All Posts in Costa Rica
Table XI was founded because our first employees were frustrated working in organizations where technology was the source of more problems than solutions. So ten years ago this month, we took matters into our own hands and started a company that could deliver cutting edge technology solutions to the real people who work at and run Chicagoland's small and mid-size businesses.
Today, our very first client is still with us, and our staff comprises several people who have been here since the start (or near to it). It’s these kind of lasting relationships that we’re most proud of, along with the cool and innovative work we’ve gotten to do along the way.
Part of the founding ethos of Table XI was that creating an inviting company culture would bring us the best developers. Over the years we’ve introduced daily perks like flexible hours and lunches (catered in-house), plus bigger benefits like retreats to Costa Rica, where we can simultaneously have fun, get to know each other better, and work on interesting company projects. It’s an investment that has brought us incredibly talented people and allowed us to expand our client base and business—the proverbial win-win.
So what’s next for us? Our time in Costa Rica gave some smart people time to work on smart ideas and get experience with new platforms. We’ll foster more of that, while continuing to figure out how to recruit and retain the best talent and apply their skills to the newest technologies. With the industry focusing on social apps and mobile optimized products, we’ll be doing a lot more work in those areas.
We’re incredibly proud of our achievements, and that we were able to make it through the last decade’s tough times without having to cut back on people or benefits. We’d like to thank our clients and employees for helping us get here, and we can’t wait to see what the next ten years will bring.
We swam, we surfed, we SQL queried. Between the beach and the tiki hut office, there was lots to glean from our time in Costa Rica:
- Contrary to popular belief, developers are not allergic to sunlight.
- Hammocks make good desks.
- A day iterating on Facebook's API is a day well spent.
- When you want a good photo, ask a Schwartz.
- Jason Pearl builds cloud-based games and Imperial pyramids with equal levels of dedication and ingenuity.
- Chef Aram has ninja knife skills. And now we all know how to chop an onion properly.
- Just say no to traveling on the day two major airlines merge.
- Just say yes when someone asks you if you have a phone in your pocket before they throw you in the water.
- Meetings are more fun when they happen in pools.
- The two rarest things to see in the wild: sloths and a John Gore smile.
Check out some other highlights from our trip:
Before our trip, I found myself in conversations with clients and friends, trying to articulate why we were bringing all our employees, their significant others, and their children to Costa Rica for a weeklong corporate retreat. Most were congratulatory at being able to provide such an experience; many requested jobs; a handful, I suspect, if even for a moment, thought this might be a junket.
The reality, however, is that the trip is an extension of who we are as a company. It’s a progression of our flexible hours, catered lunches, and ability to work abroad—perks that allow us to compete for talent in our industry and find employees who are more than just employees. We endeavor to provide an environment that elevates an individual from trusted colleague to friend.
Our recent growth—including 11 employees last year—as well as the departure of two long-time staffers necessitated a renewed focus on our team and where we're headed as an organization. In much the same way we encourage clients to meet at our office and step outside the day-to-day of their existence, we wanted to do the same.
We used this time to review development best practices and testing strategies. We intermingled teams exploring the depths of the Facebook API, cut our teeth on mobile platforms, exposed developers to new languages, and leveraged unfamiliar tools like mailgun and Refinery CMS, which will have immediate utility for our clients.
50 of us, including TXI staffers, significant others, kids, and a few friends all arrived in Playa Grande, Costa Rica this past Saturday. Following a company welcome dinner that night and boat ride on Sunday, we've buckled down for the past two days working on new techniques, new projects, and new tans.
But this trip isn't just about fun in the sun. It’s easy for big picture items to get lost in day-to-day minutia, so we leverage this chance to take time, take a step back, and take stock of where we can make improvements company-wide.
Primarily, we’ll be looking at ways to run and deliver projects with greater efficiency and transparency. We’ll be talking about engineering best practices like automated testing and continuous integration, as well as the latest project management tools that will give our clients more insight and control around their projects and budgets. These advances will have a huge impact on our clients, allowing us to work more efficiently and cycle talent onto projects faster. They will also give clients more flexibility to change or add features along the way, without fear of upset apple carts or blooming budgets.
We'll also be examining how we communicate what we do to the marketplace. We've done good work for a lot of people, but thus far have remained mostly under the radar. Our marketing team has some great ideas about how to elevate the profile of our organization, and we're looking forward to putting that plan into action.
There will be a lot more to report once we return in early March. We’re so grateful that we as a company have the ability to take retreats like this, and ultimately we think our clients will be, too.
We’ll be uploading photos to Facebook throughout the week, so check in for some vicarious sunshine.
A recently overheard conversation that took place in the middle of the office between developer Micah Gates and new marketing director Kate Garmey, her first week on the job:
Micah: “Excuse me, but I have an extremely random question for you.”
Micah: “Were you in Costa Rica seven years ago?”
Kate: “You’re right, that’s random. But actually...I think I was.”
Micah: “And did you do some trekking while you were there?”
Kate (growing dubious): “Um, yes...”
Micah: “Right. Did you, uh, happen to do that trek with me?”
Kate: “No. Way.”
But lo, she had, in fact, done that trek with Micah.
Seven years ago, Kate was a volunteer in Nicaragua, working in an orphanage on the island of Ometepe, and Micah was backpacking around Costa Rica. The two met on a bus headed south toward Corcovado National Park, where they joined forces for a three-day jungle trek, surrounded by jaguars, howler monkeys, and sloths.
Kate went on to travel to Panama, Micah to Nicaragua, and, these being pre-Facebook days, when emails were exchanged on paper torn from journals and then promptly misplaced, the two lost touch. Neither knew that the other now lived in Chicago, much less recently started working for the same company.
We are very pleased to have both Micah and Kate aboard the Table XI team. Fortunately, for this next adventure, no malaria pills are required. Yet.
Micah was even able to dig up some photos from the trip:
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