My first month at upMention NairobiBack
Roughly 60 days ago, I joined upMention as an SEO Specialist having spent my previous 3 years working at a fintech startup in their growth and go-to-market strategy team. At that time, my knowledge of the company was pretty limited as I had to rely on available information from the website but I was excited to dive into the ‘secret of Google’.
Joining was an obvious decision to make as I felt the job description perfectly matched my skills while also providing an opportunity to expand my skills in digital marketing. So I joined with my eyes open and fully expected this to offer a steep learning curve in terms of grasping specialized skills to help our clients and a stable environment to thrive. While my USP is building a structure and logic to carry out cross-functional execution with other teams, I wanted to get mentorship and to grow my skills to help upMention grow and achieve its goals.
Have I made the right decision? What is it like working in upMention? Here is a glimpse of my first 30 days.
It was refreshing reporting to work every day and enjoying the occasional serendipitous conversations with colleagues while preparing coffee. This was in contrast to my previous role where we were working remotely. However, I’m especially grateful for the ability to learn from the different teams at upMention easily and enjoy the collaboration fostered by physically meeting my colleagues.
The first two weeks were interspersed between on-the-job training and introduction to the upMention way of doing things, ably supported by the different teams. Consistent with upMention’s reputation of well-structured planning with clients on achievement of goals, there are a multitude of structured internal documentation to help new team members ramp up fast. Having come from an environment where we used Google Workspace, I had to adjust to Teams (easy and pretty cool) and Microsoft Office. I do like that upMention uses best-of-breed software tools for supporting the functions we do.
My calendar had a comprehensive list of people I should meet and it was frictionless to meet them and connect to learn more. Colleagues in my team were very helpful and offered support whenever I got stuck (which was a lot) and replied to my Teams chat SOS messages as they sought to help me start my journey successfully.
At upMention, clients = customers. Clients include offline-businesses that want to increase their findability on Google search and online-native businesses that use upMention to reach their target market while refining their outreach strategies. The ‘Client first’ operating principle showed up in most of the conversations I had with colleagues irrespective of their role and function at upMention. This fosters a collaborative environment within the company and also with the clients as we try to share the ‘secret of Google’ with them.
When I join a company, I like to test how much of the stated culture is just text in the “About Us” section of their website. With upMention being a company boasting of a multicultural team from both the Netherlands and Kenya (we are also now in London, UK), I was eager to see how the culture blends in the day to day working of the team. Do upMention’s leaders walk the talk? Undoubtedly. Were the company culture and its principle evident internally? Generally yes. For example, with the Dutch culture being very direct, emails at upMention are direct and to the point most of the time with a call-to-action that speaks to you. This is in contrast to other companies where emails may not be very actionable requiring another round of back and forth emails to know what is required of you. And yet, there is a recognition that culture is a living construct – hence there’s no final draft of the company’s culture but rather as the company grows so do the operating principles in order to reach for the next phase of the company.
Success is relative. It varies from one person to the next depending on the variables they have included in their success equation. The company has grown its headcount massively in the last three years which has brought with it increasing diversity of thought and building a nimble company that can go through the pains of growth. The team I joined, Helix, is one of the largest teams in the company which helped in the early days as I could easily pick the brain of different team members. However, a critical factor that has made it easier to collaborate with members from other teams is the lack of hierarchy. Really? You might ask.
I don’t mean that there are no managers or levels. I mean that the hierarchy is not an enabler for getting things done. As such, employees are encouraged to collaborate as much as possible which fosters an air of togetherness.
Another area that I have observed is the lack of class between the different roles within the company. What do I mean by class? This is the internal class disparity of employees. This can sometimes be manifested with developers at the top for technology companies, non-technical roles in the middle and other supporting roles at the bottom of the pole. I don’t mean differences in pay or even perks but an institutional framework that reinforces the classes for the different roles in the company. Although my experience is only brief, I have only observed respectful discussions and a high level of collaboration between the technical and non-technical teams. This makes it far easier and enjoyable to work at upMention. I hope we are able to perpetuate this even as the company continues to grow.
Next 30 days
I am looking forward to starting my next 30 days in upMention in the second half of 2023. How will it pan out? I am optimistic and with the support accorded thus far, it should be smooth and fulfilling. I am really inspired by Gunpei Yokoi, the legendary game designer for Nintendo and one of his philosophies that resonates with me is lateral thinking with withered technology (LTWT). This involves taking a well understood and easily available technology and merging it with information from different domains to beat the competition. I believe this best explains what upMention does for clients in our pursuit to share the secret of Google with them.