Finding the right way to describe a person without slipping into cliché is often difficult, but describing a multifaceted talent like Tom Gasta, who celebrated his 11th Birdversary earlier this week, can be especially daunting.
That’s why people settle on obvious and overused descriptors, even when they know better. How frequently is someone described as a diamond in the rough? Gets old, doesn’t it? To say nothing about how a diamond is only refined by, you know, cutting it a bunch of times.
Here at Rare Bird, many of us refer to Tom as a jack of all trades. Even Tom himself jokes about it. “I’m a Swiss army knife,” he says. “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Tom would likely stop here if he were writing this. Actually, that’s not true. While Tom is humble, he does love to talk. He absolutely would not stop here. But because he’s not writing this and that master of none phrase has always bothered me, I did some research.
Turns out the first use of “jack of all trades, master of none”—centuries ago—was a reference to the fact that William Shakespeare also acted in his plays. The original, full phrase, before the longest-ever game of Telephone reduced it to a backhanded compliment, is “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Oftentimes better? Usually, I’d say. Almost always. Some text from a late 90s ad also comes to mind now: Why be great at one thing when you can be pretty damn good at everything?
His inexhaustible desire to do things the right way means he drills down deep into any task that interests him. He is also first in line when the chance to learn something new emerges.
All Things Tech
Even in a company built on the knowledge of tech geeks, Tom’s tech geekiness somehow stands out. Need an HDMI cord or an extra charger? It’s a safe bet Tom has it in his backpack, which might as well be Mary Poppins’ carpet bag for all the wonders it contains.
One of his primary hobbies is 3D printing, and he enjoys flying drones. More than once, he has let me know that the range of a particular wireless microphone covers the entire length of our building, and that some people—not Tom, mind you, who’s one of the most empathetic people in our office, but actual nefarious types—might use such developments to spy on others.
Honestly, the breadth of his knowledge and abiding interest in gadgetry makes me wonder if he’s had CIA training he is prohibited from discussing. But apparently not. “It’s just my Ted Lasso thing,” he says. “My intense curiosity for everything.”
His expertise with a camera and video editing software have added a welcome layer to what we offer clients. Such work has kept him busy this year, as businesses recognize that they are more successful when they use video. According to one industry survey, 73% of respondents prefer to learn about a product or service from a short video. Tom can shoot the raw footage, interview the subjects, manipulate the software to make everybody look so damn good, finagle the audio so that everyone sounds so damn good, and so much more. When you see video footage featured on a client’s homepage, there’s a good chance Tom helped along the way.
Tom also leads many of our animation projects for clients—everything from new logo reveals on a company’s social media platforms to lengthier demonstrations and explainers.
Even our incredibly talented designers recognize Tom as the Photoshop master around here. “I started with Photoshop 1.0,” Tom says, using a Macintosh computer you can only find on Wikipedia now. With nothing but his computer and his will, he morphed a photo of one client’s small metal product—taken with an older iPhone model—into a Christmas ornament they used in their holiday social media posts.
He also steps in to save the marketing team when we’re in a pinch. For our recent post about the allure of direct mail in this digital age, we realized we didn’t have many physical copies of the direct mail we’ve designed over the last few years. We had digital files, however, so Tom could work his magic. And when our Google Business Profile needed to be refreshed this week, Tom did color corrections on some of the photos, too.
Even though he refers to himself as a “wannabe programmer,” Tom is our go-to person for building emails for clients—and all of Rare Bird’s email campaigns, as well.
After many years in the (chatty) world of advertising, Tom had to adjust to the nose-to-the-keyboard approach our web developers take when they’re deep into a project. But after handling some of the programming himself, he knows why: “When you’re in the middle of figuring out some very intense code and somebody walks up to you, it can break that concentration.”
Still, Tom downplays any suggestion that he might be special. “Everybody is curious here. Everybody wants to know the new thing. How can we use this to make it better for our clients?” he says. “That curiosity—that search for excellence and the next best thing—helps make us a strong team.”
For now, he says he’s happy to remain our
jack Tom of all trades. And why not? It was good enough for Shakespeare. If your business needs videos, animation, emails, or anything else Tom excels at building, let us know. We’re betting you could use help from a Tom of all trades, too.