I really didn’t anticipate a banana would lead to all this.
It was the day before the assessment centre for a company called The Value Engineers. As all TVE grads know, the assessment centre is an exhilarating and tiring day of trials, tribulations, and trying to remember everyone’s name. I was nervous and running through my presentation in my head. It was making sense, but something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t unique enough. It didn’t stand out. It was then I spotted a neglected banana in the fruit bowl, and realised the perfect prop was staring at me.
Without wanting to give too much away about the assessment centre (lest aspiring TVErs be reading!) the banana generated some bemused looks in my presentation and, for better or for worse, helped me stand out. The phone call that I was one of the lucky few to secure a graduate place cast a wave of relief over me. My fruit-based risk had paid off.
That phone call set me off on an adventure; now a five year long adventure. The Value Engineers is a unique company; unique in that once you are in, you are part of a group of people forever bound by a collective experience of Wendover House, chart 32B and gut-wrenching Christmas conference initiations (the less we talk about my role in a One Direction tribute act, the better). This culture is welcoming and it is strong; it has picked me up when I’ve been down and lifted me higher than I could ever have thought in such a short time at work. It has also migrated seamlessly from the green pastures of Beaconsfield to the heady nirvana of Soho; long may it continue.
The past five years have taken me around the world and into some bizarre scenarios. I’ve drunk tea listening to a dog owner in New Jersey talk passionately about the organic diet of her beloved puppy, Louis Vuitton (obviously); I’ve toasted project successes with clients at 2am in the middle of a Stockholm nightclub; I’ve found myself in the middle of a Cairo high rise apartment block debating the next great cheese product. Living and working in New York for a few months with the US team was certainly a high point; between the steak dinners and Trump hand-wringing (this was 2016 after all) I learnt more about endoscopes than any 24 year old really needed to know.
I have also learned an incredible amount about the world of marketing and brands. We live in immensely disruptive times, and it is a great privilege to work alongside colleagues and with clients who see this disruption and take it head on, creating new and inventive solutions to the biggest challenges facing industry; be it the digital uprising changing the face of our high street, the environmental wake-up call changing what products we buy and why, or the food trends influencing what we put in our bodies. These challenges are big and difficult, and working at the coal-face with brands that are tackling them has been exhilarating.
So now, I’m a Senior Consultant. Reflecting on the past five years and where it has got me, I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m thankful for a lot. I’m thankful to my colleagues who continue to teach and challenge my thinking at every turn, I’m thankful to the clients I’ve worked with for teaching me about marketing and business, as well as enduring me pestering them for restaurant recommendations, and to my Directors, who took a chance five years ago on a curly haired keen bean who wouldn’t stop talking about what he cooked that evening for dinner.
Oh and thanks to that banana. That banana did good.