What I Learned From 80 Zarticans In My First Week On the Job

When I began applying for remote positions last year, I didn’t imagine that I would begin my new work-from-home job by hopping on a plane and flying more than 1,600 miles to Ogden, Utah. 

On my first day of work, I awoke to the awe-inspiring sight of the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains and the prospect of three full days of immersion into my new role.

As a growing work-from-anywhere company, Zartico is deeply intentional about its culture and about creating connections despite geographical distances. One of the ways we accomplish this is by gathering all the Zarticans each winter for an annual educational event.

The event certainly fast-tracked my onboarding process, but it offered everyone the opportunity to connect with people they typically see only on Zoom.

I walked away with a new appreciation for what Zartico is doing, a profound understanding of the challenges we face as we build something that has never been built before, and a huge appreciation for the brilliant folks tackling these challenges.

Here are some of my takeaways.

All Hands Jan 2023 Ogden UT-124

We are always learning

Zartico’s focus on growth mindset and continuous learning sits right at the top of the list of company values. When you’re breaking new ground, you have to be prepared to learn new things — and sometimes admit you got it wrong — in order to take the next step forward.

The beauty of convening the entire company for this event was the way we were able to learn from one another about every aspect of Zartico — from engineering to sales, data science to leadership.

For example:

  • We divided into groups to compete in The Fox Den (think Shark Tank, but for foxes/Zarticans), creating analyses and recommendations to address real-life destination questions. Everyone stepped into the shoes of Zartico’s strategic advisors and got a peek into areas of the ZDOS® they wouldn’t otherwise see.
  • Dave Bahlman and Nicole Brownell walked us through the many ways partners interact with our data and launched an important conversation about data literacy — a topic you will hear much more about in the year ahead.
  • Dr. John Schmidt lifted the hood on what it really takes to transform 30+ petabytes (roughly 600 million full four-drawer file cabinets) of raw data into meaningful destination insights.
  • Josh Collins shared the ambitious product roadmap of updates and improvements that will make the ZDOS® even more simple, streamlined, and reliable.
  • Jay Kinghorn inspired us with the focus areas that will sustain our forward momentum.
  • Lyn Christian of Salt Lake-based Soul Salt led a session on identifying our individual core values and showing up as our full selves. And multiple “deep thoughts” sessions offered Masterpiece Theater-style readings from thought-provoking leadership books like Good to Great and Do Better Work.

All Hands Jan 2023 Ogden UT-79

We care about connections

“Connections” was the central theme of this year’s event, and CEO Sarah Lehman encouraged us to get to know all 80 of our colleagues. As a newcomer, I felt some relief knowing that I wasn’t the only one making an effort to meet people.

The ease of creating these connections speaks to Zarticans’ friendliness and hospitality. It would have been easy for an event where coworkers hadn’t seen one another in a year to become cliquey and exclusive, but I felt included and welcomed in every conversation I encountered.

Utahns are serious about their sodas

One of our afternoon breaks led us to Fiiz, a local soda counter chain whose plentiful menu of soda/syrup combos makes those Coca-Cola Freestyle machines look downright adorable. 

My order, The Queen (Dr. Pepper with raspberry puree, blackberry and coconut syrup and cream), was nothing short of a sugar rush, but it was just the boost I needed to hurdle over my jet lag.

RV_Awards Party-89

Zarticans celebrate one another’s hard work and success

The final night of the event, our leaders rolled out the red carpet for the Golden RV awards, a glittering celebration of the adaptability and grit that characterize Zarticans and the work they do to create better communities every day.

Darren Dunn and Dave Bahlman emceed the ceremony. Some of the awards they handed out were admittedly less-than-serious (like the Biggest Swiftie — aka, Taylor Swift fan — award), while others recognized those who have gone above and beyond in the past year. 

Enthusiastic applause — and quite a few standing ovations — followed each and every announcement. All of my new colleagues were genuinely excited to celebrate their peers, and at the end of the night I found myself saying, “I never thought I could find this at a work-from-anywhere company.”

We have a clear vision of where we’re going next

One reality of finding yourself surrounded by towering mountains is in order to look out toward the horizon, you also have to look up. It’s an inspiring coincidence that Zartico hosts its annual event in just such a landscape since the company’s outlook is equally as elevated.

Zartico has big plans for 2023. This vision relies on science, imagination, and learning as tools for transformation. It’s about becoming the most trusted partner for destinations around the world, and it’s rooted in sharing our learnings through educational resources and opportunities to help the whole industry grow.