I was out with a friend the other night and we found ourselves at a swanky Boston establishment -- the type with cool lighting, music, and martini menus. Seats were sparse in the uber-cool layout. We asked a couple of ladies if we could share their couch and coffee table. Soon enough, they asked us where we worked. When I said "EMC," one of the women purred, "Oh! My friend works there. He joined you from a company you acquired called, 'Astrum.'"
I lit up at hearing the word "Astrum," as just that day I learned that Astrum brought something special and surprising to EMC's culture. Tea Time. I started to share my new wisdom with this woman. She immediately interrupted and said, "Oh yes, I know the people of EMC have Tee Time all right."
No, the other kind of tea time.
An excerpt from EMC's internal social network, found in our "Culture Talk" community:
It's 3 PM on Thursday. Where is everyone?
Oh, right, tea time!
Our group gets together every week on Thursday afternoon, puts a kettle of tea on, and cracks open some cookies or pretzels. ... Some people would say the value of tea time is getting a free cookie and a short break from the work day. That's a fine approach, but for me the true value comes from getting everyone together in a more social environment. People talk about their vacations, their weekends, their families, their hobbies, and of course, work. The connections that we make during tea time carry directly over into our jobs. It's kind of hard to fire off an angry impersonal email at someone in QE after you just shared a laugh about a movie you both like over a cup of tea. ...the ties that we make when we're talking about nothing directly lead to better connections when we're dealing with something.
One of the other benefits of Tea Time is that a few different cultures have tea traditions, and we get a chance to experience teas from around the world and learn a bit about their cultures in the meantime. We've had teas from China, Russia, India, and the UK ... and perhaps more.
A colleague of mine, David K. Spencer, whom I've come to know through our social network but have never actually met in person, is writing a blog series on diversity at EMC at his external blog, "Dave Talks Shop." Dave is an engineering manager who is also passionate, it appears from his blogs, about software design as well as interpersonal and group dynamics. I encourage you to check it out. It is unlike anything I've ever read on the subject. His first post was really interesting, his second even more so. Can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
One phrase that has been popping into my mind a lot lately -- that hatched during our recent, internal Visual Talk Radio show with EMC sales people is -- "The New EMC." Tea time, who knew?
(For EMCers reading this, the Radio Show broadcast is available on EMC ONE in the Culture Talk community.)
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Let me know if Dave's take on Diversity -- or The New EMC -- strikes a cord with you, too.