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Here at PowerDMS we value our culture as an indispensable part of what makes our company what it is. We strive to infuse it into our products as well as our employees and as a result, it has become part of our tradition to encourage team building practices and provide our employees with creative outlets. These practices result in a more family like environment that caters to cross departmental collaboration and breaks ties with more traditional corporate hierarchies. Our employees know that their voice is heard and that empowers them to think outside the box and come up with truly innovative ideas.

Every year the members of the development team go on a work retreat we call the Developer Summit. The purpose of the Developer Summit is to promote team building amongst the development team as well as provide us with an outlet for more creative and high level work. Work that usually ends up becoming the future of PowerDMS.

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This year we went to Blue Ridge, GA and rented a cabin. There, we isolated ourselves from distractions and learned from each other. We had a full hackathon day to work on the projects of our choice and two days of more structured R&D. Though the freedom to work outside our usual bounds is a welcome benefit, I have to say that my favorite part of the Developer Summit is the team building.

This year we hiked to the top of Blood Mountain, partook in the The Marshmallow Challenge made famous by a few TED talks, and had the first annual PowerDMS Duct Tape Challenge.

The Marshmallow event challenged us to build a free stranding structure out of spaghetti, tape, and string in 18 minutes – topped with a marshmallow. In the first round, the winning team reached a height of 21.5” with a pretty stable pyramid-like design. For the second round, improvements to a similar pyramid design, resulted in a 26” structure.

The duct tape challenge was by far the more challenging of the two. Using nothing but duct tape, we had to transport water up and over a 20’ high and 25’ wide structure and finally collect it in a large drum. With a temperature of 2º below freezing, the water we spilled on the dock froze in minutes. It was a harsh environment to say the least. Team 1 approached the challenge by weaving a basket together out of duct tape strips. Team 2 approached it by slapping a bucket together around the head of one of its team members (me). Team 2 was the first to collect water into their drum. Their basket could hold almost a gallon of water when full, but lost most of that during transfer. Team 1 took far longer to weave their basket together and begin collecting water, but their basket had a capacity of roughly five gallons and quickly caught up to beat Team 2 by a landslide.

The goal is to create high performance in high stress situations – in life and the workplace – we will take the lessons learned from our team building challenges to remediate the problems more effectively and quickly. Though the team building challenges are amongst the most memorable of our time there, that doesn’t detract from the other accomplishments of the trip.

For instance in our hackathon, we produced prototypes and lessons that will inevitably make their way into future products and influence the direction of our team. Our R&D time even produced an improvement to our current development version of PowerDMS, improvements you’ll see in the next major release.

I feel so fortunate to work for a company with a culture that encourages things like the Developer Summit. It’s valuable time away to create, innovate and bond with our colleagues. Because here at PowerDMS, we are family.