Ally Naumova

Joining a Digital Agency Based in Shetland - The Adventures of a Graduate

June 1, 2017

Now, who is this talking?

About time I officially introduced myself.

A big hello, World! I come from a little jewel of a land in the Eastern Europe, better known as Bulgaria, I'm in my wild twenties, a marketer and communicator by education, a dancer in my heart, and an adventurous soul placed within a little human vessel going by the weirdly sounding name of Ralitsa. This is actually a flower's name.

No, you most probably cannot pronounce it properly, and yes, there IS an easier way - people call me Ally. And I'm lovely, beautiful and nice, I promise. You can see for yourself:

A bit of a preface

I did some particularly challenging and interesting, but very successful four years as a BA (Hons) Public Relations student in The Robert Gordon University. Thereafter I went back home to Bulgaria's capital Sofia, to do an internship with a full-service advertising agency. Near the end of that internship, I was already on the lookout for another adventure. This is when I applied to NB and got offered a position. And this is where it all began.

I moved to Edinburgh and left behind all friends and family. Again. And there's always this really tough initial period of leaving the comfort zone of your hometown and starting all over again from scratch, settling in and finding new friends. I thought it would feel the same as moving to Aberdeen felt. But it was different this time. There were no airport tears, nor dramatic goodbyes, no negative feelings, nor nostalgia.

This was all due to NB Communication's unique world that started unraveling before my eyes from my Edinburgh day one. For another perspective on this world and the advantages unique to it, that I feel would pretty much form the basis of my account of it, it is really interesting going through David Nicol's "Fourteen Advantages of Founding and Running A Digital Agency on a (Relatively) Remote Island".

As mentioned, I joined NB Communication's Edinburgh office, which just so happens to be based in CodeBase - the UK’s largest incubator, and one of Europe’s fastest-growing tech hubs, which makes for an amazingly varied and dynamic, but at the same time extremely relaxing working atmosphere. The range of different businesses, freelance specialists and experts here is something I've never before encountered anywhere and the opportunities for learning and personal development for a graduate in such a varied growing tech community are enormous.

From here, in our city centre office in the Scottish capital, we do what we do best and cater for an ever-increasing demand for our services from the UK-mainland.

So we're here. But what is really intriguing is where we come from. And we come from a (relatively) remote island - Shetland.

To start with, NB's General Manager and I never got to meet in person until I moved to Edinburgh. And this reminds me - it is worth mentioning that NB has a specific extended business model, whereby we get to work with exceptional talented specialists from overseas within the IT and web design fields and looking to extend that even further to include experts with broader digital marketing expertise!

Soon after my move I was invited to visit the company's Headquarters based in Lerwick, Shetland's biggest city, and spend a few days there. I've always thought that my northern ventures have been 'northern' enough, bearing in mind my Aberdonian bachelor degree, but once I checked where Shetland actually was on the map, I was certain I was well on my way to just casually stumble upon Winterfell (for those of you who are not fans of the Game of Thrones series [just shocking!] this is the seat of the ruler of the North).

My journey to Lerwick went through my well-known Aberdeen and its small airport. There was also a boat journey option to the islands, which I was really eager to experience, but was strongly advised not to... but I probably will next time :)

This time I was taken to a whole different part of the airport, with the tiniest gate for boarding, which I've never seen before, even though I've travelled countless times from this airport and back for the past five years. I could only see fellow passengers with proper full winter gear around me and this was in mid-May...even though I had a massive suitcase with cosy winter clothes myself (just in case) my Bulgarian biological clock is really only used to a 25 ºC at this time of year. Bearing this in mind, I was definitely expecting the worst.

We boarded the smallest plane I've ever flown onto and we had a kind of a bumpy ride to Shetland's Sumburgh Airport. This is where I met David Nicol for the first time and was given a ride to the city of Lerwick. It was really gloomy, misty and there was a bit of rain, but generally OK, so I thought this is the calm before the storm.

From the viewpoint of someone who's never been on an island in the proper sense of the word, what really struck me on our way to Lerwick, was how much free land surrounded me - no roads, no buildings, no traffic lights, no shopping centres, no nothing. Land with so much wildlife, surrounded by so much water and so much sky. And this was what made it magical. In a way I felt like Alice in Wonderland, so out of place, but yet so much at home - everything was so big- land, sky, water - but yet so small - all of this on the small island of Shetland. Simply magical. I have tried to capture those majestic picturesque landscapes, but as we all know, a camera could never preserve nature in all its glory.

And this is just the beginning to give you a flavour (I'm saving my best shots for the end :) ).

In Lerwick I stayed at an Air BnB guest house, going by the name of Solheim. Now, I don't know who stereotyped the British as cold and generally distant people, but the moment I set my foot in Solheim, I felt I was among family. The people who managed the place were an extremely nice, kind and warm-hearted lady and her son - Caroline and Andrew. They immediately started asking me if I was hungry after the long journey, how was I feeling, was I tired, and oh gosh, I look so pale and skinny, I absolutely HAVE TO stay for breakfast. Caroline rushed into the kitchen and started preparing food for me, exactly like my own grandmother would do, while Andrew took my luggage to my room. And I only popped in to leave my bags before a day at NB's office...

During my three days there they truly made me feel at home and, naturally, I've never felt that beyond my home country. What I found there was much more than a B&B - you get warm friendly smiles and tasty breakfast, friendly conversations, early morning politics and second world war discussions, and hosts who are genuinely interested in you and what you do so they can do their best to make your day better and your stay amazing (and I was really looking forward to waking up to that full Scottish breakfast every morning...)!

To top this amazement and positive experiences all off from day one, in NB's office I met the nicest people, who genuinely want to help clients develop their businesses, and skilled professionals, who really know what they're doing, from whom someone like me could learn a great deal. Friendly experts with a different and fresh perspective, surrounded by a supportive local client base, as well as a demand and recognition for NB's services from a diverse range of clients across all industries and sectors beyond Shetland.

For my three days in Lerwick, I was involved in extremely useful individual training sessions with members of the team, general business development and repositioning brainstorming and discussion team meetings with the general manager and senior project managers, as well as various client meetings. I also got to attend the Highlands and Islands Enterprise annual leadership programme "Emerging Leaders" 2017's final presentation day!

Not to mention my equally enjoyable lunch breaks in those lovely and cosy little cafes along Lerwick's Esplanade...

My second and third day in Lerwick were accompanied by a rare sunshine phenomenon and it even wasn't that windy. I didn't even need my scarf and winter hat - it was proper summer all the way! Sunny, lovely, picturesque, beautiful, magical, majestic is all that comes to mind when I think of Shetland now...

The Puffins

After my second day in the office in Lerwick, the evening road trip with an NB colleague will forevermore remain a memorable day in my existence. Why is that, you might ask yourself, what could possibly happen? Well, let's just say that I had the rare opportunity to see from up close the small little creatures called puffins. I never thought I'd ever have a favourite bird. Now I do and I'm pretty sure once you get to see them live, you'll fall in love with them too. Caroline described them as 'bird clowns', and they really did move around like clowns... and had the same bright colours all over. Just amazing small, cute and puffy little birds.

And it seemed to me as if they were constantly contemplating the very meaning of life and their own purpose in it...

Now that the puffins had their moment of glory, I have to mention that I've made lots of other friends along the way, enthusiastically hopping on and off the car and asking my tour guide to take pictures of me and my countless animal friends. And of course, a selfie with Shetland's ponies was in order...

This is where you get to see the really nice snaps.

I swear that at and around Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, which is on the south side of Shetland, are maybe some of the most beautiful and remarkable of landscapes my eyes have ever seen and they very much resemble those majestic scenes you'd only see in movies... Note how the colours change from shot to shot (and there's only maybe been a few minutes of a difference in between all these).

Breathtaking, aren't they? Nothing more I could say after these, really.

Shetland is a unique little jewel in the United Kingdom's crown - it should definitely be on your list of places to visit if it isn't already. I had three indescribably enjoyable days there. The only thing I really regret is the fact I didn't bring more people with me to see what I've seen and experience what I've experienced.

And even from my leaving plane's little window, I could still see the glory of Shetland's lands...

And a Farewell...

Shetland, you are a pleasure to the eye. I promise to see you again really soon!

Thank you, NB, for opening up your world to me and accepting me so warmly into your charming beautiful homeland!

June 1, 2017

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