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A week with… Matt Collins

Hi! My name is Matt, I’m the Office Experience Manager for Backbase’s two UK offices, based in Cardiff and London. Whilst primarily located in Cardiff, I remotely manage our London site and make a bi-weekly trip there.

Firstly, what’s an Office “Experience” Manager I hear you cry?! Well, at Backbase it encompasses everything that a general Office Manager does plus any number of things that make the “Office Experience” a comfortable, efficient and enjoyable one for all that work for us. From keeping things running, ordering the necessary supplies in for the teams to do their jobs, helping with support, answering queries, fixing things and keeping things tidy, to ensuring health and safety is up to scratch, ordering catering in, arranging events, social outings, the list is endless. In essence it’s my job to ensure that everyone’s experience, everyone’s journey when at Backbase here in the UK, is a seamless, positive one! Think Mary Poppins with a Ted Baker bag and sadly no ability to click one’s fingers and make things tidy!

A little bit about me… I’m 37, born and bred here in Wales. Having lived and worked in a few cities during my career, I finally settled back at home in Wales and live just north of Cardiff with my partner Phil and our three cats (Mrs Warboys, Dame Shirley Pussy and Fizzgig!). I love spending time with friends, socialising, reading, listening to dance/electronic music, going to the cinema, eating out, and most importantly shopping(!).

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Okay, without further ado, here’s a typical week for me:

 

Monday

The big start to the week, the important things need to be in place today, and these are pretty much the basics: a clean, tidy, organised office, fully stocked with the necessities for our guys to do what they do! The “hub” of the office, the kitchen is the focal point of the entire space, meaning it needs to be stocked and ready, this ranges from ensuring that the coffee machine is prepared to cope with the morning caffeine run, fresh milk is available and morning snacks, pastries and fruit are out.It’s like feeding a family, they all come running when the pastries go out!

This is perfectly timed, for 10:15am is the R&D “stand-up”, our team is gathered in the kitchen/auditorium to be kept up to speed on developments, news and any updates relevant to what they need to be doing.

Once complete, the day settles down to the squads working and getting together individually, with a brief stint at the pool table for those needing five away from their screen to mull things over or rest their eyes. I really must learn to play the game as I’m still flummoxed when I see a reaction to a move and not quite understanding its impact!

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My Monday’s are varied, catching up with emails, forward planning, processing invoices, ordering in stock, stationery and equipment, as well as helping the team coordinate workshops and events.

I receive regular (and sometimes random) queries, such as a leaking toilet, or a bird making its home outside the office window! There are also travel arrangements to help with as I’m also the Travel Manager for the UK offices (jack of all trades!), meaning I support and advise on travel for our team meeting with clients, or trips to our other offices. Sometimes this can simply be helping someone find the most cost effective and simplest travel option, whilst also advising of the best hotels that suit someone’s needs, travel plans.

Straight from work I head to the gym (we have a discounted corporate membership at the local hotel’s fitness centre across the road, so no excuse not to go a few times a week!). I try and get in an hour and a half but within 45mins I’m starting to weaken!  

I then drive home, feed the cats, prepare a salad and cwtch (welsh word for cuddle!) with my partner and catch up on our latest TV obsession. The Walking Dead has just finished, so now it’s Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale (did I not mention i’m also a sci fi geek with a penchant for dystopian fantasy?) and a weekly dose of RuPaul’s Drag Race (not heard of it? Give it a go!)

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Tuesday

First thing’s first when I get in, get the coffee machine cleaned, up & running and topped up with beans and milk. Ensuring the fridges are stocked, the pastries and snacks are out.

Once that’s out of the way I can sit down, sip my own coffee, and get on with some emails, approve some invoices, answer some queries, and quickly check in on anything outstanding that I’m working on with my colleagues in Amsterdam’s HR and IT departments and also catch up with a few friends I have made within the company in our sister offices in Amsterdam and the US. Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to tackle some manual work, and build some furniture!

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There’s always that panic that you’ll lose your temper when bracket “A” doesn’t quite fit into bracket “B” and you throw said bracket across the office, but thankfully composure is kept and voilà, a new workstation for them to call home.

We are expanding regularly, and with new team members, comes the need for a desk to call their own. Always a fun experience putting together flat pack furniture and office chairs in a big open plan office surrounded by your team!

Along with a desk, it’s my job to ensure they have everything they need when they start at Backbase, so by working with ICT I order in the relevant laptop, the equipment, and their all important jar of Backbase M&M’s to share with the team and get acquainted (a new idea we came up with that hopefully will break the ice for our new starters!

After furniture assembly, I get the team to vote on what they would like for lunch tomorrow via HipChat.

 

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My next job is, for me, a fun one - Shopping! Firstly, we have a new arrival for one of the London team (another Backbase baby!) along with an upcoming wedding in Cardiff. The company is generous enough to contribute towards a small gift and a card for the new parents/newlyweds.

With a little bit of observation of their likes and some discussion with their close colleagues, I head on to various shops to look for inspiration and find the perfect gifts. I return to the office, satisfied with my choices. A card is co-ordinated and signed by everyone and everything is wrapped. The baby gift, safely packed away with another card is going with me to London tomorrow.

My final task before leaving for the day is to ensure the office is left as organised and stocked up as possible with the next two days being a change in location for me. With a trip to the gym down after work, I head home, where I get to treat my partner to a little gift I’ve recently picked up for him, for his “inner geek”, a Star Wars drone, as you can see, it was a good choice for a gift!

 

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Wednesday

So today I switch offices for my fortnightly visit to our London office, to keep everything there as tidy, organised and as great a Backbase “Office Experience” as possible. After an early start, I head to London, a simple 2 hour journey gets me there with ease, in which time I can get emails written, work on projects, oh and work on the all important “Project D”....... And “D” is for Deliveroo Day! A trivial thing really, but it’s a really nice feature of the Cardiff team for “humpday” and I know they look forward to the novelty of a takeaway in the office paid for by the company.

The order is placed online using our handy Deliveroo corporate account and “boom!”, fingers crossed the team will be happily tucking into a nice lunch just as I hit the city and jump on the underground to get to our sister office.

 

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I arrive at our offices in Farringdon, to be greeted warmly by the London Team, a smaller group compares to cardiff but a fun and friendly one who always make me feel like part of their team despite me not being there as often. I catch up with our helpful building manager who runs our serviced office building, checking in to see if there’s anything we need to discuss, any concerns that need addressing, and generally just to say hi! Despite only seeing each other fortnightly, we speak regularly by email and phone and she’s a great help during my absence.

I arrive at our floor to be greeted warmly by the London team, a smaller group compared to the Cardiff but a fun and friendly one who always make me feel like part of their team despite me not being there as often.

Like Cardiff, the team in London are provided with fruit, snacks, soft drinks and coffee to ensure they too are well taken care of and given the energy to do what they do! I generally get a grocery order sent to the office routinely for the larger items, or bulk items, but where possible I like to pick up fruit and anything running low whilst I’m there, myself locally in St Pauls (quickly taking in the Cathedral and the hustle and bustle of the city.

Whilst out, I check in with the Cardiff team to ensure their lunches have arrived! Once back in the office, and having stocked up the snack station, watered the plants and checked on the stationery and general upkeep of the office, I catch up generally with everyone, ensuring they have what they need, answer any queries, whether it be assisting with onboarding for a new hire that is due to start work with us soon, or some travel help, or some out of the box thinking on a solution to aid the team in what they do.

 

I try and discuss as much with the team in person whilst I’m around, it’s great having the tech to speak to everyone remotely but I do love the personal touch and ensuring that my teams know that I’m around to help with whatever they may need.

Here at Backbase we are constantly evaluating and investigating new ICT solutions, and together with our ICT department, I am upgrading the meeting rooms with Apple TV’s for easy streaming of laptop screens. With a little reconfiguration of the room and cables, the rooms are not only fully equipped, but they look seamless and professional.

Having brought a special item all the way from Cardiff, I quickly get the team to sign the new baby card and present our proud new office Dad with the gift, quite a pleasing part of my job I must admit, when they open it and find something useful and classy for their nursery, and it isn’t another set of baby socks!

After dealing with a few queries from the Cardiff team via hipchat and a general check in that everything is okay, I then get in touch with our travel agent, to help a London colleague get their recently made booking rearranged, their travel plans have been altered last minute, and the flights are now a little more complicated, and hotel stays need to be rearranged. From the office I head to my own hotel, not too far from the office. Once checked in, a quick shower and change, I’m back out the door to meet up with my best friend and soon to be Groom, to have dinner and go over some all important wedding plans, followed by some suit fittings and check to see how my speech is going (eek!).

 

Thursday

When staying away from home, I wake early, so I make use of the time and go to the hotel gym first thing to get myself set-up for the day.

I head to the office with a coffee, catch up with some of the team, answer some queries, approve some invoices, plan my next few trips to London to ensure I can fit in with any meetings or events, or personal plans, it’s nice that our work/life balance is equally important here.

Next on my list is looking at some options to improve the appearance and practicality of our London office, the walls in the meeting rooms need some whiteboards, and in addition to looking at the standard screw on the wall types, here at Backbase, we love new creative solutions that look cool, so I’m also checking out the idea of having some of the entire walls made into write-on surfaces!

Also on my agenda for today, are some initial ideas for our office summer parties, one for each location. Something fun, that will take the team away from the office and show the company’s appreciation for their work. I jot down some ideas, Google some venues in the Cardiff area, considering the size of the team and their families, and the all important weather factor!

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Cardiff’s summer party is going to be a little larger due to the size of the team so I’m currently scouting the city and surrounding areas for a venue that incorporates some nice outdoor space with the ability to bring caterers in (BBQ always a hit) and some giant board games and entertainment. Knowing the city so well, it’s not too much of a challenge and I already have two or three cool venues in mind.

With the London team, the group is smaller, and an organised outdoor party may not work well, so again, something different, yet fun needs to be thought up. Inspiration hits upon walking past one of our (pretty cool!) pieces of artwork in the office… Inspired by Mr Bond himself, I came up with the idea of getting the team on a RIB fast boat trip down the Thames, secret agent style!

I “float” the idea to a few of the team and the idea seems to be an instant winner, so go about getting some costs estimated, and the logistics of getting a bunch of people from the office to the river, and perhaps onto a restaurant for a nice summer dining experience in the city sun!

After a brief 1:1 with with my manager over in Amsterdam, just to catch up, give progress on a few projects and check in generally, I ensure the fridge and cupboards are stocked up with the sodas, beers, snacks and teas/coffee. With a final check around with the team to ensure there isn’t anything anyone needs or any last minute queries, I then pack up, bid them farewell for another week, and head back to Paddington to return home.

I take full advantage of the 2 hour trip to do some email maintenance and work on my weekly report to the Office Experience Management team, my co-office experience managers are based in Amsterdam and Atlanta in the USA, so always great to share ideas, progress catch up with my own team.

On my way back from the train station, I dash into the supermarket for some ingredients.

I don’t quite get to rest just yet, with a birthday get-together and friends coming tomorrow evening, it was my job to supply the dessert.

So a quick review of one of my fave baking books, and an hour of baking and voila! And with that, finally time to chill!

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We love working with smart, amazing people from all over the world. As we service an international client base, our people (45+ nationalities) reflect our global focus. Come as you are and blend in. You’ll feel right at home at Backbase.

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We take pride in our achievements and how we celebrate them, with a variety of parties, celebrations, team outings, game nights and office drinks. There’s also the opportunity to take our Backbase boat out for a spin.

Health & Fitness

We care about you and support a positive, active lifestyle. Free healthy lunches and fruit are provided daily. We’ll challenge your brain at work, after which you can unwind and have fun with one of our employee-initiated sports teams. Alternatively, get those muscles moving at one of the gyms on offer.

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Friday

The weekend is almost here! Friday is still a busy one, after a few days away I need to ensure everything is as it should be around the office. Following a quick stocktake of everything we have, I place an order with the supermarket for the following week.

On my list for today is some work for our new hires, we have two starting at our Cardiff Office next month. When we get some new Backbasers, they attend an Onboarding Day and some other training sessions relating to their new role. These courses are held at our Amsterdam Headquarters. In preparation for this, working alongside our Academy and HR departments, I work out what courses each new team member will be attending, and drop them an email, outlining the upcoming travel expectation, along with some recommendations of flight times that may suit, which acts as a great opener to introduce myself as the Office Manager for their new workspace, which usually opens things up nicely for any queries they may have that are office specific.

Once I have their travel preferences, I can ensure that they are sent any appropriate documentation, that their hotel is a nice one that is convenient located to the office, and also provide helpful tips for getting to and from Amsterdam, and our office - after recalling my own experience of making my way somewhere unfamiliar for work, I know how helpful this can be for our new guys!

I take some time to come up with some ideas, and conduct some research for promoting the Cardiff Office here at Backbase, both within the business world and our local community.

Following some contact recently with a charity called KeepWalesTidy.org who kindly loaned us heir equipment, the team headed out at lunchtime on a litter pick of the local area. We overlook a stunning old dock that has some amazing views, and beautiful wildlife living around it, so what better than to give back to the local area by keeping it clean.

With charities and doing good in mind, there are races, marathons and events propping up everywhere, a with a large team like ours, we have quite a few cyclists, runners and would be athletes, so with that in mind I also research potential sponsorships for such events. We are also actively helping out with a local Code Club for children to learn how to code! Perhaps there are some future Backbasers out there!

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With the office ready for the next week, it’s time to say hello to the weekend! Tonight is a birthday party, and on the weekend my partner and I are looking at new houses whilst getting our own on the market, so never a dull moment.

Overall a busy and varied week for an Office Experience Manager.

Never predictable and always challenging, fun and interesting!

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