“Let’s move to the next one, folks!”
Our graffiti tour guide tried to pick up the pace, as we took photos and exchanged impressions, completely absorbed by the drawings and colors on the charming walls of Barcelona. A gang of six designers experiencing this beautiful city and its street art together – a precious and unforgettable time!
Meetups in a distributed life
The way we work at Automattic, a fully distributed company, brought us together on this unusual work trip. On the Jetpack design team, we call-in, in Slack, and P2 from our home office desks in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Lima, Lisbon, Reykjavik, San Francisco, and Vilnius. A key part of distributed life is meetups. We plan them together, choose the location, dates, and activities, and then travel to meet there for work, and for fun. A perfect setting to get to know each other, work together, explore our surroundings, and create memories that last a lifetime.
When world events allow, we meet several times per year. During the first years of the pandemic, this wasn’t possible. Most people on our team had never met before in person, or hadn’t seen each other for a very long time. I joined nine months before and still felt pretty new. After exploring some options, we made the decision – our first meetup would take place in Barcelona, Spain.
Team synergy and work
Although I travel frequently, this trip made me excited and nervous. I knew it would forever change the perceptions we have of one another. But my nervousness melted away by the first smiles and hugs when I finally arrived at the Airbnb. Three of us stayed there, out of six people who made it to the meetup. It was late, and the rest of the team had already retreated to their hotel rooms to get some sleep. I was excited to meet everyone the next morning. Staying with coworkers in an apartment was new to me, but I made the right choice – we were perfect roommates.
The living room served as our workspace where we all met in the morning. The three days ahead were completely planned out: work sessions, lunches, dinners, and fun activities. Covid prevented two of our team members from joining us in Barcelona. We missed them terribly, but fortunately, they were able to join remotely for some of the activities.
We started each morning chatting over coffee, looking at the schedule, and would then dive into workshops where we’d tackle topics like our team goals and vision, as well as brainstorm and discuss big initiatives that span across our products and platforms. Witnessing the team synergy was magical. We built up on each other’s thoughts and ideas, and it felt very easy to ask all the tough questions that are an unavoidable part of every big project. The sweetest experience was sketching out ideas together on paper – I never realized how much I missed this. After sweating over all the big design problems, we’d finally take an afternoon break on our rooftop patio, with some chill music in the background – a perfect way to relax before some free time and fun activities scheduled for the evening.
Getting to know each other
Little by little, we got to know each other better, beyond work. Barcelona weather was perfectly warm with an occasional breath of the sea breeze. We’d take walks to lunch and dinner and had casual chats, which brought out a whole other dimension of ourselves that doesn’t transfer through the screen. Meeting in person is very different from meeting virtually. Though we were already collaborating smoothly, I always felt a slight sense of mystery and wondered about this group of people I talked to daily. It made me think of different ways and levels in which people can express themselves online and connect. There are nuances there and skills I never noticed before. Meeting in person was like a sprinkle of magic dust to our team bond. It made it even easier to reach out, discuss, support, and help each other out. The only downside: now I miss them.
The remainder of the week was all about having a fantastic time together. The food we had was exceptional. The football game was electrifying. The graffiti tour – mind-blowing. So many great impressions and feelings in such a short amount of time.
“It was one of the best meet-ups I’ve ever had!” said one of the Automattician veterans on our team, and our newbie hearts just melted with pride.
I already loved working with everyone on the team, but after meeting in person, I saw what an amazing group we are. Not only outstanding professionals but wonderful, friendly, kind people, passionate about so many topics. Our next trip is already scheduled, and I can’t wait for us to create more wonderful memories together. Until we meet again! ❤
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