Val, 24, community manager, Chaordix

valerie oosterbaan chaordix

I was introduced to Val by Charlotte; the two of them met on a work project and became friends, and honestly it would be hard to dislike either of them. A recent London transplant by way of Canada, Val is easygoing, bubbly and, most pleasantly for me, super interested in her job! Which is, as you’ll read below, not a community manager role like the ones I’m used to (as in, someone who manages social media for a corporate account), so go ahead and read it!

What’s your job, exactly? My job title is community manager. I work for a crowdsourcing company called Chaordix. Clients come to us if they’re looking for insider feedback from large groups of people. It could be employees, consumers of their product, customers, stakeholders in their company. Traditionally, they would go and do focus groups (20 people sitting in a room), but what we offer is the ability to do that online, so we use communities which are online platforms where everybody can log in and have a user profile. There’s a variety of discussions or activities that are developed by our research team with very clear objectives of what the client wants to achieve. We work with a very large toy company and we run an online platform for them that’s about 200K people, and it’s all fans of their products, so they can submit new ideas for what they want to see become products. People vote and then they end up being developed to market! So it’s a way to easily reach out to a large group of people, get feedback and engage that group. 

Is it always fans who join these communities, or do you get angry people? It depends! We do a lot of brand activation-innovation community, so these will be fans of the product. They’ll give honest feedback on the services they’re receiving, or the products they’re using, in order to help improve them. We also do employee community, so people can have a say in their company and the direction it’s taking. Some of our communities don’t know who the client is, so we use online recruiters for that.

What does your community manager role entail? When we start working with a client, we help them define very clear objectives of what they want to achieve in an 8-10 weeks period. It could also be an ongoing community. I work with our Client Services Directors, who are in charge of our client relation and the overall strategy of the community. We are working with a research team, to make sure that the programs we are running are going to meet the objectives. On a day to day basis, I work not only with the clients, making sure they’re happy and getting the insight they’re looking for, but also with the communities. We have community moderators, who are in the community and who know what the objectives are, who ask questions to try to get that response. If people say ‘I like the colour blue’, we have to ask ‘Why do you like the colour blue? Does it make you feel something? Do you like the way that it looks?’ We try to get deeper into that for more interesting insight.

How did that come about? We’re a start-up company and our head office is in Calgary, Canada. When I started, right after University, about 2 ½ years ago, we were about 20 employees and now we’re about 50. I recently moved to London because I was working on a lot of our European accounts from Canada, which was difficult because of the time difference. I moved over with one of our client engagement directors to start an office over here, where we’re currently 4. It’s a pretty unique opportunity and now we’re able to interact with our clients within the same time zone. It’s a better experience for them, and it helps making the program more successful.

What did you study? At University I studied business, and majored in marketing. I did three internships at very traditional ad agencies and thought I’d end up doing that. I ended up being put in touch through a family friend with the CMO of Chaordix. I started with a 3 months contract, ended up really liking it and I’ve been there ever since.

I think it’s very interesting to join a start-up from the beginning and seeing it grow. I don’t have tons of experience at larger companies, but what I really like is that everyday, we’re inventing new processes and having a huge impact on the overall success of the company. Being able to really grow just out of University means I’ve got a lot of experience compared to my friends who are at larger companies in entry-level roles.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a baker for a long time, but I do that as more of a hobby now. When I was deciding what to take at University, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I’m interested in psychology but my parents encouraged me to try business. I ended up really loving the marketing aspect! What I’m doing now is kind of the psychology behind marketing. Why do people buy a product? What do they find interesting about a company? It’s the insight and the feedback that I find interesting about why people do what they do, and tie that back to marketing.

Did you ever have a mentor? I’ve never had a traditional mentor, but at the company that I work for, there are a lot of very strong women who run the company. To be surrounded by these inspiring women has been very motivating for me.

What’s your work schedule? At a start-up, it’s quite often long hours, just because there’s less people. Here, my typical day would be 9-7, and then later nights. Since we have our main office in Calgary, we have to schedule internal meetings even with the time difference.

What do you wear to work? It’s very casual, you can pretty much wear whatever you want, like leggings and a top. The only time where we have to be conscious about what we’re wearing is if we’re in client meetings.

Who should I speak to next? My friend Salima who works at a start-up accelerator (Ed. note: coming soon!).