Clearswift is a multinational company specialising in B2B (business to business) web and email security gateways operating worldwide with offices in UK, USA, Germany, Australia, Japan and Spain.
I operated within a digital marketing role in an experienced marketing team. My main responsibilities included:
Social networking, PR campaigns, Marketing, Web Development, Graphic design and Project Management.
The delivery of frequent design and content changes to Clearswift websites
Support on brand marketing project work
Advising on social media, SEO and mobile strategies
Support the requirements of the business to use the website as a sales pipeline, to gather prospect intelligence, and to support online PR activity
Project management for website customer experience, usability issues, and departmental requirements
Producing distinctive, persuasive and effective devices to maximise downloads and evaluations
Provide support to the regional marketing teams in the development of innovative and informative on-line collateral and marketing & sales tools
To operate in this role effectively I received Squiz CMS (what the websites runs on) training, minor strategy mix (lead gen) training and the standard introduction IT stuff at the start of the year.
It is Tuesday 29th June and it is my first day at the Clearswift HQ in Theale, Reading. I’m nervous but excited.
And with that, I was straight into meetings (0900-1600) as it was the Marketing Face to Face meeting in which the marketing department meets up to get up to speed with current goings on and future planning across the company. All the regional marketing managers (RMM’s) come over to the UK for this, and there are lots of presentations from the RMM’s, senior members of staff and executives from across the entire company. Besides from company updates agencies that are used by the company are brought in to provide updates on tasks and future plans also, so we had ‘Bright Digital’ (who do our marketing campaigns, and collateral material such as marketing material that partners can use to sell our products) come in to present and our PR agency ‘Cuban Eight’ to give a little presentation too.
Although tiring for me as I wasn’t used to all day meetings, it was very beneficial to me as I could get up to speed on where the company was and where it was going, but also meet everyone and mingle with the team and agencies I would be working with over the course of the next year. We also had the usual business reviews, Q1 results 110% target which was a good time to start the company! Just after 1600, the meeting was being wrapped up, and they we went to Oakley Manor house for the ‘team building’ part which happened to be clay pigeon shooting – and I came 3rd - result!
We then all socialised over Pimms and the (odd Guinness). Then in the evening had a 5 course meal and made use of the open bar with my new found colleagues and then slept. Not bad for a first day! I could already see by this point I was going to have a great year with these people.
The next morning I was up early feasting on Salmon and scrambled egg breakfast before rushing back to the cars to head back to the office. It was another day of meetings continuing with people from other depts. And the odd agency or two. By mid afternoon the meetings were done and we started organizing collateral (documents such as whitepapers, factsheets covering the products) for overseas offices which was really good for me as I could see the differences in region for the first time. What appealed best to CEE users etc.
Once I had my desk (with a great view of the lake may I add) I sorted out my email signature and mail rules and then got straight into work. I had been given some collateral and was asked to organise it, and get rid of un relevant things, which was a great intro to the job as I was finding out about everything really! Diving in at the deep end but starting to swim!
Later we have (my first) company meeting, where everyone comes upstairs by the beer fridge (yes you read that right) and grabs a beer and a slice of pizza and listens to a condensed version of the presentations (all rolled into one) I had in the marketing face to face meeting. The CEO Richard Turner (who is an incredible public speaker) makes speech about performance, making a profit, well done everyone. Then it was drinks, beers, food. Leave early.
To end my first week I was going through more Squiz Mysource Matrix tasks with the Intern (Jay) who was with me for a month doing the handover and he was showing me the web aspect of the job only as his role was only web development, whereas mine was design and social media management in addition to marketing roles. Me and the marketing team went for a pub lunch and discussed future plans and used it as a time to find out more about my colleagues as well as my boss Nick giving me some info on the Squiz (the web CMS we use) training I was to receive in London the following week. Once we got back to the office I posted some collateral to one of our graphic designers to look over and then sat down with my boss went over what I will be doing and listing tasks to do whilst he was on holiday for 2 weeks. He asked me what I would like to do and is pleased I want to get more into the graphic/visual/social/marketing parts of the job and less coding/web dev. 30% will be website coding, to which I was pleased with. Also used the time to sort out my schedule for next two weeks and organised induction meetings with key members of staff/exec’s as part of the corporate introduction.
My first ‘panic’ was when I had to chase up DVD and CD for masters to print off a 1000 copies for a Product launch later that week. After a few frantic phone calls I got them sent just in time. As always there were a few last minute changes to the text to I had to email one of our external graphic designers with some changes that needed to be done to documents.
As social media was new for the company I decided to email all employees to ask who used what when it came to social media so we could identify key networks to work on Clearswift’s social presence and started a spreadsheet to fill in with email feedback so it was documented to present at a later date.
The first time I went to visit Squiz in London was two weeks into the job, so I had a basic understanding of the CMS, but really I needed proper training. So I was having two courses, one the intro which took a day, and the second which was more advanced to took two days. Squiz are located right in the heart of the startup creative hub of Old Street/Shoreditch area. So as my first time to this place it was great to see all the design studios and have a chance to witness all the goings on around there. The people at Squiz are great to work with and our account manager Lily was very helpful throughout the year and was there to support with any problems I encountered. From my place in Reading it was about a 30min commute to Paddington then the Tube to Old Street so the journey was fairly simple but quite exciting to be about the hustle and bustle of the city for a couple days. The training went well and was very informative, other than doing the exercises, they took me out to lunch and then ended each day with an exam on the process/info we had studies during the day. Feeling confident with the CMS web part of the role, my training was over and on the last day of that week I started working on graphics for a whitepaper on our latest gateway update (but only once the proposed content was approved by the copywriters could I work on the documents, then get them approved before sending them to our type setters). As my boss was on holiday I went to Andrew (our COO) to approve the content. It was a good chance for me to check the content to test my own knowledge not only of the product info I had recently learnt, but also general marketing writing etc which I found very useful and a handy experience.
In order to make sure we had content for other regions, we mainly had collateral translated into German and a small bit of French or Dutch so this had to be translated by our agency we used ‘Lingo24’ – they were great to work with and enabled me to work on negotiating timescales for translations when things were mission critical.
You could say I did a great deal of project managing within my role and I found this brilliant as I was able to network with other designers, typesetter, copyrighters and printers. The latter being the most interesting as I had never sent graphics of to printers, so I had to learn more about cutting lines and bleeds etc which was very beneficial for me.
One of the things I got to get going in my time at Clearswift was its iconography, which until I started, hadn’t been used too much. There was one big file of a huge series of icons in the similar style, and me and my boss went through all of them working out what each one meant, so we could standardise the meanings so they cannot be miss-used in future which could confuse users in the future.
Due to some documents still not in the current Clearswift brand aesthetic, sometimes I would be asked to edit a document to end up completely redoing it. I didn’t mind though, as it was a great test of my knowledge of the brand aesthetic that I would then have to recreate the document so it fits within the style.
The corporate website was due for a refresh, and I had to meet with my boss, the C.O.O. and our external agency ‘Bright Digital’ to go over ideas and wireframes for the proposed look of the updated style. After many meetings and mockups we agreed on a look and set about creating it. As 'Bright Digital' have their creative office based in Manchester so before the work on the new layout went live I went 'tup north to help in their studio and get a idea of how the new look site worked and could be edited. It was also a great opportunity to work in creative agency environment for future reference!
Made changes to migration promo page. English and French. Made a few changes to partner portal, and created a plan for the movement of pages to PRM system. Generated the week’s document download report which gives marketing an idea of what partners have downloaded what marketing materials – good to work out what collateral is proving more popular. I had been added a few more entries to my social media spreadsheet (that documents what social networks other employees use and if they would be happy to connect with Clearswift’s networks and published content). Made a few changes on the DE migration page on Squiz, which involved trying to understand a bit of the German to make sure I had the content on the page making sense! Researched QR codes for use on employee business cards unfortunately didn’t prove popular due to QR codes’ slow uptake and understanding by the public.
With new updates to the gateways, with every new releaseI had to update ISO’s for the 30 day product trial download section of the .com site. It was very important that I didn’t muck that up as it could result is people not being able to download the product.
Putting my social media hat on was a regular occurrence so I was regularly updated the Clearswift blog, updated the twitter, updated the Facebook page so I was gaining great experience in maintaining a corporations online social presence, an almost essential role these days.
Since working out with my boss what the iconography all meant, I went about organising the Clearswift icons so they can be labeled and given to employees to use in presentations etc.
For an event in Oz. I was given the opportunity to design beer bottles for a promo they were running at a security event. This was awesome as designing a beer bottle believe it or not is something I was hoping to have been able to do in my career and didn’t think it would happen so soon!
Due to increased partner and customer event activity I was asked to create a simple holding page across all region to which events could be added with info/links/pictures etc so that these pages could be linked to and distributed with email and social media. It was quite interesting to do as different regions have different ways of best relaying the information and the format (although in keeping with the corporate aesthetic) varied due to regional preferences.
Every year Clearswift have a ‘family fun day’ in which the employees bring a member of their family or loved ones to an event put on by the company. In my time at the company it was at a converted barn with drinks and hog roast etc, and the activity was human table football in which your team of 5 were strapped into an inflatable human sized table football pitch and you could only move left or right. It was a really fun day, and a good insight to the corporate family days giving back to the employee’s hard work.
For our content we put on the blog, our PR agency, Nick or I, would find a current piece of relevant security news and then get the PR guys to come up with some content to link current goings on with our products or messaging. Then I would come up with a catching graphic to go with the article so it is more appealing to the view and also to hint at what the article is about. This was something I looked forward to several times a week (usually atleast once or twice a week) as it was a pretty tight timescale and I had to come up with some really catching graphics than actual fit with the story.
Clearswift have Hitachi as an OEM partner in Japan which means they sell our product under their name and brand. One of the attributes of our products is a RSS feed that links to the products to alert of any downtime/product updates etc. So Hitachi asked for a RRS feed branded for them. Working with Squiz and product development I got this sorted after a few issues and a lot of blood sweat and tears. I learnt to never let technical development people who enjoy being overly clever about things to deal with time dependant tasks. It was a bag of hurt.
Solution section - being in a small team has its advantages - freedom to make stuff after a quick discussion being one. A prime example was the solution section of the site. This housed content that talked about the kind of problems in web/email security that our products solved. Me and Nick planned this and had it online in 2 days. I constructed it in one day, and only had to wait for the content from our PR team.
Photoshoot - We needed some new shots for our brand materials as we were re-using photography by this point so collateral was starting to loose it's messaging as people start to recognise the same pictures and models. Working with our external agency we called in a photographer and crew to do a shoot around our office with a few models and me and two other interns for background models. It was a great experience and was great to get in on the shots and be able to help a professional crew that have worked for the royal family and Guinness World Records to name a few...
The Clearswift blog was pretty ugly before, so after a few looks at the fairly new blog platform 'Posterous' we decided to migrate to that from Wordpress as it was much easier to use and worked better in terms of social sharing which was to be encouraged more with Clearswift content. After a fairly simple XML export of the old blog, I imported it into the Posterous blog quickly and seamlessly and was able to tweak the design a tiny bit so it was more in tune with the brand and it looks great! Thanks to the better UI it is now more favorable among users and generates more traffic.
The website is in 3 main languages (English, German, Japanese) but for our international region we do make landing pages in other languages such as Dutch/Spanish so that some promotions or events details are in their local language. I did most of these for the international region as Celine the international regional marketing manager has the unfortunate job of covering loads of countries. Also case studies where requested and that was a fun task working with imagery from different clients ranging from couriers to lingerie. No need to say which case study I spent more time on...
One of my last big graphic tasks was the sever front panel designs for the Gateway products. As the customer can request the software be shipped with or without a server, so when they want us to sort out a server for them, we sort out a server box to be shipped out with the Gateway product on it so they do not need to install it etc. So to customise the server I was asked to come up with graphics for the 2 different server sizes, for separate Email and Web gateways, plus a combined box plate. So that was 5 graphics all together. After working to the size specifications and brand guidelines as well as senior members opinions I was able to create on brand server fronts that looked really good. Was a challenge to please everyone, but I got there in the end. Unfortunately I still haven’t seen the graphics on real life servers as the contract for the new supplier was agreed just before I left.
I was coming to the end of my time at Clearswift and up came the week of the new CMS upgrade - a week that didn't seem to end. Lots of project management as I had to work with (our brilliant CMS provider) Squiz to help sort out errors and issues stemmed from development. Partner locator was down, RSS feeds were down, Japanese partner portal was down, important Japanese registration and application pages (used very little) where down, missing redirect pages to old campaign pages were not migrated properly, downloads section missing (so people couldn't download the products) etc. So after about 5 very hectic days of late nights and early mornings I managed to get these issues sorted and compile a report of future problems to be wary of. All of these issues were dealt with whilst teaching my replacement the ropes - so needless to say I was very busy - but overall it was a great experience, as I will know what to look out for in future. I also found it a great experience when I was dynamically prioritising issues - as although annoying - it was quite fun having new issues pop up and having to identify what was more mission critical.
Final week was a nice wind down after a hectic few weeks. I was instructed to not do anything but supervise my replacement as he should be able to use this week to act as if he is on his own - I was just ready to help if anything went wrong as a backup. He was 'learning by doing'.
All in all I can safely say I learnt a lot on this placement year. Writing this all down doesn’t do my years experience justice. And I am kind of glad I am not able to get it all down on paper, as if I could, I wouldn’t have done enough in my opinion! Despite the fact from the start I was fairly sure this wasn't the kind of role I want for the rest of my life I have really enjoyed it and learnt first hand about the corporate world which puts me ahead of quite a few of my current peers so hopefully when it comes to working with corporate clients in the future I will be well prepared as I was at one stage the in house designer telling the agencies what we wanted/could afford/what our systems would let us do.This placement has offered me opportunities to develop my professional attitude and work ethic. I was lucky enough to work with some of the best people this year and it was hard to leave them - my team - behind. They helped me to learn to balance work and personal life while being flexible when workloads are increased. Not only now am I used to the previously dreaded ‘7am wake up’ but also I feel more grown up and ready for the real world of work, bills and office life.