The Vox Product team's annual hackweek—known as Vax—is a self-organized affair. This year, members of the team tossed project ideas around on a Trello board weeks in advance of the event. People joined cards, left cards, made friendly and hilarious comments on cards, and generally proceeded in chaos until right up to the beginning of the week, at which point the number of projects seemed to magically whittle down to something that could be done in two days time.
There are no agreed-upon subjects for Vax, no overarching organizational structure, just a desire to get together and make things. Some people worked on projects closely related to their own work, while others ventured further afield—one group made an instructional book and website about origami. But by demo day, it became clear that there was at least one emergent theme: that of taking care of each other.
I led a project, with Mariah Minigan and Nancy Seay, to create a team code of conduct (which we anticipate sharing publicly once it's finalized); among other things, that code has a section about bystanders in which we make clear we have an obligation to look out for one another. David Yee and company created Vox Story—a place to store team lore and memes, as a way of celebrating the team as well as bringing new members into the fold. Melissa Bell—in a project aptly named Buried Bones—worked to uncover where various team documentation lives and how we can better organize it so that we're making the best use of our considerable collective knowledge. And in what may have been my favorite project of the week, Jake Lear created a game in which an intrepid product manager has to battle context switching and scope creep in order to survive. (The game over screen asks how long it's been since you took a vacation.)
There were other themes as well—notably, tools for managing our work, plus contributions to our ongoing effort to make ever-more-awesome storytelling formats. But it struck me that this bit—about self-care and caring for others—is the flip side of scaling a team. Usually scaling is talked about in terms of creating more efficiencies, reducing redundancies, and so on. But as this team grows (we're 24 more people today than we were at my first Vax, a year ago), we're also working hard to keep our team members—our friends—healthy and happy.
That's no small challenge, but if Vax is a sign of anything, this team is up for it.