We read 'Crucial Conversations' and this is what we learned

We read 'Crucial Conversations' and this is what we learned

Many defining moments in life are shaped by the way we engage in important conversations. Whether it’s personal or work-related, when it comes down to a tough conversation that needs to be had – the kind where emotions run high and opinions greatly vary – listening and speaking up at the right time can be crucial. And much like art, having a proper and meaningful dialogue takes practice.

As a team, we recently read Crucial Conversations – a book that offers insights and tools needed for talking when the stakes are high. It sure stirred up some interesting discussions within the team. Here are five takeaways we want to share.

Safety First

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, it’s important that everyone involved feels safe. If people feel safe, they will open up and talk freely. If they don’t, you know you’re in a crucial situation and will need to change your approach to get out of it. That means learning to look within, since you’re the only one you can control in a dialogue, but also looking for signs of fear with the other. If people start to fight or flight, by forcing their views, staying silent or by changing the topic, you know you need to bring the conversation back to safety.

Change your story

People create their own stories behind an event or experience and because they don’t talk about it, they tend to react based on (their story or) their version of things. It’s always easier to turn others into villains when they say or do something you don’t like. Most of the time it’s not their intent to make you feel bad. When you react and treat your conversational partner like they have done bad by you, you’re most likely to get even further away from your initial goal. Change the story you tell yourself and take charge of your emotions, so your feelings won’t drive your actions during a conversation.

Facts, facts, facts

What really struck with us and helped us a lot is quite simple but often overlooked: to always mention the facts. Facts are the most persuasive argument but often it’s clouded by emotions. Take the time to straighten out the facts and keep the dialogue on track. That way a calm and collected crucial conversation is ensured.

Sarcasm much?

Another interesting insight was use of sarcasm, something we are definitely not unfamiliar with. Though often meant as wit, sarcasm is basically criticism disguised as humor. It made a lot of sense to us once we understood how sarcasm is a type of masking, which is when we understate or selectively show our true opinions. Being more aware of this now we often see how people are not communicating effectively, because they are not in dialogue. So, tone down the sarcasm and focus on creating an environment where everyone feels safe to speak. Creating awareness around the use and effects of sarcasm, among other things, was a great first step for us to take.

Learn to look and stay curious

When talking about the book, its contents and the several examples given, we realized how much crucial conversations are the solid foundation of our lives, work and relationships and even affect our health and how we feel. We encounter crucial interactions every day so effective communication during those moments cannot be overlooked. There’s not one big lesson to take from this book, since your personal style of communication has a lot to do with what you have to work on to communicate efficiently. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that learning to look at what happens around you and staying curious towards others helps to establish a safe environment for people to talk. Not an easy skill to master, but one that can make a big difference in so many areas in work and life if you ask us.

What is Machine Learning? Going beyond the buzzwords.

What is Machine Learning? Going beyond the buzzwords.

Machine Learning is the new Linear regression. But what is machine learning and how can it help fuel success in your business? We talk to Jacqueline to find out a little more about Machine Learning.

Hey Jacqueline, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

After finishing my masters in Econometrics, I started working as a consultant at PWC. After a while, I missed the university and decided to do a PhD in a slightly different field to broaden my horizon. My focus was on evolutionary algorithms, an optimization technique inspired by natural evolution. I happened to apply it to robotics but this technique is more general than that. In my free time, I work out (tennis and fitness) and I love to do all different kind of courses such as cooking, wine, photography, guitar, diving, etc.

So, let’s get straight to it, what is machine learning?

Machine learning techniques all have the same goal: to be able to explain patterns in data and predict them if necessary. Recommender systems such as booking.com and bol.com, for example, try to derive from data which hotel or product they can best recommend in order to increase the chances of loyal customers and further purchases. Chatbots create relevant answers and suggestions by categorizing the text that is provided by the subject.

What about Artificial intelligence, how is this different from machine learning?

Chabot’s try to categorize the text that is provided by different subjects so that they can provide a relevant answer. Artificial intelligence is when these machine learning systems can make useful recommendations, or even have what feels like a genuine conversation.

Should every business be using machine learning techniques?

Well, that depends on the end goal of the business. The fact that an organisation has data does not necessarily mean that machine learning techniques will contribute something. Often, visualising the data will help to improve business operations. Simply because data provides us with insights into the current state of affairs. A dashboard with visualisations or a simple data analysis is the only thing that is needed for this. So, this may not be machine learning but it can often be a huge boost and helping hand for business operations.

So, what is then the role of a data scientist?

It starts with collecting the available data and carefully checking and visualizing it. In interactive sessions with the client, questions will arise and potentially other sources for data that can be taken to the next steps. This is, therefore, data visualisation and the “scientist” in data scientist is not really present. That is why often, the role is also called Data Analyst.

When a business wants to explain certain measurement data (when is a marketing campaign successful?) and as the next step wants to predict (How many new customers will this campaign lead to?) We can make use of machine learning techniques (then the role will revolve more around data science).

How do existing machine learning techniques differ?

The only way to answer this question is if we dive a little deeper into how machine learning works. If you already have a good understanding of neural networks, then you’ll know already that linear regression is the same as a neural network without hidden layers (and no activation function). We can conclude that regression is a machine learning technique. But new techniques within machine learning such as deep learning and random forest work a little different than the more traditional models.

The more traditional regression models assume statistical qualities of the underlying data. This allows certain statements to be made about the final significance of the coefficients and therefore the correctness of the model. The model is ultimately easy to understand, but a lot of work (not to mention time) is required to meet these characteristics.

New techniques such as random forest do place importance on the different variables but more on the power of prediction the final tool could hold. For this reason, a lot of training will take place on a training set and tests will be done with a test set of data that the model has not seen already. Contrary to a more understandable model with regression, random forest creates a more complicated model that isn’t easily understandable. The benefit of this is that these techniques can be implemented very quickly through all the available open source libraries.

Working with a data scientist

If this interview has sparked your interest in what machine learning can do for your business, we’d advise you to work with a freelance data scientist who can do a quick scan. The data scientist can apply a few techniques to existing data so in the end that it’s clear what value the data department can add to your organisation.

Ngrane 2018 Highlights

Ngrane 2018 Highlights

Oh, what a year

From Fusion Friday’s to #MotivationMonday’s back at it with exciting projects and positive attitudes. From a simmering Summer BBQ to the End of the year party. From opening our doors to new people to the soft launch of our dream project. It’s safe to say 2018 was a good year. Throwback with us to one of our best years yet.

The BBQ of all BBQ’s

Ah, the summer, wasn’t it sweet? Looking back into 2018 has gotten us craving those laidback summer vibes and our Summer BBQ was the perfect way to celebrate our favourite season. The weather was good (30 degrees, hello, come back!), the water guns were loaded, the BBQ was on till the sun went down and we… well, we had an incredibly memorable day with our friends, family, partners and work relations.

Letting the good times roll

At Ngrane, we mean business, but we’re not afraid of a little fun. Ok fine, a whole lot of fun. One of our favourite highlights of 2018 would be all the great experiences we had bonding as a team and, more importantly, a community. We danced the night away and sipped on mojitos at our Latin Party and had a blast at our many Fusion Fridays (besides our normal Friday’s of course). We became our most zen selves at yoga sessions with Emily and learnt more about Crucial Conversations at our weekly book club. Besides that, we went to great events like The Next Web and joined a class at The School Of Life. We could go on forever, but all in all our year was overflowing with good times.

Growing the community. New faces, new friends

Last year we really had the pleasure of seeing our community grow, with new faces and more importantly, new friends. Both with people who have joined us to strengthen the core crew and joined us on a project basis, we appreciate each and every one of you!

By new faces, we also would like to share the new partnerships we made with great companies that were 100% aligned with our vision.

YFK  /  DASHMOTE  /  DevMob  /  Youwe  /  PROFOUND Projects / Yve Ent. / Liesl / X+Y

Sharing knowledge and learning from our interns

2018 was the year of many things, but you could say it was the year of interns. Not just one, not two but five interns this year working on bringing our platform ForteFor to life. We had Rutger who researched UX and design, crafting user stories and personas, looking into what exactly it is freelancers are looking for and crave in their work and life. Mark focused on gamification and how to make sure that the freelancers on our platform keep their profile up to date in a fun way. Which is important to keep the platform running by creating matches between companies and freelancers. The three wise men, aka Hugo, Jeffrey and Youseff, were busy building the architecture of the platform. They learnt on the job about API’s to connect the platform with other platforms as well as integrating different platforms.

Launching Fortefor

At Ngrane we’ve been thinking more and more about redefining the work experience and following your heart as a freelancer. To bring those thoughts and ideas to life we thought of ForteFor, an online platform that fosters a community of freelancers and helps them to pave their own way. We finished the MVP of the platofrm so that the basics are done, people can create profiles and search for projects. Our internal launch was a success in which we received plenty of feedback to keep working on the platform. 2019 is all about the year of perfecting this platform and to keep working on how can exude our philosophy in each and every aspect of what we do. Learn more about ForteFor on our website: and of course, share your feedback, we love hearing from our community.


Doing what we love

Doing what you love is one of our highest priorities, and last year we were lucky to have many partnerships and projects with amazing brands that gave us the room to foster our skills, work as a team as well as thrive alone. From creating social media strategies and content management for the FutureBrands part of PepsiCo to crafting a one-stop travel platform for DolfijnGO. We’re also happy to have worked as a full-service team doing everything from photography to copywriting and website development for the rebranding of First Consulting. These projects are just a few examples of the amazing work we have done and deep-rooted relationships we have created. Have a look at our case study’s for more information on the projects we have done.

Looking ahead

2018 you’ve been great, but we’re ready to make 2019 even better. Bring on the good times, the smiling faces, the great clients and most importantly; the awesome projects that will get us excited to get out of bed in the morning. Let’s do this.

Three inspiring takeaways from The Next Web

Photo credit: Dan Taylor

Every year, tech-enthusiasts flock to Amsterdam for one of the most popular conferences in the industry: The Next Web. We of course, couldn’t miss this either and quickly got our tickets to join in on the fun. It was three days jam-packed with inspiring talks, heaps of mingling fun and we even got to meet our heroes. Jongky, David and Jeffrey share what inspired them from their favourite talk.

Besides going for our yearly inspirational fix, we had a story to tell ourselves as well. We’ve created ForteFor, a platform for freelancers to find projects they’ll love. Geared up in logo tees, we connected with other freelancers at the conference and pitched our idea to pretty much anyone we could find.

Want to know more about Fortefor? Check out the website.

Jason Silva – Futurist & Filmmaker

(yes, also that guy from Brain Games)

“Forget robots, in the future, we could become technology”

Technology is rapidly changing, opening possibilities of the future. Humans are linear thinkers while technology is exponential, to stretch our imagination of the future we need to align our mindset to technology. We need to become exponential thinkers and technology will help us transcend our biological nature. We are becoming programmable, we are code (DNA) and have authorship over our owns species. As Jason puts it, “the future of us is ours to dream.”

Rich Pierson – Co-founder & CEO Headspace

“Take care of your Mind”

As a day to day struggle, the mind is mostly at the top of our list. Headspace’s goal is to prevent this, with meditation made simple. Increasing (com)passion while decreasing aggression with a free mindfulness app and a few minutes of your day. As long as you’re present in the moment, meditation is a skill to become mindful and the same goes for activities such as running. The presentation was full of insights and tips but we particularly like this one: don’t get rid of the things that you don’t like, get closer and form a different relationship to it.

Susan Lindner – Founder & CEO, Emerging Media

“Inspire employees with a higher purpose”

In our modern world, disengagement is often hard to avoid. Leaders can retain top talents by connecting them to a higher purpose that goes beyond the 9-5 framework. Engaging them with an authentic story that they can get behind and become ambassadors of. Patagonia is a fantastic example, giving employees the opportunity to support environmental work. Cisco gave employees a voice by letting them takeover of the brand’s own snapchat account, within 6 months there was a 400% increase in snapchat followers.

Our favourite WeWork spots

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

We work, we hustle and we make great things happen – but sometimes we simply lose a little bit of our concentration. Thoughts drift off into dinner options (order thai or make your go-to pasta?), we’re talking more to our neighbours than typing that important email or we can’t stop checking the latest Instagram stories. When this happens, there’s only one thing left to do. Switch things up.
Luckily, we’re in the stylish haven of WeWork, which lets us bring new life into our workflow, without even leaving the building. Here are a few of our favourite spots.

Stephen - Fifth Floor Cocoon Chairs

My all-time favourite spot is in the kitchen area on the 5th, by the window in one of the big green chairs. It’s nice and quiet most of the time, the chairs are extremely comfortable and they feel like a cocoon which is perfect for creating a little “private” area. The chair can also turn so you can glide out of the “private” zone to the kitchen area and catch up with colleagues!

Emily - The Wellness Room

“I wanted a dedicated room for meditation for a long time here at WeWork.”

The community manager Janine and I started talking about it about a year ago and I helped out with brainstorming on the concept for the room a bit. To actually see the end result now is just great. Here hard-working professionals get a chance to unwind and recalibrate. Meditation and Yoga help you clear your head and remember where you left your inner peace. The more you remember where you parked that inner peace, which is a direct result of meditating, the more resilient and energetic you become. Guess who’s better equipped to take on their stressful projects now?

One day being able to close your eyes and reconnect with your inner peace will be as accepted as deserving to have a healthy lunch is nowadays. Whenever you are ready, come give it a try!

Wing - First Floor High Desks

I love working on the first floor, by the large windows overlooking the hallway entrance. It checks all the right boxes to get me into concentration, but most importantly the high desks let me work standing – which key to switching things up during the day. It’s usually very quiet and calm over there. And as a bonus; it’s also one of the only places in the building that doesn’t have music playing.

Nikos - Ground Floor Secret Staircase

My favourite spot in WeWork would have to be the staircase area on ground floor. I love this spot as it gives me the opportunity to work standing up to get into a different mode than you’re sitting. It also has an amazing view of the canals and lovely typical Amsterdam buildings, for a nice dose of inspiration!

The freelancers guide to finding your niche

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

It’s no secret that the freelance scene is getting crowded, and we get why. A lifestyle of working from home, being your own boss and just doing what you love sounds like a dream. Last week we talked to our Graphic Designer Jeffrey Goodett about how he managed to stand out from the crowd, and as promised we’re sharing a few tips on how you can find your own niche as a freelancer.

So, what exactly do we mean with niche? You’ve got writers and you’ve got medical writers, developers and developers who also have a unique eye for design, UX designers who are networking pros and graphic designers who are also kick-ass animators. Your niche as a freelancer is anything that makes you stand out. Your niche can be rooted in a new skill, specialization or knowledge of a specific field, but it can also be found in certain personality traits.

Freelancing requires personal branding (more on that later) and in order to do that you have to figure out, just as you would for a new startup business, what makes you stand out. You want people to know concretely what they can get out of you. The more you specify your skills, the more professional and knowledgeable you will appear to clients. This is not to say you can’t get by being able to do multiple things, but it can help you get ahead of the game.

The Tips & tricks to finding your Niche:

1. Get a sense of the field

There’s no way to know how you stand out if you don’t know what you’re standing out from. LinkedIn is a godsend when it comes to seeing what other freelancers in your field are doing. Have a look at their portfolio and their bio, this can say a lot about the kinds of ways you can stand out and might inspire you as well to find your own unique superpower. Getting a sense of the field also means learning about trends and what companies are looking for. Find freelance requests or job openings on different platforms, Facebook groups and LinkedIn to create a better understanding of what is sought-after.

2. Brainstorm your troubles away

Sometimes pen and paper can go a long way. Without overthinking, brainstorm about what makes you unique. Look for work specific traits but also what defines your personality. Are you super outgoing, analytical or dreamy – think about how that can help to make you unique. Then explore your interests, what inspires you and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Say you love to travel or are obsessed with obscure art-house movies, how can that help you make your mark?

3. Follow the motto: no guts no glory

Getting out of your comfort zone can lead to exciting new opportunities. Take yourself to new places, try new things and meet new people. Don’t sit around hoping that things will fall into place, because even if that might happen sometimes – there’s a good chance it won’t.

Don’t be afraid to fully go for something you’ve always wanted to do like starting a blog, making a short movie or organizing an event. You don’t have to share this with everyone and it doesn’t have to have thousands of people checking it out, as long as you’ve explored new territories. It might get picked up, it’s always good for your portfolio and fantastic to develop your unique self: so there is literally no reason not to go for it!

4. Soak up all the knowledge you can find

Get yourself a few books, listen to podcasts, watch tutorials and read articles that have to do with whatever field you’re in. In the age of internet, the amount of information is simply endless, so bask in the glory of all that is available to you. Getting to know more about your craft, the stories of others and the tips they have for you can inspire you to find your own niche.

As Good as it gets: Jeffrey Goodett on finding his niche

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

As a freelancer, you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone. Whether you’re coding, writing or designing awesome things, there will be at least ten others that can offer something similar – and that’s just counting that hipster café you sometimes use as a workspace. Besides hustling, and working on client relationships, standing out will be key to your success.

Our go-to guy for all things graphic design, Jeffrey Goodett knows all about standing out. Having earned the motto ‘In Good We Trust’ he has a repertoire of visual freshness, an eye for detail and extensive branding expertise. But most importantly: he has found and taught himself his own special graphic superpower. We talk to Jeff to find out more about how he found his niche and how it strengthened his position as a freelancer.

From visual whizz-kid to full-time freelancer

Jeffrey’s journey into graphic design started when he was in his late teens. Before we were liking things on Facebook or getting lost on Instagram, there was a platform in Holland called Partypeeps2000. Jeff tells us, “It was all about who had the coolest pictures, so people started to experiment with visual effects on photos. I started trying things out, adding things like dragons, lightning bolts and lions – and before I knew it, I was getting request after request.” This got picked up by a few people, and soon he got invited by the local community center to follow a workshop at the graphic design agency Machine. He says, “I truly found my passion here and 14 years later you can still see how much they have influenced my work and style.” A month later, charged with newfound knowledge, he started his course at the graphic design school.

What followed were many years of taking on exciting projects but graphic design became his side-gig rather than the real deal. Two years ago, he met David and Stephen from Ngrane and started working for them. “They were just the push I needed and offered me a place to work in WeWork – I quit my day job when more and more projects started rolling in,” he says.

Getting ahead of the game

When asking him about the level of competition he said, “Sure there’s competition, but in the past, this felt much stronger for me. Now that I’m more seasoned I feel like I’ve gotten ahead of the game.” Turns out that in this level of the game, everyone is doing their own thing, something Jeff truly admires. “For me, it’s less about competition and more about companionship and keeping the craft alive.” He gives the example of a friend Erjee, who also did an internship at Machine and works in a more analogue way, using tangible materials like objects and food to write with, he says “That really keeps me going, seeing others owning their own signature moves.”

Finding your edge

Part of getting to that top level of most-wanted freelancers, is finding and working on your niche. As Jeffrey explains, this isn’t always easy, “I simply enjoyed making beautiful things but more and more companies started to expect a second layer to my skills. For other designers that layer was mostly to do with the technical side of things, like designing a website but also being able to build it. That technical side just wasn’t for me and that made me feel lost, like I couldn’t keep up.” As some sort of fate, Jeff stumbled upon something brand new, something that really turned things around for him. He tells us, “I was working on a video together with a friend/partner in crime and we decided that adding graphics to it would really finish it off. Since I was the graphic designer and he the filmmaker I was basically told to figure it out even though I didn’t have the slightest clue how. Looking back it’s funny how these things just happen.” That was the start for Jeff into what he calls a “snowball effect” to finding his new skill.

When asked about how he taught himself this new skill he says, “I started off with a sincere interest which is key to get the ball rolling. That motivated me to spend my free time looking up tutorials, reading up on the topic and just practicing – instead of spending all night on Netflix.” He explains that in the digital age of information, the amount of information is almost endless. In addition, Jeff uses the resources he has around him, friends and peers that can explain things to him.

Do what you love, do it well

As a freelancer selling your own brand becomes just as much part of the job as the actual work you deliver. Therefore, it is key that you figure out what it is that makes you unique. “People should know exactly what they can get out of you, whether it is a particular style, knowledge of a specific field or a special skill you’ve got up your sleeves,” says Jeffrey. Besides that, he says it’s important to find something that’s relevant and in-demand, in his case video is a booming media for brands online.

Finding your own unique edge can feel a little daunting. But don’t feel discouraged, there are plenty of ways to stand out – whether you’re a social butterfly, skilled with something unique or have in-depth knowledge of a particular field. Stay updated for our post next week on how to find that edge.

As a final tip for now; remember that things take time, don’t expect to stumble upon a newfound skill and learn it in a day. It takes practice, experience and guts to take things a step further. But most importantly as Jeff puts it, “find something you love, something you’re passionate about because that’s what will truly keep you going.”

Is Freelancing for me

Yep, we know, freelancing ain’t always a breeze and perhaps the hardest part is taking the leap. When you ask yourself the question; is this for me? There is only one answer: yes. Just considering all the unique personalities at Ngrane, there is not one perfect mold each of us fit into. Some of us are assertive while others prefer laying low. We’ve got natural Zen masters and all-over-the place types. Some of us are early-bird’s other prefer 9pm beginnings. You get the point.

All that aside, each of us make it work, in our own way. That’s the real magic of freelancing, you define how you get to work so inherently it’s for anyone. Nonetheless there are a few things each of us comes across in our freelance ventures and certain things we all benefit from.

“Yes, I’d like to carve my own path.”

Most career paths are a singular road with one final destination. A freelance path however is one you carve yourself, one that meanders around, crisscrosses and has more than just one finish line. It’s a real head-on way of getting to know your craft. Instead of working for one company and learning from their singular way of doing things, you’re switching companies on a weekly basis and getting to know different approaches. Besides that, creative solutions are mostly up to you and what better way to learn that when you’ve solved something yourself? You’ll be finding your own sources and a network to help you out in no time

Take Jeffrey Goodett, our visual designer, he wanted to extend his graphic design skills into animation, finding a more specific niche within his trade. “I spent my extra time on learning from different online tutorials, found other animators to help explain things to me and just kept practicing and practicing. Slowly I took on animating projects and if I say so myself, i’ve gotten seriously good!”

“Yes, send over those epiphanies.”

Bumping into daily epiphanies, whether grand or small, is not unlikely in a freelancer’s life. When you’re working with and for different people, while doing a myriad of things, you’ll start to figure out your own skill set. Freelancing is the best way to learn what you’re capable of. To surprise yourself. To bring newfound skills to light. Moreover, it’s a brilliant way of finding your own rhythm. For example, you learn how or when you’re most productive or find your own unique ways of managing projects.

Freelancing is more than ‘Do What You Love’, but also about finding out what exactly that is. In each of our trades there’s many different things we can be doing, what is it you want to find your niche in? That is something you actually have the room to explore.

“Yes, I’m all for meeting new people.”

Freelancing is seen as a lonely endeavor. Sitting behind your laptop in the nearest café or typing away in yesterday’s gym clothes. The truth is, that’s just not the case. Working with different clients means meeting new people, much more than when you’re stuck to one job or one department. It also somewhat forces you to network and although it has a selfish un-personal reputation, it can actually be very social. Freelancers get to benefit from all the charms of co-working spaces like WeWork (represent!) and leave it up to a product of millennial culture to be a real hub for friendships – after-work karaoke anyone?

“Yes, freedom & independence is my jam.”

Wake up at 12pm? Go for yoga after lunch? Go to Bali for three weeks and work remotely? Sounds like a dream, right? Nope, that is just the reality of freelance life. Sure, we have clients that expect certain things, scary deadlines or certain days we have at clients’ offices. But in general freelancing means we get to make our own decisions and to create the way of life we personally desire. Wearing your comfy pants at home isn’t so bad either.

Jefferson tell us his experience, “For me it’s the freedom and independence I get as freelancer. I like the ability to work from anywhere in the world. I definitely took advantage of that this year by working briefly in Malaga, Berlin and Curaçao. Believe me, it’s not always a bed of roses, but if you organize your time and projects well it can be pretty satisfying.”

So, still not sure if this is for you? At Ngrane we’re real freelance enthusiasts, but we’re also just very honest. So, don’t be afraid to give us a call or come by and we’d love to chat!

Call Jongky – he’s the most talkative of us.

+31 6 1422 2952

Radio Ngrane - Get it off the ground

Sometimes our creative spark and boundless brain power can use a little fuel. We like to call that fuel music. We bring a monthly series of audio life hacks, tailored to our own individual journeys. So, turn up the volume and let us guide you through our personal soundtracks for success!


You’re all set up: your phone is silent and hidden safely, your workspace tidy and your coffee is in arm’s reach. All you need is that perfect playlist to squeeze all those creative juices and just get the project off the ground. Well, Ngrane’s got you covered. From five of our team, we share you our musical recipes that will help get the ball rolling.

To stay in the music theme: “they may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” pretty much sums up what kind of music we love to get started on a project with. Each of us agreed that our not-so-humble beginning need some type of escape into our own creative clouds. What that magic safe space is and how we get there however, varies with each of us. Press play and find out…

Cinematic concentration

Who: David van Delden
What I do: Creative Director
Song title to describe my life: In the end (Linkin Park)

For me, soundtracks are the sweet spot when it comes to setting me up for that perfect burst into creativity. I see each new project as a story that unfolds and soundtracks will feed the narratives of my creativity seamlessly. I want to feel like the hero of this project, embarking on my next nail-bitingly exciting adventure. These soundtracks have beautiful build ups, evoke different moods and master emotional input; serving as endless inspiration for my thought process.

The Interstellar soundtrack never fails to inspire me. It is created by my all-time favorite score composer Hans Zimmer, known for his many iconic sounds in the movie industry. It overwhelms in cinematic emotion, balancing ethereal tracks with bold and loud organs and has a certain touch of spirituality; which I love. Tron is another soundtrack gem, it’s futuristic and riveting, sweeping you up in its excitement and pure vigor.

Intergalactic lift off

Who: Jeffrey Goodett
What I do: Graphic/ Motion designer
Song title to describe my life: Electric Relaxation (A Tribe called Quest)

At the start of every project is when I need to be at the peak of my creativity. This is when my imagination fires from my brain straight into something visual. To make way for that magic passage of creativity I need to make sure my mind is cleared up with zero distractions. One way of doing that is with music which creates an isolated aura around me, and lets me kick back and relax.

The sounds I listen to when getting started, usually have a lounging feel with subtle trippy undertone. I want to feel like I’m travelling to outer space; my work is the galaxy I need to get launched into. What really oils my brain and brings forth all its visual glory are mostly instrumental tunes, so no singing just laid-back vibes. When I do listen to songs with vocals I prefer soft, melodic and subtle woman’s voices. Think Sade or Sia (Zero 7), they both have a calming effect instead of distracting.

Starry-eyed superpower

Who: Annabel van Eijk
What I do: Copywriter
Song title to describe my life: I’m not a girl, not yet a woman (Britney Spears)

When I’ve got a blank page in front of me that needs to be decorated with words, I need to ease myself into this whole situation. I can’t start off right away super-efficient upbeat electronic music. I want to roam through my imagination with starry-eyed songs that let me visualize things and words and sentences before I type them out. I need to slowly creep up into creativity, before I start typing like a maniac.

Ok so when I say dreamy, I don’t mean super vague moody songs full of emotions that will either have me feel sleepy or sad. There is such a thing as thinking too much. It needs a certain confidence and exciting energy; like the type of music in a movie scene when a girl breaks up with a guy, packs up her stuff and struts the streets in slow-mo because great new things are coming her way. I want to be that girl. Flipping the page to a new chapter. Instead of a new life it’s a word document, but who cares.

Sicker than your average

Who: Rutger Kinkelaar
What I do: UX-designer/researcher/intern
Song title to describe my life: Sober thoughts (GoldLink)

When starting a project, I want to feel untouchable. I need somewhat of a confidence boost and I need to feel 100% focused and concentrated. And there is only one solution to that: music. In particular I’d go for some evergreens in Hip-hop, balanced out with some talented new school rappers. The songs I have chosen stand for power and art. What could possibly be better to start my projects?

In this stage, I want to be swept up by a certain flow; floating on smooth bars and beats. You could say I idolize Hip-Hop legends on many different fronts (hence the life-size Biggie poster on my wall) but mostly for how well they can create more depth into my thoughts. I like the songs to feel familiar, rapping along won’t do my concentration any harm; although it may hinder that of my neighbour…

Soul replenishment

Who: Rieven Martis
What I do: Back-end and front-end developer
Song title to describe my life: It’s my life (Talk Talk)

It’s all about that deeper connection! To get me started on a project I’ll listen to songs that I can relate to on an emotional level. Besides enthralling tunes, I like getting swept up by lyrics as well, it’s like poetry that is especially intensified when aligned with my past or future. There’s something about falling into different fantasies that really boosts my concentration and creativity.

The type of music I listen to also depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I could be in a lighter, quieter mood which suits more spiritual music, engaging my brain in a subconscious way. But sometimes I need a little fuel for all the energy I have! So, then Rock or Reggae or Latin will be more than perfect. Last but not least, I’m always down for some thumping Hip-hop.

Finding your way through the Millennial maze: Wing Man knows how

It’s no coincidence Wing’s surname is Man. She is like a matchmaker between brands and millennials, the genius behind catchy one-liners and smooth talk that will make millennials tick. But more than that, as part of the Ngrane family, Wing is our coach for all things millennial. After her corporate job created her own burn-out, Wing came across the lost-in-life dilemmas that many of her generation have faced. She tells us “Basically, I have learned the hard way on how to pick yourself up again, how not to live by approval from others and how to be kinder to myself. Also on how to find my purpose and make full use of my talents.”

Not knowing where to go for help has given Wing the first-hand experience that inspired 3310.s, a school to make the lives of fellow millennials easier. And with businesses going mad for the attention of millennials, who wouldn’t want to find out more about how to tap into this eponymous generation? We talk to her about all things millennial: who they are, what interests them and how 3310 is ticking all the right millennial boxes.

“Basically, I have learned the hard way on how to pick yourself up again, how not to live by approval from others and how to be kinder to myself.”

Looking for happiness, finding choice

When I asked Wing to describe who exactly the millennial is, she answered, “There isn’t one archetype millennial. What ties this generation is a much broader sense of transition.” Spanning 15-20 years (there is an ongoing debate about the confines of this age group), across different social classes and cultures, it makes sense there aren’t prototype millennials walking around in trance of exactly the same apps, drinking overpriced Flat Whites and passionate about the same brands. Wing tells us “Even if we just look at Amsterdam, we can’t say that a 25-year-old Snapchat enthusiast and a 34-year-old startup founder should always be marketed to in the same way. But you can say that they have experienced similar if not the same things, coming across the same challenges and searching for the same enlightenment.”

Instead of a unified identity, this generation (much like any other) is defined by a broader social, economic and political unification. “Millennials have all gone through the same transition of growing up without technology and emerging into a digital evolution with the blink of an eye,” says Wing. As guinea pigs of the technological revolution, they became adults in not only one of the worst economic recessions but in a world where choices were in extreme overload. As Wing puts it “Things changed rapidly for us. The route to success was no longer simple. Going to a good school, getting a good job, a family and house were no longer the key success signifiers. We were taught to search for happiness, not money, but in return all this did was overcomplicate things.” Income, the burn-out.

The ‘Always on’ generation

LinkedIn invitations, 5 pm Instagram posts, office happy hours, morning Pilates, catching up on the latest NYT article… the list goes on. “We want, need and have just about anything; creating endless choices and expectations” says Wing. Indeed, we want to feed Thursday night dinner conversation with tales of our buzzing social life and unique jobs. Yet, more importantly, we want an Instagram feed that perfectly captures and literally filters our days into likable content. With a generation that is in the grips of social media, it often feels like there is always someone scrolling through your feed or checking on that spelling mistake you tweeted. Or worse, judging you when you’re slacking off on your millennial duties.

“Being ‘always on’ does not only apply to our digital lives, it counts for every aspect of our day. We’re not spared any breathing room.”

Go on LinkedIn and you won’t find a job description that doesn’t say “not a 9 to 5 mentality” as one of the criteria for an ideal candidate. Work trickles into our evening hours like never before, as Wing puts it: “Being ‘always on’ does not only apply to our digital lives, it counts for every aspect of our day. We’re not spared any breathing room in between. It drains our mental capacity and energy levels: that’s what causes burn-outs.” She goes on to say that “Now when you ask people ‘Hey how are you doing?’ The answer is almost always: Tired or busy. That really got me thinking: there is something fundamentally wrong in the way we are living.”

From burnouts to flaming hot life skills

To help ease these generations problems, such as burn-outs, Wing started the 3310 school: a school for grown-ups you actually want to go to. She says that “You don’t have to teach us how to use a smartphone, but we do want to learn how to keep a healthy work-life balance. With 3310, I aspire to help fellow Millennials with my experience to make our lives easier for ourselves.”

Am I doing what I love? How do I put myself on the map without boasting? How do I deal with unwanted feedback? These are all questions that weren’t answered in our days at school and often not easy to find answers to now. As Wing puts it “Unless you have found the meaning of life, why stop learning?”

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

As there is no millennial prototype but a broader sense unification, getting the attention of millennials is about tapping into the generational challenges. 3310 school may be a literal translation of problem-solving, but if you’re a brand and looking to connect with millennials the same will count for you. We can learn from Wing and her school that as a brand, you need to have a good understanding of what this generation is put up against.

“We can learn from Wing and her school that as a brand, you need to have a good understanding of what this generation is put up against.”

There’s one more thing that has created a bond between millennials: an intoxicating cocktail of nostalgia and pop-culture. And Wing has the perfect recipe for throwback themes and languages in the way her brand communicates. “The name 3310 actually came from the old Nokia 3310 that was the ‘it’ phone for a while. Nostalgia can tie us together, we all loved that phone, we can all relate to Gameboy obsessions and sing along to Craig David.” Wing has cleverly used this to create a connection and engagement between her and her millennial audience.

Turns out brands and ultimately fussed-over generation are equally lost in the ‘millennial maze’. Finding a meeting point somewhere in there is not an easy feat. Try reading up on what they’re going through, talking to millennials or if you’re a Millennial yourself, contemplate on where you and your friends feel lost in. Understanding millennials on a ‘meta-level’ will foster loyalty and build meaningful relationships. To stay in the 90s lane, it’ll make sure you ‘don’t go chasing waterfalls’.

Check out 3310 for more millennial know-how, see you at the next workshop?