Just as they have done for the past seven years, hundreds of New Relic engineers converged on a resort winery outside Portland, Ore., for several days of nonstop software development presentations, hardware hackathons, hard-core board-gaming marathons, and intensive cross-department networking.
New Relic’s annual engineering offsite, run by SVP of Engineering Bjorn Freeman-Benson (an event sometimes referred to as “Bjorning-man”) is an opportunity to bring together teams from Portland and San Francisco as well as Seattle, Phoenix, and Barcelona, to work and learn together, sharing knowledge and building relationships so we can all be more productive and efficient the rest of the year.
Bjorn used a volleyball analogy to describe the purpose of our annual internal engineering conference, as volleyball is a sport in which everyone has to be able to play every position at any time. Our event helps to keep everyone on our engineering teams aligned and up to speed on other areas of the company, which we see as crucial to achieve our goal of becoming a much larger SaaS-based company. “Software is everywhere,” Bjorn said. “It’s amazing how bad software impacts us negatively, and how great software enables us to do great things.”
That’s especially true for Software-as-a-Service: “We were born SaaS, we take it for granted,” he said. “But it’s a big deal and helps make us unique.” When we roll out a new feature, he noted, people begin using it the next day, and all our customers have access to it almost immediately. “We want to help our customers deliver great software that they can be proud of, and we do that by doing the same thing.”
As always, the heart of the event was the dozens of presentations from both executives and rank-and-file engineers. This year, topics ranged from deeply technical presentations to inspiring messages from our leaders. We covered everything from how to leverage the cloud to build scalable systems to making sure we’re solving the most important problems. And, as usual, the thought and care—often along with clever humor—put into each presentation kept the audience riveted.
Plus, this year we introduced a freewheeling poster session where engineers shared concepts in progress over dessert and beverages. As in previous years, look for some of these sessions to inspire blog posts and even FutureStack 15 presentations in the coming weeks and months.
To encourage everyone to derive the most benefit from the event, Bjorn and his team work hard to enable engineers to meet and hang out with people they don’t already know. With all the people we’ve added, Bjorn notes, one of the primary goals of the offsite is to establish social bonds with people outside their usual circle. To help make that happen, every attendee’s name tag was coded with special symbols that randomly assigned them to various tables at every meal. By the end of the event, everyone had met dozens of new people, making it easier to work together and find answers to common issues after the event.
There were also plenty of activities to help employees forge deeper personal connections. In addition to pitch-and-putt golf, hill-climbing runs, and group bike rides this year, we added juggling lessons, which as you can see below, quickly proved that many Relics are as coordinated with their hands as they are with code.
Chris Cook, New Relic’s Chief Operating Officer, put it into perspective: “It’s all about camaraderie,” he said, “working with great people to take on great challenges. I don’t see any challenge that this group of people can’t overcome!”
Check out more photos from our event below:
And what’s an engineering conference without rabbits? (There were many on-site to provide an added touch of cuteness to the day.)
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