Laura Fu

Senior Digital Asset Specialist

By having a collection management policy and cataloging procedures, Fu has found success in helping users better understand the value of a complete digital asset management system.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have been Senior Digital Asset Specialist for Sears Holdings Corporation since 2011. Before that, I was the Video Assets Manager for AnswersMedia, LLC from 2008 through 2011, and News Archivist for Sinclair Broadcast Group between 2002 and 2006.
I wasn’t familiar with the world of DAM until joining the SHC family. Looking back at my previous roles, though, they fall very much in line with a typical DAM position. Digital Asset Management is relatively new to many companies, so that those who are or will soon be a DAM professional may already have been on that career path without even knowing it.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When I tell someone what my title is, they never know what I do. I have to explain that I’m an image librarian. I see DAM as a way to centralize digital content on an enterprise level to help manage branding, decrease duplicate effort and spending, and increase efficiency and automation of content delivery. The successful DAM will ultimately share content and information and allow users to not only find what they’re looking for but also discover content that they may never have known existing within the company.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned a lot of the skills I use daily from previous jobs in video tape libraries and from coursework at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Much of what I’ve learned about DAM in the last 3 years I learned by doing. The most helpful resource I have found is talking to others in the industry. Most everyone in DAM is more than happy to talk about what they do, so find someone on LinkedIn or via DAM Guru Program and ask them questions!

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

There is no one correct way to do anything. DAM is still such a young and growing field. Although there are a lot of standards set up, there is still a lot to discover, share and teach. It leaves many DAM roles with a wide open path. Sometimes it’s difficult being the new kid in school, if DAM is relatively new to your employer. Someone new may not have people to lean on internally or go to with questions, simply because not many people know or understand what DAM can do. But you this to your advantage!  Advocacy, internally and externally to your employer, will help you build a system that supports your users’ specific needs. Take that opportunity to teach your users the benefit of DAM.  Each user group has different needs, so configure your procedures and tools as needed.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I started school as a violin performance major. It obviously wasn’t meant to be but I still play and would love to be good enough to be a professional violinist and play in Carnegie Hall. If I hadn’t found my way into DAM, my original career path was in video asset management, creating and maintaining video libraries for news outlets. My dream library job is still to work at CNN’s massive news library in Atlanta.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Enforcing data governance. DAM teams work had to create a metadata schema with definitions and controlled terms, but we don’t create content. We rely on content providers to adhere to our database’s rules but that doesn’t always happen. Someone needs something ASAP or is a new hire and wasn’t told how things work, and the DAM receives content that has incomplete or incorrect data. Some of it we can catch and correct; but often times, errors go through undetected and content could be lost. I explain to our users that we are librarians, not authors. So if there is a typo in a book, it goes on the shelf with a typo. Enforcing users and providers to abide by rules is tough; but if they wrote a book, they wouldn’t just toss it on a random shelf at their local library; would they? There is a process to receive assets and metadata. Just like any library, we have a collection management policy and cataloging procedures. Getting people to understand and appreciate that can be very difficult.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I have been successful promoting our tool internally by making myself available virtually and physically to all of our users. Many companies have IT or support who are accessible by phone, email or an online form. Not having a name or face to go with the people who are managing your system distances users from their support team. I have had a tremendous response from our users, internal or external, associate or contractor, by being accessible. I make myself available to our users at three area offices. If I can’t be there in person, I can be reached by phone, email, Skype, Lync, or our internal social media portal. Users seem more ready to provide feedback and are more patient with issues, like bugs or outages, when they know the person who is working on it. I am out there talking to our users as much as I can to let them know we are real people who are here to help. Earning trust is vital to providing a good user experience, so go out there and meet your users. Ask for feedback, even if it is negative because that is how you learn how to improve your DAM.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I enjoy hearing from others in the industry, about their users, their successes and failures, and any first-hand stories that can teach me how to improve the experience for our users.

This interview originally appeared on DAM Guru on Mon, 26 May 2014. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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