Onboarding: Lockdown style

Hi, I’m Roxy - Fifty Five and Five’s newest employee. Except, there’s a bit of a twist – I haven’t met any of my co-workers yet. Let me share my experience of onboarding during lockdown.

At the time of writing, I’m in my fifth week as a full-time employee at Fifty Five and Five. That means my first day occurred after the rest of the company had already packed up their monitors and laptops and set up at home.

If, like me, you were looking for a job around February, you probably experienced a fairly familiar recruitment journey, perhaps including a telephone interview, followed by a face to face meeting and so on. But as the recruitment procedure progressed, it became quickly clear that this wouldn’t be any normal recruitment process. From then on, the whole experience happened virtually.

Luckily, the experience was a success, and I managed to find myself a new role during the lockdown period. So, I thought I’d share my experience.

Virtual job interviews: A learning curve

Virtual interviews have been around for a number of years and shouldn’t really be that different from a face to face interview. In fact, I discovered that the more I treated it like a face to face interview, the better I’d be able to manage the situation. That meant preparing and doing my research in exactly the same way as normal, and thinking about the environment around me:

Where should I do the interview?

Am I comfortable in that environment?

What should I wear?

These are fairly simple questions that any one of would ask in this situation. But my main goal was really to make the experience as close to the real thing as possible – nerves included. So, I went about this process as I normally would, choosing the appropriate clothes and planning my questions and answers in advance. On top of that, I thought it wise to make sure I had a stable internet connection and a plan B in case anything went wrong on the spot.

It’s all about saying yes

On a normal day, the onboarding process starts as soon as you say yes to a job offer. Of course, I was delighted to get mine – but lockdown had certainly made the situation a touch more difficult than I expected when I first applied. I was a bit worried about starting a new job remotely, about having to get to know people remotely, making a good first impression and learning the ropes entirely from behind a screen in my own home.

So, how do you make such an important decision, involving people you haven’t met and will continue to not meet for some time? It was a tricky question, but in the end I realised that my new employers had probably had the same thought when they considered whether to take a chance and offer me a job. In the end, all it takes in these situations is for somebody to say “yes, we can make this work” and approach it with a positive attitude. So, after a little thought, I decided that I’d do just that – and, so far at least, have had no regrets.

Onboarding in lockdown 101

Once I’d accepted the job offer, it was time to prepare for my first day in the virtual office. I went through this process as if it were a regular first day. This included makeup, shirt and smart trousers – and even the right shoes. A lot of it wasn’t so much about impressing people via Microsoft Teams as it was about feeling like I was in the right headspace for starting a new job. I urge any of you starting a new job to do something symbolic to mark the start of a new role, whether that’s sipping coffee in your new mug, putting on a tie or even just re-arranging your desk. Sometimes the feeling of ‘new’ can really help.

From then I started my first Teams call and was officially an employee. Here’s a few things I learned in my first week as a Fifty Five and Five employee.

1. Introduce your e-self

As with all first days, we started with my colleagues introducing themselves and talking about their roles. I found it tempting to try and get every detail down – but it’s also important to take the opportunity to introduce yourself. In my case, I’d had three introductory calls before everyone knew who I was and where I come from. I then took a couple of minutes to also speak about my previous experience and what I wanted to bring to the team.

2. I hope you like Microsoft Teams

Meeting everyone in lockdown felt different, but I remained optimistic and positive. I wanted to learn as much as possible about my colleagues, so when we’re back in the office we can shake off the awkwardness of seeing each other for the first time in the flesh. Perhaps I’ll do a follow up post on how that goes down…

To my surprise, Microsoft Teams became a trustworthy friend in this experience. From the great quality of the calls, and being able to leave reactions to messages, Teams is really the glue that’s keeping the team connected right now.

But as well as that, from the comfort of my own home, I got a glimpse into who my colleagues were as people; sneak peaks into their hobbies, personalities and families. That made getting to know everyone a strangely unique experience - not being allowed to meet them in person, but also seeing more of their personal lives than you normally would during months of sharing an office. It bought us closer, which was an experience I wouldn’t have had outside lockdown.

3. Onboarding: Step by step

As a person who’s had a few onboarding processes, I must admit that my recent experience has so far been the best yet.

Allow me to explain.

Before the lockdown began, you’d start a new job with someone from HR walking you through the office, introducing you to colleagues, only to forget their names as soon as you reach your designated desk. Then you’d be added to countless meetings and by the end of the day, you’d be riding the tube with a double shot espresso at 7 pm hoping you’d get enough energy to make it to your bed. It’s a draining process.

My experience in lockdown was far better. My team lead organised an agenda stretched out over my first week and I got facetime with absolutely everyone in the company. I even got my own buddy (Hi Paulina!) - a colleague outside of my team that could talk to me about the company, culture and answer any silly question I had, of which there were plenty.

One thing I was really grateful for was that all the information I needed to start my job was stored in the cloud and was easily accessible from my kitchen. Apps like Notion, Dropbox and Asana were invaluable in helping me find processes, documents and keeping me organised.

Onboarding: Physical vs. virtual

Nothing beats meeting your colleagues in person and working your way into the team. But I’ve certainly learned that virtual onboarding has its benefits.

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, you get to turn your webcam off if you’re having a bad hair day. But as well as that, the lack of a commute is helpful, allowing me two more hours each day than I’m used to (I live in London after all). That meant I had a little bit more time to let information sink in and work out the ropes at my own pace. This gave me the breathing room I needed to develop a better sense of the internal processes and understand the bigger picture of how my work impacted everyone else’s. That meant that a process which would normally take a few months took a just a few weeks.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering whether it’s the right time to hire a new employee, or start a new job – take a little bit of advice from me. Almost anything is possible as long as you say yes. If you think the role and the company are the right fit, then go for it. It’s a new feeling for everybody involved but with a little positivity (and a lot of patience) absolutely anybody can do it.

Meet the team: Laura, digital marketing executive

We recently caught up with Laura Lopez, a key member of our Demand Gen team. She told us a bit about her working life at Fifty Five and Five and what she loves most about her job as a digital marketing executive.

Hi Laura. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Laura Lopez, digital marketing executive at Fifty Five and Five. In my role,  I cover most fields in digital marketing. This includes PPC, social media, SEO, and the strategy behind these fields as well.

Where are you from?

Zaragoza, Spain.

What did you study at university?

Journalism. I loved it at first and still love writing but I realised later on that journalism wasn’t right for me.

Where did you work before Fifty Five and Five?

Directly before Fifty Five and Five, I worked for a technology company in the Microsoft partner network. At first, when I started, I was so taken aback by all the Microsoft acronyms, I didn’t understand a thing. I spent the whole time trying to work out what all the Microsoft tools were doing. But now, I’m an expert. That experience really set me up well for this job. Sometimes I feel like a nerd. A Microsoft nerd.

If you had to pick a favourite area of digital marketing, what would it be?

Pay per click campaigns.

That was a quick answer.

I like working on Pay Per Click campaigns the most. PPC is more straightforward in terms of getting tangible results, fast. When you drive a lead gen campaign, you actually see people responding to your ads. Seeing people react to all your hard work is very satisfying.

Describe a typical working day… in the office.

In the office? The one that we don’t have access to at the moment?

If you can remember life before lockdown?

Ha. Ok. So, the day starts with me catching up on my tasks and projects. If there are paid media campaigns running, the first thing I would do is check on that. To make sure everything is in place in terms of budget, in terms of links, making sure everything works correctly.

Then I start catching up with SEO, to make sure we are on top of any updates or any algorithm changes that have happened. And the same for social media – for instance, if there are any notifications or mentions we need to be aware of for our clients.

Then we have our ‘stand-up’ meeting and I start in on my list of tasks for the day ahead.

It sounds like a busy schedule.

Yep, but it is enjoyable, rewarding work and we have a great team here at Fifty Five and Five that supports us.

What’s the stand-up meeting?

This is our daily meeting in the morning, where we meet with the entire company and quickly go through our priorities for the day. It's a nice way to catch up with everyone, but also to make sure we are on track and on the same page with all of the various projects going on.

What’s your favourite part of the day?

I think what I like most is analysing data and finding out the reason behind the performance of ads and campaigns. For example, when there’s a campaign going on, I enjoy checking in to see how it has progressed. Analysing how many leads we’ve got over the day and understanding why that has happened. This might sound a little bit weird, but I even enjoy having a quick check over the weekend. Even when I don’t have to. Just to see how it’s going.

So, this is 24 hours, seven days a week PPC?

Well, actually, when I am tired of Netflix, I go to LinkedIn and check it. Just to see if there’s anything exciting going on… ok, I am joking. Whoever is reading this is going to think, woah, chill out.

But, seriously, what I enjoy the most is research. Normally we come up against many challenges, because a lot of the work we do is quite technical and best practice is always evolving. I find SEO quite challenging in this respect. And so, what I enjoy most is when I research something and suddenly the light comes on and I find the answer to a problem. That is the happiest moment of the day, of the week.

I said that I love PPC because it delivers results fast. But I also love SEO because you never stop learning. And when you figure out an answer which helps you overcome a challenge, it feels great!

What skills do you think are needed to be good in your role?

Perseverance. Because some projects can be quite time – and energy – consuming.

It is important to have a positive attitude. It’s hard work. But it’s rewarding work. You know, I was only half-joking about looking at LinkedIn on the weekends. You might laugh but PPC is quite exciting sometimes.

Another important skill is wanting to learn. Being very open to the latest news, announcements and developments in every field. You should be… I don’t how to say it, but it’s important to be an expert in what you do, but at the same time you need to be open to what is going on in other areas of marketing, or technology, so that you can respond to challenges with a broad view and with a contextualised understanding. Because digital marketing is always a mix of different fields. Being open-minded and willing to learn is crucial.

What do you like about Fifty Five and Five?

The people… obviously. I love all the people at Fifty Five and Five. It’s a great team. If you need something, someone is always willing to help you.

There’s also always room for you to investigate your way through things. There’s no “it can’t be done” attitude. I like the freedom to be able to work on my own projects in my own way, but also, at the same time, knowing that I have the full support of the team.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in your role?

I would say: always ask questions. There are many new things coming up every day. And it’s difficult to keep up, so we have to help each other.

Also, because things keep changing, it’s always good when someone comes in with a pair of fresh eyes. So, it’s really useful, when you are new, to speak up - because it can be helpful for the whole team. And everyone brings different experiences and skills to the job.

If you had to start again… in life… what would you do instead of marketing?

I don’t know. I started out in journalism. But I realised I didn’t like it. Maybe photography? I have always enjoyed that.

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?

Before the lockdown my favourite thing was going out and exploring South London. I’m looking forward to doing that again soon.

Thanks Laura!