Retreat 2024: A Tale of Two Time Zones

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As a fully remote company, one of the things we look forward to the most is our annual retreat. Well, sometimes it isn’t quite as annual as we’d like it to be thanks to travel restrictions from a certain global pandemic, but you get the picture. It’s a rare opportunity for us to see each other in person, have some fun, and more importantly, plan out some of our short term and long term goals for Order Desk.

While we were lucky enough to have almost everyone in one place for our 2023 retreat, it was a bit more challenging to coordinate everyone’s travel for 2024 due to our growth as a company and how spread out we are across the globe (10 different countries and counting!). Ultimately we made the tough decision to split up for the first time and send two halves of Order Desk to two wildly different destinations: Da Nang, Vietnam and Orlando, Florida.

The Destination

For simplicity, we tried to keep our internal teams together as we divided our numbers, so our entire Engineering team made the trip to Da Nang with part of our Support team, while our Content & Strategy team and the remaining Support team flew to Orlando. Thankfully these trips were separated by a few weeks, as otherwise it would’ve been tricky trying to manage two different retreats on opposite sides of the planet at the same time; the time zones are exactly 12 hours apart!

Don’t tell the Da Nang group about the delicious pizza the Orlando group had.

The differences between the two cities are quite stark. While Da Nang has a lot of natural beauty to behold and embraces its local culture, Orlando is a popular tourist destination surrounded by American suburbia where the primary draw is amusements and thrills. Both are wonderful places in their own right, which gave our teams a unique opportunity to have two completely different experiences to share afterward.

The Work

If you’re a fan of our blog and have read our previous retreat posts (and why wouldn’t you), you’ll remember how we really stress how beneficial it is to work alongside each other in person. Remote work certainly has its perks, but sometimes there’s no replacing the ease of tapping on your co-worker’s shoulder to ask them a question, or grabbing some snacks and jumping into an impromptu brainstorming session. Bonus points if someone brought some unique snacks from their home country!

We would like to formally apologize to our dentists in advance.

As we’ve done in the past, our teams put a lot of focus into their respective projects, along with some larger meetings for the company as a whole where we reflected on the past year and looked ahead at what’s to come. No spoilers, but we have some big stuff in the works, and we can’t wait to show you all what we’ve been building when the time is right.

This year, we also planned something that we had never done before: setting aside time to do some hands-on volunteer work to give back to the local communities in each location. As a company, we strongly believe that it’s important to operate with our values at the forefront, so for years, one of the things we’ve been doing internally is loaning a portion of our profits to folks in need. In some cases, this has looked like helping aspiring business owners in developing countries get the equipment they need, while in others, it’s been funding education materials for children living in poverty. It speaks to our goal of helping folks succeed, something we try to accomplish every day with an app that businesses large and small can rely on to refine the complexities of order fulfillment.

With that in mind, our Da Nang group visited the Hoa Mai Da Nang Orphanage to plow soil beds so the children could plant bonsai trees. Each member of our team brought a book written in English to donate so the kids could practice their language skills.

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Our Orlando group visited Clean the World to support The WASH Foundation, an organization that helps prevent waste by recycling discarded soaps and shampoo from the hospitality industry, where they’re sanitized, repackaged, and sent to struggling communities around the world that do not have access to clean water or basic sanitation. Together we filled up an entire pallet of soaps (totaling 21,600 bars!) to be distributed and help save lives.

The Order Desk Team at Clean the World HQ in Orlando, Florida

Be sure to check out this first-hand account on both of these charitable experiences to learn more.

The Fun

Our Da Nang group really made the most of their stay, venturing out into the city to eat and see the sights. One big hit in particular was cà phê sữa đá, known in English as Vietnamese iced coffee, which a few of our folks had never tried before. We know many of you read our blog for our food and beverage reviews, so we can safely say that we do recommend trying cà phê sữa đá at least once!

All your favorite colors are here!

Over in Orlando, our international team members enjoyed shopping at some of America’s larger stores, had a lot of great meals, celebrated an engagement, and even had an in-person session of Dungeons & Dragons. Things did get a bit scary unfortunately, as a few Order Desk folks went out on a boat and were subsequently attacked by a large kraken that started to tear the ship apart, but they were able to defeat it and thankfully revive the ship’s captain. Wait, were we talking about D&D or the retreat?

Hopefully your attack rolls are better than ours.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a true trip to Florida without an alligator sighting. Our accommodations for the trip had us right up against a body of water, and since it’s Florida, the safest thing to do is assume there is at least one gator lurking in the water at all times. Our mysterious (and adorable) guest didn’t reveal themselves to us until the end of our time there, but it was a very exciting experience none the less. We miss you already, K. Rool Builder.

Regrettably, we had to decline the gator’s pool party invitation.

The Future

As both of our retreats came to a close, we walked away with not only a shared vision for the future of Order Desk, but more importantly, insight into the road to help us get there. It’s one thing to have aspirations, but it’s another to figure out how to make them happen, and that’s really the value of these retreats for us. It’s going to be a while before we all get to see each other again, but in the meantime, we have a lot to work with, and many future accomplishments that will be worth celebrating when we next meet.

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