Jodie Thiel-Sebolt, IEA Director of Digital Technology
When the IEA went looking to hire our first Director of Digital Technology, we found the perfect fit in Jodie Thiel-Sebolt. After an intensive interview process, she accepted the position and began her work with the IEA in early September. Her primary focus is on helping the Association maximize the impact of its digital platforms and social media, as well as training staff and members in the effective use of digital technology.
Jodie brings a wealth of experience in digital communications, marketing, and branding to the Idaho Education Association. She headed up re-brand efforts for Boise State University during her tenure as Creative Services Manager for the school. Her background also includes work with the design collective group, Made By, experience as Communication Director for the digital design agency, Pluto. Thiel-Sebolt has also served as an adjunct design professor at Boise State University. She studied art and architecture foundations at the University of Utah, then received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design from Boise State. Jodie grew up in Montana and graduated from Sidney (MT) High School.
Get to know Jodie in this IEA REPORTER Q & A
Q-What attracted you to the IEA and the position of Director of Digital Technology?
A-The purpose and mission of the IEA. Anyone who advocates for education and for teachers and students is doing a service to the entire community. As the Director of Digital Technology, I can participate in expanding the reach of the IEA.
Q-Why are digital platforms so important? How have they changed, even over the last 3-5 years?
A-Digital Platforms are important in today’s communication at linking people, companies, causes and resources. They allow us to get the latest updates to members, highlight accomplishments and tell our story. They cross borders and boundaries with information. We are able to show support and interest in education throughout the state and across the nation. Today’s digital platforms are cost effective and we always try to be cognizant of the fact that we are supported by the dues payments of our members. Through digital platforms, we can create an improved experience for our members because we can gather analytics that will make our communications strategies more effective.
Q-What are the most interesting aspects of working in digital for you?
A-I love the efficiency of working in digital. It is ever-changing and there is always a smarter, faster, more targeted solution to any challenge or task that comes our way.
Q-What experiences from your professional background have proven most helpful with your IEA work so far?
A-I have made a lot of correlations from my experience starting the AIGA Idaho (American Institute of Graphic Arts). I learned the importance of organizing and listening to members to know what the needs are. There will always be challenges and focusing on the solution is a better use of energy than being stuck dwelling on the problem. My time at Boise State University taught me the importance of branding, which is vital for adding value and in gaining the trust of your audience. I take a lot of confidence in the concept that a well-branded organization is something that lasts. I have been a part of it and I have seen it work.
Q-What should IEA members know about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in light of recent scandals and changes made to these platforms?
A-If something is free, that means you are the product; just don’t let it own you. Your time is valuable, so make the most of these platforms. We commit so much of our time to these things at work and in our personal lives that authenticity is more important than ever. We make it as strong as it needs to be. I think these are great tools for engagement in a cause, a place where people can do good and get the word out.
Q-Any do’s and don’ts tips for members about social media?
A-Stay out of the mud and use it as a positive force. Make sure to read the room. Proof it but don’t overthink it. Be natural with your posts. Here are some Do’s: be generous and give credit, show what you are proud of, take care when posting pictures of others, make sure you are informed before commenting and control your privacy settings. As for Do Nots: don’t forget your grammar and spell check, and the biggest don’t, proprietary information should never be shared online with a public audience.
Q-There are different perceptions of what “branding” is. What does it mean to you and why is it important?
A-I will tell you what it is not– it is not a logo. Those are visuals that support a brand. A brand is what people are saying about you when you are not in the room. If you think you don’t have a brand, you are mistaken. A good brand considers experience, internal and external. A unified brand will bring loyalty and differentiation. Good branding for me means integrity with who you are as an organization. Audiences are more brand savvy than ever and can pick up on authenticity. Be who you are and own it.
Q-You grew up in the small town of Sidney, Montana. What were the pros and cons of growing up in a small community?
A-You had to have the imagination to create your own fun. We didn’t expect anyone to entertain us and I have some of the best stories because of that. In my town, there wasn’t a lot of pretense or judgment around who had what. A con would be the isolation factor. The world seemed very small and that can be a narrow existence if you don’t reach out of your boundaries and experience the world.
Q-What interests, hobbies, or activities do you have outside of work?
A-Outside of my family or being with my family; reading, trail running, listening to Greta Van Fleet, anything to do with robots and 3D printers, I love going to the Flicks here in Boise, hiking, biking, Story Story Night, Charles and Ray Eames fan. I also sit on the board of the AIGA Idaho as their Women Leads coordinator.
Q-You have taught classes as an adjunct professor at Boise State University. What did you learn from your teaching experience?
A-That Millennials are amazing–they work hard, they want to learn and soak it all in, they love having a purpose. I learned that if you can’t explain something that is complicated into simple terms you may not understand it enough. Also, if you offer a critique, back it up and bring a solution with it. I learned that I love helping students in a way that makes them feel valued and gives them real-world tools to navigate an ever-changing landscape. They won’t be using the same tools forever, so it’s better to teach them to be adaptable. I apply that to my own work.
Q-If you had one minute to tell someone a story from your life, what story would you tell and why?
A-I suffered from hypothermia and frostbite one night after getting trapped in a snowstorm years ago and that is why you will always see me in a coat until July and vacationing only in warm climates.