“How I Got Here 7” tasks industry leaders with telling their origin stories by answering 7 simple questions. Then we deliver those stories straight to your inbox every Thursday.  

Eric Schnabel, Director, North America, Facebook Creative Shop

Eric Schnabel, Director, North America, Facebook Creative Shop

The realization that you’ve found yourself in the right place professionally can be the result of a slow, creeping suspicion or the side effect of one fortuitous scenario that instantly makes the puzzle pieces fit. It was the latter for Eric Schnabel, and it happened the first time he got a taste of true creative collaboration.

But that was only after a couple “hiccups.” 

He takes us through those hiccups (and a few triumphs) in this week’s HIGH7. 

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As a child, what was your dream job?

“Cops ‘n robbers” mostly. My dad was a gang crimes cop, so I grew up dreaming that I’d stick up for people for a living.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first jobs were in kitchens. I was a bus boy and a dish washer. I learned that everyone’s got a story. Some people can’t wait to tell you every word. Others make you piece it together with tattoos, wedding rings, hard-earned callouses, and hidden talents.

The thing that made you excited about the industry on day one and still keeps you excited today is: 

It took a couple hiccups.

I wrote and took photos for a neighborhood newspaper until I got tired of zoning ordinance stories. 

Then I jumped to a PR agency and flogged stupid press releases via cold calls to incredulous reporters and was utterly embarrassed by how absurd I sounded.

And then I got the chance of a lifetime. I got to work for a brilliant creative leader running an amazing campaign that surprised and rewarded people. She focused on learning the stories of real people and then offering them something of value from a brand. At an absurdly young age, I got to feel the excitement of writing copy, concepting ads, planning promotions, booking bands and generally bringing hype. I soaked it up. I was hooked.

And I’ve been trying to do that ever since.

How would you explain what you do every day to a child? 

My children watch me on VCs all day and say that “Dad talks to his friends on the computer all day.”

On a cynical day, I’d say that I sell people things they don’t need for a living.

In sunnier moments, I’d say I solve jigsaw puzzles. That I look at jumbled up sets of clues to assemble pretty pictures into one big scene.

Describe a key pivot or defining moment in your career that ultimately landed you where you are:

The big break I talked about above landed me a job at Fallon Minneapolis when it was the best agency in the world. There I got to learn from and work with passionate optimists who pushed each other really hard on amazing campaigns for BMW and Virgin Mobile. That opened the door to global Brands at Leo (Burnett) and then to this thing that’s become Creative Shop (Facebook). 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found yourself doing for work?

I had to live on the road with a grumpy old Nascar driver and his team after talking a client into sponsoring his car. There were moments where I got to learn a whole new set of stories of folks from a whole different set of places.

 Finally, the quality that makes you successful in this business is: 

 I’m curious about people and still genuinely enjoy connecting them to ideas that they’ll love.

Kat Gordon, Founder, 3% Movement

Kat Gordon, Founder, 3% Movement

Amy Winger, Chief Strategy Officer, VMLY&R

Amy Winger, Chief Strategy Officer, VMLY&R