Nora Bright

Yes, Nora plays the clarinet, drums and electric guitar. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s all she does. As a true intrapreneur, Nora has a growth mindset and wears many hats at 2A, from business development and marketing to recruiting and big picture thinking.

Embedded Consulting Practice Lead | LinkedIn
Image features a hand drawing coming from the right edge, drawing a line of upward stair with three human figures walking and running up them towards the left edge.


4 steps to getting the most out of your contract talent 

By Nora Bright

Image features a hand drawing coming from the right edge, drawing a line of upward stair with three human figures walking and running up them towards the left edge.

Image by Emily Zheng

In the fast-paced world of cloud technology, hiring managers often turn to contract talent to fill critical roles and execute projects with agility. This approach can bring fresh perspectives, specialized expertise, and flexibility to your team. However, integrating new contractors seamlessly can be challenging, especially for short-term projects or maternity leave coverage roles. 

Contract engagements often require a rapid ramp-up period, leaving less time for a traditional onboarding process. Additionally, contractors may not have the same context or institutional knowledge as full-time employees, making it crucial to provide them with the right information and support quickly. 

Below are four key steps to setting your contract talent up for success: 

  1. Start with clarity: Establish clear expectations before the engagement starts by providing a detailed job description and scope. This will help the contractor understand the role and feel confident they can meet your expectations within the time frame of the position. Need help getting the role’s responsibilities down on paper? We often collaborate with our clients on the job description. Here’s how we approach writing job descriptions for openings here at 2A.  
  1. Be ready for day one: Before the start date, make a plan for how you will provide a company orientation and introductions to key stakeholders. Send calendar holds for the people you want your contract hire to meet and include context on the purpose of the meeting and the roles of each meeting attendee. Gather all the necessary tools, software, and access to company resources before the role starts so they can get started on day one. 
  1. Make communication a priority: Like full-time employees, contractors do their best work when they have consistent feedback and open lines of communication. We recommend having 20 to 30 minute 1:1 meetings at least every other week to facilitate great communication throughout the engagement. We also meet regularly with both our Embedded Consultants and clients so that we can flag potential issues and support the feedback process. 
  1. Show your appreciation: Acknowledge the contributions of your contract talent and celebrate their work. We do our part to make our Embedded Consultants feel valued by surprising them with gifts and swag, inviting them to in-person and virtual events, and providing professional development opportunities. And feedback shows that the feeling is mutual! 

There’s no better way to get a contractor started on the right foot than by setting them up with the right agency. Our practice is built on the principle that treating people well helps them shine in their roles. We focus on providing a top-notch employee experience, comprehensive benefits, and a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  

Reach out today to learn more about how our Embedded Consulting practice can find the perfect contract hire for your next project and set them up for success. 

decorative image of different stickers from 2A's favorite albums


2A’s favorite albums of 2023 

By Nora Bright, The 2A Team

decorative image of different stickers from 2A's favorite albums

Image by Thad Allen

Every year at 2A, members of our team share their favorite album of the year—and last year we started compiling a playlist so folks can dance along. This year’s soundtrack is a vibrant tapestry made up of everything from ambient chill to Bollywood beats, experimental sounds to indie anthems, each chosen by a music-loving 2A-er. 

One thing that’s for sure is our eclectic playlist matches the diverse backgrounds of the team members who contributed—including a former journalist, small business owner, nonprofit director, and cupcake baker. Our hobbies range from fly fishing, making miniature models, filming shorts, DJing for community radio, to beer brewing! We’re a talented bunch and we’re all bringing a different flavor to the table. So if our playlist feels a little all over the place, it should! 

Happy listening—and we hope you enjoy our wild music mix! 

Metro Boomin Presents Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse (Soundtrack) – Various Artists (curated by Metro Boomin) 

With a great franchise comes great responsibility, and Metro Boomin delivers! The entire album showcases Metro’s super-producer abilities to weave a sonic web of synths and strings into a cohesive universe of sound. In an album packed with rap heavyweights, it’s the production on the quiet, more intimate songs that grip my attention, like  “Hummingbird” and “Calling.” – Madeline Sy 

I Killed Your Dog – L’Rain 

L’Rain’s album I Killed Your Dog fuses experimental sounds with soulful melodies, creating an experience that is as haunting as it is beautiful. Each track is a blend of eclectic rhythms, bold textures, and L’Rain’s rich, emotive vocals. We’ve had this one on repeat. – Mitchell Thompson 

New Blue Sun – Andre 3000 

While New Blue Sun is not the rap album many waited 17 years for from Andre 3000, it still delivers. If you are anything like me, you have been following the Andre 3000 seen with flute sightings, a la Where’s Waldo, on social media. Andre 3000 channels Coltrane and other experimental jazz greats with his improvisational flute playing and adds atmospheric ambient layers to bring you along on his recent travels and latest inspiration. This album tells a story without using any words. Be ready to read the energy to follow along on the journey. – Alyson Stoner-Rhoades 

Suntub – ML Buch 

ML Buch (pronounced “book”) is a Danish musician whose sound is very hard to place. Her music is both naturalistic and uncanny, analog and electronic, radiantly warm yet detached, and reminiscent of 90’s alt rock while ahead of its time. She manages to accomplish the rare feat of making something entirely new, challenging, yet completely accessible. – Brian Dionisi 

Everyone’s Crushed – Water from Your Eyes 

The first time I heard a song from Everyone’s Crushed I instantly perked up and focused—I’d never heard anything quite like it. The albums has off-tune singing, dissonant sounds, and intricate and strange textures. Occasionally, a beautiful pop moment emerges from the chaos. Water from Your Eyes makes you work for it and it’s so worth it. – Nora Bright 

Principia – En Attendant Ana 

Parisian indie outfit En Attendant Ana effortlessly merges sweet, pop melodies with a garage punk sensibility on their third album. Take a dash of the Velvet Underground, mix it with heap of Stereolab, a pinch of krautrock, a drizzle of early French pop, et voilà—you’d have something that sounds like Principia. – Suzanne Calkins 

Nothing for Me, Please – Dean Johnson 

The 15-years-in-the-making debut album from Seattle bartender/musician will have you wondering if maybe you, too, are in fact a cowboy ‘neath faraway skies. Folky, alt-country tunes paired with a unique voice. It’s either the soundtrack to your neighborhood dive bar, or some ranch in Wyoming, or maybe both. But either way, an all around lovely set of songs.  – Mike Lahoda 

Mo Lowda & the Humble – Mo Lowda & the Humble 

There is no such thing as too many indie rock bands in the world. Mo Lowda & the Humble bring a cool mix of moodiness and freshness. Caiolas’ vocals? They’re like a rollercoaster—sometimes contemplative, kinda mournful, then suddenly triumphant, all with a catchy vibe. – Michelle Najarian 

Flaws in Our Design – ODESZA, Yellow House 

ODESZA can do no wrong in my book, and their collaborations are no exception. A slight departure from their typical moody electro sound, this EP with Yellow House is bright, upbeat, and the perfect soundtrack to a summer day (or for channeling summer feels in the depths of winter!) – Andrea Swangard 

Cracker Island – Gorillaz ft Tame Impala 

The Gorillaz keep the core of their sound while expanding into a slightly more commercial approach, incorporating collabs with artists like Beck, Tame Impala, and Stevie Nicks. It gives each song a slightly different bent, though it keeps them all recognizable to Gorillaz lovers. Some songs are lazy and dreamy, and others you can dance to, but they’re all easy listening. What’s not to like? – Jane Dornemann 

Rush – Måneskin  

“I’m still rock and roll!” I whisper to myself as I stand in my kitchen after getting my kids to bed, grab a soapy spatula, and treat my dog to evening Måneskin kitchen karaoke. It’s a little rock. It’s a little punk. It’s a little pop. It’s very glam. I love bopping around to “KOOL KIDS” and “SUPERMODEL.” – Erin McCaul 

Rush – Måneskin 

I fell in love with Måneskin because of “SUPERMODEL,” which was released last year but was added to this year’s album called Rush. But I now think all their songs are great. Their sound reminds me of the rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Rolling Stones, the Hollies, the Doors, and Led Zeppelin were raw—but there’s some grunge in there, along with bands like the Damned. That kind of popular music was my first love, and it really takes me back. Interestingly, the leads of the band were born in 1999 and 2000. – Forsyth Alexander 

Paathan (Soundtrack) – Vishal-Shekhar, Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara 

More than just a comeback vehicle for one of the biggest stars in Bollywood, the success of the song “Jhoome Jo Pathaan,” and the film, were a testament to India’s enduring love of Shah Rukh Khan despite all the right-wing attempts to kill his career. The album flies in the face of bigotry, embraces love across the border, and celebrates spectacle both through the music of the talented duo, Vishal-Shekhar, and singers Arijit and Shilpa Rao. And of course, the syncopation and scattered Spanish influence makes the album eminently danceable in true Bollywood style. – Richa Dubey 

Pizza Tower (Soundtrack) – Various Artists 

Pizza Tower was a surprise favorite video game for me this year, a weird little indie game with style and character to spare. But what really enhances its gonzo cartoon nature is the soundtrack, a wild and funky electronic blast of energy. The music team blends golden-age hip hop samples, 90s house beats, and 00s video game chiptunes into an eclectically-textured high-NRG soundscape that is just as engaging to listen to outside of the game. – Thad Allen 

The Maine – The Maine 

After 16 years as a band, The Maine has released a self-titled album and they’ve never sounded more like themselves. You can tell they have honed their craft over the years and are enjoying the ride with this ninth LP added to their discography. This album is introspective and honest but still has some really fun beats to get you grooving. – Julianne Medenblik 

Hire in-house, or phone a friend?


Hire in-house, or phone a friend?

By Nora Bright

Hire in-house, or phone a friend?

Image by Julianne Medenblik

The economic environment is still slow, and many companies are in a hiring freeze. If you’re thinking about hiring but not sure about making the commitment, bringing a new teammate on through a consulting or staffing agency could be a smart choice! Below are a few considerations to decide if an agency is your best bet. 

Go in-house 

You have a certain, long-term need. Hiring in-house is a great route if you need someone for the long haul and have the budget to support them. Once you train an in-house employee, you get to keep their knowledge within the organization, whereas a consultant is likely to move on more quickly. 

You want a transferable skillset. Even if you’re just hiring for a project or short-term need, it’s possible the person you bring into the organization may have a valuable skillset that can be used elsewhere in the organization. For example, if you’re bringing on a data analyst to evaluate the efficiency of your digital ads spending, there are likely other initiatives or programs where they could apply their skills. 

Your team has the bandwidth to support interviews. Hiring can be time-intensive for you and anyone else sitting in on interview loops. If you go in-house, make sure your teams have the capacity to meet candidates and participate in multiple interviews. 

You can wait a while. An FTE hiring process can take weeks to months, but can be worth the time and effort to find your long-term candidate. If you don’t have an immediate need—and can wait a while before the position is filled—going through the process in-house makes sense.  

Call up the experts and use a consulting agency 

You have a short-term need. If you need help with a quick project, hiring a temporary teammate through an agency can be a great option. You can skip a lengthy recruiting and interview process that might be overkill for a short-term role, and get someone started ASAP. Plus, your agency handles the  vetting process for you to save you the effort. 

You need a specialized skillset. Even in this labor market where employers have an upper hand, it can be a challenge to find someone with a specialized skillset. This is especially true in our world of marketing and creative roles, where motion designers, video editors, or marketing analysts may be hard to track down. An agency that specializes in your industry or function will have experienced talent ready to go for even hard-to-find skillsets. 

You’re in a pinch. Need someone, like, yesterday? Working with a consulting agency is going to be a lot faster than going through the typical in-house hiring process. You can skip the legwork of sifting through hundreds of resumes, emailing back and forth with candidates, and setting up loops with your team.  

You want to try before you buy. Whether you have an open role that’s hard to fill, or you want to work with someone before making a long-term commitment, a consulting agency is a great option for you. Most agencies offer a temp-to-hire option if you’re impressed with your consultant and want to keep them on for the long haul. If they’re not a fit, the consulting agency can find you a replacement quickly. 

Want to learn more about what a consulting agency can offer? 

2A’s Embedded Consulting practice matches tech industry clients with top-notch marketing, creative, and program management talent. Our superior employee experience and benefits put people first—and attract the best talent in tech. Learn more about our EC practice or get in touch

Image of a unicorn with a horn that's a pencil with a job description flowing from it in rainbow colors


How we write job descriptions that feel welcoming—to everyone 

By Nora Bright

Image of a unicorn with a horn that's a pencil with a job description flowing from it in rainbow colors

Image by Thad Allen

We know our people are what make 2A special—so we take hiring seriously. For the marketing agency, we need folks who can understand complex technology AND craft beautiful prose or designs. For our Embedded Consultants, our clients are often seeking a specific skillset that takes some serious 2A elbow-grease to find. On top of that, we’re always looking to build a stronger and more diverse team by hiring individuals who bring new perspectives and come from different backgrounds. 

Last year we decided to research the latest and greatest strategies for writing job descriptions that attract a diverse talent pool—and see how we could take our own job postings to the next level. Read on for our top 3 tips. You may discover something new! 

Use growth mindset language 

Fascinating research shows job descriptions that use growth mindset language instead of fixed mindset language are twice as likely to result in a woman being hired. What’s a growth mindset? It’s a term coined by Carol Dweck that describes the belief that if you work hard, you can grow your talents. Language like “hard-working,” “curiosity” or “thoughtful” reflects that. 

The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset—the perspective that talent is something you’re born with (or not). Examples of fixed mindset language would be “genius” or “super star.” Words like this can make candidates decide not to apply for the role at all, because they don’t feel like they’ve got it all figured out yet (who does?). 

At 2A, we hold growth mindset ideals close to our hearts but realized our job descriptions had plenty of fixed mindset words. We combed through our job descriptions and changed phrases like “expert” to “passionate.” We love that our job descriptions better reflect our values. 

Cool it on the requirements 

You need someone who can write a 500-word blog article in under 20 minutes—while juggling a litter of kittens? We’ve all read job descriptions with requirements that seem to target someone who doesn’t really exist (we’ve got a phrase for that in recruiting, unicorn candidates.) Not only are these job descriptions unrealistic, but they can also scare people off from applying who don’t meet every single bullet. We know from research that women are less likely to apply if they don’t meet all the requirements in a job description. 

Instead of wish list of every attribute, we culled our requirements to a concise list of skills and experiences that are essential for getting the job done. 

If you’ve got it, flaunt it (great benefits, that is) 

Benefits like parental leave and health insurance are an important way that companies care for their employees. Including your benefits in a job description is a great way to help candidates from different backgrounds see themselves thriving personally and professionally at your company.  

We have pretty sweet benefits here at 2A. In addition to great health, dental, and vision insurance, plus a generous PTO plan, we also have an enrichment stipend, donation matching, and more. Where were these benefits in our job descriptions? Nowhere, and candidates needed to click a few times to find any information about them. Now our benefits are easy to find along with the role’s salary range. 

So, are you ready to see what it looks like when growth mindset language, concise requirements, and show-stopping benefits come together? Check out our careers page

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2A’s favorite albums of 2022 

By Nora Bright, The 2A Team

decorative image of album stickers

Image by Thad Allen

For the last few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to asking my coworkers to send me their favorite album of 2022 so I can assemble our annual round up. There’s something special and even intimate about hearing what songs have been keeping your colleagues company all year long. While I love working from home, I miss the casual interactions that happen in an IRL office, especially conversations about books, TV shows, movies, and music. The album round-up allows me to learn something new about a coworker I wouldn’t otherwise find out—and follow-up music chats are par for the course. 

Sometimes a coworker’s choice is a delightful surprise, and sometimes their pick feels perfect…as if I should’ve known all along that Al is a Beyoncé superfan or that Erin has a crush on Jens Lekman. 

This year we put together a playlist that highlights one song from each album. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into the music that speaks to your favorite 2A’ers soul (and strike up a musical conversation the next time you find yourself on a call with one of us)! 

The Linden Trees Are Still In Blossom – Jens Lekman 

I have a forever crush on Jens Lekman. This album is adorably awkward, semi-autobiographical, and a remix AND re-release of my favorite album of 2007, Night Falls Over Kortedala. It reminds me that our stories get more interesting and gain a new depth as we reflect on them with age.  —Erin McCaul 

Shringaar feat. Milind Soman (single) – Vayu, Raftaar, Aashta Gill, AKASA, Milind Soman 

Catchy beat. Danceable. This single features Milind Soman in a music video after 27 years. What’s not to love? —Richa Dubey 


House music, celebrating black excellence, and Queen Bey… this album is sheer perfection! —Alyson Stoner-Rhoades 

Pompeii – Cate Le Bon 

I have never met a Cate Le Bon album that I didn’t like, and Pompeii is no exception. Drenched in dreamy synths, sax and clarinet, Le Bon’s pristine voice dances in the duality of light and dark, weaving through a lush musical tapestry that is both delicate and bold, angular and sweet, sad and hopeful. —Suzanne Calkins 

Brand New – Ben Rector 

I’m a sucker for song that tells a story. I frequently shed a lot of tears listening to many of Ben Rector’s songs. —Tammy Monson 

Midnights (3am Edition) – Taylor Swift 

As exciting as Swift’s rerecords have been, I am thrilled she dropped something totally new. The album is very self-reflective and has hit after hit! And the production stylings of Jack Antonoff are always a favorite of mine. —Julianne Medenblik 

age tape 0 – Arden Jones 

Youthful, angsty, ukulele. —Even Aeschlimann 

Un Verano Sin Ti – Bad Bunny 

Bad Bunny’s latest album is a quintessential curation of different types of summer vibes. Swaggering pop and reggaeton anthems are supported by a reflective b-side with plenty of unexpectedly good features and even a call for Zumba! This record packed everything I love about Benito’s cross-genre inspirations and is proof that good music requires no translation. —Madeline Sy 

The Guest 2 (Original Soundtrack) – Various Artists 

I love the 2014 movie The Guest, a devious genre-bender with a distinctive soundtrack that moodily mixed 80s goth rock and 21st-century synth jams. This April Fool’s Day I was surprised with the drop of a soundtrack album for the nonexistent sequel! It’s a lot of fun to imagine what the plot could’ve been by looking at the cover art and track titles, and this director-led “aural sequel” is a fascinating way to dive back into the movie’s unique soundscape. —Thad Allen 

Power Station – Cory Wong, Billy Strings 

When all the heavy hitters get in the same room and make noise together the result is this album. Jam packed with riffs that are sure to go down in history for the modern funk jazz era. —Matt deWolf 

Warm Chris – Aldous Harding 

The tunes on Warm Chris are just the right blend of off-kilter and catchy for my taste. Her songs are playful, strange, and beautiful—fitting for someone who chose the name “Aldous” as their nom de plume (her real name is Hannah Harding). —Nora Bright 

Stick Season – Noah Kahan 

I once saw a tweet that said Noah Kahan is “country music for the East Coast.” As someone who sort of lives in the country and once lived in New England, I can confirm that a) That is a rock-solid statement, and b) this album will hit home for anyone, no matter where you live or where you are from. —Emily Zheng 

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Get big-time interest in your short-term job opening

By Nora Bright

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Image by Suzanne Calkins

Hiring for short-term roles can be tricky. Especially now that the labor market is cooling off, candidates are warier about taking on short contracts knowing they’ll be back on the (possibly less favorable) job market soon.

Luckily, we’ve learned a thing or two over the years from sourcing talented embedded consultants for our clients’ short-term roles, ranging from parental leave coverage to quick-turn projects. Whether you’re working with an agency or not, these tips can help you land a stellar hire that can make a major impact on a reduced timeline.

  1. Write a clear and realistic scope of work

When a role’s timeline is limited, the position’s responsibilities and goals must be tightly defined. A clear scope will not only set engagements up for success, but also help attract a strong candidate pool. Candidates (especially the most experienced ones) will sniff out an ill-defined or unrealistic scope from miles away—and might withdraw from the interview process or not apply in the first place. Sharing a clear scope of work in the job description and during interviews will assure candidates that they can be successful in the role and deliver the results you expect.

  1. Know what skills and experience are essential—and how that aligns with your budget and resources

We find that candidates interested in short-term roles often fall into two camps. Either they’re experts with a long track record of completing the role’s responsibilities, or they’re early in their careers and eager to ramp up their skills quickly in a fast-paced environment. The experts tend to hit the ground running but come at a high price point (understandably so). Meanwhile, the newer folks generally need more support and sometimes need a reduced project scope. However, their overall rate is less.

Ask yourself what skills and experience are truly necessary for the role and whether you have the budget and support to set them up for success.

  1. Decide on an interview process and proceed quickly

Before getting started, decide how many interview rounds there will be and who will join from your team. Sharing these steps upfront with candidates will show that your team is organized and ready to bring them on.

Keeping the interview process rolling along will reduce the risk that you lose your dream candidate to another opportunity. With candidates often interviewing for multiple roles, moving quickly will give you an advantage.

If you’ve got a short-term role to fill, we’ve got your back. Reach out to learn more!

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Hiring managers: 4 questions to ask when choosing a consulting agency for contract roles

By Nora Bright

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Image by Emily Zheng

Tech workers have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to their next gig—and for experienced contractors considering their next position, they’re discerning not just about the role, but about the consulting agency they’ll be employed by. Agencies can be a lot more than just a way for contractors to get paid—they can also provide benefits like health insurance and 401k plans, and crucial support like professional development opportunities and coaching.

If you’re looking for great talent to join your team on a contract basis, make sure you’re working with an agency that has what it takes to attract an experienced and diverse talent pool. Ask these four questions to determine if an agency can deliver the best talent out there.

1. What benefits and PTO do you offer your employees?

In our recent survey of Microsoft contractors, 94% of respondents said an agency’s PTO policy is important in deciding whether to accept a position, and 80% said the same about medical, dental, and vision insurance. Other benefits to ask about include 401k plans and whether the firm provides the software needed for their engagements (or if contractors are expected to buy it themselves).

2. How do you support your employees during an engagement?

Does the agency meet with employees regularly, or “set it and forget it”? Agencies can offer crucial support to their employees—coaching them on navigating their roles and hitting the ground running in a new position.

3. What professional development opportunities do you offer?

According to our survey, contractors feel their biggest challenge at work is a lack of career growth. Some firms offer a professional development budget or internal workshops and events that can keep talent engaged and retained on your team.

4. What is your DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) strategy?

Agencies with an effective diversity recruiting strategy have a more extensive and diverse talent pool to choose from when sourcing candidates for your role. Working with an agency that takes diversity recruiting seriously will up the likelihood that your contractor will make an impact and provide a fresh perspective on your team. An agency’s DEIB strategy could include inclusive language in job descriptions, posting on job boards with diverse talent, and culture initiatives.

Ready to bring on your next great hire? Learn more about our Embedded Consultants.


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


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


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