After seven months of exploratory meetings and planning, last month I started my role as Creative Researcher-in-Residence. Through this year-long partnership, I'll work alongside multiple teams to reimagine the internal L&D experience, expand ideas, and produce research and stories that illuminate how WeTransfer is evolving their ecosystem of tools to further equip and inspire people and teams to thoughtfully harness the power of creativity. How did we get here? Well...
A couple weeks after getting my offer letter to graduate school last summer, I sent this email to two WeTransfer colleagues I’d collaborated with throughout 2019. In full transparency, the courage to reach out wasn't so much innate as it was necessary because of two incessant questions many of us rub up against when we decide to invest in higher education:
Who’s gonna pay for this?
How can I apply what I’m learning in school to real life?
Having been a full-time undergraduate student who also worked full-time in a totally unrelated field to make ends meet (circa 2005 - 2007), this time around - more seasoned in my career - I wanted to answer both questions with one solution. I thought to myself:
“I’m gonna conjure up a way to temporarily work within one of my favorite companies, actively putting all of this theory into practice beyond the walls of academia.”
And conjure I did. Leaning into my affinity for ideation, storytelling, and talent development, I mapped out a creative residency vision for collaborating within and across multiple teams at WeTransfer on four moving (and sometimes, interconnected) parts:
Research and analysis
Learning and talent development
Storytelling strategy and content development
For context, my jam is helping humans identify, confront, and surmount barriers hindering them from designing and living lives beyond their wildest dreams. I’m halfway through a cultural geography masters program and about to write a dissertation on the future of work. My research explores all that empowers and inhibits self and communal actualization for independent and traditionally employed creators in the world of work. Outside of school, I lead a creative studio for talent development where I toggle between social practice artist, creative researcher, and strategist. There I envision and co-create multimedia content, experiences, and products that equip creators and teams to hone their gifts, champion their stories, and execute bold ideas that shape more equitable futures.
Knowing WeTransfer’s track record for inspiring and catalyzing uninhibited creativity and creative processes, and that my insight and expertise matched directly to their served community, I pitched the residency so that I could bond theory, praxis and long term work experience within an organization that puts their money where their mouth is. And I knew we’d make Divine partners because this isn’t our first rodeo.
In 2018 we teamed up to create and produce an audiovisual experience for Tell Me About Yourself (TMAY), the book and methodology I developed to help creators accurately and artfully define themselves while merging and amplifying the arcs of their personal and professional journeys. When we rolled the experience out on WePresent in 2019, I facilitated video chats with creatives around the world and produced a series of in-person events powered by WeTransfer to bring people together offline.
Later that year, I participated in their Make it Real campaign with Squarespace; a docu-series highlighting Black women charting new territory as entrepreneurs in spite of occupational inequality.
In 2020, after our partnership plans for a multi-city TMAY R&D tour were thwarted by the global pandemic, I penned an essay for WePresent’s Literally series about astrology as a gateway to fulfilling your creative potential and spoke at the Big Ideas Salon about the ways self-intimacy expands interpersonal relationships and creative expression.
Now, several years and projects later, as we both dig deeper into our work, a residency feels like a natural next step in the progression of our relationship. Like going from dating to a more serious, ethically non-monogamous commitment. During my residency, I'll be collaborating with the learning and development, communications, and user experience research teams. My work will be a mix of supervising, analysing, and leading ethnographic research, storytelling strategy, content development, thought partnership and ideation support across some soon to be revealed internal and external initiatives.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll stick around for the journey. I’ll be documenting and sharing insights and reflections from my experience along the way. With all the moving parts of my role, we’ve got lots of ground to cover, so I’m dedicating the first series of posts to the practice of partnership and the inner workings of cross-functional team collaboration.
See you soon!