Company Retreat Powers Balsamiq Quality Boost
What is it like when a small, dynamic, distributed software company gets together for a week-long sleepover at the CEO's villa in Italy? How can such a retreat boost quality? Read on to see how Balsamiq did it.
As a full-time consultant for 20 years, the vast majority of my engagements were with single-location teams. When I joined Balsamiq in January of 2011, it was my first real experience working full-time on a distributed team. After working with the team for six months, I can tell you that Balsamiq telecommunications are enormously effective. I know these team members at least as well as any with which I've worked face-to-face.
When we all met at the villa, everyone felt strangely familiar. Most I had chatted with once, many are my daily friends. Michael is the UX Designer and we both do technical support so we interact daily. Luis is the Lead myBalsamiq developer, and not a day goes by we don't chat about the status of the product. Val and I don't chat often, but when we do we usually go all out audio/video because we like to celebrate our friendship and actually see each other when we catch up. (What a thrill it was to meet Val in Italy. 🙂
So what about the retreat gave Balsamiq a quality boost?
The Beauty 🙂
Every morning it was the same surreal picture out the windows. It was like waking up inside an Italian countryside painting. It was an entire week of pinch-me-I-think-I'm-dreaming.
The Beach 🙂
Our first day, Peldi took us down to the water. The pictures say it all. Relax team! Didn't take us long to follow that suggestion.
The Food 🙂
We dined on the beach that evening. None of us had any idea how much dining and celebrating we would be doing over the course of the week! This was a grand start--Mariah's favorite restaurant!
The Camaraderie 🙂
Good food, good wine, good company, and a spirit of friendly good-fellowship. (Entertainment provide by The Three Italians Comedy Troupe!)
The Dancing 🙂
Did you know Luis can Salsa? We had a Salsa party one night after dinner. Luis led in the instruction with Val (a dark-haired Ginger Rogers--va va voom!). The rest of us paired up and learned the first step. Before long, we were switching partners left and right and having a blast. Want to get close to your team members? Have a team Tango. Trust me on this one.
The Laughs 🙂
So we each picked a video to contribute to the list we would watch one night. Most were relatively short funny videos. Mine was the Pug singing Batman. Nothing feels better than laughing yourself silly with a bunch of friends.
Then there are the spontaneous laughs that make you spit your food out. They are the best kind! We had lots of those.
The Work 🙂
We had lots of group sessions to discuss things we would normally discuss via telecom. Michael discussed fonts, skins, icons and things of that nature. I discussed the Balsamiq quality criteria and process.
The Edification 🙂
Peldi invited a cheesemaker to demonstrate how Italian cheese of all kinds is made. Needless to say, we were in awe--or at least Luis and Val were. 🙂
We then proceeded to have a magnificent 6 course meal.
The Pool 🙂
Look Ma! I can code standing on my head! Paolo won the prize for being able to do tricks under water for the longest duration. We sometimes wondered if he would ever come up! That's Val in the lower right. She was the only gal up for the pool games. Go Val!
The Farm 🙂
Our next destination was The Flying Pig organic farm and restaurant.
We walked the entire farm and worked up our appetites.
The Restaurant 🙂
We were invited into the kitchen to observe the preparation of our lunch. Many of us love to cook, so this was a fabulous chance to see a real professional ply his trade.
Then, of course, we did what? That's right. We sat down for a 4 star Italian lunch!
The Friends 🙂
We all made new friends at The Flying Pig, and Peldi discovered a restaurant to which he will return time and time again.
The Pizza 🙂
Of course, not just any pizza but wood-fired pizza.
More Pizza 🙂
The Love 🙂
The Moral of the Story 🙂
We love telecommunications at Balsamiq because this team could not exist otherwise. We love the opportunity to work with smart people from all around the world. We love living our day-to-day lives together in our virtual Balsamiq world. We love that the company values team fellowship, and makes sure we have that in our lives at all times.
We love that we got to spend an unforgettable week together in an unforgettable place. We are an enriched team for having spent this time together face-to-face. To the extent the team has been enriched, Balsamiq has received a fundamental quality boost. As the saying goes 'A rising tide raises all boats'. Balsamiq will long reap quality benefits across the board, and ultimately in product quality.
The End 🙂