Since 2014, Atomic has hosted an internal conference for all employees. The conference occurs every 18 months or so (barring a global pandemic). Throughout the conference’s two days, we share knowledge, build new skills, and perform a questionable amount of karaoke.
Atomic Con is fun but educational. There is a lot to do but still space to decompress, or simply enjoy the company of other Atoms.
At its core, Atomic Con is a place to teach and learn, share knowledge, and cultivate our culture.
A Place to Teach & Learn
Atomic has six values that truly describe the way we make decisions and operate in the world. One of those values is Teach & Learn. Atomic Con is a prime example of this value, as folks engage in both teaching and learning throughout the weekend and in preparation for it.
A few months before Atomic Con, we put out a call for presenters. Just like any other conference, folks are expected to submit a proposal for what they would like their session to be.
Not all sessions are technical at Atomic Con. Sure, some of them are, but plenty of other teaching occurs — from collaborative workshops to guided yoga sessions, to learning how to jam with coworkers musically.
Because the focus is not 100% on technical skill-building, any Atom in the company is allowed and encouraged to submit a talk, workshop, or activity for the conference. In fact, some of the most memorable sessions have come from non-technical team members!
Of course, everyone can learn at Atomic Con by attending presentations and workshops. However, there are less obvious ways in which Atomic Con facilitates learning.
Anyone who has assembled a conference presentation knows that it is a skill in and of itself. Atomic Con is a low-stakes way to hone in on talk crafting and presentation skills. Many folks will test out a talk at Atomic Con before submitting it for other conferences.
Who do you think plans this conference? Atoms, of course! Atomic Con’s existence allows folks to learn skills around conference and event planning. There are oodles of logistics to sort out, such as lodging, meals, programming, and, of course, swag.
An Opportunity to Share Knowledge
Our entire company rarely gathers in person. In fact, Atomic Con is the only routine time this happens. This makes the conference a prime opportunity for any large company announcements or knowledge sharing.
In the past, this type of knowledge sharing has included:
- Fireside chats with our CEOs, where folks can hear fun stories from the early days and ask questions they’ve been dying to know the answer to.
- Big announcements, such as our co-CEOs stepping into the role and our founder retiring.
- Quarterly presentations relevant to the health and growth of the entire company.
A Setting to Cultivate Culture
Last, but certainly not least, is the cultural element of hosting an internal conference. Atomic Con is something Atoms look forward to. It’s a time for us all to come together in a “neutral” place, where no office resides. We play board games, go on hikes, sing karaoke, share a few meals, and simply enjoy each other’s company. The professional development value of the conference is obvious, but the cultural significance it holds is just as important.
It’s not uncommon for shenanigans that are not on the schedule to organically come into existence as well. I recall events that include:
- Mario Kart tournaments
- Games of basketball
- Morning bike rides
- Nail painting parties
- Group handstands
I asked a few Atoms to share their feelings and/or memories from past Atomic Cons. Here’s what they had to say!
…huddling around the outdoor fires in the massive snow storm at the last one. Everyone had their hoods on with their hands over the fire to warm them, and we were all laughing and in a great mood… bad weather makes for great memories, and I think last year’s snow made for an unforgettable Atomic Con.
– Elaine Ezekiel, Director of Marketing, Ann Arbor
I spend Atomic Cons basking in the glow of all those amazing people gathered in one place. It’s a rare opportunity to reflect, connect, and celebrate with some of my favorite people outside of the bustle of project work.
– Rachael McQuater, Software Consultant & Developer, Grand Rapids
It was the first time some of our Atoms were meeting each other outside of Zoom for the first time and it was electric… From the beginning of the night you could feel this tangible hyped energy throughout the entire venue.
– Justin Interino, Software Consultant & Designer, Chicago
I really enjoy the impromptu social things that happen outside the conference content, like hanging around the fire swapping jokes and stories or playing Mario Kart and having a jam session in someone’s room at night.
– Ryan Abel, Managing Partner, Raleigh
I loved standing around the fire pits outside at night, in the cold with snow falling, sharing stories and laughing with my coworkers from all of our offices. It remains a very vivid and clear memory for me. I felt so connected to everyone and left the evening energized and with a deep appreciation for the quality of this work community we continue to build.
– Jason Porritt, Principal Software Consultant & Developer, Grand Rapids
Planning for the Future
Our next Atomic Con will be held in early 2024, and our planning committee has already gotten the ball rolling to concoct the best Atomic Con to date! We’re looking forward to fantastic programming and time spent together as a company.