I felt somewhat nervous about our meeting with Sara Fargam. It was Saturday evening and we had already dragged her out of a birthday party, pushed our meeting time a couple of hours (which we were still late for) and also I did not know a lot about her, her work and whether this would fit in with what we are hoping to achieve with F5 Magazine. We had agreed to meet anyway and this happened to be the right decision as her work within Vice’s creative agency, Virtue, combines a lot of the skills I value personally and her role in helping creatives reach their potential made for interesting listening.
Sara has lived in Denmark since 2011, a place she now calls home, with her professional and personal network located in Copenhagen, just a one hour flight from Oslo. During the short time we spent with Sara it was clear to see the large network she has established in her new home and our conversation was met with many interruptions, albeit pleasant, from friends and familiars that showed her broad reach first hand.
30 minutes late we arrived to a spot called Depanneur in the area of Nørrebro. A Depanneur is a French Canadian term for kiosk, offering a bit of everything you need for daily life. This Danish version also functions as a bar and eatery which was the perfect spot to grab a couple of drinks, relax and get to know a bit more about Sara and her work in a cozy cul-de-sac setting. The woman is laid back, honest and full of life. Any of the anxiety I may have felt earlier had well and truly gone as we were warmly greeted with drinks and immediately started to chat about music, snooping in peoples Airbnb apartments, reclaiming taboo words, manscaping, bad tinder dates and of course the creative industries we both work in. As we were getting to know each other the first visitor arrived on his way to a date which drifted our conversation back to dating in 2017. App dating is a big part of the lifestyle these days and we shared our stories agreeing that randomness of a real life encounter is much better than the online counterpart.
He was also very interested in what her work actually involves asking to stay and be part of the audience to get to know the “professional side of Sara” which he said with a glowing face. The question of his radiance led to more laughter (and some relief from me not being the only nervous one) as he confessed to some exfoliant treatment earlier in an attempt look his best and rid the pre date nerves.
After chatting and laughing for roughly 45 minutes we moved the conversation on to her work within Vice and as Sara started to speak again we were met with another visitor, this time from a man selling magazines. Sara seems to find the time for people and was easily able to switch to Danish to speak with the man (without us understanding anything), purchase a magazine and then bring her attention back to the English conversation as if interruptions are a part of everyday life. Her openness is a personality trait that shone through and within a short period of time we had got to know a lot about her and been invited to rejoin her friends birthday party later on.
We started to talk about Vice again however it seemed at this point that the universe was against us and we would never get to “know the professional Sara” as my nervous counterpart spilt coffee all over the table and proceeded to swear and apologise as we all laughed. “First things first, look at me, no spills” was his initial reaction before realising the brown spill on Sara’s pants who just shook it off with a better on me than your date look. Although heaps of fun at the time I was concerned that we may not have enough, let alone any useable content. However listening back to the interview it was these little anecdotes of her life that we experienced which helped to understand why she is achieving in her position and the strong communicative skill set she embraces to deal with a wide network everyday.
Over one hour later and down one as her friend left for his date, still unsure about her professional life, Sara recounted a classic situation of post study existential crisis. “What am I going to do? What am I good at? If I am going to get a job, it has to have meaning and I have to fulfil myself and all that bullshit”. A friend of hers worked for Vice, at the time as a Project Manager, and she asked her to keep an eye out if something came up. Having followed the company for a while it was a place she could see herself working and one day her friend called and mentioned there was a vacancy as an Office Assistant which Sara knew was an entry level role but decided “fuck it, I am going to take it”. After working a few months in this role, making coffee, lunch and fixing everything in the office so it looked nice she was then promoted to be an Office Manager. Within that same month she was again promoted to the position she now holds as Contributing Network Manager.
Vice is the editorial platform vice.com and its subsidiaries but, what they also do (especially in the Danish office) is operate an in-house content agency - Virtue - where they create and run content for their respective clients. It is in this agency where Sara holds her current position. Some of that content gets created by their contributors globally where she is tasked with establishing the contact between them and the agency. The agency deals with small to large scale clients and operates across a variety of industries including food and beverage, insurance and apparel. Being a global name they do have big clients on board and the team she is sitting with is based in Denmark, but her project is global working with the New York office, the Colombian office and the UK office, among others, to source content from her contributors globally to those clients of the respective offices. The clients she deals with will have a brief which she and her team then boil down to “how can we make content that fits to that strategy”.
It is in this position that it is visible to see how Sara’s personality has enhanced her performance as she deals with creatives around the globe. She is also a creative person by nature, having explored different forms of art since an early age prior to taking up art studies in Oslo. It is interesting to see her development as she is now managing a network of creatives; “What that means exactly I am not sure but I think what is really beneficial in a manager position is to have that background in arts. This is because I understand the creative processes which also enables me to communicate in a way that creatives understand”. What she aims to do is make sure her contributors have the optimal creative framework, ensure the clients get what they need and her project managers as well. Sara is kind of in between all the departments in an interesting role where she is utilising her classical creative background to source content from talented creatives.
We also spoke about how she came to help others achieve in the creative field and Sara acknowledged that her background in the arts helps to understand things from a different perspective, she could be a classical project manager with no creative background and do the work. However, because of that creative understanding she believes she can communicate in a better way to these people in her network. This network is global and Sara explains the difference to dealing with a man in Japan, a lady in New York or a guy in Denmark. She is constantly having to attune, which she proudly states is “luckily one of my good skills”. In this role she believes it is important to have a strong focus on relationship building and being able to maintain these relationships by reading people to find middle ground. Having such a broad global network this is no easy task and communication breakdowns are bound to occur. What she loves to do is break down the corporate language and find a way where she can simply talk to everyone while getting the point across. The majority of her work is written, over email, so finding the right way to vocalise briefs initially is very important. In her experience being this method, rather than strictly using corporate language helps people to understand briefs as some, especially those outside of the corporate environment, may not fully understand this language.
Sara first found her way into this area of the creative field during the last year of her art studies in Oslo. She is very interested in art and has been from a young age as it is about expression, creativity and freedom. However, during this time she was starting to have doubts as she never found her own niche in her art. It was one of her teachers, who was also one of her good friends, that said “Sara you are not an artist, you are a social artist, you need to work with people”. This comment really opened her mind and when she thought about it she could not imagine herself sitting alone in a studio working. She felt the need to work with people and talk with people about ideas and decided to start studying creative leadership and attend school in Denmark.
Creativity comes under the old cliche “oh you are a creative person you have to produce something and have some kind of end result”. Sara does not see it that way and sees creativity as finding solutions, finding inspiration and also being able to see connections. This mentality towards creativity fully fits in with her role at Virtue where a lot of what she does is put people in contact with each other. She will be approached and asked “Hey Sara, do you know anyone I could use for this project?” from which point she looks to make a connection. As a creative person you are typically in your studio as well so you may not be doing the communication side of the project as actively which makes Sara’s job (Network and Communication) very important. This is something we have come across in the past with creatives in any field, they are a little bit introvert, and the networking side of things normally comes second to them working on projects making it helpful to have other people playing match maker. She considers herself lucky enough to be able to do these matches around the globe and is always stoked to see what the end results may be.
She can see or thinks she has a knack for making these things work and something gets created out of that. She mainly manages the creation of social content, videos and stills with some assignments having more concrete guidelines from the client than others. Another thing is open briefs with some themes that they can be creative within. This works well for some people, others may need some more guidance and more boundaries. Sara believes all people are creative, just functioning on different waves. We all have the ability to find solutions and explore possibilities within our chosen fields which is where the creativity comes in and within her position she likes to put up a framework for people to work within for two reasons. Firstly, they need to deliver to the client brief and also she feels with creativity it is best when you have boundaries and some rules you have to follow. If you don't have any rules, in theory, you can do whatever and then there is too many possibilities.
She humbly admits that sometimes she does come up with brilliant ideas herself that she really wants to execute. Luckily she is able to scratch that creative itch and put in a word to her creative department to hopefully incorporate them into the content creation process. This is also one thing Sara loves about her work as she is still able to use some of her creative background and there is always room for her to contribute outside of her role. Another one of Sara’s friends dropped by at this point after DJing at the Danish Toastie Championships and with all the conversation of grilled cheese, music and a bit of a party we decided to move on from Depanneur and experience some of the Copenhagen nightlife.
All photography Ronja Penzo