What I Learned on December 23, 2020

What I Learned on December 23, 2020
Damian Wasserman

Last year’s town hall was more than a meeting

That day was unforgettable. We can still hear the gentle music of the acoustic guitar and see the smiles of everyone across the screen. We felt the satisfaction that comes from knowing that, despite everything that happened during this challenging year, we were there, together.

Behind each of those smiles, there’s a story. Each BEON team member has their unique background, family, and feelings, and we kept that in mind, especially knowing that in the previous months each team member’s story became more challenging.

Enrique, Christian, Andrés, César, Carlos, and Jarbit — these are the names of some of our Keepers living in Honduras and Nicaragua. In those areas, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes Eta and Lota hit, leaving many homeless. We are very grateful that all of them were fine. But during that period, we were all at the edge of our seats, hoping for the best and being available in case of the worst. 

We also have on our team César, Arraiz, Elio, Reynaldo, and Mariana from Venezuela. The conditions that surround them never cease to amaze us. Skyrocketing crime rates and inflation are just two examples. We also have Keepers such as Julian, Miguel, and Daniel from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires is normally a busy tourist spot where everyone enjoys a good time with their friends outside, but this year they had to stay at home, isolated from their friends and extended family. 

Their physical, emotional, and mental health could have suffered greatly. Drowned out by loneliness and fear, they could have given up and stopped striving to achieve their goals, stopped giving their all in the work they love. But that didn’t happen. At the town hall, we discovered why.

The town hall

On the morning of December 23, Victoria, from human resources, posted the following via Slack:

Hello, @channel! I wanted to remind you of our meeting today 😉

Don’t forget the drink to toast at the end. We wait for you!

Everyone responded immediately, stating their eagerness for the event. Simultaneously, many were reviewing the upcoming presentations, knowing they would be asked to participate. 

In what seemed like minutes, the time came and, at sunset, we all entered the meeting. 

The first thing we heard was the opening music, a simple melody with an 80s beat. Some even danced a little in their seats. Then, the fun started — a Kahoot competition where everyone answered trivia questions about software development, cloud storage, and other challenging topics. Since they are all expert engineers, it was quite interesting. 

In the end, Carlos Fuentes got to 3rd place, in 2nd place was Tali Katkownik, and in 1st place was Cesar Welchez. This part of the program was all fun and games and we laughed a lot. And that wasn’t the best part — this was just a practice session for the main Kahoot competition, in which the winner would receive a pair of AirPods pro. But first, we wanted to share a summary of our achievements throughout the year.

We explained to everyone that the pandemic evoked a worldwide “fight or flight” response, and we were no exception. We decided to fight and do our best. We made great strides and changes to the company despite being affected by pandemic restrictions. Our post, Why 2020 Was Our Best Year So Far, describes these changes in more detail. However, there is more to that story than we mentioned in the post.

All we achieved — the launch of the blog and website, peak customer satisfaction, and a greater scope — was thanks to the perseverance our Keepers and the team, in general, showed amid adversity. It wasn’t until the town hall that we discovered the key behind this outstanding work.

After our presentation, it was up to each Keeper to talk about the projects they had been developing. To make it more fun, they did it as an elevator pitch. In less than 30 seconds, each of the engineers had to present their project’s concept and its benefits. One even commented that he felt like a rapper. 

Then, they took one more challenge: the Kahoot trivia contest for the prize of a pair of AirPods pro. The competition was even more intense. Most answered the toughest questions correctly, so the difference between a winner and a loser would be only one mistake. Mora, a member of the HR team, was among the first in the competition. Some commented, “You can do it, Mora!” and an HR colleague asked, “You’re not going to change teams, are you?” Enrique Arrieta and Julian Fulks, both engineers, also gave a good battle. In the end, the winner was César Bonilla, followed in 2nd place by Carlos Fuentes, and Andrés in 3rd place. 

Finally, we reviewed the year in numbers and celebrated growing the team by 46% and increasing our number of projects by 50%. We mentioned something that has made us all proud, the award we received from Clutch for being one of the best software companies in Latin America. 

With those achievements in mind, we announced two new projects about which we are very excited. The first is an AWS Certification Program in which team members will have the opportunity to study and validate their knowledge in this much-needed area. The second is a high-level Hackathon, a championship in which dozens of programmers can participate through the web, which we will organize as a team throughout 2021.

Team. That’s a word we needed to highlight when we finished talking about the year’s accomplishments. We were grateful for everything the Keepers had achieved as a team and everything they had helped us deliver. Everyone clapped, and the truth is that that applause, more than for us, was for them. 

But the most important thing about this whole event was what happened next. As a final presentation and farewell to everyone for the year, Daniel and César played a song for us all. Daniel was the first, playing acoustic guitar and performing Radiohead’s High and Dry. Then César continued, with an alternative rock medley of several classic songs. The music filling the air made us feel distant from all the problems and concerns that had constantly plagued us during the year. But why? Because at that moment we were all there, enjoying what we had achieved together.

I see the world differently

Then I got it. I remembered that on all those occasions when things seemed to go wrong for someone, others wrote to them via Slack, sent them their best wishes, helped solve some problems, and even took a few moments to chat at the end of each meeting. I discovered that the perks we started, such as the English classes, training, and now the town hall, were more than sessions to grow professionally. They were moments when people would laugh, share their ideas and struggles, and help each other progress.

We had no idea what impact those decisions had on the personal lives of our team members. Because what can help a team succeed isn’t talent or money or circumstances, but unity, helping others when they need it, and receiving help when you require it.

Teamwork, friendship, and support — these are the first things lost during a crisis, but we remained united. And those little moments, like the sound of the guitar and laughter in the air, are the ones that show that we achieved 2020’s true goal: to progress as a family.