Author: Joshua Robbins Friday, September 09th, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: Razorfish Health is committed to the development of the future digital marketing talent of tomorrow. Over the course of the last year, we’ve invited over 20 students from universities in the Philadelphia area to become part of our team for up to 6 months. Our interns learn the ropes of our business and contribute their ideas directly to client projects – and more often than not, we even learn from them. Read on to hear what recent intern Joshua Robbins has learned from his time with us this year.
As I finish up my six month stretch interning in the project management department at Razorfish Health, I wanted to take the time to reflect upon what I have seen while I was here. I have had a short but varied professional background so far – working as a process engineer on the manufacturing floor of Neutrogena, researching word choice of different types of leaders in the US army, and organizing volunteers for a soup kitchen in West Philadelphia. Even though the fields I have worked in are varied, I have come to find a bit of a pattern that emerges whenever I start a new job.
Step 1: Become dizzy from the new language of acronyms in the industry.
Step 2: Figure out the acronyms and realize how simple everything really is.
Step 3: Realize that it actually isn’t that simple and watch as my list of topics to learn grows really, really large.
Razorfish Health has followed this pattern – and our work here has proven to be anything but simple – but as I reflect on my time here, I’ve learned a few new things that I’ll take with me as my career continues forward.
1. The client comes first.
Coming directly from a manufacturing background, this idea was not as prevalent. In manufacturing we aimed to do things in a way that let us produce the most product at the highest quality at the cheapest price. This seemed logical enough to me and so I didn’t question it. At Razorfish Health there is an added element. Even if something may be the easiest and best for us, it is not necessarily the easiest and best for our client. If we have a system that works well but our client would like to use another system, we will make recommendations, but at the end of the day, our objective is to make it as easy as possible for the client to meet their objectives. We are a high end agency because we do good work and we value the clients’ needs above what we may be used to doing. We tailor solutions for our clients – and our clients appreciate us all the more for it.
When I think of the structure of Razorfish Health, I think of a piece from the board game, ‘Sorry!’. Razorfish Health is small (the slim vertical side of the game piece), but it is part of a much larger organization (the flat side of the game piece). There tend to be benefits and drawbacks to both small and large companies and one great feature of Razorfish Health is that it has some of both. Benefits from the small side – I have had one-on-one lunches with three of the VPs here and I also feel like I can walk into anyone’s office and ask a question whenever I need (as long as it is not 9pm on the night before a new business pitch). On the large side – when I asked our HR director for international contacts within our agency network to reach out to for my next internship, she gave 16 email addresses about 15 minutes later. I feel like the culture here allows me to spread my arms out both wide and high.
This comes as a big asset to our clients as well because when they are working with one person in the company, that person has wide reach to everyone else here. On the flat side – we are small enough that most of us probably know most people here by name. At the same time we can reach out to our greater network for skilled people who bring specialty experience to our clients.
3. Creativity can be planned.
Artwork and creativity seem to me like they cannot be planned. If you try to constrict the artistic process, you will crush it. What I learned here is that when you have seen enough art go down, you know about how long it will take, who will need to work on it, and how much it will cost. It was fascinating to me when I heard a project manager tell me that it would take 80 hours for the creative department to design the pages of a website, because I didn’t think it was possible to be able to accurately predict how long it would take someone to brainstorm and construct a creative concept. When I asked this project manager how they knew this, it seemed like a simple answer: “Well, I have seen them do this kind of thing many times before, and that’s what it takes.”
Razorfish Health hires experienced people, and I think that works in their favor. I’m told that scoping out a creative process is challenging to some agencies, but with experienced people steering the ship, it seems that there is science to the art – and creativity can be planned.
4. Do things the long way (the right way).
The largest cost in manufacturing in America is re-work; redoing product because you messed up the first time. In fact, the purpose of my last job was to prevent this. I tracked downtime on the production lines and methodically looked at problem areas and then decided how to fix them. We would frequently be doing rework at the plant. I don’t see much rework happening here, at least not rework that is caused by our own inefficiencies (sometimes our clients want rework, but see #1 for my thoughts on that!).
I love the style of the project management department here because they all operate in a way which emphasizes a very important element- detail, detail, detail. I don’t think they even try to be detailed – it just comes naturally. There is a process in the way that they all go about things whether it is naming a file a certain way every time or recording every single detail which comes their way about a project or conversation.
Reflecting, I think it was silly that I initially felt slowed by this because I think that this is certainly the best way to do things. Our brains can only hold so much, and when you are working on fifteen projects at one time, it only makes sense to leave the details on paper and leave your brain empty for actually thinking. The project management department here thrives because it values (useful) process and procedure – and pushes back and challenges when process gets in the way.
5. Leaders care about people first.
This is something I have seen everywhere I have worked. The people at Razorfish Health are smart and talented. Some of them are smart, talented, and memorably charismatic. These are the people who are looked to as leaders in the organization. It does not matter what discipline or level, but the people who I see who do their job the best are the ones who are caring, amiable, and professional at the same time. It is truly inspiring to observe, and I continue to learn from just watching these people.
At the end of the day, two things are apparent – 1) We are all human, and we work the best and enjoy our jobs the most with people who are personable and 2) Leaders who are personable are the ones who turn task-work into something more exciting, note-worthy, and memorable. I think that this is the most important and translatable lesson, and I will continue to place myself into environments where this is prevalent so that I can always have a model to try to base my own behavior off of.
Most of what I have learned here has become so ingrained in me that it’s even hard to see these as learnings at this point. One thing is clear – Razorfish Health will not just be a memory, but an organizational model that I will keep in mind regardless of whatever path I follow.