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Le Grande Meetup, France!

From various parts of the world, the HappyPorch team disembarked at Geneva airport, Switzerland. The first 2019 company meetup was about to commence, and the excitement leaped to exceptional heights.

For some HappyPorchians, like myself, it was the first opportunity to connect with fellow team members outside the bounds of a virtual network, allowing them to express their presence without webcams and microphones. After exchanging pleasantries, we headed to the rental car, parked in the airport garage.

Our team has grown considerably in the last few years and therefore we weren’t too surprised to find our combined luggage taking up more space than the interior of the rental. Luckily our Portuguese Web developer, Filipe Sousa was planning a cycling trip across the Alps after the meetup and had his disassembled bicycle parts with him in a box. He realized his cycling trip was about to start a bit earlier.

After helping him assemble his cycling device and squeezing everyone into the rental, we headed out to our destination: a mountain chalet near a small village town called La Clusaz in the eastern region of France.

The Chalet

The vibrant colors of the encompassing landscape lurking outside the cabin encourages the inhabitants to gaze with awe.

We spent the first evening (and most thereafter) cooking together. This offered a great opportunity to connect with one another more socially, as well as experience new food recipes from different cultures of the world. The Portuguese Chicken, Czech Salmon steaks, Australian vegan pancakes, and Scottish bean chilli stood out. The atmosphere consisting of the aroma of warm food and shared stories kick-started the team building event seemingly well, vastly boosting overall morale and comfort.

 

Exploring

During the weekends we explored the mountain trails surrounding the small town. The temperature fluctuated from reasonably warm air to blankets of snow resting on the mountain tips.

It was my first-time experiencing snow and learning to walk across it made the trail that much more engaging, especially when losing control and ending up embracing the surface with my hands, knees and face. The potential of frostbite encouraged me to rise to my feet at a notable speed.

At the peak we had a picnic while being surrounded by 360 degrees of implacable beauty. The clear skies exposing the vistas offered a sense of freedom unrivaled by my past experiences.

 

Team Sessions

During the week we spent most of our official hours on work related tasks and discussions consisting of the following:

 

Co-Working

Working together on different problems. From pair-programming to discussions and action plans.

Proposals

As a self-managed company we encourage everyone to share any proposals they have as we move forward to help shape the business. Recent proposals we discussed included a proposal for allocating a day off every fortnight per team member, as well as allocating funds and time for the development of personal, technical and catalytic skills.

Retrospectives

These involved having a look at established procedures already put into effect and how we experience them from both an individual and team basis. We included topics like personal development sessions, project management techniques, company finances and budget, the hiring of new employees in the last year, etc. We followed this up with new action plans on how we intend to improve these procedures going forward.

Feedback Sessions

We left this task to Friday to ensure everyone had adequate time to prepare for this. We formed a circle and gave each person a turn to hear feedback from everyone else in the company. Each team member aims to give feedback to the current receiver in the vicinity of 1 minute. After the receiver had a chance to gather feedback from every team member in the circle, they had a chance to respond to it. After that we continued the sequence. The feedback included criteria such as praise, healthy critique, suggestions, and any other points you feel necessary to raise that has the potential of supplementing the team member on their journey forward. I found this event very nourishing as it allowed me to engage with everyone at the company, even those in different teams.

Planning Ahead

This was another great collaborative event where we discussed the way going forward. We discussed ideas on topics such as bringing on new hires, starting new projects, taking on more pro-bono work, the type of impact we wish to make and how that fits in with our mission of achieving social good in all our business endeavors, and many other topics.

Having Fun

Apart from amazing collaborative tasks and discussions, we had some social events planned for weekends and after-hours as well, ranging from the mountain hiking discussed above, to chess, card games, yoga, riddles, co-cooking, local point-of-interest exploration like museums and small village towns, to relaxed story telling by the indoors camp-fire.

 

Going Home

After the incredible week in France, we headed back to Geneva airport – representing the crossroads at which our roads diverged, each heading to a different country, except for our friend, Filipe, who started continued his cycling journey with Geneva being the first destination on his map. We hope he remembers to come back after his amazing adventure. 

I immensely enjoyed my stay. Meeting my team members while exploring foreign territory had unleashed a hunger in me for treading outside of my confined boundaries with more earnest intent.

Can’t wait for the next one!

 

 

 

About the author

Kevin Malan

Kevin Malan

A resonant wielder of ideas - Kevin spends his time forging elastic software constructs using a dash of binary powder, 3 scoops of deep minded contemplation, and a pinch of necessary chaos.

When he is not crumbling the pillars of established software architectures, he enjoys physical high-intensity-interval-training, fasting for prolonged periods, reading Stephen King, and virtual gaming to keep himself sane.