Our First Team Offsite
In a year’s time, Truss doubled in size and significantly expanded its geographic footprint. With over 60 people, spread across four U.S. time zones, and two brand new practice areas, it finally felt like the appropriate time to get the crew together for our first ever full-team offsite.
As a fully distributed company, the vast majority of us had not yet met in person, so you can imagine our excitement when this message appeared in Slack in early January.
Curious what happened when sixty people, known to one another mostly only through Slack and Zoom video calls, descended on Sausalito for two jam-packed days of team building? Here’s the highlight reel:
Serendipitous travel run-ins
Some folks had planned group travel to Sausalito (hello, southern contingent of Trussels), but the best part of Tuesday’s travel day was watching as pictures came in of folks who stumbled into each other in airports, on trains, and in ferry terminals as we all made our way to the west coast.
As each subsequent cohort arrived at the hotel, the hugs and squeals of excitement would start all over again. Managers and direct reports meeting in person for the first time ever. Project teams getting to do their team cheers in person instead of over Zoom. Jokes from Slack making it into real life conversations. The energy was infectious and we hadn’t even officially started yet.
Board games, bonfires, and hair dye parties
Left to our own devices on Travel Tuesday, groups formulated for ad hoc lunches and dinners, intense board game throw-downs, bonfires, s’mores making, and yes, hair dyeing.
Others carved out time for peaceful meditation, group walks, and long runs on the water.
We started the day with a presentation from the founders on the humble beginnings of Truss and how we got to where we are today. They discussed the decisions they’ve made that they’re proud of (being bootstrapped rather than VC funded and distributed first), and mistakes they made along the way (letting scrappy decisions from years ago — like how credit cards were handled — stick around too long).
We talked about how we’re different from other consulting companies, and discussed 2019 strategic objectives and how we’re going to get there.
After the presentation, the team covered half a wall with sticky note questions — covering everything from specific financial targets to how we decide which projects to take from an ethics standpoint. The founders covered every last one, even if the answer was, “We don’t have an answer to this yet.”
Practice, people, and project breakouts:
After lunch, we spent time in our practice areas: product, engineering, design and research, operations, and government and commercial sales. The design team spent time understanding each person’s unique strengths and areas where they’d like to grow, and then did a blog brainstorming exercise. The operations team talked about upcoming focus areas and how to manage risk.
After practice came a focus on people, where we imagined a wildly successful project in order to help pull out words that reflected our individual core values. We also checked in on our fears, and how we often source from fear instead of from our values.
The last breakout of the day was focused on projects. Each project team was asked to explore what success looks like for Truss and the client, how we would get there, and what gaps exist in achieving our goals.
We started day two by focusing on diversity and inclusion with Bie Aweh leading “Brave Conversations with Truss.” We talked about our social identities, biases that are present in the technology sector, and how we can be better allies to our teammates, clients, and users we’re building for.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in breakout sessions in the style of an unconference. The sessions were led by various members of our team, and we self-selected into groups based on our own personal interests. Here are some of the topics we discussed:
How is Truss different from other places?
What is unique about interacting with bureaucracy, and what does that mean about how we work?
How can we make design, engineering, and product parts of a virtuous cycle?
What is our personal role in financial justice as well-paid people?
How do we create and maintain space to grow and level up for others and ourselves while also doing our jobs?
How do we give and receive feedback for mutual benefit?
Are five career levels the right number?
How can we make our Slack a place of responsible speaking (thoughtful, concise, candid)?
Who needs to know what, when? Communication thresholds, channels, and patterns for inside Truss and with our clients.
How can we be more inclusive as a company while having constraints of time, expertise, and money?
How do we help new Trussels acclimate and adopt our values and working methods quickly and with love?
What do we want civic tech to be, and how are we creating that in the ecosystem?
What are our love languages, and how can we use that to improve collaboration?
How can we use Google Calendar to have a smoother interview scheduling experience?
‘Til next year..
After a picturesque group dinner and one last team breakfast, we went our separate ways. But not before one last selfie on the ferry on our way to the airport.
Itching to be a part of next year’s offsite? We’re hiring!