Schuyler Milender, a Harvard University student, spent her summer working as a marketing intern for Simply Business. In this article, she shares her reflections on the experience.
Colourful lights swirled around the room, the bartender poured out drinks for thirsty Londoners, and a particularly tacky rendition of “I Will Survive” blared on the sound system. My eyes kept jumping back and forth between the sight of Parliament aglow outside my window, and the more amusing vision of 30-year-olds getting groovy on the dance floor. It was my first Saturday in London—indeed, my first Saturday outside of the U.S.—and I, a 20-year-old university student, found myself cruising down the Thames, listening to psychedelic music, and watching my new colleagues do the disco.
I didn’t realise it then (blame the overwhelming multicoloured lights?), but this night represented my first true introduction to the Simply Business culture. The many adventures, lunches, pub meets, and nights-out that have transpired since have only underscored my impression from that first night: Simply Business fosters a culture of fun, thoughtfulness, creativity, and above all, inclusion, both inside and outside of the office.
What has surprised me is not that these people can get down on the dance floor (though I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 30-year-olds still “got it”). Rather, what has surprised me is the fact that this enjoyment and camaraderie so inextricably influences the atmosphere in the office. I have to be honest: I did not expect that people working in insurance, an industry notorious for being dry and dull, would bring such passion and zest to their work. Within a couple days, though, it became obvious that my colleagues not only enjoy their jobs, but they also enjoy working with one another. Simply Business is a productive and cutting-edge business not in spite of the creative, welcoming, and laid-back vibe, but because of it.
As a university student from the U.S. who joined Simply Business for a summer internship, I particularly benefited from this dynamic culture of enthusiasm and inclusion. Not only was I personally welcomed into the Simply Business culture and made to feel at home in a country that is foreign to me, but I was also quickly included in the professional mission and day-to-day work of the business. While most of my intern friends spent their summers retrieving coffee for their bosses and stuffing envelopes, I spent mine engaging with the directors of each team, interacting with our customers, attending conferences, and participating in meetings. I was allowed—no, encouraged—to make meaningful contributions to Simply Business and to take advantage of every possible learning opportunity, whether it was attending my boss’s meeting with the Internet Advertising Bureau, or spending a day shadowing our PR Agency 3 Monkeys.
Even my projects were tailored around my interests and designed to permit true contributions to the business. When I mentioned that I was passionate about writing, for example, my boss quickly suggested that I write blog posts for our website. Within the week, I had published an entire online marketing tips series for small businesses. When I saw a colleague working on a customer analysis project, I expressed interest and curiosity. The next day, he blocked off an hour of his time to explain the project and invite me to help. And yet, this flexibility never meant isolation or a lack of engagement. Through each experience, I was supported by advice, feedback, and of course, humour. (My favourite: “I don’t know how Americans spell “organization”, but here, we spell it with an “s”…) Though I am an intern, I have been made to feel like a true member of the business.
The company name, Simply Business, is in some ways misleading. While it is true that Simply Business works to simplify the process of buying commercial insurance, there is nothing plain, dull, or simple about the office atmosphere. Set aside all of those assumptions about the insurance industry! It is not just business. Rather, it is a unique culture defined by passion and engagement, fun and enthusiasm, creativity and inclusion. It is a place where each individual (even an intern!) is made to feel like a valued colleague and respected friend—whether it is during a Monday morning meeting, or a boat cruise on a Saturday night.