13 September 2012
Having worked in several different sectors of PR I think I'm
justified in saying I've paid my dues. From dancing with a rapping
cow all day in a field, to nights in the office late enough to
justify ordering breakfast… I've been there; written the pitch. But
working on more taxing campaigns just makes it all the
sweeter when such great projects comes along. Cue Cisco's BIG Awards.
When we began work on the British Innovation Gateway
(BIG) campaign - Cisco's legacy piece as the Official Network
Infrastructure Supporter of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic
Games - we were clear on one point: we wanted to use Cisco's
position as an industry leader to inspire, discover and nurture
tech talent in the UK.
We live in a time of extraordinary technological advancement and
outstanding innovation. But there have been grumbles about how few
of the big ticket ideas come from the UK compared to our American
pals across the pond. We're a clever bunch, and Britain's
technology legacy is rich - the phone, the television, the WORLD
WIDE WEB - but there seems to be a limit sometimes to the level we
push ourselves to achieve. Tweetdeck, yes; Twitter, no. So what do
we do to bridge this gap?
We set out to find the unsung heroes of the UK tech scene by
launching a five year awards programme which tied into the wider
BIG campaign. The Cisco team was clear on one point when we began
planning the Cisco BIG Awards: a cash prize alone was not enough.
Feedback from SMEs over the years indicated that money is all well
and good, but without expert advice, mentoring and resources it
will only carry you so far. So Cisco lined up some tremendous
partners to help make the Cisco BIG Awards as beneficial to the
winner as possible - Bird & Bird, DNX and even us here at
Octopus will join Cisco to deliver legal, PR, digital and industry
mentoring, in addition to the cash prize.
The level of entry - as clichéd as it may sound - was
exceptional. This was compounded by Dragons' Den style
presentations by the six finalists last night at Cisco House. There
were some real 'oh I wish I'd thought of that' moments and the
judging panel - which included our very own Octopus MD, Jon Lonsdale - had a hard
task it must be said, but in the end three really stood out.
The winner in particular is AMAZING. Snap Fashion allows
users to search for clothing items via a visual search engine -
simply take a photograph of something you've seen or an item you
own and the app will scan more than 110 UK fashion retailers to
find a match. Impressive stuff. Runners up included Digital Shadows, a
clever cyber protection tool, and Six3, a very slick video
It's been a pleasure to work on this campaign and to meet all
the entrants - and we're excited to start working with Snap Fashion
very soon! With more projects like this, with more corporate buy in
and support, I'm sure the UK will be back on top of the tech map in
cisco, Technology, Innovation, London 2012, Olympics, Cisco BIG awards, SME, start-ups, Paralympics, Britain, UK, mentoring, fashion, Dragons' Den | 3 comments
27 July 2012
In this momentous Olympic year, nothing on the calendar
holds quite as much excitement as the opening ceremony of London
2012. The past seven years have been defined by gruelling
preparations: athletes being trained up to gold-medal standard,
monumental buildings being built where bogs used to sit and lives
being changed all over the country, as we all try to make our mark
and "inspire a generation". Now, with the opening ceremony of the
London Olympics only hours away, us Octopedes can hold our giddy
heads high and swell with pride as passers-by marvel at our
From floor to ceiling the space has been transformed from office
to the international and multicultural epicentre of East Berkshire.
Flags from every corner of the world wave in the breeze of desktop
fans and mascots sit atop walls like ambassadors leading us all to
a brighter future. I am not going to sit here and say it happened
overnight - even though it did - because that would not do justice
to the vast amounts of blood, sweat, and in some special cases,
tears, that made it all possible. Like the athletes going head to
head on the track, the different teams in the office had one thing
on the mind - glory.
Some outstanding performances came from across the board. Team
Sladey got a huge reception for their giant Olympic torch mosaic on
the wall, a symbol of our blazing spirits. Operations brought a
slice of South Asia to Windsor with an Indian-themed boudoir. A
truly stunning scale model of Wimbledon's Centre Court was
showcased by Professional Services, complete with models of Greg
"Murray" Smith and Rebecca "Williams" Taylor battling it out across
the court. The absolute pinnacle of office-based decor was achieved
when the five giant Olympic rings were placed atop of the room,
crowning the office in glory, surpassing London's Tower Bridge in
A plethora of decorations showed an unrivalled commitment to the
multinationalism felt by all, and the task of personal decoration
was met with equal passion.
The Aussies donned cork hats, the Indians were adorned with
saris and bindis, and the Mexicans grew impressive moustaches and
stayed out of the sun with sombreros. Never was there a finer
display of team camaraderie and national pride, mixed with a
healthy dose of insatiable competitiveness to achieve. After all
was said and done, our office athletes needed refreshment, and it
was only fitting that the tables were filled with food and drinks
from all over the world. Now, we are off to watch Danny Boyle's
masterpiece with a beer in hand. All that is left to say is "Come
on Team GB!"
, office Olympics | Leave comment
25 July 2012
So the Olympics are just 2 sleeps away (discounting the
start of the football!). The excitement is brewing, the
anticipation is unbearable and the
Olympic Highways have come into action!
Athletes from all over the world are fine tuning their game
plans and putting in the last of many gruelling hours of training,
all striving to reach the pinnacle of their chosen event. I, on the
other hand, have reached the summit of my mountain. I need not fear
the pressure of the home crowd. I need not worry if the Opening
Ceremony interferes with my first day of competition. I need not
stress over whether my family have all got tickets to see me shine
on the world stage, for I am the proud winner of the Octopus 'Cracker Off'!
Destiny was achieved in the cauldron of the downstairs
kitchen. Although at first reluctant to (in the words of
athlete/food connoisseur/idol Anton Du Beke) "step up to the plate", I
was consciously taking the psychological upper hand over my fellow
'crackerteers' (for that is how we refer to ourselves within the
sport) causing them to no doubt swallow their all important
gathered saliva as I stepped forward into the competition line.
Unbeknownst to me, months of hard work led me to the greatest of
cracker eating achievements. From the humble crisp bread
accompanying many a bowl of soup during the toils of a long, dark
winter, to the lightening of the diet with the switch to rice cakes
come the spring, I had been readying myself for my day of destiny
well in advance. My fellow 'crackerteers' were unknowingly
On Sammy's shrill shriek of "GO!" the tireless consumption of
all things crackers in training meant nothing. Immediately I knew I
was up against the best the Group had to offer, as Kelly 'Rambo'
Ramsay & Rachel 'DTAWASC' (don't trust anyone with a speck
case) Goodwin chomped their way through the first of the crackers
super quick. I was in a fight for first place. On and on, and on,
and on, and on we masticated, each mustering all the jaw action we
Then from nowhere, with only seconds remaining in such a tight
fought contest, Joe 'Kilimanjaro' Johnson (a colossus in the
crackering world) raided the plate for a third time. I couldn't let
all the months of dedication surfing the biscuits & snacks
aisle for delicate savoury delights go to waste, I had to go with
him and go with him I did. "STOP!" cried Sammy. "We have a
Had I blown my chance? This was an unforeseen ending to the
event not planned for by my well established coaching team of
Jacobs, McVitie & Carrs. I summoned my inspiration from a
simple mantra 'WWWD?' (What would Wallace do?)
Gulp! Gulp! Gulp! The Golden Cracker tie break began. Adopting a
similar 'swallow the cracker whole technique' from Wallace in his
crackering prime in 'A Grand Day Out',
I began to realise my efforts were edging me closer to victory.
Despite a slightly dubious first steward's enquiry, on the 2nd time
of asking, my mouth was barren of cracker, of saliva, of life. I
had done it! I had conquered all those put before me and achieved
my goal. Número uno! Top
So now all that I am waiting for are the countless offers of
ludicrous sponsorship deals (for all enquiries please contact
Graham) and television commercials to cement my rise to the top of
the packet, just as those that taste gold in the next fortnight
will no doubt receive. Though, please don't offer me cheese, as I
only have eyes for crackers!
office Olympics | Leave comment
16 July 2012
Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter -
@LauraSlade), knows that I love a big sporting occasion. The
Euros, Wimbledon…every Formula 1 weekend of the season. So,
imagine my excitement that, in just 11 days, the greatest show on
earth comes to our fair isle, bringing with it the most talented
and exceptional athletes to compete for the ultimate sporting
Call me naïve, but I sort of expected everyone to be excited
about it. Admittedly, I've spent the last 18 months or so
working with official Olympic partners, so perhaps I'm a bit closer
to the Games than most, but surely everyone gets what an amazing
spectacle it will be for Great Britain? Well it seems not…the
papers have been full of one negative story after another, whether
it be about ticketing, security (or lack of it), the branding
police, the great burger-debate or the crappy British
weather. Now, I get that it hasn't all been perfect - and
clearly there's still some work to be done to ensure London is
completely Games-ready - but do we really have to berate the Games
organisers for every set back? It's a pretty big event they
are trying to put on, so let's cut them some slack eh?
Stephen Hull (@hullstephen) at the
Huffington Post published his own take on it this morning '
Why have the media turned the Olympics into a bummer?',
explaining why the media focuses on the negative of London 2012
rather than embrace the positive. "Everything going well is not a
story," [he said] "It's just not."
And I get that, honestly I do. After 14 years in this
business, I get that shock headlines sell papers…but it saddens me
that, in doing so, we are dragging down the hopes and excitement of
the nation (well a significant percentage of them anyway).
Yes, the traffic will probably be a bit rubbish, and it will likely
rain at some point…but it's the freaking OLYMPICS! And
they're coming to London!
Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and I get that you
can't all be as excited about the Games as I am, but I think I
speak for everyone who is looking forward to it when I say enough
of the hate.
I'm not suggesting we ignore the problems, but perhaps the
newspapers could also include stories that inspire people to get
involved in the Games, whether at work (see the recent Octopus blog
about our #OfficeOlympics), with friends (who's hosting an Olympic
BBQ?!) or in their local communities. Positive stories sell
papers too…just think back to the Royal Wedding. There aren't
many happier occasions than a wedding, and papers covering the news
flew off the shelves. So come on journalists of Great
Britain…get behind the Games and inspire the rest of the nation to
Olympics | Leave comment
10 July 2012
It was an exciting day in Windsor today! The Olympic
torch was due to travel up Peascod Street towards Windsor Castle at
2:30pm, and in true Octopus style, we left the office at 1:30pm and
took a short walk to a local bar for pizza, a sneaky beverage and
to get the best possible view!
I personally don't follow the Olympics, but I didn't want to
miss out on an opportunity to watch the torch pass through, as I
probably wouldn't get a chance like this again in my life time.
I was pleasantly surprised by the brilliant English atmosphere
and the cheers as the torch and its bearer made their way along the
road. It was all over in a flash, but at least I got a photo of the
torch that I will treasure always! It's a good one, don't you
And in true torch relay style... over to you Rachel!
Up until today, I really didn't care much about the Olympics. To
be honest, all of the big sporting events this year have been a bit
lost on me. But when the offer of beer and pizza was put on the
table (literally), I just couldn't refuse!
So, beer in hand, I stood at the side of the road and waited for
the moment that everyone had been talking about for months, if not
years - and it didn't disappoint. Admittedly the torch came and
went in about two seconds, but still there is nothing more heart
warming than being swept up in a bit of British spirit and enjoying
the sense of occasion. However, I am still pretty upset that the
man with the inflatable torches never did come back :-(
I should also mention that in true English style it was - of
course - raining, but that didn't stop us Octopus folk having a
Check out the torch heading through Windsor
, Olympics, Torch Relay | 1 comment
06 July 2012
"Has all my life been leading up to this moment?" I ask
myself the morning after. Sure, it had all the trappings of victory
- the raising aloft of the yellow space-hopper and the exultant
cries of the Ops Team, "We won one at last." But like Ben Cross in
"Chariots of Fire" it feels like a hollow
It was the next instalment of the Octopus Group Office Olympics,
and it was time for the Olympic
Hop-OFF. The event itself had been fantastic - Abi, Helen and Sophie had
proven worthy opponents, but had just been unable to make
it out of the heats.
Showing the true international flavour of the event, and indeed
the Octopus Group, the final came down to the oldest of rivalries;
England vs. Slovakia. Ingrid laid
down a fearsome pace, recording a time that almost ducked under the
legendary one minute barrier that doctors had said was
physiologically impossible. A truly awesome opponent who
deserves most of the credit for the exciting sporting spectacle the
crowd had to witness on the day.
Reminding myself of every wet Thursday night training and the
long weekend runs gasping for breath, I summoned up every ounce of
my MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) being, and bounced my way to
It was all over…I was the Octopus Group, Windsor Office, Hop-Off Champion
But in my heart, I know it's not right. You see, I had an unfair
advantage….I was the only contestant who had owned an original 1969
orange kangaroo space-hopper….life had prepared me for this event
in the back gardens of West London in a way just not available to
anyone else. "Ingrid, you are the true champion. You
can have my chocolate medal, but I'm keeping the
03 July 2012
dust had barely settled from the last week's Mini Pong 'OFF' when
at 17:00 Thursday
call came round that it was time to flex those muscles! That's
right, it was arm wrestling time - a sport that has been around
since the day humans figured they had arms.
For those of you who
haven't indulged in this ancient sport, it isn't complicated. You
don't need any equipment and the simple aim is to try and pin down
the arm of your opponent. It's a sport that's all about brute
strength, good leverage and quick instincts - qualities that shone
through from all noble contestants.
The stage was set in the
orange room; 'the theatre of dreams'. It's just you, your
guns/miniguns and your opponent. There was a good turn out and
a lively crowd with some dangerous heckles for topless wrestling
(thankfully not enforced).
Over the course of the
tournament we saw many different wrestling techniques. One bout
that sticks in all our minds was the epic stand-off between Rebecca
'the tinker' Taylor and Georgia 'the hitman'
Hart. A battle that resembled a scene from Friends where Spudnik
and the big pink bunny had a stand-off to remember. Both
contestants shared their percentage of possession, but in the
interest of work deadlines, something had to give. The give was
'the tinker's right bicep and 'the hitman' walked
away a delighted yet exhausted victor.
There were many rounds
to follow, but two people in particular were causing a stir amongst
the crowd. The undefeated Sammy 'the height' Jamieson and
Steven 'the wrist' Miller. Before long it was time
for the final bout. Sammy a 6' 3" (high) PR professional from
Octopus vs. Steve a 6' 3" (wide) designer from
Both contestants had
taken their seats and the crowd was chanting. The count down begun,
3, 2, 1.... and it was over. A disappointed crowd, who were
expecting more, didn't get the value they were after. The victor,
"the wrist", had these words to say after the
tournament:"I'm just so
pleased to get Loudhouse, Windsor its first of many wins. Its good
to get our team onto the podium, and more importantly, these
chocolate medals are rather tasty".
Watch this space for the
next 'off' update!
, office Olympics, Loudhouse | 1 comment
22 June 2012
It's getting close to kick off time for the London 2012
Olympics, but the festivities have already begun here at Octopus!
With a summer of fun ahead for us watching Team GB win plenty of
Gold (hopefully!), we thought that we should fire up our own
Olympic Games here at the office. A mini table tennis competition
was the first event chosen to give our Octopedes their chance to
grab the gold!
The moment that the email came into the Professional Services
team about this truly historic table tennis competition, all
members of the team were fighting over the two allocated spaces.
Finally Lindsey and myself stood up to the plate for the first of
many events taking place in the Octopus Comms arena!
When the clock struck 12:15 the teams made their way to the
arena (otherwise known as the Orange Room). Looking around the room
there were some nervous faces. These primed athletes coming
together to represent their team and bring home the gold.
The aim of the game was to play the longest rally with your team
mate. The competition started slowly with teams faltering in the
first round. Eventually our athletes here at Octopus were playing
some superb tennis. Some beautiful slice, looped, and smash shots
were being executed all over the court. A high score was recorded
by the Ops team, which was proving hard to beat. Eventually it was
the Professional Services' time to make history. An intense game of
tennis and a few dodgy action pictures later, the Professional
Services team prevailed as champions!
But the real moral of the story is that we're all winners here
today.* Hopefully other Octopus teams will be able to catch up in
other exciting events that are taking place in the office this
*By all, I of course mean, just the Professional Services
10 February 2012
As I approach the official London 2012 white
water course in my private minibus I focus my mind on the task
ahead. Today I will be tackling the Olympic white water rafting
course and, with a gold medal in my sights, I know I'm going to
have to bring my A-game.
I look out across the water, the bright sunshine streaming
across the, as yet, untouched course. In final preparation for the
morning's activities I lift the apple custard Danish pastry to my
mouth and gobble it down in record time. I have a feeling it's
going to be a record breaking day.
The clock strikes 9:00 and my team mates begin to arrive; BBC
News Online, London Metro, ITN, Computer Weekly, Computing, Data
Centre Management, thedatachain - we're like Team GB, only better.
Then in walks our captain, Tim Brabants.
Olympian, gold medallist, Cisco ambassador and emergency room
doctor (I know, right?!), this is just the man to lead our motley
crew to glory.
Unfortunately, we're not quite Olympic ready… not yet. We are in
fact all gathered for a Cisco press event to learn about how, as
official network infrastructure provider, it plans to ensure the
integrity of the network for London 2012. The men
delivering the presentation are so intrinsic to the running of the
Olympic Games I can't even name them. So, you know, pretty standard
We spend an hour learning about just how mind-blowingly
intricate and awesome the London 2012 network is going to be.
80,000 connections across 94 locations, 65,000 active network ports
and over 20,000 hours of network testing before the Games even
begin! Then, brain-workout complete, we head downstairs for the
first of our physical tests - getting into our wetsuits (and
subsequently breathing in for two hours).
Exhausted, we step out into the courtyard to meet our
instructor. A few safety instructions later and we are ready to hit
the water. Observing the universal rule of not looking below the
waist of a person in a wetsuit, we all walk toward the course,
looking skywards, feet squelching in our damp booties. I imagine
this is just like the Olympics.
On the water our first task is to row forwards. We nail it.
Unfortunately, there is more than one stroke to learn… but after
rowing in circles for a few minutes we have a quick race with Tim
(we win) and then find the start of the course. This is it. We
practice our paddle high fives and then we're off..!
If the ocean is a fickle mistress, then truly the rapids are her
rabid, feral children. We are thrown about, spun, flipped, splashed
and soaked. We scream, laugh, choke and splutter. And then disaster
- the water gets the best of us and we are flung from our vessel
with dramatic force.
If you had told me a month ago that almost drowning journalists
and clients would make for such a great day out I'd have laughed in
your face. However, it turns out swallowing all the water in the
River Lee and scrambling over one another to get to the shore is
the BEST fun. PRs, journalists and Cisco execs bonded and happy, we
all walk into the sunset, safe in the knowledge we could probably
achieve a gold medal if we really wanted to…
, cisco, London 2012, Olympics, Tim Brabants | 1 comment
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