What I learned during the first month with the George team: here’s my verdict.

When I told my friends that I would be working in a bank, they looked at me in a way they never did. “A bank?”, they asked, as if I was joking. “Aren’t you a linguist?” Indeed, I am, but that doesn’t mean that I must lean over books for the rest of my life. Yet, the banking industry was new to me, and I was afraid I won’t do a good job.

You will be very comfortable,” the recruiter said.

No worries, you won’t reinvent the wheel,” the recruiter said.

Little did I know that he was so wrong and yet this is something great.

This blog article is about what I’ve learned in my first four weeks with the George Team as a copywriter, how it changed my view on banks, and why passion for what you do will always make up for what you don’t know yet.

Day 1 – I’m off to New Adventures.

So, I am sitting here in my suit waiting for somebody to pick me up from the entrance hall. During the pandemic, we all had so much time to think about ourselves, our goals in life, what we want and especially: what we do not want. I didn’t want to do a job anymore that drained me or made me feel bad in any way. And I hoped to get a nice boss or at least a pleasant one. And suddenly, there are these two “dudes” walking towards me and eventually introduce themselves as my boss and one colleague from another team. Even though I saw my supervisor via webcam before and thought he’d be a cool person, I didn’t expect him to be that… relaxed. He reminded me a bit of Marc Jacobs from an interview in a fashion magazine describing how he got his inspiration for his new F/W 2021 collection.

While walking me upstairs, they ask me how I felt and about my itinerary and then take me to “my” desk (it’s not really mine as we have this share-desk policy, but I consider it to be mine for at least the first few weeks). As I arrive, I discover real nice welcome gifts and am introduced to my new colleagues that perfectly represent the very core of the George Team: diversity & creativity.

As we introduce ourselves, I find out that one colleague is a historian, the next one is a wine marketeer and the third one is a cineaste. “What the heck…” thinks the linguist part in me, “Wow, that’s awesome!” thinks the human part in me. I’m very excited about how this mix of people with completely different backgrounds will work. And a bit worried, to be honest.

What follows next is standard procedure: setting up of work devices, introduction to the teams I will be working with, having lunch together and an introduction to the tools I will be using. My feeling at the end of the day? Exhaustion, but in a good way.

Welcome Desk
My desk that was full of “welcome”-gifts (Photo: Samira El-Shamy)

 

Week 1 – Words do Come Easy.

“You cannot put that word here, put it at the end of the sentence”.

“We should add a question mark, so it is clear to the user. Also, grammar requires it”.

“Are you sure you want to say it like that? It could be confusing to the reader”.

These were only some bits of conversations we had during my first week, and for sure these were not the last convos of that kind. As I am a language enthusiast, this is really thrilling to me, like: finally. somebody. who. cares. about. correct. language. And this coming from non-linguists!!!

As a copywriter, you must think about what you want to say more than once, you rather think about it a hundred times. You want the text to be perfect without it being too perfect. And of course, you want to write in a flawless manner, meaning: no linguistic mistakes.

What sounds like hell to many is heaven to me. And though it sounds like we were a book club discussing Mark Twain’s works that day, it is simply part of our job: Making online banking as simple as possible and, in our case, making online banking as understandable as possible. Do we want the user to be confused? No. Do we want the user to be insecure? No. Do we want the user to enjoy online banking? Yep. “Remember, Samira, we are always friendly and as clear as possible”. But what sounds so simple in theory is not simple at all in practice, especially when you are limited to a certain number of characters.

“How shall I write a sentence in one line without writing too technically and yet as clearly as possible?” was only one of a thousand thoughts I had that week. My colleagues, however, were really supportive and told me “Don’t worry, practice makes perfect. We’ve all been there; it takes time to get into this topic.” The fact that there were people that embrace the process of learning and support your personal growth more than the actual outcome made me rethink work ethics I experienced in the past.

On Friday after my first week, I went home with a rather suspicious feeling. “If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true” is something I tell myself every time I have this gut feeling. “Give it another two weeks” I told myself.

 

Pingpong TableMany offices provide pingpong tables, but this is the first time that I actually see people playing. (Photo: Samira El-Shamy)

 

Month 1 – Your Past Doesn’t Define Your Future.

During an introduction session with Isabella Frey, Chief Product Officer who is working hard so that George is as amazing as he is, she  said that we should be brave and “go for it”. If we had good ideas, we should talk about them, and I had the feeling that she really meant it. And while looking at her slides, thinking she must have studied IT or something similar, I do a quick online search and found out that she majored in economics. Interesting.

How is it possible to find so many brilliant and passionate people outside of your typical FinTech bubble? It’s because they are looking for human beings, bringing different backgrounds and experiences with them. When recruiting, the main requirement here is not to get “someone who studied this or that and will devote oneself to work no matter the sacrifice”. What people ask for when filling an open position clearly is “who can be an enrichment to the team and team effort so we can all grow and perform at our best together?”

It’s a beautiful thought. The George Team really sees an opportunity in diversity.

 

OffsiteGeorge copywriters at the offsite, where we discussed new ideas while wandering through vineyards. (Photo: Dag Zimen)

 

Trust is something you get from the George Team from day one. And you get it for free.

These four weeks here with the George Team completely changed my view on banking, on people who work for banks, and – especially – on work in general. I learned that at work, you can fully be yourself and still be a great employee. That you can come from a completely different field and bring in your knowledge and experience and that this mere fact can be the secret sauce.

Bernd Spalt, CEO of Erste Group, said something that stuck with me when I attended the Welcome Event “Sparkle@Erste” a few days ago.

He talked about Covid being tough for all of us and that since banks are part of the critical infrastructure, we have to give our best, so our customers have access to their money. I have never perceived it that way but of course, it’s true. And with this in mind, I know that my work, namely writing texts for end-users so special that they really enjoy online banking, is as important as the work of the product owners who push their projects so the next features can be rolled out, or of the designers who make George so georgeous, or anyone in the George Team doing their job for the users.

What amazes me the most is the positive vibes I feel every day I come into the office. I really feel that people see the George Team as a real “team” and that’s awesome!

I would love to close this article with a line of a quite popular song now:

“Eh-eh-aye, I’m on vacation

every single day,

’cause I love my occupation”.

George Party
George Labs Team at the George Party (Photo: Tamara Berger-Feichter)

Samira El-Shamy

Samira El-Shamy

Hi, I'm a multilingual word-juggler (aka copywriter & content creator) at George Labs, sports enthusiast & food lover who adores astronomy.
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