Alumni in Print—Where Are They Now?

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is publishing profiles featuring some of their more than 6000 former scholarship recipients. This series gives you an up close and personal insight into the thoughts and motivations of the former students who are a part of our industry today. As our current employees reach retirement and leave, replacing them becomes an increasingly important factor for many companies. Here is one story…

A Profile

Brian Diefenbach graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science, Imaging in 2010.

How did you first get interested in the graphic arts, or decide to focus on graphic communications in school?

I was recruited during my senior year in high school by the chair of WMU’s Imaging department. I was presenting on my senior project, where I worked in the design department at a local hospital.

Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career?

I attended the Van Buren Technology Center’s Commercial Art program in Lawrence, MI. For a year, I traveled between my high school and the tech center to learn design software and principles.

How do you think going through your education process prepared you for the workforce?

Collaboration with peers and focusing on results translated well into my career. Knowledge and training can always be taught, but attitude and people skills have to be developed on your own.

In the Workforce Today

What company are you working for now and what types of products and services do they provide to their customers?

I work for Phototype at the Columbus, OH branch office. We provide prepress, asset management, and 3D design for commercial print and packaging. I’m an account manager and mostly focus on publications and in-­‐store displays, with occasional flexo packaging work.

What job did you first have with the company when you started, what position do you have now, and/or what else have you done since joining the company?

I have had the same job title, but my accounts and responsibilities have changed over the past six years.

What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and the current industry environment?

Employers expect their workforce to be flexible and “wear many different hats.” Mergers, downsizing, and gaining/losing accounts are a constant force of change in printing, and the most valuable employees are those who have the skills and temperament to roll with the punches.

Is there anything that you have found to be particularly different from what you initially expected, now that you’ve progressed through your work career for a period of time?

I expected—perhaps naively—that high rank and success meant diligence and competence. While being a reliable, capable worker is important, the perception of who you are to your company and customers is equally important. “What you know” and “who you know” do not cancel out; there has to be a middle ground.

Have you changed your plans or ideas about what area or type of job you might like to have since you first considered the graphic communications field and began studying for a career in it?

I’ve been exposed to many different roles within graphic arts since starting my career. While I enjoy my current work, there are at least other avenues to pursue.

What do you see yourself doing a few years from now?

I hope to work in production or design management. Having worked closely with excellent people in both areas, I’ve seen what qualities are helpful and some of the challenges they face. I look for where I can be of most help, not what is easy (I don’t think there are any easy jobs in printing!).

Was being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship important, or did it have an impact on your future or ability to succeed in the industry?

Absolutely. Scholarships—especially PGSF—allowed me to focus on academics while lessening long-term financial burdens after college.