The UK office company retreat, October 2018.
For a company where the work culture is as remote-friendly as ours, getting the whole team together is a rare and special occurrence. After a lot of organising and many train journeys to bring us all together, the team descended upon rural Berkshire for 2018’s annual company retreat.
The event brought together lots of new starters - some of whom had only just begun a few days before - joining those who have been at the company for a number of years.
We were housed at four different inns belonging to the Epicurean Club, which offers a true taste of the English countryside.
At the retreat’s opening dinner we heard from our CEO about how his vision for the company, as a part of the OUI.sncf family, relates to his favourite childhood story by Maurice Sendak: ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. A book each of us received as a welcome gift.
Our CEO sees the London team as being the ‘wild one’ in the SNCF family: a flexible and agile team with a big heart and big ambitions. For we are, and will always be, the industry disrupter determined to make the world a better place through rail. This imagery was the perfect start to an evening filled with great food, wine, and a few classic rounds of charades.
The next morning, gathered together in the barn at The Bourne Valley Inn, we heard from our team leaders in HR, Finance, and from Oui.sncf about our future as a company. The talk was firmly grounded in our strategy of giving customers around the world the four pillars they need to transform their overland travel experience: Low Cost, Local, Mobile, and Multi-Modal.
Our employees come from far and wide across the globe, so it is inspiring to see so many unite behind a passion for customer support, cutting-edge technology and, of course, rail travel.
However, the real talking point of the day was our very own edition of The Great British Bake Off.
Our staff members were put through their paces in the kitchen, tasked with creating an array of baked goods, from scones to a freestyle chocolate-based tray bake.
Some teams excelled, showing immense culinary technical precision, while others stretched the very definition of ‘baking’, demonstrating great flair, if not a little inexperience.
The true pièce de résistance came in the showstopper round where teams were tasked with making a train-shaped sponge cake. Imaginative creations ensued, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
As the teambuilding and presentations drew to a close, we had the chance to either take a country walk in rural Berkshire...
or a thrilling Tesla driving experience.
Drivers and walkers alike returned for another lovely dinner that lasted long into the autumnal Berkshire night.
The third and final day involved more presentations. The business experts on the team took us on a fascinating trip through the company’s business model, highlighting where it works and where it doesn’t, while the Marketing team led everyone through the hive of activity that has been their work for the past year. We then finished with a great presentation by our combined Design, Product and Engineering teams, who talked us through the company’s 2019 product roadmap. We can’t reveal too much about it, but we can safely say it is 100% Low Cost, Local, Mobile and Multi-modal-focused.
Finally, we brainstormed ideas about how we could help bring our mobile apps to the forefront of travel booking. We gathered individual and collective ideas originating from some of the apps that each of us uses the most. It is this kind of collaboration and sharing that makes ours such a happy and productive environment in which to work.
And so, just as we came, trains took us all home - or at least helped us along the way...
Ours is a truly global team, spread out around the world. So, our retreat doesn’t just help us align the direction in which we’re headed, it helps us get to know each other, build our culture, and forge working relationships that make us better at serving our customers.
We already can’t wait for the next company retreat.
Some faces will come and go but there are certain things that will never change. We will always be an eclectic and energetic group of avid travellers who want to make the world of train travel easier to navigate for all. Because we believe that better journeys matter - for you, for us and for our planet.
Photo Credits: ©Loco2.