Six months removed from our company excursion known as Retreat Yo Self, our team reunites in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a homecoming of sorts. Because it’s a bit of a professional gathering focused on in-person conversation, we’ve dubbed the three-day as Parliament (and because Parliament is the best word to describe a group of owls). During this time, we take a slight pause on client work (as much as we can) and instead look inward to find ways to improve our work, our processes, and how to collaborate better with one another. Being the nostalgic individual I am, I wanted to take a moment to reminisce on the experiences our team shared just last week at Parliament ‘23.
Day 1: Welcome Wednesday
The days leading up to Parliament were filled with anticipation. As a fully remote company, nothing beats seeing your co-workers, or better yet - friends, outside the confines of our computer screens.
Upon arrival in NC (on staggered schedules), team members eagerly made their way over to our offices in downtown Raleigh for a mix of working alongside their colleagues IRL and old fashion in-person conversation. To kick off the evening’s festivities, we had a rooftop dinner and drinks while Ben and Chris put together a presentation on the triumphs and tribulations we experienced during Quarter 1. This sparked a riveting exchange among team members as we discussed the company's trajectory for the rest of the year.
Afterward, we bid a virtual farewell to our Savasians, who joined remotely and then spent the rest of the evening reconnecting, sharing stories, and watching the hometown Hurricanes win an OT playoff thriller (okay, that was just some of us).
Day 2: Looking back
On Thursday, we all returned to the office for a day jam-packed with presentations and department breakouts centered around the theme ‘Looking Back.’ Without wasting any time, Ben and Chris jumped right in by sharing a few opening remarks and reflecting on the lessons we learned last year as a growing organization and how we’ve started to hone our processes.
The first to present was the project team that worked with our client Attain Data. Savasians Lu, Drew, Simon, and Tim dove deep into their experience building a website constrained by a quick timeline and tight budget. Despite these challenges, our collaboration with each other and with our client partners at Attain resulted in a product that both teams were proud of. Notably, the project marked the successful implementation of a refined CMS code boilerplate we call Quickstart. (More on that topic down below.)
After a quick break, Sean and Lemon took the stage to look back at our goal of fostering more cross-departmental collaboration that we set forth at our retreat in October. They reprised a previous skillshare chronicling the “bond formed in the fires of hell” between designers and developers and how communication is fundamental to a thriving work environment. This prompted a productive conversation on the significance of being intentional in coordinating individuals working together on projects to familiarize ourselves with one another before taking on new assignments.
Process Improvement Spotlight: More cross-department collaboration and brainstorming process improvement (very meta)
After a quick break, Sean and Lemon took the stage. They reprised their “bond formed in the fires of hell”/”baby driver” skillshare talk and how communication is fundamental to a thriving work environment. This prompted a productive conversation on the significance of being intentional in coordinating individuals working together on projects to familiarize ourselves with one another before taking on new assignments.
Next, our Design Director, Ian, highlighted some overall design process improvements focusing on the anatomy of our Figma files to improve the handoff process.
The day's final session was conducted by Chris and Ben, who revisited our exploration of the Objective and Key Results (OKR) framework last year for goal-setting and measuring our organization’s success. Despite gaining valuable insights, they aimed to modify the approach to tailor it to our needs centering on a specific company focus as a foundation to set goals before our retreat in October. They focused on the key theme of being more “proactive,” facilitated a Q&A session, and established the groundwork for breakout discussion on how to contribute to the company's overarching goals.
After wrapping up the workday, we took some time to decompress before making our way to Morgan Street Food Hall. Amidst the laughter and delicious food, we also eagerly engaged in an axe-throwing contest, donning our competitive spirits. (I’m looking at you, Sean.)
Day 3: The Future
Friday’s agenda was a stark departure from the preceding day’s activities as Ben aimed to resurrect an initiative we had experimented with in the past - an all-day hackathon. AKA: Hack to the Future.
We divided the team into six smaller groups, and together we embarked on this journey with a few goals in mind: fostering collaboration, learning new skills, creating something, sharing our discoveries, and, of course, having fun. The hackathon’s theme was centered around artificial intelligence, which perfectly aligned with our identity as an innovative agency. Ben urged us to explore AI's potential and grasp that it isn't a matter of robots usurping our jobs but rather a valuable tool that can be harnessed for personal growth, process optimization, and elevating our clients' experiences.
After a long day of hacking, the teams reconvened and prepared to share what they had learned or built.
Team 1 came to the table with some of the different ideas they tested to create a more productive and harmonious workplace. To achieve this, they turned to ChatGPT for guidance on how different Predictive Index types prefer communication. This insightful information allowed them to tailor communication strategies, resulting in stronger connections and a more cohesive work environment.
Next, they utilized ChatGPT to generate basic steps for several in-progress or to-do process improvements, such as technical ticket writing, QA testing, and design-dev handoff. While these foundational steps require further review and refinement, they serve as excellent starting points for team discussions and contribute to more streamlined operations.
Lastly, they wanted to learn more about the Drupal module with OpenAI integration which can generate content for the website, such as blog posts. The idea is that this module could greatly help with content creation for Savasian tasked with writing content for the Savas site to get over “blank page syndrome."
Team 2 took a lighthearted approach to the hackathon by devising a plan to incorporate a playful feature on the Savas website. Otto, the father of Ava - our cherished mascot, would appear to share Dad Jokes with users as their visit to the site neared its end. Once the site detects inactivity by the user, it modifies the browser title and content, allowing Otto to lean in and deliver a witty dad joke. Initially, these jokes were randomly selected from DadJokes.io, but they enhanced them by integrating ChatGPT to generate tailored Dad Jokes connected to the specific page content. Users could then prompt Otto for additional jokes or, if they preferred, request Otto's recommendations for related pages to peruse.
Team 3 (my team) devoted most of the day to experimenting with various ideas, but our determination led us to settle on a single concept to present to the rest of the team. Our objective was to develop a product that harnessed the capabilities of ChatGPT, enabling us to better comprehend client reactions during meetings to position ourselves strategically in subsequent interactions. The product, coined ‘Samantha’s Meeting Vibes,’ serves as a mood processor that assesses a client’s verbal responses on a scale of 1-5 (1 being ineffective and 5 being highly effective) based on our team’s ability to communicate expectations and achieve the set goal(s) of the meeting.
Team 4’s approach began with the idea of translating slang between generations. They asked themselves: “How can we use AI to help older folks understand what things like ‘no cap’ ‘bussin’ or ‘sussy baka’ means in terms that they are familiar with?” Their answer: TRANSL8 DAT. They worked together to create a simple interface that leverages ChatGPT to allow a user to input text and return it via a few different translations. Additionally, they recognized the obvious potential to broaden their scope and included some well-known characters like Scooby Doo, Snoop Dogg, Yoda, and others. (Stay tuned because this may evolve into our newest Labs™ project.)
Similar to team 1, the journey for team 5 began with an aim to enhance operational efficiency at Savas Labs. However, after exploring AI tools, particularly Chat GPT, Team 5 found inspiration for Chameleon™ – a unique social camouflage solution that enables users to quickly become well-versed in a subject, helping them seamlessly participate in any conversation as an expert. For example, imagine attending a company event such as a Justin Bieber Silent Disco, your CEO's favorite artist. With Chameleon™, you'll be armed with an array of discussion topics and quick facts about Bieber-Fever, allowing you to focus on showcasing your dance moves to the chart-topping hit, Baby.
Concluding the lineup was Team 6, who developed a ChatGPT Figma plugin that attempts to draw an icon based on a descriptive user-provided prompt. Even though ChatGPT isn't built for images, it can compose and return SVG code, which the plugin then inserts onto the Figma artboard as vector shapes.
After work, we headed over to Side Quest Game Lounge for board games and dinner, which was nothing short of a good time.
It's not goodbye; it's see you later
The precious moments we spend together in person, although they may never feel quite long enough, make our experiences truly unforgettable. I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of such a remarkable team, brimming with extraordinary talent and genuine camaraderie. I look forward to our next reunion in October, when we can once again come together, share our passion, and create even more cherished memories.