Lumifam Feature: Tess Felton

As a smaller agency, every member of the Luminus team is just as vital as the next. We rely on each other to get the job done, we lean on each other for support, and we bounce ideas off of each other when we get into creative ruts. While it’s true that each person takes turns leading in their respective ways, there are a few members of the team that truly help guide and lead everyone around them. One such person is our Associate Creative Director (ACD), Tess Felton.

A leader, a creative mind, and a project manager all in one.

Associate Creative Directors are part support workers and part supervisors. They help Creative or Art Directors with creative direction and campaigns, as well as supervise teams and staff on multiple projects. Tim Bouchard, our Owner & CEO explained, “In her role, it really is 60% understanding strategy and then letting the rest of the team do the work and coming back in for quality control. Tess helps facilitate everyone to do the best that they can. She doesn’t do everyone else’s jobs; she is the guide to help get them there.”

One of the distinctive things about Tess is that her career trajectory began with a background in English and creative writing. An alumna of the University of Pittsburgh and the University at Buffalo, Tess went on to become a copywriter. Most ACDs begin in a creative or design role before rising to the management level. But that distinctive background is what gives Tess and the Luminus team an edge over everyone else. Tess’s role as a copywriter evolved into doing a lot of brand strategy for Luminus, which ended up giving her a bigger-picture view.

As Tim pointed out, “In the past Luminus has leaned creative first, messaging second. Tess thinks copy and concept first, then creative second. Her strength is in understanding holistic concepts that can further grow in creative.” A solid understanding of the messaging is what brings creative campaigns home and drives where the brand is going to go. It’s what pushes campaigns over the edge and makes them more successful.

WWTD (What Would Tess Do?)

When asked about her strengths, Tess considered her inquisitiveness and love of learning to be among her best values. She said, “My natural curiosity lends me to ask a lot of questions. It’s an area that helps the Luminus team feel like we’re finding the best solution and doing the best they can. We poke holes in everything and consider every possibility.” 

Whether it is learning the nooks and crannies of each of our clients, or learning from her colleagues, Tess takes the time to listen and observe. In addition to becoming an expert in many different areas, Tess is exceptional at thinking quickly, which makes her an asset as a leader and team member. Our Account Executive, Jeff Quinn said, “Clients are throwing everything they can at you. Tess is very good at collecting her thoughts and giving a very cohesive answer and thinking on her feet. If you don’t have that, clients may lose confidence.”  

Tess’s expertise and composure has garnered the trust of the whole Lumifam and the clients who get to work with her. Jeff continued, “She has all the respect of her team, and it’s never in question. Everyone is always asking, ‘What does Tess think?’”

She points to a culture at Luminus that made the role of ACD accessible to her. “I speak my mind, which is a trait that isn’t seen as frequently in women in the workplace,” Tess reflected.  “Not everyone wants to be challenged and I can’t help it. That’s something Luminus has welcomed and has allowed me to work my way into a leadership role over time: I’m willing to challenge people and challenge the work. It’s a part of the culture here. We challenge what you think you know. Luckily, I fit into that culture well.”

A servant leader

One of the best qualities Tim recognized in Tess is her philosophy. She adapted to the concept of being a “servant leader,” which for her, means she won’t ask anyone to do something that she wouldn’t be willing to do herself. Tess often understands the challenges of the creative process and uses her experience and skills to come up with the best course of action moving forward. She also emphasizes an empathetic approach by looking at what missing pieces or challenges might be impacting the team and their work. One of her goals is to help create a work-life balance so everyone is able to enjoy their jobs and focus on the things that matter. 

Tess also believes her background in lifeguard training and swim coaching helps her in this leadership role. She said, “I have a lot of emergency training. ‘Here’s what you need to do to make a situation better, not worse.’ I’m trained not to panic.” Tess joked, “If I wrote an autobiography, it would be titled: ‘Everyone Panicked Except Me.’”

Tess is probably about as humble as they come, however. She insists, “The thing I try to put out into the world, more than anything else, is just how talented the team is and how essential everyone is to my ability to do my job well. It’s made it incredibly easy on me. I trust my team to think things through, take feedback and criticism, work through it and produce the best work that we can.”