January 2021 Virtual Retreat Recap

general
January
Erin Erin Fox

Imagine joining a zoom meeting to be completely transported into a DJ battle game show. There’s a full production stage that includes an excellent singing host who knows all your company's inside jokes, two real DJs with their full equipment, a fog machine, and basketball worthy air horns dropping at all the right moments.

This was a real thing and it happened at our January 2021 ConvertKit retreat.

On the regular, ConvertKit has met in person twice a year for a week long of team bonding, planning and banter. It’s a time to reconnect, meet new team members and have fun together as a company. You can read details about our retreats here in our company handbook or watch a recap on our YouTube channel.

Now, you might be thinking, this sounds so awesome. I wish my company did this, but how on earth can they do this safely in the middle of a pandemic?

Great question. We have a little secret event planning fairy named Danielle who works with our operations team to plan incredible virtual retreats. I, as well as 15 other employees have yet to attend an in person retreat, but the past 2 virtual retreats have been packed with so much fun activities and incredible conversations it’s hard to imagine how it can get any better.

“Virtual” anything nowadays has been getting a lot of hate, but here at ConvertKit, we’ve figured out a way to help every team member feel included, valued, heard, cheered for, recognized, and important. Whether it’s a coffee making class, murder mystery adventure, unsolicited feedback, or a DJ battle, each day made my face cheeks hurt from so much smiling.

Everyone is highly encouraged to attend the all team meetings, individual team sessions and fun activities. We are not expected or required to work outside of these sessions. You could do a workout, go for a walk, watch Netflix, go pick up lunch- whatever we wanted to do between, was ours for the choosing. My time between the meeting and activities were filled with using my newly gifted coloring meditation book with my ocean candle glowing, day dreaming of what to get for dinner with my retreat bucks. I ended up getting killer sandwiches, sushi and pizza from local restaurants. I also am always giving bubble waters 4th, 5th, and 6th chances so I picked up a few of those and ordered some fresh coffee from Big House Beans to enjoy.

Retreat Buck$

For Monday through Wednesday we are given $150 (or retreat bucks) to use for food, snacks, or drinks over the retreat. Some people can spread it over the 3 days, and others stock up on La Croix. It’s all up to you!

Zoom Rooms

Some people grab their coffee (or pig leg!) and pop into one of our open zoom rooms for fun conversations. Almost as if we were meeting up for coffee or chatting it up in a kitchen. It was great to have that available if you wanted to find someone new to chat with.

Day by Day

Curious on what happened day over day? Let's walk throught the activities I chose and team and company sessions.

retreat calendar screenshot

Monday: All Team Meeting, Engineering Meeting, Scavenger Hunt

The first meeting is always the most exciting. There’s some expectation of what’s going down for the next few days and everyone is overall excited to be able to think differently from their day to day work and hear what the leadership team has planned.

All Team Meeting

We kicked it off with appreciation shoutouts, what we accomplished in the past 6 months and anything worth celebrating. A few I remember off the top of my head includes launching ConvertKit Commerce, starting an Engineering Mentorship Program, and spilling over our goal numbers thanks to our cyber monday and black friday deals.

This meeting had an added layer of excitement because we were all mailed a box that we were not supposed to open until we were all together on that call. There was also a light rumor that profit sharing was actually a thing that would happen! We decided as a company to put a lot of funds in a new brand campaign the past 6 months so we were all aware our profit sharing to be minimal, if any. (Checkout a glimpse of the campaign here).

So when Nathan explained how and why we had a good chunk for profit sharing (I blacked out. Once I opened my email and saw the amount, I do not remember exactly what he said) it was heartwarming and relaxing to set the zoom to gallery view and see everyones video reactions and appreciation posts in the chat.

To learn more about how we do profit sharing, checkout our handbook breakdown here or Nathan’s post here on why we do it.

Team Bonding

Next up was our Engineering team bonding session where we were split up into breakout rooms to try to find 10 things we all have in common. It was great to get in a smaller group to chat with members from different squads. We learned we’ve all held snow in our hands, ate Ikea’s Swedish meatballs, and watched at least one of the Lord of the Rings movies. Overall the entire engineering team has one thing in common, we’ve all been to at least 3 US states.

Living Room Scavenger Hunt

To cap off the first day of the retreat you could choose between yoga, living room scavenger hunt, or a sip and step. I went with the scavenger hunt and it did not disappoint. I was running around my apartment in my wedding dress looking for anything interesting in my couch cushions that could get my team points. It was extremely funny to see everyone dart out of their zoom square to return with an absurd outfit. I wish we took more screenshots.

zoom dress up screenshot

Tuesday: Individual team meeting, Murder Mystery and Dueling DJ’s LIVE!

Unsolicited Feedback

First things first, we practice radical candor here at ConvertKit. So it’s expected of all of us to give valuable feedback. Every retreat, we give unsolicited feedback to our teammates. It’s 10 minutes of your co-workers talking about you as if you’re not in the room/zoom call. They share constructive and positive feedback about you. At first it sounds terrifying, but it can end up being an eye opening experience to learn how you are perceived and how you can grow within your team. All feedback comes from a place of care and love. I’ve learned how to give and receive feedback back from these sessions and it’s changed my perspective of how powerful feedback can be.

Murder Mystery

Next up was a 1980’s themed murder mystery, where we were divided into teams in breakout rooms to try to solve the mysterious death of Jesse Welsh. The production and acting that went into this was unreal. Each character played their part to a T and the twist and turns to figure out who the killer was, left me laughing and perplexed at the same time. The company that put it on, Moniker, was so organized and their acting skills were 💯.

DJ Battle LIVE!

retreat DJ screenshots

It was hard to think how any other activity could top the Murder Mystery, but then I jumped into the DJ zoom call and was blown away. At first, it was confusing what was going on. I thought it was a pre recording of this awesome setup of DJ’s on a stage gearing up to battle. But once the host started calling out what we were saying in the chat and noticing us when we would dance or laugh in zoom, I was floored! It was a live production and it felt like I was on TV or at a live screening of American Idol. The host knew our most popular inside jokes and was great at keeping the zoom crowd captivated.

A handful of teammates chose to be a DJ while others like myself chose to watch as an audience member. This has been a retreat tradition from past in-person retreats and I was eager to see if DJ JZ (engineer on the team) would keep his title of being the best DJ at the company.

The bracket was set and the battle began. The host would select a category, then the 2 ConvertKit DJ's would have to send the real DJs their song choice, who then would play them for the crowd. Then the audience would vote by zoom polls. Categories included an 80’s ballad, summer song, and best cover song. It was hilarious and you best believe costumes were also worn by each DJ.

Wednesday: All Team Meeting, Individual Team meeting, Trivia Happy Hour

Ah, we’ve now reached the last day of retreat. We’ve been munching on all the good snacks, picked our jaws up from the floor from the DJ battle production, maybe already paid off some student loan debt thanks to our profit share money, and we’re ready for the last day of retreat.

All Team Meeting

The All Team Meeting was a real treat. We opened the zoom room floor to ask questions and talk strategy for our new creator targets. It was fun to take a step back from the code and be involved with wider company conversations and talk out a product item wish list.

Team Scavenger Hunt

After talking strategy, we jumped into a team scavenger hunt for some bugs, suggested new product ideas and looked for small recurring issues from creators that we could help solve.

Trivia

To end the retreat, we did our usual Trivia Happy Hour. This time our fellow engineer, Chris planned it. She killed it with her worldly questions and quick decisions. I bet you didn't know that bananas do tiny sit ups or which 5 countries don’t have airports. Google it. Or if you’re one of our product managers, Sai, you already did 🙂.

Conclusion

All and all, we know that virtual retreats are not our first pick. We’d love to get together in a London country house or dip our toes in the pacific in San Diego, but man, do we know how to pull off a virtual retreat.

As great as the activities are, the real reason the virtual retreats work so well is because this company cares and Danielle is very great at her job. We care about each other and we bring our whole selves to the sessions because we know that by doing it, it makes it more enjoyable for everyone. We participate, we come prepared and we learn not only about each other, but how to help each other excel in their career, how to help grow ConvertKit and help creators earn a living online.

I cannot wait to attend many ConvertKit company retreats in the future and meet these funny, incredible smart individuals who I feel like I know so well, face to face.

If after reading this you are thinking, "Dang, what a cool place to work…" then check our career page for our latest open positions.