What Can 100 Talented People Achieve Together in 2 Days? A lot, it turns out.

Holy Cow, I am exhausted. And energized. And inspired. Here's why. This week we held our semi-annual Company Days meeting at HQ. For years, we've come together twice a year to review our company's progress, talk about the next steps, and spend a little time celebrating our teams' successes. This year, we knew the gathering was going to have to look a little different, because more than 40 people have joined Phase2 since our last Company Day in October. Because when you're a growing company, you're a changing company. So we decided to look at this meeting with a different perspective. Where do the best ideas in this company live? How could we get the best understanding of our true successes and challenges? And most importantly -- what could 100 talented people achieve together? We started with a different take on our standard "departmental briefings." We asked the usual suspects who give Company Day talks to sit down, and instead asked our teams for talks about their ideas for improving the company. Twelve speakers were selected from all around the company to prepare and deliver their best ideas for moving the company forward. They worked their asses off to prepare talks that relied on their stories and experience, rather than on bullet points and statistics. Their talks drew deeply on their experiences with our clients, on their own personal work philosophies, and on their view of our future as a growing company. I expected that these talks would be informative and showcase our teams' talents. What I didn't expect was for these talks to be as courageous, heartfelt, and passionate as they were. They rocked it. They talked about what they learned from our clients. About the sustainability of success, and about the lessons of failure. They asked us to commit collectively to thinking differently, listening differently, and working with greater intention. There was a parable about the three little pigs. And there was improv comedy.  And it was awesome. [gallery ids="7036,7037,7038,7040,7041,7047,7048,7049,7051"] And after that, we stopped talking and thinking and we put ourselves to work. The next 20 hours of our time together was spent on a ShipIt Day -- an idea pioneered by the team at Atlassian and an opportunity for our teams to pursue whatever idea they had for improving the company. We formed our own teams, got people from different departments and disciplines together, and came up with ways to make life better for our clients and ourselves. We created dev and automation tools, we built APIs, we created music with robots, and and we designed a game. In all, 18 projects came out of 20 hours of hard work, and the results ranged from fully "shipped" and implemented code to paper prototypes. In the end, we crowned a winner, to whom bragging rights -- and a shockingly huge kung fu trophy -- were bestowed. The winning project? A new interface for recording our time and projects in the company -- and when you work for a services company, reporting on your time is something that every single one of us do, every single day. The projects were awesome, but what was more exciting was to see developers and experience strategists alongside members of our finance teams and facilities staff working together toward the common goal of making our company better. They geeked out, they followed an idea they were passionate about, they shared those ideas with their colleagues, and in the end, they made our company better for it. [gallery columns="4" ids="7035,7030,7034,7031,7029,7032,7044,7042"] For me, the result wasn't just, "Oh, we shipped some cool stuff that helped our company" or "We heard some awesome ideas." For me, it helped me understand something about our company that it's taken me four years to "get." During our talks, Chris Bloom -- one of the "new guys" at Phase2 and a passionate developer in his own right, said it best when he talked a bit about the "Geek Euphoria Feedback Loop." He said: "To me, I feel that being a 'geek' is the highest station a person can aspire to. To me, a geek is someone who has found themselves fully realized in their interests. In their passions." For me, that's the moment that the ShipIt projects and the talks all came together -- because it helped me realize who we've become as a company in the four years since I've joined. That's us, right there: a growing team of geeks, fully realized in our interests and passions, and ready to share them with our clients and colleagues.


For more pictures of our Company Day talks and ShipIt, check out our Flickr stream. (Oh, and if you think you might want to work with Phase2, visit our careers page, too!)


Karen Borchert