The dev team takes a break

Alex Ghiculescu

11 May 2016    |   

Last week I wanted to try something new, so I yanked our entire development team out of the office and threw them onto a ferry to Stradbroke Island. I had read about the idea of doing team retreats – complete with “team building”, trust falls, and other corny sounding topics – but I had a gut feeling that we could do our own retreat that was much better. I told the team that we were going to Stradbroke island for a few days, but tried to not say too much about what we were going to do there. The only instruction I gave beforehand was to come along with a “tech talk” – a 5-10 minute presentation on something technical that you can teach the rest of the team about. So last Thursday, we jetted over. We spent the first day just talking about what was on our minds – which projects have gone well, which ones were painful, and why. I was really impressed by the quality of ideas that came out of this – we came up with some really big improvements to our product process. But the thing that I noticed even more was how positive and open to discussing this everyone was. There was so little negativity, and so much optimism. Everyone’s only concern was figuring out how we could continue to build a better product than anyone else. We didn’t just spend Thursday working though. We found out there was a beach about a 50m walk away, and we had a frisbee… Friday was the big day since it was the only full day we were spending away. I had written up a vague itinerary and we did our best to get through all of it. So as a team we planned about our upcoming Winter Internship – who would be involved, what project the interns would do, and what our goals were for the project. Then we moved on to our product plan for the next three months, making sure that everyone had a good idea of what they were working on, and why. We ended up coming up with some really cool new ideas on how to make rostering easier that originally weren’t even part of the plan. We’ve always hired exceptional people at Tanda, so putting time aside to really listen to their ideas to improve/change anything about Tanda was important. We are a close team, so everyone’s opinion is truly valued. It’s often said that people should ‘stop and reflect’ – and that’s exactly what we did. The afternoon was spent doing tech talks – I was blown away by the quality of presentations, it was like being at uni except a whole semester’s work being covered in a 10 minute talk. After ‘tech talks’, we had threw the frisbee around a bit more and went to the local pub for dinner. A few hours later, and a few beers down, we came back and had a general brainstorm on things we could do to make Tanda as a company better. I’d asked everyone to think of one thing they’d like to change before coming to the retreat, but I wasn’t sure if anyone had actually given it any thought because I’d only mentioned it in passing. Turns out there was a stack of great ideas – from getting more involved at community events, through to celebrating internal wins better and communicating them more. Some were low hanging fruit which I’ve already started to implement, some were bigger ideas that we should keep in the back of our minds as we keep growing Tanda. All were very well thought out. We woke up feeling a bit rough on Saturday morning and had one last longing look at the beach, before racing back to the ferry. I don’t know about everyone else, but I came in to the office on Monday feeling more energised than I had been in a long time. The biggest thing I took away from this retreat was that Tanda is not a place for people who want to be code monkeys – everyone here is always thinking about how we can do things better, and there is very low tolerance for us not doing things well. We’d like to keep it that way!

Last week I wanted to try something new, so I yanked our entire development team out of the office and threw them onto a ferry to Stradbroke Island. I had read about the idea of doing team retreats – complete with “team building”, trust falls, and other corny sounding topics – but I had a gut feeling that we could do our own retreat that was much better.

I told the team that we were going to Stradbroke island for a few days, but tried to not say too much about what we were going to do there. The only instruction I gave beforehand was to come along with a “tech talk” – a 5-10 minute presentation on something technical that you can teach the rest of the team about.

So last Thursday, we jetted over. We spent the first day just talking about what was on our minds – which projects have gone well, which ones were painful, and why. I was really impressed by the quality of ideas that came out of this – we came up with some really big improvements to our product process. But the thing that I noticed even more was how positive and open to discussing this everyone was. There was so little negativity, and so much optimism. Everyone’s only concern was figuring out how we could continue to build a better product than anyone else.

We didn’t just spend Thursday working though. We found out there was a beach about a 50m walk away, and we had a frisbee…

tanda-team-beach

Friday was the big day since it was the only full day we were spending away. I had written up a vague itinerary and we did our best to get through all of it. So as a team we planned about our upcoming Winter Internship – who would be involved, what project the interns would do, and what our goals were for the project. Then we moved on to our product plan for the next three months, making sure that everyone had a good idea of what they were working on, and why. We ended up coming up with some really cool new ideas on how to make rostering easier that originally weren’t even part of the plan.

We’ve always hired exceptional people at Tanda, so putting time aside to really listen to their ideas to improve/change anything about Tanda was important. We are a close team, so everyone’s opinion is truly valued. It’s often said that people should ‘stop and reflect’ – and that’s exactly what we did.

tanda-dev-team-retreat

The afternoon was spent doing tech talks – I was blown away by the quality of presentations, it was like being at uni except a whole semester’s work being covered in a 10 minute talk.

After ‘tech talks’, we had threw the frisbee around a bit more and went to the local pub for dinner. A few hours later, and a few beers down, we came back and had a general brainstorm on things we could do to make Tanda as a company better.

I’d asked everyone to think of one thing they’d like to change before coming to the retreat, but I wasn’t sure if anyone had actually given it any thought because I’d only mentioned it in passing. Turns out there was a stack of great ideas – from getting more involved at community events, through to celebrating internal wins better and communicating them more. Some were low hanging fruit which I’ve already started to implement, some were bigger ideas that we should keep in the back of our minds as we keep growing Tanda. All were very well thought out.

We woke up feeling a bit rough on Saturday morning and had one last longing look at the beach, before racing back to the ferry. I don’t know about everyone else, but I came in to the office on Monday feeling more energised than I had been in a long time. The biggest thing I took away from this retreat was that Tanda is not a place for people who want to be code monkeys – everyone here is always thinking about how we can do things better, and there is very low tolerance for us not doing things well. We’d like to keep it that way!

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About the author

Alex Ghiculescu

Founder at Tanda. We think removing friction from the employment process is the key to transforming the economy and we're excited to be leading the charge in making that happen.

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