Ogilvy Washington offers workers chance to embed in offices across the globe

September 30, 2012

Company: Ogilvy & Mather.

Location:
The District.

Employees: About 200 locally; 2,200 worldwide.

Ogilvy Washington may have sister offices scattered around the globe, but its leaders say the firm’s corporate culture is consistent across continents.

“Whether it’s here, San Francisco, Chicago, Beijing, Shanghai, you know you’re in an Ogilvy office. It’s not just the way it looks, it’s the way it feels,” said Robert Mathias, managing director of the Washington office.

And a key part of fostering that environment, he said, is the public relations company’s “work visit” program, in which employees can volunteer to work with colleagues in another city or country, so long as they can prove to supervisors that the exchange will be beneficial for both the home office and the host office. The trips can be as short as a few days or as long as several months, and the tab for travel and lodging is picked up by the company.

Employees who want to participate must come up with their own agenda for the visit, and they also must get buy-in from a “sponsor,” who is someone at the host office who will agree to guide them and make sure their time is spent productively.

The company decides on a case-by-case basis whether visiting staffers must keep up with their regular work portfolios while they’re out of town; it depends on the rigor and duration of what they’re doing abroad.

“Clearly it’s not a vacation. But also there’s no point in sending them over fully encumbered,” Mathias said.

Jeff Chertack took part in the program in 2007, spending three months in Brussels. He said the experience enhanced his work greatly when he came back to Washington.

“I was able to place the client’s situation in a bit of a broader light because of the experience that I had working with the European institutions,” he said.

The arrangement helped position him to fulfill his goal of doing more work with an international focus. And ultimately, it led to him joining the Brussels office full-time, where he currently serves as managing director.

“It certainly changed the course of my career,” Chertack said.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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