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23 December 2023

Developer Experience Offsite 2023, San Francisco, California, USA

by Željko Filipin

Offsites

At work, I’m a member of the Quality and Test Engineering Team (QTE). My team is a part of a newly formed bigger team, Developer Experience (DevEx). The bigger team had an offsite in San Francisco, California, USA.

I work remotely. For decades. Before COVID, I would see my colleagues a few times a year. All travel stopped with COVID. The last time I saw people from QTE was in 2020.

QTE used to be a part of another bigger team, Engineering Productivity. That team had a couple of virtual offsites in 2020 (May, October).

I don’t like virtual offsites. They are better than nothing, but in essence it’s just more of what we do regularly. Video meetings. It’s hard to organize virtual offsites for various reasons. One big problem is time zones. The team is spread over many time zones. Some people are in the west of America, some people are in the east of Europe and Africa. That’s a lot of time zones. Nine if my calculations are correct. That means that I’m pretty much done with the day when Americans are just waking up.

In person offsites are hard to organize too. But they are worth it. It’s very hard to get people from several continents and countries to the same place at the same time. Visas make the problem even harder. As far as I know, at least one person could not join us because their visa was rejected.

Work

It was great to see people from both the QTE team and the DevEx team.

It was great to see people from the DevEx team because I know most of them but I don’t work with them regularly. Hearing perspectives from people I don’t interact with usually is eye opening.

It was great spending more time with people I work with day to day. We had so many things to discuss that a day that was scheduled for our team was just not enough.

I wish we had a week of the DevEx offsite where we could talk with people from other teams. Additionally, I wish we had a separate QTE offsite where my team would have a week just for us.

Social

I think the social time at offsites is probably the most important part. We are pretty good at working remotely. We are pretty bad at socializing remotely. It’s just very hard to do.

A few of us met a few times for a 6.30am run. It was part exercise, part socializing. I was hoping one or two people would join me for the run. We had from three to five people running. That exceeded all of my expectations.

I made up a fake saying:

The best conversations at offsites happen at 11pm over a beer or at 6am during a run.

I got into chess recently. I have organized a few informal chess workshops at various in person or online events. I was moderately happy with those workshops. This time I decided to run a one-on-one workshop as many times as there is either interest or time. I called it “zero to hero”. (I know. Amazing branding.) The participant would first play a quick game against a level 1 chess.com bot. I would just observe the game to get an idea of the approximate rating of the participant. In the second game, I would introduce the first opening rule (conquer the center). In the third game, I would introduce the second opening rule (activate pieces). In the fourth and final game, I would introduce the third and the final opening rule (king security). The point was to introduce people to opening principles without overwhelming them. It was a lot of fun. I have received positive feedback from the participants.

One day during the offsite, we had a Christmas party. Guests were allowed. I saw my first manager. (He no longer works there.) That was a blast from the past.

The final day of the offsite was no work, all fun. Most of us went to Muir Woods . It was great. I love walking in the woods. I wish the entire offsite was a series of long walks in the woods.

tags: event - wikimedia