Ideas Are Nothing Without Execution: My First 30 Days as a Digital Surgeon

It’s a favorite idiom of Co-Founder/Executive Creative Director Pete Sena. He even chose it to be his 5 word Webby acceptance speech when Digital Surgeons was awarded for their Gaga’s Workshop campaign for Barney’s. 

“Ideas are nothing without execution”.  

It’s certainly a loaded statement, I’ve had plenty of ideas but I can’t honestly say I’ve executed many of them. Have they been nothing?

My career has taken several unusual twists and turns. Stints in sales after earning an undergraduate degree in business. Back to school for my master’s of journalism to follow a love of the written word and storytelling. I felt well educated, but yearned for a career. Not just a series of jobs, but a career utilizing a set of skills I’d look forward to applying and building each week.

Enter Digital Surgeons.  

It was impossible not to notice the creative energy of the New Haven office from the second I walked in the door to interview for the position of Executive Coordinator. Pete Sena was seeking a sidekick to learn the business and scale his work, a Robin to his Batman (without the tights and odd power struggle). Intrigued by the opportunity, I applied. A week or two later, and after a preliminary interview, I now had the chance to meet Pete.  

When I first walked into Digital Surgeons, even before I could say hi to Jeni at the front desk, I noticed Pete was jotting something in his notebook. I recognized him right away from his LinkedIn profile, but didn’t immediately introduce myself.  

While I will admit part of this apprehension was pre-interview nerves, I’d like to think another part of it was noticing that he seemed really caught up in whatever he was writing down and I didn’t want to interrupt him. When I brought his notebook up during our meeting, he was quick to show me pages of idea maps he appears to constantly make to ensure he executes them. He stressed, “Ideas are nothing without execution.”

During the 45 minutes or so I spent with Pete, I couldn’t help but notice how invested he was in each of my responses. Naturally any hiring manager pays close attention to your answers during an interview, but you usually get a sense they are merely waiting for red flags, more or less ignoring your reply unless they can glean from it that you will underperform and leave the job in 3 months.  

Not Pete. He seemed to truly filter my words and try to get a sense for who I was. His follow up questions were relevant and inquisitive, but most of all understanding and with the intention of learning more about me. This level of respect and attention lead me to believe I would enjoy working for him, particularly in a position where he in a sense is my only “client”.  

But to be honest, I had my reservations. Was I just going to end up being a personal assistant beholden to unrealistic day to day demands?  I had nightmarish visions of a hellish day to day reminiscent of Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada” (yea I saw that, judge away). I’m not above administrative work, but I wanted to be able to directly contribute to Digital Surgeons.      

I voiced my concerns to Pete and he immediately quelled them. In fact, given my experience drafting press releases, he envisioned me scaling content marketing and storytelling at Digital Surgeons through a mix of editorial and multimedia content.

The opportunity to learn digital marketing side by side with someone as experienced as Pete in a role that allowed me to create content, it was too good to be true. I was ecstatic to learn shortly after that I was hired.  

I was now a Digital Surgeon.  

I could write 5,000 words about everything I’ve learned in the 30 days since (seriously, I’ve been filling a notebook with daily lessons). The amount of talent that surrounds me each and every day is astounding.  

If you envision the creative team as the “engine” that powers an agency, Digital Surgeons’ designers and developers are a 640 horsepower Viper V-10 that throws you against the back of your seat. The car is handled with precision by account, operations, and strategy teams of equal talent.

For the purposes of making sure you (yes, you the reader) gets to the bottom of this post, I’m going to narrow it down to one critical lesson I’ve learned in my first 30 days - failing forward is essential.   

Creative problem solving, essential to each day at Digital Surgeons, dies without the courage to fail your way to each and every success. Brainstorm, observe, iterate.  Repeat.

Better brand experiences don’t come from conventional point A to B problem solving.  

Believe it or not, there isn’t a book of agency buzzwords that you can throw at a product until ROI goals are achieved.  

Real return on experience and successful marketing comes from design thinking; the process of observation and brainstorming that leads to a wealth of ideas, each of which need to be tested. The failure of 19 ideas will make the 20th that much better for the lessons learned along the way.

At our headquarters, located in the heart of New Haven, we foster an environment where great thinkers are rewarded for having the courage to push boundaries, to critically asses the “way it’s always been done.”

When Pete Sena and David Salinas founded Digital Surgeons, they weren’t setting out to be just another agency. Pete and David recognized that staying ahead of digital trends isn’t just important, it’s essential to understand that technology is rapidly changing the user experience and that brands need to adapt or die.

The energy of the central office reflects the ethos that inspired its inception. Clean, crisp design surrounds smart, creative minds ready to fail a hundred more times if it means they can inherently change the value a consumer will derive from a brand.  

My ideas, now executed each and every day at Digital Surgeons, are no longer nothing.

Ready to fail forward? Check out our open positions.  We’re always looking for the crazy ones.