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Connecting Our Remote-First Team and Culture: A Recap of Fluency Fest

Connecting our remote-first team and culture: A recap of Fluency Fest 

Thor’s hammer crashed toward the Vermont Comedy Club stage, and a team of 60+ professionals from all over the country exploded into laughter. 

Part of a series of skits and presentations that capped a companywide hackathon, the hammer drop hit toward the end of the day’s official events. But the team’s collective energy was electric and growing as afternoon passed into evening.

It was just one of countless moments that reinforced the connectedness, culture, and cross-departmental teamwork that our Fluency Fest week inspires. At a time where many remote-centric teams are weighing the value of these types of experiences, we wanted to share our reflection on the event as well as some of its key components.

Connecting a diverse, remote team

More than a company “offsite” or retreat, Fluency Fest was a comprehensive cultural experience  – an immersive, “3D” expression of our values. 

Through both organized and improvised events at our Hula campus and across our home city, the weeklong event reflected our company culture and workflow – from daily all-company gatherings, to transparent and open dialogues around how we can continue to progress as a company and drive success for our partners, to cross-departmental working sessions. But it was also an opportunity for our increasingly diverse team to bond and connect in ways that only a live setting can enable, through events like our live hackathon, hikes and wellness activities. As Mark Wright, an Advertising Engineer put it, “It was an opportunity to be with great people you see every day, but you feel even more connected in person.” 

Building and fostering community  

The connections began as soon as the team began to arrive in our home office for “day 1.”  A few days prior, the entire company had engaged in open conversation about the event during one of our daily all-hands meetings, allowing both new and veteran team members to ask questions, prepare, and arrive with a shared sense of purpose.  

As the week progressed, the schedule fostered a range of activities that balanced companywide alignment with personal relationship building. “State of the Union” company meetings evolved into open conversations and Q&A sessions. Team working sessions and live client calls turned into evening hikes where we met each other's families. Small dinners turned into multi-team karaoke nights. And the whole team celebrated an epic Fluency Fest finale party at a “secret location” disclosed late in the proceedings. 

All the while, a companywide Slack channel served as a real-time event tracker, with pictures and updates to keep everyone united and included in every aspect of the experience. “In some working environments, you don’t necessarily want to divide into different groups,” said Adam Hillier from our Product team. “At Fluency Fest, I looked forward to those opportunities. There was no one I didn’t want to connect with.”   

The spirit of community-building and community engagement extended far beyond our specific team. Our broader Vermont community was front and center in our minds this year as the event occurred against the backdrop of historic flooding across the state. While this natural disaster forced the cancellation of a planned company volunteer morning, many individuals across our team were able to lend support, and others plan to dedicate their annual company volunteer day benefit to support the recovery effort.

Cultivating culture 

As the event drew to a close, many across the team reflected on how Fluency Fest connected back to our overall culture. For some, this theme showed up in deliberate discussions and Hackathon sessions focused on defining and growing our culture. For others, it arose while reflecting experiences that occurred spontaneously – the organic product of a culture in which every team member, from Founders to first-timers, have the opportunity to contribute, learn from each other, and make an impact. 

In both cases, our reflection was grounded in an incredible shared experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything. “The team created a comfortable and accepting environment to be able to seamlessly contribute our thoughts and ideas,” said one of our Advertising Engineers, Harleen Bhatti Dhanota, echoing feedback heard from all pockets of the organization. We can’t wait to see where those ideas take us in the years ahead.