James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
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When Michael Hartman came to Sandstorm 5 years ago, he brought with him a wealth of experience in Drupal and user experience design. Since then he’s guided our team of UX experts every day while bringing expert knowledge to our clients (and to our blog).
As our Executive Experience Director, Michael will continue to provide thought leadership and strategy. He’ll be expanding UX strategy while cultivating superior processes and standards. All the while Michael will educate clients, mentor Sandstormers, and keep our agency moving forward technologically through development and user experience design.
Congratulations, Michael. Rock on!
Hey, my name is Jeff, and I’m the new guy. I’m a twenty-something who grew up in the northwest suburbs and made my way to Chicago after a couple years in Evanston.
My interest for web development started at the age of 13 after making a website for a friend’s band. In college I started making a career out of this passion by studying web design and interactive media. I learned a little bit about everything from video production to graphic design to web application development. My focus gravitated toward the behind the scenes aspect: web development.
There’s nothing more satisfying than writing code to make a browser transform text into something amazing! After a few years into the industry and honing my dev chops, I’ve joined the amazing team at Sandstorm as the newest front end developer. I’m ecstatic to be surrounded by such passionate individuals and excited to do good work for good people!
A few fun facts about me:
- I built a holiday wish list website for my family to keep track of who wants what and who bought what. This comes in very handy with 4 children who each have their own significant other.
- I’m a metalhead. February 2016 will be the 3rd consecutive year I’ve gone on a heavy metal cruise called “70,000 Tons of Metal.”
- I’ve been known to keep a tent in my car just in case my friends and I feel like an impromptu camping trip. I’m slowly checking places off my must see list including: Big Sur, Shawnee National Forest, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Death Valley.
Senior Web Developer Andy Cullen is expanding his role into Senior Engineer and Team Lead. In a position that is new for both Andy and Sandstorm, he’ll mentor our junior and mid-level developers as well as provide direction for the team for Drupal web development projects and beyond. Andy will make sure they have the support they need while helping them grow into larger projects and responsibilities.
Andy will also coordinate with our strategy team to provide valuable insight for clients, all the while keeping our projects rolling with the quality and cool determination he’s known for here at Sandstorm.
My name is Adam Smetana and I'm the newest addition to the Sandstorm dev team! Also, I have a twin sister. Fun fact: that's been my go-to icebreaker for as long as I can remember. (And no, we are not identical.)
I hail from Wisconsin, the land of cheese, kringle, and really, really good beer. As my favorite writer Hunter S. Thompson once said, "Good people drink good beer." My favorite cheese is parmesan, favorite kringle flavor is pecan, and favorite Wisconsin beer is anything from Lakefront Brewery.
My development experience and passion
I've been in the Chicagoland area for about 6 years now, ever since moving down here to go to Lewis University in Romeoville. I graduated with a degree in computer science and the goal of working in web development and web design. I also got minors in social media and theatre because, well, why not? I enjoy being social and still like to act occasionally, whether serving as an extra, performing karaoke, or awkwardly photo-bombing Barack Obama's website.
I started my career as a front-end developer doing various freelance projects. As my experience grew, my interest in learning and absorbing everything I could increased along with it. There really is nothing more rewarding than seeing something you created come to life in a medium that can be viewed anywhere and everywhere in the world.
More fun facts!
Most of my interests outside of work revolve around music. I know how to play 3 instruments (guitar, ukulele, and piano - if you must know), have read every issue of Rolling Stone within 24 hours of it landing in my mailbox, and go to as many concerts as I can. The show I'm most looking forward to this summer is Paul McCartney at Grant Park, which might rival The Replacements as Show of the Year (an award that exists only in my head). My top 3 favorite movies (in no particular order) are Halloween (1978), This is Spinal Tap, and High Fidelity.
I am so excited to be coming on board here at Sandstorm as a Front-End Developer and learning all I can about Drupal. Now – time to start cranking out some mind-blowing sites with this wonderful team. Cheers!
Sandstorm’s Strategy Director, Laura Luckman Kelber is trailblazing her way into a new role.
As our Chief Strategy Officer, Laura is integral to our continued growth, making sure we provide thoughtful, holistic solutions to our clients. She will continue to help our clients grow through innovative marketing and brand strategy, as well as lead her team of strategists to elevate our clients’ businesses with strategic insights and proactive marketing solutions. And she’ll be doing it all with her signature style, wit, empathy, and infectiously motivational energy.
Congrats, Laura! Daniel, Spike, and Sugar must be quite proud.
Sandstorm is proud to be one of “Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work For” as named by the National Association for Business Resources.
It’s wonderful to be honored for something we’ve been passionately striving for – making Sandstorm the best place to work! Of all the small businesses in the Chicago area, we are in the Top 50. The selection process looks at all aspects of business including: compensation, recruitment, achievement and recognition, work-life balance, and more.
“It is rewarding to see that we excel at employee enrichment and engagement. 'Learning and Sharing' is a core value for us,” says our CEO, Sandy Marsico. “Every day Sandstormers grow and pass along their knowledge to other creatives, developers, and strategists.”
We also scored particularly high in strategic company performance. Our entire team is aligned to move us and our clients forward every day. Our consultative approach is always thinking about the latest digital trends and how to find white space opportunities for our clients.
[Ed. note: We're excited to introduce Nick Meshes, our new Director of Analytics and Optimization. What better way to learn more about him than through his own words?]
Where are you from?
I’m from the Internet. Actually, Chicagoland is home to me, though I am a south sider now living in a north sider’s world. I was born and raised in the suburbs along I-55 – Cicero, Brookfield, Lyons – and then eventually moved out to Bolingbrook after graduating from DePaul.
After a decade working in Downers Grove, my wife and I relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. We had a great two and a half years there, and will cherish the memories and friends we made, but we are so glad to be back with our friends and family here in Chicagoland.
What is your title at Sandstorm?
I am the Director of Analytics and Optimization.
What does that mean?
That means I’m going to increase the quantitative focus around here.
While Sandstorm is already a premier agency for qualitative research, UX design, marketing strategy, and web development, we have an opportunity to increase our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, and personalization.
You have a unique background with Sandstorm. Tell us a little about how you found us.
My wife, Alma, was Sandstorm’s 4th employee nearly 10 years ago. Over the years, I always felt like an honorary Sandstormer, celebrating at the holiday party, participating in the Guac-Off, hanging out with the great people who work here, and occasionally helping solve tough technical issues.
As Sandstorm has grown over the years, we have talked about me officially joining the team, but it never seemed like the right time. Then a couple months ago, Sandy and I started talking about how Sandstorm would like to form a department to focus on website analytics, conversion rate optimization, and web personalization – then she asked if I would like to head it up! I was super excited to build something from scratch – leveraging my technical and organizational skills while also having this amazing opportunity to grow alongside Sandstorm.
What are you most excited about doing at Sandstorm?
I’ve always worked on the back office side of marketing. My customers were the folks delivering insights about consumers and businesses while I was delivering insights about how to do that more efficiently.
Watching from a distance, I have always been fascinated by all the aspects of how this thing called “marketing” worked. I love the art, psychology, strategy, and, of course, the technology. I love how things are getting more complex and data-driven as the field starts to move at the speed of the Internet.
I am so excited to get a seat up front, to work with and learn from people with these amazing skills and talents, and to play on the team that helps organizations use marketing in a way that is inspiring and effective.
Together, we’re going to create a mix more delicious than the winner of the Guac-Off. I am glad to be a part of that mix, and I am proud to make Sandstorm (and the north side) my home.
Everyone at Sandstorm is excited about the Chicago Blackhawks winning their sixth Stanley Cup!
As we’ve all anxiously watched games throughout the season(s), we noticed something familiar. (No, not “Chelsea Dagger.”) The Hawks display core values similar to ours. (If you need a reminder they are: Learning and Sharing, Warrior Spirit, and Have Fun) We haven’t changed our business to be more hockey-centered, but the connections between our winning formula and theirs is pretty clear.
Learning and Sharing
The Hawks are always training. They’ve never rested on their laurels from past wins. They don’t rely on their skill and natural talent. Every day they’re practicing and training to be a stronger and more agile team. They’re studying their past games to improve their performance and to make note of what their competition is doing.
Some of them have been at this for a long time, consider the coaching staff. Everyone has an experience or expertise that they can share with their teammates to help them improve.
How much do I have to say about this? HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED THEM PLAY?!
They take every game seriously, and they have each other’s back. They’re a team first and foremost. There are stars (the ones on commercials and billboards), but on the ice they are all working toward the same goal.
Everyone is putting out their best to win, not for themselves, but for the whole team. Look at Duncan Keith logging over 715 minutes in the postseason. Goalie, Corey Crawford shutout 25 goal attempts in Game 6 of the finals alone. That’s a LOT of Warrior Spirit.
After all the hard work they’ve put in this season, now is the time to have fun. Following the intensity, the team can finally unwind. If you’ve seen the news this week, you’ll know that they have, too, in clubs, parties, and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
Yesterday they’ve had a ticker-tape parade through downtown Chicago with at-capacity rally in Soldier Field. They have the attention of the city and the world, and they all get the opportunity to share their excitement and win with their day with the Stanley Cup at a venue of their choosing. Many choose to go to their hometowns to share with their families and friends.
Getting to the Cup
All of these factors come together to win. We at Sandstorm don’t have a cup we’re aiming for, we just want to do good work for good people. While we’re not in the national spotlight, we work just as hard together to make great things happen. Whether it’s a responsive website or a rebranding project, our team is working to make our clients scream “GOOAALLLLLLLLLLLL!”
[Our image for this post is of delicious Stanley Cup-cakes that Alicia brought in from Bennison's. Celebration never tasted so good!]
Business is booming over here at Sandstorm, and we have been fortunate to grow the talents of our staff to meet the rising demand.
Jesse Lankford, a longtime Sandstormer, is enjoying the latest of a long line of promotions we have been celebrating. Jesse now holds the title Interaction Designer, putting him on the front lines of innovation in the realm of user experience.
In his new role, Jesse is responsible for the design of any interaction between a user and the client. As a result, he will be heavily involved in our web projects, designing customer journey flows and information architecture to ensure that the digital experiences we build for our clients are optimized for the user.
Beyond wireframing and organizing navigation structure for the web, Jesse’s visual design skills will still be put to good use on numerous logo, print, brand identity, and presentation projects.
One half of Sandstorm's “New York office,” Jesse works remotely from his Brooklyn apartment. He feeds his inspiration through his side project, Loosey Goosey, which seeks to promote the work of emerging artists. We are very excited to see what the future has in store. Congratulations, Jesse!
At the young age of 5, I became addicted to the world of marketing but not necessarily as a career. You see, I fell victim to a very impactful television commercial for a Halloween costume based solely on their advertising. That costume was Kooky Spooks and I was the Green guy.
I was born and raised in Central Illinois where the famous saying originated: “If it plays in Peoria, it’ll play anywhere.” That saying was coined as a tell-tale sign that vaudeville shows would be successful on tour or that 70’s political campaigns would resonate across the nation. Essentially, it equated to a local consumer study to predict favorability at a national level.
Unable to pull my roots from Illinois, I decided to attend the University of Illinois for undergrad – primarily because I heard they had a great Euchre program. Actually, attending U of I was an exciting time for two reasons: the Advertising program was ranked #1 in the nation at the time and the “information superhighway” had just been built and opened for online journeys there.
Since college I have been fortunate enough to apply and expand my marketing knowledge on major brands such as UPS, Sony, United Airlines, Sprint, Ford of Canada, and Kraft not to mention work with celebrity talent assets including Mike Rowe, Matt Kenseth, Dennis Leary, China and The Undertaker. Yes, even “The Undertaker!”
But where I’m most passionate is data. Not just “Big Data,” any kind of data that helps me to make smarter decisions for my clients and to develop strategies that garner results. Aside from the incredibly talented staff and innovative working environment, I joined Sandstorm because of their model in guiding clients based on very methodical primary research and their implementation of usability studies – just to name a few reasons.
As an Account Director, I work with a very smart and dedicated team of strategists who search rigorously for user insights. Sandstorm also performs user research and usability testing to validate the success of online experiences before launch. In a sense, I guess you could say that we will roll out a new campaign if “it plays” at Sandstorm.