Coni Thomas
Nov 6, 2020

As a fully remote company, CodeScience hosts an All Hands event once a year. We bring all of our CodeScientists together in one city to build strong(er) relationships, foster even more cohesive teams, and have a lot of fun. In the past, we have taken over cities like Atlanta, GA; Asheville, NC; Nashville, TN; and, of course, our “home” city of Chattanooga, TN. 

This year, since we were unable to get everyone together in one place—thanks COVID—we sent our All Hands to the team! We were unable to meet up in New Orleans, but that did not stop us from bringing New Orleans into our homes! From the Aunt Sally’s New Orleans welcome kit to the themed All Hands logo, we tried to create a virtual event that generated the same excitement as our in-person events.

A Closer Look at the Keynote Speakers

One of the main themes for this year’s All Hands was meeting people where they are now, and our daily keynote speakers spoke at length on this topic. First, we had our quarterly Town Hall meeting where our CEO, Brian Walsh, shared his experiences leaving the fires of CA and moving across the country mid-pandemic. Brian discussed making CodeScience a safe space to be. He also explained how it’s ok to not to be ok and to simply to be. This led into our discussion on diversity, inclusion, social impact, and social justice in an inspirational fireside chat with Jotaka Eaddy, the Olivia Pope of Silicon Valley. We wrapped up the week with a mindfulness session with Annika Hurwitt and an introduction to the three principles paradigm, designed to optimize mental health and interpersonal relationships.

A CodeScientist’s Perspective

As part of our 2020 All Hands recap, we wanted to hear about the experience from one of our newest CodeScientists. Below is an interview with Lisa Kaplan, a member of our delivery team, about her first experience with All Hands and the CodeScience culture. 

Lisa was interviewed by Cathie Carden, a legacy CodeScientist, and one of the hosts and facilitators of the All Hands event. Cathie talked with Lisa about her All Hands experience because, along with this being her first CodeScience event experience, it also happened during her first week as a CodeScientist. Hosting the event remotely, we were very aware of the possibility that people (especially brand new people) may get lost in the digital shadows (or screen three on zoom gallery view). Until we can be together again, we’ll continue to adapt and cultivate the rapport and camaraderie that truly makes CodeScience a special place to be. 

Cathie: What surprised you most about the virtual camaraderie? Did you feel like you were able to connect with other CodeScientists?

Lisa: Yes! Actually, that’s what surprised me. There actually was virtual camaraderie… the kind that usually only happens when people are together. What surprised me most was that it’s not like this is a team that is used to meeting in person every day. This is a team that only meets in person once a year, and that was taken away, but everyone still wanted to spend more time together virtually.

When we’re in person, people will gather in the hotel lobby and go out to breakfast or after-dinner drinks. They will set a time and meet in the hotel gym for a group workout. Hosting this event virtually, we were concerned that some of these elements would be missing.

Cathie: What did you like best about our Virtual All Hands events?

Lisa: Considering it was virtual, it really felt in person! I’ve seen it happen after boardroom meetings when people are gathering their belongings to leave… someone will say, let’s go here or do this. I’ve never seen it happen virtually ad hoc like that! I appreciated the Leadership followup after events and checking in the next day to ask what we liked best. Brian attended our virtual Waffle House event after dinner, and he was seriously down to Earth. 

Each day after our planned virtual events ended, different CodeScientists would take it upon themselves to keep the fun going. There were virtual Happy Hours each evening, and there was also a Jackbox game. Everyone was invited through our event’s Slack channel. There were no titles or ranks when joining these impromptu gatherings, just people enjoying other people. 

Cathie: One of my favorite parts of this year’s event was the virtual photo booth! Each morning, I looked through the photo gallery to see what new photos had been added. I loved seeing how creative CodeScientists got with the photos, and I especially enjoyed the photos people took with their family and pets!

During our in-person All Hands events, we always have a photo booth. We weren’t sure this element could be captured virtually, but our friends at Snapbar made it possible and added so much fun to our virtual experience. 

Cathie: What did you learn about your co-workers or yourself (via participation)? What did you learn about CodeScience? 

Lisa: That anti-corporate is alive and well! In fact, it even felt encouraged here. It was like we’re all in on the inside jokes that happen elsewhere. 

Cathie: Tell me about your escape room experience. 

Lisa: It was VERY impressive! Everyone was so cognizant and respectful of each other. No one talked over one another. We shared in the successes and the challenges. 

For our first virtual team building event, we partnered with The Escape Game: Remote Adventures. We formed 17 different teams using a randomizer to join people together that may not otherwise get to work directly with each other. The teams of six to eight people joined a Zoom link where they met their virtual Escape Game host and their personal game guide, or “prospector”, that was actually in the physical room. 

For our second day of virtual team building, we partnered with The Go Game for some seasonal trivia that ended with a thrilling lip syncing battle. 

Cathie: Did you join any of the optional workout events? 

Lisa: Yes. I wanted to meet people and get to know them, so I joined everything I could. 

One of our optional sessions was a Crossfit Workout hosted by Michael Michaelides at Crossfit Downtown Atlanta. Michael is the owner of CDA and the husband of our own Autumn Michaelides, Senior Delivery Development Manager. The class was scalable to all attendees, regardless of their home gym set up or level of athleticism or Crossfit experience. It was a great way to kick off the second day of All Hands and work up a sweat with fellow CodeScienstists. We also hosted a virtual Peloton ride, and it sounds like it was a lot of fun. Virtual classes are a great way to connect with co-workers and engage in common interests. 

Cathie: Tell me what you thought about our Recognition Ceremony. 

Lisa: It was really great to witness the teamwork and genuine appreciation for one another — no matter the role, all were included and recognized. It felt like groups of friends vs. corporate teams.

This year’s closing event began with a Team Building Drink Making (either cocktails, mocktails, or wine tasting) session hosted by our friends at Hungry and evolved into a Toast-off Recognition Ceremony. 

In past years, we wrapped up our All Hands event with an awards banquet that would end with an open mic where CodeScientists could pay tribute to other CodeScientists that impacted them throughout the year. We weren't able to do that this year, but we still wanted to open the mic to anyone that wanted to recognize a fellow CodeScientist, much like we do when we're together. We wanted to offer an opportunity to openly reflect on how we've been impacted by each other (individually or collectively) and bring our favorite stories to toast and share despite being miles apart. 

Cathie: What did you think about the swag? 

Lisa: It was really above and beyond to have received the event contents in advance of the event team building. We received recipe ingredients and cards with instructions, and the coordination effort by the ops team was very impressive. Over 130 people with different addresses at home received the packages for different events and different times vs. going into an office and picking it up. Wow!

We sent out a survey at the very beginning of planning to ask what kind of swag CodeScientists would love. We got a lot of requests for something cozy. This is, after all, 2020, and real pants are highly overrated, so we decided to send out joggers! What could be cozier than that? As it happens, joggers ended up being quite a task! Turns out there are A LOT of REALLY tall CodeScientists!! We ended up having to go with two separate swag distributors to find the right sizes for everyone, and then we worked with The Icebox to get them printed and shipped to everyone across the country. We spent a lot of time working behind the scenes with one of our own magical designers, Gabe Rosser, on getting the 2020 Virtual All Hands logo just right to represent CodeScience, our lives in 2020, and a little bit of New Orleans.

We never dreamed our All Hands event would move online. But, I mean, who could have imagined most of the adventures (misadventures?) of 2020?! But we did it and, to be honest, it was awesome. Yes, we had amazing virtual events, and yes, the swag and the mail-outs were wonderful and engaging, and yes, our speakers were incredible. But what made All Hands 2020 truly successful, was the people. CodeScientists are the best. 

It’s just the truth. And if you’d like to work with some of the most amazing folks you’ll ever have the honor of knowing, we are hiring

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