PAWCon 2023: A New Direction

  • News & Culture

If you’ve been following Plank for a while, there is a good chance that you have heard us use the term “PAW” before. For those who aren’t in the know, PAW refers to our annual employee appreciation event, otherwise known as Plank Appreciation Week. It’s something we take very seriously around here. In fact, we’re pretty proud of it!

Over the years, PAW has transformed massively, from a one-day observance to a week-long celebration of our team. As we approach our 25th anniversary, we wanted to introduce a new iteration of the event. One that inspired us and that reflected on our team’s hard work as well as looked to the future of the company.

This year, instead of spreading out our activities over a full week, we hosted two full off-site days with immersive workshops and discussions in a rented space at the beautiful La Piscine.

Of course, we needed a stellar core planning team to achieve this. Kayla, Annika, Veronique, Luke, Galit, Stephanie, and Steve worked extremely hard over the course of eight weeks to bring this vision to life. With the help of other team members along the way, they planned, organized, and executed two incredibly successful days.

In only two days, it is safe to say that we got a lot accomplished!

Promoting Learning and Growth Opportunities

When it came to developing our event schedule, we sought out opportunities to learn something new as well as to discover ways that we can improve as a team and as individuals. We wanted to look to the future of Plank and determine how we can grow as a company as well as what we can do to help each other work better along the way.

Employee-Led Workshops

Those who were interested in participating were encouraged to take part leading workshops and presenting ideas to the rest of the team. The results were pretty amazing. Our Lightning Talks allowed five team members to take the floor and speak on a topic of their choosing, whatever that may be. From manifesting to content strategy and even how to spot a tarp, these talks allowed everyone to hear from their peers and learn something new.

Some of our team members even pitched in to lead workshops. These seminars provided opportunities for us to collaborate, brainstorm, and discuss topics that pertain to the way that we work. In both small and large group settings, the team looked at our current approach and came up with inspiring ideas that we can apply to our strategy moving forward.

Speakers and Presentations

In addition to the above mentioned workshops and presentations, we dove into fascinating subjects with the help of some incredible speakers. Our founder, Warren Wilansky, provided a glimpse into the future of Plank and outlined the goals we want to achieve as a company. Plank’s VP, Steve Bissonnette, also stepped up to lead an important discussion on security concerns posed by the work we do as an organization.

But the fun didn’t stop there! We were lucky enough to be visited by Allen Mendelsohn, a Montréal-based lawyer specializing in Internet law. He spoke to the team about September 22, 2023, or the day that privacy law changed forever. In his presentation, Allen discussed Quebec’s Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, and broke down all the legal jargon in a much more digestible — and entertaining — way.

Fostering Community and Team Bonding

One of the most important pillars of PAW is showing appreciation for each employee and bonding as a team away from the typical structure of the office work day. While socializing and bonding is natural (we’re pretty fond of each other around here!), we also wanted to devise specific activities that encouraged appreciation and empathy throughout the two-day event.

In our Building Bridges workshop, Kayla and Megan hosted a fantastic Lego Serious Play activity. The assignment? To create a Barbie dreamhouse for our “client” — A.K.A. our Strategy Coordinator, Felicia, who joined us remotely from Ontario. Not only did this promote creative thinking and problem solving, but it also encouraged the team to collaborate and identify with other roles than their own. Not to mention, it was a blast — or as Ken would say, it was “sublime”.

Back by popular demand, Paisley and Stephanie joined forces to host the team-favourite game, “What Is… Jeopardy!” The two gathered lesser known facts about the team and used the structure of the popular TV game show to involve everyone in a bit of friendly competition. It’s always a good time trying to guess which fact matches up to each team member. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about everyone.

When it comes to PAW, bringing together the team to celebrate and learn is always the most important aspect. Since Plank’s team is spread out across Canada, not everyone was able to physically meet in the same room. That’s why it was important to us that we considered how we could apply a hybrid model when crafting our event schedule. By extending our remote-first approach beyond the way we organize our work day to reach our internal event strategy, we were able to include employees virtually in meaningful ways.

A Special 25th Anniversary Celebration

In honour of our 25th anniversary, we wanted to do something extra special to commemorate PAWCon 2023. We considered our recent rebranding and website redesign and took our creativity another step further. Using our new Plank logo, designed by the talented Ray Dak Lam, as inspiration, we reached out to six artists in our network and asked them to infuse their personal artistic flair by re-interpreting our logo. The results? Absolutely awe-inspiring!

Want to learn more about this process? You can see the artist logo variations in action here.

Thank You!

PAW would not have been a success without the people who worked tirelessly to make it happen. We would like to thank the following people who contributed greatly to the planning, organization, and execution of our event.

Our core PAWCon planning committee — Kayla, Annika, Veronique, Luke, Galit, Stephanie, and Steve — who put in a ton of work to make it special for everyone.

Allen Mendelsohn for his fascinating talk on privacy law in Quebec.

Louis-Félix Binette who provided advice and guidance for Lego Serious Play and generously lent us two of his Lego sets for the Building Bridges workshop.

Tom Gauthier and Raphaëlle Bonin from the La Piscine team who assisted us in hosting our event in their beautiful rental space.

Andrée-Anne Guy for using her impeccable photography skills to capture beautiful memories of the team.

Brigitte Bissonnette for kindly allowing us to borrow her Polaroid camera.

Finally, the entire Plank team for taking part in a wonderful two days and for being a positive force the other 363 days out of the year!