Back in the days, me and one of my best friends, Tsvetan, would often dream. We dreamed about everything. We dreamed about him becoming a lawyer, always getting me out of jail and stuff. We dreamed about me becoming a singer, always giving him first row VIP passes for my tours. We dreamed about living in the USA. We dreamed about meeting at 20:17 on the 07/20/2017 at Times Square, New York. Until today I never thought this could happen. It was so far away, I thought, I would be 23 and I would have full control over my life and finances (what a child’s dream…)Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a fairy tale that happened… to be true.
One of my happiest and most grateful moments alive. Copyright.
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When I landed I have never felt such relief, both because the flight was over, and because I finally felt like I am home. Well I was not. Actually a whole ocean separated me from my country! I just have always had this thing for the USA. Since I was little I grew up watching American cartoons and all my life I have been speaking with Californian accent even though I have never been. Living on the island Malta when little may also have its effect, as I grew eating “Kinder Surprise” chocolate eggs and “The Laughing Cow” cheese. Now I mastered the British accent as well, as currently I am living in London, but that’s enough about me!
As all of the time in the world would not be enough to describe the whole journey in one blog post, I will try to be as short and as clear as possible. The purpose of my trip to the United States was both to explore, but also to do some work. In other words I thank my university- Kingston University London, for giving me the opportunity to learn something in addition! I had couple of meetings in big corporations, so that I can explore their way of working, managing and creative processes. As most of my blog posts you will not leave this page with empty hands, so grab a pen!
Silicon Valley in California is a worldwide famous place for its huge successful companies like Apple, HP and Google. It is the place where innovation has been born. It is the place where creativity and innovation are still happening. One of the first companies we ever visited was the “Institute For The Future”, located in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to in my life- Palo Alto. Sean Ness talked us through the importance of technology and what does his company do to generate insights. Again, it will be really hard to sum up what he said for two hours we were together, but here are some main points of our conversation:
IFTF (the company’s name) believe in VUCA- vision, understanding, clarity and agility. They believe that being agile and open to changes is essential when trying to make things for the future. We talked about the important skill sets of workers and branding as well. Sean strongly believes that certainty is bad as we should always be aware of further possibilities. One of the most fascinating things he mentioned, however, was the fact that in the US and especially in his company, he will not care about diplomas and degrees as much as when hiring a person, he would just like to check his e-mail inbox. Thus, he can tell weather a person is organised and if you had 5,687 unread messages, my friend, you should look for a job, elsewhere!
The shift from an old to a new way is beneficial, especially when talking about technology. In order to gain insights, IFTF uses the three-steps process of Foresight-Insight-Action. The aim is to come with insights by using provocation and then to talk and consider how to take action.
Sean mentioned one other thing regarding personal skill sets- the ability to make people like you, especially if you are going to be a salesman! The human factor is essential, nevertheless the company’s aim field is technology. Being human is a lot more than just feeling. It is the ability to see what others are feeling as well. After all, technology is way easier to forecast than humans. The hard part is always the human part!
To conclude the topic he mentioned some other processes regarding technology and innovation. One of these processes were physical books, becoming e-books. Here we came across an interesting statement- “If you think e-books completely removed physical ones, why do you think the book shop across the street, that has been there for 82 years, is still so successful and visited? Plus the truth about e-books is that you can never own them, you just license them.”
Next stop- “reddit” ! The next day we visited one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world and guess what- we met the founder- Alexis Ohanian, himself!
Apart from being an awesome person and taking selfies with us, he guided us through the emotions he felt when back in the days he was starting up his own business, that today is worth more than millions of dollars. We also spoke to one of the managers and the designers from the company.
Functionality + Aesthetics = Design
As well as telling us the obvious things like “understanding the user is important” and “the right talent brings perspective to the team” we talked about how valued in the USA is the word EASY. After all, “reddit” is successful as it is completely democratic, making the process of sharing content a lot EASIER. “Reddit” values simplicity, but not being shallow. After all, with less it is easier to learn and a lot easier to master afterwards. Small teams are also easier to be self-organised and build the identity. The awesome experience in “reddit” taught us a lot more about the communication as well and how important it is to talk and get back to your customers as well as the importance of not being too serious.
I just realised how hard it will be to talk you through the whole week of meetings, so I will just focus on the biggest and most known companies, guiding you briefly through some of the main points we mentioned. The next office I will lead you to is “Salesforce”!
“Salesforce”. The building was as twice as huge as the “reddit” and “twitter” ones combined! And they still consider themselves to be “enormous start up company”! As many other companies they do focus on being innovative and engaging their employees in order to achieve the common goals, but what we learned here was something else. Creativity comes when you give people space. Also, wanting to improve constantly is what they believe in and also- never be afraid to make mistakes! Always want more and think as if your work can become better and better!
Another thing “Salesforce” focuses on the team and again how to be EASY to be both a customer and an employee in the company. “Seeking to understand, before seeking to be understood.” The element of trust plays an important role again in the whole process.
The trip made it possible both to explore California and to learn new and exciting things about how to make the process of managing a creative business easier for us. We visited a lot of companies and also we did a trip to Silicon Valley Bank were we celebrated the birthday of our host and then we went to see the Computer History Museum to learn more about the history of innovation. A common fact is that John Atanasoff, the inventor of the first computer, has Bulgarian roots, so I felt really proud to see some of his inventions in person.
One of the most exciting part of the journey was the day we went to Google’s office in the wonderful town of Mountain View in California. Have you seen the movie “The Internship”? We were in the same building.
Oh, God, where can I start… No matter what I say, every wonderful thing you have heard about Google is true. They do have a nap area, they do have dance spot area and gym area and if you are a “noogler” (new in the company) you receive extra massage points. Huge place so I had to take one of the ” Google ” bikes to run around and explore the campus.
Today over 70.000 people work worldwide for Google. Most of the company’s revenue comes from research and advertising. They do put a lot of effort on their consumer products and they do take customers’ feedback pretty seriously. The Pixel phone and their new smart watch in partnership with “LG” are both made after translating what customers want into features and road map, afterwards working with engineers to implement the ideas and touch points. Google became interested in the idea of making hardware products rather than only software, as they will have full control over the products and will be able to redesign or apply small improvements when and if needed with an ease.
Google teams are cross-functional teams, where everyone works together. The company does put a lot of effort in employees well being and often the induction period would be more than a month, to ensure that you will have soft landing and will be able to make enough networking so that you will do your company role at ease after that.
I assume you have met Stan- Googleplex’s dinosaur- from one of my previous blog posts. He is one of the “living” proof how much Google values creativity. But it is a lot more than that! Did you know that they are one of the fewest companies in the world that will pay for almost the whole maternity period if an employee within the company falls pregnant? (“EQUALYTIE” – our business regarding gender equality- was proud to learn these news!) After all it turned out it is even better than the movie as it was more of a friendly, family-oriented kind of atmosphere, rather than the presented in the movie competitive field. If you work for Google it is more likely your manager will guide you, rather than just give you headlines. You will be pushed to do meaningful stuff! It will teach you how to adopt the skill of “googliness” 🙂
There were a lot of places we visited and a lot more things we learned but my blog post will be huge and you will be annoyed with all of the reading, so I think I should stop here. After all the companies we went to, I can say that the US is a lot different than the UK. Everyone is doing more work, but at the same time they are more relaxed in a way! I don’t know, maybe it’s because of the ocean and all these summer vibes you get while going to work, passing the beautiful coastline…
Learn how to fail fast and ask for forgiveness instead of permission. This is what we have learned at MACE as well, that’s why I was so surprised how many people in the USA actually believe in this! Never be satisfied with your work and always tend to do more! Nothing’s ever perfect- challenge yourself!And always think about what is next! Sean from IFTF (the first company I visited in Silicon Valley) said that in order to look at the future you have to look twice back to the past.
Innovate. Create new ways of doing old things (remember when I talked about divergent thinking in my blog post about the creative brain?). And always remember to be human! Bond with people, because one of the huge skills you can have nowadays is to know how to make people like you/your company! Look for the easy way of doing things and always work in a team. Be trendy! Think like you are customer service organisation rather than salesman! Only that way you can predict the next great offer!
Transparency. Trust. Customer services. Innovation. Giving back. EQUALITY. Wellness. FUN! Stay focused on your goal because aligned goals and defined roles are important! Everything will happen eventually if you do one step at a time. In the meantime don’t forget to be human!
P.S: Before I go, I promised to show you pictures from the famous Alcatraz prison we visited, so there you go- a little slideshow! For more check http://www.vsco.co/allexandraqueen soon for a whole album from CA!:
Thank you for taking this journey with me. Hope you learned something new, as I did! See you soon!