WP Engine’s All Hands 2020 was hosted as a fully virtual event this year, and even though we weren’t able to be together in-person, it proved to be another All Hands for the ages.
All Hands is a bi-annual event at WP Engine, and in a normal year, U.S.-based employees gather at our headquarters in Austin, TX (EMEA and Australian locations hold similar events in Limerick, Ireland, and Brisbane, Australia) for two days of keynotes, strategy sessions, and other fun events.
Every All Hands also culminates in what is, year-after-year, a legendary companywide celebration.
Given the constraints surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, this year needed to be reimagined. So, we held a single event instead of two and moved everything online. Here are a few of the highlights:
We drank our own champagne.
Building the entire experience on our managed WordPress platform allowed us to thoughtfully craft the event exactly as we imagined it. In doing so, we gave our employees what we deliver to our customers every day—an extraordinary digital experience.
We started by building a site where all of our content would live and be accessed. From a technical point of view, this was accomplished using WordPress 5.5 (with Multisite enabled) and hosted on a High Availability C4 AWS instance. We also used the OneLogin SAML SSO plugin, which let us provide employees with easy, secure access to the site.
Because design matters at WP Engine, the look, and feel of the site was incredible.
The company rallied around our creative energy to imagine the future we want to achieve.
We also live-streamed all of our sessions, many of which were broadcast from our office in downtown Austin. Social distancing protocols were in full effect, and masks were only taken off by presenters during their specific sessions.
WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner during the live, socially-distanced broadcast of her All Hands keynote presentation—from our headquarters in downtown Austin, TX
We tapped into pure imagination.
This year’s theme for All Hands was “Pure Imagination.” Why? Because imagination propels growth. Imagination is powerful. What sets the ordinary apart from the extraordinary? As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
As a company, we already have a foundation of knowledge and success built on our market-leading tools, talent, resources, and focus. We explored how, with a growth mindset, we can push what’s possible for our customers and unlock even greater digital innovation. We have earned our industry position, and our imagination opens the world of possibilities and opportunities for the future.
We made a point of upholding tradition.
Over the years, every All Hands has been marked by an iconic company-wide photo. As the number of All Hands attendees has grown in recent years, this photo has expanded exponentially.
WP Engine All Hands Company photo (U.S. employees)—October 2019
Faced with the digital posture of this year’s event, we had to think outside the box a bit in order to keep the tradition alive. Our thought was, even if 2020 has thrown us a few curveballs, the All Hands company photo is a non-negotiable must-have.
So, rather than gather everyone in the same physical space, we captured this year’s All Hands photo virtually, using a mosaic format in which employees uploaded individual pictures of themselves on the All Hands site.
WP Engine’s ALL Hands 2020 U.S. Company Photo
We relied on Zoom to connect as a company.
Online meeting fatigue is real, and we get that, but for an all-virtual event, Zoom is simply an indispensable tool. We embraced the Zoom factor for this year’s All Hands, and in addition to using it for our session broadcasts, we enabled employees to get in on the fun, with All Hands-specific Zoom backgrounds they could download before joining the event.
Various All Hands-specific Zoom backgrounds were made available ahead of the event
We delivered an “out of the box” experience to employees at home.
Finally, we broke out of the digital realm a bit with some good old-fashioned swag, which brought the Al Hands experience directly to employees’ homes.
All Hands swag, including handheld props, a notebook, colored pencils, a t-shirt, stickers, and a snazzy 10 Year Anniversary YETI Rambler
While swag may seem out of place for an all-virtual event, we found that it actually tied this year’s event together, and gave our employees a taste of the analog world at a time when so much activity takes place in front of a screen.
For example, the handheld props we sent encouraged employees to interact with the online presentations. The notebook and colored pencils were put to use during an employee-led art class, meant to “open our imaginations.” The t-shirts were another nod to tradition, as we don the latest All Hands t-shirt every year, during a kick-off Spirit Day, which proceeds All Hands.
We also added a little extra excitement by inserting Golden Tickets into 10 randomly-selected swag boxes. Recipients who found a ticket in their box won an additional, surprise swag item, which is on its way to those ten lucky winners right now!
Still together, even though we’re apart.
While this year’s All Hands was certainly a departure from previous events, the all-virtual element came with some benefits.
For starters, the barrier of travel was lifted, and we were able to bring together more of our employees than ever before, from all around the globe. Secondly, building the site on WordPress allowed us the flexibility we needed to provide our employees with engaging content, and an informative look at the company’s trajectory.
Even though we were apart, this year’s All Hands provided an excellent opportunity to connect with one another and get excited about all of the opportunities we have in front of us.
Are you interested in joining the WP Engine team? Check out all of our open positions on our Careers site: https://wpengine.careers/