[Meet the Team] Antoinette Berns: Supporting a Company Culture that Encourages Innovation and Positivity
By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)
Creative Virtual is one of only four companies in London to be recognised by The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the category of Innovation in 2017. The company was selected for this honour not only for our innovative technology, but also because of the hard work and dedication of our global team. Creative Virtual’s experienced, expert team is what sets the organisation apart from others in the industry. As part of the five-year celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, we’re talking with some members of the Creative Virtual team about the technology, their involvement in the industry and what winning this award means to them.
Today we introduce Antoinette Berns, Billing Coordinator and Executive Assistant to Group COO with Creative Virtual USA. She joined the company in August 2015 and quickly became an integral part of the Stamford-based team. Antoinette’s primary role as Billing Coordinator consists of Spend Analysis Reports, projections and allocation tracking. As the company’s grown and her many talents have been revealed, her role has evolved to include Executive Assistant to Group COO which in turn led to aspects of everything from office manager to human resources administrator to event and travel coordinator. She wears so many different hats on any given day, that it would be impossible to find a stand big enough to hold all of them – and she does it all with a smile and a contagious positive attitude. She shared with me why taking her job with Creative Virtual is one of the best decisions she ever made and how being a part of the company’s Queen’s Awards win has her overjoyed.
What are a few highlights from your time working with Creative Virtual? What do you enjoy most about being a part of the team?
I remember coming for my interview, going through the usual interview questions and by the end of it we were laughing and telling jokes. I was there for two hours and by the time I got home, I already had an email asking me to come in to meet the CEO, it was so exciting. Taking this job is one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s a wonderful environment to work in where people are given a chance to rise up to the challenge and grow with the company. We are encouraged to be unique and use all our individual strengths to bring something new to the table. We foster a welcoming environment of treating everyone with respect and we have a wonderful system of communication so every voice can feel heard. I remember Chris Ezekiel [Founder & CEO] visiting the US office a few months ago and talking about the wonderfully brilliant, quirky people in the company and how everyone brings their own interesting ideas and personalities to the team. I think that sums it up perfectly.
I appreciate how we’re encouraged to keep a healthy work/ life balance, where if we so choose, we have a variety of activities we can join. I personally am a member of the volleyball and kickball teams! What’s wonderful is that there is no pressure to be athletically inclined at all, it’s all about having fun and team building which I love. If sports are not your thing, we also host a monthly game night as a way of bonding and comradery. We’ll spend a couple of hours hanging out and playing different games. This was sparked by our participation in ExtraLife in 2015 and 2016, a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. We’ve also participated in other charitable activities, such as donating to veterans on Veterans Day.
There are so many other things I enjoy about being a part of the team! I love that in my role I have the unique opportunity to work with everyone in some way. Even if it’s just to a small degree, I get to talk to everyone and get to know all the different personalities and ways of working. The team is like pieces of a puzzle, and we all come together to create a wonderful portrait of Creative Virtual – it’s a beautiful thing! I also love the positive reinforcement and the praise that makes everyone feel valued. It feels like a bubble of positivity where everyone is encouraged and can blossom.
When you’re reviewing applications and conducting interviews, what experiences and qualities do you look for in potential new team members?
To start, I look for consistency on a resume and the types of experiences the person has had. I’m looking for someone showing commitment who will want to grow with the company. The cover letter gives the first clue. It would surprise you the number of people who don’t send a cover letter at all, when our job postings list it as a requirement to applying! The irony in most cases is then they list in their resume a major skill they possess is “attention to detail.”
I have a minor in Psychology and have always had an interest in how people think. When I do interviews I always encourage a good flow of conversation so it will feel more like talking to a friend rather than an interview. This helps the applicants reveal a more authentic version of themselves. I start with asking what they know about the company, what attracted them to apply and why the position is a good fit. I ask about the biggest lesson they learned from their last job and how they approach tasks. I find out about their greatest personal achievements and what types of decisions they find the hardest to make. Along with a variety of questions I typically ask that will give me an idea of how the person deals with mistakes. All of this shows me who they are as a person in a professional realm and whether they would work well in our company.
Of course I find out about their skills, which skills depends on the position they are apply for, and have the typical interview questions about strengths and weaknesses. Just as important as their skills is how they work. At Creative Virtual, we all work as a team but it is built on trust and autonomy, so I need to ensure that will be a good fit for everyone. We’re looking for people who will stick around and grow with us.
What are your secrets to keeping the Creative Virtual USA office running smoothly?
This is a hard question – I just do the things that need to be done! When I really stop to think about it, communication is key. Communication, taking notes and being organized. It’s important to have someone to talk to, someone to turn to when things get stressful. Paulo [Barrett], the Group COO, does weekly check-ins with me and so I never feel like I’m swimming without a life jacket. It is truly a privilege to work with someone of Paulo’s caliber, it’s motivating to see him bring out the best in everyone. It’s a pleasure working with him, and it’s great to hear him say, “you’re a star!”.
Key components would be to organize the chaos, identify what’s high priority, medium priority and low priority. The way I conduct my tasks is with the mentality that even when something is deemed low priority, it never means it’s not important. I always let people know that I have their requests and tasks in hand, and keep them updated. It’s important to me to let everyone know they are being heard.
Something I find valuable in all walks of life is: patience. Everyone is so talented and amazing at what they do, but we are all human after all. We all take our turn dealing with frustrating and stressful situations. The key to navigating them is staying calm and taking it one step at a time. Remember you are never alone and help is always at hand, you just need to reach for it.
What does Creative Virtual winning The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 mean to you?
Winning the Queen’s Award means a lot – it’s hard to put it into words! It is always a wonderful moment to see years of dedication and hard work publicly celebrated and acknowledged. Especially with one of the highest official UK awards for British businesses. I’m so proud to be a part of a company that cultivates knowledge, promotes innovation and really cares about every individual in its organization.
Chris [Ezekiel] is such an inspiring person. To have someone heading the company who exemplifies those qualities tells you a lot about the type of company Creative Virtual is and what a welcoming, encouraging place it is to work.
Being able to attend the award ceremony in London was AMAZING! I felt elated, overjoyed and honored to be chosen to go. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and it was wonderful to get to meet so many people on the team in person. And going on a tour of Parliament and getting insights from an actual member of Parliament was such an adventure! It was truly a great opportunity.