I joined Infinity a little over two years ago. Came from a much more traditional corporate culture. A culture contained in traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. You could stop by a coworker’s cube and bump into folks in the lunchroom. Infinity has no brick-and-mortar home. We’re a distributed workforce with our ~25 people spread out all across the US. Each of us works from our home. Our water cooler is an IRC channel called #general.
What to do when you don’t have a water cooler
Technology helps, and we maximize a variety of tools (IRC, Skype, Wikis, IM, and so on) to reduce the distance. Still, nothing beats concentrated face-to-face time and shared experience.
To give us that chance to be under the same roof and spend quality time together, a few years ago we introduced an annual company-wide meeting. We fly everyone from wherever they are to one city for an internal conference. A “summit.”
Sum·mit : noun \ˈsə-mət\ : a meeting or series of meetings between the
leaders of two or more governments
We stretch this definition a little bit so it includes all our people. The Infinity Summit is three days of information sharing, learning, and bonding. This year, there will be ~25 sessions where our people will show off the formidable work done for partners/clients, introduce new technologies they’ve toyed with, and unveil their skunkworks & passion projects. Websites, widgets, and wonkiness. I can’t wait. I love it.
And it works. It’s a catalyst. For example, Summit 2012 taught us about HTML5 & YUI, which formed the basis for much of the work we did in 2012. As a result of Summit 2013, we saw a passion project transformed into an entire new line of business — training of our clients’ internal developers which in turn lead to a host of new opportunities with new partners.
Adding to the wolf-pack
What I love most, though? What really makes me look forward to the Summit? It’s the in between times. It’s those times before & after the sessions about our work. This is where I get to find out about Trey’s guitars and Charles’s wedded bliss. About Jay’s motorcycles and Paul’s Blackhawk love. Of Andrew’s, Tommy’s, and Jeremy’s new family additions. And where I can take a few minutes to rub in that my Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions to Tommy (a Yankee season ticket holder.) It’s in these casual times — where we’re sitting on the couch with a beer — that any last semblances of the guy sitting across from me being “employee 8” disappears and I’m just sitting and talking with my friend. That’s what it’s all about.
“A little bit of this town goes a very long way.” - Hunter S. Thompson
Oh, and did I mention that it all takes place in Vegas? Yeah, there’s that side of it, too. Not a bad place to spend 3 days in January with 25 friends.
Tags: conferences culture summit passions communication