As someone considerably new to the Sparkademy team and Switzerland, I was thrilled to find out we were going ahead with the office's offsite this year. It was exciting to have the opportunity to step away from my everyday surroundings and distractions, spend more time with my coworkers and go somewhere we could feel comfortable and energized —what better place for this than the beautiful Swiss Alps.
This year we were lucky enough to be joined by some of our remote team members, coming all the way from Canada and Brazil. Even though technology has allowed us to stay connected, there is nothing like old-fashion face-to-face quality time. They arrived a couple of days before the offsite, allowing them to spend some time in the office and discover the streets of Zürich. It was incredible to have almost the entire team working together at the same place for the first time.
Our trip started on a Wednesday morning with a road trip towards Gruyères, which is famously known for its cheese; the ideal place to try a traditional Swiss fondue. After some fantastic cheese and lots of bread, we were ready to hit our next destination. What is the other most Swiss thing that comes to mind? Yes, it was time for chocolate.
A few minutes later, we arrived at Cailler, the oldest active chocolate brand in Switzerland. The museum experience was very enriching and entertaining, but I think the whole team would agree that the best part was the chocolate tasting. So. Much. Chocolate. It was amazing!
After continuing the road trip, full of breathtaking views, we finally arrived at the chalet in Valais, the french part of Switzerland. It was postcard-picture-perfect. We settled in, started the fire, had a small dinner, and got our creative juices flowing for the trip with a game of charades. Overall, a successful first day!
The following day, we had a productive morning, getting the whole team familiar with our content management system (CMS) and collaborating with the product team. During the trip, we reviewed some of our OKRs as individuals and as a company. We also and had some brainstorming sessions regarding next year's goals. I appreciate it when we take the time to update each other on the activities we are working on. Being aware of my teammate's responsibilities and goals gives me respect and appreciation for their work. It also helps to receive different perspectives and feedback to see other ways to approach a task or problem. Each of us brings something new and different to the table, and when we come together as a team, ideas spark.
Upstream vs. Downstream
One of the more dynamic activities was a treasure hunt that the leadership team carefully planned for us. It consisted of some incredible witty poems, a beautiful hike along the river, and many many laughs, one of the trip's highlights, in my opinion.
The hunt started great; everyone was excited, the weather was beautiful, and the clues were amusing and easy enough. Almost halfway through, for one of the clues, we had to look for something we understood as basically "get as close to the mountain as possible." Honestly, we were so focused on continuing up the mountain, enjoying the hike, and too busy having fun that we completely missed the keyword "downstream" and continued going upstream instead. Sometime later, the short, easy hike we were promised turned into an almost-climbing, people-facing-their-fears, I-hope-someone-knows-the-way-back, almost-two-hour long hike. Yikes! We eventually made our way back, gathered all of the clues for a final riddle, and found the treasure at the end of the hunt: a lovely warm fireplace, homemade glühwein, and a fantastic Sparkademy jacket. We ended up with an entertaining team bonding exercise, a good workout, plenty of laughter, and a good reminder of how important attention to detail and team communication are.
Walk the walk
Everyone talks about how valuable company culture is, but in the end, not many companies follow through with this. For me, Sparkademy not only talks the talk but walks the walk to achieve one of the most remarkable company cultures I've encountered. It's incredible to see a company's values, attitudes, and goals so clearly represented in its team.
Overall, it was a spectacular and enriching experience where we really enjoyed ourselves. Being in such a diverse team has many advantages, including homemade Indian cuisine, hilarious musical references, memorable dance moves, and very different and unique perspectives and approaches. We also took time to discuss, analyze and align our goals as a whole, identify our areas for improvement, share feedback and reaffirm our company's values, all with the goal to drive growth within and strengthen the company. It was an excellent opportunity to get closer, build trust, and continue developing an enjoyable environment; in the end, grow closer together as the Sparkademy family and provide the best learning experience out there.
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