We’re excited to share the latest installment in our series, A Seat at the Table, where you’ll get the opportunity to hear from dynamic women who work together at the same company. Their specific roles may be varied, but their message is the same: It’s time for more women to join them in shaping today’s business world. Today grab your coffee and take a seat as we introduce four of the women of Big Spaceship, a Brooklyn-based digital creative agency.
The ladies you’re about to hear from have collaborated on campaigns for clients including Google, Samsung, BMW, YouTube and Organic Valley. By focusing their work on interactions – how a client experiences one’s business and product – the company helps heavyweight brands evolve. Read on to find out how the women of Big Spaceship take care of one another, achieve ambitious results and consistently cultivate fresh ideas for clients.
What does a day-in-the-life at Big Spaceship entail?
Lindsay: A day here consists of general production management, with the twist of hanging out with friends. Each and every crew member on staff gets to know one another like a friend, and we value that relationship. “Take Care of Each Other” is one of our company’s core values, and our crew really takes that to heart – channeling that thought mentality to make work fun.
Brittney: It’s a jam-packed day for sure! For me, I’ll usually bump around between several website projects – helping our newer team members solve bugs, coordinating with developers to make sure they have what they need and planning new projects with clients.
Tatiana: Every day is different. Some days I’m building decks. Other days, I’m on calls presenting work to clients and agency partners. Some days I’m running workshops. Others, I’m heads down in research. The only real consistencies are that I’m rarely working alone. I always have a teamI collaborate with and depend on. And, I’m surrounded by folks I really like.
What is the culture like at Big Spaceship?
Andrea: Everyone talks about the importance of creating a strong culture at work. Big Spaceship is the only place I’ve ever worked that has actually done so. We all strive to trust and respect one another. We push ourselves and are encouraged to ask for help. We all want to make work thatwe are proud of and also enjoy our days in the process.
Lindsay: We are weird, nerdy, cheesy humans. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but that is what makes us special. That feeling stems from our CEO/Founder down to the interns. We are sarcastic, but more importantly, we strive to produce amazing work in a true collaborative manner, and sometimes things get weird.
Brittney: The culture at BSS has evolved as we’ve grown. Now it’s more about pushing ourselves to be better. For the tech team, for instance, this means advancing our techniques for deployment and QA. For our project teams, we are investing in training and upgrading our client presentations. As a whole, a lot of us really enjoy packing into vans and running races, of course followed up by plenty of beer.
Tatiana: It’s a living, breathing entity, shaped by each individual in the crew. It’s equal parts ridiculous and ambitious. At one moment you can experience a silly tradition like getting a ping pong ball thrown at your desk, and then in the next moment have an enlightening, mind-blowing conversation about a complex business challenge. The secret is that everyone owns and is responsible for the culture.
How do you consistently provide fresh, creative ideas for your clients?
Tatiana: We start by only hiring people who are inherently interesting and curious. They have an innate drive to uncover truths and solve problems regardless of the discipline they’re in. Collaboration is another key to ensuring we’re always pushing and building on strong thinking. And finally, we ensure we have a crew with diverse backgrounds that help bring fresh perspectives to all work.
Brittney: Tech has to stay sharp. We circulate news about tech advancements and new web standards and services. Technology is included in the whole project process – from pitch, to brainstorm and beyond. I think this collaboration gives us a fresh edge and unique perspectives.
Andrea: There are clues everywhere that guide us to making amazing creative things that people want. If we sharply watch and listen to the people that matter to our brands, we will know the exact type of thing, product or service that they will care about and share. That is one of the main ways in which we help our clients every day.
Lindsay: We find the real human insight and then build off of that.
Do you feel that bringing a women’s perspective benefits the work that Big Spaceship does for its clients?
Tatiana: This is a hard question to answer. The simple answer is yes, of course. Any additional perspectives we can add to Big Spaceship benefits everyone, and it is extremely important that women are well represented. But, I find it hard to extrapolate (or even decide if I should) what part of my personal perspective comes from being female vs. my upbringing vs. my cultural background vs. my education, etc. I really don’t think about it that way.
Andrea: All I know is that I enjoy working with different people with different backgrounds, mindsets and worldviews. I want to be surrounded by diversity in general. The work is always better when you bring more than one point of view to the table.
How do you maintain work/life balance? Or, has it become work/life integration?
Lindsay: It’s a balance between work/life balance and integration. Sometimes working through the night helps hit a deadline, but you need the next day to rest. Time is precious in this industry, so when we build timelines, we look at the light at the end of the tunnel and get there the best way we can without burning the midnight oil every night. But, we also understand that it may happen from time to time, so it’s important for us to celebrate those long nights with some integration back into life.
Brittney: In New York, it is definitely about an integration. It’s important to get your work done during business hours to avoid developer burnout, though the end-of-project sprint can be unavoidable. Traveling often, trips outside the city, no-work weekends and side projects are a must. A lot of the things I do for fun can also be considered work; I think that’s a common New York mindset.
Is there any formal mentorship/professional development among the teams at Big Spaceship?
Brittney: One of our core values is, “Take care of each other,” and we look for this attitude in our new hires. On the tech team, we treat our interns and juniors as teammates, instead of ‘Task Rabbits.’ We all attend conferences, online workshops and can work on side projects to learn new tech. If anyone has a bug, it’s a safe environment to ask for help. I left work early for three months to teach at General Assembly to better my career and become better at helping others.
Throughout your careers, how have you set and managed both internal and external relationships to keep everyone happy?
Andrea: I have a rule at home. We talk about the work, but not the politics of work. The work is always interesting to talk about – the politics are not! And, when I don’t allow myself to talk about the politics, they become way less important.
Tatiana: This is a work in progress. I think once I began to express my priorities and desires to all the people in my life, it became much less about managing their expectations and keeping them happy, but rather making choices that I was happy about. Everything is a give and take. Some weeks, I give work (and it takes) a bit more. And others, I focus much more on my personal relationships and mental health. The importance is being in tune with yourself and understanding your own needs.
Brittney: I’ve always been on the computer – and always on a side project – so the family is definitely used to this. My partner works in a similar field, but from home, so we spend a lot of time together. In New York it’s hard to make time for friends, but most of my friends come from Big Spaceship. We’ll celebrate projects with a night out or a trip upstate.
What do you look for in potential employees when expanding your teams?
Brittney: Beyond looking for our core values, we look for an eagerness to learn and create something great. You need grit to work at a fast-paced agency where quality is a priority. There are going to be late nights; there’s always going to be something new to learn, and challenges to overcome. You don’t have to be the best coder in the city, but you should have a breadth of experience across platforms and a bright friendly demeanor.
What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Lindsay: I’ve learned to lead from the front, by creating a clear path for success for my team. I know I need to push the teams from behind and continue to represent our work in a positive light so we all can grow our opportunities with our clients.
Brittney: Speak up. If something looks remotely off but you don’t think you have enough experience to know for sure, say something anyway. I’ve also learned to lead by example. If you want your team to be excited about a tough project or fearless in the face of 15 logged bugs, then you’ve got to get in there and show them how.
Andrea: Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time helping people learn how to manage. Many people become amazingly well trained in their craft, but they are not taught how to manage both up and down in an organization. These are the skills that can really help someone grow and develop their careers.
How do you see your industry evolving within the next five years?
Brittney: Honestly, in the last five years I haven’t seen an increase in women coders, but I have heard more discussion and seen more educational efforts pop up around it. We have seen more women in digital agencies though and that’s rocked. Tech-wise I think we’ll start to get a little tired of entering passwords, dry eyes from screens, and bored of cat pictures on social. Or is that just me and now?