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.