Not that he’d ever brag about it, but Modesto Rodriguez made better use of his pandemic downtime than you did. Read on for the story behind the water-soluble paper soap he devised to teach his daughter to wash her hands, and check out his Instagram page for further evidence of the intelligence and creativity he brings to everything he touches.

What’s something about you your colleagues don’t know?

I have an Instagram account where I post everything I do. People sometimes say, “Where do you find the time to do all that?,” but what they don’t understand is that I have to. If I can make one thing a day, at the end of the week I have seven things. At the end of the month, it’s 30 things. It’s exercise. It’s keeping the muscle memory active.

What are you most proud of?

At the start of the pandemic, my daughter was only two but I wanted to teach her to wash her hands. So I created Magic Soap, a water-soluble paper soap that disappears in 30 seconds. It’s “magic” because when the paper disappears, your hands are clean. To make it more of a visual learning tool, I printed cartoon germs and viruses on them.

Lots of people told me “you need to get IP on that,” but I’m not interested. I’d like to discuss some kind of global health use for it, though. If it could help a school somewhere, that would be huge.

From Modesto Rodriguez’s Instagram account. Click to view more.

What was it like switching jobs during the pandemic?

So many things had changed that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would’ve been. The humanity behind the transition, there was a lot less of it. Also, I missed the moments between the moments — not just the meetings and the pitches, but the things between all those things that define who we are.

When I met some of my Spectrum colleagues for the first time in person, I ran up and hugged them. It was like, “I thought you guys were just CGI!”

What was your most important pandemic takeaway?

That our time together can be more deliberate. People have learned how to use platforms really well. Without Teams or Zoom, “Do you have 5 minutes?” turns into 35 minutes. A 10-minute call on Teams is a 10-minute call.

How did you transition into the creative business?

As an undergrad I was a double major in marketing and economics and a minor in finance. My first job was on Wall Street at Brown Brothers Harriman and within a year I was a quote-unquote investment banker.

During one of my rotations, there was an outside agency that came in to redesign a section of the website. I was like, “Who are these people allowed to come into work in shirts and jeans and sneakers?” I was super-curious about the work that was on their monitors. Before I knew it, I was living in Manhattan and going to Parsons School of Design.

What spurred your move into the healthcare space?

I had been doing a lot of e-commerce information system design, looking closely at shopping cart abandonment and conversion rates and stuff like that. An agent I worked with said, “There’s this place that wants you to help them figure out the design of their back-end fulfillment platform.” That was Medco. It was supposed to be a four-month project, but it turned into a year-and-a-half. The Ogilvy opportunity came from that, and it’s been agencies since then.

Do you wish you would have done something differently?
You look at the houses on Upper Mountain Road in Montclair — I don’t think those people are creative directors (laughs).

My first path, undergrad into banking, felt easy. My second path took a lot of grinding. Working at small VC-funded dotcoms in my early 20s, eating ramen out of a studio apartment on the corner of 6th and Avenue B, riding a 10-speed to Parsons every day… it wasn’t glamorous. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think what life would have been like if I rode out the Brown Brothers thing and ended up at Goldman, but I have no regrets.

What three things do you need to be productive?

Before we went remote, I had never invested in a decent chair, so that’s one. I did set up a small home gym — which was important, because I wanted to retain a little bit of a routine. And wireless earbuds, so I can walk away from my desk and get a cup of coffee without leaving whatever meeting I’m in. That’s a blessing.

I see people working out of their bedroom or kitchen or living room, but that doesn’t work for me. I need to feel like I’m coming into a studio work situation. I need that separation in my life.

What other goals do you have for your career?

For me, it’s all about just doing just a little better every day. If tomorrow is a little better than today, that means Friday will be a whole lot better. I set small goals, man (laughs).