I lasted 6 months at Glow. I learnt so much more about work and startups here than at any other point of my career since. Sometimes, the places you learn the most are also the most difficult.
But, before all that I was excited to start.
When I arrived with the 7 other trainees on our first day, we were told that Glow’s advertisers (not those doing finance, coding for the website etc.) were split into seperate teams — around 6 of them. Each team had 5 or 6 people in it. Each team also specialised in doing advertising for a certain type of client (although they would still have some variety overall).
We were each assigned to a team, some of us were paired up and put into a team as there weren’t enough teams to have just one trainee each.
I started off solo in a team that was lead by someone called Vanessa. Her team managed the fashion retail clients.
On her team was a girl called Laury, and 3 other team members.
They were very welcoming and friendly. I liked Vanessa and her team. Both Vanessa and Laury were actually sat on the judging panel at the assessment centre.
The first two weeks at Glow were very long, for all the trainees. We’d sit with our teams without having anything to do or assigned to tasks, and we didn’t have enough knowledge to do anything productive.
One or two times each day we’d be called into one of the meeting rooms with someone from one of the teams at Glow, for them to give us a lesson in how the basics of FB ads work.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Everything I was taught at Glow over a 6 week period is included in my “The fundamentals of FB advertising” guide, which can be bought for just £10 here: [insert link].
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
The lady leading the training program for us was called Molly, she’d organise the schedule for her colleagues at Glow to take turns in teaching us. Molly had a really warm vibe, someone that I felt easy asking questions.
Both Molly and Laury were in the training program themselves at Glow the year before.
Laury and the team were very busy, they were glued to their desks whilst I was there and would apologise from time to time that they didn’t have anything for me to work on yet.
But after a while, Laury finally asked for my help with something. She was advertising a gaming quiz app, and the images she was using for her FB ads were screenshots of the app. Each image had a general knowledge question on it, with 2 large answer buttons (one green and one red) to answer yes and no.
She asked me to brainstorm 5 questions to use as images for her ads.
I took some time to research some topics and then sent my Qs across to her. Laury picked three to test, as two of them wouldn’t be suitable for an international audience.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Two days later, Laury looked across the desk at me and exclaimed “nice work Asif!”.
“Thanks,” I said “….for what?”
“One of the questions you sent me is doing really well. It’s beating all the other creatives I’ve tested so far.”
I asked her which one.
“It’s the David Beckham one!”.
The David Beckham question I made was around how many sons he had. A lot of people were hooked into tapping on the answer button in the image to be taken to the app.
Laury showed me the stats for the 3 images we tested. How many people saw each of them, how many people clicked on each ad etc.
I found it fascinating to see the difference in performance between the 3 images, they were so far apart.
I knew then that this was a part of the job I’d really enjoy.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Our group of trainees continued to have different lessons from people who worked at Glow. At some point, we got taught by someone called Jake (a senior account manager, which was three levels above our role). He explained to us that his team tended to get all the gaming, sports gambling, and startup clients. I definitely paid more attention to his lesson!
Jake was fun to learn from. He obviously liked what he did, but also had a dry humour and was honest about things he didn’t like. He let us know with a weary voice that one thing we might encounter often were unreasonable client demands.
Whenever I was at my desk between lessons, Jake’s boss Gonzalo would pass by and stop near me. Gonzalo was from Spain and seemed really friendly. He would tell me he’s heard some good things about me, and then make fun of me for drinking soup at my desk each morning instead of tea (among 10 other reasons). Gonzalo and I quickly developed some witty banter whenever he came by, which made some of the people around us stifle some laughs. Those exchanges made me feel more comfortable chatting to him.
I had one or two more lessons with Jake over the next week, and enjoyed each one more than the lessons from other people in the company. Because of that, and the fact that Jake’s team had Spotify as a client (which was THE MOST exciting brand that I wanted to be involved with), I asked Vanessa if we could catch up.
When Vanessa sat down with me, I explained that I really enjoyed working for her team and appreciated them being so welcoming, but felt I would be a better fit with Gonzalo and Jake’s team: they had the clients I was interested in working on, they were a bunch of guys with similar personalities to mine, and I felt a bit out of place on her team even though I liked everyone on it. Vanessa listened, and responded warmly.
“Look,” she said, “I completely get it. Don’t worry, I’ll chat with Gonzalo to see if we can get you onto his team.”
I appreciated that.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Alex was also on Gonzalo’s team as a trainee, as was another trainee called Anne. We quickly became friends.
Over the next few weeks, we carried on working as normal. Alex, Anne, and I would joke and prank each other a lot as the days went on. We’d change the passwords on each others laptop, and take the mick out of each other’s music taste whenever we could catch what was being listened to by that person on Spotify.
One day, Anne was away from her desk and Alex jumped on to her laptop.
“Asif,” he said, “she left her laptop logged on, and her Facebook’s open!”
I looked up at him.
“I’m going to frape her, whadya think?” Alex asked.
“Go for it.” I said, before getting back to my work.
I thought nothing of it until I saw it that night.
When I was on the bus home from work, I opened FB and saw a status from Anne. It said something about shoving things in a very specific place…
Woah. I thought that might have been a bit far, and felt uncomfortable knowing that I wouldn’t have gone through with posting a status as strong as that if I was fraping Anne.
I hoped she’d see it and delete it soon.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
The next morning, Mrs X comes over to talk to Anne and I. Alex isn’t at his desk yet.
“Hi guys, can we have a chat?”
We follow her into one of the meeting rooms. Gonzalo’s already there, he looked a downbeat.
Mrs X spoke to us.
“Guys, something was spotted on Anne’s FB yesterday and was reported to us. We know it came from Alex and have already spoken to him. Unfortunately, Alex can no longer work here for us, and we’ve asked him to leave. Please keep this confidential, as we’re not announcing it until later this week. If you have any questions, Gonzalo will be able to answer them for you.”
She got up and left. The colour had already drained from my face.
I was a mix of shocked, angry, and scared. I didn’t want me or Anne to be next to go.
Gonzalo looked up from the conference table between us, for the first time.
“Look guys, I know you might be annoyed by this decision. But trust me it’s the right thing to do. What Alex did was very serious. What I’m going to ask now is to clear your head, take time to think about this news, but then focus on your work.”
So, we went back to work.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
The next few weeks felt weird. I texted Alex a few times to chat, including the same day that we were told the news to let him know we heard what happened, and that I thought firing him was really harsh. He was really annoyed about the whole situation, but was glad to know I was on his side. (Fast forward a few years and Alex is doing well, turns out that he didn’t really enjoy advertising and had his heart on helping people instead by working for charities).
In the office, the same banter and jokes I had with Gonzalo disappeared. Anne and I kept our heads down and our focus on our work. After a few weeks though, things went back to normal.
I started to get more and more independence with my relationships to clients. For a while, I got to support Simon (another member of Gonzalo’s team and an account manager) on one of his accounts called Unibet. I found it really exciting, as the adverts were all about the football matches each weekend.
Simon and I would need to edit the images each week to swap the football t-shirts being shown on some of the generic players being used in the ads, depending on which teams were playing each other. We’d then need to make sure that the ads would only be shown to the fans of each of the teams that were going to play.
After a few weeks, Simon was offered to move to NYC right away and work from Glow’s office out there. This was because his largest and main client, Spotify, needed more hands on support and face to face time with him on a regular basis.
I felt ready to take on the Unibet account, as I had gotten more and more involved in the account as Simon started to focus more attention on Spotify, and my other client was much smaller and manageable.
Gonzalo gave me responsibility of the account’s advertising performance, and charged Jake with helping me on handling the communication with them. I was really excited about this, as I was the first trainee to be given independent responsibility for the performance of a larger spending account.
Around this time, I also had a catch up with Mrs X. I let her and Gonzalo know that I was open to moving to NYC too, as I had a green card and my family was strongly considering moving there.
It seemed good timing, as a few days before the catch up, Mrs X had let the entire company know that they were looking to hire more people ASAP for the New York office as more and more clients were coming on board.
Mrs X said she was open to me moving, and that she would talk to Mike (who was newly hired “Head of US operations”), but that I would need to prove to them that I could handle the clients once I moved. Mrs X said I could start doing that by helping their team with their clients, and that she’d let the team manager out there know that Anne and I would be available to help (since Anne was also keen on getting some US client experience).
Early in the afternoon, Anne and I had a call with Janet (who was the team manager in NYC, and reported directly to Mike). Everything sounded good to us, Janet thanked us for volunteering to help out and that she’d send some work over to us really soon to get the ball rolling.
After the call, Anne and I continued with our work whilst we waited to hear back from Janet. Gonzalo was aware of everything happening, and the three of us were getting more antsy as hours passed without hearing anything further.
Finally, at 5pm we got an email from Janet with all of the NYC office’s request. The 3 of us read the email and were shocked, it seemed like a full day’s worth of work for both Anne and I — and our days were supposed to end at 6pm!
Gonzalo turned to us and said “don’t worry, let me chat with Janet and see if we can get the work reduced or have you start on a different way, with the work sent over much earlier in the day.” Anne and I were freaking out.
Gonzalo messaged Janet for them both to jump on a quick call in private. After speaking together, Gonzalo came out one of the meeting rooms and came back towards us.
Before he could say anything, his phone started ringing. “Sorry I need to take this, it’s Mrs X.”
After chatting to Mrs X in private for just what felt like 2 minutes, Gonzalo returned.
“I’m sorry guys, we’re going to have to do this. I’ll stay with you until you’re done.”
Anne and I immediately tried to convince Gonzalo to go home to his wife and kids and leave it to us, since he couldn’t help us do the work, but he wasn’t having it. We were going to stick it out together.
Anne and I had our eyes glued to our screens for the next few hours. We worked at a frantic pace.
We finished around 11:30pm.
As it’s been a few years, I can’t remember where I heard this (it definitely wasn’t from Gonzalo), but that conversation with Mrs X was along these lines:
“Your team said they were going to help the NYC team right?
Well then, you better do it.”
Evidently, Janet had complained pretty efficiently.
Although I didn’t know the details of that conversation at the time, I knew enough about that night to start feeling some resentment about the situation Anne and I were in.