Buck Smith, Senior Vice President and Creative Director at Fleishman-Hillard Creative, is the kind of mentor that most students and young professionals would dream to have. His work has received over 80 awards from such highly reputable affiliations and publications such as AIGA, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print, and the Addy’s among others. Additionally, he has a positive personality and leadership style that mentees respond well to. Smith has been a constant supporter of students as a portfolio reviewer at the annual AIGA St. Louis Student Design Conference for years and has been an active participant in our new Mentorship program during both of the two inaugural years.
This Interview was conducted by Jessa Wilcoxen. AIGA St. Louis Mentorship Chair and initial founder of the AIGA STL Mentorship program.
Jessa Wilcoxen: Would you describe a positive memory that you had with one of your past mentees at an AIGA event?
Buck Smith: The mentees had worked hard and, at times, gone down a path that’s outside of their comfort zone to create something focused solely on making a positive impression on a potential employer. The outcome or reward was never guaranteed, and this project was in addition to work they had to do for school or their job. They listened, asked good questions, and put everything they had into it. When the night finally came to present their work in front of all of these people, they overcame their nerves and did a great job. It was really good to hear things we talked about during the process being mentioned as they presented. After it was over, they seemed to have a sense of pride, although each of my mentees were first to say that there was still some work to be done on their projects to make them what they wanted and needed them to be. It was satisfying to be a part of that. And there was pizza.
Jessa Wilcoxen: So, others who may consider being a mentor may look at your impressive list of accomplishments and think that they aren’t qualified. Do you have a response to that?
Buck Smith: It’s always a good experience for a mentor to work with someone new. On the job, they will be working with new people all the time. There will be new processes, preferences, parameters, etc. Not only is a mentor going to add to the mentee’s ability to create good work they will give them experience in many other areas.
Jessa Wilcoxen: What’s the most satisfying part of being a mentor?
Buck Smith: To be a part of the process that encourages young designers to always keep learning in this business. The more talented people we have doing even more creative work in our field makes all of our jobs better. When clients consistently see good work, whether it’s done for them or others, they learn to expect it.
Jessa Wilcoxen: What would you like to tell future mentors or mentees about preparing to be in the AIGA St. Louis Mentorship program?
Buck Smith: It’s a very good experience. The mentees have a passion for the business and have many new ideas. As a mentor, I learned way more from my mentees than I was able to give to them. The mentees learn to work with a different “client,” the project gives them more experience in time management, creates something targeting on helping them find a job, and a chance to present their work in a public setting to people who may be seeing this for the first time (and some of these people could be potential employers or have a connection to a potential employer).
“By participating in the Mentorship Match program, I was able to walk away with a piece that is reputable, separate from school projects, yes, but more importantly, a relationship with a person (Buck Smith) who cares about my future and my success within the industry. He assured me that the end of the Mentorship Match program would not be the end of our relationship and that he is invested in my future.
Buck gave me real world experience by emulating our interactions as real world ones. He taught me about time management and how to refine an idea that is good, into a great idea. Buck said to me, “When you have a strong and solid idea/concept, everything else will come more naturally.” He gave me tips for interviewing and explained ways to make myself more marketable. The most important thing that he taught me is to have an attitude of services. It’s not about what I get out of an organization, but about what I can bring to them. What ways can I make their experience working with me the best that they’ve experienced?
In summary, I loved participating in the Mentorship Match program because it gave me real world experience, allowed me to develop relationships with top-notch professionals that will last long into the future, and gave me an inside into the STL creative industries that I would have had a hard time creating on my own.”
” – Noah Henry, student of Greenville College, 2015 Mentee of Buck Smith
Photos of the final project created under the mentorship of Buck Smith are shown below: