Brisbane Digital Spotlight is a blog series that aims to shine light on the exceptional talent within the city’s digital community. With each post, I uncover a devoted individual within my network who I’ve recognised to be deeply engaged in the digital industry. Whether it be a Digital Marketer, a Developer, a Co-founder, a Project Manager, or even a Recruiter – my goal is to highlight the work these remarkable individuals do; day in, day out.
Kicking off the series is no other than James Gauci. I’ve previously had the pleasure of working alongside James throughout my time at Hydric Media. James is the Project Manager who’s responsible for making the magic happen behind the scenes. His commitment to detail and client management is admirable, and his down to earth persona makes him even more laudable.
Tell me a little about your past. How did you end up in Brisbane, particularly within the digital space?
I grew up in Bunbury (WA), Nhulunbuy (NT) and Gladstone (Qld). I moved to Brisbane in 2005 for uni and consider myself a Brisbane native. I spent a couple of years working as a professional singer, actor and MC while studying. When I finished up my psychology degree at Griffith Uni, I knew that while I had a huge appreciation for the profession and the skills I’d learned, I didn’t want to be a psychologist.
Shortly afterwards I snagged a graduate role working in the resources industry as a recruiter. Being the new kid on the block I made a bit of annoyance of myself pointing out opportunities for systems improvement. Over my couple of years with the company, I gathered a few different responsibilities and ended my time there as a digital coordinator working and training people on the CRM, coordinating a new website build, managing digital ads, and overseeing a growing social media practice, amongst other things.
It wasn’t what I expected going in to the job at all, and I was thankful to have been given an opportunity to find and develop a passion for technology.
My following couple of years were spent in Sydney working for digital agencies in strategy, account management and sales of web development, social media management and programmatic media. Lots of great lessons learned – Sydney’s a ‘sink or swim’ kind of town.
I returned to Brisbane in 2015 to be closer to family, and made the shift into digital project management with Speedwell. After a year of delivering Sitecore, Umbraco and software integration projects for some great Queensland-based businesses like PPQ, RSPCA Queensland and Brisbane Festival, Hydric Media made me an offer I couldn’t refuse working with the New York offices of Spotify, MTV and others on web and mobile app projects from right here in Brisbane.
What excites you the most about project management?
As a person who isn’t too afraid of accountability, it excites me knowing that I have some determinism over the outcomes of technology projects that impact sometimes millions of people’s lives. Looking through analytics at hundreds of thousands of user sessions and events that you helped facilitate is a feeling you can’t beat.
Working with my team excites me. I get to work with smart, hard-working people to build things that have literally never been done before, every single day. That’s hard to beat too.
Project management itself is challenging. Managing time, budget and scope is a fun game of Tetris, but add in interpersonal factors and expectation management and things can quickly get irrational. Maintaining transparency and integrity is key, and grounding yourself with the mindfulness of what can and can’t be changed sees you through.
Tell the audience a little about Hydric and the exciting work the studio produces.
Hydric Media is a technology studio that designs, develops and delivers digital products and experiences. Usually they take the form of B2C native mobile applications and web applications for clients in the US and Australia in the music, entertainment and finance industries. More and more often we’re consulting on and developing prototypes using emerging technologies like augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and recommender systems. It’s high tech, has an awesome culture, and is made up of excellent people.
What are some of your favourite projects you’ve been a part of, or are currently working on?
So many options! I’ll stick to the last 12 months.
Gatorade Amplify was a lot of fun. Imagine if you had the ability to generate a personalised Spotify playlist with songs that have acoustic attributes scientifically proven to boost your athletic performance? And it automatically refreshed itself each week? Well, we built it, and you can find it here. We’re developing a similarly cool Spotify concept for an international airline at the moment, so watch this space.
I love the challenge of a big old Agile development project though. Working with LearnVest and Northwestern Mutual for twelve months developing iOS and Android applications that allowed users to aggregate their assets and accounts to calculate their real-time net worth was very satisfying.
On the emerging tech side, we worked with an engineering consultancy to bring smart glasses, computer vision and augmented reality to industrial processing. It was a great thought exercise that yielded a very, very cool prototype.
You’re also a panel moderator for the Networx Brisbane events, how did that come about?
When Cat Matson handed the facilitator reigns back to Networx in 2015 a call went out and I applied. After admitting to Lisa and the team that I hadn’t even been to one of the events before, they told me to come back when I had – and fair enough too!
A facilitator unexpectedly dropped out and I was given an opportunity to show my stuff.
Amongst all of this, you’re working towards an MBA. What are your studies related to?
An MBA is a general management degree designed to give you a grounding in most aspects of contemporary business. There’s no specialisation in mine, but I’ll take subjects in innovation and technology.
So far I’ve completed – and perhaps oddly, enjoyed – studying economics and finance. I look forward to business process management next trimester.
Tell us about your other passion for theatre? What do you love about it?
The coalescence of people, technology and art into experiences that can fundamentally impact people physically, intellectually and emotionally is about as close to magic as you can get.
I spent about ten years studying and working in the performing arts on a volunteer and professional basis. There are massive opportunities for the performing arts to innovate rapidly in the coming years using new technologies and business models. I see myself eventually contributing to that transformation.
What do you think the future holds for the Brisbane digital market? Are there any emerging areas of interest you’re seeing?
There’s been a surge in interest in innovation-led entrepreneurialism over the past ten or so years, for better or for worse. The ‘better’ is that the conditions for startups are improving and people are encountering innovative technology concepts more often. The ‘worse’ is when bad actors take advantage of people’s nascent understanding of those concepts and essentially peddle snake oil.
It’s all a part of Brisbane growing up though. I think our city has the capacity to nurture some real game-changing, digitally led businesses. Megaport comes to mind. Blockchain is an awesome technology and has a strong local community. The likes of Brett Wiskar, Eoin McCarthy and Stephen Phillips are always pushing the envelope.
The sky’s the limit.
What’s your favourite thing about working in digital?
There’s always a new problem to solve, and no single way of solving it.
What are some of your favourite things to do in sunny Brisbane when not at work?
Weekend walks with my wife Kaicie through our local West End neighbourhood. Games at the Gabba when the Bombers are playing. Having the occasional sing on stages around town – most recently with Adele at the Gabba. (Sorry, I had to brag.)
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I’m a twenty-two year old Digital Marketing & Conversions Specialist based in Brisbane, Australia. With a passion for all things digital and tech, I aim to connect and learn from as many like-minded digital enthusiasts as possible. If you have a passion for emerging technologies and digital practices, I’d love to connect and hear your story.
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