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

Colby Kibbe attended the University of Houston, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Supervision: Graphic Communication Technology Emphasis in 2009. He then went on to the Rochester Institute of Technology, receiving his Master of Science in Print Media in 2012.

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

My initial interest in graphic arts came through completing a brochure design project as a part of the DECA Marketing program in high school. As an undergraduate, my desire to learn how to design and print my own t-shirts drove me to focus my studies in graphic communications technology.

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

Yes, I participated in Westbury High School’s DECA Marketing program, where I was introduced to various graphic arts software.

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

From high school to graduate school, my education in graphic communications and printing has prepared me with the skills needed to “DO” work. Acquiring knowledge of the industry and skills in a variety of software suites equipped me with the ability to complete any graphics-related task assigned to me. After several years in the workforce, these software skills have become second-nature, which now allows me to focus on the business questions: “What are we going to do (to make our company successful)?”, “How are we going to do it?”, and “How are we going to measure the impact and ROI?”

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 at Pageflex, located in Houston, Texas. Pageflex is a provider of web-to-print e-commerce solutions with the goal of providing corporate marketers and print service providers the ability to produce and monetize omni-channel communication efforts, as well enabling a company’s distributed user base to order brand-compliant marketing assets from a centrally-managed web portal.

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 been able to progress every year or so to positions of greater responsibility and skill levels. I began as a Project Coordinator in the Professional Services (Support) Division and then moved up to being an Upload Coordinator and then a Project Manager. In 2016 I moved into marketing and sales and am now a Technical Marketing Program Manager.

Some highlights and other accomplishments during my time here include: Representing the company as an HP Partner at DRUPA 2016 in Dusseldorf, Germany; and acquiring Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in December 2016.

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

Employers are seeking individuals who can bring ideas to the table that add value to the company’s position in the industry, and ultimately add to their bottom line (revenue generation). “Results” is the most important factor companies need and are expecting when adding to their employee base.

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?

Yes. The main driver for business is revenue. Revenue generation is the sole purpose for a business existing, and all of your efforts should be focused on acquiring as much revenue as a possible, as quickly as possible. I believe this understanding of business is not driven home as much during school, as the focus is on acquiring the technical skills required for entry into the industry.

The formula for teaching technical skills has been developed into a perfect curriculum, but development of individual fortitude to focus on the needs of the business (i.e. making money for the company) will be of utmost help to students. If exposed to this driving force in some fashion prior to beginning their career, students could make a greater impact earlier in their career, possibly leading to exponential career growth for the student sooner. Otherwise, understanding first that there is a business need to meet, and then developing the mindset needed to approach this need in creative ways requires effort on the part of the individual to develop on his or her own, potentially years after gaining experience in the workforce.

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?

Yes, twice so far.

First, my focus was solely on running a screen printing company. After graduate school, I established my own screen printing operation and generated enough revenue my first year (working on it part-time) to cover my initial investment in equipment and acquire additional equipment. As my understanding of business grew, I evaluated my actions (in business) and identified that rapid growth requires a business model that is flexible, scalable, and built on a technology framework that can generate and process millions of orders an hour. While my one-man screen printing operation gave me an understanding of business, accounting, requirements gathering, and customer service, companies such as CustomInk, Zazzle, Vistaprint, and Shutterfly, dominate the Mass Customization space, and can complete what I was doing as a screen printer in a fraction of the time, and for more money. While I still screen print on the side, I now focus my core skillset in project management and marketing in the digital storefront and mass customization space.

A second change in focus took place for me for my work in the digital storefront space. Initially, becoming a Project Manager was the main position I wanted to acquire. Once I acquired the position and gained the experience (and understanding of the nuances) of project management, my focus then shifted to marketing & sales. My new desire was to understand how we are positioning ourselves as a company, and our products in the market. By transitioning to Pageflex’s Marketing & Sales department, I am now able to make an impact on product positioning and content strategy, all while utilizing the project management skills I acquired to make our marketing ideas happen.

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

In the next few years, I see myself participating as a Marketing Project Consultant for the top printing & digital media firms in this ever-changing market. As the customer base changes, companies will require new & innovative ideas to capture attention and dollars.

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?

Being a recipient of the PGSF scholarship has had an impact on my success in my career and the printing industry. In addition to funding my education, association with PGSF has provided me with the opportunity to network with leaders in the printing industry. Many leaders contribute to PGSF, and enjoy seeing the fruits of their contribution. As a PGSF alum, mentioning my association with the program serves as a mutual connection when engaging with leaders in the space.

Anything else that you would like to add?

For students preparing to enter the field of print and digital media, I say “prepare yourself well.” Become fluent in as many skills as you can, as soon as you can. In addition to understanding the software suites utilized for coursework and in the industry, it’s necessary to gain business skills, such as accounting, understanding taxes, proposal preparation, and marketing, as well as soft skills, such as verbal and written communication skills, targeting specific audiences with your communications, and understanding personality types. For an industry that is in constant transition, there will always be room for individuals who put forth major effort and bring creative ideas to the table that can capture an audience and drive company growth.