3 days budgeting in a excel spreadsheet…lol. There’s not many bad things to be honest but there’s a couple. The first one would be when you have to let go of a team rider or someone you work with. This is really awful…It’s so hard, even if sometimes it’s for the best of both parties , it’s still super difficult and always breaks my heart. Hopefully that only happens less than handful of times. Another thing – because I’m so passionate about skateboarding and pretty much think about skateboarding all-day every day and this job is not your typical 9 to 5 job, I do get burned out sometimes. It’s like damn, I really want to go skate but have 1000 things to do and after 10-11 hours day, I have zero energy to actually go skate…but throughout the years I found ways around this and learned to balance my time better. That said it’s still a challenge. Other than those two, there’s nothing I don’t like about my job. 

Any advice for skateboarders out there who want to pursue your line of work?

I never feel very comfortable giving advice as everyone’s path is different but I would say it’s always best to start at a skate shop, get involved as much as you can, ask questions, listen and learn from the people you work with and gather experience from. 

There are so many things you can do in skateboarding nowadays, marketing jobs like mine, graphic designer, apparel designer, photographer, filmer, sales…and the list goes on. None of those jobs will get you rich so if that’s your goal I would say don’t even start but if skateboarding is your passion, follow your path and create your opportunities. It will always be a mix of both talent and opportunities but you do have to put yourself out there to meet and create your connections. 

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Jobs In Skateboarding International : Lakai Team Manager

Jobs In Skateboarding International : Lakai Team Manager  After our Jobs In...

Jobs In Skateboarding International : Lakai Team Manager 

After our Jobs In Skateboarding series became a minor-success we've attempted to push who would talk us from across the world. As that outside perspective of lack of jobs began to open up more and more we almost couldn't figure out where the 'careers' in the industry could end up.

Thankfully some willing participants came through and our first is with the delightful Steven Smith who currently upholds the duty of Lakai's Team Manager. 

Learn something new below from our way too relaxed conversation and take moment to get acquainted with the rest of the 'Jobs In Skateboarding' interviews here.

 

Lakai Team Manager : Steven Smith

What's your name?

Steven Smith.

What’s your job role and what do you even do?

I do a pretty good mix of both Team Management and Marketing. If I'm on the road for two weeks then my marketing list definitely gets bigger and things pile up. Some people probably don't know that Lakai is a small skeleton crew, there are probably only 8 to 10 of us that run the whole brand. It's pretty bare bones but we all work great together and everything works out. I’m deep in both sides, I do all the team stuff and the marketing/brand stuff too. I’d say there was an even balance and I like it that way, I’d go stir crazy if it was just one or the other. 

Sometimes I'm the skate rat on a tour looking after the team and making sure everyone has got what they need but then the marketing side allows me to come up with new projects alongside different brands and collaborate. I get to work on content, building up the calendar and putting out releases. My boss Craig has been with Lakai for 15 years and I take inspiration from him alot. He’s the General Manager and looks after everyone, he develops footwear and talks to factories. It's a balancing act and he puts a lot of trust in me. I've got to take care of my side, it's fun and it keeps me on my toes. 

Did you have any roles in the skate industry before this?

I've been lucky enough to be involved in skating since I was a kid. Just being the shit head, skate rat and weaselling my way into the skate shop. I grew up in Santa Cruz at Skate Works which is the Strubing family skate shop Justin, Jason and their dad Phil, they've owned shops across the area for a long time. They gave me a job at 16, gripping boards and cleaning windows. Over the years it became the ‘owning a key’ and locking the door. Moving onto a buyer's responsibility and buying from different brands. It was a great way of learning about the industry. It was a cool way to grow up. 

Once I finished college in San Francisco, I was skating for flow on Crailtap and Lakai so I incidentally got my foot in the door before I worked for Lakai. It all came organically. Crail hooked me up, they had my back really hard, I was totally taling to my friend Dan Wheatly ‘I don’t think this pro-skater thing is going to work out for me.’ I wanted to be involved in skating and I went to school for marketing. He was instrumental in me meeting everyone from Mike Caroll and Rick Howard as well as Sam Smyth. Every time a job came up I threw my name in there for any interview. I actually interviewed for the Girl/Chocolate Team Manager, I quit my job as soon as they said I had it, but they jumped the gun on it and it didn't happen haha. It was pretty funny. I never thought I’d be able to get into skateboarding. 

How did you find the jump between Lakai flow guy to working for a brand?

Growing up I could only skate, there's a tradition of skateboarding in Santa Cruz. My best friend growing up was Raven Tershy so that says something haha. He's one of the best, I was skating alongside him, even then I could see him progress at a crazy level. With the level that skateboarding is at these days you can see 12 year old kids and know how far they are going to go, that's not to say someone who is a little older couldn’t put in the work and make it happen though. It's possible. 

I went to school in San Francisco for marketing & public speaking. Everything I went to college for at the back of my mind applied to. ‘How can I do this in skateboarding?’ I was working at the shop and the thought process was I could open a shop or be a sales rep, but I met the right people too. I thought Dan and Sam had the coolest jobs in the world. In my mind they lived the closest thing to being a pro skater alongside the responsibility of a job. I tried to meet people, network and email a whole bunch everyone. I did my ankle really badly one year and I knew that the sponsored route wasn’t for me, I was hurt and not working. It's weird to say but that injury really sparked me to find a job in skateboarding, I love skateboarding and I want to be in it forever and there was no way it would be through the paid professional skateboarder route. Right place, right time and meeting the right people.

I grew up loving crailtap, Rick and Mike, the brand DNA everything so I knew it all well already. I felt like all of it came together the right way. 

On Team Management , do you think it's become easier or actually harder to find someone who fits for a team like Lakai? Would it be preferable now to be sent a tape?

Definitely being a skater and hooking myself down stuff and getting hurt. I related to skaters really well, it helps with the team dudes and kids who are sending footage, you can see and feel the effort. It's crazy and amazing how big skateboarding is, everywhere there are kids skating and every kid is good. Instagram is pushing their progression further and further. For me I'm pretty old school. I want to see a full part and footage, I'm not hating on getting tagged on random clips. I probably did that on MySpace ha. Everyday I get DMed and tagged. I love to see them doing their thing but I still need to see the full part, the old fashioned formula is good. Send over the part, we might get in contact and send some shoes, if that works out we’ll meet up and skate, it should come more organically and I tell the kids it's more up to them than it is to me. 

When I get the big question: ‘Is it ever going to happen for me?’ I say be consistent, send footage and come to LA and skate with us. That's what's going to resonate and make stuff happen. There's so much that goes into it. Growing up being that flow kid helps me relate to them and know what to look for. 

Does it take a good skateboarder to TM a team, does there come a point where no one is sending it and you’re going to have to do it for them?

Hahaha it definitely helps being able to do it. I’ve been in that position, I'll skate a spot and help get people motivated. I’ve been in a session where you have a team manager, filmer and photographer and if they don't really skate they can’t relate. There’s got to be a mutual understanding that the skater might get hurt and can’t spend hours jumping down stairs, you can’t be there at the spot saying ‘Just land it!’ ‘Keep trying it!’ ‘ Give me what I need!’. I don’t think you have to be a good skateboarder to qualify for a job like this; it just helps for sure. If you don’t it would be hard to even get close to a job like that. It’s just a total plus. 

How many people do you look after at the moment?

Oh man, a lot. Just people to make sure they have shoes to skate in? Over a hundred to one hundred and fifty. There are kids all over. I’ve been fortunate to travel a whole lot. I might see a lot of kids and see their potential. I'd rather have kids skating Lakai than anything else, I like it to be a personal relationship even if they live in the middle of nowhere and we only talk twice a year. 

When I was coming up, people would make me feel like I was bothering them for a minute of their time. I thought to myself that if i ever ended up in the position of hooking people up or helping them i don't want anyone to feel like that, if you skate Lakai your on the brand and on the team you deserve the time.

Do you remember your first sighting of Lakai?

Carroll’s in the shop when I was kids at skateworks way before I worked for them. A crazy one too, Bill’s Wheels in Santa Cruz had a TV commercial, “Back 2 school sale at Bill’s Wheels!’ I’ll never forget the ad  “Shop from the latest selection of footwear from DVS, eS, Vans and Lakai” I was straight up dude what the fuck is Lakai? 

Now I'm here and Rick and Mike are the coolest guys in the world, I still trip out on them even though we've been working together for 6 or so years. They are in the morning meeting every monday, they are finding out what's going on all the time, Rick is on every trip too. 

Lakai has been on a collabo tirade for a few years now right, what's going on there?

Skateboarding isn’t just skateboarding you know. The fact we can do a project with Black Sabbath, Porous Walker or David Flores we can reach all these new audiences and let them into our world. You are giving the opportunity for someone who may have never skated or heard of Lakai to get involved with the brand. Making Larry June or Ozzy Osbourne shoes is really fun! My favourite thing is the shoe names, I’ve tried to find out the reasons and I've dug but the designer is straight up ‘Cool names right?’. 

In our previous interviews Tom Smith says he doesn’t switch off, he said it was the worst thing about his job but it’s also not. I was wondering if you get the same feeling?

Oh man, it's a blessing and a curse. I can genuinely say I love my job and Lakai. I'm a fan of skateboarding, I’ve grown up skating with Lakai on my feet. I love it so much so it is hard to turn it off. The worst thing I guess is explaining to a kid why they shouldn’t be calling me at 11pm on Saturday and Sunday night asking for shoes. I don't want to sound like a dick but I am a normal human. I have a home life and a girlfriend. It can be frustrating but at the end of the day it's not that big of a deal and it can be hard to switch off. I wish I could do it and be a normal person. It's something I've got to learn over time. When I first started the job, if someone emailed me at 2am I would reply. I've got better at it. I run the social media, it's Christmas morning, I shouldn't be on my phone but I have to. If i don't do it, it won't get done. It is more a blessing and a curse. I have a baby on the way, it will be time to check out for a while and click that outgoing on my email.

Any advice for skateboarders out there who want to pursue your line of work?

The best advice I could give, meet as many people as you can, throw your name out there and don't be scared. I emailed people I didn't know. Be personable, be nice to everybody, whatever you put in you will get out. I love skateboarding more than anything, if you put in the work and be motivated, it will happen.

Spam Steven via Instagram here - https://www.instagram.com/wsteves/
Shop everything Lakia here - https://welcomeleeds.com/collections/lakai
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