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20 Questions with Kristina Kazandjian

May 1, 2017

Name: Kristina Kazandjian
Position/Institution: Marketing, Communications and Trademark Licensing Coordinator/ University of Toronto
Number of years in your position: 5.5
Alma Mater(s): Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

1. Why did you become involved in ICLA?
My involvement was passed down by the previous Trademark Licensing folks. However, it has definitely been a fruitful one over the years.

2. What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
Having a constant link to the Trademark Licensing world and a bank of people willing to help when you hit a road block.

3. What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment?
Keeping up with the ever-changing nature of the environment. Also, being a large, de-centralized campus, there are many decision makers; sometimes you are included in conversations and other times not. It’s hard to make sure you are always top of mind to those making decisions that affect you or use Trademark Licensing policies.

4. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
I really try to take in small accomplishments each day. It may sound really cheesy, but the simple things in my life really are the ones that I am most proud and happy about. Making people happy and seeing the outcome of my work has always been a joy.

5. What is the most important skill you have developed in your career?
The ability to multi-task. Also, patience.

6. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
I’d have to say both of my parents. That’s a pretty standard answer; however, they both come from the design industry and are the ones that started me down this path. My mom, who is an Interior Designer, gave me a passion for all things pretty, organized and new. My dad, who is a graphic designer, gave me the passion for computers, digital artwork and the satisfaction of seeing your design/work on something. Without constant exposure to creativity and its inner workings, I’m not sure what I’d be doing now!

7. What is one item you cannot live without?
Books. Real books, not e-books.

8. Who would you choose to switch places with for day?
I would love to walk a day in the 1960’s. It has always been a fascinating time to me. The music, fashion, design. It’s very different to when I grew up.

9. What is your favorite event that you have ever attended?
I loved going to the theatre for the first time in elementary school. I’ve been in love with all live performances ever since. So great to experience something live that can’t be redone the same way ever again.

10. Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
I have always loved branding and creative design but didn’t want to work with an agency. I didn’t even know collegiate licensing existed until about two years before I got this job. It fit many of my career goals and it’s been a really great ride ever since.

11. Who serves as a good role model for you in life?
I’m not sure I take inspiration from one person, but from the collective group of individuals I spend time with. I find that everyone has their own unique talent for inspiring a part of me and I like having that diversity of opinions to bounce ideas off of. Keeps you thinking about the full picture.

12. How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career in collegiate licensing?
It has broadened my thinking of our school’s program. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily functions of your job, but hearing about other programs helps to broaden the scope of our licensing program and understand how all of our actions really affect the industry as a whole.

13. What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?
Working with creative agencies. In my opinion, creative advertising agencies are the best example of people who hold brand policing to absolute extremes. It was important to see how they protect it, why they protect it and the impact that has on a particular campaign. It’s important to really understand why you do what you do and the tangible impact it has on the organization.

14. What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
Students always pose a special challenge – they turnover every year so it’s hard to keep enduring relationships. Also, they like to bend the rules as far as they can. You just have to learn to pick your battles and sometimes agree to the lesser of two evils. It is the most challenging but also most rewarding.

With vendors, it is always hard to strike the balance between them wanting things a certain way to get the sale and following the rules. I find you have to build a really strong relationship where they can bring you issues, they can be openly discussed and a mutually acceptable solution can be created.

15. What is the most unique or favorite product you have licensed?
I would have to say a tree trunk for an art exhibit. There is a famous tree in Toronto that was struck down by lightning. The pieces were given to different artistic groups, one of whom is an association of wood carvers. They will be creating a one-of-a-kind piece that will be on display. We were so happy to be involved in a cool project.

16. In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
I think it’s heading for a more personalized approach. Instead of offering merchandise for the masses, I am seeing the market for either personalized products, or smaller merchandise programs that cater to specific groups/ages/professions etc.

17. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of collegiate licensing?
Trust yourself – accept that your ideas are good and that you have the ability to see them through.

I would say it’s an odd industry (perhaps by Canadian standards). You really need to have a drive for brands and protection and an understanding of why that is important to your institution. I find without that piece, this all seems really silly.

18. If you could go tell yourself a piece of advice when you were younger what would it be?
Not to take things so seriously. I am the natural worrying type and would always get wrapped up in my work and take everything to heart. Everyone tells you that it won’t really matter when you’re older and to just enjoy the ride and I really wish I had listened!

19. What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office?
I usually spend about 80% of my time in the office during the cold Canadian winters. But once the weather warms up, I take the ‘I’ll come to you’ approach, so closer to 50%.

20. What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium?
‘Borrowing’ some wonderful ideas from all the creative people that attend.