By Jacquie Williamson, People + Culture Partner @ Unleashed
Over the past few weeks, as I come to the 3-month mark with Unleashed, I’ve been reflecting on my time so far and wondering why it has felt relatively easy to start a new (and very different) role, mid-lockdown while homeschooling 2 children. The answer? I’ve found my fit.
For anyone out there looking for a new role (or maybe even considering applying to Unleashed in future😉) I wanted to provide a little insight into my journey from my first meeting with the team until today. My hope is that reading about my ‘ah-ha’ and ‘aah’ moments might help others to identify what it feels like when you find a role that’s truly in alignment with your values and skills. From hearing others talk sometimes, you’d think that finding a role was a bit like falling in love ‘when you know, you know’ — but it’s not always as straightforward as it should be. For me, just as (good) companies put effort and intention into getting to know you through their hiring process, it’s important to do the same — define what’s important to you and make sure your interactions with a potential new team and employer actually measure up.
First impressions — the interview process
Interview processes can often feel like an interrogation rather than the opportunity to showcase your full skillset and actually show up as a human being. From the get go, I felt at ease with the process at Unleashed. My husband overheard *cough* eavesdropped some of the conversation of my first interview and thought I must have been talking to people I already knew based on the tone and conversational nature of the call. It was relaxed, fun and I was learning already.
The second stage of the process included a task, which, without giving too much away, involved analysing some fictional client data to present my findings back on. This was the turning point for me — it was a challenge for an interview process that would normally be super stressful however, I not only enjoyed it but got into a real flow when looking through the data I’d been sent. It was set up to be as close to real life as possible and made me think…I REALLY want this job AND think I could do it! When it came to presenting back, no big PowerPoint or cringey role play was required (role plays are my worst nightmare). Instead, we had a discussion where, I was, of course, asked questions to understand my thinking, but it was also a two-way discussion, I was asking questions and actually learning as I went. As well as the task, we talked through personal values and a few other things which was A LOT, but, after a 2-hour session, I left feeling energised rather than drained. A good sign!
Crunch time — making a decision
When I received my offer from Unleashed, from the perspective of role fit & learning & growth it was a no-brainer. Through the interview process, I knew I’d have the opportunity to be surrounded by some incredible, intelligent and experienced people who I would learn from and grow with. This was confirmed through the team’s values that I knew to be true and authentic and, maybe even more so, through their pill-oes (not pillars because, as I was learning, making up words was a bit of an Unleashed tradition). The pill-oes, which underpin all decision making are around delivering excellence and ensuring team happiness. These are seen as equally important and dependent on one another and I love the belief that Anouk, Hannah and the rest of the team have that if the team aren’t happy, excellence won’t follow and that you can’t be happy if you don’t excel.
Of course, with this excitement came some doubts and a bit of imposter syndrome — could I REALLY do it? Did I know enough to go into multiple clients and share my wisdom? Was I wise? Once I got past that (to a degree at least!), I needed to think about financials — the package is structured differently to what I had been used to in the world of FinTech with a lower base salary. This was however, balanced out to a degree with what is a market breaking learning budget, solid home office set up budget and a few other benefits. It played on my mind but ultimately, I could feel that this role was going to develop me so much more than an in-house senior People role could and would give me the opportunity to have an impact on multiple companies to give them the best shot at scaling successfully. And that sounded satisfying as hell!
Preparing for launch
The month before I started, my favourite chocolates and a bottle of bubbles arrived at the doorstep unannounced with a welcome card from the Unleashed crew. This is not a one-size-fits-all gift…it was custom-fit thanks to a question I was asked through the offer process a couple of weeks earlier. Already I’m starting to think…’these guys just get me’. :)
In addition, the emails sent from Anouk & Hannah had me at hello…they were casual, authentic and human pre-empting my concerns and answering my millions of questions without delay.
During the interview process, I met a good cross-section of the team but not everyone, yet the pre-boarding process still managed to build a good level of trust and psychological safety (as well as excitement!) thanks to:
- The team sharing the Culture Deck. In its full form it could be overwhelming but Hannah had directed me to specific slides so I could just get to the fun bits to get more insight into the team and the role.
- Getting access to the team’s ReadMes. If you haven’t seen these before, they are docs created to share information with your peers or team to get to know each other better both personally and professionally. They allow us to connect on a deeper level (especially useful when working remotely!) and provide the foundation of how we get the best out of each other.
The week before I started, I read through the ReadMes and honestly felt like I knew these 10 strangers personally. They were so open, trusting and vulnerable that I didn’t even think twice about sharing details of my own that would normally take weeks or months of relationship building to come out. This sped up the relationship building process more than I imagined it could and allowed me to relax into the role and team way quicker than I normally would!
I started with Unleashed on the first day back to work for 2021 for everyone (the business closes for two full weeks at Christmas for a well-earned break). I walked right into a full day strategy workshop/session to kick off the new year. I met the whole team instantly and felt incredibly welcomed and happy to be there. I’m normally a little reserved/apprehensive on a first day and, being remote as well could have made it even more awkward, but this is a fun group and that was never going to be a problem! Within my first hour I was presenting my ReadMe to the team, sharing my background, personal drivers, how I work and what I think I need to develop. It was far from standard conversations I have had on previous first days but it felt great.
As the day continued I got some fantastic insight into how the team works, makes decisions and collaborates together. There was a super healthy debate over what OKRs to focus on for the coming year but decisions were made as a team, squads formed and ready to action. Remarkable. The day was, of course, a little overwhelming and information overload but I’m super thankful I got to be part of it and felt already like I was part of the bigger plans.
My first month
My first 30 days were filled with so. much. learning!!! The onboarding was intense but each step of the way made me feel more and more confident in the decision I had made.
I was able to shadow Vic (another P+C Partner) with a client in the “Discovery” phase from day 1 right through to the presentation of our findings to the clients leadership team. I had been pretty nervous about being thrown in the deep end so this style of onboarding was the perfect way to see the role in action & build my confidence.
Regardless of the above, and as everyone in the team had warned, imposter syndrome did rear its ugly little head up here. You are surrounded by brilliant people and as you dig through team drive to get familiar with the work people have done with previous clients, it’s easy to become overwhelmed — especially before you actually have a client & it’s all a world of hypotheticals as to what challenges you may be faced with first.
That said, my initial fears of being an ‘isolated consultant’ were rapidly disappearing. Not only due to the anti-consultant mindset we have, but because we see each other every morning with a check-in / hellos, people message on Slack asking for support / advice / resources throughout the day and someone is always ready to answer. We also check in with each other at the end of the day through our R-A-G day update (how do we feel our day went / general how do we feel — basically, whatever we feel like sharing). The support off the back of these status updates is palpable, if someone hasn’t had the best day the team is there to support however needed.
That leads me nicely onto our Fridays. Friday at Unleashed is our Gang Day. It starts with an (optional of course) yoga class led by the magical and zen Michaela, one of the team but also a certified yogi teacher, and just brilliant to get the day started right. Quick breakfast and then we’re into Carousel — a combination of general business updates, financials, OKR updates, decision making and anything else topical. As the leaders of the business, Anouk and Hannah are as transparent as can be so nothing is off-limits which again, builds confidence and trust.
After we’ve all done some work, had some lunch and (ideally) some screen-free time, we kick off the afternoon with a client share & care — if there is something we are working on with a particular client and want either a sounding board or advice, this is the space. We team up and get to solutions together.
Finally, with a potential G&T (or drink / snack of choice) in hand, we round out the day with Brain-Love — a learning session run either internally by whoever is particularly passionate or knowledgeable in a certain area or with external facilitators — so far, in just a few weeks, we have covered, I&D, psychological safety, wellbeing at work (for us!) and employment law (we still need to keep ourselves up to date even if it’s not what we do in our day to day). The value of continuous learning is lived out every day and week here and we also share how we each approach different stages of our work to make sure we’re always improving what we do!
Within the first month, any concerns I had about the change in salary mentioned above dissipated, I was gaining more than I could have imagined and was continually so energised by the conversations I was having with the team, hearing so many perspectives and learning from so much experience.
Starting with my first clients
When I found out I’d been matched with my first clients, I was nervous at first but, really, this is the good stuff! I was so excited to get started and while, starting with new clients can feel like having your first day at a new job multiple times in a month, it was brilliant.
Our process of really getting under the skin of what the businesses we work with already do and have in place to uncover what is scalable or not, makes the rest of the journey of building the People Roadmap and then getting stuck into designing, building and implementing for & with them so much easier. I’m also someone who loves to build relationships (hence my chosen career path!) so the role wouldn’t suit me if I was seen as a purely external consultant — I want to be part of the team to really know how best to build things that will be super impactful and in turn make it a brilliant (and successful) place to work for everyone there.
Without a doubt, one of the trickiest things to get used to after diving into client work is the context-switching. I currently have 4 different email accounts, 3 different slack accounts and 3 different calendars. Learning how to create and maintain boundaries is more important than I realised — and not an easy transition from an in-house role that is largely reactive and insanely busy with day to day operations. I’m on month 3 now and definitely feeling that I have made progress with that but it will be one I keep developing for months to come I’m sure.
Fast-forwarding a little — where I’m at now
I am through the discovery process with one client and into the design & execution and I love it! Being external and 1 day per week means that I don’t get bogged down into too much of the operational, reactive work which means I can be SO much more productive on high impact, strategic projects than I ever thought possible. At the same time, I’m invited into leadership team meetings, spending time with the teams and individuals in different ways. Through some wizardry, the balance of one foot in, one foot out is completely satisfying my need for relationships internally with the ability to have an impact and be super effective — and fast!
So, 3 months in and I couldn’t be happier with my decision — and neither could my husband. He will tell you I’m a different person when I finish work at the end of the day and I can feel it.
What do I put that down to? Finding my fit. Firstly, of course, having a team of People people around me who just ‘get it’ and can support in a very specific way is absolutely brilliant and I didn’t realise how much I was missing it. Every discussion is a learning opportunity and that energises me daily!
Secondly, I completely underestimated the amount of energy it takes when you feel that you’re fighting for your values on a daily basis. I have loved the teams and people in my previous companies, made some brilliant friends, learnt a LOT and had great experiences but, if that alignment isn’t there, everything is just that little bit harder.
When you find somewhere where your values are SO aligned to that of the company and team you’re in, even the difficult, more stressful days (which of course still happen!) are made easier and they don’t sit with you for as long.
And the role itself? Only 3 months in I still have bucketloads of learning to do, I’ll be working on those boundaries consistently for months I’m sure, but I am discovering that I don’t have to know everything all at once and I have the most brilliant support network I could ever have imagined!