“Team building exercises can sometimes be tedious but the event arranged at the Tech Summit was thoroughly enjoyable and the time went all too soon. Our team came from all corners of the globe and we managed to design a car that actually moved! We hope that the car kits will inspire a group of children to become the next generation of engineers. Hopefully they will design a car that doesn’t catch on fire as much as ours did.”
– Jason Kleeman
Last week was the largest internal MarkLogic event I’ve planned to date with over 300 technical MarkLogicians in attendance at our annual Tech Summit event in the Washington, D.C., area. It was what I’d affectionately call a big “Geek Fest” in that 90% of what was said in the sessions went far above my knowledge-base and I was surrounded by brilliant minds who teamed up to compete and give back!
Since joining MarkLogic three years ago, we’ve set aside one evening during every Tech Summit to focus on team building. As the 300 attendees are from around the world, and many of them only see each other once a year at this event, networking and team building are just as important as the all-day training sessions they attend. This is why we host in-person events versus webinars or recorded trainings. And I strive to ensure these networking opportunities are just as meaningful as the content provided by our subject-matter experts and content planning team. From the meals and breaks to the evening gatherings – the event planning team’s goal is to ensure our attendees meet as many new people as they can, while catching up with longtime colleagues as well.
We divided our 300 Techies into 40 different teams. To help ensure a fair and level playing field, we divided the teams up to have various countries and departments represented. MarkLogic partnered with Impact 4 Good, a socially conscious corporate team building company, to create an activity that not only catered to the “geek” side of my attendees, but also had a philanthropic objective to give back to the local community. Alan Ranzer, co-founder of Impact 4 Good, and I had a call several months prior to the event to discuss the group demographics and the goals of MarkLogic. When he sent through what they call “Go Green Racing”, I knew we had the perfect activity for our group.
Last Monday night, teams gathered for their instructions. The room was packed (we had more people in the room than seats), we were busting at the seams and the decibel level was climbing as Alan took the stage to talk everyone through the plans for the evening. The teams were each given 90 minutes to complete the task of building a solar-powered car using the supplied kits and building one out of recycled materials (some materials were provided, but creativity was encouraged). Integrated into the competition, teams had to assemble 5 solar-car kits that would be donated to a local non-profit for kids, KIPP DC. Some teams immediately started building, others grabbed dinner to talk through their build plans, and some even quickly assembled their solar-car kits and made haste to the bar.
At the end of the 90 minutes, we all gathered back together in the main room to race the cars. We had heats of five teams racing their cars. Now, you are probably wondering just how you power a solar-powered car at an evening function? Those banquet lights are definitely NOT powerful enough. Impact 4 Good had what I’ll call “Mega Flashlights” that teams used to power their cars across the finish line. We had some of the most creative designs on the recycled cars, even Alan saw a couple creative builds that he’d never seen before – including one team lighting their car on fire! The teams were so much fun to watch and they really got into the teamwork aspect of the event.
The general consensus from the attendees I spoke with was that they loved the networking and team building event – and especially having the opportunity to give back. To add to the spirit of giving, Joe Pasqua, MarkLogic EVP of Products, also threw in an additional cash donation to KIPP DC! The winning team won prizes to supplement their bragging rights. In the end though, the real winners are the kids who now get to enjoy the 40 solar-powered cars and the 200 kits developed to encourage interest in STEM education and careers.
Later that night, one of my colleagues offered up a challenge with, “How are you ever going to be able to top this next year?” Well, my friend – challenge accepted!