Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: Energy of popular culture engages Funko’s Stephen Bury as he engages clients

Stephen Bury, director of digital marketing at Funko. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Bury)

Workplace culture is often cited as a leading factor in job satisfaction, especially in the tech world these days where competition is stiff when it comes to attracting top talent. But what happens when pop culture defines your culture?

Stephen Bury is finding out the answer as the director of digital marketing at Funko, the Everett, Wash.-based consumer products company that deals in a wide array of collectibles, apparel and more.

Bury, our latest Geek of the Week, has always been drawn to software and services, working for computer resellers out of college before moving to the client side as businesses began staffing technical marketers. He has worked in healthcare informatics and business intelligence, with most of his career spent in the commercial/B2B world, including 10 years at Microsoft in the Office Product Management Group. He joined Funko almost two years ago.

“The culture is different in that the subject matter, pop culture, creates a sense of connection among Funko employees that my other experiences didn’t quite have,” Bury said. “And when you can tap into personal areas of interest to find commonality, it fosters a healthy and collaborative environment.”

While the work effort, challenges and opportunities are similar to past companies where he has worked, keeping up with pop culture in 2018 quickens the pace.

“The fact that it can be a new line of Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ products or an expanded set of NHL hockey figures that I get to work on … that’s fun for me,” he said.

Bury may not have hundreds of Funko’s Pop! figurines piled on his desk, but he geeks out on a wide variety of pop culture categories and genres.

“Since joining Funko, I have crossed over from being just a consumer of pop culture to also collecting. However, I am constantly amazed at the depth and detail that can define a fandom and the content so readily available to fuel these passions,” Bury said.

For the record, he does like to rotate the figures on his desk, and they currently include Jerry Garcia, the Red Sox tandem of Chris Sale and Mookie Betts, and Pickle Rick with Laser Pop! from Rick and Morty.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Stephen Bury:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I’m a digital marketer, which means I use technology to reach people and try to get them to do something — watch a video, download content, change their perception, share an article, enter a contest, like a post, buy a product. I focus on all of the aspects of strategy, planning, production, execution and measurement necessary to digital marketing. Creating authentic brand experiences that people want to engage with and benefit both the company and the consumer is my goal.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? The broad landscape of digital marketing is good and bad. Good in the sense that it provides innumerable opportunities for how to engage people. Bad in the sense that it provides innumerable opportunities for how to engage people. This challenge leads many businesses to focus on tactics and forego the important work of defining, and instrumenting, success. In this state, digital marketers will always find it difficult to validate their work and show business impact.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find my inspiration in three primary areas: design, physical space and people. Saul Bass said “Design is thinking made visual,” and I thrive on trying to convey what I’m thinking — about business, marketing, management, more — through the application of design. Also for me, I derive energy from my physical environment. Whether at home or in the office, having space that feels comfortable is important to creativity. Lastly, having people that challenge and support you is paramount — most of life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? Easy, smartphone. Between the computing power, connectivity and the convenience, it would be hard to imagine not having a device that can help you communicate, keep you informed, allow you to shop, and entertain you wherever you are … as long as you have a signal. 😉

Stephen Bury’s workspace at Funko. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Bury)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Funko’s headquarters is 90,000 square feet of space that pays homage to pop culture in a very unique way. The retail shop on the ground floor sells our products — from collectible figures to apparel to handbags and backpacks — and celebrates some of our major license partners with dedicated worlds. The rest of the office space is basically late ’90s startup meets Disneyland. The office space is full of giant-sized Pop! figures, slides between floors, a full arcade, a four lane bowling alley and full-size employee gym. It works for me because it provides an easy way to spend time with customers and a very tangible connection to sale performance, while providing outlets to collaborate and connect with colleagues.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) A simple one, but limit how much time you spend in email — it will rule your day if not checked. There’s been countless studies and research conducted that impart ways to manage email. Find one that works for you and stick to it — your productivity will thank you.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Kirk, although I’m a Star Wars guy.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time machine for sure.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … I would dust off what I thought at the time were completely hair-brained ideas from my college days and just maybe…

I once waited in line for … 10 hours for concert tickets for the Grateful Dead’s ’87 tour at Madison Square Garden.

Your role models: My parents. My Dad for teaching me that patience can be a powerful tool. And my Mom, for teaching me how passion and fire, correctly channeled, can propel you far.

Greatest Game in History If sporting game, I have to go with Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. Two outs in the ninth against the dreaded Yankees and pinch runner Dave Roberts, now the L.A. Dodgers coach, steals second base ultimately scoring to tie the game. David Ortiz homers in the 12th to win the game which propelled the Red Sox on to the World Series coming back from an 0-3 game deficit in which the Yankees were one game away from yet again dashing the hopes of Red Sox Nation. If arcade game, Galaga. And if console game, I’ve logged way too many hours on “Call of Duty Black Ops II.”

Best gadget ever: iPhone.

First computer: Macintosh SE.

Current phone: iPhone 7 Plus.

Favorite app: Waze, although I did have to overcome some trust issues on some of the route recommendations.

Favorite cause: Youth sports. I’ve coached kids at the recreational level in soccer, basketball and baseball for the over 10 years and the self-confidence, comradery, and integrity that can be gained through sports, if correctly fostered, can be life changing. Many kids, including my own, have in turn given back through Athletes for Kids, a nonprofit organization that works to enhance the lives of children with special needs by partnering them with a high school athlete to form an encouraging friendship.

Most important technology of 2018: Augmented reality.

Most important technology of 2020: Jet packs, weren’t we promised jet packs?

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Get after whatever it is that you’re passionate about and if it’s not apparent yet, get serious about whatever is in front of you. Don’t for a second think there will be a bell that goes off signifying the start as you’ll miss the opportunity to learn, improve, strive and connect.

Twitter: @stephen_bury

LinkedIn: Stephen Bury

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