As the long northern summer days come to an end, Vaimoers like to welcome the first hints of autumn brisk by gathering together in Sweden to learn together, inspire one another, and to collaborate with our colleagues from around the world. At Vaimo, we begin our fiscal year with our annual two-day Kick-Off event, which entails 8 Vaimo offices meeting up for insightful talks, purposeful networking, and above all - having an incredible time together while we benefit from the knowledge and experience provided by the diversity of cultural backgrounds and multitude of talents in our team.
This year, our Vaimo crew traveled from our offices in Sweden, United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Denmark, South Africa, Estonia and Ukraine to unite for our largest Hackathon and Kick-Off event yet, with 152 Vaimoers present out of the 200 currently on staff. Most of us met already on Thursday, the 3rd of September at Vidbynäs conference centre in Nykvarn, Sweden, where we were greeted by the rolling green hills of a golf course, a historic manor house set against a pristine lake, and the last lingering rays of summer sunshine. After breakfast, we dove right into our 6th full-day Hackathon, with 21 teams brainstorming and coming up with solutions around different topics.
We collaborated on topics such as: Enhanced Magento dashboard, client customised theme, Magento 2 help-desk, Vaimo CMS image optimiser, how can we make our developers more efficient, how to insure UX quality throughout the project and in maintenance mode, easy scalability, site optimisations and much more. At the end of the day, each team presented their day's work along with a demo of their in-progress or finished product. We hope that the outcome of this Hackathon helps to improve our communication with our clients, our services and products and in general, reflect positively in the service we offer to our clients. After all the hard brain work, we were ready for dinner, where we spent quality time with our colleagues while enjoying true Scandinavian food, such as Skagenröra and elk meat.
After a brief yet nourishing breakfast the following morning, our Key Account Manager from Stockholm, Torbjörn Lindblad, filled us in on the plans for the day and introduced our first speakers: “Came in second place for coolest dressed kid in Sweden” - PJ Utsi, Vaimo’s CCO; “CEO at 27” - David Holender, Vaimo’s CEO, and “Played in a band called Power On” - Staffan Palopää, Vaimo’s CTO. The three founding members provided us with insight into their intriguing backgrounds (reindeer herding), talked about the founding of Vaimo, celebrated our commendable organic growth, and finally, they reiterated our future collective goals as a company.
After this, our very own COO and “a golden bullet” (shoot him in any direction and he comes back with a sale), Brendan Peo, took the stage along with a team of Vaimoers, to describe an ongoing project with a global eCommerce giant and the pride the team feels over the work they accomplished. Brendan took us through the behind-the-scenes journey of the sales process, (which is often several months long), to the discovery workshops, and onwards to the finished product. Brendan stressed the feeling of immense pride we at Vaimo feel over each and every client that we have the privilege of working with, and the importance of not taking any client for granted.
After that, we had an opening talk from an award-winning author and the founder of Agile Developer, Inc., Venkat Subramaniam, who has trained and coached thousands of software developers worldwide and has assisted his clients to successfully apply agile practices to their software projects. Venkat captivated us with his simple yet descriptive speech about the importance of sustainable agile development and how the best and most relevant feedback comes from the active usage of an application by the end-users while it’s being developed, not when the client sees the solution for the first time when the final product is being demonstrated. Check out Venkat's Twitter here to keep up with his thoughts.
“It was a pleasure attending the event and I enjoyed the interactions the most. I am very glad to see such an enthusiastic group that is eager to change and excel. It’s truly a privilege to interact with such a company of hardworking people. Thank you so much for having me there on Friday,” said Venkat Subramaniam.
After a scrumptious lunch, we had our workshop sessions, where Venkat gave two separate talks on the “Technical Introduction to Test Driven Development” and “How to Approach Refactoring.” We also had sessions available to attend with our internal presenters: Wilko Nienhaus and Pablo Ivulic (“Magento 2” and “How to Work Effectively with the Products and Tools Department”), PJ Utsi and Håkan Jonsson (Omnichannel: Where are We, What are the Leaders Doing and Where to Next?) and Anna Smykun (Every Business Wants to be Profitable). Everyone had a chance to pick two sessions to attend, where we received valuable insight and information on the topics given.
After our afternoon workshop sessions, we spruced ourselves up and met back at the manor for welcome drinks followed by a dinner, where we were entertained by a stylish magician named David who wowed us throughout the evening with curious tricks. We also had the pleasure of a Vaimo photo booth, where we all took turns crowding in together, donning flashy wigs and yelling “chee- or, wait, Vaimo-!” Our CEO, David Holender, also took the time to thank our legal manager, Kristiina Lenman, for tirelessly helping out the company with a couple of recent big and important projects. After a wonderful meal, we ended the night with dancing, karaoke, billiards, and live music from The Moniker, a well-known Swedish singer. We also had a hot tub and a sauna available for our usage – but our cameras did not venture out that far!
On Saturday morning, we all managed to gather, bright and early, for a breakfast feast and then we got right down to the day's surprise team competition – building and designing a box-kart from scratch! There were three categories to compete in: design, speed, and team attitude. There was no question about the winner of the design award, which went to Team Speedy Snails, for their innovative “snail box-kart.” Team “Vaimo Fast and Furious” won both the speed race and the attitude award, as they spread the most cheer while encouraging other teams.
While we enjoyed our last meal together, the skies finally opened up and rain poured down – the weather graciously held out for us almost the entire time! We had our last coffees with our dear colleagues and then all too soon, it was time to leave. While most Vaimoers took the bus to the airport or back to Stockholm, the Tallinn office took the long way home – with the overnight ferry. We just couldn't say goodbye to each other yet! There, our quality time continued with some sauna, spontaneous flashmob dancing, and a very long buffet dinner. I can't imagine a better ending to a great Kick-Off event – having fun and growing closer to the genuinely wonderful people I have the privilege of working with on a daily basis.
We managed to capture almost everyone at the Kick-Off on photos! Check out the rest of the photos on Vaimo's Facebook page.