Tina Feijóo
Tina Feijóo
UX/UI Designer at Haiku

What we learned from our first remote team summit

January 21, 2019 - 7 min read

As some of you know, Haiku is a growing start-up dedicated to creating products that help designers and developers work more seamlessly together.

Our team is small, composed of five people, including the co-founder and CEO (@zackaboo). Not only that, but our team also works remotely. Half of the team lives in the US, more specifically in sunny California, and the other half lives in Argentina.

The particular detail of having a team across time zones, of course, adds to the challenge of building a compelling product. Some of our team members had never even met in person. Thankfully the team was built with care, which led to a friendly work environment, where each member's skills are valued, and collaboration and openness are the core of our everyday tasks.

2018 was a big year for Haiku. A lot happened. We rolled out our public beta and even our Pro version. Towards the end of the year, the company was facing a pivotal moment in its history. It was a time of change.

Throughout Q4 2018, we spent some time planning the first ever company summit, and it happened at the perfect time. There was a lot that needed to be defined. Mid-November, our team was making its way to Patagonia. To the beautiful city of Bariloche, to be exact.

01 Landscape in Bariloche, Argentina

The team shared a house, meals, games, music and work for a week. The two core goals of the experience were to:

  • Make decisions: As a team, we needed to clarify our strategy and define how we would move forward with the product.
  • Get to know each other: The idea was to strengthen the relationship of the team, and connect beyond what a screen and Zoom would allow us to.

02 The house we shared in Bariloche

Making decisions

Before going on the trip we prepared a number of activities we wanted to do while we were there. Those activities consisted mainly of workshops and talks, prepared and given by each of the team members.

We first went over our vision and values in a workshop facilitated by our CEO, Zack. In case you were wondering, our company values are:

  • Gumption (best word ever)
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Vision/Revolutionariness
  • Empowerment
  • Unity
  • Kindness
  • Openness
  • Creativity
  • Execution

03 Zack facilitating the first workshop of the summit

During the course of the week we had other workshops around brand personality, audience definition, feature ideation, marketing strategies, and talks about design systems, lessons learned from the construction of Animator, and more.

04 Audience Definition workshop facilitated by Tina

05 Taylor giving a talk on Design Systems

06 Team work during the Feature Ideation workshop

To make it work and run things smoothly, we had a well defined schedule before the trip, which we tried to follow as much as possible.

We designated four days to work and complete all the workshops and talks. Each day would begin with breakfast, with an interesting mixture of cultures. For Argentinians it was quite the novelty to start the morning with scrambled eggs, buttered potatoes and fruit, and for Americans to learn that a normal Argentinian breakfast consists of a latte and a couple toasts only. After that, the day consisted of time blocks scheduled for each activity, with lunch breaks (which usually ended up happening quite late, since the team hadn't fully recovered from the jet lag).

07 Having one of our late lunch breaks

This was a very productive and game changing week for us. Being all together in a room discussing ideas and learning from each other allowed us not only to get to know one another's facial expressions, body language and so on (basically, we acquired the ability to “read the room”), but also to make important decisions about the company in general and our products, which definitely had a huge impact on our plans, and roadmap. You'll be learning about some of those decisions quite soon in fact. Stay tuned.

Getting to know each other

As you already know, we got a bunch of this done over the course of the workshops and talks only. But it by no means stopped there.

Sure, the week was planned for heavy duty work, but it also left room (entire days actually) to do some team building (and for some, life changing) activities.

08 Grocery shopping for all tastes and needs

09 Strolling around town, visiting landmarks

Aside from those small everyday moments we shared, like breakfast, strolling around town or going grocery shopping together (where we learnt a lot about the dietary restrictions and tastes of everyone in the team), we also made time (very defined and scheduled time) to spend quality time together.

10 Mixing and matching board games

In the afternoons, after the day's work, we would sit together and play games like Set, Bananagrams, Poker or Truco (an Argentinian card game); share a cup of hot coffee or a drink, and play songs (most of our team members are skilled musicians!). Finally, we'd end the day making Asado (Argentinian barbecue) or going out to eat. Special recommendation if you visit, try going to Stag.

11 Making Asado on our first night in Bariloche

Apart from all this, we had a couple days entirely dedicated to outdoor team-building activities. One day we trekked to Refugio Frey. It was a 12 km walk with 750 m ascent, one way. This bonded the team particularly well, because some team members were experienced hikers and in great physical shape, and others had some health issues like asthma or a troubled knee. We got up there (and back down) together as a team, through the pain, difficulties (for some, for others it was a piece of cake!), rain, wind and even snow. The mutual support and patience shown by everyone got us closer together than any other sort of workshop we could have prepared for this. We got to the top, shared a cup of hot tea, and made our way back, with the biggest smiles you could imagine, and matching Haiku vests!

12 At Refugio Frey

For the second outdoor activity, we went Kayaking. This also was a great exercise because we rode double-kayaks, so each pair had to work together as a team to move forward and steer the kayak despite the heavy wind and lack of experience, in some cases. By the end of it we not only learnt to actively collaborate, we also discovered a new passion (some people, namely me, wouldn't get off), a sense of trust in the capabilities of others, and the ability to guide, teach and help others when in need. For example, at one point I decided to continue kayaking alone, in midst of the wind, with no prior experience. The double-kayak proved especially hard to control by only one person, with heavy wind. Thankfully Taylor, our Lead Designer, provided instruction and even got into the water to help, and the kayak (and its occupant) got safely on the shore.

13 The team and our two guides before getting in the kayaks

14 Zack and Tina in the water

The final, and probably the most important, team building activity happened on the last work day, after all the workshops and talks. That afternoon, Zack (our CEO) proposed to have a gratitude workshop. Each of us wrote on a piece of paper at least two things we were thankful for each one in the team. We then read them aloud, and a sense of mutual appreciation and respect tinted the air in the room. After a couple hugs, we went outside and toasted for our team. Since then, we have a #gratitude channel in our Slack. We learned that it's not only important to be grateful, but also to make sure our teammates feel appreciated.

Closing words

The retreat to Patagonia was amazing. A great trip, a cultural exchange, a learning process. But above all, it was the opportunity to make friends. Friends that happened to be working together and making things happen for a while.

It was a very important experience for our team. We bonded and we defined the road ahead. We believe that all that happened during this trip is a living example of our company values, and this is something we hold dear and strive to respect.

15 The Haiku team: Rob, Tina, Zack, Taylor and Sasha (left to right)

The journey ahead of us is also exciting and full of promise. We hope to see you on the other side.


The Haiku team

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