The benefits we offer include 18 paid days off/year (which can be used for any reason, including vacation, illness, or snow days), 7 paid holidays, an additional 310.00/month towards your health & dental insurance premium (after 90 days), and matching IRA contribution after you earn 5000.00 in two consecutive years.
The work is at times difficult or tedious, but the result of that hard work is that we provide a tremendous benefit for our clients and our member photographers. If you are looking for a job that's fun all the time, this is probably not that job. If you are interested in photography and advertising and you find meaning in helping the people around you succeed, you may find this job gratifying, and sometimes even fun.
You can read more about our history on Kate Osba's blog.
The Wonderful Machine team in the bullpen of our Conshohocken office.
What I’m looking For
With such a small company, each of our staff members has an opportunity to make a big impact. So I’m looking for people who have the potential to help us grow. Most of our work is about becoming an expert in some area, then communicating that expertise to our photographers and clients. A background or interest in photography, sales, marketing/advertising, or research is nice, but emotional/intellectual intelligence and people skills are more important. Otherwise, I’m looking for someone who is articulate, personable, conscientious, hard-working, adaptable, proactive and generous. By generous, what I mean is that our ability to succeed is largely dependent on our staff members’ ability to collaborate with one another, as well as with the photographers and clients we serve.
What is it that's unconventional about Wonderful Machine?
Innovation is an important part of our company culture. We sometimes do things differently than other companies, not just to be different, but because we've found a benefit in that innovation. As a result, your experience as a Wonderful Machine staff member may be different than your experience elsewhere. You may like some of those differences and dislike others. Our company structure and all of our company policies are intended to have the greatest long-term benefit for the company (which is sometimes in conflict with the short-term interests of individual staff members or me).
We have a leadership training program where everyone learns the basics of research, outreach/business development, photo editing, writing, and social media. We have found that understanding a lot about our company and about our industry makes our staff members good collaborators internally, and it makes them more valuable to photographers and clients externally. Some of our staff members like the diversity and challenge of these experiences and others are uncomfortable with one or more of those roles. It's our expectation that our staff members contribute their best efforts in everything they do, even when they find those tasks diffucult or unpleasant.
Since our work is so specialized, it's hard to find people with the skills we need (especially in Philadelphia). As a result, we tend to hire inexperienced people who are smart, communicative, and cheerful, and train them on everything they need to know in order to be successful. (I do sometimes hire people with experience.)
Over the years, we've evolved into a consulting company. That means that once you graduate from our basic training program, it becomes your job to cultivate a skill (like photo editing, marketing/social media, or shoot production), communicate that skill to publications, agencies, brands, and photographers, and then manage the projects that come in. When our junior consultants are getting started, they collaborate with our senior consultants to learn the ropes. Our consultants enjoy all of the benefits of running their own company without any of the risks. This is great for people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, but it probably won't be appealing for people who don't.
Our company culture is client-focused rather than employee-focused. This one is has historically been a challenge for many of our staff members. Since we can only work on projects that our photographers and clients hire us to do, we focus our attention on understanding those photographers and clients and then figuring out how to serve them. This means that sometimes individual staff members get to work on projects they enjoy working on and sometimes they have to work on projects that they don't love. Even though we put a lot of energy into creating opportunities for our staff members and cultivating a happy work environment, we can only work on projects that our clients give to us.
All of our roles involve business development. Even when someone ends up specializing in photo editing, marketing, or shoot production, they are responsible for cultivating their own clients. At most publications and agencies, there are people who sell the projects and other people do the projects. At our company everyone does both selling and doing.
We have a flat management structure. I have intentionally organized the company in such a way that we collaborate with rather than manage each other. That means that I need people who are very conscientious and who have a lot of initiative.
We aren't a company of "creatives," we're a company of "project managers." Sometimes when people see our website, they see creative work like photography, writing, and design. It's important to understand that even though our staff dabbles in these tasks here and there, the main emphasis of our work is in business development and project management.
We bundle sick days, vacation days, and snow days into a pool of 18 paid days off each year. Some companies separate time off into different categories. We find that our staff members like the flexibility of being able to take time off for any reason or no reason at all.
We expect all of our staff members to work with us exclusively. We pay our staff members a retainer (in the form of a salary) to support them until they become self-sufficient as consultants. In exchange for that retainer, we expect all of our staff members to work on all of their projects as part of their job, even if a client found them independently of Wonderful Machine (we don't want to compete with our own staff members).
I work closely with everyone in our leadership training program. I am constantly coaching everyone on their work and I'm constantly having conversations about how we can improve upon our processes. Sometimes our staff members are frustrated when I don't follow their advice, but since we have 24 staff members, 700 photographers, and countless clients, it's my job to reconcile everyone's interests and then create structure and policies that I think will work best.
How to Apply and How I’ll Respond
If after reading all that, you think we might be a good match, please send your resume to [email protected] listing your education and experience, and a brief cover letter (which can be in the body of the email) describing why you’d be a good fit for Wonderful Machine. I'll acknowledge your email by saying, “Thanks, I’ll take a look.” If you don’t hear from me again, that means that I don’t think that you’re quite right for us at this moment. I get a lot of inquiries, so I’m sorry that I won’t be able to offer more feedback than that. It’s nice if you address your email to me personally (please call me Bill), rather than to “Dear Hiring Manager.” And you’ll score extra points if you include a link to your LinkedIn profile (which helps me keep tabs on you if I can't hire you this time around).
If it looks to me like you might be a good match for us, I’ll ask to meet up over Skype for a quick chat. I’ll have some questions for you, and it’ll be nice if you have some questions for me. I tend to interview a lot of people and I tend to take a long time to make a decision. I will do my best to let you know if you are definitely not getting that particular job. But since we’re growing fast, sometimes one set of interviews can run into the next. So if I don’t tell you that you didn’t get the job, it could mean that I’m still considering you for the next opening. I’ll do my best to keep you posted, but there are times when I simply have to leave people hanging. I don’t mind if you follow up by email, and I’ll do my best to give you a meaningful update.
I hope that’s helpful. Please let me know if there’s anything I could add to make this explanation more useful. Thanks!