Data41’s 2023 Personal Improvement Project: Food for Thought & Camaraderie

Data41’s 2023 Personal Improvement Project: Food for Thought & Camaraderie

What’s one thing every human being on this planet has in common? We’ve all got to eat! Capitalizing on such common ground, Data41’s 2023 Personal Improvement Project is Food for Thought and Camaraderie!

It’s the 10-Year Anniversary of the Data41 Personal Improvement Project as we know it, so we’re celebrating this milestone the best way we know how: together! The Personal Improvement Project is inherently geared toward personal growth, but this year’s initiative is all about bonding with our peers through the magic of food.

The Mission

For millennia, food has been the catalyst for bonding and connection. It’s more than a means of survival. Breaking bread builds trust, helps forge stronger relationships, and creates shared memories. Communal dining is how we honor victories and assuage our losses. Think about it: we eat birthday cake to celebrate another year of life. We bake a casserole for our neighbor who lost a beloved. We chant “winner, winner, chicken dinner!” after our kids win a soccer game. We go to happy hour with our peers to unwind after a workday.

The bottom line is cooking and eating together have a direct impact on our relationships. They are easy, accessible, and enjoyable ways to:

  • spend quality time together
  • stay connected and present
  • create memories and share traditions
  • share culture through food
  • share parts of ourselves
  • learn from each other

That is our mission. By cooking and eating together we hope to forge stronger relationships with one another and to deepen the sense of community within our company.

The Process

Back in November of last year, we were instructed to

“Please use a 3×5 index card and write the name of a favorite recipe (appetizer, entree, or dessert) on one side, then write the name of the ingredients on the other side. Your name should not appear anywhere on the card. Please bring the card with you to our meeting next month.”

At our annual December Company Meeting all our index cards were collected in a cardboard box, then we each drew a new card. Next, we had to guess which colleague our new recipe card belonged to. This part was abounding with surprises! The foods ranged from familiar and comforting, to new and strange. Bobotie, Prime Rib, Honey Sriracha Chicken Nuggets, Birthday Cake, and Lime Jell-O Salad were just a few of the confections in this smorgasbord of recipes.

Now for the big reveal … We have to schedule two cooking sessions: one for our own recipe and one for our teammate’s recipe. Together we’ll teach, learn, toast, and eat!

You might be asking yourself, how are they going to pull this off in their hybrid work environment?

Both sessions must be conducted using an online tool – Microsoft Teams, Facetime, etc. We have a $75 budget for each person per session – $150 total/session. 

To hold each other accountable for our Personal Improvement Project objectives and for general housekeeping, we conduct a company-wide Focus Meeting on Microsoft Teams every other week. The responsibility of facilitating this meeting rotates between all employees. Every person facilitates twice per year. Here are this year’s facilitation criteria:

  • 1st Focus Meeting Facilitation – share your plan, Data41 chef mates, and recipes
  • 2nd Focus Meeting Facilitation – share your cooking stories and provide at least two pics (or more) – one of each of you

The Outcome

At the conclusion of 2023, we will consolidate all the recipes and provide everyone a copy of a mini Data41 cookbook. It will be a small souvenir filled with big memories and delicious food – a little taste of the Data41 family!

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