Digital Science Retreat 2018: Extinct Marsupials, Meeting Colleagues and Record Breaking Weather
The annual retreat marks the time of year when Digital Science – everyone from portfolio companies to the central team – get together at a scenic venue. As we now span more of the globe, this is the first time many of the team have met each other in person despite talking to each other online every week.
I think since Overleaf is a fully remote team, we don’t get as much time to get to know one another as others in shared spaces do. So, I think for many of us on the team, it was great to spend more time face to face and interact in a different way than normal. I also got to meet a fair amount of people from other teams as well, which was great, but I think my favorite part was getting to know my current team more intimately.
Nate Stemen from Overleaf, on the importance of meeting up once in a while.
Last year, our retreat was in Iasi, Romania. This year we gathered in Reading, UK at the beautiful De Vere Wokefield Estate during one of hottest weeks of 2018. It was quite surprising how little time it took for us to escape the city and enter the vast and beautiful countryside of Reading.
On the afternoon we arrived, I had a difficult choice to make: laser tag in a forest or archery. Although laser tag holds a dear place in my heart, I went with archery. That turned out to be the correct decision – the weather was really nice, but I imagine too hot for running around kitted out with laser sensitive armour!
The aim of the Retreat isn’t just team bonding and fun (there was golf, for instance). It’s also a great way to get a good recap of the previous year and hear from key stakeholders we rarely get to hear from. This year, not only did we get to hear Daniel Hook, our CEO, communicate his ideas of the future of Digital Science and the scientific research ecosystem, but we also got to hear from Stefan von Holtzbrinck (owner of our parent company) who gave a captivating speech that was universally enjoyed.
We try to keep the number of large meetings as small as we can at the retreat and that’s why we – once again – chose to manage the two days in an unconference format which has served us well over the past few years. Groups from across the companies self-organise around topics and lead discussions, presentations, or workshops around what they’re interested in.
“There’s no hard work for the one leading because the weight is distributed among the ones who attend, and we get a good spectrum of what other colleagues experienced/thinks about certain topics/problems.”
Jonathan Hernandez, Altmetric
This year’s topics ranged from using Safesforce correctly, to the impact of GDPR to wondering if wearing trousers was vital when working from home (we concluded that it was probably for the best). We also had a great session where we discussed the pitfalls of certain types of databases and a whole mix of non-compulsory topics which people gravitated to depending on how important they are from a business, cultural, or technical standpoint.
As a DS Retreat newbie, I really enjoyed my first retreat with the team. I have been to a lot of company retreats, and I think this one was the perfect balance between meaningful work time, free time and a variety of leisure activities. It was great to meet so many colleagues in person and the lightning talks and unconference sessions were a refreshing departure from the corporate retreats I’ve been to in the past. I’m already looking forward to the next one!
Katy Alexander, Digital Science’s Global Director of Marketing and Communications
Dr Adrian Currie, of the University of Cambridge, was our external guest speaker. He came to talk to us about how we can gain a lot of information about a long extinct marsupial even with very little evidence. The talk was very entertaining and certainly got a few Digital Science folk riled up for a healthy debate over dinner.
After all was said and done, and we returned back to the office the next week, it had been clear that the get-together had reinvigorated conversation and re-energised morale. Now, we’re all patiently waiting for Amarjit Myers (organiser extraordinaire for the event) to tell use where next year’s is!