I was privileged to be recommended by PHD’s President of EMEA, Hilary Jefferies, to represent PHD on a 2 week course in London hosted by Google.  Squared Guru is a series of fully immersive courses run by Google with the aim to ‘Empower todays and tomorrows leader’s to drive the industry (r) evolution’.

So I found myself sat in a brightly decorated room off Goodge St on a Monday morning with 18 other media agency, creative agency and client side professionals completely unaware of what to expect (and hoping it wouldn’t be 2 weeks of sales push from Google!).  Everyone had given up 2 weeks in the office and so the hopes and expectations were high and we were not disappointed.   Google created an interesting, and energising schedule of speakers, tasks and workshops that both challenged and inspired.

We were hosted by 3 brilliant mentors, Daniel Solomon’s, Natasha Merrington and Jen Hodgins and kicked off with two ’foundation days’ to set us up for the rest of the course.  The foundation days challenged our teamwork and leadership skills and made us all take a step back and question our default habits and roles.   Team building tasks forced quick and relationships between teams as the 18 of us were set off to work with a charity client in South London with a 12 hour turnaround on a brief.

Forcing 18 people who are used to leading and directing on a day to day basis to work together at speed and intensity was challenging and exhausting but taught us all a lot about how we interact with others and new ways to get to results.   Most interesting was the enforced periods of acting as ‘the observer’.  I was first up in my team and for 5 hours had to follow the team, observe and take notes with any contribution from myself banned.  I found it incredibly challenging but very insightful and I learnt so much about how much you can take in if you sit back and listen.

The rest of the course was a series of inspiring speakers, workshops and two more team based projects.   One speaker that stood out for me was Sam Conniff, Chief Purpose Officer (!) at a Youth Marketing agency called Livity. Livity describe themselves as a ‘more than profit’ agency who only taken on client briefs that have an element of social purpose and who have mentored and supported hundreds of young people in both London and South Africa.  He shared with us compelling empirical evidence that companies with a sense of social purpose outperform those who are solely profit focused this left us all determined to bring more purpose and meaning to our day to day working lives.

A particularly interesting workshop was with an ex PHD-er John Willshire of Smithery, a Strategic Design Company.   John taught us new brainstorming and idea generation techniques centred around the use of playing cards.   With these tools we worked in teams to pitch, with a 24 hour turn around, a brand new digital based company to our mentors and peers.  The task incited incredible passion and competitiveness and our team all temporarily planned to quit our jobs and make our idea a reality!

Workshops around programmatic, audience targeting and insights led to lots of debate, discussion and set us up for our final project – creating a digital strategy for either De Beers Diamonds or Shell Motorsport.

All in all a fantastic 2 weeks which allowed the time and headspace for personal development with reflection.  We ended with a graduation ceremony and a celebration in The Hospital Club.

I came back to Dublin with renewed energy and focus.

Gemma Teeling

Head of Client Service | PHD Ireland