A culture we nurture
The sun is setting off the wing as I’m flying home from Rayos Del Sol in Nosara, Costa Rica having just wrapped the latest Modern Tribe team trip. This marks the 8th team trip, and the 7th that I’ve been a part of. While it has become a regular part of my life, this year we saw many new friends join us for the very first time.
As a remote team, coming together is extremely important. We value our culture above all else. But it’s not enough to just value your culture—you’ve gotta invest in it. The annual team trip is one way we do that. It is a massive investment, both financially and in time—but it plays a significant role in how Modern Tribe functions as a company, and how we celebrate our successes. It is how we take a bunch of talented designers, developers, managers, strategists, and support staff from all over the world and turn them into the talented collaborative team that they are.
We traveled from around the globe—quite literally—flying in from Italy, France, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and every corner of the United States. As a remote team, you spend hours together separated by thousands of miles, connected by screens and Slack chats. When you walk up to someone in a foreign airport there is the briefest moment of awkwardness. Like running into a Facebook friend whom you so rarely see that you aren’t sure why you recognize them. It’s fleeting, chased away by the familiar smiles and warm greetings.
We all piled into buses and vans and headed south. The road quickly changed from pavement to the rocky dirt roads of rural Costa Rica. Anticipation grew as we got further and further from a reliable internet connection and closer and closer to the ocean.
Team trips have three components: sessions, socializing, and stories (not intentionally alliterative, but it’s fun). In the earlier years, we ran sessions BarCamp-style. The first morning of the first day, we’d drill for ideas and build a schedule. As we’ve grown in size, we have found that we get more value if we come prepared with an agenda. We run small group discussions on a range of topics, targeting concepts that benefit from in-person conversation. Each session has a leader, someone who has come to the trip with some thoughts to help guide the conversation.
Topics range from project management methodologies, to user stories in product development, to conversations around our evolving company structure. The sessions were insightful and fiercely productive. Everyone comes away itching to hit their keyboards. Peter closed down the sessions with an all-hands discussion on what it means to be a lifestyle company. It is so much more than surfing in the middle of the day (if you’re curious about exactly how, check Peter out at Prestige Conf this summer where he’ll share some more insight on this).
The team trip is a lot more than coworking at the beach. Sessions closed at noon, and the afternoon was spent on a critical piece of work—hanging out together. We lounged by the pool, drank pina coladas, and played all kinds of board games. There is an aspect of Modern Tribe’s culture that is focused on health and wellness. For some, that means early morning beach runs, or yoga on the deck. Our resort, nestled in Nosara’s sun-dried trees, featured a unique amenity: an obstacle course. A group of fifteen of us tackled it in the early morning—or it tackled us. Not everyone at Modern Tribe is exactly a gazelle (though between Carly, Cliff, and Barry we’d feel pretty good about our Ninja Warrior Team) we all attacked each obstacle with gusto.
As much as Modern Tribe is committed to putting in miles, it’s really about finding ways that we can share healthy lives together. This year that meant an excursion into the village of Nosara, paddleboarding in a jungle river, snorkeling, riding ATVs, and conquering the world’s longest zip line (seriously, that thing is insane).
Beyond all the running and adventures, we reveled in late nights laughing with good friends (with a guided Mezcal & Tequila tasting hosted by Ryan Urban to balance out all of the running).
The second core component to a team trip is our presentations. This tradition started years ago. Each year there’s a new theme—like Teach Me Something or Let Me Entertain You.— This year’s was simple: Tell Me a Story.
The presentations serve two goals: they’re great practice for organizing and presenting stories (something that we think is essential to our work, no matter what role you play), and there is simply no better way to get to know your coworkers than listening to their stories.
Each night, six to eight team members tell the group a story. Huddled around (or in) the pool, we listened as they regaled us with stories of new engagements and lost loves, surviving cyclones and angry steers, the noble death of a chicken, and much more. Nick Mastromattei told us all about the people who love him. Reminding us that we are defined by those that surround us, and summing it up more eloquently than I ever could.
The week came to a close with a glorious catamaran cruise out of Tamarindo Bay. We chased dolphins and manta rays, played in the waves, and cheered as Rob found his paddle board zen (see more photos from the trip). Not everyone could make the trip this year, and we found ourselves constantly thinking of them.
People talk about how these trips are our culture—that’s close, but not quite right. It’s the people that matter, and whether they’re able to join us on the beach or not they’re a part of Modern Tribe.
Here’s to another fantastic year.