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Jenniffer Nevarez, Customer Success Specialist at TaxJar, on her first TaxJar team meetup.
I really didn’t know what to expect from my first JarFest (TaxJar’s twice-annual in-person team retreat.) I had started with TaxJar just 90 days before, but that didn’t matter because I’d never been treated like a newbie. Still, I was excited, anxious and giddy the weekend before as I packed my bag and memorized our itinerary for the next week.
By the way, I was slightly freaking out as I packed. My grandma insisted that I should bring along business clothes since I was meeting my co-workers for the first time. When I mentioned that to the team over our chat app I was told that they would literally make fun of me if I showed up in business clothes. That’s just one of many things I love about working at TaxJar!
Monday – Arrival Day
Arriving at the airport in Austin, TX, I grabbed my checked suitcase from baggage claim and met up with the other early arrivals, Tom Spang and Jennifer Dunn. That moment was epic. I was seeing the team members for the first time, and they were as awesome as I already knew them to be. My nerves vanished right away!
We chatted until our official “cool van driver” Lizzy Greenburg picked us up and took us to lunch at TacoDeli. That day was filled with car rides from and to the airport as other team members made their appearances and debuts at JarFest.
We also did the day-to-day things that you don’t get to do with your team when you’re all distributed all over the country. In this case that included searching Austin’s finest Wal-Mart and Target for the game Catch Phrase. (…More on my infamous Catch Phrase moment later.)
Dinner was at Scholz Garten – one of Austin’s oldest businesses. While we were there I learned that Justin (AKA Wild Thing – more on than later) is the best person to take to a restaurant. His strategy is to ask the server to “surprise him,” and then somehow the waiter hits it right on the nail! I’m filing that one away for future reference.
Tuesday – Fun Day
I’ve heard that there’s always an element of surprise to JarFest, so Tuesday morning we were told to be done with breakfast by 9am and to wear comfy clothes… It turned out, we were heading to Bee Cave Central Park to play kickball!
I had never played kickball and I didn’t know much about baseball, but I could tell some people on the team were in my same boat. It ended up being super fun and low-pressure. My team was the one to be on because we had Jason “The Boot” Crossfield and Ryan Thompson, our CRO and “Instagram Socialite.” (You’ll have to follow TaxJar on Instagram to see his best work.) Jake and Jennifer were our outfield dream team and I was the pitcher.
The highlight of the other team was their pitcher, Justin “Wild Thing” Cypret. I think you take some guesses about his pitching style from his new nickname…
For lunch, we went to a beautiful home and met the folks from Silver Whisk Cooking School. Jake Gober and his team of chefs were there to teach us how to prepare some delicious tapas. We broke out into teams, and our team was in charge of the delicious ham wrapped plumcots, and our dessert churros.
Everyone else made different dishes, and we sat down to enjoy the meal prepared by our very own hands.
The team might not know this, but I am the pickiest eater EVER and that day I had some stuff I would’ve never tried on my own. That’s TaxJar for you – expanding my horizons.
By dinner time, the whole team had arrived. Some people can’t be there for the entire JarFest, so we allow extra time to accommodate schedules.
Dinner was some true Texas BBQ at Salt Lick and more team bonding. Try the pickled onions!
Wednesday – Down to Business
The next day, Wednesday, we met up in the resort conference room to kick off our meetings. We spent the day talking about how things are going, what we want to do next, and everything in between.
My background is corporate customer support. It was so refreshing to hear that most of what we talked about was how to make TaxJar the best, simplest and most delightful experience for our customers.
We also talked about all the exciting things we want to do this year and… Okay, I need it to be quiet now. You’ll hear about that soon enough. 😉
For dinner, we celebrated!
TaxJar grew by leaps and bounds in 2016, and we wanted to celebrate while we were all together. We had a private dinner at the hotel, accompanied by delicious TaxJar cake. By the way, the company got us the coolest, most thoughtful gift you can give a remote employee, but you’ll have to follow TaxJar on Instagram to see it!
After dinner we also played Oregon Trail, Pig Party and Catch Phrase. During Catch Phrase we learned that Lizzy likes to go “craft dancing,” Jason thinks there is such a thing as “wedding bonnets,” and for some reason, people had a hard time guessing “cordless mouse” from my calf roping pantomime movement. (Nevermind that this was Catch Phrase and I was supposed to use my words. Oops.)
Thursday – Collaboration
On Thursday, we got together as a team to set goals and make plans for our future. We work great remotely, but it was awesome to have this time to chat and exchange ideas in the same room with the team. And I’ll say no more about that for now!
By Thursday evening some team members were heading out, which only meant the end was near. That night we went to dinner at the Odd Duck, and again I had some awesome dishes this picky eater never would have tried otherwise.
One last surprise was revealed… and we were headed to the Highball for karaoke! Let’s just say the Grammy’s that upcoming weekend had nothing on us. Jonathan won the night with his heartfelt rendition of “My Humps,” and Justin closed the night (and JarFest) down right with his outro solo of Closing Time. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”
On Friday we all jumped back into our planes and headed home, and I took with me one of my greatest memories with our team. Thank you, guys. Until next JarFest!