Penrodpalooza is a biannual event in which all Penrod employees are brought together to our headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for two workdays. We use this time to hug teammates we haven’t seen in a quarter or two, work on projects together in person, share some drinks and good food, review the quarters behind us, and vision-set for the ones to come.
Engagement Manager Tara Vandygriff says Penrodpalooza is “honestly like going home for the holidays— there are hugs and laughs and spirited conversations. Now that we have so many team members remote, when we do get together, it’s like seeing someone at Thanksgiving.”
A typical schedule for this fun event goes like this:
Everyone gathers at HQ, we work a normal workday until about 2pm, and then we migrate to our main sitting area to view a presentation about the two quarters in review.
People from all roles and teams get a chance to present statistics, achievements, and success stories. Select people also get the chance to flex their knowledge with speed-learning sessions, sometimes leading a training on soft skills like “Resilience” and other times on topics such as “Customer Experience” or “CPQ for API”…and so on.
There’s plenty of laughter and celebration as we hoot and clap for our successes, while many of us are squished together on our couches, likely with a drink in hand.
Speaking of successes, one person is nominated from the last two quarters to receive the J.E.D.I. award. The Just Effin’ Do It award exists to reward someone for quietly and selflessly moving our company forward by doing the right thing and truly representing our core values. And yes, there is a lightsaber involved.
We also meet some of our new hires during this time; they present five photos on the projector screen and tell five stories that help us get to know them as a person.
We further solidify their welcome to the family through team-building activities. Note: Penrod is COMPETITIVE. When we say Penrod Winter Olympics, you can go ahead and picture couples “figure-skating” on a carpet, wearing socks and serious faces, or performing choreography to songs from The Little Mermaid.
And Flonkerton, of course.
After this, it’s time to cut loose for the evening. We typically have a beer and pizza night at the office with plenty of music and games. As Tara says, “at least once a Palooza, there is a dance party and very loud singing of every 90’s song you can think of at, like, 2am [that] has led to a slew of very fun evenings.”
Penrod cares about community beyond the work we do, and we get equally excited about charity events as we do about Flonkerton. In the past year, we’ve partnered with United Way to volunteer for various causes at our Paloozas: we’ve written Christmas cards for the elderly, packed pencil cases for underserved students, and penned encouraging notes for career fair candidates who are breaking through unemployment barriers.
Emily Hinz, our Marketing Enablement Specialist, especially enjoys the camaraderie and volunteer work. “The best thing about Penrodpaloozas is that you get to come together as a company and actually enjoy each other’s company. There’s time to bond, talk shop, play silly games, volunteer and reinforce why working for Penrod is the shit.”
Much like day one, the rest of the day consists of working together in the office until about 3pm, gathering in our sitting area, and viewing a presentation about vision-setting.
During this time, our CEO, Chris, speaks about the big-picture goals. Each department breaks down its focuses, and we have a Q&A session to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s an invigorating time for us to remember what we’re striving for and why. If we have a sponsor, they have some time to shine and connect with us as well.
Then comes the main event! The second evening is reserved for a big outing of some kind, and trust us when we say it’s always a good time. We’ve gone sledding with our sponsors, held costume karaoke (sometimes in July, sometimes around Halloween, whatever), attended Brewers games, and more.
Echoing earlier, Penrod is very competitive. At our costume karaoke events, our employees 3D print their costumes, coordinate with teams, and, as Consultant Jon Mills says, “I’m not used to people going ‘in’ so hard on Halloween. It’s really inspired me to elevate my game for costumes!"
After all, when’s the last time you could say your CEO dressed up as Olaf and sang “Let It Go” at a karaoke bar?
These days, things look a little different. With the pandemic at hand, we held our first virtual Palooza this past August. We made sure to keep the magic alive between a virtual trivia night with Sporcle, a surprise Hot Seat event with our first employee, a weeklong virtual scavenger hunt, happy hours with our sponsors, and a virtual charity event with United Way. Everyone was also sent a surprise swag box, complete with all things Penrod-teal!
In-person or virtual, Paloozas are a time for us to be with each other as authentic individuals, as employees working together toward an exhilarating vision, and as community members. It’s all about connection, and the smiles in each photo say it all.
As Tara says, “When people say Penrod is family, it’s our Paloozas that make it feel that way.”