Birthday Parties for Harry Potter? These 5 Boston Tech Companies Have Amazing Traditions

by Kelly O'Halloran
August 20, 2019

We asked employees from five Boston tech companies what their favorite company traditions are, and, wow, did they deliver. From Harry Potter birthdays to Mediterranean company-wide retreats, these companies prove that hard work deserves a fair amount of play. Take a peek inside some of Boston tech’s wildest traditions.

 

toast harry potter
Image via toast

Everyone deserves a birthday celebration, including fictional characters we adore! Restaurant management platform Toast does exactly that when they throw a party for literary icon Harry Potter. Workplace Experience Coordinator MC Nealon had the deets.

 

What’s your favorite company tradition, why?

This may be a bit unconventional, but we recently celebrated Harry Potter's birthday. We transformed the office into the newest Hogwarts campus complete with wand-making, house sorting, and a “Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans” tasting. This was our first year celebrating the occasion and something we plan to organize every year. As an avid Harry Potter fan, I was so excited to bring the vision to life!

...building community is something that we are deeply passionate about here at Toast.” 

How did this tradition come to be? How does it reflect our company culture as a whole?

We came up with the idea while brainstorming various national holidays and milestones to celebrate. This tradition is very reflective of our fun and quirky culture. At Toast, we like to innovate and think outside the box. This event is definitely symbolic of that. Plus, who doesn't love Harry Potter? It really brings people together, and building community is something that we are deeply passionate about here at Toast. I had no idea how many “Potterheads” worked here.

 

peapod
image via peapod

Employee passion projects typically live outside of work, but for internet grocer Peapod it’s quite the opposite. Aaron Watson, a manager of web and mobile, walked us through how, and why, the company embraces non-work-related passions in the workplace. 

 

What’s your favorite company tradition, why?

Our favorite company tradition is embracing passion. While we work hard to serve our business partners and customers, we encourage our employees to make time to embrace the things that they are passionate about in and out of the workplace. Whether it’s our onsite music room and open mic nights, our strong gaming tradition, which includes everything from “Dungeons & Dragons” to a fiercely competitive quarterly ping pong tournament, to our regularly featured “Passion Talks” —  think TED talks only about the individual passions of our employees — or embracing the rich cultures and backgrounds represented in our team, our employees feel valued and appreciate the culture we are building together.

I think the reality is that we’re all nerds here: we love to go deep into whatever thing we’re into and to constantly be learning.”

 

How did this tradition come to be? How does it reflect our company culture as a whole?

I think the reality is that we’re all nerds here: we love to “go deep” into whatever thing we’re into and to constantly be learning. We’ve found that by respecting people’s need to take a break from work and embrace their passion throughout the day, we all benefit from a more inclusive, fun, creative and productive workplace.

 

ellevation education traditions
image via ellevation education

What happens twice a year, involves the whole company, and often ends with tears of gratitude? Ellevation Education’s biannual retreats. Beatriz Bolaños, a product support manager, highlighted how offsites came to be and what makes them so meaningful. 

 

What's your favorite company tradition, and why?

Twice a year, the entire company gathers together at our company offsites. Our co-founders, Jordan Meranus and Teddy Rice, have kept this tradition alive for more than eight years. Our offices close for two full days to discuss current objectives, celebrate company wins and employee milestones, and plan exciting things on the horizon. Organizing the offsites is a significant investment, but well worth it because it brings our Boston and remote teams together, strengthens cross-team collaboration and allows us to take a quick break from the daily grind to focus on strategies. 

We always leave the offsite feeling inspired and ready to face the challenges ahead.”  

How did this tradition come to be? How does it reflect your company culture as a whole?

A small team of 15 employees held the first Ellevation offside in December 2013 and spent the day brainstorming a mission statement and values. Since then, we’ve grown to a team of 130, added professional development sessions, guest speakers, personal employee leadership stories, and updated our company values. Personally, my favorite session is the “Fireside Chat,” where our co-founders answer any and all questions employees might have. The last moments of the offsites are always emotional and unforgettable because people stand up and share their gratitude to colleagues and the company. We always leave the offsite feeling inspired and ready to face the challenges ahead.

 

lose it! traditions
image via lose it!

From New Hampshire to Europe, Lose It’s! working retreats and international family retreats have quickly become fan favorites for the digital weight loss program’s employees. Brand Marketing Manager Amanda Messier credits this specific company benefit to CEO Charles Teague’s focus on a healthy work-life balance.   

 

What’s your favorite company tradition, why?

My favorite Lose It! tradition is the company retreats! We kick off our year with a working retreat up at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, where we review the prior year's performance, discuss upcoming goals and enjoy fun activities as a team. Then, each summer, Lose It! chooses a new city and invites employees and their families there for the annual international retreat. Last year it was Paris, and this year we went to Barcelona!

Lose It! chooses a new city and invites employees and their families there for the annual international retreat. Last year it was Paris, and this year we went to Barcelona!”  

How did this tradition come to be? How does it reflect our company culture as a whole?

Our CEO Charles Teague is passionate about providing a work-life balance for his employees, and this benefit is provided solely for that reason. Charles believes you shouldn’t put off life experiences just for work, and he makes sure his entire team is given the opportunity to see the world with this amazing benefit. Retreat weeks are filled with fun activities like mystery dinners, bike tours, river cruises, and much more. It’s a great way to explore a new city and make deeper connections with the people you work with!

 

witricity
image via witricity

After WiTricity’s VP of Marketing Kristina O’Connell asked a staff scientist about the instruments he was bringing to work, one of their favorite company traditions was born: WiJam. O’Connell filled us in. 

 

What's your favorite company tradition, and why?

My favorite company tradition is our WiJam concert series. We started this tradition three years ago because we discovered that we had deep musical talent on our team. Each year it brings a new dimension and group together. Every May, we design a logo and theme for the event and we transform our loft space into a concert hall. The band also gets custom shirts each year.

WiJam has become one of our favorite traditions here at WiTricity. So much passion for the arts!” 

How did this tradition come to be? How does it reflect your company culture as a whole?

I used to see one of our staff scientists bring in his instruments to work for gigs in the evening. I started a conversation and then found that many others had deep musical talents – including many who are part of local bands.

We brainstormed a bit on how we could highlight these talents and WiJam was born! One of my fondest memories was when Don Peck, our CFO performed in 2017. Don sings for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the resident chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops. WiJam has ranged from classical to rock music. Some folks even studied music in college (next to a physics degree). WiJam has become one of our favorite traditions here at WiTricity. So much passion for the arts!

 

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