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Making Magic With The Creative Director Of The Big Group

Dream Job

Steffanie D’Alberto is a serial do-er. As Creative Director of Bruce and Chyka Keebaugh’s events production empire, The Big Group, it’s Steff’s job to bring the biggest, wildest, most WOW-factor creative dreams to life – on time and on budget, without comprising the vision. And right now, as you can see in this shoot, she’s doing all this whilst 8 months pregnant!

We caught up with Steff at Flemington Race Course, where this month she is working hard with her team to install the ‘Landmark by Lexus’ marquee, for Melbourne’s upcoming Spring Racing season, to learn more about how she scored her dream job.

25th October, 2019

Steffanie D’Alberto, Creative Director of The Big Group, on-site at Flemington Race Course. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Steff landed her dream job three-and-a-half years ago. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Steff’s job involves working with lots of different people on every stage of event production, from concept to delivery. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Steff and her team on site. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Marking up the Lexus marquee. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The Big Group bring to life some of Australia’s biggest events! Photo – courtesy of The Big Group.

Photo – courtesy of The Big Group.

Another EPIC Big Group event. Photo – courtesy of The Big Group.

Last year’s Lexus Design Pavilion at The Birdcage, created by The Big Group. Photo – courtesy of The Big Group.

Steff on-site (and 8 months pregnant!) at Flemington Racecourse earlier this month. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sally Tabart
Friday 25th October 2019

‘In my role, you need to dream big, and shake off the boundaries of the brief, to ensure you put all your best ideas on the table.’ – Steff D’Alberto.

After high school, Steffanie D’Alberto, Creative Director at The Big Group, planned to apply for only science-based degrees with the hope of becoming a forensic scientist. She fell into a visual merchandising degree ‘by accident’ after coming across it at an RMIT Open Day. Up until that point, she had thought of her creative side as more of a hobby. ‘I couldn’t comprehend how doing something this fun could be a serious career’, she reflects.

Before her current role, Steff spent 10 years (!) working with Amanda Henderson at boutique events production company (and total legends) Gloss Creative. ‘It was the most amazing foundation and Amanda is the most inspiring, collaborative and joyful person to work with’, she says. After leaving Gloss, Steff freelanced at a series of creative-based companies, including Flowers Vasette and Fabio Ongarato Design, before joining The Big Group team. ‘I really enjoyed this period as it gave me insight into what I was really looking for in my next permanent role.’ This dream role at The Big Group came up three-and-a-half years ago, and was tailor-made for Steff by co-founders Bruce and Chyka Keebaugh after they’d met on countless jobs that The Big Group and Gloss Creative had worked together on.

A self-confessed hard worker and excellent organiser, Steff shares more about how she landed the gig of a lifetime.

The most important phrase in the get-your-dream-job lexicon is… 

‘I love to work hard, and I’m organised!’  This is literally the phrase I used to get my job at Gloss Creative!

I landed this job by… 

I landed this job after working with Bruce Keebaugh (The Big Group’s co-founder with Chyka Keebaugh) and The Big Group team for years in my prior role at Gloss Creative. I had always admired Bruce & Chyka for the energy they put into everything they do. I initially approached Bruce who, at the time, didn’t think there was an appropriate role from me at The Big Group, but was kind enough to take the time to workshop with me where he thought I could potentially excel. Then, a few months later we happened to sit next to each other at the Art of Dining at NGV and got chatting again. He asked me to give him a call as he thought he could figure out a role for me, and it just went from there.

A typical day for me involves…

I’m pretty fortunate as my job can vary greatly from day-to-day and week-to-week, depending on what projects we are working on. Ideally, I aim to start my day in the office so I can re-group with my team and make sure each of the projects we are working on is evolving and heading in the right direction. We have twice weekly WIP’s where we all come together to discuss new, current and just-completed projects with the whole team. We take this time to brainstorm ideas, how we plan to approach a project and how we feel a project we just executed went. It’s a great way for us to all learn from what each other is doing, and how together, we can create the best outcomes for our clients.

I’ll generally head out for client meetings and site or supplier visits after that. This can range from a site visit at a private property on the Mornington Peninsula, to a client meeting where we present our designs and concepts, or a supplier visit to look at samples, mock-ups or new products relevant to upcoming projects.

The most rewarding part of my job is… 

There are so many aspects of my job that I find incredibly rewarding! The breadth and depth of the projects we work on makes them so inspiring, and the variety constantly challenges you to reset the way you approach them. We are fortunate enough to work evenly across both private and commercial projects. From amazing weddings for 500 people, to intimate dinner parties for 20 guests in our private work, to bespoke designed facilities in The Birdcage at the Melbourne Cup Carnival, major sporting events such as Australian Open & Commonwealth Games and gala dinners for awards nights. We get to work in some of the most stunning locations from historic buildings and iconic Melbourne landmarks to unique private homes throughout Victoria. No two projects, clients or locations are the same.

I get the opportunity to collaborate with so many amazing people! Whether it’s within my own team, which is made up of interior designers, graphic designers, project managers and fellow visual merchandisers, or with the broader Big Group Team where I work with incredibly talented event managers, chefs and venue managers. Depending on the project, we also get the opportunity to collaborate with brilliant artisans including renowned architects, illustrators, furniture makers, lighting designers, ceramicists, florists, landscape designers, photographers and many more disciplines. I learn so much by working with designers from different disciplines and each time it gives you a new perspective on how you approach your work.

Then there’s the fleeting nature of event design! No project we work on ever has a lead time of more than 12 months. The majority of them are roughly 6 months or less. I love how a project comes in with a firm end date and it takes all your creative and collaborative skills to execute it. You finish the project and get to stand back and watch guests just enjoy it before you pack it all away, as though it was never there. All that’s left are the photographs and memories of a good time.

On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is… 

Balancing creativity with commerce is probably the hardest aspect of my role.  You need to dream big and shake off the boundaries of the brief to ensure you put all your best ideas on the table in the beginning.  Then, as the parameters of the brief come into play, you need to manipulate and craft the design to work within the boundaries set.

I constantly say to my team that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I find the greatest creativity comes from when you are trying to fuse creativity and commerce.

The culture of my workplace is…

Fun! Even when it’s the most stressful of days, the culture at The Big Group is one of true team spirit.  You never feel like you are going through anything alone, and always have a team around you to pump you up.  We are really lucky as we are creating environments that are designed for people to have a wonderful time in, and often creating some of their happiest memories.  That’s pretty special!

The best piece of advice I’ve received is… 

You are only as good as the team around you, whether that’s your client, direct team or suppliers.  The relationships you develop and the trust you build with these people ensure the success of the project.  I’m incredibly lucky to have had a series of amazing mentors who have all practised this approach, they have shown how long-standing collaborative relationships, built on respect and mutual appreciation, flourish to create outstanding work.

Over the last few years my workplace has changed…

Over the past three and half years at The Big Group I’ve been fortunate enough to evolve and grow the creative team to bring in a variety of specialised skill sets that have given us the opportunity to take on larger more complex design projects.  It’s an exciting time for myself and our team, as we are starting to work on some truly unique and amazing projects.

In the next few years I’d like to…

A big aim for myself and the team is to work on major international events.  As the team continues to grow, I would love to expand the skill sets within the group even further with specialists in technical production, lighting and 3D rendering, as this will give us even greater opportunity to push creative boundaries and create truly incredible experiences.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net