Two years in the making, we finally got a chance to execute our plan: go on a Coderetreat together with the entire team. The idea was simple: find a nice place to stay for a couple of days and work on some tech while also allowing some time to just do fun stuff together.
I wrote two years in the making, because we got sidetracked a bit by Covid-19. We were close to buying tickets to Barcelona and populating a nice villa on the outskirts of the city, when the first lockdown hit. Our second attempt to plan the Coderetreat got foiled by the second lockdown, so naturally we were scared it would happen again. By now we had a 100% accurate trackrecord of predicting future lockdowns by planning our Coderetreat. As they say though, third time’s the charm – and we finally got it done after two unsuccessful attempts. We found a nice villa in the Ardennes and off we went for a few days of code and relaxation.
One of the benefits of choosing a location that’s relatively near is that we could drive there ourselves, hence not depending on Schiphol or becoming a victim of the queues that have formed there over time. When we arrived in the afternoon it was time to take residence in the newly refurbished villa and check out what it had to offer. We were certainly not disappointed, the spacious villa even had an indoor swimming pool and sauna which were both put into use by the team almost immediately. We wouldn’t be Sourcelabs if we didn’t pay attention to some good food, so we served some great barbecue specials with something delicious for both our vegans and non-vegans alike. After dinner we had a chance to catch up on current affairs with the team and spent some time playing silly party games. It was great fun, there were lots of laughs!
On day 2 it was time to get down to business. To get our heads in the right space, we first went out for a run where most of the team joined. Staying in the Ardennes means that you won’t find a flat surface even if your life depends on it, so the ~5km run we did with the team was painfully filled with climbs and descents, but we still all managed to hang on. Our resident fitboy Rick also managed to break the local record for an uphill run in the area so we definitely left our mark.
After the run we started focusing on the tech, Fatih had prepared a session on serverless and we went over it with the team. A lot of great insights were shared by Fatih, followed by good discussions where we all did our best to understand the concepts, and did some thinking about what would be a good fit for the tech in our own individual client contexts. For the afternoon session, Daniel prepared a workshop to go hands-on with serverless and we got a chance to see it in action and experience this technology ourselves. It was a lot of fun to be working through this with the team and to hear the insights everyone brought to the table. Before we knew it, the allocated time had passed and it was time to go to dinner. When in Belgium, you should make an effort to experience the local cuisine, so naturally we went for some authentic Belgian pizza. After dinner we had plenty of time for some more party games! We found out that if this “tech thing” doesn’t really work out for us, we should start writing marketing slogans for products because some were absolutely hilarious (although, given that e few beers were consumed, this opinion might not be entirely objective)! Still great, great fun.
The last day we had available had an important objective: we wanted to get the team together and discuss our strengths and weaknesses as a company, and to define what we wanted to focus on going forward as points to improve both individually and commercially. It’s always good to open yourself up to feedback, even if in the process you might learn things that hurt a bit. We encourage an open environment where everyones opinions and possible criticism are seen as equally valuable and taken seriously. We zoomed in on the things we felt we were good at, highlighted some of the improvement points and defined what we wanted to work on in the future. Most importantly, we were able to establish concrete actions to undertake and assign team members to these actions to start making them a reality. It’s indeed a vital outcome of such a session to not just be talking but also start working on it.
Around lunchtime we were able to complete the session, which meant it was time to move on to the fun activities we had planned for the afternoon, starting with a 5km hike near the waterfalls of Coo. The area we inhabited has some great nature trails and we could not miss the opportunity to spend some time on them. It was a great walk, although nobody warned us that the trail would be 5km straight upwards. My calves particularly suffered, but it was definitely worth it! Upon returning from the walk we took some time for drinks and went onwards to Spa Francorchamps to experience the karting track located there. To make our experience more spectacular, we ordered some rain to fall on the outdoor track and the weather delivered on that promise. We spent three twenty-minute sessions trying to find grip on the challenging track, leading to several spins and team members requiring rescuing from the gravel traps.
Of course, we could not close the weekend without going out for a nice dinner! We went to ‘Le val d’ambleve’, a restaurant close to the circuit which delivered on some fine dining even though they seemed to be confused about what being vegan really meant and had to improvise a menu. Still a nice evening with a lot of good food, discussions and laughs.
Some more swimming and party games followed to conclude the evening. It was already late when we finally retired to get some hours of sleep before the cleanup and the drive home in the early morning.
Now we are sitting here evaluating the week we had, it’s time to decide if this concept is worth repeating. We feel that it definitely is! It’s so valuable to spend time reconnecting with the team on both personal and professional levels. Being active for the clients we assist for most of the work week means we do not always get to spend a lot of time together. Although we do facilitate this with our bi-weekly meetups, getting to spend a longer chunk of time together was awesome.
We already got suggestions from the team on the location for the next coderetreat, and there seemed to be a preference for locations with a warmer climate, more specifically in the southern parts of Europe. We tend to agree with them, so it may just happen… If you are reading this and are thinking that this is also something you’d enjoy doing together with a fantastic group of professionals that are also great human beings, then you should definitely check out our job openings. We’d love to have you amongst us for the ride. In the sun!