Steve Cucinotta's job lets him work with state-of-the-art software, create the latest Facebook applications and collaborate with equally cutting-edge co-workers. And if that's not enough, consider this: His office has a Foosball table.
Cucinotta, 27, works in the Hollywood, Fla., office of the marketing firm Sapient, developing animated Web content using software like Adobe Flash.
And his skills are in demand: Industry insiders say the hottest fields in the tech world include those, like Cucinotta's, that help companies market themselves on the Web.
While many Flash developers have college degrees, it's not necessarily a requirement. Many get hired just from learning Flash on their own or after taking a few Web development and design classes. Becoming an expert with the programs can be a part of on-the-job training.
What is a requirement, however, is natural creative talent and a problem-solving spark.
Cucinotta was no Flash expert when he first got this job. He studied digital media in college but ended up working at a sign shop doing graphic design when he graduated. A friend told him about a job opening at the interactive marketing firm ichameleon/group/ - which was later acquired by Sapient.
When he interviewed for the job, he said, "I haven't touched Flash in a bit, but if you give me the chance to learn, I'm all for it."
They gave him that chance. Two years later he's leading a team of creative techies to do all sorts of digital media, such as creating Facebook applications for Coca-Cola and online advertising banners for Toyota.
"Every day is a learning experience here because there is always some kind of new thing that's coming out or some kind of new product," Cucinotta said.
When the deadline draws near for one of those projects, it's typical for Cucinotta to put in about 50 to 60 hours a week. And in a crunch, he has worked through all hours of the night. But it's rare, and with a relaxed work environment, he says he doesn't mind the occasional long hours.
"It's like a family here," Cucinotta said. "Everyone here is just very warm and welcoming. And that to me is the biggest thing. It feels like I'm going to hang out with my friends and do work while I'm here. I don't see it as a job. I see it as a place to go and learn."
He said he has learned more on the job than he ever did at school. Most of the Flash developers he's come across are either self-taught or took a few classes in school.
Jim Jarnagin teaches Flash and related skills at McFatter Technical Center in Davie, Fla. He said lately employers want workers equipped with more than Photoshop skills to make brochures - "they are looking for experience in Flash and Dreamweaver."
He has taught at McFatter for 20 years, and what started as traditional computer art classes has shifted focus to Web design and Flash to meet the demands of local employers.
Gaston Legorburu, Sapient's chief creative officer, said the tough economy has been somewhat of a benefit for the company.
"We're getting clients that are spending less overall, but are spending more with us - spending more in the digital channel," he said. "I actually think that hard times are accelerating that shift."
He says the company is getting more resumes these days, but they are always looking for new talent as the company continues to expand.
"Over the last six months to a year, we've probably won business from four of the top five global brands," he said.
"So we're hiring pretty aggressively and we're hiring around all creative disciplines - Flash and 3D developers being two of the hottest areas."
© 2009, The Miami Herald.
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