Out Of Office: Sid Lee Land 2020

Oh, Sid Lee Land, you’re always such a joy! There we’d be — hunched at our desks writing copy, directing art, strategizing strats or servicing accounts — and here you’d come: a bright parade marching around our offices, be it in sunny L.A. or elsewhere, aglow in your excitement, in all your fresh-faced optimism, in your matching shirts. But alas, not this year. Thanks, 2020.

This year, Sid Lee Land came up with a new way of doing things, a way designed for the stay-at-home class of 2020. Our mentees remained fresh-faced, but we met them on-screen; time in the trenches (or is it a playground? Sometimes it’s hard to tell) became time in a coaching program; client briefs evolved into a challenge to tackle the big real-world problem of gender inequality.


Sharing Values to Create What Matters
The Sid Lee Land Out Of Office (OOO) coaching program was built on values that, like all things Sid Lee, challenge the status quo:

Homemade Creativity — Everything that can be done in an office can be done out of office. Maybe it’s just a little craftier, a little crazier, a little better.

Remote Collaboration — Remote collaboration streamlines the work, empowers individuals, and strengthens our bonds. We’re not being cute: this actually brought us closer together.

Teamwork — Doing things together nourishes the me as much as the we. Nothing beats the power of the many.

Coaching — The most important lessons cannot be learned from a textbook. People teaching people: that’s the way to go.

Cap that off with a commitment to a diverse mix of talented people creating work that matters and you’ve got a recipe for a coaching program that will get the voices of promising talent heard at a crucial moment in their young careers.


How It Worked
Five teams of mentees from across the three broad fields of Project Management, Strategy, and Creative were connected with Sid Lee artisans eager to pass on some of their experience and wisdom. These coaches gave a few hours of their time each week to train the teams and mentor all would-be strategists, accounts services, art directors, and copywriters (among others) during one-on-ones, helping to guide them as they designed and constructed imaginative ways to help move the world closer to achieving Goal 5 of the United Nations’ 17 interconnected Sustainable Development Goals: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls around the world.

Our five teams took to the job with gusto and imagination. With periodic advice from their coaches, they built their projects over 10 weeks and prepared to present them to a jury of Sid Lee artisans and external experts from The Female Quotient and We Are All Human.


“And the winner is…”
…everybody. There are no losers in Sid Lee Land, but out of all the great work produced by our OOO teams, two projects really stood out.


Speak for Silence — The Sound of (Experiential) Silence
The OOO jury singled out Team 2’s Speak for Silence project for its innovative approach to jumpstarting a conversation and changing behaviours. To tackle the imbalance of power suffered by women in the workplace, the team dug deep to find the root of the problem.

Their insight resulted in a push to not just stop a negative behaviour, but to shift it to positive action. They decided to address the problem by placing men who might inadvertently perpetuate harmful silence in a context that helps unpack their anxieties, encourage them to raise their voices, and become confident allies in calling out workplace sexism.

Speak for Silence is an experiential provocation meant to help men understand things from the other side of the gender gap through a variety of media. Motion-activated posters give a face to everyday allyship; a translator app uncovers the hidden biases in their speech; and the Silent Room, an experiential activation, lets them get a sense of the workplace silence many women live through.

Team 2 impressed the jury with a multifaceted yet unified approach to the problem that puts the user in someone else’s shoes, helps unravel the language of sexism, and encourages vocal, open support. Shoutout to all four team members, who created a truly amazing project: Joelle Bouiti-Viaudo, Arnavi Mehta, Brian Zheng, Nikeetaa Ghaneckar and their coaches Jean-François Mayrand and Annie Desrochers.

Trail Blazers — Workplace Fashion for Gender Equality
Team 4 got kudos from the jury for seeing beyond the stated boundaries of the brief in a very Sid Lee way. While the mandate based on the United Nations’ sustainable development goal targeted the persistent gap between men and women, Team 4’s insight led them to a broader, more inclusive definition of gender and a deeper understanding of workplace discrimination. The team decided to focus on the millions of overlooked individuals who identify as neither male nor female, and the huge data gap that surrounds and isolates this population. Their objective turned into conceiving of an inclusive initiative to make gender equality plans truly equal.

Team 4 identified a way to replace the workplace “cloak of invisibility” that gets imposed on transgender, gender non-binary, and genderqueer people. Their answer was to dismantle and reconfigure that most staid and traditional piece of workday wardrobe: the blazer. There are blazers for men and blazers for women.

With Trail Blazers, though, there are blazers for everyone, no matter how they identify. These garments, which can be customized according to a consumer’s identity via an app, seek to address the gender gap by providing visibility to those who stand on the too-often-ignored third ledge of the chasm.

By using the expression of individual identities to subvert the rigid roles codified in traditional workplace uniforms, the jury saw in Trail Blazers an elegant and very Sid Lee way to break a rule. Kudos to the team for going beyond the brief to create great work: Menna Toeima, Louise Delfin, Simay Inan, Quintin Ermes and their coaches Crystal Sales, Alex Pellerin and Geoff Morgan.

The Class of 2020
This new way of doing things in Sid Lee Land had its challenges, of course, but some things remain constant. There is real value in doing, making, and collaborating, even at a distance and on-screen.

All the interns gained insight into the processes of the industry in general and the special way we do things at Sid Lee. They broadened their networks and forged the kind of bonds you get by working together on big ideas. They exercised their creative muscles and used their voices.

For the OOO coaches, the experience was equally rewarding. They got to see the value of their experience in a new way as it benefitted the interns. And in laying this knowledge and experience out on the table, they caught a glimpse of what it took to get them to where they are and gained a deeper understanding of their own journeys.