August 26, 2021
Team News
Savannah Peterson

Encore 2021: Finfolk Unite in Boulder for Annual Offsite

The Fin team has more than doubled since the start of the year! With many Finfolk onboarding via zoom, it was special to bring the team together both in-person and virtually in Boulder, Colorado for “Encore,” our 2021 offsite. Taking intentional time to align on vision, mission, and goals, as well as getting to connect across teams in organic ways has left us energized for the challenges ahead scaling our leading work insights platform.

Designing an offsite for teams is always tricky, and even more so when most of that team has never met. Even harder is ensuring the event has tangible, high-impact ROI. Alexa, Liz, and Mike pulled together a beautiful experience based on five design principles. Our team of 28 (and five of our lovely +1s) participated in six all-company sessions, eight fantastic meals, and 10 unique Finfolk-led treks over three beautiful days. Here’s a window into our approach, activities, and results.

Liz and Alexa who did all the heavy lifting for Encore along with our offsite wingman Mike (pictured in the winning cooking team photo further down this post.)

Intentional, Sustained, and Outcome-based: "Drumbeats not Lightning Bolts"

We wanted to design an experience that wasn’t just a “one-off” (lightning bolt), but had a cadence that begins before the retreat, gains momentum during the retreat, and has staying power to sustain after the retreat (anchored on outcomes). Momentum got rolling through learning about the five levels of interpersonal communication pre-arrival, and carried through every step up the mountain or role-playing exercise during our sessions. Our shared learnings and resulting action items will help us scale moving forward. And hopefully we can check in with our new Fin buds to make sure the Encore ethos perseveres.

Uffe, Ashutosh, Ben, Jack, Savvy, Alec, Evan, Evan, and Liz after Sushi in the middle of a *sustained* downpour.

Thoughtfulness, Presence, Adaptability: "Handshakes Still Matter”

How might we intentionally prioritize experiences in person, that we can’t do virtually as effectively? How might we design for presence and engagement? How might we facilitate spontaneity and agency in Fins to meet needs/desires as they arise? These were questions we asked ourselves going in, and like any live event, adaptations had to be made (flight delays, thunderstorms, mountain microclimate stuff.) Sometimes a quick change of plans can be a great bonding experience as teams adapt fluidly. Lightning detoured a planned paddle boarding trek but the team quickly pivoted to renting bikes and going for a (safe/dry) ride nearby.

Encore experience agility exemplified by our impromptu cyclists . Pic thanks to Lead Product Manager Evan Samek who works on the product teams in addition to being a very handy photog.

Inclusivity, Accountability: "Some People Do Love Vegemite" 

While we are all Fins, we are all individuals with different values, preferences, and at various life stages. We strive to design in an inclusive way to factor in differences with a diversity of environments (i.e. introverts might not enjoy non-stop large group activities). We aspire to be adaptable in these environments to stretch our comfort zones as a team both at work and in the mountains.

Andrew, Spencer and Casey tackle the two mile straight vertical climb Finfolk completed silently while considering uncertainty and fear on our guided hiking experience. A moment captured by Fin CEO Evan Cummack.
The team at the summit of Mount Sanitas (elevation 6883 ft.)

Co-Creation and Co-Ownership: "Call The Play Amidst White Space" 

We hoped to create plenty of unstructured opportunities and white spaces for co-creation and co-ownership. Not everything was pre-packaged and Finfolk were invited to peer educate, lead experiences, or to create a moment. This manifested in multiple ways, from teams joining forces for cross-functional lunches, to gaming at the arcade, to spontaneous treks to explore town. No idea was off-limits and every idea easily found a co-signer (or nine.)

Public Speaking Fin Trekkers Shannon, Liz, Savvy, and Casey with matching soft-serve microphones.
Early risers Lorraine, Uffe, Charlene, Shannon, Mai, Spencer, Hannah, David, Savvy, and Evan at the base of Boulder Falls.

Curiosity, Exploration: "Leverage the Wisdom in the Room"

Fins are curious, seekers of truth, and lovers of puzzles/problem solving. We hope to leverage the wisdom and curiosity in the room to expose new worldviews, engage in new experiences, and explore new truths (about each other / the company). Taking part in a cooking challenge in small groups was a delicious opportunity to face the challenge, strategize on solutions, and divvy responsibilities and ship (or eat) product rapidly (in this case, we only had 90 minutes!) Very similar to a startup without the sharp knives (at least in our case.) Beyond learning about the chefs among us, we also learned who our early birds are on a quick early morning Fin Trek to Boulder Falls.

(Above) The Fin team prepares to face off in a top chef style cooking contest at Food Lab in Boulder.
(Above) The Fin team after our thrilling cooking competition showcasing three *mystery* ingredients (fennel, watermelon, and peas) - congratulations to our champions Elizabeth, Arielle, Evan, Shannon, David, Charlene, and Mike below!

What's Next?

How will we carry the energy and learnings from this experience forward in an actionable way? Finfolk across teams noted fundamental changes in the way we communicate with each other which will impact both our product roadmap and culture as we scale. High-level takeaways include:

  • Facts versus stories: reminding ourselves what is empirically true versus what might be a narrative that exists exclusively in our heads.
  • Deepening our communication level: taking the time to dive deeper and truly listen when engaging with colleagues and our community.
  • New product ideas from the Encore product brainstorm (also a fin trek.)
  • Voice of customer: a Fin customer joined us live for an all-company interactive session, a practice we plan to keep up. Involving the whole team in connecting with our users deepens the dialogue and increases the diversity of insights garnered.

Special thanks to all of the Finfolk able to attend Encore 2021 in Boulder and virtually. The whole team feels more connected and ready to make work better for the world. If reading this gave you FOMO, check out our jobs page. It really is this fun to work at Fin.

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