It's often said that Virgin is like one big family and never has that been more true than when Virgin Mobile in Australia and Canada set up their exchange programme, Jade Mackay, Brand and Communications Marketing Manager for Virgin Mobile Australia, tells us about being first cab off the rank and the importance of sharing information between the group...
My career in marketing and communications has afforded me some great adventures over the years. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of amazing cities, including Sydney, Boston, London and, most recently, Toronto in July.
I learned about the idea of an exchange programme last year after Globile, an annual Virgin Management event in London that brings Virgin Mobile companies together from around the world. A discussion between the Australia, Canada and US head honchos acknowledging the similarities between markets quickly transformed into exchanging people to talk about shared projects and experiences.
In my experience, secondments or exchange programmes are few and far between. When the exchange opportunity was announced directly with Canada, it was something I had to apply for. Before I knew it, I was lucky enough to be selected. With my bags packed, I boarded the plane for Toronto.
Not quite knowing what to expect, I found the city was buzzing, with summer in the air, baseball, and the best Caesar’s made with Clamato. I knew winters could be tough, but talk of a ‘polar vortex’ months earlier meant the team were ready to embrace my visit and show me the sites of their wondrous home. I was immediately adopted by the coolest Toronto family. It felt like I was back at school – but this time, of legal drinking age!
For six weeks, I enjoyed getting to know their business. Trafficking information between the offices, we created the title ‘Exchange Mule’. I visited Virgin-branded, attended an in-line store launch and even managed to take in an amazing VIP Member experience at Virgin Mobile Presents Squamish Valley Music Festival where I enjoyed Bruno Mars, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys and Eminem, to name a few. What’s more, the team helped me sneak in some travel to British Columbia, Vancouver and Montreal to get the full Canadian experience.
In the office, we introduced the lunch box sessions for all teams to get to know the Australian business. We discussed the day-to-day operation, strategies and key projects back home. The objective was to see what sticks, and hopefully invigorate the team with energy and ideas from their counterparts who were going through the same thing.
In October, Kelly Paulino, Digital Marketing Manager, from Virgin Mobile Canada will join us in Australia to meet the team first-hand and introduce the wider business to Canada. Again, we’ll replicate the model and see what sticks.
Long term, forming a direct line of communication and regular information exchanges between teams will be one of the key measures of success for the programme. What’s more, there will be an exchange between two lucky team members once a year to experience life and the brand in another country.
For me, the most interesting observation during my experience has been recognising how similar our businesses are. We’re the same. The likeness of our operating models, challenges and team structures is like looking into a mirror at times.
Right now, the Canadian team is focused on bringing the Virgin brand to life for their people as part of the broader recruitment and on-boarding strategy. Funnily enough, it’s a journey we’ve been on in Australia over the last 12 months as we’ve reinvented ourselves and similarly share services across Human Resources and Learning and Development with our parent business.
If nothing else, I hope that my time here has solidified the importance of sharing information among the group and also demonstrated the power of conversation and collaboration among ourselves.
Having joined Virgin just over 12 months ago, I finally get it. I’d read that the people make our business, but living this experience in another country has only reaffirmed what I’d already come to know – it doesn’t matter which office or industry you walk into, we’re all the same. We wear a smile, carry a curious nature and walk to the beat of a faster drum. Getting an exchange programme up and running could take months in another company. But here, two offices just said, “That could be interesting. Let’s try it.” #bestplacetoworkever