Usually, on the last day of the working year, I write a post that reviews the past 12 months. Well, I spent my last day of work last year flying from London Heathrow to Frankfurt, back to Heathrow, across to London Luton then off to Gdansk so didn't quite manage to maintain the tradition.
But that explanation is a great start for my 2011 post as I spent much of the year – around a day every week and a half – gallivanting around Europe and further afield.
The year started, as 2010 ended, working with David Armano on Edelman's Social Business Planning offering. Over the past year, various members of the Edelman Digital and Edelman Consulting teams furthered our thinking and, in December 2011, our formal offering finally saw the light of day.
My client list has continued to grow and although I don't tend to name names, I can tell you I've had the pleasure of working with a leading global food and beverages brand, several international insitutions (UN and EU Parliament), a global leader in the finance sector, a consumer pet care brand, a mining company and others. Indeed, for some reason, my clients are almost all based outside of the UK – Zurich, Brussels, Moscow, Holland, Seoul, New York, San Francisco.
This probably goes some way towards explaining why, if follow me on twitter or foursquare, you will have noticed that, as I mentioned above, I spent quite a lot of the year out of the office. So much so that, at one point, several members of our team were calling me "Dora", in reference (if you don't have kids), to Dora the Explorer.
Here's the list – off the top of my head so likely to be missing one or two stops – of the places my job took me in 2011:
- St. Petersburg
- Amsterdam (3-4 times) and Raalte (twice) and Utrecht
- Barcelona (twice) and Sitges
- Brussels (8+ times)
- Gdansk (once for work, often for play)
I enjoy travelling as part of my job – it's great to see new places and meet new people – and there were far to many highlights to capture here, but here's a few of them:
Belgrade, long on my list of places to visit, rolled out the red carpet in a way no other city managed to match – my conference speaking gig there was proceeded by a surprise VIP invitation to Belgrade Fashion Week (thank you Kosta!), where I met the Prince and Princess of Serbia and watched the show as part of their entourage, was interviewed by Fashion TV (I said some nonsense about the designs evoking strong images of Spring), and then went to dinner at a hard to better piano bar with a group that included a supermodel who had done Victoria's Secret and covers for just about every fashion magazine going – this does not happen every day and half the office still remains sceptical it happened.
Sitges, near Barcelona, was extraordinary for entirely different reasons. I was there to speak at a client event – it's one of my favourite clients because they're smart, receptive to our ideas, and a lot of fun. After I spoke in the morning, I headed straight to the poolside at the Dolce. Visualise, for a moment, four or five pools split across different levels, lush gardens making each one of those feel entirely private, and beautiful views out over the Med and you're there. Clients take note – please help me get back to the Dolce, sooner rather than later.
In Seoul we also had great hospitality. The hotel where our group of four stayed was not far off perfect although I never did figure out all the gadgets eluded to by all the buttons on the toilet, which had a heated seat and a protruding nozzle. I suspect, based on the icons, there was also a dryer built in there. Our Seoul office welcomed us warmly, and our client layed on a wonderful lunch for us – the octopus running down the table in a bid for freedom (he was captured and plonked into the boiling water in the end) was surely not part of the plan, but added a great story to my after dinner repoirtoir. Other memorable moments inculde member of our team somehow getting stuck in a lift, unable to figure out which Korean symbol to press for help, having a jet lag induced meeting at 4am, and buying a neck tie at 6am. We also managed to find time, during our 36 hours on the ground 13 hours from home, for dinner in the restaurant on the top floor of the tallest building in Korea and the food – as was all the food we had in Seoul – was truly delicious.
I also had a great time during my trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow. I arrived in St. Petersburg on the weekend before a client meeting which, coincidently, was scheduled in the middle of the "white nights" when the sun sets for only an hour or so in the night. I visited the Hermitage, which must be one of the World's greatest art museums, and a short boat trip outside of the city, the "Russian Versaille", Peterhof. After finishing up with the client, I headed to Moscow to spend a day with my Edelman Digital colleagues there, two of which took the afternoon off so as to take me on a tour that included Red Square and other notable sites.
Those are just a few of the travel related highlights – there were many more, including getting lost in an industrial estate on the outskirts of a small town in Holland at 1am, wandering around inside the European Parliament, getting a free Mexican dinner off a foursquare check-in in NYC – which I'd need to write a book to fully cover. Monocle, Intelligent Life, The Economist, Wallpaper, and The Guardian kept me informed along the way with BBC iPlayer and Monocle 24 providing entertainment.
As for professional stuff, our team continued to grow rapidly during 2011 – from around 40 full time staff to 70+. We've had the opportunity to work on some amazing build projects, many of them involving a full blown research and strategy phase prior to design and implementation. We've also had the chance to devise and manage some interesting social media engagements for clients. A number of the projects I've had the pleasure to work on have involved teams in multiple countries – Germany, Brussels, Russia, Spain, Holland, Italy, China, Japan, Korea, NYC and San Francisco, and Argentina. Edelman has offices in over 54 markets, and joining up enables us to ensure that the global strategies we often devise are informed, and implemented by, people with local knowledge.
I continue to find thrills in the fast paced nature of our work, and also delight in working with such great people whether they're from within our own London based Digital practice, our wider Edelman family, or clients and their other suppliers. Oh, and did I mention that we're always looking for good people to join the team?
Anyway, enough gushing about how much fun I'm having here – best of luck to you in 2012.