Tyk Retreat 2.0: Vamos a Vamos!

Tyk team in retreat

Last week the Tyk team embarked on one of our biggest projects to date: herding a whole load of Tyks from all around the world onto a beautiful Greek island.

The reason? To spend a rare week all together, face-to-face, working through gnarly problems and mapping our plans for (API) world takeover.

Want the TL; DR? This short video will give you a quick taste of the types of things we got up to.

Ready for the full download? 6 of the Tyk team are here to tell you more.

Josh Blakeley, Developer & Support Engineer, London

After months of tireless planning, cloak-and-dagger secrecy, and wild speculation sweeping the Tyk London office, (“I hear we’re going to Mexico”, “I hear it’s on THE MOON”), last week saw almost all of the Tyk team manage to make it to the same location at the same time!

Yes, we were ready for our awesome sunny Tyk week in Crete, Greece! (Yes, that’s Crete! Most companies meet in Slough?!)

Tyk’s team has grown considerably in the last year with me being just one of many who recently slotted into our talented engineering team. I’m used to collaborating with the team online through GitHub, Slack and video calls, so here was was an exciting opportunity to get some quality face-time. And throughout the week we did just that.

But first there was the small matter of getting onto Crete, then onwards to the tiny picturesque Cretan village of Vamos, which would soon be sending envoys far and wide to restock their supplies of olive oil and alcohol.

We touched down through a blanket of recently whipped-up Saharan dust and sea mist in the Cretan capital, Heraklion. There were plenty of first time greetings with some other Tyks who had jetted in from other locales and the Tyk contingent basked like lizards in the already-baking sun.

It was on the 90-minute drive to Vamos, through great rocky canyons etched into the Cretan mountains, with the sun glistening on the calm sea beyond, that I realised this is going to be quite a special week. How many other people are this lucky to have such a great team of people meet in the most exciting of places? There would be work, the would be play, there would be significant raki-related memory loss. Let’s do this.

Jack Fletcher, Junior Account Manager, London

During the week’s relocation to the fibre-optically-challenged village of Vamos we had the chance to host full team workshops, a rare opportunity for our distributed team. The first of these sessions focused on strategy for the year ahead.

Those of us expecting the retreat to take place on the moon could be forgiven for assuming Tyk’s 2019 strategy was to lay claim to Mars. However, as much as we’d like that to be the case, we settled for conquering Earth’s systems (as long as they’re accessible via http – a catchy slogan which the marcoms team have somehow ignored). “Exactly how are you going to do that?” Well, where’s the fun in telling you that? Wait and see…

As more and more of us located the village’s only decent coffee supply, workshop productivity soared (alongside their profits). With oversized paper and marker pens at the ready, we were set to task on how we can improve the whole Tyk experience for all users.

We spent our workshops collaborating and brainstorming in groups made up of each of the skillsets which make up Tyk. This was a hugely successful approach, with ideas flying overhead from engineers, account managers, designers, and even the taverna owner. We’re yet to have any of the dev team officially transfer to marketing, but we know they want to…

Having the whole team together to work on out of the box solutions for day to day issues is one of the main Tyk retreats exist and the outcome is invaluable. Plus, it’s a whole lot quicker to navigate time zones when they’re restricted to a single room. Now we’re back to ‘normal’ it’s time to build on what we have learned – and pack for Mars.

James Hirst, Co-Founder & COO, London

Tyk has a hard won reputation as being the leader in customer service and technical support.

Like Tyk product development, we employ constant iteration and short feedback loops to improve process – both for our clients, and the talented engineers and architects who support them. This retreat was a great opportunity to accelerate that process to ensure we continue to set the pace on customer support.

With so many opportunities to innovate and extend a product, it can sometimes be hard to cut through to the most important aspects. When Scotland International, Pat Nevin, sought advice on how to improve his scoring record, a seasoned pro advised him it was quite simple really: “just go where the other players aren’t!”

This has always been the Tyk approach, and our workshops gave the wider team an opportunity to explore the options and contribute to the roadmap for the exciting products currently in development. At the same time, the process improvements we identified in our groups are already being rolled out, even before the raki hangovers fade.

Matias Insaurralde, Engineer, Paraguay

The retreat was a perfect mix of work and fun. We learned a lot from each other and from some awesome local people that taught us a lot about their culture and traditions (yes, including Raki).

The boat trip from Chania was my favorite part of the week, even if the sea was a bit too fresh for some! It wasn’t my only boat trip either – just a few days before the Tyk week started I decided to reach Crete by the sea and did a 10-hour ferry trip to achieve it.

When back on land we walked a lot with trips to a local vineyard and olive groves, including an ancient olive mill located in Gavalochori. We also did a 4 hour hike with a local guide which gave us amazing views of the Vamos surroundings – the hills, villages (including the Cathedral), and all the way out to the blue sea beyond.

I’m looking forward for the next retreat, where we can meet again, connect with new cultures and keep planning our future as a company.

Rachna Karwasra, Operations Manager, London

The sun was shining high as the team descended to the Apokoronos beach for Tyk’s very famous sports day.

We had an interesting (nostalgic!) lineup of games like sack race, egg and spoon race (Greek style, with the use of a lemon), blindfolded obstacle race, and the biggest sand castle (how original on a beach).

Everyone was at their (very) competitive best to win their gold medals, sometimes forgetting that they shouldn’t compete within their teams… We then headed off to a local pub to continue the hilarity into the night. Next day, there were a few aching bones (and heads).

You might already know by now about the world-famous Cretan Olive Oil (I think if we do more paragraphs on oil, Uncle Sam might invade Crete) –  we went on Wine and Olive tasting tour. We saw how olive oil is made from Olives and learnt more about olive oils. After the week in Crete we are happy to let you know we can now provide advice on olive oil, as well as API Management. 

Martin Buhr, CEO & Co-Founder, Auckland

So what was Tyk Crete ’18 all about? It was about us: A vibrant and passionate team of individuals, being human.

We had recent leavers, we had new joiners, we had new faces and old hands, we had people that had never met in person embrace for the first time…

We had constructive debate and creative workshops and we partied like it was the end of the world.

There were some tears, and there was much laughter.

Ultimately, it was seven intense days that brought our little band closer together, and reminded everyone: no matter how remote we are from one another most of the time, we’re all just human, working away at a common goal.

What did it mean for Tyk? It means a renewed focus on how we can make our software better, how we can be there for our users, and how we can build out our platform. This year’s retreat cemented ideas about our existing product, and our long-term product vision in the minds of all of us.

What does that mean for our next retreat? We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Peace out, and Yammas!

What was your favourite part of the week?

An up close encounter with an adorable octopus. Then shortly after enjoying eating it’s extended family all lovingly fried in batter – Josh

Sampling local seafood whilst actually in the sea & watching the more ‘delicate’ of us struggle at early afternoon wine tasting – Jack

Tyk’s Sports Day, though still not at peace with the outcome of the sandcastle-building competition… – James

I have the unusual privilege of being the most remote of our remote workforce, so seeing (almost) the entire company together over dinner, chatting away like old friends, was an incredible moment – Martin

The boat trip, playing guitar and also connecting with the team & locals through music (and raki!) – Matias

What did you learn from the week?

What life is like in a cozy place like Vamos, and how they have been working hard to promote it as a tourist spot – Matias

That raki is a dangerous substance to be respected, and that we have fire-breathers on our team! – Martin

I learned more than I ever thought I would about olive oil – Jack

I am AMAZING at running with a lemon on a spoon – Josh

I am NOT amazing at running with a lemon on a spoon – James

Like the sound of the Tyk approach to teamwork? We’re growing rapidly and have a wide range of exciting opportunities. Many of our roles are available remote, with flexible hours, and all members of our team have unlimited holiday. If you’re interested in joining us, find out more about our current positions.