I was going through a row of photography books in an antique store when I got a call from Bucky Moore, our lead investor and a board member. “Let me know if you need anything from me. This is getting serious,” he said. He seemed concerned. It was Sunday, March 22nd, right after the shelter in place order went in effect here in California.
The next day, COVID-19 was no longer just in the news, it was everywhere. We had recently switched to working from home and suddenly it wasn’t just the investors. Everyone seemed concerned and scared. The consequences of the pandemic on our business was unknown at the time. We gathered everyone for a virtual all-hands that week and made some announcements for how to overcome COVID-19 induced downturn. We talked about the headcount, revenue, and other business KPIs. While much of our focus was on pretty serious matters given the circumstances, we also realized that we needed to consider people’s mental health. We needed to still make the work environment an enjoyable place, even when it is no longer a single place. How do we balance the seriousness of the situation with the need for people to have fun and enjoy their jobs?
Having fun matters. It has been known for a while that stress causes real, tangible damage not only to the mind, but also to the body. The Body Keeps the Score is a fantastic book that covers this in depth. When under stress, the first thing we lose is creativity. Not only did we want everyone to feel safe, we also wanted everyone to continue to have fun and to continue being creative.
I have met other startup CEOs who shared ideas for spicing up the virtual workplace. We are social animals, after all, and work is not strictly about producing value for shareholders. It is also about living and socializing. So we have started doing new things:
- Virtual happy hours on Zoom
- CS:GO tournament, when we play not only against ourselves but also with our customers
- Virtual topical lunches - Kafi, our head of HR, is the master of making them interesting
- We launched a book club!
Most of these have been a smashing success, but we also wanted to have something unique; something more closely tied to our culture. A lot of other companies were increasing sick or mental health leave, but we noticed that our dutiful employees were not even using the existing leave allowed, so we needed to make it mandatory with some whimsy included.
Let’s have our own holidays. Let’s celebrate something nobody else is celebrating!
We asked everybody, what’s worth celebrating? We polled everyone on the collected suggestions and the following holidays have been added to the company calendar with great fanfare!
|Zero Gravity Day||May 22|
Gravity is everywhere. It’s predictable, powerful and reliable, just like the software we make. But having none of it can be fun once a year!
|Analog Day||July 6|
Ones and zeroes are everywhere, but vinyl records and film photography are making a comeback. Take a day off to focus on analog hobbies, from archery to woodworking.
|Reboot Day||Aug 14|
This is our own version of “Treat Yo’ Self” day, best celebrated with a drink in hand and your iPhone turned off.
|Open Source Day||Sep 4|
Also known as “Linux on a Desktop” day, an opportunity to do nothing but play with a new open source project in the comfort of your own home.
Yes, COVID-19 sucks and we can’t wait for it to just go away. On the other hand, it gave us these holidays. Eventually our lives will go back to normal, but the plan is to keep one of them forever, with a story attached to it. Who knows, maybe it will get its own Wikipedia page and perhaps other companies will join. I smile when I think about someone celebrating “Reboot Day” in 2095 just because someone in Oakland thought it was cool 75 years ago when the famous COVID-19 pandemic hit. :-) It may even sound mysterious to people in the future because their computers won’t ever have to reboot, since they’ll obviously be cyborgs.
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International Open Source Day
Anyway, this brings me to the Open Source Day we’re celebrating tomorrow. I am not surprised it was ranked so highly on our list. We are an open source company and it matters a great deal to us for many reasons, some of which are deeply personal. I, myself, am not an exception.
I started my programming career during the “dark years” when Microsoft reigned supreme. Technologies from Microsoft were dominating, and those not from Redmond were fading away. There was OLE, then COM, followed by DCOM and ActiveX, and IUnknown with GUIDs and the registry fun. Visual C++ was the de-facto standard of C++ and that’s what everyone thought an object-oriented language should be. My friends were hanging up their keyboards and signing up for MBA programs.
The future seemed bleak.
And then two things happened almost simultaneously that rebooted my career and made me happier: the internet and the rise of open source software. Suddenly I wasn’t restricted by Windows and Visual Studio. I could use dozens of rapidly evolving languages, join hundreds of online communities and I had access to millions of lines of high-quality code to learn from. And it’s not just us, programmers, who were the beneficiaries. I believe all internet companies from the 2000s owe their success to open source. Google, Facebook, and even Apple were carried forward by thousands of enthusiasts collectively building the platform that allows anyone to crank out a killer app in a weekend and make it available to billions of people without asking for anyone’s permission.
Isn’t this amazing? People who work here at Teleport think it is, and that’s why they joined. Having an Open Source day makes perfect sense because if it’s not a digital equivalent of Independence Day I do not know what is.
Join us to celebrate any of our holidays. You can celebrate what resonates, and it’s nice to even have a menu to choose from!
But tomorrow is International Open Source Day. Why International? Because we have employees in several countries. I personally will allocate this time to learning DarkTable. We welcome you to decide to take a day off with us. If not this year, maybe in 2021? In any case, drop me a note, we would love to hear from you. Another way to celebrate Open Source Day is to simply apply for a job with us here!
So this September 4th, Happy Open Source Day!!!
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