Creative Lives Interview with Blogger & Author, Sergei Urban aka The Dad Lab
Sergei Urban aka TheDadLab is a father of two who inspires parents around the world with his brilliantly creative ideas. He began sharing kids’ science experiments and educational activities that he did with his children online 3 years ago and pretty soon became an online sensation with over 3 million fans across all social media platforms. He debut book The Dad Lab: 40 Quick, Fun and Easy Activities to Do At Home, is out now.
It’s a pleasure to welcome Sergei to the blog.
How did you pursue and achieve your current job?
TheDadLab began as a hobby – a way to spend time with my kids while making videos of our precious moments together. As I started posting the videos online, I realised how big the demand is out there from parents looking for ideas on how to spend more quality time with their kids. Thanks to the power of today’s social media, I was able to make TheDadLab my job. My background in international trade and web development and my creative side and passion for educating my children, all came together to create what you see today.
What are the advantages to working in the field you do?
The most significant advantage is that I can spend time with my kids while working. I’m always home, and everything I do for TheDadLab is centred around my children so it’s very easy to balance work life and home life. What I love most about this career is that I’m literally getting support from everyone. My family, my friends and the community that has come together to support what I do with TheDadLab.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
The biggest challenge is the sense of responsibility I have as an influencer. The bigger my brand grows, the more people who follow me, the more responsibility I have to shoulder.
Some people see me as unreachable online sensation. But in reality, I’m just a regular dad who loves spending time with his kids. Three years ago, this was a hobby. Now with more than 3 million followers, I’m still the same person, but I have to be sensitive to the fact that people follow me to get inspiration on how to spend their own time with their kids. So I have to ensure the content I post is not only high-quality but also appropriate and sensitive to everyone, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds.
How do you deal with the inevitable ups and downs of leading a creative life?
The community I have built around TheDadLab is very important to me, and I rely on feedback a lot to become better at what I do. Hence, I try to read all the comments and messages I receive. When I receive negative comments, it does affect me and makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing though. I don’t mind receiving constructive criticism and have acknowledged those who have made me reconsider some posts but when I get straight up negative feedback, it does dampen my creativity for a few days. After a short while though, I dust myself off and move on to the next activity that will help others connect with their kids 🙂
Can you share tips for building confidence?
Practise. Practise. Practise.
When I look at videos from a few years ago, or even a year ago, I cringe. But with time, they get better. The more I post, the more confident I become.
I’m actually not very comfortable talking in front of a camera but that’s the foundation of social media. I found that doing the live streams on Instagram and Facebook help me to get out of my shell a bit so I’m trying to do them more often. Those live streams might not be perfect but they lead the way to the perfect me and they give me the opportunity to connect with my audience at the same time. Win-Win!
What are your career highlights to date?
My debut book, TheDadLab: 40 Quick, Fun and Easy Activities to do at Home, which came out today, on July 12 2018. As well as some of my most popular experiments, the book will feature some exclusive never-before-seen experiments. I’m so excited to share my content in a new format that can reach new people and inspire parents to become closer to their children.
The number of followers is a big deal for me – knowing people connect to the experiments when I post them and are spending more time with their children is just so remarkable.
When my first video (Skittles) went viral – my Facebook page went from 5,000 fans to 100,000 in a week. It blew my mind! I realised there was something huge here – something that I needed to start focusing on a bit more. A year later, the hard work paid off – I had a million fans.
All the brand opportunities have been so encouraging and fantastic exposure for TheDadLab. Knowing that Apple, BBC, LEGO and others noticed not only my brand but felt its mission was important enough to take part in it was an incredible achievement.
At the end of the day, all of these helped shape the biggest highlight – I got to take a hobby and turn it into a career, all while spending time with my kids. It’s the best thing in the world.
Who inspires you?
My kids. Quite often after they wake up, they come to me and ask what experiment we can do. Then it’s time to come up with new things. I see what’s in my house and try to piece something together for them. Everything I do with TheDadLab is for them and their enjoyment. I love to see the happiness in my kids’ eyes, as well as when fans make comments about how their kids loved an activity too.
What’s the greatest advice you’ve been given?
Film your kids. Because the kids grow fast. Photos are great, but they’re just 2D. Videos capture their movements, their voice, the little quirks and movements photos can’t and that you may forget as they grow up. When you look back on the videos, it takes you back in time and makes for wonderful memories.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
Continue growing TheDadLab and inspiring others to spend more quality time with their kids. I built TheDadLab around the focus on spending more quality time with your kids whether you’re a parent, teacher, grandparent, babysitter, etc, anyone can use these activities to help enrich a child’s life through more one-on-one time and by educating them. It doesn’t matter what your background is, where you live, or how much you make. I want science to be accessible to everyone, which is why everything I post is based on things you can find easily in your home.
Ultimately, success is happiness. Sometimes people are not happy even though they have everything. We need to learn to focus on what is really important. For me, my family and the opportunity to make a positive change in the world are important, and I am lucky to have those things.