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Digital Asset Management Expert Dione Surdez Celebrates First DAM Stepping Stone Dinner
Her journey from CPS student to instructor solidified her space in the DAM community.
 Dione Surdez

Dione Surdez is a digital asset management implementation manager and archivist-in-residence for Origami Air Co; a librarian and digital projects manager for LA County Library; and a Continuing and Professional Studies* (CPS) instructor in the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Bronze Certificate program at Rutgers SC&I. Before becoming an instructor, Surdez, who holds a Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS), earned both the DAM Bronze Certificate and DAM Silver Certificate. Her digital asset management expertise is complemented by her experience in a variety of library, archival, creative, and virtual reality environments.

On March 21, 2023, alumni and instructors who had previously only met virtually had the opportunity to gather together for the first DAM Stepping Stone dinner in Los Angeles, California. DAM Certificate Program Co-Academic Directors David Lipsey and Yohan Levenson, along with several other CPS instructors, celebrated these stepping-stone achievements and the doors that continue to open for these professionals because of the rich experience offered through the DAM certificate programs. One of those in attendance was Surdez who received two pins for completing both DAM Bronze and DAM Silver Certificates.

In responding to our Q&A and sharing her inspiring CPS journey with us, Surdez highlights how higher education and the marketplace can collaborate to create transformational professional studies opportunities.

SC&I: What drew you to the Digital Asset Management (DAM) program at Rutgers?

DS: As a public-facing librarian, I sought to enhance my professional degree with a focus in the digital space. My research led me to the idea of digital asset management and the program at Rutgers. I was unaware of any other program specific to the broader picture of what it means to work and thrive in the DAM space, so I immediately applied. It seemed to me a wonderful idea to be able to take each course one at a time in conjunction with my work in digital archives and to be able to complete the DAM Bronze Certificate within six months. 

SC&I: How did the program complement your knowledge and work experience?

DS: When I first started the program, I was a unicorn—the lone librarian. Yet, I was thrilled to be part of a group of DAM enthusiasts as well as established DAM professionals. The caliber of engagement throughout the program far exceeded my expectations. Additionally, I used the programs to develop a use case that paralleled my current digital projects DAM workflow needs. By the end of the program, I had a robust use case that wasn't theory, but an applicable DAM application, which modeled my exact DAM needs. The courses provided a wonderfully structured narrative from the introduction of DAM all the way to the successful implementation of DAM. In between these bookend courses, I learned how to navigate the importance of metadata taxonomies, DAM workflow development, DAM integrations, and data governance. Within the first course, I knew that I was in the right place to take my career to intellectually satisfying heights. 

SC&I: What courses resonated most with you?

DS: Data Governance for DAM with instructor Thomas Stilling was one of my favorite courses as it is loaded with definitive information that is directly useful to any DAM design. My project was still forming at the time, and I recall Behind-the-DAM-Scenes webinars that Thomas held where he invited direct inquiry to real challenges we were having in DAM environment. I felt incredibly seen by Thomas and my cohort as he invited everyone to chime in with potential solutions to my challenge. This blew me away and left a lasting impression with me. Going through the program, I experienced this level of engagement at every turn. And I believe it lends to the merit of the program and why so many continue on to earn the DAM Silver Certificate and remain in the network. The professionalism and transparency are key to this.

I made a mentor and friend in SC&I’s DAM program co-founder and Co-Academic Director David Lipsey, who has provided an incredible amount of guidance professionally and in my publishing efforts as well. We've spent a great deal of time sharing resources and innovations and just taking joy in the progress of the field as Digital Asset Management finds its way out of the IT closet in the basement and to the main floor of valuable discussion for operational CPS DAM graduates.

SC&I: How did you journey from DAM student to CPS instructor?

DS: After I completed the Bronze and Silver Certificate programs, and after working together on DAM publications, David Lipsey invited me to assist with teaching the Evolving World of Digital Asset Management course as well as Successful Implementation of Digital Asset Management. I found I enjoyed sharing my DAM passion with the course participants and seeing those aha moments unfold. It was quite fun to see the transition of a group of participants from the first course to the final course in the cohesive way they would come to speak the same language and understand the big picture concepts of DAM. In the end, they were transformed to confident DAM practitioners whose trajectory was limitless. I just love witnessing this transformation! And working under David’s guidance was a marvel to experience. He is so well versed in anything DAM-related and thus positively inspires those in the field around him. After we facilitated a large number of courses together, I was invited to join as a part-time faculty member. This has been an incredible honor and confidence boost at the same time. Now I get to lead and engage with other faculty as we continue to drive the program to new heights.

SC&I: What are you currently teaching and what is that experience like?

DS: I instruct the Evolving World of DAM (EWOD) course in the Bronze Certificate program. It’s where we get to explore the wonder of what DAM is and what DAM is not. Folks may come in knowing quite a bit already and are looking to validate their professional experience with a professional certification, while others are making a career shift so have many questions, and then there is the continuum that falls between those two extremes. The EWOD course brings this entire dynamic together in one space to explore that wonder and reveal the mysteries. It is magical to be a part of those conversations which solidify for the course participants their place in DAM just as it did for me back in my very first course. Under the direction of SC&I’s Continuing and Professional Studies Director Julie Johnson, the DAM program at Rutgers is seemingly unstoppable at drawing in incredible talent from the DAM community both in terms of faculty and participants. The network continues to grow that much stronger with each new cohort. 

SC&I: What would you like prospective DAM program participants to know?

DS: Pursuing the certification program not only increases your DAM skillset and your professional network but also solidifies a space for you in the DAM community where your confidence is appreciated and respected. No matter your level of experience, every role in DAM is necessary and possible. Within six months, you are in and out of the program with the possibility of making professional shifts that immediately affect your career. And if you find yourself interested in a particular focused DAM area, the Silver Certificate program is there to accommodate you. A key element is that the program affords you the ability to develop a use case either for the space you currently do DAM work or for the type of space in which you seek DAM work. Either way you emerge with a full picture understanding of what it clearly takes to be a successful digital asset manager.


*Continuing and Professional Studies (formerly known as Professional Development Studies) at Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SC&I) launched the first Digital Asset Management (DAM) Bronze Certificate program in 2019, offering six fully online, asynchronous courses to students across the globe. In January of 2023, the program expanded and currently offers DAM Bronze Certificate and DAM Silver Certificate programs. CPS has enrolled hundreds of students across the United States and internationally into their DAM courses.

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