Delicious Brains In Berlin: Our Fifth Annual Company Retreat

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Delicious Brains team

Back in June, our team got together for our fifth annual retreat. After a couple years of not basing retreats around a conference, the team decided to give the conference-based retreat format another go. We met up in Berlin for our retreat and WordCamp Europe.

Meeting up in person gives us the chance to talk about ways to improve our existing products and discuss ideas for new products (SpinupWP, the modern server control panel that we recently launched, was initially conjured up at a retreat in Nova Scotia). It isn’t out of the norm for an impromptu brainstorming session to erupt at dinner. We also get to know each other better through retreats, which in turn makes it even easier to work together and ultimately provide better support for our customers.

It sounded like last year’s retreat in Negril, Jamaica was absolutely stunning and great quality time with the team but Berlin would provide the opportunity to network with other developers as well.

This was my (Caillie) first retreat since joining the Delicious Brains team back in August so I had a few butterflies to meet the team, go to my first WordCamp AND to Europe for the first time.

It was everyone on the team’s first time in Berlin, so we were all exploring with fresh eyes.

Gilbert put together a video of our time in Berlin:

Planning

We didn’t hire an event planner this time as we have in the past. Brad did all the planning, he booked the accommodation and made the schedule. He even hired a private chef for certain meals so we could focus on what we went there to do; hang out as a team and work.

He continuously added to our schedule in a Google doc so it was always clear to the team what to expect. Here was the plan for the week:

Monday 17

  • 8am – 2pm – Team arrives at varying times
  • 3:30pm – Check-in to the apartments
  • 6pm – Dinner with Chef Susa (at the apartments)

Tuesday 18

  • Get up early enough to be cleaned up for breakfast
  • 8am – Catch up on support & product meetings
  • 9am – Chef Susa cooking breakfast
  • 10am – Company chat & product meetings
  • 11:30am – Quick lunch at the apartments
  • 1pm – Private walking tour (4 hours) with Alternative Berlin Tours
  • 5pm – YAAM Bar Berlin (very neat beach bar in Berlin)
  • 6pm – Dinner at Feed Back Restaurant (Cantonese cuisine)

Wednesday 19

  • Get up early enough to be cleaned up for breakfast
  • 8am – Chef Susa cooking breakfast
  • 9am- Catch up on support, product meetings
  • 12pm – Lunch at a Doner restaurant on the way to Karting
  • 2pm – Karting at Berlin Kart
  • 3pm – Drinks at KlunkerKranich, a rooftop Biergarten that offered a beautiful view of the city
  • 7pm – Dinner at Spindler & Klatt, a waterfront restaurant on a barge.

Thursday 20

  • Get up early enough to be cleaned up for breakfast
  • 8am – Chef Susa cooking breakfast
  • 9:30am – Catch up on support, product meetings
  • 12pm – Lunch by Chef Susa
  • 1pm – Support, Brad also did 1-on-1s with some of the team
  • 3pm – Biergarten Birgit & Bier
  • 7:30pm – Dinner at OS’ Kitchen cancelled in favor of going to a restaurant closer to the Biergarten (we had been doing a lot of walking on our trip so far!)

Friday 21

  • Get up early enough to be cleaned up for breakfast
  • 7:30am – Quick breakfast at the apartments
  • 9am – WCEU Day 1 🎉
  • 5pm – Check in on support
  • 6pm – Dinner at Martinello, an Italian restaurant just down the street from the apartments. I’m still full from these giant pizzas.
  • 8pm – WP Engine Party at FluxBau

Saturday 22

  • Get up early enough to be cleaned up for breakfast
  • 7:30am – Quick breakfast at the apartments
  • 9am – WCEU Day 2
  • 6:45pm – Dinner at Sage Restaurant cancelled reservation in favor of returning to Martinello restaurant
  • 8pm – WCEU After Party

Sunday 23

We didn’t have much planned for Sunday as we weren’t sure how late Saturday night would be. This is what we wound up doing:

  • 10:30am – Brunch at Restaurant Bastard, a French restaurant down the street from our apartments
  • 3pm – Some of the team went on a tour of the city’s underground history at Berliner Unterwelten
  • 6pm – Dinner at Schnitzelei Center – we couldn’t go to Berlin without trying Schnitzel!

Monday 24

[Varying times] – The team all left on their respective flights happy to see each other but sad to go another year apart.

Sad Homer Simpson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

We generally stuck to the schedule with a few substitutions here and there. There was some downtime intentionally built into the schedule so we could go with the flow and take suggestions when we got there.

The days felt like they were balanced well between work, activities and downtime. Personally, I was happy to get to spend time with the team before the conference so I think scheduling our retreat to be heavier at the beginning of the week was a good idea.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Berlin Base Apartments in the Kreuzberg neighborhood.

Berlin Apartment Living room

Berlin Apartment

We booked three apartments, sleeping one to four people in each. The view from the rooftop patio was beautiful at any time of day though I especially loved it at sunset 😍

Berlin Sunset

The apartments were lovely and we had a great experience. In contrast to last year, the internet was very reliable which removed the stress of not being able to keep up with support.

Highlights

A personal highlight was meeting the team in person for the first time. Having video meetings and communicating via chat certainly helps bridge the gap as a remote team but I felt I got to know the team much better spending time face-to-face. The team was extremely welcoming, I felt comfortable from the get-go.

Delicious Brains team at dinner

Delicious Brains team

Seeing Berlin was another highlight. We got a good overview of the city on our four-hour walking tour. We saw how the neighborhoods differ so much from one to the next. The city is beaming with character and a place you’ll never run out of things to do and explore.

Berlin Gallery

Delicious Brains team on walking tour

I learned this team takes their go-karting seriously. Getting out on the track was a really fun time, no matter how sore my arms were afterwards. The track was no match for our resident karting expert, Gilbert, who only needed to ask for a replacement kart once.

Karting track

Biergartens. Enough said.

DBI group at a biergarten

Of course, going to WordCamp Europe was amazing (if you couldn’t attend or might not have caught everything, our recap will catch you up on what you may have missed). It had been a few years since the team had a retreat based around a conference and it seemed like everyone enjoyed this format. It allowed for more networking which isn’t always as easy when you work remotely.

Costs

This year’s retreat was a little more expensive than last year’s but we also had one more person attending. The cost per person remained about the same. Here’s the breakdown:

$8,550  Accommodation
$3,550  Meals, Activities, Entertainment
$8,400  Travel
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$20,500 USD

Next time

At the end of the retreat, we found out the next WordCamp Europe was going to be in Porto, Portugal. We had already been considering sticking to the conference-based retreat format and this intrigued us even more. It’d be great to see Porto and catch up with the WordPress community again.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing the team again in-person next year. While working remotely is amazing for concentration and lifestyle, you can’t beat catching up with everyone in real life.

Will you be attending WCEU next year? Did your company go on a retreat this year? Where did you go?