25 hours of flying, 9 hours of layover and 6 movies. That’s what it took to get from South Africa to Chicago for my first team meetup since starting at WooThemes. Over the course of two days, 15 WooThemes employees flew to Chicago from around the world. One of the benefits of working for WooThemes – and now subsequently Automattic – is that we are a remote team, which allows us to work from anywhere in the world. But, being able to spend 8 days together as a team and meet the people outside of Slack and Google Hangouts is hugely valuable.
We started our team meetup in a small coastal town called New Buffalo – about an hour and a half outside of Chicago on the other side of Lake Michigan. We rented an awesome 8000ft² home for the weekend for some fun social time, just getting to know each other and played a crazy game with chocolate as an icebreaker!
Originally our meetup was held as a joint meetup between both the Marketing and Business Development teams – but by the end of the week we had merged into the newly formed Team Growth. In all my time working with and in various companies I have never worked with such a diverse group of people – but to me that diversity brings with it a real strength that I feel WooThemes have done well to foster and grow within the company and our recent acquisition by Automattic only further serves to enhance that diversity and strength.
On our second last night of the weekend we had a fun ‘Cook-Off’ style competition mixed in with some Cutthroat kitchen style sabotages. Unfortunately my team started with a handicap as we were one man down at the start (no names mentioned) and we also ended up being on the receiving end of 3 out of the 4 sabotages – but we did manage to come a close second – so congrats to Team Bud on the win!
After an amazing weekend spent together we headed into Chicago to attend the IRCE conference where we had an exhibitor stand for the remainder of the week. It was a crazy week with the team split up into various groups to ‘man’ the stand, as well as all of us attending the first ever WooCommerce meetup in Chicago. I managed to get out on one morning and capture a few photos of the city – Chicago really is a beautiful city and well worth a longer visit
THE LAST DAY
As with any trip there is always a last day. Slowly over the course of the morning we said sad farewells to teammates and new friends as we all headed back home again. A group of 5 of us were left to wait out the day really as our flights left late in the evening and we managed one last outing to Best Buy – which was apparently just around the corner and down the street – we ended up walking for miles! But I have to say my flight home was a whole lot better after that!