You’ve Got Mail! How John Hermansen Keeps the CreativeLive Community Informed


Curious who’s hanging out behind the scenes at creativeLive? Every week, in addition to profiling our incredible students, we also feature one of our brilliant co-workers in our staff profile series. From producers to editors to product engineers we are going to introduce you to the hardworking team that makes creativeLive’s clock tick.

What would we do without email? Would we spend our days sitting at the fax machine listening to that deafening dial tone or waiting in line at the post office just to send an invoice? It’s a fact – email is a simple technology that makes our lives easier. However, when you start  sending emails to hundreds of thousands of people, things can get a little complicated. You can’t just push send from your Gmail account – you need systems, groups divided by interest and a schedule that can keep up with your content. Just over a year ago, CreativeLive decided it was time to bring its email quality up the that of its course content. Enter John Hermansen, the wizard behind every single CL email since March of 2013.

What do you do at CreativeLive?

I run our email marketing programs. I’ve had a hand in creating and sending pretty much any email you’ve received from CreativeLive in the past year. I make sure that everyone in the CL community receives news that’s relevant to their interests – from photography to audio engineering to business and beyond. Similar to how CL provides a unique learning experience for each user through our chatrooms, our emails try and be as specific and unique as possible to each user. To do that well requires a lot of complicated work behind the scenes involving large amounts of data. Fortunately, we have a talented group of people who work closely with our database to make I have what I need to send the right emails to the right people. Like most things at CreativeLive, it’s a team effort.

What inspired you to go into  email marketing?

I was fortunate enough to get an internship right out of college with a company that made the underlying technology in some of the most popular voice and video chat applications (Skype, Google Talk, etc). I connected people all over the world who might not have been able to communicate otherwise. Through email, I have the opportunity to provide relevant and useful information to people all over the world on a daily basis.

John’s competitive spirit takes over at the annual Portrero Hill big wheel race

Email is also great because it involves interacting with so many different departments within the company and is also one of the most effective ways we have to communicate with our customers.

What did you study in school?

I was a double major in economics and political science. I actually started a PhD program in poli sci, but quickly realized I was more interested in working in the private sector than in academia.

What was your first job and where else did you work before CL?

My first job was working as a counselor at a summer sports camp, but I held a number of interesting jobs throughout high-school and college including a donut shop (the allure of free donuts wears off after about 3 days) and a moving company (carrying furniture up 3 flights of stairs in Chicago in the summer is as terrible as it sounds). As an adult, I’ve worked at multiple start-ups, spanning from enterprise communications to education.

Do you have creative hobbies? 

I play guitar, though I’m not very good. I really like going to live concerts and enjoy  going to the gym and anything outdoors. Exercise gets my creative juices flowing.

Who or what inspires you in your creative endeavors?

I’m inspired by people who launch new endeavors despite not understanding the traditional confines of the worlds they’re stepping into -basically people without experience who don’t know any better. I once heard that Adam Yauch (aka MCA) from the Beastie Boys wanted to make a music video for every song on Paul’s Boutique (itself an example of ignoring convention) because he thought he could just send videos to MTV and they would play them. It took him a while to realize that wasn’t exactly how it works, but in the meantime, he made some really amazing videos that are still fun to watch today, especially Shadrach. I think a lot of people can get intimidated when starting something new. They feel like they aren’t as talented as their friends, peers or others in their field, but sometimes that inexperience can be a real strength. No one really knows the rules you’re supposed to obey and you end up creating something truly original.

Who is your favorite CL teacher and why?

Diane Fu. I was fortunate enough to be a student in her Strength Training class. Not only did I get my butt kicked, but I learned some exercise principles that I’ve since incorporated into my own workouts.

If you were a CreativeLive instructor, what would you teach?

Parallel parking. It’s hands down my greatest skill, and living in San Francisco, I get to utilize it a lot.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in a job?

I think the strangest thing I’ve done involved conducting market research on the adult entertainment industry. At the time, we thought that there might be an application for our technology in that space, but we needed proof. In order to do this, I commandeered a conference room for a week and put up signs to alert people to the potentially offensive material they might encounter in case they entered. We ultimately decided not to pursue that space, but my report on my findings was certainly interesting.

Where do you see education going in the future?

I’m not one for making predictions, because they’re usually wrong. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that higher education (at least in the US) has become the most important predictor of one’s future economic success. Simultaneously it’s become much more expensive and difficult to access. If these trends continue, I believe it will become more and more difficult for people of limited economic means to create a better future for themselves and their children and we’ll need to rely on some democratizing force (hopefully technology) to provide an alternate path.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

My dad’s side of the family is from Denmark, so we have some great Danish traditions around the holidays. My favorite is the “rice pudding game“, which involves hiding an almond in a large batch of rice pudding that is then divided up and served as dessert at Christmas dinner. The dinner guest who finds the almond in their portion of pudding gets a prize – usually a board game that is played among all the guests (because Scandinavians are all about sharing).

Most life-changing (non-CreativeLive) class you’ve ever taken?

I took a current issues class in high school that stoked my interested in politics and was a big reason for choosing political science as my college major.

What do you do with CLers outside the office?

We frequently meet for happy hours. A small group of us have also started to play basketball after work, which has been really fun. I’ve definitely lost what little skill I once had though, so I’m hoping that continues so I can get better!

Topher Kelly FOLLOW >

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.