Want to Work on the Technological Frontier? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About The Mill
Interview by Mike O’Donnell / Editor of the WNW Magazine
The Mill is forever driving the creative conversation forward with a fusion of powerful visual storytelling and groundbreaking technology. This is in part why it’s one of the most highly sought after destinations for creatives of all kinds, landing on the WNW community’s most recent list of the Top 50 Creative Companies. But there’s much more to The Mill than augmented reality and futuristic machinery. Behind the scenes is an ever-curious and diverse team of creatives across five offices in the US, London, and India with a passion for telling emotionally resonant stories. Below, Olivia Burke, a full-time Recruitment Manager at the Mill’s New York office, shares insights into the projects and culture of The Mill, how her hiring process evolves with the company’s expanded capabilities and breadth of work, and what she looks for in new talent for freelance and full-time roles.
Speaking of, The Mill is currently hiring an Art Director, Designer/Animator, Lead Developer, and Graphics Programmer through Working Not Working. Sign up as a WNW Member here to apply to these open roles.
Describe your path to what you’re doing now.
I started my career at The Mill as a Runner in LA in 2012 after graduating from USC with a BA in Architecture. I worked towards the role of Scheduler, where I helped build out The Mill’s Design team. It was during this time that I realized how much I enjoyed the recruitment process and the art of finding top talent in the industry. I then took a year to explore opportunities in Architecture and Photography before returning to The Mill NY in 2015 as their full-time Recruiter. I have been incredibly lucky to have such wonderful mentors here at The Mill along the way who have helped shape and guide my career. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many talented and passionate individuals who contribute to innovative work.
How has your time at the Mill surprised you or met your expectations?
Throughout my time at The Mill, I’ve seen the company evolve hugely, which has been really inspiring. It’s always exciting to be part of something that feels like it’s constantly treading into new territory and breaking boundaries. During my tenure, we’ve expanded our capabilities and created an entirely new breadth of work, which challenges me to recruit in new ways.
Which project at the Mill are you proudest of and why?
I like being a part of a company that helps break boundaries when it comes to storytelling, and who also lend their creative services to address socially relevant issues. One of my favorite pieces within this vein is the recent campaign for March for Our Lives, ‘The Most Vicious Cycle’, which The Mill wrote, produced, and directed in collaboration with McCann.
One of our most recent groundbreaking technological pieces was the AICP 2018 Titles; A classic design piece driven by code, combining traditional aesthetics we’re familiar with, with emerging technology developed here at The Mill.
How have you seen The Mill evolve over the past several years?
The Mill has historically been known for 30 years of award-winning VFX, but as the industry landscape has developed, so has our business. We have evolved our capabilities and talent pool and our new end-to-end creative solutions studio that ideate, provide creative strategy, direct, code, build, design, and provide visual effects for both digital and physical experiences. When we recruit, we don’t just look for those who have technical ability in traditional craft, but we look for innovators, thinkers, storytellers and technologists who can teach us and help us evolve further.
What do you look for when hiring, specifically in regards to creative styles, tones, and approaches?
When hiring for new talent, we look for versatile and multidisciplinary artists who are able to adapt to the evolving client requests. We post job descriptions for our Creative Technology and Design teams on WNW, looking for the following candidates: Designers, Animators, Editors, Creative Technologists, Developers, Technical Artists, etc. Bold portfolios demonstrating a unique approach to innovative design thinking stand out and our team is impressed by progressive work. The Mill wants to nurture artists who are creative and think outside the box; people who are curious and not afraid to try something new. We do a tremendous amount of research to discover new talent and reach out to passive candidates to gauge their interest.
What is the ratio of full-time to freelance motion talent you bring on?
We bring on freelance artists for projects that require additional support and this allows us to trial new talent and see if they would be applicable for full-time opportunities. Freelancing often enables artists to work with a broad spectrum of people on a range of creative challenges. We often find that those who freelance at The Mill choose to stay long-term, as their appetite for a diversity of work can be satiated here. The opportunities to develop and grow within the company as well as work on a range of projects that touch on some of the most exciting new technologies is a big selling point for us, and has led us to cultivate our own highly regarded talent, as well as sign names such as GMUNK to our roster of permanent talent.
Is there a good balance of bringing on people who send in resumes and people you proactively reach out to? Or are the scales tipped in one direction?
The balance between people who apply versus candidates who are pursued through other channels is contextual to the department and level of experience that we are seeking. For entry-level positions, we find more candidates from online applications and the recruitment process involves more research and outreach for senior roles.
What steps do you take as a company to incorporate diversity and change the landscape? Are there particular initiatives that you’re particularly focused on?
Diversity & Inclusion initiatives are a huge priority for us at The Mill. We partnered with an organization from the Mayor’s office called Made in NY which offers a free program that serves low-income New Yorkers to learn Post Production. Our Head of Marketing, Isabelle Du Plessis, started an organization called SPARKED Connections, an inclusive networking community that provides an open platform for people to meet creative collaborators and includes everyone in the conversation. For Women’s month in March, we worked with Diverse Toons to host a “Women in Multimedia” panel.
As a Recruitment Manager, I am committed to making our opportunities available for candidates from all backgrounds and find inspiration from the following organizations: D&AD New Blood Shift NYC, a night course offered in NY to train new talent and expose them to opportunities within the world of advertising; and POCIT, a platform for job listings, artist profiles, and interviews “telling the stories and thoughts of people of color in technology.”
What’s the company and office culture like?
The Mill is a vibrant community of creatives who are in the business of storytelling and working on the frontier of technological innovation. We put a tremendous amount of work into the projects, but enjoy cultivating and inspiring culture away from desks and Wacom pens. Despite the large number of employees in our office, there’s very much a family feel, with regular social initiatives aimed at bringing people together as well as teaching and inspiring, such as Learning at Work Week, The Mill Speaker Series, Diversity & Inclusion Awareness, and Wellness activities throughout the year.
We also provide a platform to celebrate our employee's creative abilities and personal work through The Mill’s @Mill_NY Instagram channel and blog. The people are truly what makes The Mill what it is.
What’s the communication like between the different offices? Does each office handle its own projects or is there constant collaboration and an exchange of talent between them all?
The Mill has offices around the world, but we think of ourselves as one Mill. Our teams collaborate on projects and workshare on a regular basis. We do offer our internal staff the opportunity to transfer to another location if there is an opportunity suited to their skill sets and career trajectory.
What advice do you have for prospective motion creatives hoping to work with The Mill someday?
My advice would be to continue to develop your portfolio to include a diverse range of work that speaks towards your strengths. Be yourself and let your work embody your creative energy. If you don’t hear back on your application, keep pushing the boundaries of your work and try again. Nothing is impossible and the team is responsive to applicants who go above and beyond to make their work stand out.
What does it take to succeed at The Mill?
Commit yourself fully, accept new challenges and constantly strive to push the boundaries of your work. Never be afraid to speak up, and learn from the amazing pool of talent around you.