Ep. 218 – STN Digital Senior Vice President, Cammille Arciaga

Our guest today is a COO Alliance Member and Senior Vice President of STN Digital, Cammille Arciaga. 

STN Digital is a social-first marketing agency focused on launching brands and building highly engaged audiences. Focusing on digital strategy, social media management, paid media, influencer management, branding, sponsorships, and more, the STN team strives to be a seamless extension of their partner’s internal teams. On any given day, the team at STN could be helping build Elton John’s TikTok to launch a new stadium for SDSU to produce a live stream event for a feature film.

Cammille started at STN as a Creative Director and over the past 3.5 years has worn many different operational hats and is now the SVP and second-in-command to their CEO, David Brickley. Over the years, she has harnessed her passion for developing teams and implementing organizational change and processes while fostering an innovative work environment that helps drive the white-glove service that STN is known for.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • How COVID affected STN Digital’s daily operations and the adjustments they made to adapt 
  • How Cammille helped bring STN Digital from 25 employees to over 90 
  • STN Digital’s interviewing and hiring process 
  • Trends in compensation and vacation time for employees
  • How the KOLBE profiles helped to align the CEO and second in command into their roles



Connect with Camille Arciaga: LinkedIn 

STN Digital – https://www.stndigital.com

Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn

Next Level Growth – https://nextlevelgrowth.com/

The Goat Show Podcast – https://www.thegoatshowpodcast.com/

KOLBE A Index – https://secure.kolbe.com/k2/show_takeIndex/indexType_A

COO Alliance September In-Person Event – https://cooalliance.com/september-2022-event/

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In this episode, our guest is a COO Alliance Member and Senior Vice President of STN Digital, Cammille Arciaga. STN Digital is a social-first marketing agency focused on launching brands and building highly engaged audiences. Focusing on digital strategy social media management, paid media, influencer management, branding, sponsorships and more, the STN team strives to be a seamless extension of their partner’s internal teams. On any given day, the team at STN could be helping build Elton John’s TikTok to launch a new stadium for SDSU to produce a live stream event for a feature film.

Cammille started at STN as a Creative Director and over the past years has worn many different operational hats and is now the SVP and second-in-command to their CEO, David Brickley. Over the years, she has harnessed her passion for developing teams and implementing organizational change and processes while fostering an innovative work environment that helps drive the white-glove service that STN is known for. Cammille, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

I’m looking forward to learning a little bit more about you and your growth, also even a little bit more about STN. Why don’t we start with STN? I’m intrigued by the bio when it mentioned Elton John’s TikTok to a new stadium for San Diego State University.

It’s everything under the sun. STN, we’re a social-first marketing agency headquartered here in San Diego but we have teams all over the US since we’ve gone remote. We work with brands like the NFL, the Olympics, Hulu and Amazon. We’re helping them with anything from 360 marketing, onsite activations and paid media.

As you know, this industry’s changing. Every three months, there’s always a new platform and update. There are so many things to keep up with. Our team likes to be those experts for our clients so they don’t have to figure that out all on their own. We’re an extension of their external teams. We want our clients to be the editor-in-chief of their content and we help them reach their goals.

With brands that are this big and well-known, I would imagine that your company and team have to be good at saying no to some of them. If you say yes to everything they ask for, you’re going to screw it up and then you’re going to kill all the relationships. How do you say no to them? Am I right? Maybe I’m wrong.

That is right. I was thinking about that. One saying that we’ve been repeating is, “We could do it but should we?” If we don’t ask ourselves that, we will say yes to everybody. We’re understanding what’s at risk here because these are such large brands. Any quality issue is on us. Any mistake on these very visible platforms could kill your whole business. It’s very important to us to have that integrity behind what we’re offering and making sure that we can stick to our promise of giving the best output possible. Also, protecting our team and culture of not driving people into the ground because we said yes to everything.

SIC 218 | STN Digital

STN Digital: Any mistake on these very visible platforms could kill your whole business. It’s very important to have that integrity behind what you’re offering and to make sure you stick to your promise of giving the best output possible.


With the clients that you’re working with, are you a premium-priced service? Are you middle? Where does your pricing stack up? My guess again would be that you’re in the premium price side of things with the brands that you’re working with because they need the best. Is that accurate?

Yeah, I would say so. I’m not too familiar with how our competitors are pricing but we know what we are offering to our clients. Our team is on seven days a week and always available. Especially in social media, things are happening all the time. An athlete gets released or traded or news dropped so our team has to be readily available to respond to those events for our clients. With our pricing, you’re also paying for that dependability and always on which a lot of agencies can’t always offer.

How many employees do you have?

We have 90.

When you started years ago, how many were you then?

20 to 25.

From 20, 25 employees up to 90. You’re four times bigger than you were when you got there. What’s that growth been like?

The funnest and wildest ride. It’s been fun. When I joined, we were 25. At the agency that I came from, I saw a very similar trajectory. I also joined at 20 and by the time I left, there were 300 people. I’ve been very familiar with this space and I find it so fascinating to be a part of. When I saw STN Digital, I had this gut feeling that they were on the same trajectory and I wanted to be a part of it. Having a pandemic happen and your whole company going remote and seeing a lot of your contracts be put on hold almost overnight because in-person events are all not happening. That was a big part of our bread and butter. It’s been fun trying to figure it all out.

You do social and social media. Is that your onsite taking photos and doing live streams and reels onsite? What are you doing onsite for events?

An example would be at an award show where they have an activation on the red carpet. As celebrities are walking through, maybe the network wants to get content that they can post on their social media. We’ve built full activations where we only have one minute with a celebrity. We have a team on site capturing this content, turning it over and sending it to their publicist to post on social media within 30 minutes. Maximizing the footprint that they have and the time that we have with these highly visible people to amplify their presence on social media.

COVID hits and onsite contracts stop. Did you have to lay off people? Did you have to sit back and pivot? What did you do?

We didn’t lay off a single person. We got together as a leadership team and figured out what other offerings and where else could we add value. The other side of the coin was that everybody realized they needed social media. If you weren’t in person, then you at least needed to have a social presence to stay top of mind and be visible. That was what our expertise is in so we created playbooks. We gave people tools to help navigate how to use a budget, maximize what you have to use and keep your audience engaged during such a known time.

There’s been a huge trend in the last few years for offshoring, probably in the last 20 years but even more so it seems a lot of what the backend works on social like slicing up content, captioning it and pushing it out on feeds. A lot of that’s being done overseas. What percentage of your 90 employees are overseas? What percent are in the US?

They are all here. We do have a team of freelancers that are overseas but they’re not full-time employees for us but we do use them to create content for us. Especially in this quick nature of our industry, if somebody is about to be traded or news is about to drop, we can activate someone overseas. By the time we get in, the graphic is already done. All of our full-time employees are here.

The 90 are in North America but you are leveraging some freelancers as well overseas. It makes sense on the onsite and the 360. I’m going to talk about the COVID stuff and then I’ll go back through the years again. The COVID hit you a little bit on the products and services that you’re offering and having to refocus with some of these clients around some of the urgency less onsite. What changed for the company itself? Were you all based in San Diego at the time or were you throughout the US pre-COVID?

We were all based in San Diego with a few people who were in other states but that wasn’t even a standard for the company. Everybody who got onboarded had to be based in San Diego but that changed overnight. It’s interesting to think back because even working from home was something, as a culture, we were trying to move towards. One day you got to work from home. It was Wednesday, I remember. Overnight, everyone worked from home and it worked out just fine. Since then, everyone that we’ve hired, we’ve opened up all of our jobs to anybody in the US which has been amazing for our talent because San Diego’s very limiting for what we’re looking for.

Every city’s limiting if you think about the fact that you got to live within twenty minutes of the office to have a reasonable life. If you’re driving more than that, your life is messed up so then you’re hating your job. It’s odd that you’re going to have so much talent in that one marketplace. Are you going back to the office? Are you getting rid of the offices? What’s going on there?

We have a headquarters in San Diego. We’ve turned it into a WeWork space so there aren’t any assigned seats but there is a desk and a monitor if you want to plug in and pop in whenever you need to. Our executives have private offices here. For the most part, our headquarters is more of a place to collaborate or have larger meetings if we can but it’s by no means mandatory anymore.

What an unbelievable change and cultural shift in every organization. Nobody ever would’ve thought that Wednesdays you could work from home. Now, if you want to come in once in a while, it’d be nice to see you.

Yes. It’s such a difference.

What’s changed in terms of your systems culturally on the hiring and onboarding? How have you adapted to that?

I feel like we’ve gone through two years of wild hiring. Our culture has changed so much. The pandemic forced us to look at what matters and listen to what our team needs. At the beginning of the pandemic, we gave everyone a one-hour mental health break. It was free time to do whatever you needed to do. The whole company took it. We had this agreement that we wouldn’t Slack, email or call during that hour. It’s something we’ve never gotten rid of. It’s on the company calendar that we’ve adopted. Changes like that because we felt the team needed it. Our hiring has blown up. We’ve been working with Next Level Growth. My CEO David Brickley heard about them from you.

SIC 218 | STN Digital

STN Digital: The pandemic forced us to look at what matters and listen to what our team needs.


Michael Erath’s company. That’s right.

Scott is our implementer and he’s been incredible. My CEO is very familiar with EOS and we’ve implemented some principles but not with a true implementer. It was there but not really. We weren’t following through. We’re fully invested in the visionary integrator seats, accountability chart and KPI. It’s interesting because that’s coming after a lot of this growth but we’re moving in the right direction.

I’m curious about EOS Traction by Gino Wickman, the solid system’s amazing program. My feeling has always been that it tends to start to break down around 70, 80 employees and you need something different. Is that why you’re working with Michael Erath’s company, Next Level Growth, because you need something after EOS?

Yes. At the size that we’re at and the leadership team that we’ve developed, I also like the platform. They’ve got us on Ninety.io, which keeps us accountable. That’s the thing with all of these processes and programs. There are documents that live everywhere. Halfway through the quarter, you forget that they exist. We’re trying to create something that we look at weekly and we’re all accountable for.

Let’s go back to the hiring component. You’ve had to hire 70 employees over the last several years but you’ve had to do it remotely. What specifically have you done to change your hiring process, interviewing process and onboarding process?

Even before interviewing, the game changer for our company was hiring a recruiter. We couldn’t correct the code but a lot of other businesses that had scaled that we spoke to, hiring that internal recruiter was massive for them.

Where did you get the recruiter?

We hired for it. We had a job posting up and we hired a junior recruiter underneath that person but they’ve helped us get people to the hiring process so that was a big change. I would recommend that to everybody because otherwise, everyone’s accountable but nobody is. The recruiter was huge and then in the hiring process, we systematized everything. We use recruiting as a platform. Most people are in buckets throughout the process so you’re very clear on where people are.

A big thing that we’ve also integrated was the predictive index. We asked our applicants to fill that out in the hiring process. We create job targets before the post even goes up. All of our hiring managers are trained to look at what their PI scores are and if they’re a fit for the job. That helps us call through hundreds of applicants because if they aren’t in the right job target, it’s not going to be a fit period. That was also huge. Otherwise, you’re just looking at every applicant without a compass.

Our interview process has about five core steps. During our onboarding, we did a whole overhaul of the process. We realized that people were joining the team and had no idea what the goals were, had no idea what their impact was on the whole company and felt like a fish out of water. They spend two days with our director of HR and go through a company onboarding. It’s a baseline picture of what our goals are.

They rewatched our State of the Union. They watched a video about our vivid vision. We record all of those so we make all of our new hires watch them so they’re caught up to speed on what the whole company has agreed on and what the vision is. We go through platforms and benefits, all the basic things that I feel get overlooked and you’re expected to figure them out by asking people. You then get shuffled over to the department training and that’s a whole process. We also have internal manager training. Depending on what hire they have, everybody gets the basic STN Digital company training and then they get the more specialized.

In terms of the cultural side of things, the culture changes and adapts to COVID. How do you onboard people when you used to be a strong culture company and you were all in person? How do you indoctrinate them into that culture but it’s like, “Go back to your living room. You never go back to your bedroom?”

It’s been a fun experiment to see what works. Even when I first started, we always sent out a little questionnaire to our new employees and sent it out the Friday before they started. Everyone in the company welcomed you and responded to that email. You felt already welcomed by the team before your first day even. It’s interesting. Our Slack is probably the most lively it’s ever been.

It’s been interesting to see how well I know people that I haven’t met because we’ve created a transparent, safe, bring your whole self type of environment. People are happy to share photos of their dogs, their children and whatever’s going on at home. That’s very welcomed here but a big investment that we made was having a Goat Retreat so our mascot is a goat and we call our team the herd.

We have a Goat Retreat here in San Diego. It was the first one we’ve done of this size. Our employees who had been on the team for two years hadn’t met their supervisors and colleagues in person yet. We flew everybody out to San Diego. We had no sales discussions or company meetings. It was just focused on team building and foundations. We had the Olympics on the bay. We did a whole tour of our new headquarters. We did a nice company celebration. That helped us see how much we need to invest in culture and probably do that more often.

I dropped into the chat with a friend of mine and a former COO Alliance member, Mike Arce. His company’s called Loud Rumor. Mike hosts a podcast called The G.O.A.T. Show. He has some strong content that you guys would like. He’s a digital marketing agency as well but he only does digital marketing for firms like F45, Orangetheory and chains of fitness places. There’s no competition but your team might love some of his G.O.A.T. Show episodes because it’s the greatest of all time.

Talk to me about what you’re noticing with employee compensation. We’ve heard this whole thing, the Great Resignation. It’s about time that employees left crappy companies working at crappy jobs and move to companies like yours where they can work for a great company and job. What’s happened to compensation in the last few years? What are you seeing?

I’m seeing what everyone else is seeing on the hiring side. People are empowered to ask for what they think they deserve. It’s on the company side. It’s forcing us to reevaluate all the levels. That’s a common challenge we’ve talked about in COO Alliance about strong talents that you want to get in the door very quickly because also if you don’t offer them within a week, they’re gone. It’s like the housing market. It forces us to reevaluate the levels that we have within the company to meet the demand of potential candidates. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I haven’t either. It’s extraordinary and extraordinarily fast. Are you paying more than you used to pay? Are you trying to drag it out as long as you can? Are you getting ahead of the curve? Where are you guys with all that?

We’re paying more. Especially when you’re competing, our competitors are thousands of employees and have a lot more. We have to stay competitive but I also think that we double down on our culture and we know that the environment that you’re going to join and what we offer here as far as protecting your work-life balance and looking out for our employees. I don’t know if you can put a number on that but we’re also confident that if you choose to work with us, you’ll be much happier.

What are you giving people for vacation time? Where are you with all that?

We have four weeks of PTO. I can’t remember the number of holidays off the top of my head but we also have this policy internally. We have people on staff who are looking at, “Have people worked seven days in a row or over X amount of hours?” We work with that employee to give them time back. Nobody in the company ever works for fourteen days and goes unchecked and isn’t given some time back to recoup.

I like that you said, “We protect the career-life balance as well.” It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We’re going to be spending a lot of time at our two-day in-person event on building a world-class culture. It’s only COOs from around the world will be at that event focusing on building that workplace so that we can attract more employees in a magnet.

The base level pay is only at the bottom of that five-level pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy. The safety and security, the camaraderie, the feeling of friendships, the career growth and their growth. It’s good that you guys are focusing on all that. I want to go back to years ago. You were working at another digital agency and then you decided to go and work with STN. Were you still at the other agency? Had you quit? What was the transition to STN?

I was still there when I applied at STN Digital. I was there for several years. That’s where I got all of my understanding of the agency world. It was in public health marketing. It’s a different subject matter. After 6 or 7 years of that, I was curious to see how my skills would translate in another industry. STN Digital was another agency in San Diego, which I felt was like a unicorn to find because sports and entertainment agencies are in New York, LA and big cities that I couldn’t move to at the time. I knew that there was something about STN that I had to jump and test out.

What role did you apply for? Why do you think they selected you back then?

This is a funny story. I wanted to get in the door so I applied as an account manager. That was the open position, which wasn’t what I did but they called me back. I didn’t get that role but they called me back after their creative director ended up leaving. Several months later, they called me back and offered me the role that I wanted, which is great.

What was that?

It was the creative director. I had initially applied as an account manager but I wanted that to get in the door, even though that wasn’t what I did.

How have you moved from the creative director’s side into the operation’s side? You’re the Senior Vice President. You report to the CEO. You’re that second in command. How did you move into that role?

I was thinking about this. How did I get here? That’s a very unorthodox way to get to the role. I knew that the company was right on the precipice of blowing up and scaling very quickly. I learned about Kolbe at COO Alliance. I revisited my profile and I’m at 8913. I love systems and processes. Everything makes sense to me. I’m always asking, “How are we doing this? Why are we doing this? What’s the most efficient way to do this?”

Even in the creative world, there are so many steps to get an idea out the door to be client-facing. That was what I geeked out on. I have project managers, freelancers, account managers and all of these people in the process of shepherding this idea out the door. I realized that I always was excited about creating a system around that.

At the time, my CEO also realized he needed a right-hand person to think through the how of all of this. That was naturally what I gravitated towards. I sat in the director of HR seat twice. I was in the VP of Ops seat before I was in this seat. As unexpected as it is, all of those seats helped me see the whole picture and understand the very tactical aspects of the role. When you’re so far removed, it’s hard to enact change because you don’t get the day-to-day experience of that person that’s client-facing. It’s helped me see the full picture.

SIC 218 | STN Digital

STN Digital: When you are so far removed, it’s hard to enact change because you don’t get the day-to-day experience of that person who is client-facing.


Your CEO David, did he do his Kolbe profile?

He did.

Do you know what his four numbers are?

Surprisingly, he’s at 8633.

He is an unconventional COO. What’s his background? Is he out to the sciences or tech?

No. He was in sports broadcasting. What he wanted to do was become a broadcaster but he has always been in the social space.

Your second number is the highest with a nine, which means you initiate projects by putting systems and processes playbooks in place. David’s first number is highest and that means he likes to start things by asking questions. I would guess that between the 2 of you with 2 very first high numbers and then with systems and processes, you’re not making a lot of mistakes. Are you making some mistakes?

Both of us strive not to.

Have you made any?

Plenty of mistakes.

Give us a mistake that you’ve made as a company or that you’ve made that you’ve learned from.

This is pretty common but not moving quickly enough when it comes to culture. We learned about the people assessment tool. There’s a part of it where they’re a high culture fit but low performer or high performer but poor for your culture. Those are some of the mistakes that we made, not moving in those areas. It has ripple effects that affect so many people but those are the ones that stand out to me because they take all of your energy.

They do. It’s like that cultural cancer that if you found out you had a cancerous tumor in your body, you’d get it removed right away. I don’t know why we let the cancerous people stay in the organization because they do spread.

We realize that the more that we are talking about someone, trying to make plans for somebody or create a role for somebody that doesn’t exist is already a telltale sign for us that we’ve spent too much time thinking about this.

This is an odd question because I don’t know the answer to this but have you signed up any of your managers yet for the Invest in Your Leaders course?

Not yet.

What do you do to grow your managers and leaders? The reason I launched that course was to give managers the twelve core leadership skills that they need to excel in their roles. Things like situational leadership, coaching, delegation, time management, conflict management, problem-solving, interviewing and running meetings, the soft skills of management. When you’re growing this quickly, you’ve got a management team that you’re either needing to continue to grow or you’re hiring from the outside. Let’s talk about growing them from within. What are you doing to grow their skills internally? Are you just hiring people that grow themselves?

Both. In the last few years, we built a manager training program internally. Our CEO and I sat down and recorded videos about mindset shifts that change when you become a people leader at the company. How you show up changes and people that are watching you. A lot of those mindset shifts, we’ve recorded videos on. He also has a coach he did some videos with about having difficult conversations. It’s a huge deck that is tracked with a checklist. We also walk through all of the platforms and the manager-level aspect of all the platforms that they’re used to using. Also, corrective action.

SIC 218 | STN Digital

STN Digital: When you become a people leader at the company, how you show up changes, and people are watching you.


Some people didn’t know that performance improvement plans or development action plans existed. We’re walking them through what their options are if they are in a situation like that and whom to go to as a company. As a leadership team, we read Radical Candor. We referenced that often. That’s big for us here. That’s the initial. We’re working through how we make that a more ongoing process and talk about it more often because they’ll get through that. The application of it in the real world, now that they have to do these things, a lot more questions come up. We’re trying to think through what that next step looks like.

An organization that you believe in growing people too. It’s nice that David has a coach. You’re involved in the COO Alliance. You’ve got Next Level Growth working with you on implementing traction, the L10 stuff and all their systems. You’re growing your people. Have you had to bring in any external senior hires over top of the existing team at all? How did that go if you have yet? Are you starting to have to think about that?

We hired our VP of Operations. The operations side of the company was lagging with the rest of the company and then you scale and realize, “We need these people.” They’re the engine behind all of this scaling. That was a big red flag moment in one of our offsites. The CEO and I realized that both of us were probably sitting in that seat. It’s so ineffective for both of us but that was one that we hired out and knew that there wasn’t anyone on the team that could fill that role.

When you had to hire for that outside and bring them in, this typically happens when you’re going from the 70 or 80 and you’re in the 100-zone when you typically have to do it. It’s very normal. When you’re at 300, almost every single senior person’s coming in from the outside. It’s very hard to grow from within. What did you have to do to bring that person in from the outside? What were some of the negative ripple effects that they caused? What were some of the positive ripple effects that that senior person caused? Either way, they’re like a boulder and are going to cause ripples. What did you notice? What can we learn from the good and the bad?

I appreciate bringing somebody in from the outside because they ask questions that I don’t think I ask enough. “Why do we do it that way?” Anytime I didn’t have an answer for why, it was like, “Why do we even do that?” I welcome those questions and how they poke holes just to try to understand because it makes you repeat back what you’re trying to teach them. If it doesn’t make sense, then it’s like, “Let’s remove it.” That is such a huge benefit of bringing in someone from the outside.

Them joining an existing leadership team, it’s a different energy. We’ve all been working together for several years and there is a relationship-building that has to happen. Especially in these leadership meetings, we talk about sensitive topics and what’s going on in the business. It takes a while for that person to understand the rhythm and the culture, for any employee, to get integrated. Fortunately, that person’s also local so he’s having a much easier time figuring it out.

I realized if you rearrange the STN, it’s called TSN. TSN is a sports broadcasting agency in Canada. My uncle was one of the very first sports broadcasters for that agency in Canada. I was laughing that David wanted to be in sports broadcasting. There was my ADD moment for you. I want to go back to the 22-year-old Cammille. You’re getting started in your career and getting going. What advice would you give yourself at 22 that you know to be true now but you wish you’d known back then?

You don’t need to know everything to start. That is what I would tell myself. I’m someone who wants to know all the information. I want to be good at it before I start. Two things happened to me in the last several years. I had a baby and the pandemic hit right as I became a VP. Both of those are great examples of, “You don’t need to know everything to start.” As a parent, you read all the books, you think you know everything and then they arrive and you’re like, “I don’t know anything.” You’re googling everything and you’re noticing that other parents also don’t know what they’re doing so you’ll be okay.

I joined COO Alliance during the pandemic. I have other people in my seat and realize we’re all figuring it out. No matter what size your company was, no one had a clear answer. That was very comforting and it reinforced that you’re not going to know everything and the resources will present themselves when you need them.

Cammille Arciaga, a COO Alliance member and the Senior Vice President for STN Digital, thanks very much for sharing with us on the show.

Thank you so much.


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