There were a few reasons I didn’t want titles at Nucleus. First, my original attitude was that if you think you’re too good for something, you’re probably good for nothing. I didn’t want titles to make people feel constricted. This was inspired by a senior art director I worked with early in my career. The agency was in the middle of a huge pitch for the San Diego Zoo account. The guy wasn’t on the pitch team but, at least to me, it was an all hands on deck type of moment. We needed something mocked up for a presentation slide (every agency person reading this is smiling knowingly at times they were scrambling to update a slide for the big preso). This indeed was a production level job and he was clear that, despite the precious moments ticking away, this request was way below his pay grade. That sort of craptacular egocentric attitude stuck with me.
Another hesitation again came from my time in agencies, where titles seem sort of silly. I remember one very talented Creative Director, Jon Shore, was honored with a new title of Vice President, Creative Director. The joke was that he now had access to the executive restroom at our offices. The punchline was that there was no executive restroom. Even reading AdAge now, the titles seem a bit much. Some big shot somewhere seriously has a four-comma title of Senior Vice President, Account Director, Healthcare Group Head, North Americas.
So why did we finally add titles recently? Part of it honestly was LinkedIn profiles. Without titles, we had people using the word Contributor. My premise was solidarity—everyone contributes and helps create an outstanding product. I finally came around to the reality that Contributor is an incredibly vague phrase better suited for a freelancer who occasionally pens an article for Esquire or Vogue. On a LinkedIn profile, Contributor lacked permanence and didn’t feel all that official. I wanted people to feel more “rooted” not only on LinkedIn, but just overall.
In addition, to set us up for future growth, I wanted to have a semblance of an organizational structure. I realized I didn’t want a bottleneck model where everyone was waiting on me and wanted to—wait for it—empower people to lead and succeed. We have some truly excellent brainpower on the squad and I wanted to help them to feel that they had a perch from which they are poised to soar.
It’s only been a few months so it’s still a bit fluid, but as we enter our 18th year, it finally felt like a grown-up thing to do.