Curiouser and Curiouser: The role of a strategist

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All the roles at &us are hybrid to some extent, requiring a mix of design thinking, human empathy and problem-solving. A strategist employs all these talents at once – they’re hybrid thinkers, as creative as they are commercial and relentlessly focused on designing for real needs. Nothing less will do. 

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And the key trait of a strategist is curiosity. 

Like a child who continually asks ‘why?” (but considerably less frustrating) strategists are expert questioners. Asking good questions and driving for insight is a core part of getting to the nub of what our potential customers, our client, or an industry really needs (not just what they tell you they want). 

They quickly bring all that insight, all the thinking, and all the outside stimulus together to create concepts and mock-ups to test the desirability, feasibility and viability of a given product, service, or early idea!  

But there’s so much more to it, so over to them to explain what they get up to:

What do you actually do?

“It’s all about making the complex simple. I dissect what clients and users actually need (not just what they say they want) and I figure out how we might deliver that, whatever their challenge”

“I typically work on quite ambiguous, urgent challenges with super senior sponsorship behind it. On any given day I’ll go from being a thinking partner to a client, to a project manager, to a researcher, to a UX designer, to a sounding board to a cheerleader – and I need to know when to switch between those modes” 

What type of projects do you work on?

  • “What’s our problem?”
  • “How do we solve this problem?”
  • “We have an idea for how to solve a problem, help us make it make sense”
  • Projects where we’re creating something: 
    • an app/service/product; 
    • a vision and telling a story around it; 
    • making teams better able to deliver what they need 

What’s the best bit about your job?

“Working on lots of different problems all the time! Industries can feel very different, but you can take a lot of inspiration from the way you solve similar problems elsewhere.”

How would you describe strategy at &us?

“To create tangible things, fuelled by insight, at pace. We research, simplify, and give structure, story and direction to products and practices.”

Research: What’s the need? What’s the value? How will we know it worked?

Simplify: Making the problem and vision for solving it so simple that anyone can remember and repeat it

Structure and story: Organising idea and how to tell the story of the change you want to bring about, and enabling others to buy into it

Direction: Helping others understand where you’re going, when and why.

What does a typical day look like?

  • Start before the internal teams do so I’m ahead of the game
  • 9 – 10:30 stand ups to align with 2/3 teams
  • Prep for any client deliverables, or work with one of the teams to crack specific challenges 
  • Line mgmt / internal initiatives / biz dev proposal writing
  • Afternoon is client meetings to align on stuff with, demo work in progress, iterate our approach. 
  • And we go again 

What’s the best thing about your colleagues?

“They work hard, they’re all interested in different things, they’re quick and witty, and they really care about what they’re doing.” 

“Smart, nice, responsible people, who want to make great work, and have fun doing it.”

What makes a good strategist at &us?

“Someone curious, who can ask just the right questions to get to razor sharp insights and brilliant ideas. Someone who isn’t afraid to get their hands into every part of the work, who really thinks of themselves as being a partner to a client, not a service. Someone who can communicate clearly and concisely, and who is able to make structure out of chaos on the fly.”

Why do you like being a strategist at &us?

“Because I have freedom to experiment and get things wrong without fear. As long as I’ve been disciplined in doing so and my client knows why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

How would you describe what you do to a recruiter?

“I lead strategy + innovation teams for large companies/clients – to design and create new products or services”

“Creative thinker, compulsive fixer, curious. I usually work on transformation and innovation projects, and lead teams.”

And your mum?

“I help big companies create new products and services — so they can bring them to the masses.”

“I help businesses fix valuable problems worth solving, to make their businesses better.”

How about you &us? visit our careers hub