Flyn Tracy on education in the design industry

Tiny Aaron

In this episode of Streamtime Radio, we catch up with Flyn Tracy, Industry Program Manager for Tractor, Organiser for CreativeMornings Sydney and Founder and Host of Australian Design Radio.

Over a couple of glasses of red wine at the Streamtime Sydney offices, Flyn shares his views on education in the Design industry and why he started the CreativeMornings Sydney chapter and Australian Design Radio.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to read Flyn’s insights, here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Design school reinvented

Kye: So let’s start with your day job. For those that don’t know, do you want to explain what Tractor is?

Flyn: Yeah, sure. It’s a weird name. For those that don’t know, Tractor Design School is an industry design school. So the way that we approach design education is like graphic design, web design, product design, that sort of stuff, is from an industry standpoint. So our founders are all prolific graphic designers. Our CEO is David Trewern, who started DT, one of the first web agencies and one of the biggest in the country. And we’re all about keeping in touch with the industry.

So, my part within the kind of machine that is now Tractor is to be a liaison between the industry and what we’re teaching a lot of the time. So I run evening development programs that are short courses where people who are already graphic designers or digital designers who want to learn more skills. So they’ll come to us to skill up. And that sort of learning cascades through into what we’re teaching during the day. And that’s how we try to stay as relevant as we can.

Kye: And how do you get the mentors and the facilitators on board?

Flyn: A lot of coffee. So I’ve had four coffees today with four different people, so I have to cut down my regular latte and move on to chai by the afternoon. But yeah, it’s just meeting people and getting references from people. Sydney is a small city, the design industry is small, the graphic and digital design industry is even smaller, so everyone knows everybody in a way. We just try to get in touch with people who might be interested.

Kye: And is it hard to convince them? Because they’ve got day jobs and then you’re saying, “We need you to commit to running this course”.

Flyn: You know what? It’s not hard to get a yes from anybody. It’s hard to get people there. So there’s a big difference between, “Yes, I want to give back,” and “Cool here’s nine hours of my time and professional IP as well”. There’s a big gap between those two things. Yeah, it can be hard to get that kind of bottom line thing happening.

“There’s a big difference between, yes I want to give back and cool here’s nine hours of my time and professional IP.”

Kye: What about the day courses? Do you get people that for 10 years have been an accountant or something but now they just want to try something new, or are they always coming from the industry in some way?

Flyn: Yeah, so with the full time, it’s like any school. It’s like Billy Blue, CATC, private school education, Shillington, to a degree as well, where typically the target market is high school leavers, people who’ve taken a gap year or something like that. And that’s the audience really. And then the secondary audience is everybody, basically, like teaching, “I want to be a graphic designer for whatever reason.” Typically people that are attracted to do that sort of course would want to do it part time because they’ve got to pay bills. But every now and again you do get people that say, “I’m going to quit what I did or they’ve been made redundant and spend a year or two on this and change my life.” Those people are very inspirational. I wouldn’t do it.

Kye: I’m the same. I like shoes too much.

Flyn: That’s a funny thing about education. You get to be a part of this whole pivotal change in a lot of people’s lives and you can get blase about it after a while.

“That’s a funny thing about education. You get to be a part of this whole pivotal change in a lot of people’s lives.”

How did you get here?

Kye: So how did you end up working at Tractor?

Flyn: The short version of that is that I was working for another design school and doing that for about three years. I was involved in that business from when there were five people in our small part of the company to it being bought out and being bought out again and being part of I really enjoyed my job, but I wasn’t doing any design anymore. I had gotten to a point where I was just essentially doing the same thing every day. And this idea of Tractor happened past my way and I decided to quit my job and work for what was essentially a startup and did that for about a year and a half, two years by myself, as the only employee. Just doing everything, cleaning the toilets, having coffees, and going to extravagant events and then cleaning up after students and all sorts of stuff. So, a one man show for a while.

Kye: Long hours.

Flyn: Long hours, yeah. It’s that whole thing, like anyone that’s ever run their own business. You have to do everything. And again, it wasn’t my business, but yeah.

Kye: You obviously were passionate enough about it to feel the responsibility to make sure it worked.

Flyn: Yeah. That’s a good way to put it, responsible. I definitely felt 100% responsible for the success or failure of the students that came through, the people that were interested in it becoming what it is today. I felt like yeah, buck kind of stops with you, it’s a bit of pressure.

Kye: And what made you go into this educational field?

Flyn: I did what a lot of young people do and had a good graphic design job, working as a brand designer (junior), and I was on a contract. And I thought I was the shit, like any young graphic designer who got a job straight out. I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got this, no worries.” And I was on a three-month contract, and my friend suggested we should go backpacking indefinitely. And I thought that sounded pretty cool, I was pretty comfortable with my career choice. I was almost like, “Tick that box. I’m a designer now. I can just come back and do this whenever I want.” Of course, wildly inaccurate. I did the backpacking thing, and came back, and of course there was no job. There was nothing available to me then. I’d been seven months where I hadn’t touched a computer. Came back and thought, “I’ll just take my book around town.”

“I was almost like, Tick that box. I’m a designer now. I can just come back and do this whenever I want.”

So I’m almost a year out of design school, my stuff was wildly dated. I didn’t get the job because of my book anyway, because I was quite lucky to get in there and they must’ve liked my personality or something. And suddenly there was no job for me. So I had to do what everyone else did, just get a job doing something else. So I did all sorts of stuff, worked for recruiting companies, and it’s placed me in different things, and I worked at some stage for a school called Macleay College, which a lot of people hadn’t heard of at the time, that was privately, independently owned. So worked for them and did something called the Career Markets. Basically you go around the State during this particular time between March and August. And you go around to different schools and you talk about the courses and careers and stuff like that. So I was talking about business courses. I didn’t know anything about business, nothing, like, “This will be great. You guys will be fine. You should definitely do that.” I don’t even know what an econ is.

Anyway I did that, and on that trip met a lot of people from design schools. So we all become mates. So they’re all competitors trying to speak to the kids, but when you pack down the stands and put the away the brochures, we all went to the pub. Anyway, so I just hassled all of the design schools, so I can get a job, and eventually got one as half graphic designer, half marketing, which I don’t think anyone intentionally went into marketing in the history of marketing. I think everyone fell into marketing at some stage.

“I don’t think anyone intentionally went into marketing in the history of marketing. I think everyone fell into marketing at some stage.”

But that job was really exciting because I was doing marketing, graphic design, and I’m like, “Yes, it’s cool. Made it.” But that company got bought out, and when it got bought out it had like a seven-person design team and they did not need another designer, so it was 100% marketing. And that’s where the disconnection from design began. And I stayed there because it was a great job and I really enjoyed it, I loved the people and everything like that, but needed to get back to, I did three years of design school, love design, want to get more involved in the industry. So that’s essentially how it happened.

Kye: It’s a good journey to go on. I do like the fact that you admitted to the fact that you thought you knew everything.

Flyn: It’s really important now because I’m 30 and I still feel like I can close my eyes and imagine myself as one of the students that we have at our school now, and they’re just making the same mistakes that I made. And you just want to put your experience in the head and have them go, “Ah, yeah, cool, I get it.”

Design is a job

Kye: Exactly. You see it. On this program a few episodes ago, we talked to Ross Floate. He spends a lot of extra curricular time writing blogs and doing things like on Dear Design Student.

Flyn: Yeah, which is an awesome thing that everyone should check out.

Kye: Yeah, definitely. Mike Monteiro and people like that, telling people, telling design students, that it’s a business and you’ve got to get savvy and things like that. And I guess that’s what I wanted to talk about, as an educator, do you feel a responsibility to prep these young, green students for their future? Or is it more about the creative processes, like you can teach the fundamentals and then they’ve got to find that out for themselves when they get to the real world?

Flyn: I’ll focus on the talent thing because I’m really passionate about that particular point. So, talent will only get you so far. Sagmeister is fairly famous for saying something like, “No one wants to work with a talented asshole.” And that’s pretty accurate. There’s a Neil Gaiman speech, “You can be one of three things.” I’m paraphrasing, I might get this wrong, but it’s like, “You need to be on time and be the nicest person to work with or be incredibly talented. You only need to do two of those things.” And he talks about you can be late, as long as everyone loves you and you’re the best at your job. You can be horrible at your job but everybody loves you and you’re always on time. It’s wonderful.

Kye: It’s true, though.

Flyn: It is true.

Kye: When you start your own business, where it’s your responsibility, I guess you’ll find out very quickly the things you need to do from a business perspective. But when you start out and you’re working with someone else and you need to do boring stuff like timesheets and things like that, I think it’s understanding that that’s a part of your job as well, and I think a lot of people don’t really get that.

Flyn: So what we’re doing right now, what all schools are doing, from the enrolment process to the types of portfolios we’re putting together, everyone is doing the same thing, is we’re training people to be Creative Directors. There’s a big gap between when you graduate and actually being what people in the industry would call a Creative Director, like someone like Ross’s kind of experience, a big gap. I think everyone can agree there’s a gap. But if we were talking about business 100% of the time, to be perfectly honest, those students should drop out and go to another school and go, “I don’t want to do that. I want to do fun stuff and do exciting stuff.”

But yeah, the reality comes through and I think in that first couple of months. You have essentially these two polarising types of graduates and you have, “I’m the best in the world,” which admittedly, I was a bit egotistical and thought I was pretty good, or you have the other side of things, which is, “I just want to learn and this is my spot.” I was saying that I thought I was pretty good, but at the same time I was one of the first to arrive to work and the last to leave.

Flyn: But actually, I won’t say which school this was from, but while I was working there at the same time in this studio that I did some work experience in, I was doing it off my own back and this student was doing it as part of a program. And she got booted and she was really talented and I was incredibly intimidated by this person. She went to a really cool school at the time, still a cool school, but went to a really cool school and she was amazing, definitely better than me. She got kicked out because she just kept being lazy. And there’s something as well I think in design about being a junior and knowing your place in a way.

“Because what we’re doing is not magic. There is no magic. We make it seem like it’s magic a lot of the time, but it’s not.”

It’s a bit of rite of passage, a bit of cutting your teeth. I’ve heard someone call it as well. And it’s like, “When I was your age I was just so excited to be working on anything and you seem to be a bit blase about the whole experience and I’d rather take on someone that is passionate than talented because I can teach you the skills.” Because what we’re doing is not magic. There is no magic. We make it seem like it’s magic a lot of the time, but it’s not. It’s just a process and you can figure it out. And if you do it a thousand times you’re going to be awesome at it.

Kye: For the courses, do they have to apply and submit a portfolio?

Flyn: We have different courses. There’s an online course. So, for people that want to become a graphic designer we do ask to see a portfolio. They have to come in for an interview and we assess if they’re appropriate for our course. Most of the time, they are. It’s usually based on seeing their passion for it. If their design book is terrible and they’re really passionate, they’re pretty much in straight away, because that’s fine, you’re here to learn this and we start from scratch. When it comes to the industry programs, however, that’s a bit different. In Sydney, I’m the gatekeeper for that one and then there’s a couple people in Melbourne that do the interviews. And I do knock people back. We’re in a really lucky position where for four and a half years, we’ve never raised the amount of students in a group from 12.

“It’s usually based on seeing their passion for it. If their design book is terrible and they’re really passionate, they’re pretty much in straight away, because that’s fine, you’re here to learn this and we start from scratch.”

And because of that, our model isn’t, “Let’s get 100 students doing this one digital design course.” It’s just, “Let’s just get 12.” And because of that luxury, we’re allowed to tell people, “You’re probably not ready for this course at the moment. We recommend you do this.” And when I say we, I mean me, so it is subjective.

But I feel like there’s lots of things we don’t want. We don’t want someone to enroll into the course and feel completely out of their depth. And then say, “I just paid all this money and this isn’t for me,” and then drop out and then there’s a spot that would’ve been available for someone else. And on the other hand, I’ve had some people come through and have said, “You probably know half of this stuff. You’ll get this and this out of it, but this and this and this, I can already say you know that well enough. You can come here to update your skills, we’d love to have you but think about it.” And then they’ve appreciated that and they’ve gone somewhere else and they’ve become friends. It’s a very small community here, so you treat everybody like your last customer.

Kye: Do you feel like when you first started having to do that, critique people’s submissions, were you confident in your ability to critique?

Flyn: No, no, no. It was really full on actually at first but after a while you do pick up on the things. After we’d done the courses a couple of times, I realised the work the industry people were doing and the students that would struggle and everything, and you can see that all of the time. There were definitely some people who came through whose portfolios I looked at in the early days and I was thinking, “Who am I to be critiquing these portfolios?” I’ve worked here and I’ve worked here and I’d like to work with these people. And I have to keep it in, it’s almost like going on a first date, unless someone really pretty is really into you, and you’re thinking “Why are you into me? This feels so weird, I have to try to mask my face and make sure you don’t realise that I’m a big fraud with platform shoes and an embossed jacket.”

Kye: So do you think schools like Tractor would ever think about adding to the curriculum a short course on the real world and how to survive out there? And if it was, do you think people would actually enrol to do it?

Flyn: That’s a question I can’t answer. In my personal opinion, thinking back into my experience, I think yeah, absolutely. I wish I had some business experience. I’ve started my own business and ran many projects as businesses. like ADR and CreativeMornings. I’ve had to figure it out from scratch. Lucky enough I had a wide enough network, I could ask people that have done similar things, give me some advice, and people are incredibly, incredibly generous in our industry. But Matt Leach, who does the Australian Design Radio podcast with me, has been in education for far longer than me and he just made a really simple point the other day. He said “To put something in, you have to take something out.”

Because we only have so many hours with these students. And you look at portfolios and you look at everything after two years, it’s too late to change something. And so you could be producing people that have great business skills but with poor typography too. So they’ve only done basic typography but they don’t understand type on the web and they’re not getting a job in the first place. And as they’re graduating, are most people looking to start their own business or does that come later? It is an ongoing battle between things. We had someone again on the show, and we’re talking about exactly this, and they said, “No, they shouldn’t learn at design school. They should learn how to be designers. And as they’re going up, as they go through the years, they should be working for a company and if they’re working for a small company try to get guidance from that person. Don’t shy away from, ‘Ooh, I’m going to do this for three years and then start my own business.” Everyone does that, it’s really fine. It’s three to five years max pretty much for most people in this industry.

Kye: And that’s time to leave.

Flyn: Then everyone leaves. This is what happens. So be honest about that, and they’ll probably help you, and they can help about the business side and all that sort of stuff. And then I’m making the point which has been made many times. I guess it’s pretty common, I think, for photographers. It’s like, “If you want to become a professional photographer, it’s pretty much only freelance photography now. You’re going to spend 10% of your time shooting photographs,” and that’s probably being really generous. The rest of the time is dealing with clients, editing photos, organising the next shoot, invoicing, dealing with tax, dealing with the BIS, marketing yourself, fixing your website, all this stuff that they’re not trained to do. And it’s a similar sort of thing. How do you prepare someone for that? So, yeah, I wonder if it would’ve stuck for me when I was in design school. I probably would have…

Kye: Gone to sleep?

Flyn: Skipped that class, maybe? I skipped life drawing, why wouldn’t I skip business studies?

Kye: Exactly. Well, yeah, exactly. I like the notion of it.

Flyn: Love the idea of it.

Kye: I think you’re right. I think it’s more about the employers, when they get these graduates to say, “We’re going to give you plenty of time to be creative, but you also need to know that this is also part of your job and this is why you need to do that and that kind of thing.” I guess they can read Mike Monteiro’s book, “Design is a Job” get that, read it, learn it.

Flyn: It is one of my favourite books. It’s actually how I got to know of Ross because he was friends with Mike. It was like, “How does someone in Australia be friends with Mike?” I love Mike because Mike did a CreativeMorning’s talk. That got me to do Creative Mornings in the first place.


Kye: Well, that’s a nice segue into CreativeMornings, a breakfast lecture series for the creative community started in New York by Tina Roth Eisenburg, AKA Swiss Miss, and it’s now in 123 cities worldwide, and you are the organiser of the Sydney chapter. Why did you get involved?

Flyn: Thinking back, I was young and stupid really. We’d been doing Tractor for about a year. And the nice story would be that I saw a gap in the industry and saw this thing that could’ve done it. The truth is that I was watching CreativeMornings videos, which I really enjoy, and I noticed that there was an Auckland CreativeMornings, and I thought, “Well, if Auckland is going to have a Creative Mornings, there should be one in Australia,” which I’ve been shying away from saying. It’s not an insult to Auckland at all, but I’ve been shying away from saying it until I heard so many other chapter organisers saying the same thing.

“Well, if Auckland is going to have a Creative Mornings, there should be one in Australia.”

It’s like, “There’s a Berlin one, so why isn’t there one in Prague?” Literally the same thought has gone through people’s heads, and they’ve gone, “Well, if they can do it, I can do it.” I think that’s the power of the community of CreativeMornings. Everyone’s like, “If they’re doing it, we can do it. How did you guys do it?” and help each other out.

I thought I was being very intelligent and moving really quickly on this. I thought, “I’m going to do this.” I told everybody I’m was going to do this thing without doing anything about it. I just went, “What do you think? Would this be a good idea?” And they’re like, “Yeah. Why are you doing that? How are you going to make money out of that?” “Well, I’m not going to make any money out of it but it sounds cool, right?”

Kye: Yeah, it should be noted that CreativeMornings is free.

Flyn: It’s all volunteer-run and sponsorship-driven and no one gets paid or anything like that. And most people thought it was a good idea, some people thought it was stupid. You’re already busy, why would you do that? And I didn’t do anything physically about it for quite long time, but I felt busy. I kept myself busy but I wasn’t actually being productive. And then I saw a post on Australian Infront that said, “Hey, I want to bring CreativeMornings to Sydney. I’m looking for a videographer,” because part of doing the application process was a video. And my heart fell out of my chest. But it was this girl called Marie Agudera. And so I contacted her and said, “Hey, I’ve been trying to do this. Any chance you want to team up?” on a whim. She went, “Sure. Let’s catch up and see if we’re on the same page.” Two or three minutes, we were like this is going to be awesome. And so she said, “I think what we need to do though is do this quick, not well.” I was like, “That’s cool. That’s cool. So what are you doing like next month?” And she’s like, “What are you doing tomorrow?” And I thought, “Wow, this girl’s amazing.” She’s a strategist, she was working at JWT at the time. I’d never worked with a strategist before, and she just grabbed the reins and she went, “I have a camera and a microphone, we’ll shoot everything on Saturday, edit it on Sunday, and we’ll send it on Monday.” I was like, “This is insane.”

But I had no way of saying no to this. So she drove that whole thing, but I loved it. So we just did it and it was just done. We didn’t hear back for about six weeks and then they Skyped us, which was like a second stage of the interview. And actually after the Skype, Marie and I were like, “Yeah, we got this, right? We’ve got this.” And we did, we got it. And ever since then, it’s been one CreativeMornings every month for the last three years.

Kye: But it is a lot of work. I’ve seen you pull together a CreativeMornings every month. It’s a lot of work for something that the people that attend are very grateful. I am one of those people. I love CreativeMornings, but what do you get out of it? It’s a lot of your time and it’s not like you’re not doing a couple of other things. So do you ask yourself that sometimes? “Why am I doing this?” Or when you do ask yourself, what’s your answer? “I’m doing this because…”

Flyn: Yeah, I think the answer changes, the question remains the same why we’re doing this for sure. Tractor, I’ve built it in a lot of ways with other people as well, but built it from this little thing that has worked, and I’m proud of it. The same thing with CreativeMornings, but Tractor pays for my mortgage and CreativeMornings doesn’t. So it’s definitely a question that I ask myself when things are tougher. When everything is going great, I never have that thought. When the sun’s out and we have a fantastic speaker, coffee’s roasting and I see people that I love to see and everyone’s smiling and happy to be there and leaves and tweets about it, I never have those thoughts.

You have that thought when you have third time around trying to get a different speaker for a topic and writing an email and forward and backward and chasing people. That’s when you’re thinking, “What’s going on here?” The answer at the moment is that I still get a lot of energy from it. So I put a lot of energy into it, but I actually get quite a bit out. Probably not the equal amount, but I definitely still get a lot of energy out of doing it. Whenever I think about not doing it, it makes me a little sick. So I’m not ready to give it up just yet. I think I will pass the baton at some stage, but it’s not really in the cards yet.

Kye: I just think it’s such a good thing that Tina started it and that 122 other cities have embraced it and are running with it. And I guess every time I go on the CreativeMornings website, there seems to be a couple more cities every time.

Flyn: Well, for us as well. I think we lost track quite a while ago. I think when we hit 100, everyone internally was like, “That’s really exciting and stuff.” Wow, 100 that’s actually crazy. Because we were the 22nd chapter. So we’re fairly early on.

Australian Design Radio

Kye: So you’ve got a full time job at Tractor, then every month you’ve got to organize this world famous Creative Mornings for Sydney, and then you decide, “That’s just not enough of my time being used up. I’m going to start a podcast called Australian Design Radio.”

Flyn: Yeah, it wasn’t necessarily the right thing to do, but it was the right thing to do for me.

Kye: You obviously wanted to do it.

Flyn: I wanted to do it, yeah. I’ve been listening to podcasts probably as long as I’ve been watching CreativeMornings videos. So I was so keen on this. The cool thing about it was I got to combine a lot of loves. So I own the brand, there’s not much there, but what is there is this idea that I had three years ago that has suddenly become, and it doesn’t mean anything to anybody, it doesn’t even mean necessarily Australian Design Radio, but it’s this thing I really, really liked that I finally got to pull out of my digital third draw down and apply it to something and go, “Yeah, that came in handy over here.”

And also at the time, there weren’t that many podcasts, Australian podcasts around. Since then I have found out there were a couple floating around, but I just wasn’t aware of them, and I listen to a lot of them now. Like Ross has his own one as well, which I listen to religiously, and everyone should listen to that one because it’s awesome. But there wasn’t really this one particular podcast that I thought there was a huge gap for. And I had this thing, the main reason that I really wanted to do it is that going back to the start of the conversation, we’re talking about, growing Tractor but you noticed I said it’s not my business. We’ve got CreativeMornings, it’s not my business. But ADR, even though it doesn’t make any money, is mine, and so I get to do what I want. And I do it with Matt Leach and Matt deserves a lot of credit as well. He’s been in every single episode, he’s there, he’s doing all the episodes with me as well.

Kye: How did Matt get involved? Did you just say, “Hey, do you want to do a podcast?”

Flyn: Pretty much. So he just started working with us at Tractor. But actually Matt and I have tried to collaborate a couple of times on different projects because we used to work together years ago. And I asked him, and I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before but I’ll mention it here, and Frankie Ratford.

Kye: From The Design Kids?

Flyn: Yeah. So because I know them quite well and I think they both have a lot of energy and passion for the industry… I mean, how good would it be if Frankie was on the thing? Although at the time we weren’t really planning on having an industry guest at every single episode. We were more planning on doing it as every two weeks or something. We get together and we just talk about the stuff that was going on and challenges we were facing. And I thought we had a pretty good cross-section between Frankie, who just moved to Melbourne and does The Design Kids, and one of the darlings of the design industry, you could say everyone loves Frankie. And then me up in Sydney being busy with Creative Mornings and Tractor and then Matt has been around for a really long time and there’s lot of industry people as well. So I thought, “Well, other than having Chris Doyle on the episode every single time, who else would be better?” I think we could get a good group of people, right?

Kye: Chris Doyle would be very, very impressive.

Flyn: I ask enough of that man. We need to give him a bit of a break.

Flyn: Anyway Frankie was on the first episode, that was our compromise. It was like, “Okay, cool, you’ll be the first guest.” Because she said she’d love to do it but doesn’t know if she can commit to it, and she couldn’t because she ended up doing all this crazy stuff. I think she’s in the States now.

Kye: Yeah she’s in the States. But just after the first episode with you guys, wasn’t she hitching around New Zealand?

Flyn: Yeah, she’s full on. What I love about Frankie is she’s one of the few people within our industry who has made her profession and her business match her lifestyle and not the other way around it. It’s Sagmeister taking his sabbaticals all the time. It’s really impressive and I would never do it. But I’m really proud that she can do it and very few people do that. It reminds me of stuff like Sonny and Biddy from “We Buy Your Kids” recently moved to rural country or something like that.

Kye: Kevin Finn?

Flyn: Kevin Finn, another great example as well. But they’re very few people. Kevin Finn just so happens to be really good mates with Frankie.

Kye: And so you do get guests every episode? Are they calling you now or do you still have to chase them?

Flyn: I suppose I can admit that yeah, there are quite a few people that have reached out, but they usually are people who we already have a relationship with. I don’t think I’ve been cold called and someone said, “You need to have me on because I’m so important.” It hasn’t been like that. It’s been more like, “Hey, not only do I think this is cool but I’m listening to the show. I’d love to come on if there’s any interest.” And we’re like, “Yeah, you’re on our list.” So it’s usually someone that Matt or I have crossed paths with in some way.

Kye: When someone goes on a radio program or a TV show or whatever, they’re usually plugging something. But listening to ADR no one seems to be plugging anything really. Someone might have started a new business, but it’s incidental to the conversation. Why do you think they want to talk?

Flyn: It’s a great question.

Kye: Do you think it’s the mentor thing? They want to pass on their experience or do they like talking about themselves or is it they’re just like shooting the shit about something they love?

Flyn: I think there’s lots of things happening, but it’s also different for each person. We’ve had people come on the show and said, “Actually this will be a really good time because we’ve got this thing come up and talking about that. That would be great.” But to your point, that hasn’t been the reason why we’ve asked them in the first place. It’s more like, “While you’re on, make sure we talk about that.” Because then people can come to the thing.


Kye: So who inspires you, Flyn Tracy?

Flyn: That’s a tough one. I think at the moment, it’s a lot of people that have started their own businesses. It’s something that I’m really interested in that side of things. Like Chris Doyle, starting his own business and doing his own thing. People doing projects like this, like you guys, it’s always really inspiring. People that are getting out of their comfort zone, I think, really inspire me.

“It’s the people that you meet, I think, that are doing cool stuff that you otherwise wouldn’t know about that give me a bit of energy.”

Also, Simon Pemberton, who I work with, is really inspiring. I don’t get to see him all the time although his desk is next to mine. He’s travelling all the time and there’s a disconnect when he’s away. And when he’s back I get all this energy. And he’s highly entrepreneurial and highly intelligent and I love problem solving with him.

But yeah, it’s people here, it’s not Mike Monteiro because I don’t know him. I respect him, but I don’t get anything from that because I don’t see him everyday. I’m sure he’s very inspirational. But it’s the people that you meet, I think, that are doing cool stuff that you otherwise wouldn’t know about that give me a bit of energy.


Kye: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Flyn: I think I’ll go back to something that we spoke about because I think there’s something I want to talk a little bit about when you were talking about where they do learn this stuff? Should they learn from school? Because I learned how to be good in a business from my mom. Because I remember her giving me little tidbits of advice. I don’t know when this happened because I feel like I was too old for her to be giving me advice on this stuff. But she said something along the lines of, “Make yourself indisposable.”

That was dead set, her advice, and it was really good advice. What can you do that everybody else can’t do and do that thing. And as well, I think something that happened when I was at CATC, someone gave me the advice of, “Try to create your own job within your business,” which I think is something that a lot of people that might be in a bigger organisation forget or don’t know. No one has ever told them that. But my job didn’t exist. You can create that stuff.

“Try to create your own job within your business.”

What’s next?

Kye: And what’s next for you, do you think?

Flyn: Yeah, good question. We’re getting towards the end of the year, so I’ve got this yearly thing, like at the end of the year, revise what I do. I don’t know why it’s an annual thing, but I think it’s education creeping through, students go on holiday, Christmas happens, and I think, “Oh, cool. Let’s reflect.” But it will be at the start of the year is when we started ADR, so definitely be reflecting back on that. Has it been successful? Have we achieved the things that we want to do and all that stuff? And then whether or not I’ll do something else, replacing something I’m currently doing with something else ,or adding something. I probably don’t think I can add anything at the moment, but who knows? There’s been a couple of ideas.

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Flyn Tracy on education in the design industry