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My 4 Week Digital Work Placement at Simplarity

Joanna Richardson
Joanna Richardson
Joanna is currently studying her MSc in International Marketing at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
On finishing her degree, she looks forward to making a creative and valuable contribution to dynamic and sustainable marketing campaigns.
She is also a passionate plant-mum who spends her spare time painting plant pots.
The only source of knowledge is experience.”
Albert Einstein

After a fantastic 4 weeks, my placement at Simplarity has come to an end! It has been an invaluable experience from which I have learnt so much.  Marta and Alexandra have both been wonderful and I’m truly sad to be finished.

When I first began my placement in March, I did feel slightly overwhelmed.  And not just because of the recurring 8am Teams meetings.  Rather than working as an intern, or working within a large organisation in their marketing department, I was solely responsible for taking on the challenge of Digital Marketing at Simplarity. I am currently studying MSc International Marketing at Robert Gordon University.  As part of my degree I have completed one module on digital marketing, which has been supplemented by online courses and studying in my own time.  The module had focussed on a business-to-customer approach, and although I knew from the start this placement wouldn’t be quite like designing an Instagram giveaway for a chocolatier, I hadn’t realised quite how challenging it is to make social media work in a business-to-business environment.  I felt slightly out of my depth, but excited by the challenge.

My overall project was to create a successful social media strategy.  After our first 8am meeting on Monday morning, I looked at my laptop in despair.  The call had ended, and I was on my own.  In the living room of my student flat. This was something I had feared about the placement.  Like most businesses just now, we were working remotely.  Something I had always associated with a work placement is the experience of working within an office, experiencing the culture, and being in a space with like-minded people, learning from each other.  I worried that with my placement being remote, I would miss out on this experience.  I was also terrified of the prospect of communicating online.  What was correct ‘Teams’ etiquette? Although my task was set, I suddenly didn’t know where to begin.

But then, my little ‘Teams’ icon pinged.  The first message had been sent.  The conversation had started, and I instantly felt relief.

Fast-forward a week, and I was fully in the swing of things.  Each day we communicated on Teams, building on each other’s ideas and brainstorming new ones. As well as my project, I spent my time creating posts for LinkedIn and Twitter, constructing market research polls, and designing infographics.  

Intellectual Property Infographic

I developed my communication skills, put into practice my academic knowledge and used digital marketing tools which I had been taught, but not had the opportunity to use.  I spent my days organising my time, working to my own schedule, and asking for advice where needed.  I was invited to share my ideas and thoughts on exciting upcoming events, and always felt like I was in the loop and like I was a valued member of the team.  All my initial fears seemed silly.

Although I learnt a lot of practical skills on my placement, the lesson that has stuck with me is how ‘bad’ ideas, are quite often the beginning of good ones.  In our morning meetings, we would discuss my thoughts and suggestions which had arisen from completing my project and tasks.  While some were immediately met with enthusiasm, there were many that weren’t quite such a hit.  However, these suggestions quite often led to better ideas which were implemented and turned into action. I really saw the value of seeing things from different perspectives, and the benefit of a fresh set of eyes.  One of my favourite parts of the placement was discussing ideas together, and watching as they progressed into something exciting. SO many of our morning meetings started with a ‘Your idea for … got me thinking about an idea for …’, and I really enjoyed being a part of this process.

In some cases, even the ‘good’ ideas didn’t work when put in practice.  During my time, I experimented with posting times, and posted on channels that Simplarity were not using regularly.  The posts were unsuccessful, they were disappointing, and I felt a bit embarrassed.  At University, you write reports, provide your opinions and ideas, then you submit it and in most cases, forget about it.  However, on placement, you have to go through with these ideas and commit to them.  They are no longer theoretical, and they either will or won’t work.  From these unsuccessful ideas, I learnt important lessons.  Although we learnt what times were bad for posting, this helped us decide what times were good.  Although we discovered that some channels weren’t as responsive, we learnt that others were. The saying You didn’t fail, you just found 100 ways that don’t work suddenly made a lot of sense.

I can now see things in a much more positive light.  I have always been a creative person (or so I’ve thought), hence why I got into marketing, but often my creativity has been hindered by obsessing with getting things right first time.  This leads to me to getting stuck and frustrated, and can make the task take longer than it should.  This is maybe a habit formed from only ever doing things in theory while at University, and being unable to learn from your mistakes.  My time at Simplarity has made me realise not to just disregard ‘silly’ ideas, or to write-off bad ideas as a ‘disaster’.  I am now more confident to share or experiment with an idea at its early stages, rather than getting stuck in a rut trying to get things right first time.   I think this is a really valuable lesson, which will help me be more productive in the future.

Doing my placement at a start-up with a small team has been great.  Despite being remote, aside from the first-day panic, I’ve never felt isolated. As restrictions eased, I even got the chance to go for coffee with Marta, where we totally lucked out for weather.  I can only hope that when completing my degree and beginning my career, I join a team as welcoming and supportive as the team at Simplarity.

Joanna and Marta_Simplarity

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