Ah, 2021 eh? … what a [censored].
But like I love to do every year? I poured through a year’s worth of content to remind me what actually happened for me/TDP in every month of this year, and sure, it was 2021 so most of what I saw was “in lockdown again” or “still in lockdown” [lol!] … but there were a lot of beautiful moments in amongst all o’ that [even in the “ugly” moments].
I’d love to take you on a self-indulgent scroll through the year that was in the hopes that you *too* take a lot of inspiration from the so much of our “beauty, even in the ugly” moments that have defined our 2021.
January [when we all collectively thought we’d survived the toughest year, without knowing – at all – we were about to be catapulted to Jumanji level 209. #lol].
But I’ve gotta say, the innocence of me [and all of us] in January 2021 thinking we’d all just overcome our toughest year really does speak to what I love most about human beings: the way we really do mostly gravitate towards optimism, for preservation of self [if nothing else].
What I personally loved most about January 2021? … it was the way we worked so hard to ensure that our systems and processes that we set up to ensure every TDP team member got the annual leave they so deserved after a year of 2020 f*ckery. Like, we’ve always taken annual leave. Sure. But historically? There was always something we had to keep an eye on, and sometimes? We’d even have to become heavily involved in particular things that popped up over the festive break.
Not that break. No. No, sir. We all needed that break, and we GD got it [thanks to the best systems and processes put in place by our senior management team].
Additionally? Something else happened in mid-January: we hired Dane. And honestly? What a story. What a human. What a man. What a creative. What a creative genius. How lucky we are to have turned that beautiful little “love story” into what it’s become in-house for TDP.
February was big.
We were not doing well financially, off the back of 2020 and its … toughness, but on we pressed. And true to my rogue style? I said to our Senior Management team, “I know finances aren’t amazing right now … but let’s throw 36k into the superannuation accounts of our female employees, because gender pay gaps are the pits”.
True to my senior management team? They said “yes!” [with gusto].
We announced this to our team, and we said “look. We know superannuation isn’t the sexiest subject perse, *but* … closing the gap between what women end up with in their super accounts as opposed to their male counterparts is important to us”.
We’ve seen the stats. Actually we’ve cried over them, if we’re being honest. Because it’s not fair. Yes, we [statistically speaking] take career gaps [and that’s very often because we take time off to give birth to the next-gen, y’know?] … but imagine not taking time off to create the next-gen, and missing out on having given life to the Greta’s and the Jacinda’s and the Kamala’s of the world?
Crying shame, really.
The statistics are frightening, but as of that week and on an ongoing basis to all female employees at TDP? We’ll be injecting the total sum of 36k across the superannuation accounts of all female employees at TDP HQs as part of our humble [but impactful] commitment to closing the gap.
March was both beautiful, and ugly.
March was beautiful, because we promoted our beloved Senior Social Media Strategist, Tess to Account Director [right off the back of her pregnancy announcement, which I love doing because it sends a strong message to not only our internal team but a broader community that a pregnancy announcement should never block a deserving leader for very deserved promotion].
Ugly, because after years of our son enduring horrifying bullying [both physical and verbal], we pulled him out of his [now] former school. And I almost needed to take an entire month off work: to grieve, to process, to be there for my son, to make my new full-time job a combination of homeschooling him whilst relentlessly searching for a better, significantly more neuroinclusive school.
[spoiler alert: we found a much better option].
What upset me the most is something I can’t discuss online in full, but it was the realisation that an organisational leader I had once looked up to in that former school? … was not at all the “inspiring leader” I was under the impression they were – and actually – I now realise they played a huge role in not only accepting the bullying our son endured, but in ensuring our son would remain discriminated against [and subsequently traumatised] should he remain within the school setting.
We pulled him [and our daughter] out of that school, and we have never looked back.
Our son was grade skipped up an entire year level [from grade 4 to grade 5] after a week of assessment at his new school, and he is thriving now. I’ll admit, it’s hard not to sit in resentment towards his former school when they failed him on almost every level.
They said he was many things, that he simply wasn’t [an antagonist who brought on the bullying because of his antagonistic Autistic profile: not true]. And then they said he wasn’t many things, that he is [a gifted learner with a formally assessed high IQ].
Learning how broken the education system was/is in March, 2020? … it nearly broke me.
April was a good month!
We promoted Sav from Social Media Strategist to Account Director, and I remember reading a post where she had described previous professional experiences of extreme micromanaging having her doubt herself and her abilities … to TDP very-much-so giving her the autonomy she not only needed, but deserved [Christ. Everyone deserves that] in order to shine in her role.
And shine she did, so we promoted-the-sh*t-out-of-that, ha!
Additionally? My little family moved to a 2 bedroom apartment in the CBD in order to gain access to the required zoned area for our children’s new school. The new school? Heaven on Earth. The 2 bedroom apartment with Dave and I in one room, and the kids sharing a bed in the other? Hell.
For a neurodiverse family like ours with a lot of sensory challenges, that 2 bedroom apartment life was something we knew we could only do short-term [hence why we rented the cheapest option possible, in order to simply get into the required school zone].
The minute we did “enough time” to make the zone, and then be able to leave the zone? We left. With our Principal’s consent [bless him!]. City girl, I simply ain’t! I need my home that we have where we have always lived with its large living areas, quiet retreat spaces, backyard, nearby creek to walk our dog, and … nature.
Sydney went into lockdown [which meant our beloved Cassie went into lockdown], and TDP’s Victorian team rallied around her: it wasn’t NSW’s first time in lockdown, but with Victorians knowing what we knew about daily case numbers etc.? We quietly knew Cassie was about to be thrown into a lockdown long haul [and we weren’t wrong], so we rallied.
We also hired Hugh [Account Director], and Georgia [Social Media Strategist], and we got to induct them into our brand new offices at our shiny new Docklands location [for like, 2 days … and then Melbourne went into lockdown. #CheersRemovalists. #lol].
As mentioned above, we went into lockdown again … and I remember knowing we were about to head into a long one. My husband calls it Autistic-pessimism, I call it Autie-realism [as it turns out? We did end up in a f*cking long lockdown – the world’s longest, actually – so, I wasn’t wrong].
I can’t describe the grief, honestly. It had nothing to do with having just leased 200k per annum offices [although that hurt, for sure] … and everything to do with the realisation that when I launched this company in October, 2014? It was never with a goal to grow a fully remote workplace. That suits many others [and kudos], but it doesn’t suit me.
It’s not what I want. It’s not how I work best [I am a genuinely creative, collaborative soul who thrives around other creatives … and dies a little inside when working fully autonomously].
The last two years [but 2021 especially] have been the loneliest and saddest I have ever felt within my business: I have had to put on the bravest face, but inside? I’m working in a way so unsuited to every hope and dream I have for my [and TDP’s] future.
July was the month were we “outed” ourselves as having what we refer to as a “secret apartment”.
Our company rents an apartment, and then donates that same apartment to an NFP that helps to accommodate victims of domestic violence [all genders: female, male and non-binary]. We’d never shared this online, because my biggest fear is virtue signalling. I see straight past it when brands do it online, and I’ve never wanted anyone to know the many BTS things TDP does to make an impact on our little pocket of the world.
… but then I was sent a video filmed by a social worker of a really beautiful human being moving into our apartment, and the truth? It really moved me. It was so surreal to literally see the impact of our apartment on that person’s face. I’ve never craved to see that, it’s quite frankly none of my business. I have always just [safely] delivered a set of keys to our NFP, and they’ve done the rest. But to see the video of someone reduced to tears after years of lying awake at night, choosing not to sleep in order to avoid the lifetime of abuse they’d been subjected to? I can’t put that into words, but I knew she was crying because she was finally about to sleep. In her own apartment. Behind x3 security doors, and with x1 full-time security guard working on site.
The social worker asked me to blur out any identifying features and share it online so that people could similarly see the impacts of our apartment, and I checked this first with a police team who specialise in family violence and once I got the approval on the final video? … we shared it online.
… and it reached 3 million people across x4 social media platforms [and then x3 global companies saw that, and donated a total of ninety one apartments, which families are still – to this day – moving into].
August [where we were “into the thick of it” with iOS14]
… but I’m not going to talk about iOS14 [or 15] here, because honestly? It’s almost all we’ve been talking about with Facebook [whom we have a direct relationship with], and each other, and our clients, and our community [we wanted to arm you with the same education we’ve received via the mentoring offered to us, courtesy of that aforementioned Facebook relationship].
iOS14 changed a lot, but it was also a really beautiful reminder that we only want to work with clients who genuinely trust that we’re an authority, and a seniority in the performance marketing space … as well as being incredibly integrity-led: they’re the ones who trusted the process, and trusted us, and are continuing to see incredible results [reported differently, sure] across the performance marketing board.
So much so, they ended up outsourcing more of their performance marketing to us [TikTok advertising, Pinterest advertising, and Google ads].
While we were taking all of our clients from strength to strength, tho? The behind-the-scenes of our eLearning offering was dying. Two straight years of a global pandemic, and most of our demographic in cities [Melbourne and Sydney] that had been impacted the most? … and we could barely sell a $50 Lunch n’ Learn session, so we made the incredibly difficult [but necessary] decision to close our eLearning doors.
We were dedicating more than 40+ hours per week to curriculum builds, curriculum updates, curriculum design, and then workshop delivery … and the financial return from courses that weren’t selling out [or even hitting bare minimum] was genuinely destroying our profitability, month on month, and if we kept going like that? Year on year.
We knew it was coming: we were warned it’d be coming, and we did everything we could to keep all of our eLearning open … but in keeping all of it open? It means 40 dedicated work hours per week to something that was no longer financially beneficial to the company.
We closed [almost] everything. I cried. I grieved [and allowed myself to]. I reflected on the years of work that had gone in to one of my very favourite areas of our business [teaching], and then I innovated … and landed on one core offering, our Accelerator program.
P.S it is almost sold out, so uh, innovation works.
September was a lot, ha!
I begun to get really loud about all things relating to neurodiversity. We hired Victoria as Social Media Strategist here at TDP [we adore her]. As we hired Victoria, the state of Victoria prepared to come out of lockdown … but not before an Earthquake rocked the city, and followed by incredibly violent protesters ravaging my beloved city.
September was a lot.
In October? We turned seven as a company, and to celebrate? … I promoted Eloiza from Social Media Coordinator to Social Media Strategist, and then hired Dani back into TDP to become Personal Assistant to TDP’s Creative Director [#ItMe].
It doesn’t sound big, but to reach that realisation of my knowing I needed a Personal Assistant? I had to unpack a lot of internalised misogyny, and I had to subsequently smash the patriarchy in not only recognising I needed this kind of support … but surrendering to the fact that if I’m to remain at TDP on a full-time basis? I need a PA.
It’s [already] one of the best decisions I’ve made.
In November, we BECAME A GOOGLE ADS PARTNER!
The email came through from Rach [our Digital Marketing Specialist] on a Friday night [I can confirm it was mostly all caps locks], and I had to read it five times to take in not only the obvious excitement, and celebration, and WIN … but also: I needed to sit in the gratitude that comes with asking the question, “how am I so fortunate that I continue to hire intrapreneurs who care so much [so GD much] that they’ll pump out a Friday night email letting me know about this [and describe it as a career highlight]”.
I sat there after the email came through, and I reflected back to 2018 when Michelle first landed in her TDP chair with our paid ads portfolio of 4-5 clients and turned it into what it is today [a 1000% growth rate] … and I was just smiling from ear to ear knowing what an entrepreneur knows when they bring intrapreneurs into their team, i.e “here we go again”.
Thank you Rach [and our team] for growing this here little TDP thing, and *wanting* to grow it, and for describing moments like these as “career highlights”: I sat in the goodness of that statement knowing that’s all I ever want from all of this, i.e people genuinely happy to be here, and feeling like the rewards go beyond the obvious things.
I’ve been with my incredible business coach, Ami for two years now [which means x2 Decembers with her. And not just any December, but x2 pandemi-Decembers]. Each December, she asks me what I am craving right now.
In December 2020? I told her “I am craving respect, and kindness”.
In December 2021? [entirely forgetting what my 2020 response was] I told her “I am craving respect, and kindness”
It blows my mind that I seem to reach the end of each TDP year craving the same x2 things. And look, in pandemi-times? … I don’t think I always get these x2 things, but I know for a fact I always give them [even if those x2 things are not given back in return].
When she told me, “Cherie, you were craving the exact same things last year” [as she was madly flicking through notes], I was shocked. And she then said, “so how are you going to feel respected in 2022, and how are you going to feel like you’re around more kind in 2022?”.
That’s a really big question, I’ll let you know in December 2022 in my “end of 2022” wrap up, ha!