Over the counter: We took a coffee break and had a chat with the people behind the curtains at uppercase, who they are and why they are there. In this series the employees share their perspectives with you.
Meet Jørgen, he likes his coffee black, no milk, no sugar.
Q: How would you describe uppercase to someone new?
J: When you first get to know us we both look and act like a big family. We laugh, argue, squabble, laugh some more, and dive into most discussions head first with no personal agendas forcing themselves in-between lines. It is freeing, really, and we make sure our shoulders stay low when there is personal disagreements we need to sort out. Most likely you’ll find yourselves laughing and smiling alongside us, we are after all a bunch of crafty and jolly little elves. And so after a while you’ll come to see that we are in fact, pretty much exactly like a big family.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got involved with uppercase?
J: My initial involvement with uppercase came via our mutual involvement with a company I co-founded, called Brandpad. At the time I worked in shipping, helping digitalise key parts of the online and customer-facing side of their operation, and it was my first true inside look into an agency since I first started working in an agency myself when I was fresh out of school back in 2013.
But let me rewind and give you som quick excerpts: After high school I studied psychology (loosely) for a couple of years, while working as a bartender. Even though I partied way more than I studied, the combination was like a zoologists dream for me. I still utilise and apply most of the stuff I learned from my observations back then in my current problem solving methodology. After this I moved to Oslo and started studying marketing, finishing my Bachelor’s degree three years later with a specialisation in international business.
Sounds kinda dry? It wasn’t really, but I guess it is fair to say that it wasn’t really scratching my creative itch, and so I moved on to study graphic design for two years, as an alternative to getting a Master’s degree. Splitting my attention between these different directions always felt right, and I found a cumulative red thread to my schooling thus far; solving problems and catering to the experience of having the problem solved (as opposed to only focusing on the output). When I was done studying graphic design I felt the time was right to start working full time, and so I got my jumpstart in the industry working as a designer in a design- and communication agency, soaking up all the real world trills and chills of the industry.
One year later I felt the desire to have a go at handling the entire value chain on my own, so I moved on to setting up my own agency along with my sister, working on client projects by day while building (SaaS) companies by night. After doing that for 5'ish years I wanted to explore other possibilities, and that’s how I ended up working in shipping. Add a couple more years and now I’m here, with the fam, with high hopes for what 2021 has to offer.
Q: What’s a project you would love to work on in the future?
J: I would absolutely love to get a chance to work on a project which incorporates deep learning as a core element. Even better would be to work with this in the context of brain-machine interfaces, but that’s next next level and so if I’m to set my sights on anything at this point in time, it would be deep learning in any shape or form which I can get my hands on.
Q: What’s important to keep the team happy and motivated?
J: If the golden rule for sales is location, location, location, then I would say the equivalent for any given team is communication, communication, communication. This became an even bigger challenge in 2020, even though our digital capabilities jumped ahead a couple of years following the forced need for us to work remotely (thanks ‘rona). Unfortunately, I believe this has given us a false sense of cohesiveness, which does not happen by itself just because we’re all newfound experts on Slack or Teams. What we are missing is the informal sign-offs, eye-level nods, and business-irrelevant thumbs up or thumbs down.
Working together is in many ways a binary process; we can look at hours and time spent, calendars and processes, and optimise our team “metrics”. But happiness and motivation, although fully reliant on good communication at its core, is more quantum than binary, and so for it to grow and prosper we need to approach it by communicating on a deeply personal level.
It is easier to remedy this problem than how it sounds, really. You want to know how to keep your team members happy and motivated? Go ask them.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
J: Yikes, where do I not find inspiration? The amount of inspiration out there is endless in this day and age. Whether it is noticing a funny looking plant fighting its way towards the sun in the concrete jungle, a beautiful visual identity that truly connects with its target audience, or a documentary on ancient civilisations that we only know by myth, abandoned ruins, and a couple of broken clay jars; There is always something of value, a lesson to be learned, or an a-ha moment to be had, as long as you have an open mind and know how to look, not just where to look.
But let me give you some proper examples so it doesn’t look like I’m in a perpetual state of pretentious cloud surfing. With podcasts I find myself more often than not gravitating towards long-form conversations. Lex Fridman’s podcast is a go-to, he has access to a lot of very interesting people from all walks of life and it shows. As for fiction, fantasy and science fiction is what I pay most attention to if I’m reading books, listening to audiobooks, or watching movies. It is something about the way these genres challenge me to envision something for the first time, all the time, that I absolutely love experiencing. I highly recommend the author Adrian Tchaikovsky if I’m to give a specific example. He seems to have an innate sense of consciousness, how it emerges, and the various ways it might manifest itself in a natural (albeit fantastical) world. “Dogs of War” is great book to start with if you believe this could be of more interest to you as well.
Q: What excites you the most looking forward?
J: First of all, I’m about to become a dad, and I’m super excited about that more than anything. I’m also excited to see what the future holds for her generation, and the generations to come. Looking at all the emerging technology that we are at the cusp of embedding into our lives it seems apparent that it will change as drastically over the course of her adolescence as it did mine. The rate of advancement is ever increasing, and there is really no way to truly predict what the reality will look and feel like just 30 years from now. Most likely it will supersede our wildest imaginations, for better or for worse.
I heard someone refer to (the movie) The Matrix as the Book of Genesis for the (digital) eons to come, and I think that pretty much nails down how I feel about it; hard to fathom and impossible to predict, but oh my what a time to be alive!
Q: Who should we talk to next?
J: One of the greatest things about working at uppercase has been getting to know people that are of a younger generation than the category I belong to (I know, age is but a number yada yada). They appear warmer, wiser, more professional, and more inclusive than my generation could ever claim to have been when we went through our time as young professionals. So I suggest you talk to Marina, one of ours who has done more with her engagement than most do-it-alls I know.
We’ll be back soon with more insights into uppercase and how we work — in the meantime, dig into our previous posts here.