Sep. 19 2019
Teresa Wozniak is the Art & Graphics Manager at WeWork, the multi-billion dollar co-working space company with the motto, “make a life, not just a living.” Teresa helps make the brand vibrant and inspiring, with graphics so good, we want to hang them on our walls. Her flawless Instagram grid isn’t so bad either. Before her current role crafting larger-than-life art moments for WeWork locations across the world, Teresa worked as an art director in music and digital advertising, leading campaigns for Calvin Klein, GM, Bacardi, Mercedes, Samsung, and Burberry. Wondering how Brooklyn-based Teresa turned her art and design talents into a coveted job at a multi-billion dollar business? She breaks down her journey below.
What does your role entail?
As the manager for the East Coast team, I lead an incredible group of artists, designers, and illustrators to create and curate unique and inspiring custom art moments for WeWork locations across the eastern U.S., Canada, and Israel. Their work ranges from hand-painted murals and works on canvas to sculptures, textiles, and (everyone’s favorite) neon signs. They custom design and produce each piece, and we often travel to new building openings to personally paint murals and install art. We also work closely with amazing local artists as well as vendors such as Let There Be Neon, Colossal, and 1xRun.
What was your first job out of college? How did you get it?
I was really proactive during school about building a network of connections through social media and putting my work out there in as many ways as possible, and it paid off. I actually got my first job through Twitter by scouring tweets mentioning design jobs. I replied to a tweet about a graphic design position in New York, and wound up interviewing for a higher level position over Skype. I got the job a week before graduating, and a week after graduation I had sorted out a visa and moved to New York. Initially, I did not have an apartment or any close connections or friends, so it was a bit lonely at first, but it didn’t take me long to settle in. The friends I made at my first job and at WeWork now feel more like family than anything else.
What was your college major? Did you feel like your major was necessary for the field you wanted to work in?
My college major was in Interdisciplinary Design, which essentially means you learn everything from editorial layout to illustration to design build to 3D visualization. My dream job at the time was to be an editorial designer for GQ or Esquire, so I mostly took traditional graphic design classes in the hopes of working in the advertising and print industry. As a 20-year-old, I just wasn’t aware of how many different design opportunities existed outside of traditional graphic design.
The more traditional design classes helped me at my first job, which was in digital marketing and advertising. However, it was the more out-of-the-box classes I took that really prepared me for my job at WeWork. To fill electives, I took a 3D visualization class, where we did everything from making spheres to physically plotting the topography of an island and rendering it. I also took shop classes like woodworking and metalsmithing, and learned to make wood joinery, inset glass in wood, sandblast, weld, wire lighting, build furniture, and more. We had an industrial design class where we learned how to create furniture and problem solve built objects. These classes were all very hands on and fun, but at the time I didn’t think they were going to come in handy in the career I thought I wanted. I’ve always loved that type of work, but struggled to marry it with my more traditional graphic background, so I was thrilled when I came across my current job at WeWork.
What internships did you do prior to your first job?
I actually didn’t have an internship, but I juggled multiple design jobs while in school. I worked at a film studio and a brewery doing press and packaging design, freelanced, worked in the dean’s office and at a coffee shop, all while balancing my full-course load. As someone that now hires interns, I’d say that often the right internship isn’t that far off from the real thing in terms of work experience. As with any job, you need to make sure you’re taking the one that’s productive for you and your growth in a nurturing environment. To me, that experience is most important, regardless of how you achieve it.
How did you land your current job? What were the steps you took?
WeWork had reached out to me while I was at my previous job years ago, but I was not ready to make the change — being a foreign national on a visa can complicate things, so I was nervous to make the move initially. A few years later I added Jeremiah Britton (WeWork’s current global art director) on LinkedIn, and he reached out to see if I was still interested in the role. The timing was right and three weeks later, I was painting a mural in Miami for WeWork.
What was the best/worst piece of advice you ever received?
I have a few. When someone compliments your work, confidently say thank you instead of negging your own skill or success in an attempt to seem humble or relatable. Don’t overthink things, sometimes your first idea is your best. Stop resisting criticism and suggestions outside of your comfort zone. Embrace that, let people push and pull you in different directions, try things that make you a bit uncomfortable; the only way to grow is to be creatively uncomfortable most of the time.
Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?
My job involves a lot of physical work in often unglamorous conditions. There are times that I’m drawing concepts on my iPad while wearing heels at work, but there are also many times that I’m on site in dusty coveralls with a power drill in hand. We lug around gallons of paint and heavy canvases, we assemble installations, we climb up and down ladders and build scaffolding, we paint multi-story outdoor murals, rain or shine — and we do all of this on a quick timeline for multiple projects in multiple cities each month. Of course, it can be exhausting, but it’s extremely rewarding and fun. The bonds we’ve formed as a team are irreplaceable and lifelong. This is also a job where you have to be able to adapt to change quickly and make game-time decisions. Our art direction is constantly evolving. In our world, change is a constant, and the speed at which we are able to adapt is a catalyst for immense personal growth.
Everyone on my team, including myself, is creatively miles ahead of where they were when they began their job here; it really makes you into a creative chameleon.