Blog

Nora Bright

A self-professed wearer of many hats, Nora balances a love of art and books with business savvy. Formerly a business co-owner and marketing manager, she’s got the know-how to wow our clients.

Embedded Consulting Practice Lead

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

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

03/23/2022

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

By Nora Bright

Part I: 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.

collage of album covers

01/05/2022

2A’s favorite albums of 2021

By Nora Bright

collage of album covers

Image by Thad Allen

Whenever I read a best-of list of music albums published at the end of the year, I often think about how critics decide what to include. Do they focus on the albums that pushed a genre’s boundaries, that encapsulated the year for critics, or something else? 

When I was in high school, I was an avid reader of Pitchfork and loved how the popular music blog rated albums on a scale of 0–10. It felt so clean to assign numbers—so black and white. 

As I got exposed to more music genres and subcultures in college, I began to feel strongly that the quality of a song or album (and all art, for that matter) is in the eye of the beholder. Trying to assign a definitive number began to feel silly. I went to concerts with bands that I adored but critics didn’t. They were criticized for riffing on old garage rock tropes that weren’t relevant anymore; or maybe they weren’t so good at their instruments, but damn were their live shows fun; or their music meant everything in the world to a small group of people. 

So what makes an album worthy of an annual roundup? I’d argue it’s different for everyone at 2A who chose an album for this list. For some of us it was the music that gave us the strength to keep going amid another year of the pandemic. It made us feel cozy at home, or represented our values.  

I can’t resist making a marketing metaphor here—at the end of the day, it’s about what matters to the customer. 

I hope you give some of these tracks a listen, and that the reasons behind our choices give a tiny window into what matters to each of us.  

Emile Mosseri  Minari Soundtrack  

Favorite song: Big Country 

Emile Mosseri soundtracks have landed in my regular rotation the past couple years, and especially 2021, as the warm and dreamy sounds of Minari were great company while hanging around at 3am with a newborn. – Aaron Wendel 

Adele  30 

Favorite song: Easy on Me 

This album captures the longing, melancholy an uncertainty of a COVID year. – Laura Templeton 

Her music has an ability to pierce the soul and reminds me I can conquer any mountain I face. 30 is a masterpiece in storytelling. – Tammy Monson 

Chromeo  Date Night: Chromeo Live! 

Favorite song: Don’t Sleep 

Electro-funk duo Chromeo has a playful retro style that I’ve enjoyed for years, and their 2019 tour was one of the last live shows I went to before the pandemic shut everything down. Chromeo approached the situation with typical good humor—recording a Quarantine Casanova EP and releasing a “2020 tour” shirt with a blank list of shows on the back, both sending proceeds to support those in need. The release of the live album was another joyful counterpoint to a year-plus of no live shows—delightful to revisit their funky sound boosted by a full backing band. – Thad Allen 

Lil Nas X – Montero 

Favorite song: That’s What I Want 

My favorite album of the year has to be Montero by Lil Nas X. All of the music videos from this album are amazing, and really fully celebrate his Blackness and queerness. It’s been the bright point of my year. My friends and I anticipate and text each other about every new music video drop. He really commands social media well and sets the conversation. – Annie Unruh 

Sophia Kennedy – Monsters 

Favorite song: Orange Tic Tac 

Monsters has 13 unique tracks that take you into the mysterious mind of Sophia Kennedy. The flow of the album is interesting to say the least. Beats Per Minute put it best, “Sophia Kennedy hops between styles on each track as if she’s escaping what’s come prior.” Monsters is an album that I kept revisiting through a year that sometimes had a similar feeling.  Mitchell Thompson 

The National  The National (re-release) 

Favorite song: American Mary 

If nothing else The National’s band-titled album, remastered in 2021, is reminder of just how much this band has grown. Best saved for writers who are editing (not creating), the track list sounds like Bruce Springsteen was run through a country washer and finished off in an indie dryer. “American Mary” is the best song on there, mostly because it carries the sounds of the better band The National became. –  Jane Dornemann 

Japanese Breakfast  Jubilee 

Favorite song: Paprika 

I’ve dug Japanese Breakfast’s punk-ish earlier releases and love how Jubilee layers funky basslines and gorgeous strings on top of her already stellar songwriting. It’s been fun to see her music explode in popularity this year including late night appearances, her Be Sweet Video for the Sims in Simlish, and of course her bestselling book Crying in H Mart. It’s J Brekkie’s world, we’re just living in it.  Nora Bright 

Whitney K  Two Years 

Favorite song: Last Night #2 

Two Years is the kind of album that makes me want to abandon all responsibilities and travel around the country hopping trains. But I’m definitely not going to do that. I’ll just listen to this album. Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and plenty of country/folk influences ring out on this, scratchy, rambling 10-song LP – Mike Lahoda 

Taylor Swift  Red (Taylor’s version) 

Favorite song: Babe 

Red is perfect to put on while I’m doing work, making dinner, or driving in the car. Something about the updated songs takes me back to years past and is just so good. I can’t help but sing along. – Rachel Adams 

Sun June – Somewhere  

Favorite song: Singing 

Somewhere by Sun June was my 2021 soundtrack for when I wanted to bob my shoulders and focus on the beauty and intimacy of regular life. Even without the words—which are engaging—the music tells a floaty, deep-breath-inducing story. – Abby Breckenridge 

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

05/26/2021

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

By Nora Bright

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

Image by Thad Allen

I started my job at 2A the same week Top Chef: Portland premiered. Though I love to cook, I somehow missed the popular cooking competition until quarantine, and have binged through more seasons than I’d like to admit. While we’re all at home just trying to get by, there’s something inspiring about watching the show’s chefs strive to achieve their dreams.

While watching the premier I was struck by the parallels between creating a winning dish that will delight the Top Chef judges and crafting a content marketing piece that will make potential customers hungry for more. Here are three lessons from Top Chef that can be applied to B2B content creation:

1. Don’t forget the challenge

It’s heartbreaking when a contestant makes an incredible dish but ends up on the chopping block because they lost sight of the challenge. Like, thanks for the truffle mashed potatoes but how does that relate to Edo-period Japan…?

In content creation, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you’re generating leads or educating customers, your content must help you achieve your business goals.

2. Highlight what makes you special

A common pitfall for Top Chef contestants is to cook food that seems worthy of a win, instead of the food that brings out their passion and unique stories. Adrienne on Top Chef: Colorado struggled when she tried to mimic other contestants, and finally got the attention of the judges when she got back to her roots.

When crafting content, stand out from the competition with assets that convey your company’s unique expertise and brand.

3. Be realistic

Foie gras terrine. Chicken Ballantine. Handmade ravioli. These are all dishes that got Top Chef contestants eliminated who weren’t realistic about time constraints.

Creating content can be time- and resource-intensive. Instead of good intentions leading to something sub-par because you lack the in-house resources, how about bringing in 2A?

Does this mean my many hours watching chefs vie to become culinary champions was not all for naught? It’s hard to say, but I sure did learn a thing or two about making great work, whether that means salt-crusted snapper or an ebook on the merits of cloud-native applications.