Nerd Guru

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Running Diary: Attending the exotic team offsite, Part 1

From time to time, you and some team of people who reside in different physical locations will get together for multiple days worth of meetings. Sometimes these gatherings are called "retreats", but in the company I work for, we call them "offsites" (an example being the one I ran and called the Engineering Summit). According to most spell checkers, "offsite" is not even a real word, but the term comes from the old days where we all actually reported to the same work site every day and we used to go away from that site for meetings in order to focus on some particular task. Somehow, the name stuck despite the fact that it's full meaning doesn't really apply any more.

There are two kinds of offsites and they depend entirely on the location in question. Which would you rather hear your boss suggest?

1) I was thinking we should all get together in Boise pretty soon.

2) Vegas, baby.

So basically, there are exotic locales that people actually want to go to and there is every place else. This running diary is about one such exotic locale team offsite.

Pre-Trip

Whether or not you think this one in particular is "exotic", per se ,depends on whether or not you like snow and/or Julie Andrews. Despite being among the worst skiers in the world, I like both so when my boss sent out an email entitled "Get ready to yodel" I was actually excited to be going to the Trapp Family Lodge for 3 days in January. Yes, the actual von Trapp family as depicted in The Sound of Music. After their escape from Europe, they set up a resort in Vermont which will now serve as the location for our big series of meetings where we'll discuss the strategic direction of our multi-million dollar budget. Not exactly Vegas, but way better than Idaho so I feel comfortable calling it "exotic", OK?

There would be 6 of us there. My boss, our financial accountant-type person, and our three project managers. We sit atop an organization of a little over 100 other people who write code, maintain software environments, run test suites, or manage the various web site programs we are responsible for. I'll be the only techie yodeling, but out of those 100, roughly 60 of them are software engineers of some kind whose technical knowledge of the programs I'll be representing at these meetings.

Monday - Travel Day

One of the things I especially appreciate about my boss is her sensitivity to travel. Whenever possible, she tries to schedule these things Tuesday through Thursday so that people don't have to travel on the weekend. She theorizes that she's taking you away from your family as it is, you shouldn't have to miss out on weekend time too. Throw in the fact that the NFL playoffs are going on, and I couldn't agree more. I admit some bitterness, though, as I had a stopover in Chicago the day after the evil and soulless Bears eliminated my beloved Saints. Troubled Bears QB Rex Grossman chooses to have a turnover free game against my team instead of playing in his typical stupor which handed the Colts the Super Bowl two weeks later. Yes, I'm still upset.

I otherwise lucked out, though. Two of my teammates had their luggage get lost and one of them missed a flight altogether, so at least I'd have clean clothes for Tuesday. The hotel itself was beautiful. Lots and lots of pictures of the von Trapp family depicting their history both in Europe and here after the fled Austria. Views in the valley are gorgeous and there was plenty of snow to play in (although that would elude me on this trip as it would turn out due to temperatures that my California born and bread body didn't know existed). Very comfortable setting for a meeting like this.

In Part 2, the meeting starts and we deal with having people work across 7 different time zones before taking the Ben & Jerry's factory tour in Part 3 (coming Thursday).

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