The Goddess Retreats

The Minerva team stands, sits on couches and chairs, engaging in thoughtful conversation

Last month, Minerva Strategies had our first in-person retreat since the pandemic started. It was also our first in-person meeting since we’ve grown from a three-, sometimes four-person team to seven people strong. We spent several days and evenings together laughing, working, and being in the same Zoom box for client calls. It was great.  

Post retreat, I asked the team to reflect on their experiences and get back to me with five things that they’re taking away from the experience. I received a range of responses, but many of them fell into the following themes: 

Minerva has officially reached young adulthood 

Joy often describes working solo at her dining room table as Minerva’s infancy. Throughout the years, we’ve lovingly referred to Minerva’s growth trajectory as becoming a toddler and then an awkward adolescent. We did great work as a smaller team: growing, learning, and flying by the seat of our pants.  

 Now we are a much more well-rounded team of mature professionals. We have experience; we know what works and what doesn’t. We think about values, policies, company culture, virtual teamwork, and how to create consistently extraordinary client experiences. This is next level: Minerva 2.0! Now we do great work with everyone contributing and moving us forward. That feels—and is—excellent. 

Connections can happen over Zoom 

It turns out you actually can get to know people over Teams and Zoom. I was nervous that I was going to feel awkward meeting people with whom I have close collegial relationships but had never, or only briefly, met in person.  

The Minerva team poses for a selfie surrounded by boats in the harbor of Elliot Bay
Post Minerva boat ride through Elliot Bay, Seattle

It turns out this was a shared concern, so it was a wonderful relief to all that we meshed well together and had a great time. A few people attributed this, at least in part, to being intentional about connecting through computer screens with our daily check-ins and extended Friday meetings. Looking forward, it is clear that a supportive, empathetic work culture is something all Minerva teammates will continue to prioritize.  

Tribulations – and trials – of being IRL 

We all loved the somewhat surreal experience of meeting the familiar faces that we had previously only seen on our computer screens. It was almost like meeting celebrities in real life. Especially because everyone was so excited to be wearing “real clothes” and dressed to impress.   

A recent Atlantic article described the concept of “soft work” as the aspects of work that have been lost during COVID. Mainly the small, everyday interactions that build relationships. Minerva’s retreat reinforced how important this is. It was such a joy to just lean over and say “What do you think of this copy?” or “I love your nail color” or “Let’s all go in the corner and figure out what we’re going to say on this client call.” We do a lot more than most thought possible over Teams/Zoom, but it’s not the same. 

We also found that in-person work is energizing, until it’s not. My social muscles were worked to the max after being dormant for the last year-and-a-half. I haven’t been in a room with six other people for more than an hour in a long time, let alone professionally and socially engaging with people for three full days.  

To borrow Luke’s words: “I was socialed-out by the end of the week.” Many of my colleagues reported feeling the same.  

We are committed to our purpose and how we work toward it
One session at the retreat consisted of the Minerva team splitting up into three groups to brainstorm principles that will formalize how we work together and how we want our company culture to evolve. While each group phrased their principles differently, we were aligned on many things we see as strengths and things we want to continue to develop. 

 We all feel grateful to be working at a company with clients who are making the world a better place. It is a privilege to be supporting such incredible people and efforts. Many of us expressed a post-retreat desire to see Minerva grow so that we can support as many clients as possible—while also prioritizing self-care and quality of life.  

 

Our team is the best  

I don’t feel like this needs much explanation. We are supportive, committed, and entertaining folks. 

The Minerva team smiles while sitting and watching the Mariners game
Minerva cheering on the Seattle Mariners on the last day of retreat

Teamwork makes the dream work
We’ve hired incredible humans—our team and our partners. We could have easily filled two retreat days with group conversations facilitated by members of the Minerva team. It would have been a solid, productive use of our time.  

 But conversations were greatly enriched by bringing in the expertise of our partners and friends at CoCreate Work, LTHJ Global, and Shift. These smart partners know how to bring out the best in people and organizations; they know how to push and pull to stretch our thinking. There is no way we would have made as much progress on defining our values, advancing DEIA strategy, and rethinking our client relationships without these folks involved. Huge thanks to them! 

The Minerva team smiles in face masks with LaKita from CoCreate Work. The team stands in front of a multicolored blue background, and Kayla waves both hands in the air
Minerva team celebrating Day 2 of retreat with LaKita

I’ll close with a reflection from our fearless intern Myles, who met all of us for the first time during one of his very first weeks as Minerva’s fall intern. He was able to hang with all of us, often quietly taking in the scene and, when asked a question, would respond with an insightful and often downright hilarious gem.  

The last thing Myles noted he’ll be taking away from Minerva Strategies’ retreat: Goddesses do exist.  

About The Author

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp

Vice President

Sara lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and is Minerva's vice president. She takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges. Learn more about Sara.