Ben McWilliams, Intern
Located just off Burrard Inlet in downtown Vancouver, the TwentyTen Corp. offices, home to sister agencies TORQUE Strategies and TwentyTen Group, boast an impressive view of Canada Place, the harbour, and the mountains of the North Shore. For a kid who grew up with a view of downtown his whole life, it was an exciting prospect to have a chance to take in the North Shore daily from across the water.
My naïve fantasy, unfortunately, did not become a reality. Thanks to the firm’s booming business, real estate was tight, and instead of having a desk facing the water they had to get creative, finding space off the corner of the desk of TORQUE’s director of brand & strategy, Auburn Sigurdson. The spacious one-person desk was now transformed into a cozy, two-person work space. Phrases like, “excuse me” and “sorry” would become all too frequent over the next few months as chairs bumped and limbs narrowly missed each other. I am pleased to announce there were no injuries.
Directly in front of me was one of TORQUE’S client & strategy coordinators, Monica Whiteley. Nothing says productivity more than trying to avoid making awkward eye contact with your teammate facing you a few feet away. These awkward encounters became a source of muffled laughter for both of us but especially for me because looking past Monica meant looking into the office of TORQUE’s managing director, Bart Given. Catching his eye never seemed like an amusing prospect, he might think that I needed more work to do. That was usually the case whenever I was called into his office or when he came out to talk to me, either that or something along the lines of a crafty chirp. It took a week or two but I eventually became comfortable enough to start chirping him back. After that point, our harmless quips generated a lot of smiles from each of us as well as other members of the team.
Rounding out the TORQUE team in Vancouver was another client & strategy coordinator, Jemima Twist. I never had to worry about making awkward eye contact with her because our desks didn’t face each other. In fact, her desk was the farthest away from mine (a couple metres away) so we just took to skyping instead of actually talking. I still refuse to call it laziness and instead describe it as a strategic method of communication as to not disrupt others in the office.
In addition to TORQUE, the office is also occupied by TTG and the HSBC Canada Sevens rugby staff. The more time I spent in the office, the more a certain thought kept surfacing: my new work environment and team is eerily similar to the sports teams I have played on throughout my life.
If you have ever played team sports, whether it be at a competitive level or in a local ‘after work’ league, then you will be able to relate to the locker room experience. Growing up playing multiple sports at all levels and continuing to currently play hockey at the college level means that I have spent much of life in a locker room.
For a sports team, the locker room becomes a type of sanctuary, a place to interact with teammates and mentally and physically prepare for games and practices; an escape from the outside world and the heat of competition. While I expected my experience with TORQUE Strategies to be completely new and foreign, I was very wrong. As the summer progressed, I began to realize more and more how much the office reminded me of being in a locker room. Don’t worry, not all aspects were similar, the office doesn’t smell anything like a locker room. Constant interaction with my ‘stall mates’ Auburn and Monica, the frequent flow of talk across the entire office, and the mix of individual concentration and team collaboration. Digging it out in the trenches, doing the hard work to prepare for final deliverables is not unlike the work we do as athletes in the gym and in practice. Client meetings, whether in or out of the office, became in my eyes the very games and competitions that athletes train their entire careers to play. The ease of transition between serious conversation and light hearted banter made me feel at home, a home I have known my entire life, the locker room.
TORQUE and TTG have an incredible gift of delivering exceptional work for their clients, bringing a focused and professional attitude yet at the same time executing their work with a smile on their faces and many laughs along the way. In my mind, there is no better combination.
I feel incredibly lucky to have the mentors that I did this summer. I don’t think many people can say that one minute, someone like Bart Given was giving them advice to serve them for the rest of their life and the next minute teasing them about some minor misstep. Having the title of TORQUE intern, means access to great mentors like Auburn and Bart, ample opportunity to develop your skills and grow as a person, meaningful guidance and direction, and autonomy to complete the tasks assigned to you. The people were incredible, the projects intriguing, and experience satisfying.
It was a dream summer to work in a place that reminded me so much of the team dynamics I grew up in through sport. Perhaps the transition from sports to an office job won’t be as hard as I thought.