Two weeks ago, the SkySQL Company Meeting in Budapest started. After Istanbul 2010, Athens 2012 and Lisbon 2013, Budapest was our first venue outside of southern Europe. And what a meeting it was!
Meeting seventy colleagues face to face is always something special. In a virtual company, where nearly everyone works from their home office, a company meeting is unique. New employees get to connect names and faces, and old colleagues are reminded of the friendly faces hidden behind the character based interactions over email and IRC. We met for three core days, with some pre-meetings and post-meetings on top. The core meeting started on Thursday with a CEO overview, after which we threw ourselves into the five parallel morning workshops. Mine was on Company Culture, whereas others in parallel looked at various topics in Sales, Engineering, Services and Marketing. Each workshop had a facilitator and a scribe, and the employees were split into five team-wise mixed groups who walked through the 25-minute workshops one at a time. The format introduced in Lisbon got good reviews in our post-Budapest survey. As the facilitator starting each session from scratch, it felt like reinventing the wheel five times in five different sessions, but the five teams actually ended up with five somewhat different wheel constructions, each shedding light from a different direction on the overall blueprint. Thursday afternoon had another set of company-wide workshops. Mine was on collaboration processes and tools, and the most promising and constructive suggestions were about organisational structure, decision making and communication. After brief team level kick-offs, we concluded Thursday with a welcome party at our hotel. “Despite public demand” (as an ironic Scandinavian saying goes), we did some singing followed by Black Vodka. I wrote lyrics for the Interskytionale, somewhat reminiscent of the MySQL National Anthem I wrote in 2002 in that it mixes Open Source and business with the Swedish tradition of transforming political songs into naïve drinking songs:
Our source code is open our software is free. Yet we serve our customers and they pay us a fee. Our SkySQL is now MariaDB. Our adoption is growing, our future is bright!
If you are musically both tolerant and talented, you may be able to decipher the intended original melody from the recording at about 2:52 of the 3:38 minute long YouTube summary Day One. Friday and half of Saturday were devoted to team-level meetings, as well as a set of “Marketplaces”, in which developers and others could share the fruits of their work using demos and flipcharts, with the rest of the company walking around with a beer in one hand. Some of this you can see in our 4:02 long day two summary. Saturday Part Two was social. We took the bus uphill to Fisherman’s Bastion and then had a treasure hunt through the sights of Budapest (the Parliament, Europe’s largest synagogue, parks, streets, Art Nouveau architecture), with the Szechenyi Baths as the end station. When we finally got the towel rental organised, the “szaunas” and baths of various temperatures provided relaxation at the end of a compact set of meeting days. Now is the time to harvest, structure and put priorities to all the ideas and action items from Budapest. Follow up, communicate, and celebrate the good memories from valuable face-to-face time in Hungary!