It feels as though I was perched on a library stool, crouched over a textbook just a couple of days ago, drilling flashcards, scanning syllabi to make sure I’d covered absolutely everything, forcing thousands of pages into an overtired brain that had probably reached capacity. Though my final days of year twelve were immensely rewarding, it was a draining experience. So when I found out I’d be diving back into a life of routine after months of whimsy and freedom, you can imagine there were some conflicting feelings.
Any lament at returning to reality, however, was overpowered by keen excitement. I was to start a marketing internship at Willow for two weeks before embarking on my journey through higher education. My degree is going to be in Media/Communications and Spanish, so I hoped that marketing — being form of communication that’s heavily intertwined with media — would give me relevant experience in an area that I could definitely end up pursuing post-uni.
Yet, as I walked into the state-of-the-art Willow HQ I was flung immediately into the dynamic world of marketing-meets-tech. As a creative I was pleasantly surprised to discover the level of imagination and spontaneity that can underpin what would stereotypically be labelled an ‘office job.’ Though the term usually connotes boringness or even unoriginality, working at Willow is far from that.
Moments after meeting the team, I was amidst a marketing brainstorm with Josh Ridley, the CEO, on how to approach a video series to be released on social media. Crowded haphazardly around a communal table, concepts were thrown back and forth, subject to revision and distillation until the perfect one was settled on. I soon learned the power of words in marketing, that staying on message is paramount, and that there’s a pool of vocabulary which seems benign but actually detracts and distracts from what we want to depict. There’s no room to be inexact. The once elusive definition and significance of digital twins became ever so clear as this was the crux of our discussion.
The end result was miles ahead of where we had started that morning, the ideas of the team converging into something polished yet authentic. We filmed the first instalment the next day and said goodbye to the footage as it had to be sent to the Manila office to be cut. Conferencing with international colleagues was a unique aspect of working for a global company that I found delightful. I observed that the distance didn’t impact the team’s cohesion in any way; there was a strong kinship.
Mini assignments helped me to acquire marketing knowledge to an unexpected depth. I’ve learnt the definition of a SWOT analysis then (attempted to) perform one, I’ve dissected the meaning and implications of corporate social responsibility, and deconstructed what takes a branding video from just average to incredible.
I was set up on LinkedIn so I could see the corporate side of social media and form some valuable connections. Soon after, I was taken through the process of making a post for Willow’s page (which I’d just connected with). I didn’t realise how much meticulous forethought precedes a social media endeavour. Every post requires careful wording, editing, and checking before the upload button can be hit.
A memorable task of my marketing stint was my involvement the International Women’s Day campaign, a cause I feel passionate about as a young woman. The build-up was comprehensive with multiple briefings and meetings with the design team in the Philippines, as well as the shooting and preparing of test footage, all taking place before we could even start generating content. Being behind the camera, I was handed an unanticipated and invigorating level of responsibility which I embraced. Being used to shooting friends with ample time, it was a stark difference to capture professionals with tight schedules. I became much faster at taking the perfect shot, adjusting settings with automated speed. I learnt some lessons about shaky footage; now my tripod and I are far more acquainted.
The campaign also provided me with journalistic scope. Atop the photography, equipped with a pen and a notepad I traipsed around the office asking employees — in architecture, in engineering, in technology, in HR, in IT, in marketing — what gender balance means for them. I strove to capture the eloquence and authenticity of their responses in my interview notes. It was a privilege to meet with and learn about the significance of equality to every one of these people.
Something striking about Willow is its progressiveness as a company. Midweek I found myself meditating beneath a grand old tree, amongst fallen leaves and lush green grass, enveloped in afternoon sunshine. Such an idyllic experience could only occur under the guidance of the company’s Chief Wellness Officer. At Willow health-oriented adventures like this are common. Some key messages were taken away. Foster an environment where people can share their struggles without stigma. Take time for the self because if you don’t have time to do that, chances are that’s exactly what you need. Just stop and breathe. The session proved a soothing interlude to the day, and I hope someday that every company fosters such a people-centric culture.
While sitting in on meetings (which took considerable mental effort to decipher, having little experience), a phrase I heard with frequency was ‘Industry 4.0.’ It refers to the fourth industrial revolution, in which technology permeates all industry, changing it forever, bringing productivity and automation to unprecedented heights. Another buzzword at Willow I’ve heard a lot (as do most people) is sustainability, which is inextricably linked with this new category of digital twins, as they allow the built world to operate with utmost efficiency. Willow is truly a company of the future, pioneering a combination of sustainability and technology, pillars of a feasible future for humankind. I’m in awe of where this technology could take us.
From the start I felt as though the experience was hurtling towards its conclusion. Time falls away when you’re in a stimulating and unfamiliar environment, constantly absorbing knowledge, adapting and encountering fascinating people and ideas. Taking a role in an office, I was scared of being bored or restrained by routine but I encountered freedom and independence more than anything else, and was constantly doing something of value in the furthering of my marketing skills and knowledge. I got a pretty decent taste of life outside the bubble of school I’d grown used to and it was quite remarkable.