This past Friday (December 4th) a few guest speakers from SapientNitro came in and speak to tell us a little bit about the culture at is at SapientNitro, and what it is like to work in a large agency.
Let me tell you a little about our guest speakers, there was Brad Huffman who is a Art Director as well as a Web Design Alumni from the class of 2013, Andrew Hodge who is a Designer and also a Web Design Alumni from last years (2015) graduating class and lastly Rosie Given her job at SapientNitro is Campus Recruiter (that means she recruits new students during job fairs and the like).
Our chat started off with them telling us a little bit of history about SapientNitro. Like how it started originally as a with just two guys as a tech consultant company until they partnered with Nitro and they started to grow exponentially! Now with offices all over the world.
“We want to kick ass and be known for it”
Brad and Andrew went on to tell us that they produce a lot of experience design, and interaction design. Brad shared just some of the brands that he works with us they include: Chrysler (Doge, Jeep, Ram), Loblaw, some banks, and insurance companies.
They went on to tell us about how even though they are apart of a huge ad agency they still get a chance to give back to the community, or take part in really interesting events like Nuit Blanche (Toronto’s all night art festival). The company makes no money for taking part in these types of things but feel that it’s important to their working culture.
“Worlds – not ads”
Expanding on the culture of the office, they have various networks they are connected to. Like the Woman’s Leadership Network, The Pride Network, and many more. The neat thing about having these available to you is that you have a chance to get involved something that you find your are passionate about that you may not have had the opportunity to be involved with before.
After they explained to us a little bit about what it was like working at SapientNitro regarding their culture and type of work they produce, they opened the floor for questions. I love how our past few guests have done this, it gives us a chance to ask about specific topics that we are concerned about and get some good first hand informative answers about them.
Q: Your not a traditional Ad agency, can you walk us through what you would produce for a client?
A: Brad: Mostly digital experience; we build out sites and apps (build out the apps and websites for the brand).
Andrew: Here’s an example I recently built out the insiders report for Loblaw; created a interactive experience for them, eliminating the old paper version.
Q: We’ve had a lot of grads go to Sapient, how do you distinguish yourself from the huge space your in – like dealing with lots of graphic designers etc.
A: Brad: Be loud and get involved, if there’s any idea you have just do it and present it to the creative director that you think will be your best bet.
Andrew: They’re very open to give you chance to shine and grow.
Brad: There are people who are very happy just flying under the radar, which is fine, but if you want opportunities, you have to say things and work for it.
Q: When we receive a project; we are given everything; where does a designer start on the project?
A: Brad: It depends on the project, if the designer is needed from the get go you will be involved in the beginning.
Q: is here any kind of mentor program?
A: Rosie: you would get partnered with a junior buddy, to them about any questions or concerns you may have when first starting.
You also get someone in your specific team that you are able to get to know so that you become comfortable in your new position.
We also offer a chance for further development we have courses in an online database that if you want to use them to develop on top of your skills or learn new ones, you will be given time to do so, if you ask for it.
Brad: More on online courses, you can find yourself starting as a designer, but you may start looking at being an accounts manger, sapient encourages you to try new things with them and they also nurture it.
Q: Speak to the hiring process at SapientNitro (it’s a lengthy process):
A: Rosie: About 4 interviews, it’s rigorous, but not stressful. Your mostly meeting many people from the team to make sure that you fit with them, and they fit with you. It’s a two part process: Portfolio review and behavioural(personality, work style, etc.). Sometimes an art director will sit in on your interviews if they need to find the perfect fit fast. We also (sometimes) host a hiring day we gather potential candidates, and at the same time this allows the candidates to get a feel for the company and culture.
First week of work you get sent to a office in a different city; learn how the office culture works within the entire company.
Brad (he spoke of his experience when getting hired, as he wasn’t hired in the typical SapientNitro way): Worked in the industry before school as well. Coming out of grad show, he knew SapientNitro would be a great fit for him, SapientNitro agreed and got hired out of the gate after talking to to them at the Grad show.
Andrew (he also spoke of his experience when getting hired, because he to he wasn’t hired in the typical SapientNitro way): I got approached at grad night, and invited for an interview. They already liked his portfolio, so the interview was just to get to know him.
Q: Speak to the culture, how did you know it was for you?
A: Brad: Charity incentives were a big draw, knowing that your company makes a tonne of money and they do something with it that is beneficial to others.
Andrew: The people are also great; I have yet to meet someone who isn’t friendly. I’ve never really been turned off by anything working with anyone. There’s no tip toeing around people.
Brad: The people there, it’s a huge company – but it operates a lot like a close nit group of friends. Very helpful to each other.
“Being a nice guy or gal goes a long way” – Rosie
Rosie: Given lots of responsibility right away, the feeling of having your ideas valued is great. You generally work on the same client for a project to grow the relationship but sometimes you wont be 100% exclusive on a project; you may work on small other things.
Q: What is the process, of managing your work load, who helps you with this?
A: When you start you assigned a staffing partner, they will you help manage your time. It’s easy enough to raise your hand if your in trouble, normally it wont happen but sometimes a project gets huge and will need to be managed.
Q: Why is pitch time so crazy?
A: It’s a lot of hands dealing with top executives, and there’s always “just one more thing”, you have so many different people doing different things, like different ads, and formulating what you what to pitch and how you want to pitch. It’s a really cut throat industry, there could be tones of agencies vying for the same thing, and it’s exciting to win that pitch.
Senior level management will pitch for big projects, designers not so much unless they did a lot of work on the project. When your on a project though you are presented with the opportunity to meet your client at a later date. To grow your relationship.
Q: Can you move offices?
A: Yes, you can move around and it’s happened. Sometimes if you’re specialized you’ll be asked to spend time where you may be needed.
Q: What advice would you give us to make the best out of our program:
A: Andrew: Try to be varied in your websites, with style, outside of your comfort zone. It’s better to show a breath of work then a cookie cutter style.
Brad: Challenge yourself, be uncomfortable for some of you projects.
Andrew: Don’t over extend yourself! But push boundaries.
Lots of questions, great answers.
How to get in contact with Brad, Andrew, and Rosie
Brad Huffman: Art Director | LinkedIn
Andrew Hodge: Graphic Designer | LinkedIn
Rosie Given: Campus Recruiter | LinkedIn
Company Website: http://www.sapientnitro.com/en-us.html#home