The day I accepted the position at Chromatic was the day I was invited to the Fall Team Retreat in Vermont. Starting a new job is always exciting and overwhelming, but preparing for an event for 14 people I’ve never met or worked with, took that to another level. After getting recipe lists for dinners, battling with finding grocery stores near the remote Vermont location, making sure everyone had rental cars and knew who was driving and coordinating my own details to find these people I have yet to meet, I was ready to get this event started.
Arriving at the airport and seeing the guys who would be sharing a car with me for the next 2.5 hours from Boston-Logan airport to Reading, Vermont was exciting. They literally welcomed me with open arms. To each other they acted like old buddies, hugs all around. It was nice to see people interacting in real life. Zoom provides an awesome resource for us to see and work together... from the shoulders up. This was going to be great. Some people are from completely different countries and I was excited at the opportunity to hear about their culture and get to know more about the people whose faces I would be seeing weekly.
We packed ourselves into the rental SUV, stopped at the grocery store 1.5 hours from the house (I let the guys utilize their tetris skills to fit the groceries with our luggage), stopped by a pizza place in New Hampshire (45 minutes from the house) to pick dinner up for the team. We arrived with warm laps and an eagerness to see the rest of the team (or at least get out of the car). That ride set the tone for the whole trip and allowed me to interact with 4 of my new teammates. Sharing jokes, listening to comedy central radio and hearing about their experiences on the Chromatic team.
Arriving at Reading Farms Estate in Reading, Vermont, it was clear that this very secluded 400-acre property nestled into the woods, providing nothing but beautiful sceneries, colorful trees, and winding roads, had more than enough to get this party started. The event I have obsessed over planning for the past 4 days was finally in front of me and it felt like I was a real part of the team.
So many hugs, hellos and happiness was shared for that first night. They didn't even seem to mind that the pizza was cold. Everyone was tired from their travels, but the rush of excitement and joy of being together again kept everyone wide awake into the late hours of the night. I would compare it to a family reunion: the experience sharing, story telling and the personal level in which they knew each other, there weren't “cliques”. Everyone talked to everyone, was there a timer on and I didn't know it? Was someone yelling “SWITCH” so they would know to move to the next person to strike up a conversation? NO. They were really this friendly, outgoing and excited to hear from everyone. It was amazing to see. Sitting back watching all this happen, I smiled knowing that this was now MY team. Then I too, jumped in and started getting to know my new friends.
I helped with the agenda for the event and knew how things would play out. The partners of the company sharing the State of Chromatic, the team blurting out things that the company should stop, start and continue doing and the lightning talks. About 5 days before the event I found out I would have to give a 5-10 minute presentation to the team about… whatever the heck I wanted. I was nervous, you are supposed to “know your crowd”. I decided to chat about something common that occurs during my solo vacations, then sat down and continued to learn about 4 back strengthening techniques, the difference between whiskey and whisky and how to ensure my newly-built website is working.
When we broke for lunches and dinners, we ate like kings. There are so many members on our team that are avid chefs and know their way around many entrees. One night was Korean tacos with carne asada, another was a plethora of dishes that left me eating it for breakfast the next morning. I got nothing but high fives and atta girls when I ate the last baked sweet potato at midnight whilst washing dishes and partaking in the nightly team clean up sessions.
Each day I learned more about someone else and I shared more with them. As the real Vermont ciders and bottles of wine poured through the days and nights, we spent more time together and I wasn't in a rush to get away. We hiked the back 5 miles and hung out in the hot tub, played with the drone and even did a Polar Plunge in the frigidly cold pool water. The weather in Vermont was perfect this week. 70’s during the day cooling down to 40’s at night, so the leaf covered pool water was less than appealing, but after Alfonso’s lightning talk about the health benefits of cold dipping, a few of us were ready to test it for ourselves. I was the first one in and boy am I glad I was. I could have been easily talked out of it. Dave and Alfonso were able to last about 10 minutes as the rest of us basked in the sun and talked about the rush we felt. I did a polar plunge...during a work retreat..in the middle of the country...in Vermont. These people were actually becoming my friends!
On Sunday morning we woke up knowing what was imminent. It was time to say our goodbyes. After eating breakfast together, cleaning the house and putting it back to its natural, non-Chromatic lived-in, state, we gathered our luggage and hauled it into the cars and gave hugs. Safe trip. Safe travels. Talk soon. Thanks for everything. We eventually all drove off and immediately logged into Slack so we could make jokes, comment on the 2.5 hour drive that we had ahead of us and stay as connected as we had been for 4 days. This company is going to be great, they accepted me as if I have been a lifelong employee and even laughed at my horrible jokes (sometimes). The Chromatic team has something that I have never experienced before, the freeness, the openness, the friendliness. All those ess’s made me feel right at home.