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Even though I can only assume, I think it is safe to say that most people with college degrees can relate at least a little to the job search conundrum facing recent graduates. Just six months ago, I was in that position myself. I had applied to many different internships and jobs over the course of a few months, but had not gained much traction. I was beginning to get a little nervous about my options after graduation, and then I found W2O Group. W2O Group was willing to take a chance interviewing an internship candidate without a degree in communications, but instead in Spanish Literature. Although I cannot deny my love of Garcia Marquez and Cervantes, something told me that I would not go on to write the next great Spanish novel. So I dove head first into the interview process, fully embracing the chance to work at an innovative company like W2O.

Andrew Echeguren and his rock-star team
Andrew Echeguren and his rock-star team

After the hiring process, I moved back home to San Francisco and walked excitedly through the doors of 60 Francisco St. thinking that I was about to embark on a two and a half month PR journey. I was wrong on multiple accounts. Instead of focusing solely on PR, my internship at W2O Group engaged me in many roles within the company. During the internship, I was able to combine account management experiences with media relations work, all while collaborating with my fellow interns to complete a challenging yet rewarding intern project.

All these experiences made a lasting impression on me, and I made it clear to my supervisors that I loved working at W2O Group. At this point, I knew my destiny of becoming the next Garcia Marquez was not in the cards just yet, and that instead I wanted to become a full-time employee of W2O Group. Thus, in addition to clearly communicating my aspirations to my colleagues and mentors, I worked hard to establish myself as an important member of my teams. All the hard work I put forth paid off, and I still clearly remember the day when I accepted an offer to become an Account Associate in the Tech Practice here. One of my coworkers even organized a welcoming party for me, which is when the thought crossed my mind, “This is the place for me, because they value what I can contribute to the company, but also, more importantly, who I am”.

After completing my internship, I transitioned into a more account management focused role, and I feel like I have grown tremendously, both professionally and personally, in these first few months. Truthfully, if someone had asked me six months ago if I had planned on doing what I do now, I would not have even understood my current job title. That just goes to show how much one can learn with hard work and support from the right people. After these first six months working here, I can safely say that this beats reading and writing about Don Quixote’s adventures in Spain (despite how awesome they are), and that I am even more excited about the next six months here at W2O Group than I was on my very first day.

Andrew Echeguren is now an Account Associate at the W2O Group office in San Francisco. Learn more about him on LinkedIn and at @therealbigech .

As millennials begin to hit one, two and three year anniversaries at work, their feet begin to itch. It’s time to uproot their lives and try out a new location! Who doesn’t love the idea of conquering a new city, trying out new bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and most importantly escaping the bitter cold, dreary rain or sweltering heat (depending on your current city that is). According to a recent Business Insider article, Americans are least likely to consider international relocation for a job. However, the one demographic of Americans who are far more likely to seek out career moves abroad are millennials. Fifty-nine percent of millennial professionals say that they would be open to moving to a foreign country for a job opportunity. We thought it necessary to catch up with some of our own W2O Group millennials who are traveling far and wide, home and abroad and near and far to see how and why they decided to make their own moves.Moving Boxes

Holly Batchelder: New York, NY — Boston, MA

My background is rooted in science, and I spent many years – during and after college – working at various research institutions and hospitals in the Boston area. After a couple of years, I realized my true passion was translating science into easy-to-understand health information for patients in need, so I went to graduate school to pursue a career in health communications. When I finally completed my program, I took a leap of faith and accepted a job in NYC at Twist.

I loved living in NYC. I reconnected with friends from my past, met fun new co-workers and indulged in a convenient little delivery service you may have heard of, called Seamless. However, there was still a lot I missed about Boston, including the nearby beaches, the health-conscious culture, and – of course – the lobster rolls!

In the end, I am so happy that I moved back. The Boston office is small (12 people), but we are thriving! We have an unbeatable office culture, and when we’re not at work, you can find us boxing at The Club by George Foreman III, or drinking Paloma’s at 75 Liberty Wharf in the Seaport.

moving dogsErin Scialabba: New York, NY — Austin, TX

Ultimately, I moved to move—to meet new people, to try new things, and to gain a fresh perspective on life and the work that we do.

At 25, I realized that I had a lot of growing to do; I’d lived in the New York area for my entire life, spending season after season doing the same activities with the same people. I loved my home, my family, my friends, and my coworkers, but I was itching for a plot twist.

So I set myself up to make the change. Months before I wanted to leave, I spoke with managers about my interest in living and working in Austin. I met with leadership in New York and Texas about logistics. I connected with other transfers around the company and asked them about their experiences. Not only was I taking responsibility and ensuring that I didn’t leave anyone high and dry, I was also creating external momentum to help me take a leap of faith.

So I jumped—and by jumped, I mean I slept for 20 hours while my incredible parents drove me halfway across the country, where I would later live with a roommate I found on Craigslist.

But since the initial jitters, I haven’t looked back. Not only have I had a great time exploring one of the coolest cities in the country, I’ve also made significant strides in my career. By switching offices, I was able to “start a new job,” but draw on a year’s worth of experience I had already gained in New York. Moving to a new office almost doubled my professional network and my confidence at work.

Brianna Kuhl: New York, NY — London, UK

I spent a good amount of time abroad in college, first in Austria and then in France, and ever since I’ve wanted to find my way back out ASAP. I joined W2O over 2 years ago knowing about our many amazing office locations. The London office has a lot of heavy digital growth goals and, after a quick visit last month, seems to be everything I’m looking for. So here I go, off to a new country in a new place where I need to learn how EVERYTHING works. I can’t really explain how excited/nervous/happy I am. It’s a decent amount of paperwork to get a visa for another country (and securing travel for your pet is EVEN harder, more intense than getting myself over there for sure!) but in less than 10 days I’ll be in a new place with a bunch of AMAZING folks out in the UK office. Definitely a learning experience going through the process but overall there is so much support at W2O it’s been much smoother than you would think. I am excited to start a new chapter with a supportive company.

 

 

anita bose_It’s only an hour time difference from the East Coast but adjusting to Central Time was honestly a shock to my system. In the best possible way.

I’m a firm believer that doing the same thing in the same way for too long saps us of our energy and creativity. Having lived, breathed and worked in New York City for the last two (plus) decades, I knew I needed a jolt to the system. A few months ago, I finally made the big break and moved to the great Midwest. And, at the same time, I took on a new and challenging role at W2O Group.

A big change. Momentous. Seismic. I went to college and grad school in New York. I’d spent my entire adult life there. But that was exactly the point. Being in a new place unlocks your senses and forces you to observe things differently. Whether it’s a new city, a new apartment or a new office.

W2O’s Chicago office is very different than our 150-person stronghold in downtown Manhattan. Our small but mighty, tight-knit and fun-loving group is housed in very hip, West Loop offices in the old meat-packing district. At first I worried that being in a smaller office would be isolating. I was immediately surprised at how wrong I was. W2O has mastered the concept of virtual teams. Our staff readily and successfully works across time, space and organizational boundaries. We thrive on it. Granted, technology and effective systems make this possible. But it’s also a testament to how the company has grown and evolved over a short time – from a one-person consultancy to an integrated international operation with 12 offices and over 400 people.

We think of our colleagues as all working along a “long hallway” – creating, collaborating and handing off assignments and clients across geographies and time zones. And being in Central Time has its advantages. Yes, New York is an hour ahead which means we start work earlier to accommodate. But the mere two hour difference with the west coast allows for much more fluid collaboration with our Pacific Time clients and colleagues. W2O’s approach means that we match our clients with the best staff members who have the most relevant experience and appropriate skill set to service their business – not just geographic proximity. In an industry where identifying talent is always a struggle, this methodology allows us greater flexibility in developing strong cross-functional teams that can best address our clients’ most pressing needs.

In my short time here, I’ve already worked with rock star colleagues from every one of our offices, and with clients on both coasts and those based in Chicago.  Working along W2O’s “long hallway” has truly energized me. As has the much-needed jolt– both physical and psychological – of moving to Central Time.

(View the official release welcoming Anita to the W2O team here).

Cly 10

Being the “new kid” at W2O Group is equal parts exciting, scary, inspiring and eye-opening. And joining a new agency for the first time in five years has resurfaced a key idea for me – how the diversity in a group amplifies all of the individual talent within. I call this an agency’s “t-factor.”

In our industry, we’re constantly discussing the “talent pool” and how to bring on the best of the best. Whether in media relations (my area of expertise), digital, analytics, account management, etc. But the problem is that we tend to focus on roles in isolation, and not in relation to a broader ecosystem. We look at expertise and skill sets in solving a specific or immediate problem. And that can lead to homogeneity – in background and in thought.

That’s why I’m so happy to already see in my short time at W2O that our most talented colleagues come from completely different backgrounds and disciplines. Take this stellar earned media team – it’s an eclectic mix of smart and curious media specialists, former account executives and former journalists who’ve come over to the “other side”. This type of mix benefits our entire team and enables us to counsel clients in the most effective way possible. It helps create true empathy, since we’re evaluating decisions from all different vantage points.

Fifteen years ago this wouldn’t have been the case. Today it’s a different game – the talent pool is filled with specialists, generalists, tinkerers and everything in between. And that’s incredible for all of us. Growing, learning and shadowing others is not only encouraged, but expected here – how refreshing!

In the few short weeks since joining W2O Group, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a stellar mix of all-star colleagues with backgrounds as varied as could be – former C-suite execs, reporters, political advisors and even former clients. Selfishly, I know working with all these folks means I’ll be stretched, molded and taught by the best of the best in our industry. It’s a little daunting, but as a result, I know my personal t-factor will only increase.

Bottom line? Today’s talent pool must be diverse, varied and multidisciplinary – in both experience and thought. I’m thrilled to jump into that pool here at W2O Group.

Our CEO, Jim Weiss, likes to ask each of us “what’s your why?” Recently a college student sent me a great note in response to a year old post I’d written about my trajectory into PR nearly two decades ago and it made me think about my current “why.” Because while some reasons may stay the same – the people I work with, truly caring about the work and the impact it can have on patients and society, and the compensation – for me there must always be growth and learning or I naturally lose interest.

As president of BrewLife, an integrated branding and communications agency under the W2O Group umbrella (along with WCG and tWist Marketing), I’m now setting goals for myself and my team that have required a change in the way I think about and approach my work. These are the big things – the personal things – that require an individual journey and are hard to teach. It’s pushed me to work on the parts of myself that hold me back, namely fear, impatience, and self-doubt. And it’s pushed me to liberate the things I do best, like taking calculated risks, and deliberate and compassionate coaching of my team and colleagues. Then there’s my tendency to grow impassioned on subjects I care greatly about and to fight for what I believe is right – and practicing how I channel that action most productively as a leader in the workplace.

It can be really uncomfortable at times, and it requires incredible mindfulness to avoid inadvertently wandering into anxiety. But observing as things fall into place by removing some of the personal obstacles and sabotages, and sharing in the success of my teams makes it a gratifying effort. This tension and the intrinsic reward that results sit at that place where true personal change can occur, and are driving an evolution within me that I can only embrace.

And now for a long post script – in honor of #TBT, here’s that post from last year excerpted from Cosmopolitan magazine, November 12, 2014:

5 Fascinating Jobs You Can Get With a Biology Degree

Just because you study the subject doesn’t mean you have plans to be a doctor.

I interned at a veterinary hospital after my junior year in college. While I loved interacting with animals, I couldn’t stomach the regular procedures that made up the day-to-day work, namely declawing kittens and cropping dogs’ ears. I also volunteered in a hospital for a few years as a candy striper, and I loved it. I had an epiphany in college when I took a couple of classes on Eastern philosophy that Western medicine is incredibly disconnected from the overall well-being of a person. I graduated unsure of what I was going to do.

My first job was as a marketing coordinator for a friend’s digital agency [that] focused on the big three auto companies. My parents lived in Michigan and I was trying to figure out my next move, so I moved in with them for about nine months. My job was a glorified office manager, but I also learned how to optimize websites and began helping with sales efforts. It got my feet wet with the art of the cold call – something that helped me tremendously when I started out in PR.

A year later, I decided to move to San Francisco. I signed on with a temp agency and got a job as a quality assurance coordinator at Elan Pharmaceuticals. It was a pretty mind-numbing job, which consisted mostly of tracking inventory and filling out incredibly detailed reports. It brainwashed me a bit in terms of attention to detail. I also learned that I did not want to work in a lab.

I came across an internship at a tech-focused PR agency, Alexander Communications (which was acquired by Ogilvy & Mather). This was at the height of the tech bubble in 1999, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My prior experience at the digital agency had left a good impression so I went for it.

The internship was pretty competitive, apparently, and the team that hired me said they did so because I had a unique degree that implied an analytical mindset and didn’t carry the typical communications or journalism major. I really enjoyed the people I was working with. Great communicators tend to think fast on their feet and have a good sense of humor, and at agencies you tend to have a younger crew too. My hourly pay meant I was eating ramen during the week, but the tech parties fed considerably better and there were a lot of those.

After five years, I was pretty burnt out on the big agency environment and wanted to move into health care. One of my prior colleagues at Ogilvy put me in touch with the CEO of a six-person agency focused on biotech corporate communications. Here, both my big agency experience and my degree were clear assets.

I’ve been at WCG for nearly 11 years and serve as lead for the 40-person health care practice. WCG is a global communications company that serves the health care industry. I think going to a liberal arts college allowed me to explore a lot of different subjects and follow my natural curiosity from both a left- and right-brain perspective. Ultimately, that’s what my job is about: synthesizing scientific or technical data, and turning it into a compelling and digestible storyline.

Each summer, I love to catch up on reading.  Last week, while on vacation, I read The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, Spam Nation by Brian Krebs and Head of State by Andrew Marr.  All three are great reads.  Here is what I learned that applies to what we do every day.

The Innovators

Study Next Practices, not Best Practices – in every example of technology innovation, the new innovators, whether it was Gates or Jobs or Cerf or Berners-Lee, were improving on the latest invention.  No one studied how companies are using innovation and then decided how to innovate.  If they did, they would have never seen the future they helped create.  Lesson here is to always focus on what is new that will evolve an existing model.  Don’t wait for market-based applications of that same innovation or you’ll be perpetually behind.

Small Groups Innovate – small groups with very different mindsets do really well.  Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove were a great team that helped to create and build Intel.  Very different people.  Ballmer and Gates.  Wozniak and Jobs.  Dorsey and Williams.  No innovations noted in the book were created by large groups or big committees.  In fact, those were the exact groups that couldn’t believe new ideas would work.  Small, diverse teams that could challenge each other to think differently won.  The best innovators realize they need people smart in areas they are not smart in to succeed.

Vision, Programming & Execution are Key Parts of Innovative Teams – each area is intense.  Someone pushes the boundaries on what is possible.  Someone else can create the impossible and yet another person can make it all real.  Each role is critical to success.  Lesson here is that execution and vision are equally important.  One does not succeed without the other.

Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of Us – Richard Stallman was the forefather of open source software, yet he never finished the kernel, which Linus Torvald did with his creation of Linux, ushering in a new era for software.  The last mile is hard, yet worth it.  Said another way, it often takes multiple people/teams in different places and often at different time points to build the innovation that matters to the market.

Transformational Innovation Occurs Over Time – we could connect PCs back in 1969, but it took time to build microprocessor chips, create software to run our machines, organize files in new ways and then put it all together.  Lesson here is that this is always happening.  The question is what pieces are being put together right now that will eventually transform how we work today?

Overall, it is super clear that the best examples of innovation occur via small teams, over time, who can see around the corner a bit faster than the rest of the world.  It is never about an individual. It’s always a team effort.

Spam Nation

Spammers are professionals – this book centered on Russia, in particular.  Spammers run companies, pay competitive salaries for engineering talent, offer strong benefits and act as stand-alone companies, often with a mix of legitimate and illegitmate businesses.  Lesson here is that when there is money to be made, talent will flow towards it, whether it is legal or illegal.  It’s hard to believe, but true.  It’s important that we look at security issues as they really exist, not via the lens we have in the US.  Yes, people are going to work every day to try to take our money and sell us goods that could be dangerous to us.

Canadian Pharmacies Selling in the US are Rarely in Canada – spammers are expert at hijacking sites, driving traffic to those sites and creating the illusion that you are buying prescription drugs from Canada.  They are often coming from other countries around the world made by suspect manufacturers.  If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is. Those who want to deceive us create illusions we can believe in.

Cybersecurity Affects All of Us – today, spammers can make a lot of money selling us illicit or suspect goods.  If they are slowed down in the future, which is starting to happen, they will simply turn to the next way to make money.  Like innovation itself, it is important that we understand what is at risk for us, personally and professionally.  Security will be a growing issue for us in the years ahead.

Head of State

This is a page-turner.  Written by Andrew Marr of The Financial Times based on a plot created by Lord Peter Chadlington, it is centered on a future EU Referendum to stay or not stay in the EU.  From there, crazy things occur.

 

Enjoy, Bob

The best brands can’t wait to tell you about themselves.  They can’t wait to interact with you.  They look forward to learning and listening from their customers.  These are brands that act, quite frankly, like we do at home and at the office.  They are authentic brands.  They want to meet us and we don’t mind meeting them.

Not every brand is like this.  Some are too desperate.  Some try too hard.  Some aren’t comfortable in their own skin and try to be something they are not.

When brands struggle, their owners sometimes take chances they will regret, whether it is today or months down the road.  We know what they do.  The dust eventually settles.

The rules of the road for being authentic online are pretty simple.  At least I think so.  To verify this idea, I asked Andy Sernovitz, the founder and leader of Socialmedia.org, a few questions.

Q:  Andy, people will sometimes talk about a gray area.  But I think it’s more black and white.  No gray.  What is reality?

A: Any time you’re trying to make marketing look like something else, you’re crossing the line.  Especially if you’re trying to make your marketing look like

  • anything written by a consumer — a Facebook post, a blog post, a tweet, a review
  • anything written by an unrelated third party
  • editorial/journalistic content.

Andy, I interpret what you just said as something very simple.  Speak directly as a brand and be proud of who you are!  Don’t try to dress things up.  Speak authentically about what you know to your customers and let them tell you what they think in return.  A conversation, basically.  Ensure it is two-way and it is real.

Q: What are examples of when you know you might be in the gray area?

A: If you have to disclose it, it’s fundamentally deceptive.  I believe disclosure only comes up if you’re trying to hide something and it is maybe a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it.

So Andy, what I take away from this, is that if you’re having a conversation with your customers, you don’t have to disclose, since it is obvious it is already you.  If you have to disclose, it means you weren’t clear in the upfront of that conversation.  And I’ve always believed that great behavior online is similar to great behavior offline.  You always know who you are speaking with, why you are speaking and you go from there.

Q:  For our readers who are interested in this topic, where can they learn more?

A: Well, that’s pretty easy.  They can hear me talk about this subject at one of our Socialmedia.org meetings.

Thanks Andy, this is an important topic that is not about nuance.  It’s about being authentic every time.  Great brands love talking directly with their customers for better or worse.

By the way, we appreciate what Socialmedia.org has offered to hundreds of companies…..a place where brands can learn from each other about what’s next and why it all matters.

Enjoy, Bob

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Nicole Healdsburg Marathon

I’ve never considered myself to be a runner. In fact, quite the opposite. When my husband ran the SF Marathon last year I was in awe of him and said out aloud, ‘I have absolutely no desire to ever do that!’ Until…I got a call from my one of my best college friends (who lives in Southern California) declaring that running the Healdsburg Half Marathon was on her bucket list and she wanted me to do it with her. At first I just laughed and said I’d think about it, not imagining I would do it. I emailed a few local friends that my friend Jamie was trying to wrangle me in to do this and, to my surprise, four SF friends said they were in! So now I was in.

The good news was that I didn’t have to actually do anything until August. Jamie assured me that I didn’t have to start training until then for the Oct. 25th race, so I paid my money and put it in the back of my mind with other things I had to worry about at a later date. I had just started an intensive cardio routine five days a week, so I figured that would help me and then I made my husband take me out for my first run sometime in the Spring. I barely made it a mile and my knee was a mess. I tried not to let that get me down and tried again a few weeks later. Not great, but better and the knee wasn’t perfect but ok.

Fast forward to June and I took advantage of a beautiful running path on our annual trip to Maui and ran a few more times. Making progress! Once August hit, so did reality. Time to get serious. So two of my SF friends who had signed up and I, decided to start running…regularly.

SF Marathon startNow this coincided with my son starting kindergarten so our runs happened at 5:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then one weekend day. At first the early morning wake up was fairly brutal, but it started getting easier and so did the runs.

We ran about 3 miles on each of our weekday runs and started adding mileage on the weekends. What I realized I enjoyed most was the time I had with my two running buddies to just talk and enjoy some quality adult time. I used to be so good about making time to talk to my friends but once life (and let’s face it, kids) get a hold of you, that becomes more of a challenge.

SF Marathon in rainWe made it to race day and as luck would have it, it was the first rainy day of the season. I know we are in a drought but I was holding out hope until the very last minute that it really wouldn’t rain, but it did. It rained a lot. We started our journey in trash bags, but ditched those after the first few miles and just embraced the wet.

I can’t say it was a perfect race, that knee that plagued me on my very first run decide to make a special appearance on the marathon day, but I finished and that is all that matters!

The journey to get there was really the accomplishment, especially for a self-pronounced non-runner.

Editor’s note: Congratulations to Nicole for making it to both the start and finish lines! And for living the W2O Group’s cultural value #MakeItHappen

When I asked my colleagues to share their thoughts for this list, I didn’t expect to be genuinely touched by the answers. But so many submissions reflected the respect we have for each other and our clients, it made me doubly thankful to be at BrewLife.

Drumrollllllll (or drumstick), please…

Thanksgiving_main1. The unbelievably smart, supportive people that we work with every day. Together we make each other better, keep work fun and deliver outstanding results for clients.

2. Entrepreneurs whose drive to invent new things and disrupt the status quo fuels innovation and creates opportunities that make the world a better place.

3. Clients that give us a seat at the table, and see us as an extension of their internal team, not as outside vendors.

4. Being in a place where we all have a voice and can be heard, whether it’s one-on-one, at a meeting or simply across the office.

5. Clients with such passion and commitment to their vision that we can feel the emotion in their voices and see the excitement in their eyes. We become believers in their mission, and that’s when the best work happens.

6. The mute button when colleagues are engaging in lively discussion or sharing their infectious laughter while we’re on calls.

7. Working with so many clients that are making a real difference in patient care—when we go home, we can say we’ve helped to Save The World.

8. That we never go a month without a birthday cake. So far, we’ve had at least one birthday to celebrate each month.

9. The opportunity to be part of the adventure as our clients re-imagine the world around us. Early-stage companies are just the most fun to work on.

10. Soccer balls in the office. Under desks, on desks, soaring overhead.