Apologies for the flurry of slightly swear-y twitters I sent late on Friday night. I’d been out with work. I’m not a cheapskate, I’m actually not. But if I were paying for rounds / my own drinks I’d not go too over the top in a smart West End bar where the mojitos (which were divine) are £8 a go. But we were told at the outset it was all on the company. Just like the night before – 11 of us out for dinner – that had been on the company…
Anyway, I lost track after about 6 mojitos (and am sure I had many more than that). Seriously, I drank a skinful. The lady from one of our US offices (lovely woman) was ordering vintage Chianti so I had some of that too. I honestly do not want to know the final bill but am fairly sure we would not have had change from £500. We’d ordered whatever food we wanted too.
This company is *extremely* successful and they live and breathe the concept of ‘valuing and looking after staff’. Of course, valuing and looking after staff really isn’t about money. That’s just one avenue. But they go the whole way – it’s the real mccoy. I’ve been told over and over again that the company is ‘a family’ (the CEO, who is extremely genuine and decent, is the most patriarchal boss I’ve ever experienced in my life). It’s like nothing I’ve seen before. From the lovely central London offices (hardwood floors, wooden beams, a period building, big red sofas, cans of fizzy drink and suchlike in the fridge, bars (chocolate, health, etc) of all sorts in each of the kitchens, lovely food options at lunchtime. You don’t pay for anything. This place is way out.
I have never in my life worked somewhere with such high morale, either. Where people tell you without the merest hint of irony or sarcasm that they ‘love’ their jobs and the company itself. I’m unnerved. I’m still in shock. It’s alien territory to me. All ‘C’ and I ever did at the last place was slag it off endlessly as we hated it so much.
The last place I worked at was extremely aspirational and would / will stop at nothing to keep climbing. My firm before that was once the most high profile in its industry (about 20 years ago) – and had offices in New York and about 10 other worldwide cities. That’s all a very distant memory now. It struggles on and is a fraction of the size it once was. I’m fond of it, but I see that it’s soooo past its peak, something widely acknowledged in the industry.
This new place is ‘peaking’ now. We’re in a financial crisis – a downturn – and yet… we’re hiring, we’re opening two new offices in the US (our NYC office has been going strong for years), we’re opening new offices in the emerging markets countries too, to add to the nine or so global offices we currently have. And staff travel between offices. A lot. I’ve been there one week so am not going to jump the gun. But those who know me well know just how big a goal of mine it is to leave the UK and work abroad. Let’s see whether fate looks my way in 2009…..
And the people are lovely. Really really decent, friendly, warm, welcoming, collaborative, team-playing people. I’m still in shock. And many of them are my age too, which is great. I’ve also met lots of very senior people but they’re so normal. Senior people at my last firm would treat someone at my level like sh*t. Not here.
The only thing that unnerves me is that these people are bright. They’re the best in the industry. And they ‘self select’ (one of the admin staff told me at drinks that it’s a long-winded process to get in). We’ve been very high up in the Times’ ‘top employers in the UK to work for’ category (!). Of course, my process wasn’t that long-winded, but I am a) on contract and b) endorsed by an ex-colleague of mine (who is lovely) and one of the firm’s highest billers. So his sponsorship of my appointment was probably worth an awful lot.
So the only thing I worry about is not meeting their expectations. I’m always learning in my job and I absolutely would NOT put myself in some ‘best and the brightest’ category. Definitely not. I do of course want to meet (and exceed) their expectations in time (well, I have 6 months!) so we’ll see. The fact that the role is brand new does help, as I won’t be compared with anyone else. The role is and will be absolutely what I make of it.
So all in all it has seriously exceeded my expecations. I just hope I can do likewise…