In the wake of a pandemic when event after event and WordCamp after WordCamp are all going virtual, it should come as no surprise that our annual WebDevStudios (WDS) company retreat is following suit. Normally held in a scenic location at a venue where we can all live together for a week, WDS Camp has had to go virtual, taking place October 1-2, 2020. Our offices, and those of Maintainn and Pluginize, will all be closed so we can truly focus on and experience the retreat together.
“Despite the global pandemic putting a damper on our ability to hold an in-person WDS Camp this year, as the great rock band Queen once said, ‘the show must go on,'” explains WDS CEO, Brad Williams. “By leveraging the same videoconferencing tools that we use for internal collaboration and client engagement, we can still hold a virtual event that gives us a chance to reflect on our accomplishments from the past year, draw out our roadmap to success for the next, and take advantage of some well-deserved downtime in between sessions to build even higher camaraderie.”
The goals of WDS Virtual Camp are to connect as a team, strategize, and set goals to work towards for the year to come. The tone was set by the delivery of swag bags to every WDS team member, which include WDS-branded items, such as socks, a hoodie, a notebook, hand sanitizer, and even a WDS face mask.
The schedule of events is set up much like a WordCamp with three tracks available and talks that address topics such as relieving workplace stressors, scrum methodologies, and striving for a positive client experience every time. Other activities include yoga and trivia.
Will Schmierer, Lead Engineer, has been with WDS since 2014. In that time, he’s been to four WDS Camps, but this will be his first virtual one. He says he will, of course, miss the opportunity to see his coworkers in person, but he’s still looking forward to WDS Virtual Camp.
“I think for somebody like myself being in the comfort of my own home with all the things I’m used to having in a regular week will actually in some ways help me focus on what’s important,” says Will. “I mean, we do a really good job of putting together the WDS Camp as a group and everybody is really good about helping out and pitching in, but I think everybody would also agree there is nothing like the comfort of your own home. I’m also interested in having a lot of discussions and seeing what’s working, what’s not, and how we can improve, help, mentor across-the-board. I’m excited that we’re going to have an event this year. It will be new but also a good time to reflect and decompress and relax for a day or two because we’ve remained incredibly busy in a challenging year for everyone across the globe.”
Planning a two-day virtual company retreat is no easy feat, but somehow, our planning team figured it out. “Even though it’s virtual and we still have to be in front of our computers instead of in person with each other, we are hoping that the breakout sessions will provide some collaboration and facilitate conversations about the direction we are going, from both the leadership’s perspective and from each team member’s perspective,” explains Julie Sarnik, WDS Employee Experience Coordinator. “Our hope is that WDS Camp will open up new thoughts and ideas for how to better our processes. It’s a nice break to celebrate all the work that’s been accomplished over the last year and recharge, especially in a year that’s been full of firsts for everyone.”
One of those experiencing a first is Project Manager, Christine Dixon, as this is her first-ever WDS Camp. She says the thing she is looking forward to most is connecting with her colleagues on yet another level.
“I think this is only possible through WDS Camp,” remarks Christine. “Although we have plenty of team-building activities throughout the year, having two dedicated days to learning, growing, and just interacting with one another is definitely something I’m looking forward to the most. Although I may have to wait another year to meet my team members in person, I know WDS is amazing at building connections virtually. I think WDS Camp will just elevate that to a whole other level.”
Christine definitely has the right attitude, but just in case she and our other WDS newbies need some guidance on getting the most out of WDS Virtual Camp, Jodie Riccelli, WDS Director of Business Development and an experienced company retreat attendee, has this advice to offer: “Use the opportunity to engage with your coworkers and allow yourself to soak it all in. Don’t go with answers; go in with questions. WDS Camp is a time of inspiration and renewal. You should leave feeling energized and excited to implement everything you learn.”
As you can see, these two days in October are a big deal for us. We look forward to taking the time to connect, grow, and return to our usual workday (on Monday, October 5th) feeling hyped and eager to get back to making the web a better place.