August 21, 2019 • History Factory
The following post was written by History Factory intern Julia Sloniewsky, who returned to Grinnell College in August.
History Factory’s approach to brand heritage and authentic content involves highlighting the defining features and unique qualities of an organization. In honor of its 40th anniversary, I will attempt to do the same for History Factory itself, which hired me as an intern and whose employees gave me not only solid working knowledge but also invaluable experiences, skills and nuggets of wisdom.
My time as an intern at History Factory can be summed up in a retelling of my first hour here. After being whisked around the office and shown the essentials (“This is your desk. “This is the office candy bowl.”), I was shepherded into the long conference room and seated among a group of strangers. And the weekly meeting began.
People I didn’t recognize began talking into an iPad about assignments I didn’t understand for projects I knew nothing about. At intervals, my new coworkers would chuckle. Or scribble furiously. Or update their calendars. My first History Factory meeting was a cross between a lively family dinner and a team huddle. I knew no one, yet I immediately felt welcome. It was mesmerizing to watch a room of strangers trade project updates and jokes with ease. At one point, I remember thinking, “This is nothing like Office Space.”
There were long stretches of conversation that were beyond my comprehension, punctuated with a company name that would jolt me back to attention. I was starstruck by the big names in a way that only an intern can be, and I walked out of the meeting wondering what kind of alchemy we performed for these companies.
Since that first meeting, I’ve been privileged enough to witness some of that magic. All around me, colleagues designed exhibits, laid out books and pieced together videos. Obviously, creative products don’t come out of a vacuum. There have to be creators, and these creators have to work in an environment that promotes creativity. I’m not going to lie and say that History Factory has nap pods and kombucha on tap. It’s not Google, and it doesn’t pretend to be.
The company and its culture are an extension of what I saw in that first meeting: collaborative, high-performing and, most of all, authentic. There are no cubicles, the offices have glass doors, and a significant portion of the floor plan is comfortable meeting space. The jokes traded across the table in my first meeting are also traded across the office, with sudden bursts of laughter. And if the office is quiet, it’s probably because people are traveling to client sites or meeting with executives from some of those big-name companies.
It’s one thing to call your firm’s culture “authentic” these days, when everything from fair-trade chocolate to drinking straws has abused that descriptor. It’s quite another to say that you participated in a brainstorming session with History Factory’s CEO for a project for one of the world’s major manufacturers. I don’t believe I could have learned as much anywhere else, and I cannot express enough gratitude for this company and its people. Happy 40th, History Factory!