Rocket at 25: Collaboration, customers, community and why meeting in person matters
Every day Rocketeers across the globe connect in ways that would have astonished the business world two decades ago. Online meetings have made communication more efficient and reliable. Yet in spite of great technologies that facilitate Web-based meetings, Rocket still puts on several large-scale events every year that connect hundreds of employees from around the globe to work together in a collaborative, in-person environment. Why are we bucking the virtual trend?
The reality is that there’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting, and there’s no way to replicate the magic that results from people making eye contact in the same room. That’s why we do our monthly leadership meetings in a conference room, not a conference call.
Last December we put out a call for project ideas based on the notion to create software that will matter to the world in our next 25 years. Any Rocketeer could participate. After narrowing the submissions from 120 to 20, we created the Rocket.Build Lab at a hotel in Boston. It was open 24 hours a day for a week, filled with things that inspire collaboration – beanbag chairs, snacks, outlets, big screens, and even toys. Eighty engineers from four continents converged on the Lab for a “hackathon,” and the excitement was palpable. The small things really illustrated what distinguishes physical interaction from virtual meetings: two people passing a laptop back and forth while talking, improving the code on the screen. One person running between two groups, giving input to both of them, bouncing ideas between them and improving both projects simultaneously. You just can’t do that by phone.
At the end of the week we had a fantastic set of ideas, as well as a renewed sense of purpose and passion. There was also a deep sense of friendship formed by the intensity of Rocket.Build. Now, when Rocketeers thousands of miles apart meet virtually, there is a deeper bond between them that was created from their time together in person. We’ve held mini-Rocket.Build events since, and are planning for our big adventure at the end of the year. We can’t to see what new ideas – and new connections form.