I had been at InterWorks for approximately six weeks when the weekend of Summit arrived. Knowing very few people outside of my immediate team, I was a bit nervous to see what a weekend filled to the brim with new folks was going to be like. But I am pleased to say that my expectations were exceeded in every way. From getting to interact with colleagues outside of my office and team on the day of Summit to turning those new friends into enemies during the kickball tournament, my overwhelming takeaway from the weekend was a sense of gratitude.
I was so overcome by the generosity of our people. Surrounded by new faces, everyone I met was warm and welcoming to a newbie like me. After a rather tumultuous career shift in my life, this weekend was one of many instances that confirmed to me that coming to InterWorks and joining this family was the absolute right choice.
The Small Giant of Zingerman’s
Our special guest speaker at this year’s Summit was Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman’s community of businesses based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ari is an exemplar of the weekend’s theme of Small Giants: companies that choose to be great instead of big, meaning that they don’t let the size of a given team or the company itself determine the kind of impact it can have. In fact, Small Giants are most often smaller businesses that have exponential impact and influence. It was evident that this mentality is where Ari is firmly rooted. Everything he shared was connected to this idea of others-focused work that achieves excellence and pushes for even higher quality and bigger influence. Some of my favorite quotes from Ari’s talk—and those that I think exemplify some of the characteristics of a Small Giant—include:
“Excellence is a function of uniqueness.”
Copies are boring. Ari emphasized the fact that each person, and each business, has something special and unique to offer. That distinct quality is what contributes to excellence, and part of what makes you and your work excellent is the fact that you’re one of a kind and inimitable. Being true to yourself, and a company staying true to its core values and focus, will attract the right people and keep you pointed in the right direction. Uniqueness almost feels gravitational: it pulls the right people in and keeps you dynamic and moving forward.
“The best businesses are the ones most like themselves.”
He continued to underscore the theme of individuality and being unique. In his businesses, he strives to stay true to himself, the vision for the company and the brand that he and his colleagues have crafted. The same is true of us at InterWorks: we are weird and quirky and uncommon, and it’s those qualities that make up the very essence of our business practices. There are lots of tech consultancies out there, but there is only one InterWorks.
“Your guest [or client] should believe that your interaction with him or her was the best part of your day.”
This sentiment was echoed in a variety of ways throughout Ari’s talk. He spoke on going the extra mile at every opportunity and shared some memorable anecdotes about the impact made when people choose to take that extra step when they don’t have to do so. It’s all about service; it should be the wrapping of your product and dictate every professional choice you make. Serving people (both internally and externally) is crucial to creating and maintaining the kind of company culture that is the mark of a Small Giant.
Above: Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman’s community of businesses
First Summit Takeaways
I spoke with several of my colleagues who attended the Summit and Holiday Party for the first time this year to see what their first impressions were, and many had the same experience.
Dave Sirey | Analytics Consultant
“With 2018 being my first year at InterWorks, this was the first time I have been able to attend what so many colleagues call the highlight of the year. As a remote employee, I was particularly excited to attend since most of my interactions with coworkers is done through Slack or video conferencing. The chance to spend time with others face to face was invaluable in helping me stay connected to the organization. It was an energizing weekend where I gained a deeper knowledge of other teams and the services they provide. Of course, the high point of the weekend was the “All White” banquet on Saturday night!”
Katie Paddock | Account Executive
“One thing that really stuck with me from the weekend occurred during the Q&A portion of Ari’s talk. Someone asked how to have a unified message and mission spread across the company. Having previously come from a large corporate environment driven by revenue and metrics, this is something I had definitely not experienced before. In my previous life, it was all about maximizing opportunities for sales reps: more, more, more. InterWorks has been a refreshing change. I genuinely feel that we are all on the same page in wanting to do what is best, the very best we can—across all roles and levels—and that it something that really inspires me. It just further reinforced my being at InterWorks and how lucky I feel to be here.”
Lindsey Saunders | IT Systems Administrator
“I’m so grateful that I was able to join InterWorks right before the Summit and the Holiday Party. The opportunity to meet and talk to people from different locations was great, and the speeches from Behfar and Ari really set the tone for why we’re doing what we do and how we should approach our clients every day. The party was amazing and really gave me the chance to bond with my team, as well as people from other teams that I don’t see often. I can’t wait for next year!”
Above: Team Kilo of IT Support
Tobiah McConnell | Analytics Consultant
“Having worked a stint at InterWorks before, it felt good to be back, and I always leave Summit feeling energized and excited to be with the company. Getting to know other people is always the fun part. A lot of times you don’t even know you’re talking with someone you’ve worked with. For example, I had just finished doing some work for a university with help from Spencer Parker who was managing the data pieces of the project. At the Holiday Party, I got into a discussion about cryptocurrencies with a close friend and someone else whose name I didn’t recognize. As the conversation went on, I kept thinking, “I know that voice.” As it turns out, I had already been on several calls with Spencer and made that connection. Seeing close friends is always enjoyable, but it’s so refreshing to see that InterWorks has stayed true to itself over the years. It’s nice to come back and still feel comfortable and recognize the culture.”
Justin Lyons | Analytics Consultant
“I was a little nervous going into Summit. Ever since I began working here, I’ve had some major impostor syndrome. Everyone around me seems like a complete genius, and it’s hard to believe I’m on the same level. But as Summit went on, I felt more and more like I belonged. Not because people seemed less like geniuses—if anything their impressiveness shined even more—but because I felt so welcomed! I felt like part of this big family who strives to be excellent together. Meeting all the new people and putting faces to Slack names was easily the best part because each new friend solidified the fact that this is the BEST place to work. I’m looking forward to December 2019 already!”
It’s so refreshing to see that InterWorks has stayed true to itself over the years. It’s nice to come back and still feel comfortable and recognize the culture.
Keith Dykstra | Analytics Consultant
“Summit was such a great opportunity to connect with my team from around the world. It was kind of a strange experience at times, since I had connected with several colleagues over e-mail or Slack but hadn’t actually met them in person yet. I definitely introduced myself to someone as if we didn’t know each other and then awkwardly realized we had exchanged a few e-mails only a few days before. But everyone was so kind and welcoming that it really did feel like coming home to family. I left the weekend with a few new connections and several stronger ones, which has me really excited to continue this work with all these great people.”
Brenden Goetz | Analytics Consultant
“What do you do when you’re struggling through the lows of being a remote employee? Get geared up for the InterWorks Summit and Holiday Party! After nearly one full year at InterWorks, I finally experienced my first Summit and Holiday Party, and it reinvigorated me for the year to come. There were great conversations about what we can do to better support remote employees, how we can build a more inclusive and diverse workplace and what the future of analytics looks like for us. And even better, I have spent the weeks following the Summit connecting with coworkers and putting those ideas into practice. Top it off with a rousing holiday party paying homage to the small giant of Iceland (long live duglegur!), and I couldn’t feel better about the place and people I work with.”
Bradyn Littles | Account Executive
“I felt very inspired during Summit. Chatting in small groups and reflecting on what we’ve accomplished in 2018 and where we are going next was super exciting. My favorite part of the weekend was getting to relax with everyone at the Holiday Party and meet their spouses and families. Getting to see my coworkers in a different element was really cool because I realized we’re all the same people at work and on the dance floor 😊 InterWorks definitely has some of the most genuine, down-to-earth people I have ever met.”
Bill Clarke | Analytics Consultant
“Arriving at Summit after 10 days in boot camp meant my brain was already feeling pretty sore. However, the excitement of meeting so many more new faces from the USA kept me engaged and focused on building some key relationships. Having met a number of people (virtually) from the client side, I was eager to put a face to the name and get to know more about people from within the InterWorks family. Summit itself was a lot of fun. I loved being a part of Team Teal—winners are grinners—and my favourite presentation was delivered by Debbie Yu, who presented on the importance of good project management. The theme was based upon the Swedish government changing the side of the road they drive on back in 1967 and how well this was managed to ensure no accidents happened that day.”
Summer Batten | Account Executive
“When I first began working at InterWorks, a common question I was asked over and over was “Are you excited for your first InterWorks Summit?” Of course, I’d respond with a “Yes,” but truth be told, I figured it would be like any other annual company get-together—all business, lots of number crunching, no play. Wow, was I wrong. InterWorks Summit 2018 was a complete dream! Aside from the intentional fun and games, I felt so encouraged and excited as I attended each learning session over the two-day period. The best part of these sessions was how interactive they all were! I enjoyed having the opportunity to listen to others’ opinions and ideas, while also voicing my own.
I’m so grateful to work for a place where I feel valued, uplifted and encouraged to grow as both an individual and a professional. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Summit and can’t wait to bring home the kickball tournament gold!”
Above: Summer and Lauren at the Holiday Party
Cody Ehlers | Account Development Manager
“At my first Summit, I was really trying to just take it all in. I got to know some fellow employees that I’d never had an interaction with. That was really neat because even though we’d never spoken before, I felt like we already knew other. I suppose that’s a nod to the importance of preserving InterWorks culture even as the company grows. Aside from the people, one thing I really appreciated was the leadership’s willingness to talk about the company’s future and answer questions candidly.
I didn’t know what to expect at the Holiday Party, but it was top notch. You know you have something special when the bartender is asking about applying at InterWorks when he graduates because ‘it’s the best company party I’ve ever seen.'”
Above: A shot of the kickball action from the Gameday Sports balcony
Best Work and Best People
All of these accounts really do prove that InterWorks and our people are amazing. They are the reason this company is so special and why we’re so proud to be a part of it. And if you’re still in doubt … well, just watch this video. I’m pretty sure it’ll lay your uncertainty to rest.