Marketing Manager, Sara Hassen, on Foundry4's culture of support through the pandemic
I’ve spent the majority of my working life in communications and marketing, from a small events company in a team of four people, to a large education organisation with a marketing team of more than 50. Over the past ten years, I’ve balanced work alongside having a child and in the early days of motherhood that also included a commute.
I’ve been working at Foundry4 (which was previously Notbinary) for almost three years now and I joined as the only marketing person in the organisation. Just before I joined Notbinary I had had a short stint working in an office locally to home, which I really enjoyed, and I was keen to keep what was a really good work/life set-up. I definitely found that here.
Joining a team - remotely
Foundry4 is a remote-first organisation, which means when the covid restrictions hit, not much changed - well apart from a very chatty ten year old joining my home-working routine... That was hard for sure, but there were things that actually improved for me during lockdown.
As the business was expanding to become Foundry4, I joined a team of three other people in Insights and Marketing. I wasn’t really sure what to expect at the beginning, but on reflection, I realised how much I’d missed being a part of a team, and how much it motivates me. I really like seeing the team every morning as part of our stand-ups, they are an amazing, friendly, easy-going bunch of people, who immediately made me feel welcome.
Space to grow
Over the past 18 months as the business has developed we’ve certainly been kept busy, and it was initially all hands to the pump when we launched a new brand. But as we’ve found more of a steady rhythm I’ve also been able to really explore where I wanted to develop my career, and been given the space to be able to do that.
I’ve been able to get more involved with our Community Action and Impact work, which is something I’m really passionate about and I’ve also been able to focus on Foundry4’s internal communications and staff engagement, which is an area I’m really interested in developing further.
The benefits of a strong remote culture
I love the fact - and it’s not just talk here - that the flat management structure and lack of red tape means when we’ve needed to get things done we have. There’s been other benefits when we’ve needed them throughout the year too, from desk physio assessments to an allowance for additional home-working equipment, a plant to brighten up my desk, yoga classes, social Friday afternoon games and coffee meet-ups via Zoom, plus the flexibility and understanding to be able to work, and balance homeschooling. My colleague Sarah even gave a couple of the homeschooling kids a French lesson one afternoon.
I’ve loved having the flexibility of being a home worker at Foundry4, my daughter's school is nearby, which means I can walk her to school and pick her up, and it doesn’t impact my working day. That said, when it all got too much at home, and covid restrictions allowed, I've also been able to use a fantastic co-working space locally. Using a co-working office a couple of days a week adds a bit of structure to the week and a bit of exercise, as I usually walk or bike in, and it’s been great to be able to work at a proper desk rather than the dining room table, with a proper office chair, coffee machine and a few new faces.
Communication in a distributed business
Communication has been a big part of my learning over the past 18 months. Foundry4 is a progressive, open organisation, and that means communication has always been honest and there’s a level of openness that I’ve not experienced at other businesses.
That openness also means it’s an environment where people can put forward new ideas. When I joined Notbinary we were about nine people - now Foundry4 has more than 40. Effective communication has been so important to make connections, build support networks and successfully work as part of a remote distributed team. I was a pretty slow starter when it came to Slack but it’s been a really useful business and social tool during lockdown. My favourite channel will always be #fluffy-pets-club, the pet pictures can definitely lift my spirits on the harder days.
Now things are opening up however, I am just really really looking forward to seeing everyone in person, finding out how tall people are in real life and being able to have a drink and a laugh together in the same room!
Sara has worked in marketing for 20 years, developing multi-channel marketing activities and campaigns, including events and communications initiatives.