Guru Wave

It was an impromptu karaoke night in a lodge in the Catskills, and the vibe, as the kids say, was strong. At Guru’s first major in-person company event in over two years, over 100 members of the team emerged from behind our screens to celebrate the kickoff of our new fiscal year—and each other. “Yeah, but I’m not gonna lie, I’m extremely jealous of that ice cream tasting the remote track gets to do,” was a common refrain.

welcome-to-camp-cko-22That’s right, Guru’s 2022 company kickoff (CKO), like our approach to work itself, was a hybrid affair, and planned that way from the very start. Even before the Omicron surge, our internal comms and employee experience teams knew that there were Guru employees for whom travel wasn’t a preference, so while some of us were ice skating and playing trivia at the Mohonk Mountain House, others were, yes, ice cream tasting and bookmaking from the comfort of home.

Keep reading to get a taste of what the Guru employee experience over the course of our CKO was like.

Planning for 2022

While our pre-pandemic CKOs usually meant the whole company getting together for daytime planning sessions followed by evening fun over the course of a few days, the pandemic forced us to adapt. Instead of spending four days straight in Zoom sessions, starting with our summer kickoff (aka Summer Jubilee) in 2020, we moved to distribute business planning sessions over the course of two weeks.

In 2021, we adapted that further still to include recorded shareouts via Loom to allow people to take the more intense data sessions at their own speed asynchronously, reserving the “live” sessions for things like our all hands and voice of the customer series.

The CKO 2022 team refined that approach even further, splitting out CKO Planning Week (week 1), dedicated to—you guessed it—planning for the year ahead, and CKO Bonding Week (week 2).

Guru CKO Staff

Bonding

So after a long week of forecasting, listening, and learning, Guru did what Guru does best (when we’re not thinking about and creating a next-generation knowledge management platform): we partied.

The in-person experience

For those Guru employees comfortable with traveling, CKO Bonding Week took place largely at the beautiful Mohonk Mountain House, where we created a COVID bubble. Not only did everyone attending in-person have to be vaccinated and boosted but we also had a rigorous testing regimen, including pre-trip at-home testing and onsite rapid tests upon arrival and before departure.

CKO 2022 Pre-Travel Instructions

But once we were confirmed to be COVID negative, we let loose. Day 1 brought human ice bowling, hiking, and indoor swimming by day, followed by an evening of ice skating, smores, and a late-night happy hour.

CKO 22: Hiking

CKO 2022: Human Ice BowlingCredit: Marie Frei

cko-22-ice-skating

Day 2 at the lodge meant more outdoor exploration, spa appointments, and a scavenger hunt, with an evening full of trivia (co-hosted by the two biggest trivia nerds at Guru) and karaoke.

CKO 2022: Scavenger HuntCredit: Marie Frei

cko-22-speech-mfCredit: Marie Frei

CKO 2022: TriviaCredit: Marie Frei

On day 3, we took some time to Give First, and split into two groups: one that crafted prosthetic limbs for the Helping Hand Project, and one that created mini-golf holes using non-perishables that were later donated to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

CKO 2022: Minigolf BuildCredit: Marie Frei

CKO 2022: Helping HandsCredit: Marie Frei

And then, in a flurry of hugs (and maybe some tears), we said goodbye to our lovely retreat, and our cross-country colleagues, recharged and ready to take on 2022.

The remote experience

The Guru employees who selected the remote track waited in anticipation as boxes of cooking supplies, crafts, cocktails, and ice cream (five pints of it!) arrived at our homes in the days leading up to our first event. We had four activities per day, scheduled about an hour apart.

At long last, day 1 arrived. It began with an exercise in mindful movement, including stretches and meditations to support our physical and mental health throughout the workday. Now, feeling loose and relaxed, it was time to dive into our second session: bookmaking. We created journals with just our hands, a few simple tools, and guidance from our trusted leader.

Remote CKO 2022: Bookmaking

After lunch, the virtual crew joined up again for some trivia. We split into teams and Guru employees showed off their knowledge of travel, music, and pop culture. The day 1 finale was ice cream–because what better way to cap off the first day of our CKO team bonding than by sampling ice cream inspired by international flavors? We learned about the cultures and cuisines that influenced each flavor while enjoying our ice cream.

Remote CKO 2022: Ice cream tasting

Like our colleagues in Mohonk, we spent the first part of day 2 giving back through charity work. We donated to Morris Animal Refuge; the more tasks and questions we completed, the more money we raised. During the hour, Guru employees were seen hanging kind signs in their living room windows, taking selfies with their rescue pets, and researching where to donate clothes in their city.

After we spent an hour raising money and completing challenges around our homes, it was time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the velvety voice of Jackie Gage. She sampled songs ranging from folk to jazz, all while talking through the history and impact of these genres. Lunch came to us in the form of a cooking class. We made Southwest-inspired tacos guided by a professional chef who ensured each of our creations was a delicious success.

Remote CKO 2022: Tacos

After a quick rest to relieve a taco food coma, we made cocktails for the last event of our virtual CKO celebration. We received a package with ingredients to make three different drinks: Daiquiri Menta, Paintbrush, and Old Fashioned. The package came with incense, a candle, and a playlist to set the mood while we sipped cocktails and wound down from two days of activities.

Remote CKO 2022: Cocktails

Day 3 was a day to rest and rejuvenate. Guru employees were encouraged to take the day for themselves–whatever that looked like for them.

Ready to tackle 2022

It didn't matter if you were in Mohonk or at home, CKO was a much-deserved treat for all of Guru. As more companies move to distributed models, it's more important than ever for leaders to find ways to let people connect and bond. We're still learning the best ways to help everyone stay connected, but at least we get to have a ton of fun figuring out what's next.

Want to get in on the fun? Check out our Careers page.

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