Written by Ariana Escobar on

Designer’s table. How a lunch became the Design team’s signature

CARTO Culture

The Design team in CARTO works mostly1 from “The West Wing” of our Madrid office, a small sunny room with a gorgeous balcony looking out to Callao, the neuralgic center of Spain’s capital. This room, that we share with our amazing marketing ladies, has gotten the reputation of being the playroom of the company.

CARTO Office
“The West Wing”

We are so loud. We talk so much. We literally LOL. We have impromptu meetings in the middle of the room. We meet in someone’s desk and have candid and sometimes heated discussions of the design problem of the day. We kid each other with #dramitas flags (dramitas means “little dramas” in Spanish; we use real flags that we wave whenever someone’s being overly dramatic) and every once in a while we put music and drink beers while working. Now, don’t get me wrong… we do work. A-LOT. But we also love having fun in the process.

So, last year, out of that constant quest of having fun, we decided to implement a new tradition of having lunch together outside once a week, calling it, wait for it… The Design Lunch.

We carried on the tradition for several weeks and each time we went out, our coworkers started to get curious and wanting to join us. Thus, to avoid company-wide dramitas, we began to casually invite a developer per lunch and a few months later that whole thing led us to a completely established company ritual that we now love and cherish.

How does The Design Lunch™ work

Bingo ball
We bought the bingo ball at a chinese dollar store for 9€.
  1. We use a children’s Bingo game to randomly pick a number which represents a team member in an event that gets streamed for the whole company to watch.

  2. That team member becomes our Design lunch guest and receives a lovely invitation to join us that Friday for lunch.

  3. During lunch, we try to get to know each other better, since we might not work closely on a daily basis. Before wrapping up lunch, we ask them a secret question left for them by our last guest. We’ve had questions ranging from the nice (“Where would you take the Design team for vacations?”) to the weirdly philosophical (“What would you do if you were a bull?”) to the fun ones (“What would you do if you wake up and you find yourself naked in the middle of the office at 9am and there’s someone getting to the office at the precise moment?”).

  4. When we get back to the office we take a group photo with an old polaroid camera and give it as a present to our guest.

EcoHack

So far we’ve invited people from the Systems, Engine, Sales, Builder and Operations team. We’ve taken them to some our favorite places nearby and we’ve had the luck of hearing amazing stories from them and getting to know each other better.

What makes this a wonderful ritual

Getting to know our co-workers better

Within our team, we know, care, and hang out with each other a lot, but the fast growing pace of our company makes it hard to scale that level of camaraderie or to even know what everyone does exactly, what they love to do outside of work and what makes them tick. Sharing a single meal together is obviously not enough, but it sets the ground base, breaks the ice, and kickstarts the relationships between teammates. Oh, and we’ve also discovered that is a phenomenal way to learn about the intricacies of Northern Spain’s old mines, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory, and super handy childcare tips.

There’s always going to be people that you don’t know so well and it’s easier to talk and get know them better in an environment as relaxed as that one.

Javier Villar, Site Reliability Engineer (Systems team) and Honorable Design Lunch Guest

Spread and strengthen our Design-driven culture

One of CARTO’s key differentiators is the importance of the design in everything we do, and we pride ourselves on having so many design-oriented minds throughout our whole company. However, communicating the value of design and growing that perception in everyone’s mind is an extremely complicated task. By coming out of our own team’s mindset and attempting to reach out to others, we try to make sure that design always has a seat in their table.

I had such a nice time with people that I don’t normally hang out with, especially because I work remotely. At the same time, I learned many things about the design team and it’s always nice to understand what other teammates do.

Mario de Frutos, Back-End Developer (Engine team) and Honorable Design Lunch Guest

Having fun

Having fun is what makes our team tick and this ritual has become a thrill! The bingo silliness, everyone trying to buy their way in, getting away of the office for a nice meal outside, trying new restaurants, hearing amazing stories from our teammates and feeling refreshed and cheerful for the afternoon ahead :)

It was great. I hope that past guests can participate again on future raffles ;) Also, it’s a nice initiative that other departments should copy.

Fernando Carrasco, APAC Partners Manager (Sales team) and Honorable Design Lunch Guest

What started as a simple lunch ended up becoming this great experience of creating tighter bonds with our teammates, a friendly competition within the company to be the next guest, and this lovely ritual that we all look forward twice a month.

  • 1
    Our adored Mamata Akella works from the sunny Denver, Colorado!
  • 2
    Illustration by Javier Arce

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