Posts Tagged 'Conference Rooms'

January 13, 2012

The Challenge of Conveying Culture

Last week, Cracked.com ran an article about "9 Quirky Things Every 'Cool' Workplace Is Required to Have." The post points out several seemingly trite characteristics of "trendy" and "fun" companies, and SoftLayer was one of the companies the author used to illustrate her point about quirky conference room names. The "obscure inside jokes" we chose as the naming convention for our conference rooms in our Dallas headquarters inspired this fantastic analogy:

I'm sure visiting vendors and consultants enjoy as much as adults enjoy hearing a gaggle of teenage girls joke about which one of them is the craaaziest.

The post's mock homage to "fun company culture" as seen by outsiders got me thinking ... Why do I think SoftLayer is such a cool place to work, and how could I talk about that in a way that didn't seem hokey or insincere? Given the cynicism of the Internet in general, it may be impossible to execute, so I realize that all I can do is give my honest take on why I enjoy coming to work every day:

SoftLayer's culture is defined authentically and organically by our people, traditions and stories.

I agree that red walls, orange couches and scooters in an office do not create a cool workplace, and I don't think our "obscure inside joke" conference room names make us cool either. When we moved to our new headquarters in Dallas, every employee at the company was encouraged to submit ideas for what we should name the rooms, and after voting on dozens of great ideas, the "inside joke" submission from SoftLayer General Council Suzy Fulton ended up winning (and Suzy was awarded an iPad for submitting the winning idea). The reason her naming convention won is what makes SoftLayer a great place to work: Each name gives a different piece of the overall story that explains, "This is who we are, what we do and where we come from."

Take our conference room named Muenster for example. Muenster is a small town in Texas where the annual GermanFest is held. The 3 Bars BBQ team breaks out their secret recipes to compete with other BBQ teams from around the state, and the coworkers that don't don aprons get to kick back and eat some awesome BBQ, enjoy a drink (or two... or three...) and have a great time. The event has been such a fun tradition that we wanted to incorporate it into our new office for the days we're not eating brisket fresh off the grill. It means something to SoftLayer as a company, and if vendors/consultants coming into the office don't appreciate it in the same way, we're pretty sure we'll survive. Naming conference rooms to the least common denominator would sure be functional, but in practice, it would be (ironically) "outside the box" for SoftLayer.

We're just group of people (with a few inside jokes) working together to create the best hosting experience in the business. We value both customers and employees. We like startups (because we were a startup a few short years ago), innovation, automation and BBQ. We have fun together, and as a result, we have plenty of stories to tell (and more obscure inside jokes to use for our next conference rooms).

Oh, and we're also "guilty" of having a few red accent walls, employees riding around on scooters (and Segways), Nerf guns, foam rockets, and foosball tables in our offices. If that means getting mentioned in the same (mocking) breath as Facebook, Yahoo!, Zappos and Twitter, we're in a pretty good spot.

-Summer

February 11, 2011

Naming Rights

Anyone out there have a cool billion in cash lying around? If so, call Jerry Jones and you can have the naming rights to Cowboy Stadium. You know the one where they just played the Super Bowl and where they tried to break the all-time attendance record by putting in 20,000 temporary seats? Too bad the contractors that had been working 24/7 for 72 hours walked off the job 3 hours before the game and left 400 paying customers without seats.

With all that bad press, maybe you could get the naming rights for $800K now. If you want to give it a shot, you can send a check made out to SKINMAN C/O SoftLayer, and I'll do my best to get your name on the outside of the stadium ... even if I have to paint it there myself.

SoftLayer has lower rates on our naming rights. When we moved into our new Alpha Road headquarters, we were a little shocked to see how many conference rooms there were. If you've had a chance to see our office space, you probably came to the conclusion that it was designed with mouse/cheese-type mazes in mind. We had to figure out a good way to find things, so we actually decided to pay someone to help us name the conference rooms.

And so the contest began.

We asked all employees and a few outside creative agencies to nominate their favorite conference room themes, and we came up with quite a diverse list: Texas rivers, arcade game names (even though this one had been done before), beer brands, Scotch labels, football teams, colleges, types of Linux, processors names ... The list ended up including around 40 different themes. We voted to narrow down the top 5, and we let the C-levels and Lance make a final choice. The winning theme: Names that were significant in SoftLayer history.

With that direction, a few of us sat down and started thinking about all the things that got us here today. And BAM! conference room names abound.

Recently, our social media ninja gave you a glimpse at the conference rooms and promised that I'd come through and share the etymology of the names ... So here we go:

  • SLales – We tend to turn every word we can SL specific so this is the conference room closest to "sales" and we call is SLales!
  • CBNO – This is our large training room. As you might know by now, CBNO stands for "Challenging But Not Overwhelming." This is our internal mantra. Since the day I started at SoftLayer almost 4 years ago, this has been my life.
  • Geneous – Notice the spelling of "Genius" is incorrect. This is our board room ... There is a great story behind this name, but I have to let Lance tell it. If you want to hear it, leave a comment on this post, and I'll get him to throw together a blog specifically for this one.
  • Unicorn – If you've followed our blog for a while, you know that Sam Fleitman (COO) has been asked over and over to come up with things that just don’t exist. The joke became that he was always producing unicorns, and his office at one time was decorated heavily with they mythical beasts. In the new headquarters, his personal office is off limits (or so he thinks), so we dedicated a conference room to the memory of all the unicorns that have passed away.
  • Automation – Since we live it and breathe it, it was only fair that we name a conference room after it. If we do anything 3 times, someone is looking at automating it.
  • Innovation – We are bleeding edge, and that's the way we like it. This room is a reminder of that mentality.
  • 204A – This conference room is the actual building name for this room. A poor lawyer was stuck in this room right after we moved in, so we assume it is haunted by a phantom that dislikes lawyers. We chose not to name the room in respect for that ghost.
  • SLacker – We had a series of blogs previously that showed a schism in our workforce workforce. I am in the SLacker camp. This room is dedicated to all of us.
  • Pink – We have a certain CFO - who will remain nameless - that always wears pink. This is his personal conference room. It makes him feel special.
  • 3 Bars – Named after the small logo that we all know and love ... and are tattooed with.
  • SLayer – We had to throw the SLayers a bone, so we gave them a room too. Their jealousy of the beautifully named SLacker conference room could have been caustic.
  • Funky Truck – When the company was first starting out, this game almost single handedly stopped all progress. The original ten employees were a bit competitive at times, so this game had them each trying to one-up each other. Luckily they moved on to Facebook games.
  • 05-05-05 – May 5th, 2005 of course.
  • Jeep – Drive through our parking lot, and you'll see the inspiration for this conference room names. Being in Texas, our parking spaces have to accommodate a lot of Jeeps, trucks, SUVs ... and even a Smart Car or two.
  • Muenster – 3 Bars BBQ! It’s almost time. End of April. Muenster, Texas. GermanFest! This is now a long-standing tradition at SoftLayer: Go hang out, have some fun, relax and eat some 3Bars BBQ at the BBQ cookoff.
  • Midway – This room is named nostalgically after the street address of our very first office.
  • Sharkbyte – I don’t like sharks, they scare me. Someone else has to tell you all about this one.

-Skinman

February 7, 2011

That Which We Call a Conference Room ...

As I was walking through the halls of our Dallas office, I happened to pass an door that seemed like an open portal into another dimension. Where you'd expect to finding boxes of cables and keyboards on metal racks, there were a few old wooden trunks lining the walls of the dimly lit space. Naturally, I had to investigate.

As I carefully opened the trunks, to my amazement, I came across loads of books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Among the apothecary books and alchemy texts, I made an amazing discovery: a few pages of Shakespearean literature that seem to have been written anachronistically about SoftLayer Alpha headquarters:

'Tis but thy name that is my mystery;
Thou art thyself, though not a meeting room.
What's a meeting room? It is not hand nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a conference room
By any other name would be as productive;
So Sharkbyte would, were it not called Sharkbyte call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which it owes
Without that title. Sharkbyte, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Host productive meetings.

Now I'm not suggesting that Bill Shakespeare set out to write an epic play about our facility that just wound up being Romeo and Juliet, but since the date in the corner of one of the pages was "1593," I wouldn't be surprised. In a flash of clairvoyance, he saw into the future and puzzled over the curious names outside each of our conference rooms ... Only to come to the conclusion that while the names didn't define the rooms, those rooms would still be phenomenally productive.

Switch a few words in that original text, and you've got yourself one of the most famous scenes in Romeo and Juliet. No big deal.

What were these curious names? See for yourself:

SLayer, SLacker, Unicorn, 3 Bars, 204A, Funky Truck ... The narrative wasn't clear to him at the time, but they all have a special meaning and fit into a bigger plan. Here is a full list of the Alpha conference room names:

  • SLales
  • CBNO
  • Geneous
  • Unicorn
  • Automation
  • Innovation
  • 204A
  • SLacker
  • Pink
  • 3 Bars
  • SLayer
  • Funky Truck
  • 05-05-05
  • Muenster
  • Midway
  • Sharkbyte

Flex your own ESP muscles and post a comment with what you think each of the names means.

We'll reward the most creative responses (and the most accurate responses) with SoftLayer swag of your choice, and in a few days, SKinman will post the real reasons behind all of the names.

-@khazard

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