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Coming Full Circle: Back Home in DSM, Where It All Began

Returning to DSM

November 23, 2020

It’s so good to be home. Not only am I closer to my family, but Greater Des Moines (DSM) has changed since I left 25 years ago to pursue a career in advertising. Today, the region I grew up in is far more progressive and diverse. I am excited to rediscover the place where it all began for me.

In the early 1990s, I couldn’t wait to leave home. To really make it in advertising, I felt I had to get to a bigger market. Sure, I had a pretty sweet gig for a recent journalism graduate from Iowa State. I had interned in DSM for what was then called Meyocks Benkstein and Associates, a West Des Moines branding and marketing agency. The agency hired me right out of school and provided me plenty of opportunities. But the young idealist in me kept wondering what else was out there.

There was no Internet back then, let alone LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Career Builder or any other job boards that allow you to filter jobs from coast to coast in the click of a mouse. We did it old school, scouring the want ads. I remember my weekly trip to Barnes & Noble every Wednesday. That’s the day the bookstore had the previous Sunday’s edition of all the bigger-city newspapers — The Kansas City Star, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune. And that’s where I found what I thought was my dream job.Johnny Mackin Family

Life Away from DSM

Best Buy is headquartered just outside Minneapolis and was looking for a broadcast copywriter. It was the chance to work on TV and radio spots for the nation’s leading electronics retailer. I got the job and made the move up I-35, settling into the land of Paul Bunyan and Prince. This was before kids, so traveling to L.A., Chicago, Nashville, Portland and all places in between to produce Best Buy commercials was a blast. But it got old quickly.

As a creative, you are constantly improving your portfolio of work and your credentials to get the next great job. I leveraged my experience to land a position with a mid-sized advertising agency in downtown Minneapolis. Then it was on to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I became creative director of an agency where my clients included the Green Bay Packers. Things were going great, but I was back in a market smaller than DSM.

Meanwhile, I continued to visit DSM quite often, as my entire family is here. During my visits, I was impressed with how the region seemed to be growing up and becoming more progressive.

That’s when I got a call from a former client in the Twin Cities. She offered me a job as director of brand marketing for Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, the largest Native American casino in the Midwest. I accepted. This was going to be the pinnacle of my career. I became the leader of my own internal agency. My teams were responsible for creative, media, public relations, strategy and transitioning an analogue advertiser into the digital world.

During my seven years there, I had a great run and accomplished great things. But I felt like a cog in a wheel. I wanted to do work that was more meaningful to me, with like-minded people in a place that was nurturing and supportive. I also wanted to be closer to my parents. I left home 25 years ago, and no one was getting any younger. So I set my sights on coming back home.Johnny Mackin Close-up

Reconnecting in DSM

I knew DSM had changed in so many amazing ways that it made my decision easier. Back when I attended East High School, the Historic East Village was the place where our high school band would assemble before we got in line for the Iowa State Fair parade every year. Now, it’s where I buy the best Mexican Vanilla. Graffiti would get painted over with cement-colored paint. Now, there are amazing public art murals everywhere. Dining out was a chain restaurant wasteland. Now, there’s something for every global taste. I was excited about it.

I started to reconnect with some old contacts to see if there were any opportunities in DSM. I met up with Doug Jeske, who is now president at Meyocks. Just like DSM, Meyocks had grown and was doing great, meaningful work for clients in food, ag and health — all areas I’ve worked with earlier in my career.

I jumped at the opportunity to rejoin the team at the agency where my career began. My life had come full circle. I was coming back to where it all started, and I couldn’t be happier. And just like DSM, I had grown.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Are you interested in moving here? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods to shopping, parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!