2021 written in black on a yellow background

What happened at SMILE in 2021

I always try to give an internal presentation to the SMILE team, about the company vision for the next twelve months. It makes sense to do that in January, right? This year, I held off until June because I honestly thought the year would play out differently. Here's what happened at SMILE in 2021...
Smiles SMILE in 2021

Naively, I ended my roundup of 2020 full of beans, confident that covid-related-change was just around the corner. But here we are, struggling to grasp the reality we are still living through – Post-lockdown, but not post-Covid. Whilst it wasn’t the year I expected, it’s still full of achievements.

At this time of year, I like to reflect on what we’ve done, how we’ve done it and what we might do in the year ahead.


Jon had a baby

If you work with SMILE, you know Jon. And this year he became a father. What an amazing achievement! 

Congratulations, Jon.


Matt got a promotion

Matt Oakley has been so involved with many of our projects this year. If you’ve not met Matt, it’s likely he’s been working on your site behind the scenes. Matt got promoted to Backend Lead this year and is pushing our products and plugins forward. Matt’s customer-centric focus stands out, and I’m especially proud of his first commit to WordPress core this year.

Well done, Matt.


New ways of working

2021 was a year of reflection. We took stock of how we worked best. In 2020 our team put in a ton of work. So in 2021, Matt and I wanted to make sure that we brought some calm to the storm. We introduced subscription services to provide substantially better planning, higher quality work and offer customers huge benefits – like lower costs. We decided to only take on one big project at a time. No more juggling: Quality is better than quantity.

I feel very lucky that we are able to do this, and am so thankful for every client who has supported us this year. We’re becoming a better partner to our clients, because of our clients. 

Thank you, clients.



Going remote in 2020 was a big step for us. This year we’ve started to realise some new benefits – like our “Work From Anywhere” (WFA) approach. We’ve had people begin to shape work around their life, with people booking extended holidays and taking their work to a new location. Whilst I’ve not personally left the UK borders this year, people at SMILE have been able to work from Munich (Germany) and Massachusetts (USA) without a hitch. I can’t wait to see where we work from next.

Keep exploring, team.


Launching the University of Gloucestershires flagship digital estate

Our biggest launch to date: A brand new flagship website, in our multisite architecture, with live data pulled in over the Glos API – a single source of truth for multiple university systems.

And on top of that, we launched a sector-leading digital prospectus. It’s a project that we’re so incredibly proud of and our team pulled off a herculean effort working in new ways to make this the success that it is. 

Who cares? We do.


Supporting Edupack

We’ve been supporting a new startup: Edupack.

Edupack is a system that we’re excited to see come to life because it will provide the tools to manage multiple university/college websites with ease. And for universities, it’s going to mean that starting a new website will be easier than ever, with better compliance and reporting – all whilst reducing the cost per website for the institution! 

Let’s build, Edupack.


Roll that VT

Starting early in the year, we decided to put together a webinar. And it went great.

Then we did another… and another… and then we were hooked.

Now we’re collaborating with Education Marketer, to live out our YouTube influencer fantasies and bring you HE digital marketing insight, every two weeks! In 2021, we’ve produced more video and written content than all our previous years combined. It’s been a huge team effort, and I think it really shows. We learn something new each episode and it’s been great to connect with the sector in a new format. 

Like, and subscribe!

What’s next?

So that’s what happened at SMILE in 2021! In this second half of the year, it’s been great to see new approaches reduce chaos at SMILE. And the work/life balance is better than ever. This is what I am most proud of.

And I’m once again, excited for the year ahead. The quality of our work is better than ever. I just can’t wait to see what SMILE puts out there next year.

Last year we thought COVID-19 would pass, and hung a lot of hopes on that. Going into 2022, we won’t let that slow us down. Life is more unpredictable than ever, but…

We’re ready, 2022.

Nathan Monk
Nathan Monk

I'm proud to work for some of the world’s most influential brands that shape cities and define lives: Universities and colleges.

I provide advice to forward-thinking senior leaders on how to exceed their organisational targets by creating user-focused, digital-first strategies.