One of the core values at MailChimp is creativity, so it’s safe to say I work with a lot of talented humans. When I heard my coworkers Meg and Jane talking about hosting a lettering and calligraphy class in the marketing studio, I jumped at the chance to turn their after-hours art party into an experimental—and very successful—employee engagement series we call Night School.
We launched Night School in January of 2016 with two classes and one simple premise: give MailChimp employees an opportunity to teach each other how to do awesome stuff. The first one was Meg and Jane’s Lettering and Calligraphy class, and it was a foreshadowing of sorts to Meg launching Freddie and Co., which would lead to her handwriting getting turned into a font. (!!!) The gals picked up a couple of beers, I ordered some pizza, and 14 people crowded around a table to learn from their fellow coworkers and to write their names—plus, the name of our mascot—in fancy handwriting.
For the second class, I called in a favor from Matthew, our head of deliverability. I knew he spent some time with our friends over at Dad’s Garage, a local improv theatre company, and I thought it’d be fun to bring that experience to MailChimp. Matthew’s Intro to Improv class covered the fundamentals of improv, and gave his fellow Chimps the opportunity to be silly, have some fun, and practice "Yes, and…"
The 2 classes were a hit! Participants had the opportunity to experience new things, and, because the classes gave people from different departments the chance to meet and interact with each other, our quickly growing company started to feel a little cozier.
Life is like a box of chocolates
After launching Night School, we created a Wufoo form to give people the chance to sign up to teach a class of their own. Every time I read through the list of topics that people signed up to teach, I was reminded of my favorite movie, Forrest Gump—I was never sure what I was gonna get! I learned that Tiffany from our overnight support team owns her own organic nail polish business, so she taught a class that taught other Chimps how to make their own polish. Alex from our development team once worked for the circus, and taught a class on juggling. And Alejandra, a front end developer, taught fellow employees the art of sous vide by cooking them a meal.
My ultimate goal for Night School came full circle when Pamela, a software engineer manager, approached me with the idea of the product team hosting a series of product-related classes. I loved the idea that MailChimp employees would want to take the time to teach coworkers a specific skill that could help with their advancement. So, with the help of a few TAs, members of our product team taught classes like So, you think you can code?, Intro to Ruby, Intro to HTML & CSS, Email Development, Git for Humans, and Relational Database Management System.
After 29 sessions of Night School in 2016, it’s more obvious to me than ever that MailChimp is made up of smart, talented, weird, creative, interesting, giving, and generous individuals. I can’t wait to see what strange and wonderful stuff we’ll come up with in 2017!