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January 8, 2020

Why I Love Bringing My Work Home With Me And Bringing My Life To Work

Jessica Hoffman

@Sterling

January 8, 2020

Why I Love Bringing My Work Home With Me And Bringing My Life To Work

We hear the term, “work life balance,” thrown around a lot these days. It is a phrase coined to describe the equilibrium found between your work and personal life. While I am a huge advocate of allotting time for productive work, for social activities, and for turning off your phone and binge watching Fleabag, as a brand strategist at Sterling, I have discovered a new type of work life balance that has given a whole new light to this term.

Since beginning at Sterling I have found my work enriched by my life and my life invigorated by my work. While it may be a prerequisite in this industry to be curious, everyday I find myself even more inquisitive. My coworkers and I have countless conversations about trends, traditions, current events, brands and constantly try to connect the puzzle pieces of who, where, how, and why. I bring these conversations to my friends, family, and even strangers to get their perspectives. With each new project, I feel like we are opening a new world of wonder – and that thirst to know more, does not get quenched just when a project ends or when we step out of the office doors. 

With this excitement around my new work life balance, I decided to write down the top five things that I have learned and applied to my everyday since working at Sterling:

  1. Ask the right questions: At Sterling, we are always honing in on our question-asking abilities. It is truly an art and skill to learn how to ask the right questions to find out key information and connect with someone. Sometimes it’s about making your question more open-ended to let the other person steer the conversation. Other times it’s about figuring out which thread of the conversation to pull on to get to the crux of an insight. This helps with clients. With focus groups. And this especially helps at Thanksgiving dinner with the family. It gives way for meaningful relationships and rich conversation, which can completely open your mind on a subject. And this open and enlightened perspective makes way for even better work.
  2. Look at everything with a micro and macro lens: In the office, we can spend hours reading through quant analyses on specific demographics. But as soon as I hop on the subway, I get to see this in real life. Why are the cool DTC brands’ advertisements on the train to Brooklyn and not to the Upper East Side? Who lives in these areas and why are they the specific target this company is after? How does the language differ on these signs? Which signs are the people around me staring at? All of a sudden, observing these advertisements gives more context to the data that we study at work. It is important to look at the world around us both at a smaller scale (what’s working, what’s not, do I like this, do they like this) and a larger scale (what is the greater context behind this, who was the key decision maker, how does this affect the larger business strategy, category, society, etc). With all of these observations and questions stirring in my head, it not only makes the ride go a lot faster, but I can then bring this dimensionalized view of these brands back to the research sitting on my desk.
  3. Read, listen and share: My coworkers and I are constantly sending around thought pieces, book suggestions, blogs, academic papers, and even Instagram posts. The more differing perspectives we can read on a subject, the more we can digest, connect, defend, and question. While it is so important to read, it is even more important to discuss. This forces you to have to articulate your own point of view and what resonates most. It also leaves room for you to continue to learn and build from one another’s perspectives. I was recently working on a deck for a client that was not flowing at all. It was supposed to highlight a specific type of consumer, but it felt stilted and surface level. It was not until after our Sterling Book Club meeting, where we discussed Brené Brown’s “Dare To Lead” that I was able to think about this deck in a whole new light. At our book club, we discussed “rumbling with vulnerability” and how to live with empathy, and I realized the deck I was working on had been entirely too pedantic and was not digging deep down to empathize with the type of consumer we were discussing. It wasn’t until we had this conversation about a book we all read for pleasure, that my mind could really open up and the slides just came pouring out. I needed to take a step back and have a new and different type of conversation with my coworkers to really refresh my approach to the work.
  4. Talk to people: At Sterling, we know just how pivotal it is to speak with people face-to-face – there is no replacement for being in person and speaking directly to a consumer. Listening to a person articulate their own habits can be so interesting and necessary to learning about a brand or industry. The more people from different backgrounds you can speak with, the better- a focus group participant, my sister, the cashier, someone shopping right next to you, etc. When I was recently traveling solo in Spain I met a designer from Russia at my hostel. We discussed design, branding, politics, tapas, and everything in between. I am proud to work at a company that works on global brands and when I came back to work after my trip, I felt like I had this new treasure trove of knowledge and perspective on a different culture that I could then contribute.
  5. Use your difference as your superpower: What gets me most excited about working at Sterling, is the ability to use my uniqueness, passions, and interests to elevate my work and surround myself with different people who teach me about what they are excited about. I am a huge live music buff. I love Broadway, band concerts, and even just watching people play in the park. I can speak for hours with my coworker about the changing marketing landscape of Broadway and how that connects to her passion, sports, and what these changes say about the overall human experience. And I love hearing about my coworkers’ loves of Solange, ballet, Golden Girls, rugby, cooking, or their recent trips to The Whitney, Queens Night Market, a sustainability conference, or their trip back home to Kansas. The more we surround ourselves with people with different interests, backgrounds, and experiences, the more our work is elevated to an even higher level filled with real examples, quotes, and perspectives.

Every desk at Sterling has its own unique decorations from home. When people come back from their weekend they are talking about their cool brand experiences. I love working at a place that celebrates bringing work to home and home to work without feeling like it’s a chore or encroaching on your happiness. It actually enhances your happiness.

It’s a work life balance reimagined.

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