Attending company “fun” events posted on 23 February 2024

I recently flew to the United States to attend an event for Databricks R&D leads (and friends). This was a very fruitful trip but I haven’t always enjoyed these events in the past.

Earlier in my career, I would treat these company/org wide events just as things to do. Their value was mostly tied to how interesting the activities were (e.g. snowboarding, amusement park etc.). As I became more senior with a broader scope, these events became valuable occasions to build relationships with other folks (especially those I would work with but only on rare occasions).

As a lead, you need a lot of different perspectives to do your work well: You need to not only be on top of your domain but also understand the technical/business aspects of fields related to your service (whether these are other services, products or external requirements). Discussing with other people around a coffee, drink or dinner allows you to gain interesting insights that you can’t get in normal time as these discussions are not tied to work per se (e.g. compared to meetings for roadmap planning).

  • You can learn more about what pain points another team has to deal with. People will be more open and transparent about the difficulties they go through in an informal conversation.
  • You can grow your understanding of another service/product – while there might be documents about their work, every person has an unique perspective on their infrastructure (and/or can provide nuances you can’t find in writing forms)
  • You can build connections with other coworkers outside of work topics (e.g. you may learn that another coworker has children the same age as yours, share the same hobby, grew up in the same country as yours etc.). These additional connections will result in a stronger relationship that may help in the future.

I learned a few things this trip, but one interesting insight I got is why managing a large org is different from managing a small team – and why I found it significantly more difficult to manage 25 people with sub-managers than managing just 10 direct reports. I may end up writing about this at a later time, but this is a topic I’m still thinking about.

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