Time flies by quickly, and it has been three months since I first set foot into the Thinking Notes office. I remember that it didn’t take me too long to settle into my new surroundings due to the friendly nature of Ken and Yumi, as well as our supreme leader Choppie the Welsh Corgi. As I leave this position, I reflect upon the growth that I have experienced in my time here, as well as the challenges I have faced in this current job.
Challenge #1: Accepting Criticism and Tweaking Content
As a student, writing reports and essays was a common way for me to spend most of my time. Hence, when it came to writing content and blog articles for our clients, I was not too fussed about the research process. The main challenge of writing was tweaking the content after it had been reviewed and given feedback. Sometimes, I had to re-work whole paragraphs because they did not fit the intended style of the piece, while other times, I was required to add new pieces of information into the article. This was more evident for Mammoth Pages and longer articles(more than 3000 words). It is often disappointing to hear that your work which you spent time and effort on is not good enough or that it lacks focus. However, this is a necessary step in the creation process at Thinking Notes.
In the end, I learned that accepting constructive feedback and re-editing things that were deemed “complete” is an integral part of learning in any discipline. Looking back at work with a fresh perspective and with newly acquired knowledge can help in the refinement of the previous product. Accepting feedback from external parties is also useful as it pulls you out of your own ‘vacuum’ and provides a more balanced analysis of the situation. This was especially true of content that I produced in my first week at Thinking Notes, as I had not gained the necessary experience to produce high-quality, focused articles yet. My meta descriptions were also amateurish and haphazard(ironically I published an article about how to write meta descriptions during that time period). After a long(three hour) discussion with Best POA’s chief tutor, I had to make several changes to the meta descriptions because they were of substandard quality. [Meta descriptions play a minor role in SEO rankings, but are still somewhat important(every bit counts).]
Challenge #2: Staying Focused
As my job at Thinking Notes required a large amount of mental effort in terms of planning articles, research, understanding and learning new concepts and ideas specific to a certain field/discipline so that I could produce quality content that could rank. Writing such content required me to stay focused and concentrate for long periods of time, but that was not always the case. Sometimes I would get distracted by my phone, spend time reading wikipedia articles or watch YouTube videos when bored. After much experimenting, I have found out that spending 1 to 2 hours on the task at hand, taking breaks after each hour maximises my productivity and attention span.
Protip: In recent weeks, I found that it is better to “procrastinate” by learning skills or information related to the job during the breaks, so that one can take a “productive break”. I have learned to read Brian Dean’s SEO tips and learned Python(a programming language) while distracted, to maximise my time.
Challenge #3: Analysis and critical thinking
One of the core values that Thinking Notes aims to achieve is making the use of critical thinking and analytical skills a normal part of life. When it comes to SEO analysis, reviewing the data trends and looking at the numbers itself is not enough. One must also be aware of external factors that influence search trends such as the period in the year, cyclical market trends and the presence of local competition. Sometimes, even though the pages are ranking, there are no leads because the call-to-action is too unconvincing.
SEMRush is a great resource for SEO companies like Thinking Notes as it allows the user to see the overall growth of a client’s website. However, not everything that is represented on SEMRush is reliable. Competitor analysis is unintuitive and lacking, as the search results for competitors only appears after your keywords begin to rank. Prior to that, one has to manually search for competition in the intended niche.
In fact, one of the main reasons the company was named “Thinking Notes” was due to a perceived lack of analytical thinking in modern society, due to the rise of instant gratification and widespread influence of social media(I am paraphrasing Ken here). This extends to the smallest of details, including choices of icons on websites and placement of photographs. Members of the Thinking Notes team are always thinking about the bigger picture, and staying conscious about the needs of the client while we are at it. I struggled to get into this rhythm at the beginning because of inexperience and a unfamiliarity with such a mindset – oftentimes, I was running on autopilot – but now I am more capable of calling upon critical thinking skills consciously and analysing the processes and steps taken in projects. (Hopefully the SAF won’t brainwash me into a passive brain-dead robot)
Tips for New Employees of Thinking Notes
This article serves as a guide to any new employees who may be joining Thinking Notes in any position(designer, content creator, marketer,etc.). It is my personal collection of advice and experiences here at Thinking Notes, and I hope that future employees will be able to gain a better understanding of how Thinking Notes operates based on this information.
Culture of Thinking Notes
As Thinking Notes is a small company, it does not operate rigidly or in a strict hierarchical manner(unlike larger entities such as MNCs or the SAF). The boss, Ken, treats everyone with respect and leaves us to do our work without micromanaging. There is a common pantry for employees to use(stocked with delicious treats) and we share an office with Fortiedge, a computer security company specialising in penetration testing. The motto of the company is “Business above Technology”, which displays the company’s priorities – at the end of the day, business is about connecting with people, and technology is a useful tool in achieving that, but it is not the main focus of Thinking Notes. For more information about how life is like in Thinking Notes, check out my article about my first week in Thinking Notes.
Our office culture is pretty casual – sometimes, I take breaks to play ball with Choppie the Welsh Corgi, who is the resident mascot of Thinking Notes. Being a furball of happiness, Choppie always amuses any human who comes into contact with it. She also doubles as an alert watchdog with a good sense of hearing, barking loudly at strangers behind the door.
Many people visit the office daily – some are our clients, who are here to discuss business strategies. Others are friends and associates of Ken who would like to chill out and catch up. We get the occasional delivery guy or marketer sometimes, but more often than not, they just haven’t read the sign pasted on the front door. The sign, written by resident copywriter Vin, helps to show the strength of Thinking Notes’ Inbound Marketing strategy and how our creative strategy focuses on the model of the Buyer Journey. (Visit our guide to the buyer journey to learn more!)
Communication in Thinking Notes
Communication is a prized asset in Thinking Notes, so get ready to be active in communicating with your co-workers. I believe that most of the nitty gritty about soft skills and communication can be found in this article titled Thinking Notes: One Month In by Aaron(pronounced Ay-ay-rawn), another one of Ken’s
minions loyal followers. Communication isn’t reserved just for company employees, it also extends to clients and all humans in general. At Thinking Notes, we tend to favour growing the client’s business instead of milking them for monetary rewards. In fact, we tend to discourage the mindset of obtaining fast results and instant gratification. This is why the company has a policy of only accepting one client per niche. In simple terms, Thinking Notes would only accept one client in the business of specialty coffee for example. Any other competitors in the same niche(specialty coffee) will not be accepted due to a fundamental philosophical conflict of interests. This means that each business that signs up with Thinking Notes is ensured the utmost commitment and dedication from us.
Additionally, communicative clients are naturally rewarded due to the clarity of transmission of ideas and the increased speed of refinement. I do not advocate being a blabbermouth but being open to ideas and speaking up about possible changes and actions is a valued asset here at Thinking Notes. I am not a very vocal person myself but I still contribute to discussions and provide constructive feedback on the various operations undertaken at the company. To fully assimilate into the company, it is wise to be receptive to feedback, while producing feedback of your own.
Improvements for Thinking Notes
Is Thinking Notes a perfect working environment? No, but it comes close. The casual working space with good access to nearby eating locations makes it an optimal work environment for foodies. Besides, the pantry is stacked with drinks and food around the clock. In terms of amenities and welfare, Thinking Notes has it covered.
The workflow at Thinking Notes is relatively good, since it does not rely on bureaucratic order-giving, and all employees are well-informed of the decisions taken in projects as well as the stuff that goes on behind-the-scenes. Ken does not hide much from the employees here, so expect an honest and open work environment. In terms of direction, there appears to be a flexible deadline schedule, with the onus on staff to assign their own deadlines. While this fosters a spirit of self-discipline and personal responsibility, I find that it is better to have a strict deadline to keep to, to avoid procrastination.
Opportunities for staff to rise up the ranks are available, based on contributions and merit. As long as you prove yourself to be hardworking, intelligent and adaptable, you will be rewarded. Thinking Notes tends to be more egalitarian than most companies(as mentioned), so there is no rigid hierarchical structure, but staff respect Ken as he has proven to be an articulate speaker who is principled and friendly.
My suggestions for improvement:
1.If possible, it would be a good learning experience for staff to enroll in events such as the Google Summit or WordPress Workshops to gain more technical knowledge about the topics at hand(apart from reading HubSpot and Brian Dean’s contributions).
2.Implement stricter deadlines for important tasks.
3.Contacting other internet content creators for backlinks.
Although I have only been at Thinking Notes for the past 3 months, I have become rather fond of the office in Yishun and the team members that I have worked with. The various personalities that I have encountered on my journey are numerous and the experiences I have been through have altered my reality(a little). I am confident that these skills will be useful in navigating the SAF and the real world.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at Thinking Notes as a Digital marketing intern, and I hope to leave behind a legacy(my educational articles) that is beneficial to the development of the company. I enjoyed working alongside Ken, Yumi, Aaron and Choppie “The Savage” Welsh Corgi, and the countless days spent in front of my computer monitor typing articles, refining websites and researching competitors will be an asset that I will continue to cherish for days to come.