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  • agencyg1r1 6:37 am on December 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Fillenumerique must rest in peace 

    I’m killing off my first online personal brand “fillenumerique”.

    It’s French for “digital girl”.

    Fillenumerique was originally conceived through Twitter. Technically I’m a digital immigrant and it took me several attempts at Twitter profiles, before finally adopting tweeting as a natural behaviour.  However, by the time I’d accepted that there were people worth following, some of whom even wanted to follow me back…. “@rachellane” was long gone. Somehow … something pretentious that nobody could pronounce seemed better than RachelLane98762. And so I became “fillenumerique” and prior to emigrating to Canada, I decided to aggregate my blogging feeds under fillenumerique.com.

    But now post-emigration, I’ve hit a kind of puberty and “digital woman” didn’t feel like an option. In fact, having discussed gender and tech to death recently through Girl Geek channels, I no longer want any specific female labels attached to my “brand”, though I am sure I will always write with a certain feminine spirit. Instead I have opted for the more opaque “transhumanthinking.com“, which represents the kind of solutions I wish to strategise: expressions in/through technology that enrich us as human-beings.

    Transhumanthinking.com is more than an aggregation platform for blog content, it’s a work-in-progress of how I think as a digital strategist. In the absence of permission and under pressure to demonstrate value, it also feels like a fluid piece of art that is constantly being cut-up, rearranged and tweaked. It’s a thinking site and since I can’t always present polished solutions, I hope you might at least be entertained by the trains of thought.

    So, goodbye fillenumerique.com (lights out January 2013) and hello transhumanthinking.com


  • agencyg1r1 4:38 am on November 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Too much X and not enough why. 




    This week has been all about being a working woman. A woman who works. A woman in business. A woman in technology. A woman working with other women. A woman working with men.

    On Wednesday, I found myself stepping in at the last minute for a photography assignment – documenting a Women in Business conference. At the Women in Business event, there was a lot of discussion about women not selling themselves, about the fact they’re more likely to convince themselves they can’t do a job – as opposed to guys who look at a position they’re barely qualified for and step forward. There were recommendations about strategising a personal brand, pushing ourselves beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and into YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and beyond. We were advised to standardise our identity and run a consistent brand across this epic social ecosystem.  Much of this was useful. I hate selling myself and need to get better at it. It’s physically draining, feels like bullshit and plays out as projection. But I know I need to change. (A bit.) I’m foolishly open about all of my failures, confess that I have no visible work of which I’m proud and am hopelessly vague about where I see myself in five years time. Perhaps…. because five years ago, I would not have seen myself here and five years before that, my future didn’t exist. At school (like school-school), digital strategists hadn’t been invented and the future was light, not the apocalyptic blush I see in my thirties.

    I am not a television channel and I am not a radio station. I am not a twittering torrent of daily commentary. Every interaction is authentic – intended, designed. There is much overlap between who I am on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but my networks vary and what I say on Facebook, isn’t necessarily something that should go on LinkedIn, though I have professional connections in every social space. I don’t want the same profile photo everywhere and if it appears more than once it’s because it was more convenient/accessible to upload in my two-minute window. I am a girl and a woman and a geek. I am a writer and photographer and artist and connector. I have photos with family, friends, musicians and makers. I have have photos of myself taken by others. My female identity is multifaceted and that is the brand. It’s fluid and dynamic and it changes with age and experience. This is everything about being a human and everything about being a creative woman in business.

    Stop telling me to behave like a man. Stop telling me to be more hard-nosed, to wear more make-up, to wear heels (this wasn’t in the slides, but the message at the conference was universal). Stop telling me to be less emotional, to care less, to stop apologising and stop telling me I’m too damn nice! I want recognition for my feminine qualities … for my feminist qualities, as well as financial renumeration to grow a pair of balls. Besides, sometimes the  arguably more masculine territory of asserting a point of view and challenging convention just makes you a dick. I’ve also learnt that the hard way.

    As most of you (I like to imagine I’m addressing an audience of thousands) know, I’m also also an organiser for Girl Geeks Toronto and this month we’re organising a “discussion night”. For two reasons…. 1) our ladies have wanted a mix of formats and requested a more interactive session, a chance for more discussion and debate. 2) A few of us are questioning (but not challenging) the return on investment for meetups pitched at women working in tech. This is not the same at questioning the validity of networking in this space, but when I look at Girl Geeks and Ladies Learning Code and Dames Making Games and Girls in Tech and Women in Business and and and…. what is it exactly that we’re hoping to achieve? Where are our SMART objectives and are we actually changing the behaviours that are supposed to be holding us back?

    If I ever decide to leave Girl Geeks, I’m going to start a meetup called “women who just want to break shit”. I’ve watched my friends’ sons run around and smash into things, then dive into mud and add stuff to water that should never have got wet. I’m convinced that the reason there are more men in tech, in programming, in leadership roles etc etc is because they enjoyed breaking things as kids, took things apart and really get to the nuts and bolts of how things are put together. Risk-taking, analysing, native curiosity. If women are really going to challenge men for power, it’s going to take serious psychotherapy.

    I know some wonderful men. Intelligent men. Sensitive men. Men supportive of women. Awesome men. Inspiring men.  But (!) in this day and age you have no right to tell me that equality as a woman means behaving like a man. I say this as much for those women in suits, heels and makeup, as I do for female developers who look down on the soft-skilled. I just want recognition for being myself. Softly spoken, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet. And usually nice.

    Just “Rach”.

    I’m a woman in business and technology.






    * Image courtesy of http://open.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/982/Items/SK220_1_01…

  • agencyg1r1 2:19 am on November 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Sealed with a Kiss: Adventures in Email Marketing 


    I’ve spent a lot of time working on email this year and wanted to document my learnings, before I forget them.

    1) User/reader’s experience versus email “real estate”:

    The opportunity to tackle a large database of emailable people is a seductive proposition and it’s easy to get distracted by the value of the real estate, as opposed to the value to the user (reader). Each email should have a distinct purpose and a clear call-to-action (CTA = what you want the recipient to do) to a related landing page (where the recipient will go if they click on a link). If cross-promotion is necessary, make sure this is limited to one or two other stakeholders, otherwise competing CTAs may alienate the reader completely.

    2) Business self-awareness and company newsletters:

    I’ve seen several cases where companies have set up newsletters, with minimal sign-up input fields, working on the assumption that people who sign-up are all interested in the same content. It’s true sign-up should be quick and easy, but newsletters are time-consuming to assemble and if we haven’t hit the mark with content, a couple of lengthy emails may well lead to an unsubscribe. Newsletters should be treated like any form of social media, don’t do it for the sake of it! Know your audiences, recognize their needs and meet these requirements through tailored content in each online channel. If you don’t have the time to focus a newsletter to different audiences, don’t create a newsletter! It’s better to do the job the well.

    3) Images

    Are fresh images an important aspect of your email campaign(s)? Incorporate an image-generation strategy. Stock photos can cost a lot of money and user-generated images can be complicated in securing permissions and the quality will vary considerably.  Considerably. Although you may have many brand advocates who happen to be gifted photographers and freely assign the distribution/use of their work, I think a long-term incentivised contribution programme, aka social content strategy, is a more sustainable way to generate interesting, on-brand user-generated-content. And be creative with incentives, there’s a multitude of ways to reward users, it doesn’t always have to be a holiday in the sun.

    Use an image because it supports your message, not because it’s the only one you have available. If you don’t have the perfect fit, improvise, but don’t compromise.

    4) Copy

    Direct mail is a sensitive area and of course it’s important to ensure the legal detail of any promotion is within a click of the communication, but don’t start your email with legal copy. If legal copy takes precedence over a welcome message, that’s a red flag for the marketing department.

    Email isn’t print and the goal of any email should be to drive traffic through to a landing page or some other trackable CTA (such as calling a specific number). The reader should be able to get gist of the email through a quick glance across the body copy/section. Anything more than a few sentences is considered an effort.

    I remember a client stating “if you can’t make them act, at least make them smile” and yet I find that clients can become so self-conscious about their own language that email copy fails to provoke the desired action. Minimise design by committee and ensure you have trusted creative partners who are aligned on the brief and business objectives of the communication.

    5) Analytics:

    My challenge with working with corporate clients is that analytics (as a department) often sits separately to creative production. The strategic evaluation of creative in any digital medium should:

    – be as condensed as possible, 

    – offer real-time access (or as close to real-time as possible) to results

    – involve regular meetings of all creative stakeholders (agency, analytics, CRM, website)

    6) Tracking:

    I still have a lot more to learn about email tracking, but from what I understand…. open rates can be inflated by email clients like Outlook Express, which to some extent, automatically open emails, thus there is a need to be realistic about success metrics. I’ve also yet to see any offer-related email have a button that says “I love this offer, but have just spent X for X. Would love to take this up another time.” If readers cannot take-up an offer for any reason, are we interested in their explanation and if not, do we just continue business as normal?  If we get feedback from our emails, how do we capture this and incorporate it into future email activity?

    Track everything and if you think that a link isn’t worth tracking, then it shouldn’t be in the email!

    7) Making changes:

    Below is my incredible Christmas tree infographic of the email process.


    I included a version of this in a client presentation to show how important it is to capture revisions early in the production process. The higher up in the triangle (towards the top of the tree) that amends get made, the more layers/branches the changes have to pass through and the greater the margin for error, resource interaction and therefore potential expense (which either gets absorbed by the agency or assigned to the client, but costs like complexity have to go somewhere). Most agencies will accommodate anything the client asks for, but a creative process ideally incorporates the needs of all parties and all parties are mindful of effective (over efficient) project management. 

    At a mobile conference earlier this year, I was responsible for introducing the speakers. In conversation with one of the speakers, we chatted about the pros and cons of being a “deep generalist” and he said the best piece of advice he’d been given was “don’t let your client’s dysfunction become your own.” It’s a piece of wisdom that has since haunted me, though I daresay not everyone appreciates such advice.

    8) Responsive Design

    Ah yes, the phrase du jour and perhaps best explained by a techie, but I shall do my best here. As far I understand it, Responsive Design refers to a piece of code within the CSS* called a media query. The media query is used to verify the screen size on which the email or website is being viewed. If an email is designed to be responsive, the design will change depending on the screen-size of the recipient’s device. When considering Responsive Design for an email, it’s important to explore how elements will stack on a smaller screen, since the layout will change, but the images, copy and links will remain the same. I’ll try and find a visual example to explain this. Coming soon. Probably.

    *CSS stands for a Cascading Style Sheet and holds a set of instructions for how an email or web page should be displayed on a screen.

    9) Collaboration:

    I think this is simple. Global companies need to reward collaboration between departments as well as reward each department individually. Since (some) global companies (arguably) make it their business to spread risk across as many different parties as possible, it can lead to an overly competitive environment, defensive internal cultures and an imbalance of client/agency power that ultimately compromises work.  A fragmented agency roster and thick layer of middle marketing managers means that there are lots and lots of small pots of money around, rather than one large fund. After reading Steve Jobs’ biography (I know I mention this a lot), it’s also become apparent how truly exceptional Apple was with its culture of collaboration. Access to analytics goes beyond emailing around stats – it’s regular, round-the-table conversation about the impact of insights on iterative design.

    10) Questions I still have about email:

    Why aren’t there any email clients that support HTML5? Is this a stupid question to ask?  Am I wrong – are there email clients that support HTML5? What does email innovation look like? Will it progress beyond video and unicode symbols in subject lines? Is there more scope for mutant hybrid communications between email and other digital channels? Why do people keep referring to email as an autonomous power source / single channel? Really, email should be used to amplify other touch-points AND would be far more effective if it wasn’t always forced into a competition with Social, when people ask questions like “is email dead?”.


    Most definitely not.



    Related reading:

    Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong


  • agencyg1r1 3:47 am on August 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Yes-But Voice 

    I have been “brainstorming” in agencies for a number of years. Every brainstorming session has had a different facilitation style. Most with mixed results, perhaps a rather ironic conclusion given that success begins at 100%. How can you benchmark technique when the result can only be positive?

    At some point in my professional life I was introduced to the “Disney Model” of brainstorming. It could have been through an NLP workshop, it could have been a Girl Geeks weekend, but the description stuck because it dawned on me that I had been brainstorming badly.

    There is a wonderful description of the Disney Model here:


    I’m quoting the above article directly, when I describe the three parts to the model below:

    1.Creative Room (The Dreamer) – everything is possible

    This is the room were dreams are dreamed and set free, no restrictions, no limits. The focus is on elaborating on ideas provided by other, with a positive mindset, instead of trying to find the negative aspects. The most important thing to remember here is: Be positive – everything is possible. crazy ideas might be unrealistic, but there might be parts of it that can be used, or just be a part of the process for something else.

    2. Concrete Room (The Realist) – action-oriented

    Here the ideas from the creative room, is being co-ordinated and the ideas created on the board is fitted into categories. The focus is on planning, timing and actions to be made in order to implement and accomplish the idea. The most important thing to remember here is: Don’t give up an idea because of assumptions of resources.

    3. Critical Room (The Critic)– the devil’s advocate

    Here the ideas from the concrete room are being critically reviewed. This process is safe because it is project not the particular individual that is being criticised. The focus is on being realistic; do we have the resources? Is there organizational barriers and external factors we need to consider in general?

    I thought of this today, because we had a brainstorming session at work (my first one at the agency) and I specifically asked the team to focus on getting ALL of our ideas on to the whiteboard and not to get distracted by critique.

    It wasn’t easy and I noticed myself starting to say “yes…..but” to a few ideas on the table. Afterall, agency environments are notorious for walking all over young seeds of thought in the pursuit of award-winning thinking. Yet once we were into the swing of it, the whiteboard was full of ideas within the hour and I felt really proud of the whole team. It changed the atmosphere and team energy too. We’d begun in a place of “the client won’t have the budget for…” and “that’s not the X brand” and ended up in… “this could be AMAZING” and “that’s a REALLY COOL idea”.  Whether we can take some of the ideas forward to award winning work – who knows(!), but it was a real lesson to think before you “yes-but”.

  • agencyg1r1 5:47 am on August 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    The Contrarian Geek 

    [The] point is not that innovation attracts groups but that innovation is found in groups: that it tends to arise out of social interaction — conversation, validation, the intimacy of proximity, and the look in your listener’s eye that tells you you’re onto something. …

    When [Erasmus Darwin, James Watt, Joseph Priestley, etc.] were not meeting, they were writing to each other with words of encouragement or advice or excitement. This was truly — in a phrase that is invariably and unthinkingly used in the pejorative — a mutual-admiration society. …

    What were they doing? Darwin, in a lovely phrase, called it “philosophical laughing,” which was his way of saying that those who depart from cultural or intellectual consensus need people to walk beside them and laugh with them to give them confidence. …

    We divide [groups] into cults and clubs, and dismiss the former for their insularity and the latter for their banality. The cult is the place where, cut off from your peers, you become crazy. The club is the place where, surrounded by your peers, you become boring. Yet if you can combine the best of those two — the right kind of insularity with the right kind of homogeneity — you create an environment both safe enough and stimulating enough to make great thoughts possible.”

    Malcolm Gladwell: Group Think

    Via http://worrydream.com/#!/quotes via @iamtef

    I was out having drinks with my team recently, including two new hires (newer than me). One of them asked me in front of my boss what I’d found rewarding and challenging about joining the company. Feeling slightly exposed by such a question, but also incapable of giving anything other than an honest answer, I said: “I like the fact that we’ve fallen out and I haven’t been fired yet. In fact I like the fact that I’ve disagreed with other directors in the company and we’re all still here, moving forward.”

    Now I confess, I do find confrontation on any level draining. I remember saying to my folks some time ago that it it was unhelpful having the trait combination of being blunt with people, then worrying excessively about hurting their feelings afterwards.

    Confrontation is not easy and it doesn’t always take you forward, but the role of confrontation has been shadowing me a lot lately for the following reasons:

    1. Serendipitous encouters with “contrarian geeks”

    I met a weighty digital strategist earlier this year and quoted him at a Girl Geeks meet-up recently. I’d asked him to speak at one of our events and mentioned that I was looking for “charming geeks”. His quote is captured below:


    2. Me and Steve Jobs

    I finally got around to listening to the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. All 24.25+ hours of it. I listened on the way to work, from work, sometimes at work. Sometimes at home, on the subway, in bed. It made me laugh, it made me cry and of course it made me think. Differently. 😉 I’ve referenced Steve Jobs so much at work, they think it’s more than a little freaky. I also blame it entirely for a new voice in my Subconscious. Whenever I now come across a piece of work that I disagree with, I find a little voice crops up in my head saying “this is SHIT.” I’m stuck with my own mental avatar of Jobs and the voiceover of Dylan Baker. Of course I would never say “this is SHIT”, but I have the kind of shop window that often betrays what I’m thinking. My lips may be muttering “yes, that’s fine”, but my left eyebrow is arched like an angry cat, twitching with a magic of its own. Even a client has spotted the aforementioned eyebrow, though apparently (and fortunately) seems to find it entertaining.

    3. Grumpy-Brit versus Nice-Canadians

    I write some of the copy for Girl Geeks Toronto. A lot, but not all. Often getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong. The girls (usually the patient Caroline)  keep me on track. Having recently got into hot committee discussions about including the word “kick-ass” in a funding proposal and “hell” and “devil” in a survey (context is everything), I found myself shouting in an email today “this Canadian culture of avoiding offending anyone is really getting to me! Really can’t stand this bland, constantly inoffensive approach. We have no personality!” Now…. when I listen to myself in that quote (because the writing is just the expression of the voice in my head) I feel like a small child, stomping my feet on the ground and sticking my middle finger in the air to anyone who’s looking. That sounds more offensive than I ever could be, but I feel so passionately that the goal of any communication is to MOVE someone and moving a majority towards a positive inclination, may always be at the expense of trying to please everyone.

    4. Consumer culture mutating in the B2B world

    I think about friends who struggle to find work. I think about a friend who caught her boss going through her desk. And another friend who was fired on the second day of a new job, after being found crying (out of homesickness) in her cubicle. I think about a friend who advised me “to fuck the system because it fucks you.” And another friend who affirmed the culture of disposable employees in Toronto. 

    I will not nurture a passive-aggressive culture. 

    5. Is being good at the expense of being great?

    I also think about being an Account Director and a manager of people. I think about what it means to interview someone, hire them and the fact that as an employer, as a manager – we owe it to those who work for us, to empower and enrich. Although I have so much still to learn (perhaps writing less open blog posts should be on the list), I made a pact with myself a long time ago to always treat people with respect. 

    6. Don’t assume the meaning

    Whilst looking up the definition of compromise versus confrontation (see below), I was distracted by the fact that compromise could mean “an endangering, especially of reputation” and that confrontation could be defined as “a bringing together of ideas, themes, etc., for comparison”. We can be too quick to dismiss a difference of opinion as a negative force and too much compromise may dilute identity entirely. (Dare I propose that is Canada’s challenge? A little tongue in cheek here…)

    7. Global is unfinished business

    Though having been involved with global brands in a national setting in the UK, in Canada I’ve been working with global brands in a global setting. Though immature in my experience, even in the last 18 months I have often wondered if global brand management is merely a series of local compromises. Can you retain integrity on the ground if you’re trying to optimise from a distance? Does the diffusion of local cultures globally make it easier to standardise messaging locally? I suspect we’re not going to find the answer anytime soon.

    8. More on Steve Jobs


    Again I think about the Steve Jobs biography and his obsession with forcing teams to sit down together, indeed to force the entire company to sit down together – physically, face-to-face. I think about his pride in getting Apple to achieve what other global players could not. I think about his reputation for confrontation and wholehearted resistence to compromise on any level.

    9. The profound, but obscure finish

    Confrontation may lead to compromise, but compromise without confrontation is an incestuous solution of reduction.



    1.a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles,etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.

    2.the result of such a settlement.

    3.something intermediate between different things: The split-level is a compromise between a ranch house and a multistoried house.

    4.an endangering, especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.: a compromise of one’s integrity.



    1.an act of confronting.

    2.the state of being confronted.

    3.a meeting of persons face to face.

    4.an open conflict of opposing ideas, forces, etc.

    5.a bringing together of ideas, themes, etc., for comparison.



  • agencyg1r1 1:22 am on July 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Privileged Immigrant & Naked Strategist (part 1) 


    I started writing my “anniversary” post almost four months ago and it’s taken a while to build the confidence to publish. Perhaps it’s not even confidence now that authorises a release, but a spunky desire to obliterate fear of feedback.

    The year (April 2011 to April 2012 +), as a whole, has been phenomenal: starting work, moving apartments, making friends, making art, changing jobs, trying new sports, attending a whole universe of different events and discovering a variety of sub-cultures in Canada… and yet these last three months delivered a experience so painful that it turned this new world upside down…. and yet it has been incredibly invigorating. I am absolutely not the woman that arrived in Toronto last year. So much so, that I am nurturing the idea of retiring fillenumerique (my online “personal brand”). I’m not a “digital girl” anymore and the French is unnecessary here. At this point and in this post, I am simply a naked strategist.

    Opinionated from a young age, I have always been religiously blunt, though with age, consciously diplomatic. I have wondered whether I could or should write about what’s happened this year, but whether I decide to take these thoughts public or not, I must write them down. They hang like wet clothes on me and undressing takes conscious movement and reflection.

    In January, the company that had seduced me from another agency, let me go. Having had a reasonable courtship before jumping into bed, I wasn’t prepared for the relationship to fail. In hindsight, I remember saying it had been lonely and chaotic, but I’d put it down to the change in environment, culture and the New Year blues. Except it wasn’t about January and three months into this new role, I found myself out in the cold, truly experiencing a Canadian Winter. I can’t discuss the details of the break-up, since this could be litigious, so it is simply referenced as an event in this post, which triggered a period of learning; more than I could have ever hoped for in my emigration plans. 

    February was an odd month. Time drudged past in slow motion, the city soundtrack dragged with the gravity of circumstance. I was in my own parallel universe and everything felt hostile. I engaged career consultants and, reached out to a few very trusted sources and began to gauge opinion on how to position these two short job stints. I contacted a few recruiters that I’d met when I first landed, with the exception of one particularly aggressive firm, who I will never work with again. I volunteered at Social Media Week, networked as usual and did my best to survive rounds of questions.

    The résumé has been the worst part. Everyone has an opinion on it and there are subtle, yet distinct differences in formatting between Canada and the UK. Some said I needed more character, others said play it safe and in this period of crushed ego, it was very difficult to know how to curate the advice.

    March brought response; interviews were steady and for better or for worse, the questions from each meeting stuck to me, archived in my subconscious for process. Sleep was pretty erratic and dreams queued the faces of ex-colleagues for my attention, as they wagged their fingers and whispered “told you so.” I got more involved with Girl Geeks and assumed responsibility for organising speakers. It has been both a distraction and an absolute saving grace, providing definition beyond an employer’s opinion.

    I attended Ladies Learning Code workshops, read more books and explored the option of courses to extend my Canadian experience. I started some website builds with friends, took up some freelance copywriting and had a couple of meetings to discuss freelance digital strategy work. For the first month at home, I avoided playing the radio or hoovering during the day, terrified that people would realise I was unemployed. There is a grocery store next door, but I couldn’t use it between 9am and 5pm, because I felt so proud. By month two I was working from cafés and networking with recruiters and by month three, life had begun to accumulate colour and structure once more.

    It took me much longer to confess to “industry friends” what had happened and the confessions were reluctant hatchings, though now such friendships are stronger because of this. I was blown away by the kindness of certain individuals to take time out of their weekends, invite me for lunch, dinner or day-trips and really give me a space to explore my concerns. Thank-you.

    By May, I’d met around seven recruiters, interviewed at eight companies, completed two psychometric profiles, was at second round with one firm and final round with two others. Most were full-time roles, one was contract and one was freelance. My shortest interview was 40 minutes, the longest just under three hours. One job disappeared due to restructuring, I was shortlisted for two and to date I’ve secured two offers. I’m now working as an Account Director at a spirited boutique agency.

    In the midst of all of this shapeshifting, I won a ticket to FITC Toronto, to which I owe a certain amount of inspiration. I took away two insights from this conference:
    • Don’t give up
    • Make your own opportunity
    I’ve kept this in mind when pursuing freelance work, jobs, networking, organising Girl Geeks and playing my part in evolving the Awesome Foundation. It’s been very difficult being an outwardly “yes” person, when inside you feel “no”. It’s been an entire year of learning curve and now I desperately seek the opportunity to build, as well as learn. I want somewhere where I can shine; a professional home.

    Obviously, I’m nervous about being so frank now and yet still want to pursue “truth”. Toronto is a city of half-truths. It is a sold as a city that welcomes immigrants, but the reality is a lot more complicated. I rarely feel homesick here, but can then be ambushed by emotion if I see someone who likes a friend back home or a frustration with the laws and regulations here. I recall a completely irrational strop (largely internal!) when I couldn’t find an LCBO for alcohol at 9pm on a Saturday night. Tears of fury ran down my face as I quietly muttered “what sort of city is this!?”

    Pain and a heck of a lot of hard work aside, I do also appreciate that my Britishness positions me as a privileged immigrant. On the one hand I am foreign, I am not Canadian and I am humble. On the other hand, perhaps with the exception of Americans (note that the very mention of the US is a sensitive reference), Brits have to be the closest cultural fit to Canada. We have much more in common that we do apart. As a few of my immigrant friends continue their struggle to secure employment after six months + of looking, I acknowledge that my heritage, orientation and cultural proximity to Canada give me a considerable head-start.

    I’ve argued that after such experiences this year, I will never take anything for granted. The quick hire and fire culture of Toronto has definitely been a learning curve. Even the notice period here is a typically two weeks in Canada, compared to a month in the UK. 

    What have I learnt?
    • If your gut says it’s not right, it’s not right
    • Sometimes you have to learn life the hard way
    • Don’t be too proud to reach out
    • Be positive AND be sincere
    • It is your responsibility
    • Don’t be a victim
    • In the absence of feedback, set the direction in writing
    • Management is a two-way process
    • Make your own opportunity
    • Listen to advice and take it with a pinch of salt
    • Recognise a chemistry interview from a “tick-the-box”
    • Don’t just job-hunt, network, be creative, explore, volunteer, offer expertise. Be more than someone else’s opinion
    • Non-job-hunting activity is content. It gives you stories, these can offer insights into places you might want to work, but such stories also help conversational flow in interviews. In short, don’t be boring 
    • When a Torontonian asks if you like the city, the answer is always “I love it”
    • Be open to opportunity (beyond the job ad)

  • agencyg1r1 6:10 pm on June 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    I am a mad woman, but not in the way you think I am. 


    Some months ago during a telephone interview, the Marketing Director of a high-flying start-up in Toronto stated that [ad] agency people aren’t doers. We plan, we push paper and we hand off execution to everyone else. We just don’t make a difference to anything; we don’t physically impact on the world.

    Perhaps apart from showcasing your flaws and flogging you stuff to fix everything….

    At a tech meetup earlier this week, primarily pitched at start-ups, upon admitting I worked account-side at an ad agency, the speaker casually dismissed myself and other non-startup/dev folk as “impostors”. The remark was made in jest, but it still hurt.

    The fact is that as an agency Account Manager and now Account Director, it means/matters EVEN MORE that I attend events to which I’m not overtly invited. This is why:

    1) There is no direct value for me. I nearly always attend out of curiosity

    2) Typically “accounts” people work late or go home (often to work). I’ve never worked for any company that encourages me to attend community events and have even been openly challenged on such participation in interviews. This isn’t to say they disapprove (and it does distinguish me from the crowd), but often they regard my investment in this space as a rather alien orientation… 

    3) Have always offered marketing advice free of charge for startups just because I think they’re awesome. I also never preach strategy, prefering to listen and softly suggest options to explore, as opposed to a tick-box mantra.

    4) I don’t think it matters a damn whether you contribute to the world through your own business or someone else’s. I work hard at connecting people, connecting to people and connecting knowledge to people. It’s not about ownership, it’s about value.

    5) The term “entrepreneur’ is dead. Look around! We all have to be entrepreneurial, fight for our place in the world and earn the right to keep it

    6) F*ck these stupid lines and boundaries. I’m an Account Director + Designer + Developer + Community Player + Scientist + Engineer + Girl + Geek + angry apparently!

    7) We need mixing up. Academia, Start-Up, Agency, SME/SMB, Corporate – leak knowledge, be uncomfortable, talk to someone who has a job you don’t understand. We’re going to live a long time in a chaotic environment, so we need to find a way of thinking young and keeping fit.


  • agencyg1r1 3:42 am on May 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Conversations between digital strategists 

    Last week, I discovered this podcast:


    Largely based on an interview between


    Lindsay Munro: Manager of Conversation at FITC (@lindsaymunro)

    Justin Kozuch: Lead Researcher and Technology Critic at Pixel to Product (@jkozuch)



    Emma Brooks, Digital Strategist at Publicis Modem

    Scott Suthren, Director of Digital Strategy at Publicis Modem

    Listened to it, liked it, tweeted it. Job done.

    Except that it wasn’t because I was then asked by Scott to identify what I particularly liked.

    So I listened again to the hour long episode and transcribed what I could. 

    If I was to take the advice of Scott and Emma, I should really distill exactly what I found useful and then give you my transcription notes. Here are my three highlights:

    1) I like hearing other digital strategists talk. I like to know how they think, I like to know if it’s similar to the way I think. In an agency it could sometimes be a lonely role (you spend as much time with data as you do with humans) and as a freelancer – it’s even more challenging. With a little tongue in cheek I likened it to being a mutant (bit of an X-Men fan) – what superpowers do other strategists have and how do they make their way in the world?

    2) Specific to their dialogue, I really apreciated:

    • The challenge on the effectiveness of social media monitoring tools… that activity does not equal influence. There’s so much noise about how wonderful social media tracking tools are that it’s refreshing to hear a little blunt chat that they ain’t all that. 
    • Emma’s enthusiasm around tracking a user  (email address) across databases, I guess when you get to play with and even hack existing tracking tools to mine additional information & investigate patterns. It’s the creative part of analytics.
    • Build to simplicity. In an appraisal I had a couple of years ago as a digital planner – I was told I overdelivered. Someone would give me a question and I’d come back with 20 different options of where the solution might lie. I’d overwhelm them. “Build to simplicity” is about the importance of overdelivering (building), but only if you can then identify/overlay the most important insights for a client (to simplicity)

    3) Scott made a comment about the fact that most people/consumers follow a brand for a gift, discount or promotion – essentially any kind of exclusive offer/extrinsic value. I’ve been reading Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” where she talks about the increasingly demands of brands in terms of event sponsorship. The very way she described the ambitious nature of brands to manipulate community events is actually now pretty close to the way certain individuals behave online (aka “influencers”) to get the attention of brands. It just made me think that the level of manipulation had come full circle….???

    Below is a very rough transcription of the podcast… Sometimes I tried to capture specific quotes and sometimes I just paraphrased as quickly as possible. In any case, you’ll get the gist!

    10:23 What defines a digital strategist?

    Take a look at the digital landscape.

    Good grasp of technology

    Trends in the space

    Understand client’s problem

    Enjoy hearing other dig strats, since rarely meet them. Provides benchmark, like X-Men when mutants discover they’re not alone

    11:34 Responsible for touch-points, community, business case, business models

    12:06 Bucket term

    12:22 Difficult to quantify value as a Digital Strategist

    13:20 Shift in job titles because nobody understands the digital space

    13:44 Understand consumer, problem and work towards a common goal

    13:55 Emma  – does Social and Dig Strat, Community Manager

    14:17 “Community Management gives you a really beautiful insight into your customer.”

    Helps you understand you client’s business, in terms of customer insights and process

    15:17 Pushing out message & do something immediately. Mass advertising one way – but no expectation for consumer to do anything back.

    How do you motivate someone enough to do something back?

    16:16 Setting goals & defining RoI

    There’s so much pressure to measure everything – it puts a lot of pressure on the platform.”Hey we could measure EVERYTHING and it’s going to be AWESOME.”

    18:28 “A lot of Social is upper funnel – they’re already customers.”

    Clients always asking to evaluate value of Social from a Media perspective and it’s really difficult to do that.

    18:55 “It’s really difficult to put a value on a relationship, because how do you know that investment in a particular relationship is going to result in a sale. How do you know if that person is going to be an influencer and is going to go out there and speak to 7 or 10 people. How do you know that they’re going to be a loyal client? You can’t validate that process.”

    19:45 Klout & gauging influence

    “The tools are still pretty new. We look at social listening tools and they are pulling in results which aren’t even relevant. The tools have still yet to deliver the efficiency we need them to.”

    “Clients really have to be comfortable for what defines success in that space.”

    Metrics in one industry can’t be exported to another.

    Example – what works for Kleenex, will be different to Red Bull – completely different spaces.

    22:00 How would you define a successful campaign

    Focus metrics around the particular problem you’re trying to solve and measure yourself against that.

    Analytics is a personal opportunity to learn. What worked, what didn’t, what should I do differently?

    Referencing specific campaign, where client asked for few key metrics every day – fans, opt-ins, high-value tasks completed. We had targets set on in-category competitors. We did modelling…. Had targets set on outside-the-category

    24:54 Is there one key metric that clients keep asking for again and again

    “Yes, sales.”

    30:10 Exciting work in cross-referencing databases we own – emails from FB used against other databases in terms of email and loyalty – to identify behaviours that help us learn more about the audience, compared to someone who’s involved with only one of three channels – opportunity to map the ecosystem.

    What other measurement tools do you use?

    Omniture, Google Analytics, social-listening tools (sentiment), back-end Facebook tools

    “To me influencers are a bit of a myth.”

    How many times does someone mention a brand in a quarter? Are they talking about the brand in a positive way?

    “I’m still skeptical about the whole influencer/outreach vein.” Difficult to find people talking about a brand on a regular basis – AUTHENTICALLY.

    There’s a myth that influencers are the Holy Grail for your brand, but when you dig a little deeper into the analytics, you discover that these people have been smart to figure out where the noise is happening and they get in front of the parade. The what’s-in-it-for-me mentality. When you look at the top motivations for consumers following brands on Facebook – it’s because they want a gift, they want something in return.

    True influencers tend not to be visible because they don’t have the frequency of tweets and depth of followers. It all depends on how you define those influencers. If you really want to find those influencers, you’re not going to find them through any kind of automated tool.

    36:26 They still haven’t developed a very good algorithm that produces a relevant judgement – identifies real meaning. We all the inaccuracy of sentiment analysis.

    The number of neutral comments we see in sentiment analysis is insane.

    Because these systems are bad at gauging relevancy – I question their judgement to determine an influencer.

    Activity does not = influence

    41:55 Credibility is not something that can be measured by a system. They talk about someone’s reach like a media metric and the reach may be extensive, but it tells us nothing about the content in there.

    44:10 what’s the basic skillset for someone who wants to become a digital strategist?

    “Curiosity – you have to want to learn”

    “you have to be a generalist, if you’re a specialist – it’s very difficult for you to be adaptable – finding information in disparate domains. 

    You might have to look at information across lots of different topics and find a way of digesting it all and bringing it together. This why strategists come from all different types of backgrounds.


    “You have to have that ability to synthesise”

    “To be that generalist who can get just deep enough into something to get what you need to synthesise topics”

    “The ability to distil down….. and then believing in it”

    “Being able to get rid of the garbage and not worry about putting all of this different stuff in front of a client.”

    “Nuance, clarity, find clear signal in the noise”

    “Humility -be humble, aim for that clarity of message.”

    Throw research in an appendix.

    “People forget that simplicity and clarity are really hard to do in this complex world”

    Problem is constantly changing, solution is constantly changing – dynamics are changing.

    You build to simplicity.

    Sometimes the best strategists are the ones that have a life outside of it.

    Recommended reading:

    “The Creative Priority”

    “Predictably Irrational.”



  • agencyg1r1 9:32 pm on May 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    You got the love, we got the love. 

    We just want you to know that in spite of the evidence, we never lost that lovin’ feeling. We just kinda mislaid it. BUT we’re bringing back the love for 2012! So, forgive the gap in posts. The committee has been reincarnated (sort of) and below is one perspective of what it means to girl-geek.

    I (Rachel) originally got involved with Girl Geeks in Scotland, UK, at some point in 2009 I think. I can’t remember what initially triggered my exploration of industry meet-ups. Perhaps it was a tweet, the desire for debate or the need to up my tech quotient. Anyway, it started with Tech Meet-Up in Edinburgh.

    Tech MeetUp, Edinburgh

    Tech Meetup, it’s cool for cats.

    When I went to my first Tech-Meet-up, I spent ten minutes sitting on my own as male developers gravitated to every table around me and even when the brave few did finally join me, they brought out their holy water and crucifixes once they discovered I worked in marketing. I persevered and now the same developers who were so wary of me that evening are some of my closest friends today.  It was through meeting a handful of women at Tech Meet-up in Edinburgh, that I was introduced to the Girl Geeks network. 

    Since Girl Geek Scotland was founded by high-flying women in academia, the talks/dinners were exceptionally well run, centrally located and always featured interesting speakers. As the profile of Girl Geek Scotland picked up, alongside the founder’s exceptional ability to secure funding – we enjoyed some amazing workshops and before long a robust network formed that really allowed us to support each other in the pursuit of our professional goals. 

    Girl Geek Scotland

    Girl Geek Scotland and a passionate Ali Webster…

    Girl Geek Scotland "Creativity in Business" workshop

    “What makes a perfect female entrepreneur…” brainstorming

    Fast forward two years… 

    When I arrived in Toronto in 2011, the Girl Geeks group here had stagnated. By chance I met one of the founders at a PechaKucha event and then following a series of other random and less random encounters with other women in tech in Toronto, we eventually organised a meeting where the original Girl Geeks committee could hand over the reigns.

    And here we are, a new committee for 2012.


    With a background in advertising and agency life, I’m the first to admit that women can be their own worst enemy. Advertising persuades us that our progression in the world is based on looks, rather than intelligence and there are too many women who invest their time in personal grooming rather than intellectual development. This isn’t to say that you can’t do both, or indeed be beautiful AND smart (b*tch!), but some women will as quickly climb up on that dagger in your back as they will reach out to pull you up the ladder. So weird that we’re called the fairer sex. 

    The Girl Geek network has always been refreshingly different and without a doubt, the most supportive network I’ve discovered and as those close to me will know, I network a lot. And for the guys reading, we don’t sit around ranting about the glass ceiling …  or making out (sorry).  We simply exchange notes on how to do business, in our various disciplines, more effectively and it’s a chance to pat each other on the back if recognition is a little light from other sources.

    Since becoming an admin of the Girl Geeks Toronto meet-up page, I receive a notification of EVERY new meet-up that’s created in Toronto and there are A LOT of groups pitched at women, but let’s get a few things clear:

    • We’re not going to offer any talks on social media
    • We’re not going to offer any talks on what it’s like to be a woman working in a male-dominated industry
    • We simply seek the best speakers for an enthusiastic audience. We have male speakers lined up and men are welcome to Girl Geek dinners at the invite of a woman. Pro-women is not the same as being anti-men
    • We will be addressing unusual…or at least less usual subjects, perhaps topics you haven’t heard of. Don’t be deterred, ALL talks will be accessible to a mainstream audience – we assume no specialist knowledge
    • Be aware. If you can see someone standing on their own at an event – invite them into your conversation. Smile, play nicely, enjoy and remember we’re in this together

    Finally, in case I’ve made us sound too serious, I’ll leave you with Florence and her sparkly hotter-than-very-hot hotpants. The boys will probably like those too…


  • agencyg1r1 7:11 am on April 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Branding: getting personal in public is complicated 


    18 months later, I’d also add the following feedback regarding my personal brand:

    • An alias (fillenumerique versus “Rachel Lane) gives me some space to talk about myself, without feeling too self-promotional. It’s a fun identity to play with. It’s also a French name that few can pronounce and a avatar that people are slow to associate with human/real-world me.
    • There’s a balance to maintain between being interesting and being accessible, hopefully you’ll achieve them both. In my efforts to explain what I do in a more engaging way, I may alienate people who feel my use of language is pretentious and prefer a plainer profile. It happens!
    • You’ll note the sitemap is more extensive than my actual website at fillenumerique.com and that’s because I simply haven’t had time to explore all the content paths I’d originally hoped to investigate. Redefining my résumé as an infographic has been particularly tricky.
    • Since moving to Canada, I’ve learnt a lot/appreciated the importance of defining the roles of various properties in a given ecosystem. With regards to a personal brand – this means understanding how to both express and differentiate yourself on each social platform. Considering your own ecosystem – it might also involve some thought on how you manage the complexity of communication around your personal brand. Many of us are burning out or simply never getting round to tackle our ever-growing mailboxes!




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