What do artificial turf, heavy metal and art have in common? They’re all passions of Matthew Wagner, the digital marketing specialist at SYNLawn. We sat down with Matthew to learn how he’s pursued both his love for art and personal happiness in his career.
SYNLawn is a global leader in eco-friendly synthetic grass and surfacing solutions. The company uses Canto to centralize all of their imagery from their hundreds of distributors across the globe. Read their story here.
Hi Matthew! Thanks for joining us. I would love to know how you got interested in art, and how that led you to SYNLawn.
I knew in the second grade that I was going to be an artist. I drew a picture for a kid in my class one day and he said, “Oh, man, that’s really good. You’re going to grow up to be an artist one day.” And that just stuck with me.
So I pursued a career in art and went to college for fine art. There’s unfortunately not a lot of money to be made as an art major, but I ended up getting my first job as a freehand illustrator for a sportswear company. And at age 22, I became the art director for that company. That was around the beginning of digital art with Photoshop and Illustrator. I worked at that job for several years before moving to Orlando for more career opportunities.
In Orlando, I found a position I thought would be my dream job – but the day I was supposed to call in to find out when I was going to start was September 11th, 2001. You can imagine the impact that 9/11 had on the tourism industry in Orlando; the economy basically collapsed because it relied so much on people traveling and visiting theme parks.
I wound up having to take a less exciting job for a while. Eventually, I answered a want ad in the paper (when those existed, back in 2005). I knew from the moment I walked in the door that I wanted to work at SYNLawn, this company that I had never heard of before. It was around Thanksgiving, and they were about to have a party thanking their employees. It was just an incredible vibe and I wanted to be a part of that.
Soon after, I could tell that artificial grass was going to be much bigger than anyone had suspected. We were solving a problem that a lot of people needed solutions for, whether they are pet owners in need of a pet potty space or a homeowner who can’t grow grass. I’ve become the marketing and SYNLawn branding ambassador for over 15 years. Currently, our company is scaling very rapidly and it’s exciting to be a part of what we always envisioned the company and product becoming!
What’s a day on the job like for you?
As the digital marketing specialist, I do everything from product and application photography to managing our websites and really, all things creative. Every day is completely different with new challenges. It’s never mundane. On a regular day, I’ll be facilitating and trying to meet the needs of our internal staff as well as our network of distributors. I work with our distributors one-on-one to provide them with the assets they need and work to optimize their local marketing strategies while making sure we’re creating a consistent branding and marketing experience. Whether you’re in Boise, Idaho or New York City, we want to have a consistent look and feel from top to bottom with a SYNLawn brand.
Do you practice art outside of work, too?
I do, but my art these days is really more musically inclined. I’ve been a musician all my life as well as an artist. I play in a heavy metal band here in Orlando and we play out fairly regularly. It’s hugely rewarding. It helps me stay centered and provides a healthy outlet to break away from my daily job and have some fun. I can’t think of anything more fun to do.
Wow, that’s so cool! What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Staying true to yourself is the most important thing. Never compromise or conform to someone else’s pre-conceived notion of who you are or should be as a person. I’ve tried to remain true to myself throughout my entire lifetime as well as my career.
And your personal happiness comes way before anything else. If you’re putting your happiness aside for a job, or putting your family aside for a job, you’re probably in the wrong place.
One of the reasons I’ve been able to stay with SYNLawn for 15 years is that they’ve let me be myself. I think it’s really important for any successful business to embrace diversity and embrace everyone’s unique personalities. It’s really going to help a business grow over the long term.