When we hire people, we recognize that soft skills are as much a marker of success in our organization as some of the hard skills. We have had folks come through Buck who are incredibly talented, insane portfolios, such great artists but their way of working is more like a solo-artist approach to things. They just aren’t successful at Buck. Not because they are not amazing, gifted, kind, and talented people . it’s just not their way of working.
The students who are coming out of schools these days and the access to information and teaching online, the level of polish is intimidating. I think it’s even intimidating for students. The number one thing we hear from people is “I’m not good enough to be at Buck.” I think that is not true. We are in the business of building, and supporting, and helping to grow talent. The qualities we look for are curiosity, optimism, humility, vulnerability, and ambition. Animation is so difficult and process oriented that you need a certain level of attention to detail, but you also need the flip side of that, which is curiosity.
The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I think animation is a great place for people who like to live in that space. There are so many incredibly talented people at Buck, but they are here to learn and to grow from the person next to them.
We have always talked about, pretty openly, that we favor generalists. Especially when we were a smaller group. It’s probably not surprising since we are named after one of the most accomplished generalists out there. Buckminster Fuller coined the term synergy, and I think he was a strong proponent of generalists.
I would use the term polymaths: people who are specialists in lots of different areas. Now, we have a mix of generalists and specialists, but even our specialists have curiosity to work on different things, and that’s why they are at Buck. I think as the projects we are tackling or the stories that we are telling get more complex, for them to resonate, it does favor the generalists who can connect the dots. I think that is where innovation happens. Specialists can push certainly, but the unexpected happens when folks have a wide range of interests. What we do has become more and more technical, so it is important that we have really talented folks. But even a rigger at Buck is there because they love design.
There is probably a wide range of interest that attracts them to a place like this. Specializing can generate biases that can aggregate as discord, which in turn can lead to conflict. We’ve seen that as we’ve grown. We have had to break into departments at Buck to take care of people, but we like to think of the walls as membranes. If you are a 2D animator at Buck, you are going to be in the 2D animation department. But you might be one of our best designers. But you are not in the design department.
So, how do we create processes that allow that amazing designer in the 2D animation department to have design opportunities? That is an example of specialization that starts to breed discord. Generalists can help breed empathy.