Retreat Reflections from Team Minerva

Minerva team members pose for a selfie.

Being a fully remote team has its upsides—diverse geographical perspectives, the ability to work within clients’ time zones, and festive virtual backgrounds. But while a remote lifestyle has worked well for our growing team, we cherish the opportunities where we can be together in real life.

In mid-October, the team flew from our respective work homes to Seattle for our semi-annual Minerva retreat. We learned from an expert problem solver, met with a champion of equity and belonging, and imagined the future of Minerva together, among other topics. We also toasted Minerva Strategies’ 10th anniversary with friends and family at Métier Brewing Company Taproom!

Here are the top takeaways and learnings from the Minerva team (miss you all already): 

Two Minerva Strategies team members are giving each other fake tattoos.
Sara giving Kayla her very own Minerva Strategies temporary tattoo!

SaraMy main takeaway from the retreat was an overwhelming sense of gratitude for Minerva’s people. This means, of course, our team; it is always wonderful to spend time with these humans outside of our Zoom/Teams squares and dive deep into client and life topics. I am also grateful for all the people in our orbit—from partners and clients to Minerva fans. We work with and collaborate with incredible people. I love this because it shows we live by the principle of Be Magnetic. Minerva’s unique personality pulls in people who are committed to social justice but also understand that if we sacrifice our joy in this struggle, we’re lost. We pull in people who know when and how to have fun.

KatiMy top takeaway from the Minerva fall retreat was the importance of having a team that values your presence, opinions, and reality. In a capitalistic society, we are defined by our productivity, so it is refreshing to be fully seen as a human rather than a working machine. The Minerva team creates a space where people can be their authentic selves without having unrealistic expectations placed upon them. Everyone is cherished how they arrive, and it is refreshing to see how the traditional work environment is being replaced with one that centers one’s humanity and growth.

The Minerva Strategies team posing for a picture at Métier Brewing. Standing from left to right: Kati, Minerva's fall Intern, Joy, Minerva's President, Sara, Minerva's VP, Elise, Minerva senior associate, Gaby, Minerva senior associate, and Kayla, Minerva senior associate.
The team at Métier Brewery Company Taproom. Left to right: Kati, Joy, Sara, Elise, Gaby, and Kayla.

JoyOne outstanding takeaway is that it’s necessary to take a step back from our everyday grind and think together about Minerva’s values, partnerships, services, and what we want to be when this 10-year-old company grows up. A decade ago, when the idea of Minerva was born, that thinking process was lonely and not terribly…thoughtful. It was just me, alone, motivated, and slightly panicked, trying to make the spark of a business idea work. But thinking alongside other people with smart perspectives and different experiences is so much more rewarding; our collective ideas are much better than those of a lone-wolf communications practitioner stalked by the tyranny of the immediate. (How do I find clients? Or an accountant? Or a laptop?) A decade ago, the idea of strategic planning for Minerva riddled me with anxiety, but today it’s fun and exhilarating to consider the possibilities for our burgeoning company. I have my colleagues to thank for that evolution. Now, like most 10-year-olds, Minerva can grow up to be anything we want to be.

EliseThis retreat taught me the importance of building the world we want to live in. Our 10-year anniversary party brought together our clients, partners, and friends. Many of these individuals have met each other before. Others met for the first time. This convening of like-minded folks made for an exceptional experience. It was refreshing to speak to people who had experienced Minerva Strategies at different stages of its journey. It also excites me to see who else Minerva will meet in the next 10 years!

Sara and Gaby waiting for the guests to arrive. Gaby is wearing a mask.
Sara and Gaby waiting for Minerva friends and family to arrive to the 10th anniversary celebration.

GabyWe have to expand our “take time for yourself” to include taking time for our collective cohesion. Those moments of bonding, like sharing our comfort movie or the worst advice we’ve ever received, help us connect and build empathy for the history that has brought us all together. Valuing time to pause together will only improve how we work together.

Also, the best part of working in a small organization is having the power to influence its structures and systems. Imagining Minerva in 10 years was an excellent exercise in radical imagination. What could we look like if we imagined a time where we only agreed to communications projects that brought us joy? What would our team look like if we had regional offices? What if we took on more facilitation projects? What kind of work could we accomplish for our clients if we had an associate on every client and more directors to distribute clients among? That process was empowering.

Dori—Our team was honored to hold space for Rozella “Rozie” Kennedy, the director of Impact and Equity at Camber Collective, to speak at the Minerva Retreat. Rozie shared her journey to Camber, where they are committed to fostering an organizational culture of equity and belonging. She challenged our team to think about DEI in a broader and more emotion-centric way with the concept of belonging. Rozie’s message aligns with Minerva Strategies’ values, where we care about the whole individual, but it also gave us an opportunity to think about  additional ways to foster belonging in our small but growing team. By encouraging each other to show up in the fullness of our identities—we create a space where people feel safe, treasured, and valuable in their day-to-day work experiences.

KaylaI really appreciated Chloe Anderson’s training on problem solving. It served as a timely reminder that when we focus on what’s going wrong, it distracts us from our path forward in finding and trying out solutions. I’ve been thinking about how this applies to many of the big problems that our country is facing and I plan to bring a solutions-focused attitude to tough conversations professionally and personally.

Special thanks to our retreat guest speakers (those experts and champions I mentioned above) — Chloe Anderson with CoCreate Work, and Rozella “Rozie” Kennedy with Camber Collective and Brave Sis. And to Rodney Hine and his amazing team at Métier Brewing for loaning us the perfect space to party.

The Minerva Strategies team from left to right: Elise, Joy, Gaby, Sara, Kati and Kayla, posing in front of the newly built Seattle Girls' school. Greenery is visible in the background.
We got to visit Seattle Girls’ School’s new campus! From left to right: Elise, Joy, Gaby, Sara, Kati, Kayla.

About The Author

Kayla McMenamin

Kayla McMenamin

Kayla has a strong affection for storytelling and an aptitude for translating complex topics into sharp messaging. While her career began more than a decade ago in strategic communications, an insatiable interest in everything health inspired her to return to school to study disparities research and behavior theory. Learn more about Kayla.