My Journey To Certification And What It’s Meant For Me
For what seems like the hundredth time, I’m standing on a portable stage in probably a 10,000-square-foot convention center floor space and I’m being handed a microphone. On the other side of the stage, my business partner is adjusting his wireless mic and testing the audio. Our presentation is on the screen behind us.
There’s nothing left to do but wait. In a few minutes, we will once again share our knowledge about color management in the print industry.
I’m watching a crowd form in the viewing area. As I’m waiting for our start time, I think to myself for what seems like the hundredth time: This isn’t where I thought I would be today.
Every time I think those words, it’s time to begin again.
The Back Story In Print
I have always been in the print industry; but the one I grew up in is very different than the one I work in today.
Over the course of 17 years, I worked for seven different newspapers around the country. During that time, I held more job titles than I can count. But many of those positions included working in prepress and being responsible for the printing and production of a newspaper.
At the end of my newspaper career, I held a production editor position for a business weekly. I was the person in charge of how the newspaper looked. Today I tell attendees in our workshops that if you think color management is hard, then try it on yellow, over-saturated newsprint.
I never thought I’d have to switch careers and reinvent myself in my 30s. But I had seen the writing on the wall when it came to newspapers and I finally made up my mind that it was time for a change.
At first, I joined a color verification software company as a marketing assistant. But it wasn’t long before we started seeing a shift in business priorities and my role grew into something more.
We began to see a pattern of people wanting more than just software solutions. They wanted knowledge; and they turned to us to give it to them. Suddenly our business became more about consulting and training.
I’ve always been a fan of continuing education. The idea that we stop learning the second we receive a degree isn’t realistic. Even in the newspaper industry, I let my employers know that I was open to opportunities to learn more.
Then I found myself in the wide-format print industry specializing in color management. Color theory, I knew. But as obsessed as some of the newspaper organizations were about quality print and good color, I never once saw a spectrophotometer in a newsroom, or learned how to calibrate a monitor. I had a lot to learn.
And so I began my certification journey.
My in-depth education into color management started slowly.
It was being mostly quiet on conference calls and writing down anything that was new to me so I could look it up later. It was having countless hours-long conversations with my business partner, who has been in the industry for decades. It was watching YouTube videos and taking free online courses.
Eventually, it was decided that more than time should be invested in my education. Business had been good. I had even done some onsite consulting work, so I was getting some real-world experience and I was learning a lot on the job. I took a few classes for RIP certification. Then in March 2017, I enrolled in the first SGIA Color Management Boot Camp that offered an opportunity for certification.
It was a rigorous two-and-a-half day workshop (still is); but I learned more about color management in those few days than I ever could have through my self-education. To this day, the workshop covers all the relevant variables in color management for print. Those topics include basic color theory, anatomy of ink jet printers, and what they refer to as the Color Management Pyramid (used for making custom .icc profiles).
After the workshop, I took and passed the certification test. Then I successfully followed SGIA’s instructions to print their test image using the knowledge I’d gained from the workshop. From that point forward, I was an SGIA Certified Digital Color Professional.
But I didn’t stop there. Since my business partner was a certified instructor, we started holding our own Color Management Boot Camps at client sites around the country. I often accompanied him and taught some of the material.
Then in late spring of 2018, I was told that I was being considered as an official instructor. SGIA sent someone to observe me leading the workshop in early July. I was elated when I found out later that month that I had passed the test.
One of my proudest moments in the last decade was becoming an SGIA Certified Digital Color Professional Instructor. After changing careers in my 30s and working hard to establish a new one, I felt like I had finally arrived. To be honest, I was more excited that I was now validated to help others continue their own education like I had.
Back On The Stage
The top of the hour is here and it’s time to begin. I take a deep breath and turn on my mic. But I’m not nervous. I’m simply here to share my color management knowledge with those who would like to learn.
And who knows? There’s a small chance that what I have to say might serve as the beginning of someone else’s journey toward certification. No, this isn’t where I imagined I would be today. But here I am continuing my education, increasing my knowledge every day and sharing what I learn with others as often as I can.
It’s been a great journey so far.
Shelby Sapusek is a color management consultant who also serves as CMO of ColorCasters LLC. She grew up in the newspaper industry; working primarily in graphic design and prepress. In her editor capacity, she was responsible for the print and color quality of several newspapers around the country. In 2011, after 17 years in the newspaper industry, she joined fellow instructor Jim Raffel in his company ColorMetrix, and later co-founded ColorCasters. Today, she works with graphic designers, end users, and manufacturers in the print industry to improve their color management skills.