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— 4 minute read

Beyond hangouts: InVision’s first engineering offsite

Working at InVision has been my introduction to full time remote employment. While I had telecommuted before, it had always been a day here and there, or maybe a week if I was sick and didn’t want to spread cooties around the office. It’s been over a year now and I have fallen completely in love with working from home. Although, it’s not just working with my cat in my lap that makes it enjoyable. It’s that it affords me the opportunity to work with talented professionals all over the world.

InVisions’ teams are named by color and I’m the QA Engineer on the Red team. I reside in Washington state while my teammates hail from Montana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Italy. More often than not, I forget that we’re in different locations. So far, using Slack, email and Google Hangouts to communicate is completely effective when you work with dedicated people. When I heard I was going to travel to Portland to meet my teammates in person, I was thrilled for two reasons. One, I wanted to see these people below the neck. Two, It felt amazing to know the team’s working relationship was important enough for InVision to plan this off-site.

Team Building Actually Works

I had come to the off-site with a challenging set of automation scripts to work on. I knew I needed some help to streamline them and I wanted to take advantage of having everyone together. The itinerary allotted for an hour to discuss automation so I launched into the issues I was having, hoping I could get through most of it. After a few minutes, the entire Red Team pulled up chairs to sit with me, giving me troubleshooting ideas, suggestions and other feedback I know I never would have gotten on Google Hangouts. I was almost giddy with how quickly we were able to get past some of the blockages I had.

An hour later we had made serious progress but hadn’t quite gotten all of it. I figured I’d work through the rest when I got home but my teammates were having none of that. They decided to forgo the set agenda and continue with me until one particular problematic test set was running like Usain Bolt. We’d make some changes, run the tests and groan in unison at a failure. When something passed, we’d cheer and throw our arms in the air. Working with them in person was really fun! In that moment, I felt a sense of camaraderie I’d never felt with this team before. I remember smiling to myself at one point, realizing that just a few hours into the trip I was already reaping the benefits.

Direct Messages - Now Guilt Free!

Over the last year there were times I felt a little uneasy sending Slack direct messages, for fear of bothering people. In an office environment you can walk by someone’s office to see if they are busy, but when you work from home you never really know what your co-workers are doing. My concern was that someone would be ‘in the zone’ on a project and my message would pop up, throwing off their concentration completely.

When I came together with my team and we were able to talk to each other from a few feet away, that anxiety evaporated and I felt silly for even having it. We spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Portland, drinking coffee, eating, laughing and getting to know each other. I came home feeling closer to my team than ever. I no longer feel shy about sending a message to them, or anyone at InVision. We’re all in this together and we all want the same thing - the best bug-free product on the market.

In Conclusion

The trip to Portland totally changed the dynamic within the team for me. I feel more connected to my boss and co-workers and more confident in myself. I’m thankful that InVision understands the importance of team companionship and was willing to give us this opportunity. There is something about sharing a meal or just walking to get coffee that helps people bond. I also can’t thank my teammates enough for their time and assistance during the trip. I am blessed to work with such great people at such a great company.

Overall, it was a fantastic off-site and I hope we can do it again sometime! It didn’t change my view on working from home though. Being able to attend meetings with a purring kitten in my lap is pretty hard to beat.

Heather Roberts is a Senior UX-UI Test Engineer at InVision.

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