VNL’s 2022 Company Retreat Recap!

We had a blast at our recent 2022 company retreat!

Held at our new workspace in Arvada, Colorado, Visible Network Labs team members flew in from California, Kansas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico. As a fully-remote company, it was the first time many of us had met in person, or had seen each other in another place that wasn’t on Zoom in quite a while. It was great to be all together in one room. We were delighted that even two of our newest hires, Stephen and Vlad, who hadn’t yet started with VNL joined us for retreat activities and dinner. 

Our retreat brought us to Olde Town Arvada, home to the Arvada Community Room, which our Founder and CEO, Dr. Danielle Varda, has recently renovated and turned into a gleaming, welcoming space to spend time and get work done. And, if you consider fun scavenger hunts, team-building exercises, and solving mini-escape-room-in-a-suitcase puzzle competitions as work, then we worked quite hard our first day!

Our First Day

We kicked off the first day with a scavenger hunt. Our expert team of hunt planners helped us get in tune with the Olde Town neighborhood by ensuring that a team couldn’t complete all the tasks required in the hunt without going into the local shops and interacting with community members. We were definitely a source of entertainment for everyone in the area – our teams went around, looking for clues, taking pictures with funny elements of the neighborhood, and asking locals for pictures, which was one of our tasks. Everyone was enthusiastic to help, and we did our best not to disturb.

Hard at Work During the Scavenger Hunt
Sara, Josh, Mike, and Steve catching up on some reading during the scavenger hunt.

We filed back into the Arvada Community Room, and announced the winners of the tense (not) competition. After the announcement, and subsequent banter of who actually won, we settled in to discuss findings of a fun survey we had all taken in the weeks leading up to the retreat. The survey asked a series of questions about adjectives, and which ones we found to be the most accurate description of us. Then, we each received a color based on our answers. It was an interesting way to think about ourselves, and our team. Many of us were the same color at the end!

To cap off our day, we were given an intense task. Trying to escape from a suitcase! Kind of, actually. Throughout quarantine, Tyler Funk, Full Stack Developer on our Tech Team, and his wife Kaitlyn passed the time by creating fun mini-escape rooms in cases; Suitcases, mandolin cases, you name it. With the same team from our scavenger hunt, we dove into riddles, clues, and cryptic messages to find out how to unlock the secrets of the case. It was a great time, with each team getting timed to determine the winner, which led to more funny trash talk and banter. We finished the night with team dinners in Olde Town, which were delicious and full of great conversations.

Escaping From a Mandolin Case
Escaping From a Mandolin Case.

Our Second Day…

Kicking off our second day, we had the pleasure of hearing Alece H. M. Montez, previously the Associate Chief of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) within Denver Public Schools (DPS), and currently the Co-Executive Director of the AJL Foundation. In 2020, and 2021, VNL partnered with FACE and DPS, using our PARTNER CPRM platform to better understand their staff’s connections internally and externally in the community, so that DPS can retain and build upon these relationships in the event of turnover. 

Hearing Alece speak brought the work we do full circle, and showed why we strive to improve our platforms and bring our best selves to work each day. She spoke of how completing projects with our team using our PARTNER CPRM platform helped the district begin to repair connections and rebuild relationships with underserved and marginalized communities and neighborhoods across Denver that had been strained in the past. It was a direct link from the work our team does everyday to real world results and improvements for children and families in our city, and reaffirmed the value of our mission to all employees of VNL.

Andy, Sara, Alece, and Amanda.

After more engaging team games, our Founder and CEO Dr. Danielle Varda took the floor. She shared a detailed history of our PARTNER platform and of Visible Network Labs. Her hard work, foresight, and dedication to network science made it possible to gather our employees from across the country in Colorado to celebrate how far we’ve come, and align ourselves for the journey ahead.

Our second day was rounded out with wellness activities, team recognitions with gifts (Thank you Sara!) and a gathering at a clubhouse in Tyler Funk’s neighborhood. Families and friends were invited, so we had little ones running around, games being played, and great laughs over food and drinks, coordinated by our Administrative Manager, Jen Rymes. Her extensive planning helped ensure our team and our guests were well taken care of throughout the retreat. Thanks Jen! 

Data Science's Recognitions
Our Data Science Team receiving their recognitions.
Alena, Jalece, and Sara of our CX Team receiving their recognitions.
Alena, Jalece, and Sara of our CX Team receiving their recognitions.

Our Third, and Final Day!

We started off our third and final day with a fun, quirky activity – we were supplied with marshmallows, a limited amount of masking tape, and a few spaghetti sticks, with the task of building a structure out of spaghetti that would be able to support the weight of the marshmallow. Easier said than done! Some were elaborate, some not, and some held the weight of the marshmallow, and some buckled. Lots of jokes, laughs, and good natured competitiveness ensued.

Clockwise from top right: Alex, Amanda, Tyler, and Steve hard at work.
Clockwise from top right: Alex, Amanda, Tyler, and Steve hard at work.
VNL Retreat Group Photo.
Our gang (plus kiddos and fam) at Tyler's clubhouse!

As we settled down, we had a Zoom call with Charles Fred, the Chairman and CEO of TrueSpace, which helps “post-startup companies in the building phase of their business reach lasting, sustainable growth.” Charles’ speech was enlightening, inspiring, and illustrated just how far we’ve come. VNL has been partnered with TrueSpace for a number of years now, and earlier this year at TrueSpace’s Builder Summit, Dr. Varda and VNL received the highest honor, the Exemplar Builder Award. 

We wrapped up our final day with a keynote speech from Ayelet Talmi, PhD, a long time friend of Dr. Varda, and Director of the Section of Integrated Behavioral Health at Children’s Hospital Colorado, whose extensive experience in the healthcare industry in Colorado brought home the opportunities to improve social care we have with PARTNERme, our platform that maps an individual’s social support network. 

Dr. Talmi and Dr. Varda.
Dr. Talmi presenting to our team.

Dr. Talmi’s keynote was at times lighthearted, but she underscored the real challenges people, children, and families around our state face each day in being fully heard and recognized by healthcare providers. 

After some reflections and takeaways, many team members went (literally) next door to New Image Brewing, where we had some drinks and more laughs with our team.

Visible Network Labs 2022 retreat was a success. Here’s to many more.

Be sure to stay tuned to our Visible Us Blog for more product updates and VNL Team content!

About the Author: Will Jacobson

Will Jacobson is the Business Development Representative on VNL’s Marketing and Communications Team. Originally from New York City, Will loves living in Colorado and all the outdoor life it has to offer. He’s also a pretty big foodie!

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