This blog reflects on life at work at comments on the latest news that shapes my 9-5 working day in a Corporate Communications consultancy.

About Me

I am a born and bred South African who has always loved to read and write. As a child my mother used to read to me and my siblings, from classics like the “Lord of the Rings” but later also from her own stories. She would write children’s stories and then use us as her test audience, but I loved to hear what she had written long after my siblings had tired of it. So I grew up in an environment of reading and writing, which inspired my love of these things. I hope to write a great book some day, and have learnt first hand the determination and will that it takes. My love of English inspired me to continue my study of it at university. I majored in Law and English in a BA degree at UCT where I found that I took to English much more than law. I enjoyed learning about South Africa’s history and the development of our liberal Constitution, which increasingly made me committed to the hope this country has for the future. Ideally, I’d like to find myself in a job where I am able to write; that allows a good mix of time spent with people and being able to work on my own.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Things I learned this week.

Things I've learned this week:

1. Respect the office hierarchy. People in senior positions are there because they've worked hard to get there, and know a lot more than you. In a relaxed atmosphere like Brunswick, it sometimes easy to forget that. Even with small things, this is important- for example, for the last month I've been sending out a market wrap every afternoon. Normally, I typed in e mail addresses in the order of the way people are seated. Then, this week, Gareth (my desk neighbour) pointed out to me that it's standard business practice to order email addresses according to seniority - so start with partners and work my way down to interns. Not something you would know unless anyone told you - but again, it's about respecting hierarchy.

2. If you have a problem with someone or you feel they haven't done something properly, the best thing to do is to take it up with them personally, rather than complain to your colleagues. Complaining just allows the problem to get out of hand.

There are office politics no matter how small or how big the organisation - if you put some people together and ask them to complete a task, there's bound to be friction and disagreements. I was chatting to my cousin and he said he thought he learned the most in the first two years of work - and most of his lessons were about interacting with people in a professional manner. That's why EQ and what type of person you are are so much more important than what you study, I'm beginning to realise.

Characteristics of an executive

I've been working on the Brunswick training manual. The following is an excerpt - they are guidelines to the characterstics of an executive. If you don't already know yet, an executive is a juniour employee. Some of these characteristics are particularly important at Brunswick, but a lot of them apply to most jobs. As interns, these are what we should be aiming to develop - so I thought I'd share them.

Ø Intellectual Curiosity: Executives should have a dynamic interest in how we help our clients and what our clients do, as well as possess a general inquisitiveness about which strategies and approaches work. Brunswick’s open floor plan and unique team structures allow for abundant opportunities to learn about strategic communications—curiosity about these issues and the role you can play in assisting our clients is key to being a strong member of the Brunswick team.

Ø Calm under Pressure: Executives should possess a calm and assertive attitude, especially when under pressure in situations such as handling difficult clients, maintaining composure when the internal team is extra-busy, or facing an unfamiliar situation. Brunswick is a fast-paced environment; keeping afloat during a transaction or other critical situation is a necessary part of being a member of a team here.

Ø Multi-tasker: Executives will inevitably have many things on their plate at one time should be able to juggle deadlines for various teams in a responsible and organized way. This means being realistic about what you agree to take on for your team and always understanding the timing on a project or document.

Ø Flexibility: Executives are an integral part of the client teams and this requires a flexible attitude and being able to adjust to a fast-paced atmosphere. When we are hired to handle a transaction or a crisis situation, this often means late nights and weekends. Be prepared that this means you will sometimes have to cancel plans or come in within a few hours’ notice.

Ø Team Player: Executives should be willing to jump in and assist with special projects, bring ideas to the team, and be proactive in their contributions.

Ø Problem solver / Pro-active personality: Executives should possess a can-do and take-charge attitude and try to offer solutions to sometimes unforeseeable problems.

Ø Eyes & Ears: As an Executive your job is to be aware of the news and climate around our clients. Keeping apprised of key issues and being a resource for the rest of the client team is very important! For example, it’s good practice to check your client’s share price and sector news before a call! Keeping up with media trends, analyst notes and regulatory filings are just a few of the ways that you will keep your team constantly updated with client news.

Ø Quick thinker: Executives should be able to understand and turnaround requests in a timely and effective manner. They should anticipate upcoming work and serve as the organizational backbone of the team. Executives should not shy away from managing up in addition to managing down.

Ø Discreet gatekeeper: Executive should be sensitive to the confidential nature of callers, emails and documents relating to new or current clients.

Ø Energetic with good sense of humour: The atmosphere at Brunswick, while sometimes hectic, definitely remains light and collegial. Being friendly with your colleagues and participating in the good cheer of the place will help make you feel more comfortable. And as the pace here does get busy, having a chip on your shoulder during a crunch time will only make it more difficult to get the job done

Some of these things I find especially challenging - such as keeping calm under pressure - but the more I'm at Brunswick, the easier things get. I hope other WoWers are finding the same thing!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Playing a supporting role and being appreciated for it

Most of the work that I do at Brunswick so far involves media research. As we are a corporate communications company, it's vital to keep track of what's being written or said about our clients. I often have to search for and collate articles and then compile a summary of the key issues in the coverage. This allows the client teams to advise the companies on the issues facing them. Essentially, the research team plays a supporting role. Its a very good way to learn about business because I'm reading a lot, which helps me to slowly build up a knowledge base.

Last week the research team was given quite a big project, to be completed by Friday. It involved a lot of work, but it was manageable as everyone put in their bit, and under the guidance of Zach, who volunteered to be project manager, it was finished at the right time.

When we handed it to Rob Pinker, he thanked us very much for a great job and praised us for the quality support we were giving him. I really like working in an environment where the work we do is appreciated and I felt very satisfied knowing the team had finished a job well done.

And my highlight for 2007 is...

I had lunch with my family today as a small celebration of my extended contract at Brunswick. My brother asked me what was the best thing that I've done this year, and without hesitation, I said it was doing the World of Work course.

I'm not sure what kind of job I'd be doing if I hadn't signed up for WoW - I would probably still be looking for one... In February, I had two rounds of interviews to be an entry level journalist at Engineering News, and I still laugh whenever I see the magazine and think that I nearly worked there- I wasn't offered the job in the end but I was close to it. (No offence Temi, but I don't think it would have been so thrilling for me!)

And it was also a wonderful experience to meet all my fellow WoWers from so many different places. Thanks to you all, and a special thanks to Jean and Lesley for putting your time and effort into creating the course that launched all our blazing careers!

All quiet on the blogging front...

I've just had a look through everyone's blogs and noticed that no one has posted for a while - including me. What's happening?
It would be great to read blogs about everyone's work experiences so that we could offer support and advice. I know that time is an issue- it is for me, particularly lately as I've been very busy at work. But even two line blogs would be good- let's go team WoW!

Wednesday, 01 August 2007

Excellent News!

I am so excited to report that I've been offered another six months at Brunswick on a training contract! I am really looking forward to learning much more about this business and getting stuck into some more writing, and other, projects. I feel I've just begun to find my way around and am delighted that I'll have the chance to properly begin my career here.

I hope other WOWers will have as much success at their host organisations!

Here is the e mail that Rob Pinker, our managing partner, sent around to the rest of the office:

I am pleased to let you all know that Susan Arthur has accepted our offer to extend her internship with the company for a further six month period, effective from 1st August - entirely reflective of her efforts over the past two months!