When I walked through the revolving doors of New Century House (the old Co-op building) in 2004, I never imagined I’d be working for Co-op Digital 16 years later. I'd been a business journalist for 4 years so leaving to work for a big organisation like Co-op was a massive change. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
But one thing was clear in my mind. I wanted to work for a business that puts people before profit. And Co-op was it. I knew Co-op was a leader in many areas even then, supporting communities, fair trade and championing sustainability. As I moved further into my 20s these things mattered more to me. I wanted to work for an ethical business that cared about the world on its doorstep and beyond.
A creative environment
I started as a writer in the Internal Communications team and was promoted to communications manager within six months. We were given so much creative freedom to change how we communicated with colleagues. And I’m proud to say I was the first editor of the then Co-op-wide colleague magazine, ‘Us’ which won an Award of Excellence at the British Association of Communicators in Business (CiB) awards.
Life as a freelancer
I left Co-op in 2006, relocating to Cornwall for a life of surfing and freelance journalism. One of my main clients became Plymouth and South West Co-operative thanks to my experience of working for the largest co-operative in the UK. Same values, different co-operative. But the life of a freelancer, now with two small children to look after, was tough at times. I longed to work as part of a team again.
Back to being Co-op
In the blink of an eye, I was back up North wondering whether to apply for the same job I’d left a decade before. My mind was made up when I realised my manager would be the same person I’d said goodbye to as a fresh-faced twentysomething. He was, and still is, an inspiration and one of the kindest, most supportive people I know.
I was able to bring so much more experience to the role, leading the communications for the first ever Co-op-wide colleague awards and creating the first ever blog for colleagues. But my head had been turned by Co-op Digital’s ‘agile’ ways of working. And by a relatively new discipline called ‘content design’.
Switch to digital
After attending Co-op Digital’s free Agile Masterclass, and shadowing a content designer for a day, I was hooked. I applied for a job and was elated when I got it. Content (and communication) should never be an afterthought. Throughout my career, I’d always put the needs of the audience first. Co-op Digital, and the user-centered design approach they live by, does that too. I’d finally found my place.
It’s undoubtedly the most supportive place I’ve ever worked – a community within a community where co-operation is more than just a word. Every day I feel lucky to work with some of the most talented, passionate, and creative people in the industry. I’ve learned more in 18 months than I have in the last 10 years.
For anyone who is interested in switching to a career in digital, I’ll be passing on that knowledge at Manchester Digital’s ‘Switch to Digital’ careers event on 6 October.