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This Valentine’s Month, we’re talking romance and relationships. Let’s begin by tackling an age-old question: can you work at the same company with your significant other? Is it possible to maintain both romantic and professional relationships with your lover-slash-colleague? To find out, Jeremiah Capacillo spoke with Brevo graphic designers Carissa Lucasia and Tim Leachon, aka the agency’s resident creative power couple.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jeremiah: Hey guys! Okay, let’s start with the basics—how did the two of you meet and fall in love?

Tim: Carissa and I were actually both batchmates and coursemates at the College of Saint Benilde, we were both then taking up Multimedia Arts.

Carissa: We weren’t close for the first few years. We just knew each other from mutual friends and classes.

T: Later on, I followed Carissa on Twitter and we started chatting online.

C: A few pizza dates later and, well, here we are.

J: Carissa, you’ve been working as a graphic designer for Brevo since 2018. Tim, you joined the team as a designer in 2020. Did the two of you have any anxieties or worries about working together?

T: Nope, no anxieties for me so far. We’re used to working with each other since college, and we bring out the best in each other. I think if anything changed, [it’s] all in a positive way.

C: I’m gonna be honest, yes I was a bit anxious. I know myself, and I know that I’m a different person when I'm in a relationship, versus when I’m at work as a creative. I was also a bit worried that our personal life might overlap with my professional life, and I might not be able to handle it well. I was also thinking, what if there was a conflict of interest? Because Tim's my boyfriend, and suddenly he joined our agency. Will there be bias, or something? So we try to keep things as professional as possible now.

J: Did you guys put any boundaries in place to clearly delineate your work life and love life? Like just to make sure that there's no overlap? 

C: I told Tim before he started to minimize the PDA in our work group chat. [laughs] I know some people don't like that, and personally I also don't like PDA that much. So when we do PDA, we make it a point to keep it between ourselves.

J: So, how has your relationship changed ever since you both started working together?

T: I got to see a new side of Carissa. It’s nice to see her hard at work at an office setting, so my respect for her as a creative really grew.

C: For me, the time we spend together each day has increased significantly. I like it because for example, I no longer have to check up on Tim to see if he’s eaten lunch, stuff like that. I also love seeing the ways Tim grows, like in terms of skills and time management, etc.

J: Okay! So next question: has working together made you see your SO in a new light?

C: For me, yes. I saw how much more creative Tim could be, and I saw how easily he gets along with people. Before we worked together, I didn’t really see how he worked with his former officemates. But even back then, he already got along really well with the Brevo team. So when he joined our agency, I fully saw just how well he can get along with new people.

J: Tim, how about you?

T: Well, I saw how different Carissa’s work environment was from where I used to work, and it made me appreciate how much hard work goes into producing actual design studio work. She inspired me to work even harder, seeing that she works way better than...

C: [laughs] Than who?

T: No I mean….as compared to my previous work environment, which was super chill.

C: Ahhh, okay.

T: So comparing that to how hard Carissa has to work daily, it inspired me to be more creative and work even harder.

J: Have you guys learned anything from each other since you started working together?

C: Hmm, what have I learned from Tim? [laughs] I guess I learned some technical stuff from him. At his previous job, he used to work on animation and video editing. So now, when I work on animation, I ask him for help. He helps me with exporting stuff, hotkeys, and other technical things.

J: So, time for the million-dollar question: do you think you can work in the same office as your SO? 

T: Yes.

C: Yeees.

T: Big yes.

C: As long as you both set clear boundaries, and you’re both okay with working together.

J: Do you have any advice for couples who find themselves with the opportunity to work together in the same office? 

T: Just don't mix up personal issues and work. It really affects your work process, and most likely you’ll end up not being able to focus on your tasks.

C: Very true. I'm not really the best at giving advice, but I agree with Tim—you really have to be able to separate your personal issues from your professional life. Like, you don't always have to be all work work work, or all love love love. There has to be a balance between the two. Also, enjoy the time that you have together!

Every December, a few days before Christmas Day, my creative agency Brevo ceases all operations for a two-to-three week period during the holidays. For the past three years, this is what we’ve always done each year, and what we will continue to do moving forward.

There are a few factors that led me to this decision. One, agency life is very hectic and fast-paced. Especially for creative people—I think they need to be able to step back and breathe every now and then. On a personal level, it allows them to spend quality time with family and friends over the break. 

I honestly just think it makes for healthier and more productive employees. A lot of people want to skip the holidays, and I just don't think that's a good thing. A break lets them recharge and come back with a fresh outlook for the next year. 

This isn’t easy, considering that the Christmas period is usually the busiest time of the year. When you work in an agency, and especially when you work with FMCG clients, the holidays are a crucial sales period. And they require an agency to be constantly churning out content, especially during a period where consumers are more likely to shop more.

When I was in the US, I had a meeting with a client today who told me: "We'll probably get two days off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then we're back to work." And the same thing happened to me in the UK—me and my co-employees would bargain with each other as we arranged our holiday working schedule.

For Brevo, I didn't want to have that type of environment. I considered all factors, and saw that the positives far outweighed the negatives. Personally, I think it has even made our agency more productive. And just being able to press that off switch for the holidays has done wonders in recharging one's creativity.

It isn't a common practice, and less so for the advertising industry. Still, I looked at it from a human perspective. It's always good to take time off, and letting employees know this is incredibly important. Our yearly shutdown shows my employees that the company is human, and that we encourage them to spend quality time with their loved ones. In turn, they hopefully develop a loyalty to Brevo and our culture, and how we operate. No matter how busy we get, we make it a point to not compromise our holiday break.

I remember bringing it up with one of our clients in our first year working together, and they were admittedly very surprised. But what was encouraging for me was by the second year, they started asking me when our Christmas break will take place so they can plan around it. I knew then that I had made the right decision. 

We make it a point to reassure our clients that whatever needs to be done will be done before we go, and we have a plan for when we come back, and that it's like they won't miss a beat with us. And once they saw that, the clients all came on board. Now, we let our clients know the date of our shutdown beforehand, and thankfully everyone understands and respects it.

To date, Brevo hasn't missed a deadline due to our year-end shutdown. I credit that to much planning, especially from the accounts team. We plot our last day a couple of months ahead, and we start to plan accordingly in terms of projects and what we need to discuss with clients ahead of time. We plan out deadlines, and decide on what can be postponed to next year. Thankfully, our clients have always understood that. We haven't had any pushback from their end.

We're also selective when it comes to taking on projects during the holidays. If there's a particular project that will compromise our agency shutdown, we just wouldn't take it on. The long-term benefits to team morale and mental health far outweigh the short-term financial success. If you don't draw a line in the sand somewhere, then that line will always be moved. And that's something I always like to stand by.

Honestly, I would say to all CEOs out there: treat your team as you would want to be treated yourself. If you're that type of CEO that is constantly working, you need to understand that not everybody might be driven by the same things that you are, and you need to consider  how your employees can benefit from time with their families.

At Brevo, I can just say that the results have spoken for themselves. We've had success in terms of year-on-year growth, with a minimum growth of 100 percent year-on-year in terms of revenue since we started. Since year 1, we've observed our Christmas break religiously, and our clients and employees have reacted positively to it—and more importantly, our bottomline has grown at least double every year.

For me, the proof is in the pudding, and I think a holiday break is something all companies should be taking on. And let’s not limit it to the holiday season, a healthy work-life balance is very important to the success of a business. I would say the results have been great for us, and I think they would for other companies, too.

Who knew that the silver screen can sub in for your trusted career counselor? Long a favorite trope of Hollywood, office-based comedies are not only hilarious and entertaining—if you pay close enough attention, you’ll find that they’re filled with incredibly insightful lessons about surviving and thriving in the workplace.

Below, we list down a few of our favorite office movies and the career truths we’ve learned from them. Let us know your favorite picks in the comments!

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Synopsis: Fresh out of university, the young and naive Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) enters the fast-paced world of fashion magazines as an assistant to the high-powered Runway editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). As she learns how to meet Miranda’s increasingly demanding standards, Andy is forced to confront just how far she’s willing to go  and what she’s willing to sacrifice to climb the career ladder.

Takeaway: You are not your job.

Underneath the chic costumes and the hilariously bitchy quips, The Devil Wears Prada is at its core a film about work-life balance. In a world where we tend to get carried away in the hustle of the rat race, sometimes it’s good to remind yourself of your personal values and the things that truly matter. Remember: your job doesn’t define your worth.

Morning Glory (2010)

Synopsis: Aspiring television producer Becky (Rachel McAdams) finally gets her big break as the head producer of DayBreak, a struggling morning talk show. Armed with guts and a fresh perspective, she soon breathes new life into the show with millennial-forward talking points and out-of-the-box viral segments.

Takeaway: Think outside the box.

Don’t be afraid to bring new ideas to the table! To achieve true success, sometimes you have to work beyond the limits of how things are done and explore how it can be done. Feeling stuck in a career slump? Try approaching your workload from a totally different point-of-view.

Working Girl (1988)

Synopsis: When ambitious secretary Tess (Melanie Griffith) finds out that her boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver) has been stealing her ingenious business ideas, she decides to take matters into her own hands. With a new business-ready makeover, she sets out to impersonate the out-of-town Katherine and land a merger that could fast-track her career.

Takeaway: Take initiative.

You know what they say: a rolling stone gathers no moss. It won’t bode well for anyone to just sit back and wait for success to come to your feet—instead, actively find ways to achieve your career goals. Of course, breaking into your boss’ apartment and helping yourself to her closet of designer clothes is totally illegal, but you get our drift.

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Synopsis: Fed up with the constant stream of abuse they’re forced to put up with, financial executive Nick (Jason Bateman), dental assistant Dale (Charlie Day), and account manager Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) hire a hitman to assassinate their bosses. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

Takeaway: Find a strong support system.

We’re obviously not suggesting you attempt to murder your misbehaving boss—felonies are always an absolute no-no. But when the going gets tough, it helps to have a few friends in the office to commiserate with. Surround yourself with positive-minded coworkers who support and uplift you. They’ll come in handy the next time you flunk a presentation or miss a deadline.

The Intern (2015)

Synopsis: Feeling bored and restless during retirement, 70-year-old Ben (Robert de Niro) applies as a “senior” intern to Jules (Anne Hathaway), the 30-year-old CEO of a fast-growing e-commerce company. The two soon forge a strong friendship, bonding over how they both find themselves in unexpected positions of success career-wise.

Takeaway: Don’t limit yourself.

Think you’re too young to establish your own company, or too inexperienced to land your dream job? Think again. Remember: you’re only as good as you believe you are. Start taking more chances and open yourself to opportunities you never would have considered for yourself. Sometimes, the best career boost you can get is to start believing in yourself.

As we enter the fifth month of quarantine restrictions, it may seem like it gets harder and harder to work from home each day. Although the idea of it all may have been appealing back in the day (imagine filing reports and attending morning huddles in your pajamas!), the honeymoon has soured and the muddled distinction between work and home life may get particularly draining. After all, how do you focus on your work duties when your TV is right there begging you to go on a Netflix marathon?

Thankfully, we here at Brevo are learning to adjust to this newfangled setup. Along the way, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to best harness and maintain focus during work hours. Check out the productivity hacks our team members use to keep their work-from-home game on point!

“My morning routine is very important to me. If I fail to wake up at 6AM and I miss my morning run and meditation, I know my day will fall apart. I also make it a point to call my teammates at the start of the week so we can write out to-do lists together. Additionally, I’ll sometimes switch up my workstation for the day. It’s nice to have a change in scenery every now and then.”

- Imran, Director

“I make it a point to meditate first thing in the morning. In these uncertain times, taking ten minutes to stay still and breathe really makes a difference in managing my anxiety. I also start the day by writing an extensive to-do list, breaking down all my big tasks into bite-sized steps. Most importantly, I have a hard-and-fast rule about never working from my bed — I just know I’ll get way too comfortable and never get anything done.”

- Jeremiah, Copywriter

“It was pretty easy for me to adjust to working from home, since all I need to do my job is fast Internet and a computer. It was harder though to separate my work life from my home life. So, when I wake up I try to create some time just for myself. I often go to our garden before clocking in to breathe and mentally prepare for the day. I’ve also designated a specific workstation outside my bedroom. I think it has helped me set clear boundaries and maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

- Trisha, Community Manager

“The biggest challenge was tuning out all unnecessary distractions, especially when all my video game consoles are right there. I’ve started to wake up a few hours earlier than usual so I can mentally prepare for the day and list down all of my tasks. I also moved my workstation to our living room, where my brothers are also busy working. I found that being surrounded by busy people simulates an office environment, which helps me focus and keeps me from getting distracted throughout the day.”

- Rafa, Account Executive

“I found it hard to focus at first because my mind is wired to feel at my most comfortable at home. One thing that always helps is coffee, so I make sure that I have it in the morning. I also started working by the window, a place that was both comfortable and conducive to my productivity. I don’t like spending a long amount of time staring at my screen, so I like being able to look out the window and let my eyes rest for a bit. Taking short breaks also helps in avoiding burnouts and regaining my focus. I try to stand up, walk around the house, or play with my dog for a bit every now and then.”

- Carissa, Graphic Designer

Admittedly, the work-from-home isn’t perfect and can cause a lot of annoying inefficiencies. (Ever been on a Zoom call with a coworker with poor signal?) But by writing thorough to-do lists, delineating specific workstations around the house, and taking time for yourself before clocking in, you can keep a high level of productivity even from the comfort of your home.

How do you improve your focus and productivity while working from home? Sound off in the comments below!

As far as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write. In my cringey pubescent years I filled countless journals with hastily scribbled fan fiction and angst-ridden recollections of the day. In the confusing turbulence of adolescence, there was one thing I was certain of: I loved telling stories.

This love for storytelling stuck when it came to picking a career path in university. Seduced by the sexy fast-paced world of Mad Men (then one of primetime TV’s hottest shows), I decided to enter advertising as a copywriter. I was enthralled by the way Don Draper would write a tight pitch, command a boardroom, and make a bunch of macho executives wimper with a tagline so filled with pathos and emotion — even if it was just to sell a line of disposable cameras. In my mind, I was confident that my destiny was to follow in Don’s footsteps.

That is, until I took my first university copywriting class. Now I never scored a bad grade in any of the class requirements, but I didn’t exactly excel either. When my works would merit a few appreciative nods and constructive criticism from my professor, he would shower others with heaps of praise and proclamations of their genius. Seeds of doubt began to take root in my head — maybe I was pursuing something I just wasn’t very good at?

So I settled for the next best thing. As an obnoxious stickler for organization, I decided I wanted to stay in advertising and become an accounts man. After all, I was notorious for planning over-detailed itineraries for family vacations. I convinced myself it was a perfect fit — pretty soon, as a student I landed an accounts internship at a big multinational ad agency. A year later, just two weeks after graduating I accepted a job offer as a junior accounts executive at another rising local ad agency.

Four months in, I knew something was off. On the surface, I had a great job: the office culture was warm and inviting, and my pay grade was more than sufficient for a fresh grad. Still, for some reason I found myself dreading coming into work every morning. I slowly began to realize that the accounts realm of client coordination and filing endless amounts of paperwork was maybe not for me.

Even then, there was one aspect of that job that I loved. On days before a client presentation, the team would reconvene and creatives would share their concepts with us accounts people. Watching them present incredibly ingenious ideas, I was spellbound — it was like seeing Don Draper work his magic in the flesh. More importantly, seeds of hope began to bloom inside me. Maybe, just maybe, I also had what it takes to become a creative?

A month later, I took a leap of faith and chose fulfillment over certainty. I quit my accounts job and found a gig as an editorial assistant for an online lifestyle publication. A year later, equipped with the publishing industry’s rigorous writing standards, I got a job at Brevo as a copywriter.

As cheesy as it sounds, often when it comes to major career decisions it pays to listen to your heart. Over the years I’ve learned that it is crucial to heed the call where you are needed, and where you feel needed. And hey, carpe diem — we only have one life to live, might as well do it happily!

This isn’t to say that upon getting the job of my dreams, I lived happily ever after. You know that saying that goes if you find a job you’ll love, you’ll never work a day in your life? Huge crock of rubbish. As with any other discipline, there was a steep learning curve that I worked hard to overcome. The big difference is now, when I come home after a long tiring day at work, I always feel proud of myself and each day’s little victories.

Landing the job of my dreams wasn’t a walk in the park, but it is where I feel truly fulfilled. I have no regrets. Through this journey, I learned the two most valuable lessons of my career to trust in your instincts, and to never let fear govern you.

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