Earlier this year, we lost our dear friend and colleague Natalie after a very short illness.
Back in June we held our own Red Badger memorial for Natalie, we all wore her favourite colour (purple), we shared stories and memories, we ate cake (she was a huge fan of baking) and we toasted her memory with a glass of bubbly (her favourite drink). It was a very sad but very fitting tribute to our friend. Since then we’ve been trying to find a way to keep Natalie’s memory alive at work. We often borrow the mantra that Olly - Natalie’s husband - has told us about; ‘What would Natalie do?’.
So, what would Natalie do in this situation? We can’t be sure and nothing feels quite right, there’s no one way that we can verbalise or capture the sadness and grief that we feel about losing Natalie while honouring her memory. But, in the spirit of taking inspiration from Natalie, we’ve organised a sponsored run in her honour. In March last year, Natalie ran a half marathon to raise money for Harrison’s Fund. You can read her blog about training and her inspiration for running here. This coming Sunday - 7 October 2018 - a group of around 14 of us will be running either 5k or 10k in the Run London Victoria Park raising money for Cancer Research UK. Please help us remember Natalie by donating to our fundraising page and supporting Cancer Research UK and to, hopefully, prevent other deaths from this horrible disease.
We are all still coming to terms with the terrible loss of Natalie. In this blog, some of the team have shared their fondest memories of Natalie.
Lani Shamash - Delivery Director
Natalie was always someone I would go to for advice and support. She was innately approachable, maybe it was her warmth, her softness or her beaming smile. Maybe it was because she approached me, always checking I was okay, always genuine.
I respected her so much. She had unbounding empathy, was a brilliant coach and mentor, and despite being very knowledgeable, was never egotistical. Maybe it was this that made her someone I admired; a woman in a male-dominated industry who remained unerringly feminine.
My last memory is from our time working on the Pride app together. She was worried that I had too much on and regularly checked up on me, pitched in and rallied lots of the other delivery team and volunteers to help too. I had no idea that at the time she was quite ill, because she didn’t let on. She just kept being there, selflessly supporting and encouraging me.
Her grace, optimism and the power in her kindness. These are things I will never forget.
I like to think she would be incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. And of how we all continue to support each other.
Raphael Lee - Delivery Lead
Natalie was my manager and mentor at Red Badger, and even though my personality means it usually takes me a bit longer to trust people, it didn’t take me long at all to consider Natalie a friend.
The quintessential image of Natalie for me is when I would enter the office in the morning. She would turn around or look up from whatever she was doing, and her face would light up with a bright smile would form when she saw you - “Hola!”, she would say in a distinctive, warm and friendly tone which is hard to describe in words, but is forever etched in my memory.
That one image to me encapsulates so much about the type of person she was. Caring. Kind. Patient. Funny. Fun. So many words I would use to describe the person she was. She cared greatly about people, and always made time to talk and make sure they were ok. I took great comfort in the fact that I could talk to her about anything and appreciated the safe environment she provided to do so.
I’m going to be missing Natalie for a very long time. I am hopeful that a little bit of Natalie lives in all of us that have had the good fortune to have known her, and through that her memory will live on.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.
Georgia Cosslett - Delivery Lead
One of the most amazing things about Natalie was the effect that she had on other people, and how instant it was. Before I’d even met her, during my phone interview for Red Badger, I could tell that she was one of the warmest, kindest people I would ever come across.
Natalie was incredibly supportive, always reaching out to offer a helping hand. It was so reassuring to know that she was just at the end of the phone, ready with the perfect piece of advice. You can see from the other stories in this blog how many people she supported in this way. I think she’d be happy to know that each and every one of us try to channel her warmth, patience and generosity whenever we can. In that way, by showing us what real support looked like, Natalie’s personality and values live on, as we now turn to each other for support.
I was shocked by how much the death of a colleague would affect me. I feel that part of that is because the culture here at Red Badger means that we build these incredibly strong relationships with the people we work with, they go above and beyond anything I’ve experienced before. The irony is that such a wonderful company culture makes these kind of losses that bit more painful. Losing Natalie meant that people in all different parts of the company lost a not only a colleague, a manager, a mentor, but mainly, a friend.
Andy Craig - Delivery Lead
At Natalie’s funeral, there were written messages from friends dotted around the room, and one in particular stood out to me. They’d written how there are some people you associate with certain phrases, and with Natalie, it was simply “hey”. I played it over in my head, putting the Natalie spin on it, and I realised how accurate it was.
I’ve been thinking about this since the service, and from my point of view, I’d also add “so, what’s the plan?” and “you’ll be fine” to the list - and it’s amazing how these three simple phrases already start to paint a picture of the type of person Natalie was. She was always upbeat. Always pro-active. Always reassuring. Always there. To so many people in this office, she was an office wife, office mum, office bezzie - and often a (non-weird) combination of these.
The most incredible aspect of this was how Natalie would sense you needed a helping hand or a friendly ear, usually before you realised it yourself. From my perspective, this was never more apparent than when a ruptured calf at the end of last year left me virtually housebound for a few months.
During this time of being stuck on the sofa - with only my laptop, plastic space boot and chocolate hobnobs for company - I’d get phone calls from her out of the blue, which would inevitably end up lasting half an hour and leave me feeling infinitely more positive than I was before she called. At the Christmas party too, her and her husband Olly spent an hour with me towards the end of the night when they spotted me sat at the side of the room, resting my one good leg having spent a bit too long attempting to crutch-dance (admittedly, she may have been influenced by the fact I was sat within a cracker’s-width of the cheeseboard, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt).
It was this sheer wealth of compassion that made Natalie so successful at what she did. When spending some time shadowing her in my first few months, I regularly witnessed her put on masterclasses in empathy and conflict resolution, steering difficult conversations back on course while ensuring everyone was happy with the outcome. Crucially, she managed to do this without ever deviating from being “Natalie”, with her smile that would take over her whole face. And then yours.
Natalie and I started at Red Badger on the same day, and one of the first things we realised about each other was a mutual love of reading. We’d give each other book recommendations (Natalie often scoffing at some of my more avant-garde suggestions), and so I’d like to finish with a quote from Fahrenheit 451, which I’d mentioned to her earlier this year.
Now, despite her many talents, I wouldn’t have pegged Natalie as a cobbler or a brickie. But what I do know is that, as individuals and as a company, we are unquestionably different for having had Natalie in our lives, and we’ll always carry her influence with us.
Sari Griffiths - Director of People and Culture
Not so long after Natalie’s passing, her husband Olly sent us a lovely message - in it, he mentioned that he often asked “what would Natalie do?”. I have caught myself doing this many times since - it gives me a moment to think, and to care from my heart.
Natalie was an incredibly caring person. She especially cared about people. She was always positive and upbeat, and if she looked troubled, that was usually because she cared deeply about people and whatever problems they had. One of my favourite images of her is the one where she was really focused on you, listening hard. A few lines on her forehead, her hand on the chin in the manner of The Thinker, her eyes looking straight at you. And you knew that she really cared.
I feel really privileged to have met her and worked with Natalie. I’d have loved for it to be far longer obviously, but thankful that I had the opportunity.
Now shifting my attention to my new role (I am moving from Chief Design Officer to Director of People and Culture), I am sure I will be asking the question more and more. And our shared love of doughnuts means everytime I pick up some treats for the teams, it will keep reminding me of Natalie and what real caring looks like.
Monika Koziol - Managing Director
Grief manifests itself in many ways. Working in an agency and on the client side, it’s easy not to see some Badgers for periods of time. It's easy to trick yourself into believing she might be on another project and missed a few company meetings or took a long holiday. There are still recurring meetings Natalie has set up, her picture comes up on our website and proposals we worked on. There are Google docs started by her and comments she left behind. There is a ghost of her and a memory of what great person she was. I can still hear her voice, the content of the conversations we had and her willingness to always make time to for others. Even though my mind knows she's gone my heart can't let go. Natalie, you'll always be loved and missed.
Shelley Quinn - UK Managing Director
Natalie was not only a colleague but a dear friend. Working with such a close friend was a dream come true, and her loss is felt deeply. Natalie was a wise, kind and beautiful person. She could solve problems and bring teams together with ease in a way only a true leader can. Natalie built her teams up and supported them. She loved people and was loved in return.
We miss Natalie every day and are so honored she was in our lives, and in our company. We carry her in our hearts.
Please help us to fundraise in Natalie’s honour
You can sponsor us by donating to our fundraising page and supporting Cancer Research UK.