No one should ever admit to this.
Walking in to MamaMia on my first day as an Intern, I was an ignorant Pom. I had only seen the website I would be spending my days working on a handful of times. And more importantly, I had no idea who ran the joint.
There’s good reason for this, I promise. I was on a Working Holiday visa from England. I was broke. I was living in a cramped 2 bed flat full of 12 people in the same situation. I was also coming to terms with the fact that I would be interning for free at MamaMia all day and working at a bar all night. Although I had wanted to do the internship, I was already resenting my aching feet and cloudy head.
I went into the morning meeting, sleepy from work the night before and expected to shrink. That is to say, I did not expect to become a borrower, but I anticipated that I would become one of the furniture. A dispensible creature that was here to file things and whom everyone could forget the name of. I expected the usual patter of jokes I didn’t understand and a meeting wreaking of regimented control from the senior editors.
But Mamamia woke me up. It was different. The meeting was teaming enthusiastic, happy, talkative editors. The tasks were divvied for the day and news bulletins discussed. Each person had their say on whether a story should run or not; what our readers would say when they read it; what the overall message was. Even little old me.
And in the corner of the room was a lady who was saying equal amounts to others. People were disagreeing with her. People were agreeing with her. She didn’t look fussed either way. She praised the others who had great stories from the day before – just like everyone else did- and looked to Jamila (the Editor in Chief) for guidance.
I was told later, when I transferred a call from a pestering company to her accidentally, which she took with smiles and patience, that she was Mia Freedman. The name meant nothing. My fuzzy head and English heritage has rendered it kinda pointless. ‘That’s cool’ I said, and reminded myself to be more careful with names in the future. I wrote her name on a list of the others and put a short description; ‘brown hair’ next to it.
When things quietened down, I googled her and the rest of the team. And then it clicked. I saw her name on the binders of several books scattered around the office, in many of the comments from MM’s readers and on the lips of most people who called.
I had taken her to be a part of the team. Which, I suppose all bosses are. But coming from several jobs where the boss is very much the boss, this was refreshing.
So, what am I trying to say? She’s just a nice person? She didn’t go all dictatorial on my ass from the get go? I was forgiven for being ignorant?
No, it was more than that. She was switched on – she had to be – but she desired help from her team. She wanted to be challenged and she wanted people to be themselves. I saw this in all of the meetings and the general running of the office.
And yes, the team were nice. I was treated well. If I had to leave early for work, so be it. I was praised. I mean, really praised. I was told my writing was good and that I should not give up. So I started this blog. It’s my little bit of Australia wherever I go. Even if I am in Dudley in meetings all day.
When I’m in the higher years of my career and I’m managing people or pitching ideas, I will take a leaf from Mia’s book. I will make people feel comfortable. I will make each idea count and bank those that do not work yet. And with that, I’m sure I will be successful.
So ta very much Mia. You and your team have taught this English girl a lot more than you think.