Once a year, the Cliniko team aims to get together in person for a couple of weeks. We call this a meetup, and it’s something that everyone at the company looks forward to!
There are many reasons why we have meetups, but in short, as a fully remote business with team members spread across five continents, it’s crucial for us to have extended opportunities to catch up in person. It’s mostly a chance to hang out, socialise, and to bond with fellow team members who you might otherwise only ever meet through a screen. But, amongst a lot of chatting and laughter, we also do some work and kick ideas around that are hard to do via a Slack channel or a video call.
Last year, the team headed to Melbourne, Australia (which is the home of our founders, Joel and Liora) for our first face-to-face catch up since before the pandemic. And this year, we all travelled to Phuket in Thailand. This was a long-awaited trip that was originally intended to take place in 2020, so you can imagine our excitement at finally getting to live it out! While the meetups in Australia tend to be mainly for the Cliniko team, the company always pays for partners and children to attend international meetups, so they’re considerably larger. This meant that our meetup coordinator, Mel, had a mammoth task on her hands to arrange everything for us — and she did a spectacular job of making everything run seamlessly.
We held work sessions
So, what did we do while we were there? Joel kicked off the meetup with a talk to update us on how Cliniko is progressing, which encompassed everything from our growth figures to exactly what different members of the team are currently working on. One of Cliniko’s core values is transparency — not just in our communications with customers, but also within the team — which means that every aspect of the business (apart from salary information) is freely accessible to any employee. Having all the information upfront means that people can come up with new ideas and ways of doing things that are practical and implementable, plus it gives everyone a sense of equality and shared purpose.
Most of our team travelled long distances to attend the meetup and weren't online as much as usual. This meant that after a few days the number of customer queries (or “tickets”) started to pile up. But meetup or not, being responsive to our customers matters a lot to us, so we scheduled several group sessions where we could all sit together in the same room and reply (which was quite a novelty, as we’re all used to working remotely). At one point pretty much everyone on the team jumped on board at the same time to answer customer queries, which was a nice teamwork moment! If you wrote in for support at that time, you may well have had a response from one of our developers, operations engineers, or someone from the content team, in addition to our regular support crew.
Some things are best discussed in person and meetups are also a great opportunity to talk through issues, brainstorm, or bounce around new ideas to problems that are hard to solve remotely. We held dedicated work sessions on different topics such as customer support, development, operations, and content, that anyone was welcome to attend (even partners and children). There were also demonstrations of some new features that are in the works (stay tuned, because there are some really good ones coming up!) and sessions on some general issues such as how to manage burnout.
We re-connected with each other
But it wasn’t all just work. Okay, we’ll admit it: indulging in delicious food (hello Pad Thai, roti, and Thai iced tea!) was another big part of how we spent our time. We also played a lot of games — it turns out that we can be a competitive bunch – and there were some very numb mouths after a hot sauce eating contest. Codenames, Wavelength and Werewolf all got a run, so did Flesh and Blood (a trading card game that’s a bit of a team favourite). Joel also ran a fun trivia session about Cliniko, and we practised our beach volleyball skills for a tournament that ultimately got called off because of the rain. There was a Hamilton singalong too!
While we didn’t organise any specific group activities, some members of the team took their own excursions to various local attractions like the Chillva night market, Phuket Big Buddha, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Soi Dog Foundation shelter, Banana Beach, and Phi Phi Islands. Phuket truly is a beautiful place.
However, you can ask anyone on the Cliniko team, and they’ll tell you that the highlight of any meetup is getting to see everyone again. In addition to being colleagues, many of us are also friends, and being spread all over the world means we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like.
There were some very long standing members of the Cliniko team in attendance, with Mel and Jim (who’s on the transfer team) celebrating an incredible eleven years of being part of Cliniko while we were away. But we’ve also hired some new team members in the past two months (three wonderful customer support people and a talented operations engineer) and it was a great chance to get to know them and their families more thoroughly too.
Between Cliniko employees, partners, and kids, there were 100 people present in total. But there’s a reason why we do things this way; Joel and Liora have always wanted the Cliniko team to bring their authentic selves to work and getting to know people in the context of their families is a key part of this.
Including families is good for our work environment as it allows colleagues to get to know each other in a well-rounded way. It also creates more integration between home and work life (we want to avoid people feeling like they have to switch in and out of “work mode”). And, in turn, we think it’s good for families, who don’t usually get to see what goes on in our workplace firsthand. The meetup provides an opportunity for our team’s loved ones to gain insight into the job and put faces to names, as well as seeing the contributions our team members make and how valued each person at Cliniko is to the company.
In the words of our team
The best way to understand the value of a meetup is to hear directly from our team. Several people who came along to the meetup shared their highlights and reflections on what the time we spent together meant to them:
- “I think that most people from the outside would think that we won the lottery by getting to visit an exotic country and spend time in a wonderful hotel, but for me, by the end of the meetup, it felt like that was the least important part. The big thing was reuniting with old friends and getting to know new ones — and the biggest one was seeing my kids playing with the other team members’ children. I got teary eyed just watching them play and forming relationships with the other kids from around the globe. (I’m teary eyed right now as I write this). It’s hard to explain, but this meetup went deep into my heart and I’m still processing all the love surrounding us throughout the whole time. This is, without a doubt, a special space.” — Jonathan, software developer, Argentina
- “It was so wonderful for me to be able to share with my kids what a healthy and positive work culture can look like. To set the expectation for them that what we have is not only possible but that a company (and its team) can thrive working the way we do. One thing that I’m always aware of in parenting is that I don’t want to set my kids up with the expectation that an inevitable part of their future will include hating their job, the grind, and the rat race. I was proud to have my son sit in on Joel’s talk to see how our company works. I hope that other companies will be inspired by us and make positive changes before my kids grow up. But if they don’t, I feel hopeful that the next generation in our team will go out into the world, to build and inspire based on what we’ve had the opportunity to share with them.” — Gina, customer support, USA
- “It sounds really cheesy but it’s comforting to travel halfway around the world with a newborn and a 5-year-old and arrive in a place that feels so much like home just because I’m surrounded by so many loved ones. There are so many aspects of the meetup that have been amazing but the feeling of being surrounded by caring, kind, loving people is what stands out the most. It’s just a beautiful thing we’ve got going here and I don’t know how I got this lucky.” — Katie, customer support, UK
- “This year’s meetup was a great opportunity to see some of the people that I look up to once again — the Cliniko team. My family and I had a great time getting to know most of the team at last year’s meetup in Healesville, so there was a sense of excitement in me that I’d get to spend time with them again this year. It’s an amazing experience to share meals, fun activities, stories, ideas, and laughter with the Cliniko team and their families, and this year’s meetup did not disappoint! The bonus for me, because family members are also invited and paid for, is that I was able to create fun memories with my daughter. I know this meetup is something we both can look back on when she grows up. Thank you Cliniko for letting our families be part of every meetup.” — Lou, software developer, The Philippines
- “Being part of the team for less than a month prior to our meetup, I was blown away by how instantaneously I felt at ease. Straight away I knew I was part of a team of genuinely caring and kind people. Whether in work sessions, learning about all the exciting things everyone does to build and support Cliniko, hours long lunches and dinners, strolls along the beach or games nights, every moment was an opportunity to connect and learn more about the people who make up the Cliniko family. Connecting not just with our team, but also their loved ones, was a real highlight. Nothing will be more magical than staring up at the stars and being caught in sudden sprinkles of rain during a night swim with new friends that feel like the most kindred of spirits. It is a truly rare thing to arrive back from a ‘work trip’ and feel homesick for the people you have left behind. These are memories I will cherish forever.” — Jen, customer support, Australia
- “The highlight of my trip was the ability to meet the team and their loved ones. Cliniko is like my family; we may not be able to see each other face to face all the time but when we do it's like a warm family reunion. It’s amazing to meet the new hires and welcome them to the Cliniko family. Some people haven’t been able to make a meetup in close to 6 years and, in that time, major life events happen. The last time you may have seen them they were expecting and now they have a beautiful 6-year-old. This isn’t just a company, it truly is a multicultural, global family that I am glad to be a part of even in a small way.” — Jack, husband to Rachel (our video specialist), USA
The positive effects of a meetup last for a long time after it finishes. We’re closer than ever as a team and stronger as a company for having them. In the wake of ten wonderful days in Phuket, there’s no doubt that we’ve come away inspired, refreshed, and geared up to keep making Cliniko the best that it can possibly be.
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