Panamanian/American actor, Deborah Lee Fong is known for her critically acclaimed performances. An entrepreneur at heart, she has over 30 years of experience in Acting & Dancing and has played lead roles in several movies. In this interview, she shares details about her career and her future plans.
Deborah, Thank you for talking with us. You have over 30 years of experience in Acting and Dancing. Tell us more about your tryst with Dancing and Acting?
I suppose it started with my first trip to Broadway, as a child, to see Oliver. I was intrigued by the production, the music and of course the company of actors who made me believe I was in a different place and time. In my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be a part of that world.
My career has taken lots of twists and turns, and careers; life does that to you. I am fortunate and grateful to be where I am in my life. It has been a dance woven between familial commitments, maturity, and patience. You start out pursuing your passion and along the way, there are entanglements, not necessarily negative, just events that take you on a different journey.
I was introduced to the theatre through dance and drama at the Neighborhood Playhouse children’s program where I attended classes every Saturday from elementary school up until high school. I also modeled for the ILGWU for several years and had tremendous fun walking the runway with my mom.
When it came time for high school, I auditioned for the High School of Performing Arts on 46h Street in Manhattan and was accepted. High School was an incredible time – studio every day, meeting talented young people from all the boroughs. (I grew up in Queens so Queens was home, the other boroughs not so much, lol) We were teens, with all the angst and traumas of teen years and we were also neck-deep in absorbing the details and discipline necessary to nurture our interests.
It is a time I look back upon with great wonder and affection for the patience and wisdom I received from many of my studio and academic teachers. Nothing is ever perfect, and there were difficult episodes in high school and during my teenage years, in hindsight, PA was one of the best decisions of my life. The lessons learned there have served me well throughout my entire life. And, many of the friends I made in high school are still close friends today.
Upon graduating from high school, I had my eyes set on one particular school and they put me on their waiting list. I declined offers from two other very fine schools, and waited for the letter saying I was off the waiting list and on the accepted list. However, it was not to be. I was kind of stuck. At the time I received the disappointing news, I was in Mexico City visiting my father who had relocated t from San Francisco. So, I figured I might as well try university life in Mexico, I was there and it made sense to me. I was accepted into the United States International University – lived with my dad and my stepmother and siblings and started my college life. It was all academics, I did well but I missed the creative process, the daily explorations of self and creativity. It just so happened that my university had a School of Performing Arts (kismet) division in San Diego (USIU SPA). I auditioned and was accepted.
Apart from skill, your field of work requires perseverance. These days, how easy or difficult it is for young actors to get a break?
Talent abounds and perseverance is still a critical factor in pursuit of crafting your skills and having the opportunity to practice them. Focusing on a result, like “the break” can be frustrating and self defeating.
You recently appeared as Agnes in the production of “Secret Santa”. Tell us more about this experience.
Agnes is everyone’s office mom. Kind, sensitive, and just a little overprotective of her office mates. She is the person who calms bruised egos and builds you back up! I really enjoyed Agnes.
Urbanworld Film Festival is one of the largest competitive film festivals. How was your experience in the recently held Urbanworld Film Festival?
It was really terrific and very satisfying. Outstanding talent sharing time and space, what can possibly be better than that?
You have played critically acclaimed roles in several films. Which is your most memorable role so far?
Several years ago I participated in an evening of readings and I had the honor of reading letters from survivors of the Greenwood Massacre. I carry that experience in my heart and soul.
What suggestion would you give to young aspiring actors?
Advice is a tricky thing. What I want to share is that while my journey as an actor did not follow a straight course, I know that my heart never let go of the need to be creative. I found different outlets for that creativity and developed some new skills along the way. I think it’s important to remain flexible, receptive to new opportunities and trust your instincts.
An Interview with Digital Designer Kim Baschet
Kim Baschet is a French Digital Designer who has helped businesses build and strengthen their online presence. He has a particular interest in motion and has successfully conceived movement and transitions for all the products and websites he worked on to create a smooth and spirited experience for the users.
Kim, Thank you for talking with us. Please describe your journey as a Designer
I always loved illustration as a kid, so it started from there! I was drawing all the time. As a really empathetic person, I gravitated to design over time. I wanted to make things that looked great but also could serve people. I loved learning design software, as it allowed me to iterate, fail, retry, and finally produce something that I was really proud of. It gave me the freedom to explore my creativity! I studied at Gobelins in Paris and got a Master’s degree in Interaction Design.
Gobelins is a top school, so it was a really competitive process, but it was definitely worth it. It was amazing to meet, learn from, and collaborate with so many other like-minded people. After graduating, I worked for both agencies and studios in Paris before moving to San Francisco to work at Upperquad. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some talented people and work on some large brands such as Google, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, DELL, Le Monde, GE, and Warner Bros. I am now an Independent designer. My next project for Google made in collaboration with Instrument will launch in April, so keep an eye out!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear design?
Concept, Aesthetic & Usability. An important part is visual, but Design’s purpose is to be intuitive and communicate effectively.
How important is movement for you as a digital designer?
In digital design, movement is key. It guides the user from one screen to another. Motion makes an interface react with actions. These reactions can even convey as much information as words. With motion, I can create a delightful transition that accompanies the viewer from one place to another. It also can increase originality and elevate a brand’s image.
What are some of the software/ tools that are must for any modern-day designer?
Figma is a powerful tool that allows designers to team up and collaborate with development teams. I really recommend learning it. At the moment, it might be the best software for great workflow in interface design. With these remote times, it’s becoming the main tool of many tech companies and agencies worldwide. Motion tools are becoming essential as well.
Programs like After Effects or Principle can help a designer communicate their intentions so much better, whether it be for interactions or just pure aesthetics.
You take an active role in the interactive design community as a judge for Awwwards, CSS Design Awards and The Webbys. Tell us more about that experience.
It’s a great experience to be a judge in these international awards competitions alongside many talented and renowned people. More specifically, I get to vote on the Site of The Day’ and ‘Agency of the year’! It pushes me to do a deeper dive into the elements of great sites. In turn, this feeds back into my own work and inspires me. There are many cool projects out there, and it’s great to take them in every day and be an active part of the design community.
You have worked with a range of clients. With whom did you enjoy the most?
Well, I couldn’t pick one. I love all the projects I did with Google, like AI Responsibilities, Jigsaw type, and Scam Spotter because I get to create a playful style that resonates with me. I used my whole skillset on these projects, including conception, UI design, illustration, and animation.
Another project that’s worth mentioning is Le Monde’s website redesign. For this project, I worked with data from millions of users. I had to find solutions for a global audience while redesigning the site.
You have also been involved in the creation of Santa Tracker. Tell us more about Santa Tracker and the overall experience of its creation.
Santa Tracker is a website with holiday-themed games presented by Google. I worked on this project for 4 months with Upperquad. From the conception and workshops with the client to the design of the website, microgames, and final launch. I was able to collaborate with some very talented coworkers and illustrators. I started by building a whole new brand guide, so the Google team could implement the system we created across all touch-points.
From there, we work-shopped with the client and conceived new ideas for Santa’s Village. A part I particularly enjoyed was leading the design and 3D for a WebGL game called Snowball, a 3D interactive winter playground. The experience was a challenge because I had to create a 3D universe consistent with the 2D style. It was a success and the project was nominated for Best Visual Design by the Webby awards.
In your view, what’s the future of Digital Design?
The future of the industry will move a lot faster because things are easier to build with these new tools. With prototyping and “zero” development tools evolving (even 3D/WebGL one), designers can create more things autonomously and move quickly to testing. It will probably create new trends that evolve quickly and push the boundaries of creativity.
An Interview with SEO & Digital Marketing Guru John Sottile
John Sottile is a New York based SEO Consultant who has helped businesses big and small achieve their online goals. John uses a combination of techniques including On-Page SEO, Content Creation, Reputation Management among others in order to achieve desired results for his clients.
John, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur.
When I was younger, I had my own paper route for several years. That allowed me to get a taste of what it would be like interacting with customers and managing a service on my own time. When I attended college at the College of Staten Island, I never had a real direction at first. Once I decided to pursue a marketing degree, I started to look into social media marketing and search engine optimization.
I realized that not many businesses fully understand digital marketing, and realized that this was a service I could potentially offer to people. One of my first clients was a graphic design company. I used that experience to learn about how to rank a website, and from there I had the confidence to make the leap as a freelancer.
Providing quality SEO services requires a certain level of expertise. Having said that, there are a lot of SEO companies that have cropped up in the recent past providing average services. How challenging is this for your business given the kind of competition this segment has?
I think that having more SEO agencies, freelancers, and providers in the field is a good thing. Having more competition helps create more awareness for the service, and it also gives consumers more options to choose from. Since digital marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your company, it’s one of the safest investments a business can make.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady SEO providers out there too. These companies may use outdated tactics that hurt their clients’ websites. While these scenarios are unfortunate, it also creates opportunities for the legitimate SEO specialists to step in and repair the damage.
How has SEO evolved in the last 5 years?
Google is favoring websites and brands that provide value to their readers and customers. The days of spamming a website to the top of search engines with a link blast from Fiverr are long gone. You need to focus on organic engagement and create quality content that will keep people interested.
It’s also important to have a website that has an easy to understand user experience for the customer. This means that your website should load in a reasonable amount of time, it should have content that helps the user find what they’re there for, and it should have a clear call to action so it’s optimized for conversions. Google tends to favor websites that are consistently publishing quality content. Quality content also helps attract links to your website.
Do you think Google will remain the king of search engines in the foreseeable future?
I believe so. Google and YouTube are the top two search engines, and Google owns YouTube. I don’t see either of these companies going anywhere any time soon. Most people prefer watching videos over reading a blog post.
Do you think keyword research is a must for better search engine results or is it overrated?
Keyword research is absolutely important for search engine results. When you first start a blog, the truth is that no one’s going to find you and read your content. If you do your keyword research and target low volume and easy to rank for keywords, you give yourself the opportunity to compete on a smaller scale and build some initial traffic. As you continue to rank for several low volume keywords, you can build up your e-mail list and start building relationships with those viewers.
How can businesses achieve better results through On-Page SEO?
For on-page SEO, you need to make sure you nail your content and tag placement. Proper title and header tags can make the difference between whether or not your website will appear in the serps or not. A good title can also improve your CTR.
One factor that many people tend to neglect (even SEO agencies) is internal linking. I can’t stress enough on how important it is to make sure you take advantage of internal links. You can use these links to diversify your page rankings, and help your newer content rank. It’s also a user-friendly way to remind people of your existing articles and content that they may be interested in.
What SEO tips can you give to businesses who want to have an optimized online presence?
I think that businesses should strongly consider looking into keeping an active presence on social media. I always get disappointed when I see companies and brands that “don’t see the value” in social media, when everyone is addicted to their cell phones.
Social media has become a powerful tool for small businesses to reach a large audience of people in a cost-effective way. While social media doesn’t directly improve your SEO rankings, it helps more people become aware of your brand. When more people know who you are and search for your brand, you can get more traffic and user signals.
An Interview with Internet Marketing Expert Joe Mercadante
Joe Mercadante is an Internet Marketing Expert and the Founder of Unleash Marketing. Joe and his team provide Internet marketing services to doctors, hospital departments and medical practitioners.
Joe, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur.
I started my first company in 2004, and have been providing Internet marketing services to clients ever since. About 10 years ago, I made the decision to focus all of our energy on working with medical practices, doctors, and hospitals, and we’ve become true experts in that space.
What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor as Internet Marketing is getting a saturated segment?
It took some time to find our space, and for the first few years, we did a great job for our clients and had a lot of early success. Since pivoting to serve only the medical practice and hospital community, we’ve been able to stand out for sure. There are only a handful of companies that focus on this industry and that understand the complexities of medical insurance and HIPAA and some other components, so we’ve become one of the leaders in this space in the last decade.
Tell us more about what kind of Marketing services you provide?
We’re a full service agency, but we primarily provide website and landing page design, social media management, review and online reputation management, paid search campaigns through platforms like Google, Bing, Facebook and Instagram, and some very advanced reporting. An easy way to think of it would be: everything related to making a medical practice, doctor or hospital stand out online and attract more new patients.
As an Internet marketing expert who has helped hospitals and doctors expand their presence, how do you describe the evolution of Internet Marketing in the last 5 years?
Great question. It’s definitely changed in a few ways. First, there’s much more competition. If you own a medical practice (or really almost any business for that matter), you can bet that almost every one of your competitors will have a website and be running Google and Facebook ads. It used to be that doing these things alone would make you stand out in front of potential patients (or customers), but now, advertisers are having to outsmart and out compete the other online competitors and how well (or poorly) you do that as a business owner really determines your ultimate success.
When it comes to making Internet Marketing more effective, what lessons have you learned through your experience?
No question, that strategy and relevance are the key. Internet marketing campaigns that don’t target a very refined audience are like throwing brochures out of a helicopter above a city. It’s not effective.
If you’re going to market online, and you’re an eye doctor, run ads that only display to 30 – 45 year old women with photos of moms at the eye doctor with their kids, and wording that relates to them – “Are you a busy mom? We make eye exams easy for the whole family with flexible evening and weekend hours”, and a landing page that both represents your brand, but also makes your audience feel that you’re catering to them. That’s just one example, but being very specific is the key. Campaigns that we manage might have 10 or 15 different subsets, each with an audience, a set of ads, and several variations of landing page environments.
What suggestions would you like to give to small businesses in order to help them formulate a better marketing strategy?
As we’ve said, be specific but also be data-driven and analytical. Fortunately, at this point there are tons of tools (many of them are free) that allow you to see every click, every conversion and more.
I talk to folks all of the time who are spending money on some form of online ads, and don’t have tools like Google Analytics, or incoming phone call tracking set up to be able to tell what their marketing campaigns are actually producing. Don’t spend a dollar until you can tell where every single lead, patient, prospect, customer came from and how much they spent with your business.
How can people reach you, or learn more about the services that Unleash Marketing provides?
The best way is our website, UnleashMarketing.com – from there, you can see more about our services, you can request a free consultation, see our portfolio of some recent projects, and check out our blogs and social media, which are great resources for anyone who wants to learn more about Internet marketing.
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