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You Had A Major And Minor In College–Why Not At Work?

Translation CEO Steve Stoute explains how his business taps his employees’ outside passions to do better work.

What would you be doing if you didn’t have your current job? It’s not uncommon for people to use a day job simply to fund their off-hours passions, or forget what inspires them in the first place to focus on something more practical and stable.

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Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of ad agency Translation, wants the best of both worlds for his employees.

Steve Stoute Photo: Mimi Ritzen Crawford

To do so, Stoute has instituted what he calls “majors and minors.” Your major is what you do at Translation, and your minor is your strongest passion–but Stoute is quick to point out the difference between hobbies and true passions. “We’re trying to get people to be honest about their minors. They’re not things you kind of care about or are easy to fill out–a lot of people will say ‘music’ because it sounds cool,” Stoute says. “When I ask you what your minor is, it’s the thing you’d be doing if you didn’t have this job. If money didn’t matter and it’s a passion you have, what would you be doing?”

Stoute stresses that he wants his team’s majors and minors to coexist in the workplace. If your mind wanders during the day and you start looking up videos or articles pertaining to your passion, Stoute says he embraces that. “I don’t want you to have to cover up your screen–I want you to work on that,” he says. “When you allow people to take and not hide what they do when they leave work and incorporate that in the workplace, you’ve got yourself something dynamic.”

And it can translate to good business, too.

Stoute explains that with his team’s minors, he’s able to tap into a skill set that could, in turn, be beneficial to the company. “If we have a client brief and there’s any peripheral dimension to the solution that touches your minor, then you should be involved in that client solution,” he says. Case in point: Joel Rodriguez, an account executive at Translation, is an MC in off hours. While working with client Sprite, Rodriguez’s minor came to light and Sprite’s representatives decided to use his rapping skills in a national campaign.


Although all minors may not pay off to extent of Rodriguez’s, what Stoute is really after is fostering a sense of collaboration.

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“We’ve seen a lot of changes in the workplace over the years–open-plan seating, more common spaces–to make it feel more lifestyle, more democratic, and to remove a lot of the hierarchy so it becomes more collaborative,” Stoute says. “Allowing your employees to be able to use their talents and passions to move the business forward is an incredible thing. It gets everybody to feel like they have the opportunity to help be a part of the problem-solving for our clients.”


“We’re all consumers at heart,” Stoute says. “If you’re a company that focuses on culture as one of your key tenets, how could you not have people who have passions that can help move the culture you’re selling?”

He goes on to explain that because culture is currency at Translation, he would eventually like to be in a position where minors mattered just as much as majors.

“The finished product looks like us saying ‘no’ to someone who has a great resume but doesn’t have any outside interests. I want to be able to say, without any hesitation, that unless you have an interest that shows you are culturally curious and passionate about something else outside of whatever department you’re in, you’re just not good enough for us,” Stoute says. “We’re not there yet, but it makes me feel great every day knowing that the people who work here feel like their passions play a role in guiding the organization.”


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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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