After two years and many cancellations, a window of time finally opened for me to head back to Kenya at the end of July. My to-do list was filled with new content to capture, cross-departmental meetings to attend, and join my first leadership retreat.
Our retreat schedule was packed with reflection and forward-thinking. What did we do well, where did we fail, and how do we continue to nurture & progress our culture as we grow? We had representatives from each department; production, operations, HR, design, marketing, and foundation.
Everyone laid it on the table, took accountability, and brought constructive solutions to propel the company into the future. Otherwise, why were we there? After our sessions, we shared meals and continued to debrief. This is where the true connection began. I only knew the team as my co-workers, who stayed within their departments, and I contacted them when I needed specific information or to collaborate on projects. I enjoyed working with each department head and knew they were great team leaders. But personally? I couldn’t tell you their favorite food. Here we sat at the dinner table away from our work titles, not as the U.S. and Kenya team but as Ariana, the lifelong New Yorker turned Austinite, who out of the choice to be an author, athlete or musician would be a dancer. As I sat next to our team on our last night, it hit me how badly we needed this. 2020 sent us all into overdrive to survive, but now we were here connecting as a group of individuals from various backgrounds, quirks, and cultures with zero distractions.
Zane, Amal, Jeremiah all knew we would mesh on a more personal level; They hired us after all. It was that time was not on our side last year. Our culture is to hustle hard, efficiently communicate, have fun, and live Ubuntu! I realized that knowing the leadership on a deeper level would make me an even better team player. It’s not every company that asks you to not only understand a keyword such as Ubuntu but to work here; it’s a lifestyle that we all take part in. We cannot grow this company without each other, and we need different perspectives. The ability to be agile but, most importantly, bring love into everything we do because when we do that, our potential is limitless.
Driving back from the retreat, I was most thankful for everyone letting their hair down. Zoom kept us going but sharing those meals in person, seeing what really makes someone laugh, those are the moment that will keep me going till I get on my next flight back to Nairobi and re-connect once again.
Ariana Principe, Marketing Manger