Holiday lessons from wild and dangerous animals

By: Nick Dwyer

There’s a chill in the air and our streets are congested with merry partygoers and delivery vans. Holiday season is upon us in Seattle, yet just a couple weeks ago I found myself in the antithesis of a PNW December. I was in the middle of an endless savannah beneath a blue sky, everything baked by the scorching sun.

I was on safari with my wife in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. We came to see and photograph amazing wildlife, but walked away with lessons to take into the holiday season.


1. Recharge

I learned that most of the time, wild animals are lazy. But tracking down a gazelle takes lots of effort, so they need to rest up. Life gets busy in the holidays, with demanding social schedules, travel, and end-of-year work deadlines. Make sure you have enough energy to hunt down the gazelles in your life by taking some time to yourself.


2. Coexist and connect

When you watch Nat Geo specials, it seems like wild animals are always at war with each other. So I was surprised by the intermingling of many animals on the Serengeti. It was sometimes hard to capture a photo with only one species, as seen above. I’m not suggesting you befriend wolves, but rather embrace the diversity of the human experience. Help debunk ‘the war on Christmas’ by accepting that others celebrate the holidays differently. Or better yet, volunteer for strangers less fortunate than you.


3. Simplify

If there is one thing that wild animals can teach us, it’s probably that you don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. Donate old clothes and toys to those who need it more. Simplify your gift giving, or give experiences rather than things. Less time shopping for holiday gifts means less holiday stress.


4. Be grateful

This is a python and an African hare. I didn’t travel to the other side of the world to see a snake eat a bunny, but this was a very rare encounter to witness. It was the one thing our guide had never seen before. We were lucky to see it, but didn’t recognize it at the time. Life is like that sometimes. The holidays are a good time to recognize the flukiness of life and be grateful for friends and family.

My long, life-changing vacation reminds me to be grateful for paid time off. As I reflect on my trip and impeding holidays, I recall one of the sayings here at 2A: “Great work requires being well.” I feel lucky to work at a place that didn’t just tolerate my big trip, but fully encouraged it. As I look forward to the new year, I’m thankful for 2A and all the lessons I learned here in 2017. Here’s to unearthing more lessons and delivering great work in 2018.


2A.consulting now at full jazz

By: Katy Nally & Evan Aeschlimann

2A is growing up. You’ll find indications of our growth everywhere—new employees, office space and clients. Now our most public calling card, our website, has caught up with our latest growth spurt. If you haven’t perused 2a.consulting lately, check it out! We launched our redesigned site just in time to show off at the Inc. 5000 gala.

Our new website is a fresh version of the same great 2A look and feel. In other words, what once had only one level of jazz, now has a solid two. It incorporates more imagery, more projects and has a more intuitive interface.

While our bread and butter is building deliverables like websites for clients, creating our own site was a new challenge for us. The process made us take stock of the voice we use and the tone we set. In the end, our goal was to build a site that captured 2A’s personality, and maintained clear functionality to easily view and access content.

More storytelling. As a nod to our tagline, we drew inspiration from story’s oldest friend—the fire. Storytelling is rooted in a tradition of people telling tales while gathered around a fire. Throughout the 2A site you’ll find glimpses of fire imagery setting an atmosphere that’s ripe for storytelling.

Putting 2A’s web development team to work, we restructured the site to better showcase our client work. Some of our favorite projects—like our work for Power BI Embedded and Azure Cosmos DB—got their own pages with more deliverables on display.

Our animations got their own home as well. Creating animations is a relatively new practice for 2A that we’ve spent the past year building out. Now our best examples are ready to start mesmerizing viewers.

More personality. This website redesign was our chance to reintroduce ourselves to the world—so we got a little more personal. Each bio now features a few tell-all facts about our team you probably never knew, like favorite marketing buzzwords or famous doppelgangers.

We also reinvented how we talk about 2A. In a less-is-more fashion, we created an animated gif for the homepage to introduce our three main offerings. And on our Meet and Greet page, our “Words we work by” are now front and center, painting a picture of the kind of culture we’re building at 2A. This section gave us a chance to spell out our values and share some of the principles that make our teamwork possible.

On every page, you’ll find links to our blogs and social media pages, injecting more voice and personality throughout the site. See what’s new at 2a.consulting and let us know what you think!


Gracias totales

By: Renato Agrella

Entering the final months of the year always makes us look back at what we have accomplished as a company. Various KPIs can measure our achievements, but they don’t illustrate the less quantifiable reasons for our success. With Thanksgiving approaching, 2A wanted to give a collective thanks to our families, colleagues and clients for being a pivotal part of our growth this year.

We are thankful for our families and their love and support. Throughout 2017, our families visited our office and attended company events—parents, significant others, children and siblings brought their enthusiasm and goodness to our team. Case in point, over the summer we welcomed family members at our surprise baby shower for 2A partner Abby Breckenridge. Our families’ unconditional support usually takes place behind the scenes, but these glimpses remind us that they also help us thrive professionally.

We are thankful for our colleagues and their focus on teamwork. We are lucky that 2A is home to a wonderful group of creative strategists who know how to work hard, but also have fun. A perfect example is how everyone rallied for our AW Shucks Party, creating a custom, party-themed animation, homemade spicy pickled carrots, elegant invitations and hilarious wayfinding signage, even during a very busy season. Thank you to the entire 2A team for always bringing your A-game.

We are thankful for our clients and their continued trust in the 2A team. 2017 has been a year flush with new clients, in part because existing clients spread the good word about 2A. So thank you! We know our deliverables and services are our best sales tools and look forward to creating more great work together.

We have so much to be thankful for this year, in large part because of our families, colleagues and clients. Here’s to their continued support, teamwork and trust to propel 2A into 2018.


Reaching for hire ground at UW Foster

By: Shvéta Ahuja

The average person spends about 23% of their time working. At 2A we endeavor to make every minute of that 23% something to look forward to!

We take pride in the culture we’ve built. We believe that our secret sauce comes from our people who’ve been carefully chosen not only for their skills, but also for the way they work with others. These people have a knack for building strong partnerships with clients and fellow colleagues, resulting in better work.

2A has strong ties to the University of Washington. It was started by alumni from the Foster School of Business, and many other 2A team members have graduated from UW. So, it comes as no surprise that we go back to Foster each year to recruit MBAs for our growing team. Foster prepares its MBA students with the smarts needed to succeed as a 2A consultant, and cultivates a strong team spirit.

We hosted (what we like to call) a strategic mingling session on campus last week with our traditional 2A spread of oysters from Taylor Shellfish and bubbles. The session gave students an idea of a day in the life of a 2A consultant and covered aspects of what makes marketing consulting at 2A unique.

Our focus was to create a comfortable environment where students aren’t subjected to a dreary presentation, or starved for choice with stale sandwiches, or scrambling to get noticed. At 2A we take the time to get to know the audience. We work off insights, best practices, lessons learned and we’re not afraid to break out of the mold.

We want to take the stress out of networking, and make it easier for us to find consultants who would fit into our culture. So, if you’re a Foster MBA, graduating soon, and you missed the happy hour on campus, drop us an email at thiscouldbeme@2A.consulting, tell us about your favorite Seattle brand in 50 words or less and we’ll take you to coffee.

We want to get to know you, and hear your story. After all, you could be the 2A secret sauce that will keep our clients coming back for more!


We’re emotional for our motion designer, Aaron Wendel

By: Katy Nally

It’s one thing to illustrate something, it’s quite another to bring it to life. That’s the tricky part of storytelling, and it’s why we love Aaron, our motion designer. He literally brings our clients’ stories to life through animation.

While creating an animation is a full team undertaking at 2A, Aaron brings the unexpected playfulness that make them so engaging for viewers. Not only is he an all-in-one illustrator plus animator, he’s also a natural marketer. He’s an expert at conveying technical concepts through a compelling visual narrative in a way that’s easy to understand.

His illustrations capture the heart of the story
Aaron portrays the world around him through sketches. His notebook is full of fluid line drawings in pencil, depicting everything from food trucks to floating heads. His keen sense of his surroundings keeps our designs fresh and our images current.

Aaron refined his illustration talents at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he received his BFA. He has screened his work—Dwellings and Bric-a-brac to name a few—in various galleries and festivals, including the Ann Arbor Film Festival, New York City’s Animation Block Party and the Northwest Film Forum.

He’s got the right flow for animations
While animation effortlessly tells the story, Aaron’s process to bring images to life is pretty labor-intensive. Motion designing—the final phase in creating animations—involves Aaron adding motion to illustrations on one screen, while viewing a giant sequencing chart on the other, to get the story just right. But he makes it look easy.

Aaron knows how to conjure emotion and entertain the viewer by balancing the right amounts of story and flow. How many motion designers can make viewers swoon for oysters? In a 25-second loop, Aaron merged the creative genius of The Big Lebowski, Rube Goldberg and a Victorian era favorite, the zoopraxioscope. A nautical Pacific Northwest scene was the perfect setting for his animation that gave some flare to our Aw Shucks Party.

He seizes marketing challenges
Aaron knows the value of an engaged audience. When creating an animation to achieve a marketing goal, he never loses sight of the main message, and develops visual concepts to make it pop. His storytelling abilities go beyond illustrations and motion design: Aaron has a way with words and helps craft scripts to elevate clients’ messaging. Most of the animations 2A produces involve highly technical subject matter (like this one about Azure Cosmos DB), which Aaron helps communicate smoothly and with personality.

We’re pretty emotional about Aaron and his motion designs. We’ll let him tug at our heartstrings any day. Got a story you need brought to life through animation? Send us an email and let’s talk.


Mastering effective communication, one self at a time

By: Kelly Schermer

While storytelling is a form of communication, it turns out that communication is so much more than telling a good story. A few weeks ago, Anya Jepsen, Executive Coach Extraordinaire, conducted a companywide training for 2A on the topic of effective communication.

We talked about how self-mastery practices can make us more effective communicators—at work, at home, even in our own heads. Essentially, self-mastery is the art of thinking about how our brains are thinking before we communicate. Here are three heavily paraphrased theories I’ve started using as mantras to try to improve my communication:

1. It’s only failure if you don’t learn from it
According to Carol Dweck Ph.D., there are two types of mindsets. People with a fixed mindset think they are born with a set amount of intelligence, athletic ability, musical aptitude, etc. People with a growth mindset believe they are born learners capable of improvement. An organization’s culture can act like a mindset. We can either judge one another for having failed or we can view failures as opportunities to learn and grow. By shifting our focus off the event’s failure (or success) and onto the process and effort that leads to improvement, we create a safe place that nurtures experimentation, creativity and growth.

2. You don’t have to go where your ladder is leading you
Our brains constantly turn selective observations about other people into assumptions and beliefs which shape our actions toward them. This subconscious process was named the ladder of inference by Chris Argyris. Depending on which observations our brains select and the meaning we assign them, it’s no surprise that our ladders can lead us astray. The good news is, if we know we’re on the ladder, we can pause long enough to challenge our assumptions and change our beliefs.

3. Your brain may be trying to trick you
Cognitive biases are our tendencies to think a certain way, and they can really throw a wrench in good decision making. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cognitive biases that trip us up all the time. Anchor bias, for example, makes us overly reliant on the first piece of information we get. Imagine a car at a dealership listed for $45,000. If we let this anchor us, we may believe $42,000 is a good deal. But what if the car is actually worth $30,000? Bottom line: when we’re making important decisions, we need to be able to step back and consider what biases may be influencing us.

By no means have I mastered self-mastery, but the simple act of learning about my thought processes has emboldened me to try harder. You see, at 2A, I’m surrounded by wickedly talented colleagues. But if I want to benefit from all that smart, I need to be able to adopt a growth mindset, get off misguided ladders and check my biases at the door.

I can see there’s something better than any one of us at the intersection of all of us, and that’s where I want to be. Want to come along?


We stand with Casa Latina

By: Abby Breckenridge

It’s a dark time for immigration in this country—a country of immigrants. Between threats to Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (DACA), this week’s reinvigoration of Trump’s travel ban, and this latest announcement that the Department of Homeland Security plans to collect social media information on all immigrants, it feels like a jarring departure from the values that represent America.

And the darkness is hitting close to home for us this week. Two of our team members have family in Venezuela, which has recently been added to the travel ban. But as the ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero declared, “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”

While the country battles on a policy level, our sanctuary city is fortunate to have organizations like Casa Latina that work on a community level. The group empowers low-wage Latino immigrants to move from economic insecurity to economic prosperity and to lift their voices to act around public policy issues that affect them. We’ve been proud sponsors for years, and given today’s political climate, we’re increasing our support and are looking forward to celebrating their accomplishments at the upcoming gala.

Through organizations like Casa Latina, we can make incremental change against a monolithic policy. We can help the US regain its footing and to borrow a line from Dan Rather, “retain its standing in the world.”


Tequeños unwrapped: how we built the Bululú brand

By: Katy Nally

It’s hard to turn down a tequeño. The combination of gooey queso blanco inside, and fried pastry dough outside, make these Venezuelan snacks pretty irresistible. But their unforgettable flavor is just the beginning. In crafting the brand for a local tequeños company, we learned the full story behind this crispy finger food—one steeped in patriotism, parties and culinary prowess.

Cristina Clemente asked 2A to help tell the story of her tequeños company—Bululú—from the ground up. Marketing a company that makes food is quite different than our typical B2B projects for mostly tech industry clients. But at 2A, we know the value of expanding our reach and building new areas of expertise. Plus, this was our chance to think tropical, and use words like fried, deliciousness, and party people.

Our task was to create a brand for Bululú that was as mouthwatering as its tequeños, and paid homage to their heritage. 2A worked with Cristina to create a company name, tagline, logo, and a soon-to-launch website. This new identity will help Bululú expand its customer base (which now includes Azteca in Bellevue!) and boost awareness about its product.

Tequeños aren’t your average snack—at least not in the US. So we wanted to create a brand that not only introduced consumers to tequeños, but also conveyed their full story, beyond their deliciousness. We homed in on three aspects as tequeños’ strongest selling points.

They’re a homegrown Venezuelan tradition

  • In crafting a name for the company, we landed on a word that’s distinctly Venezuelan. Keeping the word in Spanish signals to customers the South American origin of tequeños.
  • For the company logo we chose a tropical shade of red that’s vibrant, fun, and reminiscent of the Cora Cora bird that roams Venezuelan beaches.

They have a knack for bringing people together

  • In Venezuela, people tend to congregate around a plate full of flaky tequeños at gatherings of any kind. We wanted to bring this fun, party association of tequeños front and center. What better way to do that than with the word: Bululú. It not only rolls off the tongue, but it’s also slang in Venezuelan for a loud, raucous crowd of people. It’s the place where you’d encounter some tequeños.
  • We brought this party element into the visual design of Bululú and created some tequeño illustrations that cascade like confetti.

They’re fried, in the best way possible

  • When did frying things become so taboo? We wanted to own the fried part of tequeños and not shy away from what makes them so delicious. We elevated the word fried, including it in the tagline: proud-fried party bites.
  • We used the word Bululú as the basis for the new logo, and used a font that emulates the wrapped, fried crust of a tequeño.

The Bululú website will launch later this year, so stay tuned for the full reveal!


Katy Nally – we’re all abuzz

By: Scott Knackstedt

Katy loves to make things grow. Her community pea-patch is chock-full of tomatoes, beans and berries. An avid apiarist, she’s worked hard to keep the bees that zip above the groundcover – and pollinate her crops – happy. In addition to her squash and sunflowers, Katy and her cheery, can-do attitude have been key to growing our storytelling practice here at 2A. A Connecticut native with green thumbs and a journalist’s eyes, she has jumped feet-first into delivering exceptional work for clients – and making our community better along the way.

She’s got the write stuff

We love words at 2A, and bringing someone with Katy’s penchant for wordsmithing onto the team was a no-brainer. She has worked as a feature reporter, a freelance writer, and a communications associate, penning pieces for newspapers, magazines, and policy briefs. At 2A she has leveraged these reporting chops toward qualitative research, asking probing questions to find nuggets of insight. She’s crafted taglines, constructed copy, and created stories for companies large and small. She relishes the challenge of keeping words intentional and we’re lucky for it.

She puts the hive first

Katy has a passion for community, and has worked with non-profits, schools, and local government to make her city a better place to live. She has helped install permaculture gardens in rural communities, promoted urban hives as the executive director of DC Honeybees, and volunteered as a bee educator at The Smithsonian. She has shown her support for Seattle Pride, participated in SIFF, and helped reduce traffic as a bike commuter. This community-first attitude translates into a collaborative and open approach to problem solving. Listening with a critical ear and not afraid to ask the tough questions, she ensures that team projects with broad stakeholders can find success, getting to the crux of the challenge and acting in everyone’s best interest.

She brings a new perspective

We appreciate the diversity of industries that our team has had exposure to, and Katy’s previous projects with urban planning, non-profits, and international development are no exception. She has studied in Paris, taught in Peru, and worked in Colombia. With her knack for language that makes sure nothing gets lost in translation, she is a natural fit for projects with global teams and cross-continent coordination.

Sowing seeds and providing pollinators have their rewards for gardening, but Katy loves it best when she can pick the fruits of her labor and cook up a tasty meal. She brings a lot to the table at 2A and we – and our clients – are lucky she’s decided to put down roots here. She may be as busy as a bee when leading projects, but seeing them grow into top-tier deliverables is, well, sweeter than honey.


Flush with growth

By: Abby Breckenridge

I’m eight months pregnant, and if there’s any life event that’ll make you pause and think about growth, it’s building a human. Combine that with last week’s announcement that we’re 686th on the Inc 5000 fastest growing US companies list and you’ve got us reeling down a path of nostalgia, reflecting on all the ways we’ve grown as a business.

When I was pregnant with my now two and a half year old, 2A was renting desks in an old house, sharing space with a talented troupe of creatives. This week, we’re finishing up our second expansion in the Broadway Building. As I headed out on my last maternity leave, Renato and I strategized how to keep our team of 10 busy, happy and productive. This time around, we’re working with a talented line-up of over 30. Our client list has more than tripled, we’ve launched an animation practice, and have a new development team.

In addition to the obvious stats, we’ve grown up in a lot of ways too. We’ve expanded our benefits package to better reflect our values, including a new parental leave policy. We believe that doing great work requires being well, and that it’s the company’s job to be part of that wellness. We spent the summer hashing through and writing down what we’ve learned over the years and launched a consultant training program. And we’ve improved our hiring process, getting clearer about what it takes to be a successful member of our team and sharpening how to find it.

I’m pretty flush in growth right now—myself, my family, the 2A team—and I am feeling grateful for it. As Mark Zuckerberg recently posted on Facebook, it’s important to take time off for new children, and I am pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back. At this rate, I’m sure it will have grown.