Building Community in a Digital Era  

Isabel Senior
April 19, 2021

AKA Buzzword Buzzword Buzzword Buzzword.  

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing about this abstract idea of “community,” especially in today’s remote world. I’m not even sure what the word means. Is it Zoom happy hours? Banter over Slack? Designating the first 10 minutes of team meetings for small talk?  

Don’t get me wrong, I love the freedom that being remote has given us. Not only can I roll out of bed just before the work day, still sporting PJ bottoms (shh), but it has also allowed us to create a multinational company where no more than two people live in the same time zone. There's little doubt that our team could have coalesced without the world going online (except Mike Cimmarrusti and Wes Cimmarrusti, who happened to meet a few decades ago).  

So what does this idea of “community” look like for a company like Realize, which is early in its lifecycle and spread around the globe? What does it look like in practice?  

 

Let me tell you about Friday Cheers.  

It starts on Monday, with a brave soul volunteering as tribute by sending out a piece of content to the team. Sounds easy enough, but the difficulty is in how no topic or medium is off limits. The material can be directly related to the volunteer’s domain, it can be educational about our industry, or it can even just be inspiring content. Then on Friday afternoon (or evening, or morning... depending on the time zone), we come together to discuss said podcast/article/YouTube video/short story/essay.  

Not only has it been wonderful to share our own experience and work domain with each other, but these conversations have highlighted the intersection of business and tech. Problems that I am working to solve can be answered by hearing how the engineering team works through their own challenges. Conversations I have with customers and business partners can inform decisions that need to be made in product development. So while these conversations are intellectually fun, they can also drive great business ideas.  

One of my favorite conversations occurred when I shared Jason Feifer’s talk on getting press for the business. I felt that the takeaways were clear: 1) navigating the PR process means understanding journalists in the same way that we work to understand our business partners and customers; 2) we are all just people, passionate about our focus; and 3) if we approach conversations and pitches in this way, the process is more collaborative and less like “ordering a hamburger,” etc.  

What fascinated me, though, was how my colleagues drew entirely different insights from the talk, and how their perspectives nudged me toward solving the problems I face. Konstantin, our Principal Engineer, pointed out Feifer's point on “reducing friction” and how this same principle applies to the First-Time-User-Experience of the Realize app. On the flip side, discussions around game design and tutorial creation stimulate new ideas with sales communication.  

How do you use the concepts of game design to solve a problem in press partnerships? Get smart people talking, then listen and take lots of notes. That is what Friday Cheers are all about.  

We’ve told friends and family about our Friday team tradition and the two questions we get most often are: “Why doesn’t every company do this?” and “Do you ever allow guests to participate?” To answer the first question, you’d have to ask other companies. For the second question, if you ask adamantly enough, our CEO Mike has a hard time turning away new friends.  

I don’t know how Mike came up with this idea, but the sense of community we have been able to create is incredible, especially since we never had to sit around and talk about how to create community.  

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