Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, we feature Andy Steenberge. Photography for the “up close and personal” series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Andy, please provide us a short bio.
I’m currently the creative director for Rosetta Stone, responsible for all of our consumer creative. I lead a team of extremely talented designers and strategists and have been fortunate enough to travel the globe creating branded experiences for our markets in the U.S., Central America, Europe and Asia. Prior to joining the in-house creative team at Rosetta Stone four years ago, I spent the majority of my career on the agency side, where I developed a love for helping to shape the direction of big brands. My career began with a brief stint in NYC but, luckily, I found my way to the D.C. area where I met my wife and began a family with two beautiful daughters and the best dog in the world.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I’m a member of the usual ones – AIGA, Ad Club, etc – but, honestly, I’ve never found the hours in the day to be as involved as I’d like. Between work, travel and a young family, I feel lucky if I get to watch a few uninterrupted minutes of TV with my wife.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Hands down, I’m most proud of the work I’ve done for our Rosetta Stories campaign. It’s a series of short documentaries where we follow real, everyday people who have done amazingly cool things after learning with Rosetta Stone. What I love most about this series, is that it’s honest and straightforward in a way that’s not always possible in advertising. The entire experience has been truly humbling and has allowed me to experience things I would have never gotten to otherwise: I’ve visited a makeshift school in the slums of Mumbai, sat on the walls of a canal in a Parisian neighborhood talking to locals, gotten a very thorough tour of Portland riding in the back of an ambulance, and I was even a guest at a wedding in a jungle in Vietnam. While filming these stories, I’ve become very close with the crew and the people we featured. The whole experience is unlike anything I’ve done before in my career.
Who are your personal role models?
Music, specifically the 90’s punk scene, really shaped who I’ve become. D.C.-native Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi had a profound impact on me. His passion and DIY work ethic really resonated with me and, for better and sometimes worse, shaped how I’ve approached my career and daily work. He extolled the virtue of ownership and pride in what you create and rallied against complacency. I’ve always tried to look beyond just getting things done and to never let anything go out the door that I’m not proud of. I particularly love the projects where I get to roll up my sleeves and create something that seems impossible based on the time and budget we have to do it with. The idea that a small group of passionate people willing to completely throw themselves into a project can create something amazing, is a virtue I trace back directly to Ian MacKaye and the DIY punk scene and it’s what I love to do.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
There are two other people whose actions have been the best professional advice for me.
Philip Dunne, vice president of Rosetta Stone’s Consumer Division, is the man I really owe a lot of my professional success to. Philip put his faith in me in a way no boss had before and has always encouraged me to trust my instincts. He’s also taught me the value of knowing when to let the little things go and when to fight for something. I try my best to show this same trust and respect for those I work with and it’s served me well.
The second is my dad, Mike Steenberge. Growing up, he was an executive with a ton of responsibilities and a million stressful things going on, but he made a point of always putting family first. Every day, like clockwork, he was home for dinner and was always present and engaged with us. I haven’t really been able to replicate the whole dinner thing – he didn’t have D.C. traffic to contend with – but, like my dad, I try to work hard every day, but leave work at the front door and be available to my wife and daughters, even if that means working late into the night after they go to bed.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Find the most talented people you can and work with them every chance you get! There are so many unbelievably talented people in the advertising world and it’s easy to feel intimidated or overly competitive with them, but surrounding yourself with friends, coworkers and agencies who blow your mind will challenge you, inspire you and help you make work that is far better than what you could ever make by yourself.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire at Rosetta Stone?
We really cover the full spectrum. There are some swanky suits and there are T-shirts with flip-flops. Really, it seems to be all about dressing for what your role requires.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
I’m pretty sure I’ve had the same style since I was about 15, so I have a pretty established wardrobe that doesn’t require much shopping. I tend to keep it simple with Levi’s jeans and a shirt from H&M or Target. What I love most though are my boots from the 1960’s, courtesy of my father and the U.S. Air Force, and an assortment of awesome belts made in D.C. by Jon Wye or Smash Records.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Yes, there are three things: I am one of six kids in my family; during college, I spent my summers working as a hang-gliding instructor and constantly insist I’m going to start back up; and, finally, I love collecting vintage industrial and medical products that would never be allowed today. So if you’d like to treat that cough with some chloroform, regrow hair using ether, or just want to be cooled off by a metal fan with no protective guard, come on over!
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