Image of Madeline Sy on an opera program

05/04/2022

Marketing maestro Madeline makes their 2A debut

By Kimberly Mass

Image of Madeline Sy on an opera program

Image by Brandon Conboy

What do you get when you combine a passion for opera, an affinity for processes and patterns, and a love for solving complex problems? In 2A’s case, the answer is Madeline Sy, opera aficionado and marketing consultant extraordinaire.

“I’ve loved opera for as long as I can remember,” said Madeline. “While it has a reputation for being inaccessible, it’s actually the opposite—it taps into our instinct to tell stories through music, stories that explore these big emotions that reflect the universal experience of being human.” A case in point: Madeline’s favorite opera, Bluebeard’s Castle by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, is based on a French fairy tale and follows Judith, Bluebeard’s latest wife, as she defies her husband’s request and opens one door after another in a misguided—and ultimately tragic—quest to uncover the castle’s secrets. “At its heart, it’s a story most of us can relate to, about the desire for knowledge even when it isn’t in our best interests. Like any great story, it invites imagination—every time I see it, I connect to something different, and there’s space for everyone who sees the opera to do that.”

Driven by a desire to share their passion with a broader audience, Madeline began volunteering with the Los Angeles Opera’s community engagement programs. There they saw firsthand how the dedication of a small group of people and the power of a solid marketing message could be used in outreach efforts to bring the arts to underserved communities. From there, it was natural step to apply for the Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant that funds independent research and exploration outside the United States, which Madeline used to travel to South Africa, Australia, and Canada. “I wanted to explore how opera—and other artforms in general—can be accessible to people who experience and navigate through the world differently. I started with opera but by the end of the year had expanded to other art forms including a fully accessible music festival and a new opera produced entirely in ASL about deaf culture.”

As they worked to understand these challenges and find workable solutions, Madeline was drawn to HR and the ability of HR professionals to discover patterns, solve complex problems, and improve people’s daily work life. After completing their Master of Human Resource degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Madeline joined bp as a People Advisor, where, in addition to day-to-day HR responsibilities, they worked on special projects that involved building relationships with internal clients and telling stories with data to develop, lead, and launch employee-based initiatives. “While I loved the combination of people and processes that HR involved, I realized I craved collaborating on projects and missed the camaraderie of working with a core team in a creative environment,” Madeline said. “I wanted to find a way to bring everything together.”

Enter 2A stage right: with its focus on building strong relationships and helping clients solve complex marketing challenges—and love of all things creative—2A struck just the right chord with Madeline. And while we don’t always know our aria from our overture, we feel exactly the same!

04/28/2022

Part II: We love our Embedded Consultants, and the feeling is mutual

By Nora Bright

Now that you know how consulting agencies impact the experience of Microsoft contractors, I’ll let you in on a little secret: some agencies have a bigger, more positive impact than others. And, according to our survey, 2A comes out on top. Read on to learn what 2A’s Microsoft contractors—or Embedded Consultants (ECs), as we call them—had to say about us and what benefits and perks we offer that made them more satisfied than folks at other agencies.


Embedded Consultants (ECs) love working at 2A
When it comes to the agency experience, 2A ECs were more satisfied than contractors from other firms.


Working at 2A leads to a better Microsoft experience
2A ECs were also more satisfied with their Microsoft experience than contractors from other firms.


Our benefits take the cake
There’s a lot to love about 2A, but our insurance benefits and company culture are the favorites.

Our superior benefits and company culture helped 2A ECs decide to say yes to their Microsoft contractor opportunities.


Ready to love your agency?
Whether you’re hiring a contractor or ready to embark on a new role with Microsoft, having the right agency behind you makes all the difference. Learn how 2A helps hiring managers and contractors shine.

Images by Guangyi Li

image of a van driving into a portal

04/18/2022

What building websites taught me about my 1997 Eurovan

By Erin McCaul

image of a van driving into a portal

Image by Guangyi Li

In September 2021 my husband and I welcomed our second child earthside. As we juggled newborn night feedings, calculated wake windows, kept our 4 year old entertained, and changed 10+ diapers a day we decided we needed more work and bought a 1997 Eurovan. Lovingly nicknamed Clark, we celebrated the end of my maternity leave with a two-week family road trip to see a friend in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In my role as a Program Manager at 2A, I’ve had the opportunity to build cool websites with our stellar in-house team of consultants, designers, storytellers, and developers. Lucky for me, I was able to apply 2A’s web process to get our van adventure ready.

Getting the wheels turning with a feature list

When building websites (and vans) the first question to ask is “what does it need to do?” Our van needed to make it 1,600 miles roundtrip to get us to Utah and home again, so we planned for safe car-seat installation, space for our down sleeping bags, a fridge install, and ample storage for snacks, ski gear, and toys.

Gathering requirements and objectives upfront ensures both smooth design and development phases. At 2A we meet with our client’s core team to really understand their vision and audience, and plan for the site’s functionality.

From bringing delicious apples to your doorstep, communicating the importance of healthcare interoperability, or building an interactive map for sports legislation every project starts with a feature list outlining what exactly the site needs to do and how we’ll do it.

Packing in the content(s)

My family loves camping, so before our trip I did an audit to see what I could move from our gear room to the van before placing a bulk order for mac and cheese. When building a website, it’s important to go through the same exercise with content and brand elements. Do you have an existing site that contains your brand gear? What content needs to be migrated, edited, or newly crafted? Are you keeping your current brand, opting for a brand refresh, or hoping for a new look and feel? What content do you have, and how does it need to be organized for users?

Taking it for a test drive

Before our trip we tested the van at our local ski hill and spent a weekend camping close to home. It was a great way to pressure test our designs for making coffee, sleeping, cooking dinner, doing dishes, and accessing toddler toys. Before launching a site, the crew at 2A tests all websites across different browsers and devices to make sure it all works and meets accessibility requirements before going live.  

Two days into our trip I was reminded that sometimes bugs pop up after launch—or in this case, mice. As I sanitized every surface of our van in a Walmart parking lot after discovering a mouse had eaten our bagels, I was grateful I’d planned to camp near cities with easy access to stores and Clorox wipes. To head off the unexpected at 2A, we plan for website soft launches. This means the site is technically live and discoverable, but we ask clients to hold off on announcements or marketing campaigns that actively send traffic to the site until we’ve had one last chance to check for bugs.

Towing the line on maintenance

An hour into our road trip Clark broke down in rural eastern Washington. One tow truck ride and a very kind mechanic later, we were back on the road after a few hours. The lesson? Vans and websites both require maintenance to keep them running smoothly. From WordPress version and plugin updates to new feature development, 2A has you covered well after your site goes live.

Ready for an adventure? Let’s build a site together!

Kimberly found her voice early on—now she’s helping clients discover theirs

03/30/2022

Kimberly found her voice early on—now she’s helping clients discover theirs

By Mai Sennaar

Kimberly found her voice early on—now she’s helping clients discover theirs

As our resident voice chameleon, Kimberly has the writing dexterity to perfectly capture any client voice. Her journey as a distinguished marketing writer began years ago following a move to Japan. Once back in the United States, Kimberly honed her skills for delivering rich and impactful assets, eventually building a stellar reputation as a writer and a diverse portfolio of work across a wide range of industries.

She honed her marketing writing skills over many years, and at this point, Kimberly’s knack for embodying brand voices comes naturally. Her ear is so keen that she can’t listen to too much radio in the car before the voices begin to pile up in her mind! And reading too many British spy novels have her adopting cheeky slang.

Behold the power of words

She attributes her inclination toward writing to an early awareness of the power of words. A funny story goes that perusing her grandfather’s bookshelf as a kid led her to pick up a Harold Robbins novel. Kimberly’s mother was scandalized at the discovery of her young daughter’s choice in fiction and the extreme reaction made Kimberly note the peculiar power of language and fictional worlds for the first time.

Kimberly’s pursuit of a college education was unconventional in the eyes of many in the rural Michigan town where she grew up, and literature served as a catalyst in her courage to cultivate her own perspective on the world. She cites To Kill a Mockingbird as a particularly transformative book when it came to her understanding of diversity and the broader humanity of people across cultural and religious lines. Gaining academic accolades for a feminist-leaning essay at her conservative high school was the moment when Kimberly first discovered a talent for persuasion that would later make her marketing work so impactful for clients.

From infographics to animations—giving life to a brand voice

For one of her first assignments at 2A, Kimberly used her chameleon-like skills to deliver an illuminating animation. While adept at shifting between distinct voices, she also helps clients discover and develop new brand voices to take their marketing approach to the next level. With an equal aptitude for persuasion, infographics and animations remain some of Kimberly’s favorite assets.

Kimberly has a long history of volunteer work that’s just as diverse as her writing portfolio. From working with hospice patients to coaching youth flag football, Kimberly has done it all. Perhaps most notably, she founded a longstanding Play in the Park program at her son’s former elementary school. The program is designed to foster community by helping students stay in touch over the summer. Her son is now 23 and the program is still going strong!

Kimberly says that her favorite thing about her volunteer work and her work at 2A is using her skills to enrich the lives of others.

If client feedback is any indication, she’s meeting her goal so far! 

Part 1: Consulting agencies make a big impact on the Microsoft contractor experience from start to finish

03/23/2022

Part 1: Consulting agencies make a big impact on the Microsoft contractor experience from start to finish

By Nora Bright

Part 1: Consulting agencies make a big impact on the Microsoft contractor experience from start to finish

Image by Guangyi Li

At 2A, we know it takes exceptional people to deliver exceptional work—and attracting those top performers starts with creating a top-notch employee experience. That’s true whether we’re talking about the marvelous marketers and creatives that craft client deliverables as part of our marketing agency, or our extraordinary Embedded Consultants.

Here you might ask, what exactly is an Embedded Consultant? ECs, as we call them, are highly skilled and experienced individuals who function as contracted members of our clients’ in-house teams, using their considerable talents to help get critical projects over the line. Our ECs are experts in partner engagement, marketing and project management, business operations, and more, and all share 2A’s commitment to delivering exceptional results.

While we’ve placed ECs in a number of top tech companies, our Microsoft EC practice has really taken off. As our practice grows, it feels only natural to take a step back and evaluate—as an agency, are we delivering the experiences and benefits that help our ECs shine in their Microsoft roles? And, taking a further step back, how much of an impact does 2A—or any agency—have on the EC experience anyway?

To find out, we surveyed a diverse group of 50+ marketers, project managers, and other professionals with several months to more than 12 years of experience as Microsoft contractors. Our respondents included previous 2A ECs as well as contractors who have never worked for us.

So, what did we learn? Read on for the details, but here’s a sneak peak: agencies impact the experience of Microsoft contractors at every stage, from whether they decide to accept a role in the first place to how they feel when their time at Microsoft is over.

Go or no-go: Consulting agency benefits and culture are major factors in deciding whether to accept a new contractor role.

98% of respondents said the agency associated with the opportunity impacted their decision to accept a position 

94% of respondents said the agency’s PTO policy was an important factor in deciding whether to accept a position

80% of respondents said these factors were also important in their decision:

  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Agency company culture
  • Agency ability to provide support in navigating their role

And when it’s over: When looking back on their time at Microsoft, ECs report that their relationship with their agency played a significant role in their overall take on the experience. 

  • Microsoft contractors who were unsatisfied with their agency were 3x more likely to also be unsatisfied with their overall experience at Microsoft 
  • 2/3 of Microsoft contractors who were unsatisfied with their agency reported poor company culture and lack of support with navigating their roles as the top reasons

Looking forward: Agencies can make or break opportunities for both Microsoft hiring managers and contractors. Does your agency provide these benefits Microsoft contractors love?

  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance benefits
  • Generous paid time off
  • 401k plan with matching
  • Company culture that makes consultants feel valued and supported

Stay tuned for part two of this blog series, where we’ll reveal how 2A stacks up against other agencies and why it matters. In the meantime, whether you’re a hiring manager or could be our next EC, we’d love to tell you more about what makes 2A different.

Illustration of two figures looking at sunset landscape

03/16/2022

Are there really only two types of stories?

By Jane Dornemann

Illustration of two figures looking at sunset landscape

Image by Brandon Conboy

A few years ago, someone told me a theory about stories that has stuck with me ever since. He said that every story in existence fits into one of two buckets: a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. With a little bit of loose interpretation, this holds true.

Think about it. Hansel and Gretel? A person goes on a journey. Rapunzel? A stranger comes to town. Or, we can get symbolic, too: the first Spiderman movie can arguably be that Peter Parker goes on a journey (an emotional and physical transformation) and a stranger comes to town (the Green Goblin). Look in the newspaper, even: COVID is the stranger who keeps coming to town, and Facebook is on a journey to bring Meta to every business.

When I first heard this theory, it was kind of a downer. Really? Of the infinite number of stories told and yet to be told, they all boil down to two? This seemed against the very nature of storytelling. A good storyteller is always looking for new ways to tell a tale, so imagine being told that’s not possible.

But I came to realize that just because a story can fit into one of two buckets doesn’t mean there aren’t new ways to tell them. Because another thing is true of good storytellers: We give in to convention when it serves us and we color outside the lines when it serves our audience.

And, the persistence of rule isn’t all bad. It keeps us from saying “Let’s eat, grandma” instead of “Let’s eat grandma,” after all. Maybe we keep returning to this particular journey-or-stranger convention because it has served us so well. We can color outside the lines through mediums, tones, word choice, and perspectives. We can write about the same journey in a million different ways; if we couldn’t, Barnes and Noble wouldn’t have an entire section devoted to travel writing.

At 2A we are all about adding colorful layers to this (seemingly inescapable) two-bucket theory—and our clients agree. In 2019, a stranger came to town in the form of Microsoft’s new SQL Server, so we turned it into a helpful case study. When the Seattle Public Library launched a summer reading program, we encouraged kids to go on a journey of their own. After AWS traveled along the West Coast to educate IT pros on the benefits of modernizing with containers, we were there to tell the tale.

When a client tells us a story, we think about the best approach to communicating it. For example, does a particular case study work best if told in chronological order (detailing the journey from challenge to solution), or is it better presented as a yin-yang scenario (things weren’t great until this strange new solution came to town, and now look!)

Another way to play around with the two-bucket truth is perspective. In another ebook, we demonstrated the value of a client’s solution by writing about it through the eyes of the user (a software developer) as he took on various challenges at work—a departure from the vendor-centric narrative.

Looking for other creative ways to tell your story? Don’t be a stranger, and come to our town (….or you can just shoot us an email).

Meet Liz, your source for viral content 

03/09/2022

Meet Liz, your source for viral content 

By Katy Nally

Meet Liz, your source for viral content 

Image by Guangyi Li

As a marketer, having your work go viral is like chasing down the double rainbow, discovering its pot of gold, and diving in as if you were Scrouge McDuck. Few have felt that glorious feeling, but those who do will never forget it. Liz Mangini is in that select group.

A lifelong writer turned 2A marketing consultant, Liz not only lends her viral magic to our clients, but she also delivers a consulting experience as thrilling as a DuckTales adventure. She provides a Huey-Dewey-and-Louie trifecta that can’t miss. Here’s what it’s like to work with Liz:

Huey—the brave one with panache

Liz is fearless. She’s always up to try something new, which is why she’s dabbled in real estate, construction, higher education, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, and finally technology. Throughout her long career, writing and marketing has been the common thread. After graduating with a degree in communications, Liz went on to support marketing at a hospital and later founded the Body Image Blog where she wrote posts related to body positivity and self-esteem. No matter what she’s focused on, Liz is driven to help other people succeed. It’s what motivated her to ghost write for c-suite executives at Microsoft and promote small businesses as a writer for Fidalgo Living Magazine.

Dewey—the clever one with great ideas

While running the Body Image Blog, Liz perfected the art of turning great ideas into viral content. Within just one year, the blog reached over one million viewers, as several posts took off and racked up the views. Her Q&A post with model Lizzie Miller quickly spread throughout the blogosphere. She also interviewed big names like Laurel Touby and was invited to Leeza Gibbons’ radio show, Hollywood Confidential to discuss her blog. As attention from the press mounted, Redbook even reached out to see if Liz would write an article for the magazine.

After the University of Washington caught word of her popularity, the school asked if Liz would lead a social media workshop to teach students how to spread their content. She was such a hit that the UW also asked her to serve as an advisory board member for the editing program.

Louie—the charismatic one you can’t get enough of

By the time she landed at Inviso, Liz had so many varied experiences under her belt that she could connect with just about anyone. In that role she also moved away from writing toward marketing consulting. As a natural-born people person, Liz felt right at home helping clients achieve their goals and supporting new hires to build their skills.

It takes a trifecta of elements—a Huey, Dewey, and Louie, if you will—to create the perfect consultant. With Liz at 2A, clients get a fearless writer, creative thinker, and relationship builder bent on success.

Work with Liz to see how she can help you make your next blog, eBook, and case study go viral!

Fireside chats: not just for presidents or cheesy movies 

02/23/2022

Fireside chats: not just for presidents or cheesy movies 

By Kimberly Mass

Fireside chats: not just for presidents or cheesy movies 

Q. What do President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, every Hallmark winter holiday movie, and 2A have in common?

A. We all know the value of a fireside chat when it comes to delivering information in a casual, conversational way that invites listeners to share in the experience.

Whether literal or figurative, the image of a blazing hearth brings to mind feelings of warmth, light, and human connection. When done well, fireside chats deliver all that: they encourage listeners to bask in the warmth of informal conversation, they shed light on interesting or complex topics, and they connect the audience through a collective experience.

But what makes a good fireside chat? Certainly, a cup of cocoa, a cozy blanket, and a furry friend help, but the essential element is the fire itself.

  • Start with tinder: Tinder is any easily combustible material used to start a fire. What topic will spark your audience’s interest? What information or knowledge will ignite their curiosity? Once your idea is more than a flicker, it’s time to
  • Add some kindling: Kindling helps the fire you just started grow bigger and hotter. Can you find a moderator and speaker whose passion for the topic warms their conversation? Once you do,
  • Finish with firewood: Firewood provides the fuel that keeps your fire burning longer. What questions and answers will fan the flames of interest in your audience—and your speakers—to keep them engaged throughout?

Are you ready to pull up a chair and enjoy the warmth? 2A can help!

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

02/15/2022

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

By Jane Dornemann

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

Image by Thad Allen

Being a program manager is a lot like being an air traffic controller (but in this case, the planes are ebooks, animations, case studies, and decks). It can be a high-stress job that requires a laundry list of essential skills—communication, organization, and maintaining a cool-as-a-cucumber disposition chief among them.

That’s why we were so psyched that Tammy Monson joined 2A as our newest control tower extraordinaire, a.k.a. program manager. Her personal and professional experiences have provided Tammy plenty of opportunities to sharpen her skills.

There’s nothing Tammy can’t do

She started out as a first-grade teacher (how many of us are so brave?). Then she had children of her own—and THEN took on a new job while chairing events like charitable auctions on the side. Which is to say, Tammy walked (or ran) a pretty solid path to mastering the art of juggling it all.

For more than a decade she was a consultant who contracted with tech companies, primarily Microsoft. That meant each year she had to enter a new logistics-centered role with new processes and new team members. Sometimes it was business management or executive administration, other times it was strictly program management. Some people would bristle at having to relearn much of their job every year, but not Tammy. She saw the challenge as a growing experience.

“Doing something different each year made me realize I can learn anything if I put my mind to it. You start to realize you can do whatever you dig your heels into,” Tammy said.

Since that’s exactly how we feel at 2A, we hired her when her contract with Microsoft ended. It was a match made in technology-marketing heaven.

“2A is always trying new ways of doing things. The agency is all about discovering how to do better work, and that means not doing the same thing every time,” Tammy said. “How can we be more creative? How can we elevate our work? You can never ask a dumb question at 2A, and I love that freedom to be curious. It’s how we develop.”

Overseeing every day at 50,000 feet

In her day to day, Tammy is the control tower for our workflow management, operating with a 360-degree, bird’s-eye view of projects coming into and out of 2A. She’s the liaison that coordinates client work requests with consultant workflow management. She knows how to quickly learn the details of what each client needs, communicate that effectively to the team, set up meetings, and coordinate deadlines—conducting all the moving parts needed to ferry projects from initial request to a finished product.

When she’s not directing our projects’ take-offs and landings, she’s spending quality time with her college-aged daughters, binge watching her favorite TV shows, and exploring the great outdoors. It’s no surprise with her ability to take on challenges that she loves adventures. While the pandemic has paused those activities, she plays tourist in her hometown of Seattle, exploring Pike Place and taking long walks.

We’re so grateful that this talented woman has joined our group of high-flying marketers!

What happens on conference calls, lives on the cloud forever 

02/09/2022

What happens on conference calls, lives on the cloud forever 

By Annie Wegrich

What happens on conference calls, lives on the cloud forever 

Image by Brandon Conboy

An email comes in at 8:45 p.m. on a Sunday—close contact! No school tomorrow! A runny nose sets in—still no school tomorrow! Staff and educators are sick—and again, no school tomorrow! It’s a really hard and demoralizing time to be a parent. We believe in community safety, and we trust our educators and daycare directors. We understand the impossible jobs they have right now and the impossible feats they’re going through to stay open. But schools close. Here we are.

As a working parent of a toddler and baby twins, my partner and I are exhausted. We’re working in the armpits of the day around their runny noses. We’re cutting blueberries in half while coloring, all before trading the kids for the meeting one of us has in three minutes. We’re thankful for our incredible, graceful coworkers. We love our jobs and take pride in our careers, and we love our kids more. We’re in this together.

But, since the one long, isolated, day that started two years ago, parents have had it. Which doesn’t matter one sneeze, because our situations are far from over. Therefore, we hope you enjoy a little laughter—may it keep us from crying.

2A gives you: Things our at-home-children have done to derail our workdays

Live interruptions during team calls:

“MAMA I HAVE TO POOP” (Sophia, 2.5)

“We’re moving to Wisconsin!” (Rowan, 2.5)

“Idon’twanttoidon’tneedto, Idon’twanttoidon’tneedto, Idon’twanttoidon’tneedto” (Oliver, 3.5)

“Hey Oliver mommy is going to be on a call now so I will need you to be very quiet for me.” “But I like people! I need to say hello to my people!” (Also Oliver, 3.5)

“Don’t worry, I can find something else to do” (Edie, 7)

“I can’t hear you; I can’t hear you; I CAN’T HEAR YOU” (Anonymous teen, 17)

“Can we pretend I’m a half snake man and we live in the calamity ages?” (August, 8)

Live, unfortunate actions during video calls:

Repeatedly ripping a headset out of my ears (Maren, 1)

Throwing up all over, and inside, my shirt (Maren, 1)

Slot machining* peas onto my computer (Evelyn, 1)

*Slot machining: when Evelyn smiles while eating and shoots whatever unchewed food all over you like you won a prize.

Pulling my shirt ALL THE WAY down in a passionate ask to be picked up (Gil, 1.5)

Dropping an English muffin, jam-side-down, on the carpet (Sophia, 2.5)

Taking a child into a public bathroom before remembering to turn off video (Anonymous potty-training mom, child 2.5)

Silently watching hour 6 of anime (August, 8)

Text messages from children, received during working hours:

“DADYWANRUGONETOBEDAMWATH?” (Victor, 6) (Translation: Daddy when are you going to be done with work?)

“Idon’twanttoidon’tneedto, Idon’twanttoidon’tneedto, Idon’twanttoidon’tneedto. OMG MOM.” (Maya, 15)

“How do I know when I’m bleeding so much I have to go to the ER?” (Anonymous young adult, 23)

“Have you noticed that my lazy eye isn’t as open as my other eye before? Look at this picture.” (Anonymous teen, 17)

“The tabs on my car are going to expire.” (Abby, 20)

“I just lost my sense of taste and smell” (Anna, 31)

“Would you like to go with Anna and me to Vegas?” (Kat, 33)

Conclusion: There isn’t just one, because we’re still collecting more great, painful, and hilarious moments of humanity. Maybe there is a message here about being nice to people, not knowing what they’re going through. Maybe it’s that kids are awesome, and we should be really happy with the extra time we get with them. I hope it’s knowing that when your chaos feels isolated, you’re never alone. At least, I’m happy I invested in a mini carpet steamer because the jam-down English muffin, vomit-volcano, and slot-machine pea incidents, all mine.