The entrance to this unpretentious agency is painted a hot, fiery red that definitely makes one do a double take and think “Hot Tomali!!” — exclamation marks and all. The red door blends in so seamlessly with the red walls that, for a few disoriented moments of seeing so much red, one almost expects to be beamed into the offices via a Star Trek transporter.
Inside, however, it’s all cool white walls and work spaces up and down and all around. The founder, Thomas Stringham, looks too young to be President and Creative Director of his own agency but speaks with the experience of one who is and has been for a while. After a quick introduction, he engages our group in a Q&A and highlights the company’s practices and philosophies regarding accounts, client relations, hiring, mentorship, skills, techniques, etc. Having exhausted our supply of questions, he begins the tour of the facilities and, like a true marketer, he begins by showing the perks — a rooftop patio done in hardwood, complete with comfortable outdoor furniture, a barbeque and a stunning view of distant Cypress Mountain. There is an immediate outbreak of oohs and aahs. Much pumped by the emphasis on “outdoor barbeques”, “launch parties”, and “dance floors”, we troop downstairs to trundle through the offices. On the main floor, below the long queue of awards and plaques, on a shelf in the very middle of the room next to the work desks, is a row of chilli pepper powders and sauces. Clearly, there is a love of everything Mexican in this agency.
From shiny, airy spaces, we descend to the work dens. The programmers are stashed in their glass cube of an office overlooking the designer’s pit with a cheeky note “We are watching you” pasted on the over looking glass wall. The designers rein over a loftier space, that is decidedly “male” in its dÃ©cor and feel, with mismatched sofas, cluttered work spaces, electric guitar and a distinct disregard for “order”. The walls though are designed to accommodate brainstorming material, of which, today, there is sadly none.
Thomas reveals that the company has no Mexican roots other than his own love for all things Mexican and the name is simply an anagram made from the letters of Thomas and Alison (VP, Operations), which I find sweet.
A chat with the designers, and we are done. Thomas graciously invites us to submit our resumes to Hot Tomali, hands us the bright red business cards and we head out the red door. As we leave, I am filled with a familiar feeling of nostalgia and sadness as it dawns on me that a few months down the road all of us will be heading out our own to find a place in some “Hot Tomali” or another. And while it is an exciting prospect, I am really glad I still get to come back to school tomorrow morning.