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We@PS Podcast

Developing the Way to Energy Conservation

- Welcome to another episode of we at PS. I'm Holly Marsh and joining me are my co-hosts, Nadine Bennet and Nick Eslick. We are all part of the global talent acquisition team and come together each month to give our listeners an inside look at the people behind Publicis Sapient. As usual, today, we're gonna start off with our bite section where we discuss recent news articles and share our thoughts with the listeners. So, Nick, what do you have for us this time?

- Yeah, so something I've been noticing a lot lately locally are hiring signs in restaurants and grocery stores and retail shops. Have you guys noticed that in your area?

- No, I haven't. Okay, go on Nick.

- Okay, so not only have I seen this locally, but in a lot of news segments, there's talks about these pinch and workers at these places. And what I didn't realize is that not only is this like a local problem, but it's a national problem. So I recently read an article on CNN Business about this upscale Lebanese restaurant in New York city called Lily and it recently put online ad for a cook. And in the past, the owner said that he'd get 60 to 80 people show up for an interview with interest in a role like this. But this time there was no response, no interviews. So as a result he's had to decrease hours and days of operation. But this is not unique, this is happening all over the country and especially as people more and more are getting vaccinated and restrictions are loosening. And whether it's warming up, the demand for going out to restaurants and going into retail shops and grocery stores is just increasing. So when restaurants closed in the spring of 2020, many of these establishments let their workers go like virtually overnight. 5.5 million people lost their jobs in these industries. So jobs are coming back though, but we're still below 1.8 million per pre-pandemic level. So the CEO of Darden Restaurants, which owns the world renowned Michelin star restaurants like Olive Garden and Long .

- I was gonna say, wait a second, I thought that was Olive Garden. Not that I don't love those breadsticks and endless salad. I'm not, I'm not. I've actually never been to a red lobster as an aside. I don't know how I feel about red lobster, but anyway, now I can go

- The cheddar biscuits are worth the visit. So the CEO, he said that hiring is their number one priority. And this is after they've hired 40,000 workers over the last few weeks. So they were that far behind. So going back to last year, Glassdoor did an analysis of 120,000 job seekers who are actively looking for restaurants, server in their search in January and February of 2020. They did another analysis of April and May and searches for data entry jumped 400%, remote jumped 300% and searches for Amazon or warehouse or delivery spiked 600%. Again that was in April and May, right in the thick of it after the pandemic had really hit. So really what's happening and why are restaurants and grocery stores and other retail shops having such a hard time finding employees. So they really boiled it down to four different things. The first is that there's just been a mass exodus in the industry, people who were once in those positions, they're finding office jobs or remote jobs or they're going back to school to retool. So that's the first. The second is just the lack of interest in getting back into that environment in a high traffic, interactive setting with that feeling and sense of being unsafe. The third is it's just a change in responsibilities. And that a lot of what that means is those that have left that industry, they now have to watch kids or there's something to do at the house that they have to help maintain. And then the fourth, and this is, we can debate this all we want, but it says, some people are saying that unemployment benefits are so rich that it's de incentivizing people to go back into work. So employers regardless need to find a way to curb this problem because it's all over. So companies like Chipotle are offering an education stipend or reimbursement stipend for education. Other employers are simply just paying more or offering perks, but what should they do? What recommendations do you have for restaurants? Or do you have anything that might help solve their problem?

- So rather unhelpfully, I don't have any ideas or suggestions but I do have an observation and it's specific to Europe. So in the UK, when you see people working in restaurants, primarily it's the younger generation and it's a really kind of dominant community of students and I guess people in their early careers. But if you go to other European countries, namely Italy and Spain, the hospitality industry is actually largely with smaller restaurants as well, the older generation. And there's a real sense of, I see it quite different. So the perception of a career in hospitality in some other countries I think is different than others. And I wonder if there's something around that because working in hospitality, I've done it myself. It's some of the toughest, most challenging, long hours, hard physical work and can be really rewarding. And it would be good to kind of dial that up a bit, I think which again, isn't necessarily to this point but it's just something I've observed.

- It's really interesting as I'm listening to you talk and I'm thinking about what Nick said. My first reaction was welcome to the club, like recruiting is hard and I would love to post a position and get 60 to 80 applicants right away that are qualified to sort through. There are lots of industries that have this challenge. So Nick, I think to answer your question about what I would recommend, it's start looking at all of the recruiting best practices that other really talent crunched markets have. Like, look at what engineering does, look at what other creative ones do. Maybe it's time for them to start investing in some of those best practices that we spend our times doing as professionals.

- Yeah, no, you're right. That's true.

- Such good answer.

- Yeah, so Nadine, what do you have for us this week?

- So I've got an interesting one, I think. She says, "As part of our hard hitting journalism, "you'll know that one of our questions in the Sapient Seven is what's on your bucket list. Now I was reflecting on this question recently and thinking, has the question or the answer even changed somewhat as this podcast has evolved. And having looked into it, I found a piece of research via a website called Fenetic Wellbeing. And they collected over a hundred bucket list ideas and compared the search volumes from March, 2020 to February, 2021. And they wanted to see what people wanted to achieve now compared to what they had used to at the start of the first lockdown. And there's some really interesting ones on here. Now, would you believe people no longer want to swim with wild pigs in The Bahamas? The pigs.

- I can't believe that anybody ever wanted to.

- The pigs have taken a massive hit at a 70% reduction of search volume. So other people don't want to see famous monuments. Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro decreased by 64%. And actually lot of people are wanting to eat healthier and get fit, oh, story of my life. So that's a little bit of a boring one, but lots of people want to start their own business with the search volume for starting a business increasing by 50%. And this one is wild, loads of people want to go camping which has increased by 85%. Now I wouldn't personally consider that bucket list territory, but far be it for me to deny someone their bucket list. But some other related changes that we've seen is improve your credit score which came up by 46%, become a millionaire. Now I searched that every day, so a lot of those searches would be me, and pay off the mortgage. So it seems like there's more, well I guess more behaviors around financial wellbeing that are coming through from the lockdown. So on that note, I wanted to ask what new bucket list thing is now emerged as a result of lockdown. Have you got one Nick and Holly?

- Yeah, so it's funny, even before you started talking about the financial piece, my brain was actually going there. I have wanted to buy a place up north in Michigan. It is beautiful up there and especially as travel has changed for our family and we have two little boys, the thought of owning another house that we can go up to whenever we want to was really appealing now more than it ever has before. Now my wife may disagree a bit, but I just think that that would be really cool and fun thing to do. So that's where my brain went even before you were talking about the financial piece.

- Yeah, and actually, I don't know that I would call it a bucket list thing because to me I think first I questioned the definition of bucket list that these people use because I always thought it was supposed to be something fun, like swimming with pigs. I'm really stuck on that one. But when, I mean, when you start talking about, when I think about like really what changed in the last year, I mean, the wellness stuff came to mind for me as something that I've really started taking a little bit more seriously than I ever did before because I think I started to see the space in my life for it. The other thing is that I really feel like this year I has solidified in me that I need to write and that I'm going to work on writing a book, which has been on my bucket list forever. But it's something that feels a lot more serious now than it did before the pandemic.

- What a great result of this experience if that's something you prioritize and do sooner rather than later, 'cause that in itself would just be such an achievement of massive respect. So thank you, Holly, thank you Nick.

- And I will share an article that was actually published this week in the Wall Street Journal or pretty recently I should say. And it sort of ties into what both of you were talking about, things that changed recently in the pandemic. And one of the big predictions, I don't know if you guys remember this from last March was that where people lived would change and the implications that would have for companies and organizations as well, who had previously had people coming to the office five days a week. So the Wall Street Journal did all of this analysis for, and this is primarily still for the United States. I'm sure that they're gonna work on other geos next. But they talked about that the migration was massive and what's happened in the last year and there are significant portions of the population migrated towards less dense and more affordable places because now you can work from anywhere. Now, some of the things and that I thought were really interesting about their research was not only did suburbs and smaller metros like Boise, Idaho and vacation destinations become more popular, but there was a big loss in the Northeast and California which historically, especially as recruiters we always thought of as the more popular destinations. Now there was the big places where people wanted to move was Texas and Florida, which are not places where I would have always thought of in the past. My favorite thing though, that I learned from this article is a new term called surban, which I don't know if you've ever heard of that. So this is like a more urban suburban place. So surban are communities that they're trying to build and reconstruct. So to make it easier for those people who lived in big cities to live a suburban life but not give up everything that they ever wanted. So imagine more walkable shops, more electric bikes and things like that in the community as opposed to a suburbs where you always need to have a car to go everywhere. So I thought that was fascinating. And I can't wait to go see some surban environments. I don't know. I guess I am curious, and this might be more of a question for you, Nick, because I know from where you live, Nadine, it's probably not as relevant, but have you experienced this or seen any surban communities around?

- So I'm gonna use that term from here on out because that's the perfect description of where we live. So we live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, actually east Grand Rapids, which is just a very close surban to the urban Grand Rapids. And we moved to here pre-pandemic but we can tell already how many people are coming in from all areas of more urban America, Chicago being the biggest growing kind of population, if you will, of people coming into Grand Rapids. And so not only that it's reflected in home prices, home prices in this area have skyrocketed and it's because everyone's starting to move out. And so it's also surban is a perfect description of where we live too 'cause it's not urban because if we said urban, people from New York, Chicago, LA would just roll their eyes. But it's also not suburban, we don't live in a cookie cutter neighborhood, not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's just not where we live. But I agree, the area where we are at has just absolutely thrived for the last year and a half plus and is showing no signs of slowing down at all. And I think as companies continue to change and be flexible with their workforce, that's only going to increase and expand. And I think people are realizing that they can get a lot more in surban or other suburban areas. Does that mean the next term is going to be Sural for suburban and rural.

- Oh, I don't know. I don't know, maybe you just coined it right there. Heard it here first. Yeah, I don't know. I think that is gonna be a very interesting point for employers and recruiters to be thinking through where people are located, how much it matters. We're having that conversation and we're seeing it play out across different businesses all the time now. And I think if you have your big fancy headquarters in New York city and nobody lives there, that could be a problem.

- Totally. I feel like I'm gonna potentially benefit from the evolution of different kinds of work, different approaches to workplace locations 'cause right now I've got an ongoing neighbor dispute with a local pigeon that keeps coming into my balcony and pooping and I could really do getting me some suburban and getting away from this. So, the sooner Publicis Sapient has a nice kind of Cotswolds destination, I'm on board.

- Oh, thanks guys. That was another great bites conversation. We'll go and listen to our next interview right now.

- Today I'm joined by Sergio Filetti, director of technology with over 20 years experience in the design and delivery of digital services. He's an evangelist and practitioner of agile and lean methodologies, having first introduced scrum in his own business in 2007. And he's one of the leads for Publicis Sapient and Mia mobile practice. Having delivered award-winning apps for clients across financial services, hospitality and many other sectors, today Sergio is focused on energy and commodities, working with clients to transform their digital services to be truly multi-channel and service orientated. Later in the interview, Sergio will also introduce us to two of his team members, Annie Gonzalez and Victoria Mihailemko. They were recently hired through our early career program. Annie and Victoria will share more about their journeys as new grads and their accomplishments so far working on Sergio's team. But first, I'm excited to get to know more about Sergio and the work he's leading. So Sergio, welcome to the podcast.

- Thank you. Thank you for having me.

- No problem. So I'm gonna kick off 'cause we believe that where we come from helps us shape who we are now. So we like to start by asking all of our guests, where did you grow up?

- Oh, I grew up in a very large city called Torino in Northwest Italy. So, a big industrial city but sort of nestor just at the bottom of the Alps. So a lot of skiing we can, even if I was living in a very big smoky city during the week.

- Oh, nice. So what were you like as a kid, a little bit adventurer.

- Yeah, you could say that. I was actually fairly boring, I would say, growing up. I was a pretty good boy at school except probably I got in trouble a few times like any boy would, but nothing more than that. And yeah, enjoying mostly the weekends.

- Yeah, I can imagine it. They sound like lovely weekends. And what was your first ever job?

- So my first job was in the UK. It was actually completely accidental because I was studying business and technology and I met someone with British, sort of a British person who was working in Italy for Olivetti. And they had just been visiting a company in Brighton. They were doing digital CD-ROM content. And so I ended up actually working for the company building CD-ROM software

- Feel first job.

- Yes, yes. It's basically paper round or working in an ice cream shop but that's really tag. So what did that teach you then?

- Teach, it was my first ever experience of digital because up to that point, my studies university and everything else, we touched computers but we never really got that close to seeing them put into practice. The web didn't exist yet. So teaching, I don't know whether it was really teaching but it sort of opened my eyes to something that I hadn't even imagined when I was going through education.

- And what were you studying at the time and where?

- I was doing a bit of a mix. It was a European course, so university times, this is. So, I was studying business here in the UK and I was studying technology in a university in Italy.

- So travel between the two campuses.

- Yeah.

- That's pretty cool. So how did you get connected with Publicis Sapient then?

- Oh, Publicis Sapient came much later. So I went from CDROMs into web. I went from web into mobile. I ran my own mobile app studio for a few years, sold it on to an agency, left that agency. And then I started working in the Publicis group I moved into Sapient about three years ago.

- And how long ago did you join publicist group?

- That would have been nine years ago.

- Okay, and then transitioned across to Sapient. What drove that desire to transfer into the Sapient world?

- It was a couple of things really. One was that I had started working with a Publicis Sapient on British gas which was one of our larger clients at the time. And that program became more important, became larger started to take up more of my time. And so I just wanted to spend a bit more time on that. And the other side was that I really enjoyed the industry focus here at Publicis Sapient. So, the fact that we are industry oriented and therefore, irrespective of whether you are a technologist or a sort of experience designer or a business consultant, you end up actually really focusing on solutions for a specific set of clients and a specific industry rather than moving across all of them. That was very appealing at that stage anyway.

- Yeah, and we're gonna go onto that in a bit more detail, but if you could describe your current role for our listeners.

- Yeah, as a director of technology, I am aligned to a particular industry. So that's energy and commodities. What that means is that I'm still working on large technology projects and quite often I will be setting up technology teams. So engineering teams, building technical architecture solutions for our clients, making sure that they get delivered. But at the same time, I am also working with our industry leadership. So that's within energy and commodities to actually move all of the clients within the industry forward and to come up with propositions or solutions that we can take to all our international clients within that sector. And so that's where that kind of focus helps a little bit more because it will be very difficult to come up with really impactful solutions just for any sector. There tends to be particular probiotics within particular industries that you can find pointed solutions to.

- And what is it about energy and commodities you enjoy so much?

- I think there are a few things that are really interested in, in the industry. One is the scale. So when you're working with a client like British gas, you are effectively addressing about eight to 10 million customers in the country. So anything that you are doing is very impactful. As soon as we release a new feature, you know that millions of people potentially could be consuming it. I think there is a very ethical side to the industry when you actually work with the people within the industry, they really care actually about where the industry is going and whether their customers are struggling with things like payments or understanding what is going on or energy consumption. But what I would say is the industry is actually becoming far more exciting than it's ever been. It used to be called utilities, but I think that in the last two or three years it's become far more exciting and transformational because of the need to transition to net zero, move away from carbon and electrifying the entire grid. So now it is a very lively industry and there is a lot happening.

- Yeah, I get such a sense of that. And you can see on our website, if you look under the energy and commodities vertical, some of the case studies of people that we've worked with, there's super duper household names, but also some of the smaller kind of agri farming community and whatnot which is very interesting. So on that note, could you talk us through a transformation project that you've been working on recently that you're most proud of?

- Yeah, so there is a lot of interesting work that we are doing at the moment directly with some of our clients. But probably the one that has been the most exciting has been more of an internal project where we have been looking specifically of where we can help our clients make a significant impact on sort of carbon reduction and sustainability. What I mean clients here, I'm talking more specifically about energy retailers. And what we have found, I mean it's the end of the industry already knows it. But what we've found is that the heaviest impact in terms of CO2 happens during peak hours when in a country like the UK went around five, six o'clock everyone gets back home and start to turn everything on. At that point when you hit that peak, we effectively as a country need to start switching on or powering up gas firing station, potentially in the past, coal firing stations. That is very expensive energy and it's very polluting energy. So the greatest impact that we could make will be by reducing the, or spreading more evenly, the way we use electricity across the day. So the project that we have been working on is based on the research and work that we had already done in North America, in Canada for a client there. And it's looking at using your smart meter data to educate customers or help customers shift their usage away from those peak periods. So it's a relatively small piece of work that we have been doing with a very small very agile team, but very quickly, within a few months, we were already able to create services that we can offer to energy retailers sort of plug and play such like services where we can ingest their data and create leaderboards for their customers to show which ones are the customers who are behaving best and even provide a few awards and budgets for the best behaving customers. So some fairly quick that we were able to implement and take to market within a few months.

- That's so interesting. And I'm personally known as Hermione Granger 'cause I'm such a teacher's pet. So to know that I could get that label is really appealing. So how have you seen behaviors and demands change within both Publicis Sapient and also with your clients as a result of working from home and as a result of the COVID impact. I know it's a big question, but how has the relationship evolved with clients?

- For me, it's been a very interesting adventure actually, because, or rather it's been an easy transition because when the first lockdown struck, most of the work that I was doing was we clients in the UAE, so Middle East. So the work really there consisted mostly of having one of our teams nearby. We have some lovely offices in Dubai and then but supported by a few members of the team here from the UK. Pre-lock down, that meant actually spending maybe a few days a month in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But the rest of the time, the work was being done remotely. And at the time, remoting in was always a little bit difficult. From a moment lockdown struck and everyone was sort of forced to move to videoconferencing and online collaboration and everything else actually became a lot easier for us because we already had the tools in place. And now our clients were actually used to work in the same way. So in a way, the transition was fairly easy. And in fact, for some of those projects like those where we have a distributed team that is working, perhaps we may have a part of a team in the UK, part in Europe, parts of the client's location in Asia, it suddenly became a lot easier actually to deliver some of the work.

- That's great. And I think, I don't know about you but there seems to be over the past six to 12 months, some people that were prepared for that and prepared to work in a blended environment, to work virtually and just really get on with things with the tools that they had. And obviously, with other communities where you're client facing I think it was a completely unexpected but illuminating experience of what you can achieve and what you can do virtually. I also noticed from a personal perspective, people became a lot more socially conscious and a lot more eco-conscious. I don't know whether it's just because I'm more in tune with it now, but have you seen that working in energy and commodities, have you seen the appetite and interest in how people engage with their, not only their utility company, but just in general, eco-conscious decisions? Is that something you've noticed?

- Yeah, absolutely. I mean, certainly looking at our industry, I wouldn't put it down to a consequence of COVID or lockdown, but more of a sort of general buildup. I think it has been building up for years, but certainly for the last year or so, it has felt like things have accelerated. I think some of the media certainly helped in that sense, sort of buffing in the sort of UK and worldwide in terms of sort of fairly key figures supporting or sort of putting forward the urgency of environmental change.

- So David Attenborough, his Netflix documentary is gonna help .

- Exactly, exactly. Or Gretha as well.

- Yes, exactly.

- So, from that perspective, clearly there is a bit of a buildup. I think that organizations in general, so larger organizations are becoming far more tuned to it. And it's going beyond them sort of organizations just thinking about it from a corporate responsibility perspective and PR. I think they are actually now understanding that, where your own survival and your appeal to employees will really depend on how well you behave and how much you're contributing to the sustainability agenda. So it's been taken a little more seriously, even the sort of CO2 market exchanges are now more sophisticated. So there is more, it's being monetized even to a degree. So I think it is definitely building up, you're right. And that is what we are increasingly finding with our customers and clients. I mean, that is the reason why we came up with the concept in a way it was to say, "Okay, rather than just "talking about it, here is something tangible "in terms of software that we can give you "and that you can use to start an internal, "to sort of start some momentum "within your own organization. "Actually show that you can do things "as well as just talking about it."

- Yeah, absolutely. And changing gears somewhat, but who would be a dream client or a dream brand that you'd love to work with?

- Oh, dear. I mean, there are probably a few obvious ones. And to a degree, I wouldn't say when a silly working with, but we probably talk to most of the ones which came up. I would say here in the UK, I love what Octopus Energy are doing. Not necessarily just from a consumer and customer perspective, although I've never been an Octopus customer, I'm sure they are good. But more in terms of how they are set up and the steps they are taking. So they have a really interesting platform. They have made some really interesting acquisitions in terms of actually acquiring businesses that had some sort of specialist IP in sort of grid technologies around the way energy will need to be transported and stored in the future or controlled. And they're also running some interesting experiments around dynamic targets and exposing data. So definitely a company I would love to spend more time with or work more with, and maybe globally, globally I will probably think of Tesla as another dream client.

- Yeah, that was a great one. So just a couple more questions before we hit the next segment. For people that are listening that are looking for a job now, both in their early careers and also experienced professionals. What advice would you give them in their pursuit of a new role?

- The easy one would probably be to just come and work with us.

- Yes.

- In general, it's always been not... I've always considered myself fairly lucky in the choice of career or career choices. But I think it has always been there to a degree, following your heart which is a little bit a predictable recommendation, but it's almost like, you need to actually show passion for what you want to do, whether you're a sort of software engineer or a designer or anything else. And once you get into the job, you need to almost expect that you will get the opportunity to express that passion as well. So I would say, never go into job expecting to start by doing sort of menial tasks and not actually achieving from day one.

- Yes, good advice. And to your earlier point, why would a person choose to work with Publicis Sapient?

- It's difficult to put myself in someone else's shoes, but I'll probably go back to the question you asked me at the beginning in terms of why did I. I think there is it a generally speaking, I think there is something fairly exciting with we working in a company that is solving problems in different domains, different areas. So you do by working in a place that Publicis Sapient, you get the opportunity to work on multiple clients. And as your career career develops, potentially focus maybe on a particular sector and segment and get really specialist around solving a particular set of problems. But it does give you that opportunity to actually find the right spot. And perhaps the only other thing that I would add is the culture side of it, which is a very difficult thing in a way to sort of put into words or to even experience if you're coming in from the outside. But what I would say is that there is a very open culture within Sapient. While there are obviously hierarchies, I don't think that irrespective or rank or position, I think everyone is actually given a pretty good opportunity at expressing themselves at their best.

- Absolutely, well said. So you've reached the intense part of the interview that we call Sapient seven. All of our guests. All of our guests are asked the same questions and it's our quick fire round of questions. So prepare, Sergio. Okay, question one, what is something new you've learned in the last 30 days?

- How quickly do I have to answer these?

- You're already out of time.

- Last 30 days. I have learned quite a lot about tourism in Saudi Arabia in the last 30 days, actually.

- That is very niche, I was not expecting that one. And so second question, what is the trend you're paying attention to?

- Augmented reality is one of the things that am really interested in.

- Yeah, such a good one. And what is something on your bucket list?

- I would like to sail across the Atlantic.

- Did you have a nickname growing up and if so, what was it?

- Yes, I did, but it was just Jo, as in people being too lazy to just say Sergio. So they shortened it .

- Okay, and what's the most valuable thing you learned from your parents or family?

- Probably from my grandfather was, who was always smiling, and again, it goes back to a point I made earlier, he just loved the work that he did. So he was smiling every day.

- That's a nice memory, isn't it? If you were on a deserted island what album would you take with you?

- Oh, it will probably have to be a Bruce Springsteen album but I don't quite know which one I would pick.

- Okay, we'll take it. And then lastly, what book are you reading right now?

- Oh, gosh, that is like a niche. because I'm doing quite a bit of work in Saudi Arabia at the moment, I'm reading a book called "Vision or Miraj" which is about the history of the Al Saud family and basically the history of Saudi Arabia.

- Interesting. Okay, so thank you so much for sharing that, Sergio. And as you know, we've invited Annie and Victoria from your team to join us next. I understand you've been a tremendous value to their time at Publicis Sapient so far and through your leadership and mentorship, they're absolutely loving their time in the team. Is there anything you'd like to share with our listeners before we invite them on?

- Well, maybe just this sort of a quick introduction because yeah, sort of Annie and Victoria joined us just before Christmas. So they started working with me straight after their induction and they have been absolutely amazing. They often say that when you're sort of providing mentorship to sort of new graduates, so younger people, you get as much as you give. And in a sense, I definitely did. There've been extremely enthusiastic and to be honest, in many cases they have taught me as much as as I have hopefully taught them. So they've been great. And they have really contributed greatly to the work that I was actually talking about earlier because they were both involved in researching and then building the software that we built for energy retailers on the CO2e transition.

- We're really looking forward to having them on the podcast. So thank you so much, Sergio. I really appreciate you being here today. And if there's a pub quiz and Saudi Arabia is one of the specialists subjects, you can be sure that I'll be linking in with you. On that note of linking in, and before we go, can our listeners find you LinkedIn if they want to connect?

- Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, there's not many Sergio Forletti around LinkedIn. I think so. I think I'm easily found.

- Fantastic. Thanks again, Sergio. It's great to have you.

- Thank you.

- Next I'm joined by Annie Gonzales and Victoria Mihailemko who were recently hired through our early career program as new grads. Annie came to Publicis Sapient after living in Korea for three years and following her 2020 masters graduation from the University of Cambridge. She initially started her education and career as a chemist and pivoted to software engineering which is what she specializes in today. Victoria, originally from Latvia moved to England a few years prior to university. She joined Publicis Sapient as a junior product manager for her very first full-time role after completing her undergrad in 2020. Victoria and Annie, welcome to the podcast.

- Hello, happy to be here.

- Hello.

- We'll see if we're happy to have you. And I'm gonna kick start straight into the questions here. So we believe that where we come from helps shape who we've become now. So we like to start by asking each and every one of our guests and you two are no exception. Where did you grow up and what were you like as a kid? Annie, do you want to start us off?

- Yeah, so I grew up in San Sebastian. It's a city in the North of Spain. It's, well, in the Basque country, I don't know if like some people might not be like very aware about it but it's similar as Catalonia, a place that wants to be independent from Spain. And well, as a kid, I was quite a curious kid. I was always making weird questions to my parents. But aside from that I was a very good girl, I think.

- Do you have siblings?

- Well, I did have a sister, but she passed away.

- Oh, I'm sorry to hear. Were you unique in that curiosity in your family then or were you and your sister and parents all quite curious people?

- I think my curiousity comes from my father but I think mine was a little bit more annoying in the sense that I used to wake up my parents to ask them questions that popped in my head.

- Okay, I bet they loved that . That is curious, thank you for sharing. And Victoria, what about you?

- Yeah, so I was born in Riga capital of Latvia but I was growing up in two cities. So I went to school in Riga and my mother was living there. My grandma and grandparents were living in a small town called Preili. It's almost near the border of Russia. So I was growing up in both of those cities. And as a kid, I was extremely shy. I had struggles to go to school and I was just for some reasons scared of other kids. But now I think that has changed although I'm still shy in some ways.

- Oh, that's so cute. You were scared of the other kids. My heart breaks for you at the school gates.

- Sometimes I used to wake up at like five in the morning before school and just not being able to sleep, but I have no idea where that comes from. I think my mother is pretty shy as well. So maybe that's why.

- Isn't it interesting how we change as we grow up and where we come from in that sense? So how did you then, Victoria, get connected with Publicis Sapient fast-forwarding all these years later?

- Yeah, so I moved to England when I was around 15 so I went to college here and then I went to university. I studied economics. So I think I was surrounded by people who wanted to go into consulting, so it really made me curious about it. And I started sort of researching about these companies but none of them really stood out to me. And when I first, I think I found Publicis on LinkedIn and I was really curious because everyone has really good reviews about it in terms of culture. And I really saw myself working, especially in my first job in a place where culture and people really come first. And I think now having been here for quite some months, I really can tell that this is true. And yeah, I just applied and that was my first ever in-person interview and yeah they accepted me and I'm happy that that was my only interview because I'm happy about the company. And to me it's special already.

- Oh, that's great. The rest is history, so they say. And what about you, Annie?

- So for me it was a little bit different. I was going through my master's in the University of Cambridge and honestly, I was quite like thinking about going into academia. But one day I received an email from the university saying there was a job fair fare in the city center. So I missed one class and went there and I think I went to only like a few stands and I met Samir Metta and he was so friendly and so nice. And so I did the coding test and I went to the interview day and maybe coming from living in Korea for three years where social interaction is so different and especially in the workplace. When I was interviewing, I felt like people were so friendly and so genuine and so enthusiastic about what they were doing that I really thought, "Wow, I want to be here." And so that was my first and only interview that I did in the UK. And yeah, so I got an opportunity and I took it.

- I love that. And that's Sam Metta, isn't it? That you would have met as part of that process, I think.

- Yes.

- Sam, shout out to you. Sam is my work colleague in the UK and he is fantastic. So if there's anyone who's exploring their early careers who's listening, definitely link in with Sam. He's someone that can tell you what life would be like at Sapient. And Annie slight sidebar, but living in Korea, how did that come about?

- So I decided that for my last year of college, I wanted to move abroad and go to a different country. I needed some fresh air, I guess. And I didn't have many options. I had options in Europe, some in the U.S. but then I remember that when I was a little kid, I had this friend that came from China and we met in a summer camp and he was super nice. And every summer he would go to China, visit his mom and he would send me candy and postcards. And I thought, then why don't I go to Asia? And so I had the opportunity to go to South Korea and I went there for one year, I loved it. And I came back and lived two more years.

- That is so amazing. We speak to a lot of people that travel and do placement years, but I think you're the first person that I've known that's been in South Korea. So it's really interesting to hear different stories and different pathways, and then coming back presumably and doing your master's at Cambridge. So I'm gonna kind of change gears slightly because I just spoke to Sergio, as you probably heard. And he shared a project that you were both working on. And we'd love to know each of your roles and current kind of responsibilities within that project. And more than that, what's a typical day for you. And in fact, what does the best day look like for you? Perhaps you can start us off, Victoria.

- Yeah, so this project that we've been working on is an internal project. So it all began from scratch. So our first meeting was probably as I remember, brainstorming session where we just were coming up with ideas. When we started we didn't really know what will the end result look like. And I think that was our first significant input into this project. So we'll be able to brainstorm and really understand that people hear us and are listening to our ideas. So, yeah, we came up with this solution for energy retailers and well, I am working on kind of business side and more admin side of it. And then Annie is more of a software engineer. And the best day, that's a tough one. Well, I can tell you what my typical day looks like and what kind of stuff I'm involved. So, as I said, on the one side, it's more of admin stuff. So I would organize meetings and then get in touch with people. If there's anything that we need from someone or be involved in in any kind of way, we work in a agile format. So we have daily stand ups, sprint demos, retrospective, so different aspects of a project for which I'm kind of responsible for and I host and facilitate these meetings. And then more of business side is because as I said, we started from the scratch. So there was quite a lot of researching to do on business values and benefits to consumers and also research into competitors. So a variety of things, I would say on the better day, we would have couple of meetings and some kind of research also involved. I don't know if that answered the question, but--

- It does, it does. It sounds really varied. And what about you, Annie?

- So as Victoria said, I'm a software engineer. And so ever since we started on this project, I've been building this let's say software service platform from scratch, which has been quite a challenge, to be honest but it's been very rewarding. I have learned a lot. I'm doing basically everything from front end to backend, also DevOps. It's been like a great opportunity to learn. And yeah, I guess that on the best day would look like, well as Victoria said, having a couple of meetings and then having or compile without any error. It sounds a little bit nerdy, but yeah.

- That's great. And through your time at Publicis Sapient so far, Annie, what are you most proud of?

- Well, I think I'm really proud of where we've got so far with the project because in the beginning, I remember talking to Victoria and what are we doing? Because we started from thinking about business ideas about how to carry on this project. And it has very slowly coming up to life. So I'm very, very proud of that and very happy of having accomplished, I think so much and having learned so much. And also being here, it's been six months for us that we've been in Sapient and we are already on a podcast. So yay.

- Exactly, that is high impact landing, isn't it. And also, presumably you haven't met physically IRL so to say. And that's incredible that you've got this chemistry and you can see the relationship of having worked together when you've done it virtually. That's really no mean feat in these times. So I dropped my cap to you. And what about you, Victoria?

- I think if we talk specifically about this project, it is kind of seeing where just our thoughts on this brainstorming process led us to, to actually implementing, talking to potential clients. I think it's crazy because especially for me, it's my first job. And just the realization of seeing kind of your accomplishments and you as a team, I mean, it's really rewarding. And then if we talk about the whole company in general, I think for me it has been recognition. I have had people messaging me and saying, "Oh, we've heard this about you and oh, you're doing this." And I think it's unbelievable how word of mouth can spread around the industry and it also feels really rewarding to kind of someone having telling you like, "Oh, well then for this."

- Yeah, good for you. And in such a short space of time like you both say, that's really rewarding. And for the university students listening to this podcast, it's really tough out there now with job hunting post university. Every year it seems to get trickier and the roots into an organization can feel quite soulless and quite faceless. So it can be quite a demoralizing time. So what advice would you give university students who are embarking on a job search?

- Okay, I'll go first. Well, I say this as a person a little bit older than the rest of the class, I'm 27. So when I was straight out of university, I was very worried about what my future will look like, what my ideal job would be, the ideal company would be. And I think it's more of like of course students have to worry about it, but they also have to just try to slow down and find a little bit more about themselves. And also when applying to companies, something that I have realized is that I think even when you're being interviewed, you have to make lots of questions. It's not only about the company finding an employee, you also have to find a good fit with the company.

- Definitely.

- So I think it's not only, I think of students worrying too much about the company, they also have to worry about the people they will be interacting with, what kind of environment they want to be in, the kind of learning or things they want to do. So I'd say, yeah, just be a little bit chill about it and try to enjoy the process.

- That's good advice. Victoria, what about you?

- Well, I can say as just a recent graduate without having had any previous experience is that don't be afraid because many many graduates and current students think that just because they don't have that internship or don't have that experience, they might not be accepted for a jobs and that is not true. I remember during my degree, most of the people on my course actually went and did placement here. And I didn't because I just thought it's not the right time for me. So I actually went on exchange to Finland and the Netherlands, and then people asked me, "Oh, don't you think that is not very relevant "for then later on applying for jobs." And it kind of made me nervous thinking that maybe in interviews, I will have nothing to say. For example, all the time I worked in the project, I did this and this happened. But funny enough for Publicis Sapient, what we ended up talking in the interview is my time in Finland then the problems and encounters I've had and how I overcame these. So I think it's important for people to realize that you can have experiences in many different ways, not only work experiences, so just not to be afraid and apply because every experience counts.

- Thank you for sharing that. I really like that. And finally then, why should someone, particularly in early careers choose to start their career with Publicis Sapient?

- I'd say because of the people. I think the environment and the people that I've come to meet so far, I think the work culture is very chill, very friendly. And it's not as say as hierarchical and like being able to talk to your manager with a friendly tone and being able to be honest and friendly, I think it's a very important part of why I enjoy being at Sapient. And well, of course, all the opportunities that Publicis Sapient gives their employees for learning. I think that one of the things that I like the most is that for example, they encourage us to be learning quite on a daily basis and we have access to too many learning platforms. So that's a big reason for me to stay here.

- All right, and Victoria.

- I think, well, firstly, the culture. I know it sounds cliche, but I think what Publicis it's is really true. The culture here is amazing and people are very helpful and as Annie said, there are so many opportunities. And if you're stuck with something or there's something you're curious about, people are very, very helpful. And secondly, I think it's a great starting point for current students, especially in graduates because if you might not know what you want to do exactly, but you coming into this company, it gives you so many opportunities. And as Annie said, a lot of learning. So in this process of learning and just being in a business like this, it makes you realize like, "Oh, maybe I want to go into this direction." Or "Actually I prefer doing this instead of this." And I think it's really a journey of finding yourself. I would say, at least it was for me.

- Well, I think it's not just you Victoria, 'cause Annie, you started off as a chemist and pivoted to a software engineer. You two are not gonna be the only people that embark on something and want to explore something else or diversify their career in one way or another. So I do think that Sapient has a great infrastructure for that and of course we're part of Publicis group which is a massive network of different chapters and all the wonderful clients we work with. So, thank you both for sharing. You have now made it to the Sapient seven section. So now I am going to be asking you some quick fire questions. So answers wise if we go Annie then Victoria, and yes, whatever first comes to mind. Question one. What's something new you've learned in the last 30 days?

- Well, for me, I've been learning Japanese, so yeah, studying from--

- Of course you have, Annie. that is such a good answer. You're learning Japanese. That's amazing. How far along are you?

- Well, I started from the beginners lectures and then I had like a couple of Japanese friends teach me how to curse and say bad words. So I guess that I'm right on track. I'm keeping the momentum.

- That's so good. I'm so impressed. I just start try to start learning French. And I know less than when I started, so I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to learn a language where you've got a whole new alphabet, but anyway enough about me. Victoria, what about you?

- For me, I think lately I've realized how important e-sport is. I never really knew what e-sports is but now it's unbelievable to think that people are watching other people online playing video games, let's say, and I just never knew about it until now.

- Share, what is that? Sorry.

- E-sport.

- I don't know what this is. Oh my mind's gonna be blown.

- It's basically just people playing video games. Like for example, League of Legends. I don't know if you've heard. I don't really know about it before but people just playing online and other people watching them and then they have sponsorships and it's just like watching a football game but instead, people playing video games and it's just kind of mindblowing and yeah...

- So the gaming amongst us, there we go, I'm gonna google that as well. So Annie, what is one trend you're paying attention to?

- So one of them was having LED lights on, I saw many people on TikTok having LED lights in the rooms. I tried it with, I tried putting some LED lights in my own room and it didn't go well. It's funny because I'm working in the energy and commodities industry vertical and I completely failed. So one of the colors is not working, the red color is not working. And today I realized that the engine is making a very weird noise, so, yeah, I failed that.

- Okay, what about you, Victoria?

- Well, I do have LED lights in my room actually and they are working, thankfully, but I think one of the... I don't know if you can call it a trend though. I've been into kind of substituting more like using less meat products, let's say and like substituting with other healthy things. And on Instagram, for example there are so many people posting about like better alternatives and something really cool about the other day is broccoli burger. It's really amazing. You guys should try it

- Victoria, is it amazing?

- It actually is. I do not believe that myself but it really is just have to spice it up a little bit.

- Do you know what, I think this plant-based alternatives are really fascinating, aren't they? And I jest, but I'm so into it. And I just found out about algae prawns. So not actual prawns, but the algae that prawns eat. So people are creating prawn shaped balls of algae which sound disgusting but I think they're supposed to be delicious and you get all the same nutritional benefits. There you go. I'm sharing something for that. And Annie, what is something on your bucket list?

- So I'm really into kind of female kind of like unconventional sports and one sport that I wanted to try is roller Derby.

- Yes, so fun. Get your knee pads ready just in case. And what about you, Victoria?

- I actually have a very specific one. I really want to go on the road trip around Australia in a VW microbus.

- That is so specific. I know that's gonna happen, so I wish you the best for when you get there. And Annie did you have a nickname growing up? And if so, what was it?

- Yeah, I had a nickname, my friends and also family used to call me Smurfid because I really did like the Smurfs when I was a kid and yeah.

- Oh, that's cute. That's cute. Victoria, what about you?

- I never really had a specific nickname, but I think people like whenever we used to play sports with my friends people used to call me the football player because whenever the ball will fly somewhere I would try to catch it with my feet all the time. But I don't know. Everyone found that extremely funny. Yeah.

- There you go a second skill to fall back on just in case. And what's the most valuable thing that you learned from your parents or family?

- For me, it's that every second counts. And even like any second that you can spend with your friends and family just don't take it for granted.

- Yeah, so true. Victoria, what about you?

- I think what I've learned from grandparents is that you have to stay positive no matter what happens in life, because my grandparents were born during World War II and they've been through some tough times and it just made me realize that sometimes of what we might think as problems aren't actually problems. So you always should look on the bright side. Yeah.

- Yeah, and real sense of perspective. It's so lucky to have that in your own family. And if you were on a deserted island, Annie, what album would you take with you?

- Oh, that's a tough one. I'd say even either bring Britney Spears one or Aqua's Halloween album.

- Aqua, that is a blast from the past.

- When I was a kid we used to have these cassettes of Aqua. I think we bought them on gas stations and yeah I remember going on trips and listening to Aqua and also the cartoon. So yeah, I think that that's a good album.

- Brilliant, brilliant. And Victoria, what about you?

- Well, the thing is that my music taste is very varied. I listen to too many genres, but I really like jazz. So if you know Duke Ellington, he has some nice music but I also like rap. So maybe I would take Eminem's album

- Another classic. And I'd strongly suggest making sure you didn't mix up your luggage 'cause I think the opposite people are not gonna enjoy the other albums so much from the sounds of it. And Annie, lastly, what book are you reading right now?

- So I recently got this very old book. It's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Yeah, because you know, even if I'm a software engineer I still have to work on my people skills and yeah. Like every time I see, for example, Victoria and how good she is with people and how well she prepares for demonstrations and for presentations. Like, she's just awesome and I really envy for that. So yeah, I think that is motivating me for, you know, work on my people's skills and how to be a better communicator. So yeah.

- Oh, that's a good one in such a lovely compliment. Victoria, you must be super chuffed for that one. So lastly for you what--

- Annie, you made me blush.

- Oh yeah, it's really sweet. And what book are you reading right now, Victoria?

- I'm actually reading George Orwell, 1984, To some extent that's mainstream because many people were talking about it. So I was really curious and I just bought it. And before that I've read his other book called, "Animal Farm" and I really, really liked it, but I read that in Latvian and this one I bought in English and yeah, it's really interesting book, really kind of philosophical and it really tells a story.

- It's brilliant, George Orwell's my favorite writer. And just as a little Cher hair, you can go to Notting Hill and see his house that he lived in when he wrote. It was either "Animal Farm" or "1984". But yeah, there you go. That's something to do on a weekend if you're in walking distance of West London. So thank you so much, both of you, for joining us today. I've really enjoyed speaking with you and getting to know you. And before I do let you go, where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more? Are you on LinkedIn?

- Yes, so I'm on LinkedIn. Yeah, they can find me by Annie Agire, and Annie with two Ns. So yeah they can find me there.

- Fantastic, thank you. And Victoria?

- Yeah, same for me, Victoria Mihailemko. My last name is a bit complicated, but just write it as you hear it. Should I spell it out or people always ask me to spell my last name.

- Yeah, go on, give it a spell. So we've got our listeners ready to go.

- Okay, so it's Victoria M-I-H-A-I-L-E-M-K-O.

- Lovely, thank you so much. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to join us on the podcast and thank you.

- Thanks again for listening to another episode of the we at PS podcast. Don't forget to subscribe in whatever app you choose and check us out at careers.publicissapient.com. Until next time, I'm Holly Marsh.

- I'm Nadine Bennet.

- And I'm Nick Eslick.

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