Rooted in Learning: Inside AllCo AllDay
It goes without saying that everything about how and where we do our work has changed — including our all-discipline meetings. Prior to becoming a fully remote company, we held annual discipline-based meetings in person, so discipline groups could gather together to learn and share.
But as we evolved into a virtual organization, we saw an opportunity to re-evaluate how we create connections and opportunities for knowledge sharing and help our people feel inspired and invigorated by their work. Enter AllCo AllDay, which we officially launched in 2021 and hosted for the second time this summer.
The day is programmed around three specific goals — Connect, Educate, and Inspire — and brings together our entire workforce to hear from experts across the fields of design, development, strategy, writing, production, and operations.
Education is built into our schedules year-round — from monthly discipline meetings featuring outside speakers and employee-led workshops to professional development stipends employees use on self-led courses and seminars. But AllCo AllDay stands out as the culmination of all these efforts. It’s our company-wide jam session when we all get to deepen our knowledge — and meet a few new faces in this age of virtual work.
The AllCo AllDay programming was curated with the input of discipline leaders, who weighed in on the areas our people need and want to learn about, both from technical and soft-skills perspectives.
“The topics were intentionally selected, ranging between strategic and philosophical to tactical and utilitarian,” says Jered Cuenco, Instrument executive technical director. “We worked directly with the speakers to ensure they understood what our employees have been experiencing, are interested in, and what they do so our folks could get the most out of each session.”
Ultimately, the day featured more than 30 speakers, who focused on everything from equity in design thinking (Darien LaBeach) to finding meaning in a software development career (Mike Chen) to tapping into your creative flow (Rachel Rai Henry).
While sessions were tailored around each discipline, all events were open to all employees — which meant that a writer could explore componentry with Adekunle Oduye, a strategist could dive into 3D motion design with Amanda Godreau, or a designer could learn about planning a narrative with Carl Alviani.
“There’s this cross-pollination of disciplines that we do so naturally in our work because we are hyper collaborative,” says Nishat Akhtar, Instrument VP of Creative. “To be able to give people exposure across how other disciplines think, what inspires other disciplines, can open up each person’s mind to be able to participate in the collaborative process even more impactfully. This process simultaneously builds empathy across disciplines and sparks inspiration from unexpected places.”
The choose-your-own-adventure nature of the day allowed senior developer Esther Godoy to select sessions that weren’t necessarily targeted at developers. As a result, she ended up interacting with a lot of strategists throughout the day, deepening her understanding of how a product might relate to brand strategy — a viewpoint she values as a developer.
“It contributes to being able to give more meaningful feedback and input into what might work from a technical perspective, without compromising the integrity of the purpose of the product as a whole,” she says.
Throughout the day, breakout sessions provided opportunities for employees to meet and interact with their colleagues, fostering conversations across departments, disciplines, and time zones.
Some sessions, such as Hrishikesh Hirway's “Digging for the Deeper Question,” were designed to cultivate intimate conversations. In the workshop, participants were asked to think of a question that exposed something at the core of their being, and then to pose that question to a colleague. “The hope is that just by asking the question you're going to be revealing something about yourself to the person you're interviewing,” Hirway told attendees.
In an industry where getting to the heart of a challenge can transform a project and where virtual interactions can stifle human connections, Hirway’s talk gave participants a new way to go deeper, faster — with each other, and with clients.
Other sessions got more technical, such as in Rahmin Eslami's workshop for building more compelling presentations via protagonist narratives.
“[The session] covered how to craft a presentation in a way that will make clients most receptive to a not-so-safe idea,” says senior designer Parker Rablen. “Having a set of criteria to build a story around feels incredibly helpful.”
Eslami offered examples of using narrative in client pitches — one for an airline magazine, and another for a medical testing company. “I shared two examples that were intentionally really boring because I think it proves how powerful story can be. The whole point is to take people out of their analytical mindset,” he said, before tasking participants with crafting their own narrative.
While a number of sessions focused on skills and tactics that would be immediately applicable to our work — from Figma tips to computational concepts — others were more inspirational, guiding people to think differently, and with more empathy. Strategy lead Rodney Curl was energized by keynote speaker Nu Goteh's story of combining his strengths to uncover his uniquely impactful approach to his work.
Curl left feeling empowered to apply the same lens to his own career. “Hearing him share his process made me dig deeper into wanting to explore what that means for me, and how I can use that recipe to continue to add value,” says Curl.
Learning and Development, Now and Forever
Just as our industry is constantly evolving, so also is our approach to learning and development at Instrument. A goal of AllCo AllDay was to curate sessions that met our employees where they’re at today and to prepare them for what tomorrow will bring. Through our lineup of best-in-class speakers, engaging breakout sessions, and moments to be energized by one another, we worked to align with our values of pursuing growth, truth, and excellence, while putting people first.
While learning and development is often framed as an employee benefit, we see it as foundational to who we are as an organization. It’s our hope that our employees will continue to embrace the desire for both intaking and imparting knowledge that helps us all to grow.
“I’ve never worked with people that are so intelligent and so humble — every individual is so willing to share what they know,” says Akhtar. “If everyone is learning from everyone, we are consistently and regularly getting better together.”