Philippine News

Brand & Business: When familiarity breeds camaraderie — the friendship network at Katapult Digital

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — This much is true: start-ups grow from a nexus of people, who know people, who know people. But what makes them flourish is an entirely different matter altogether.

Now on its third year, Katapult Digital has increased significantly in size. The organization that began with only a handful of members has now grown into a team of 15, with each player offering their unique expertise to make sure that the company is always at its a-game. In its efforts to provide end-to-end digital services, employees are encouraged to constantly learn and evolve in their craft. The team imbibes Katapult’s Play-To-Win spirit, and their ever-reliable culture of growth to push themselves to go above and beyond. This commitment to personal and professional transformation is a testament to Katapult’s “Working Student” motto, the fulcrum which motivates every training, certification, and workshop attended. Having this multidisciplinary understanding of the digital marketing industry is tantamount to the company’s collective success. These values sit in the very heart of their operations, as Katapult believes that the only way to make great work is to work in great conditions. As Luis Mendez, Katapult’s Content & Creatives Lead, puts it concisely, “We work to live, not live to work.”

But this start-up’s success is not only thanks to the premium they put in their culture and values, it is also made possible by the undeniable synergy that each member has with one another. There is nothing new in the idea that a warm and welcoming work environment can lead to the birth of great work. In fact, many young executives prioritize this dynamic when choosing where to work for next. But over at Katapult, the prevalent feeling of every new hire to enter its doors is almost always the same: The team they meet truly feels like family, and it’s an undeniable magic.

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It helps that most of their hires actually come from tried and tested referrals: People who know people. This tight-knit recruitment strategy ensures that everyone in the team remains to be a trustworthy and reliable addition — a person people can depend on through thick or thin. After all, it is only when these happy professionals are able to play on the strengths of their partners can they truly call it a day.

Old Faces, New Responsibilities

The notion that old bonds make way for new possibilities rings especially true for Katapult’s very own Board of Directors. Katapult Digital was formed as a mere seedling of an idea between a group of marketing veterans who have all served their tenure in Procter & Gamble: Chairman James Lafferty, CEO Albet Buddahim, CTO Francis Uy, CMO Quennie Go-Cua, and Atty. Darlene Berberabe. These colleagues turned friends shared the same dream of being at the forefront of the digital revolution.  Their years of corporate experience and solidarity have granted Albet the privilege of guiding the company’s daily operations, simplifying their roles as investors and Board of Directors. Such trust trickles down even to the most important decisions, which are relayed and discussed through simple phone calls, WhatsApp messages, and monthly meetings. Indeed, their pre-existing companionship has served as a great catalyst for inspired work.

Such is also the case for one of Katapult’s pioneering members, Ed Batucan. Katapult was in its first year when his cousin Albet introduced him to the prospect of working as the company’s Digital Media Manager. The same can be said later on for another cousin of Albet’s, and Katapult’s current Performance Engineer, Tedd Escalona. Their family-coworker relationship never once served as a hindrance to the media team’s output or productivity. In fact, having family around inspired them individually to push each other to be better than when they started.

David Rosario was Albet’s colleague from the MarkProf Foundation before he became the company’s resident Research and Analytics Specialist. It was because of David’s experience in economics (with over seven years of tenure as an economics professor at Kalayaan College to back him up) combined with their shared history in marketing, that Albet entrusted him to carry out the work of being the resident “numbers guy” masterfully. David’s expertise is integral to making sure that Katapult’s campaigns send ads and messages backed by statistical realities.

Katapult’s current PR & Comms Specialist, Mikee Lim, can also attest to the value of this type of dynamic.  Mikee was recommended by two of her trusted friends from her alma mater, Cheese Mendez (Content & Creatives Lead), and Lexi Chingcuangco (Senior Storyteller). As she navigates through her new role within the Creative Team, she is able to find a balance of both guidance and comfort in the way they coach her. Since they have a sense of familiarity with each other, they are able to collaborate on their creative ideas freely, professionally, and constructively.

How the team acquired their Multimedia Creator, is a similar story. Mikey Labrador was introduced by her long-time friend, Joanne Gotladera, who had already been working as the company’s Account Manager. Her talent in graphic design made her stand out as a great referral and viable candidate for the creative team. And because Joanne knew of her superb work ethic firsthand, she was confident in vouching for Mikey, correctly predicting she would be compatible with the rest of the team. Mikey has since proven herself to be more than up for the challenge when it comes to something as sensitive and painstakingly detailed as creative ideation and execution.

As for the team’s newest hire, Azfar Rashid, he’s taken his expertise in Shopify and e-Commerce to the ranks of Katapult as the company’s E-Commerce Senior Specialist. After a fated conversation about the world of digital marketing, Albet and Azfar established a friendship that would later evolve into a thriving professional relationship too. Albet deemed him a good fit with the company’s growth plan because of his aspirations to hone his Shopify and E-Commerce expertise.

A Culture of Meritocracy Forged by Trust

“Since we’re all friends, we can drink like sailors, but also conduct ourselves as consummate professionals at the same time”, David remarks, distilling Katapult’s culture and camaraderie in one go. The balance between casual office banter and disciplined work attitudes is tough to tread, but their teamwork is made possible by the amount of trust they have naturally placed on each other’s brilliance. They understand that true professionalism means having fun should never be a roadblock from doing great work, and that trusting in each other’s excellence can allow themselves some well-deserved breathing room. This kinship also gives them the chance to disagree openly and respectfully without it ever getting in the way of their friendship, since there is a mutual understanding that the quality of work comes at the forefront of their day-to-day dealings.

Fun moments also inspire the team to deliver great service to their partners and audiences. “I think the relationship that we have with each other is really what makes our output shine,” Mikey notes. Since they are able to live and breathe meaningful moments as each other’s work friends, it becomes easy for them to infuse authentic meaning into their work for clients.

Aside from the fun, there is also an obvious sensitivity placed on everyone’s mental and emotional needs in Katapult. The flux and flow of the work day rarely becomes an impediment to anyone’s state of mind, and people feel that it’s safe to be candid about who they are and the challenges that they face. This way, teammates double as each other’s ammo and support system. They know when to step in, when to pull back, and when to simply be a friend to one another, all in the service of delivering meaningful content that clients and audiences can resonate with.

As the whole world struggles to connect with one another in light of COVID-19, being in the midst of people knowing people has gained profound relevance in the workforce Being present from a distance has proven to be difficult at times, but fond familiarity breeds a lot of room for flexible communication in the case of the Katapult team. “Working as a team during quarantine is easy because of the trust we have for each other. We have such open communication and we all share that desire to end the week on a high note. In a way, working together like this is helping us get through the tough times [happening] outside our homes,” Lexi Chingcuangco, puts it succinctly.

Ultimately, Katapult Digital is able to attract like-minded friends and family because of their concern for people’s individual growth. This dedication to honing and nurturing talents, whether young or old, is what makes the company feel like home to so many excellent professionals.

And what makes this moment of inertia liveable for Katapult Digital? It’s the tales that they still have left to tell each other, and the hope that they can come together face to face, fearlessly, once again. For now, their friendship serves as a stronghold that protects the quality of their work, and bridges their physical divide.

The Katapult Team is a testament to the fact that being in a sea of familiar faces can open up many opportunities for growth and learning. Having work-friends can make a special kind of collaboration possible, one where great talent and discipline triumph over everything else. When it comes to friends, family, and beyond, excellent work ethics are non-negotiable.

Katapult Digital is looking for like-minded people to grow their circle of trust! If you are looking to collaborate with happy professionals and put your digital expertise to good use, visit katapultdigital.com/careers.

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