I joined Syllable almost a year ago, in mid-2020 during the pandemic. I was excited to join the team after working with Syllable as an IT innovation project lead at a health system, and eager to get to know my new colleagues even better.
Prior to the pandemic, Syllable had a weekly virtual lunch for employees based outside of our California headquarters. This has since evolved into a virtual company wide event, the “Syllable Water Cooler.” Like a real water cooler, teammates can stop by for a quick chat or stay the entire time. It’s become a forum for our team to talk about anything and everything. Curious to know what “anything and everything” means? Read on to learn some of my favorite things about the Syllable water cooler!
1. Trusted recommendations
In a world of endless options, it’s helpful to have highly trusted recommendations for everything from the best type of desk or desk chair for working remotely to favorite mochi donut shops across the country. For mochi donuts, our team favors Mochill in SF, the Mochinut chain, and Alimama in NYC 🍩
2. Inspiration for meals
Don’t know what to eat for lunch or plan for dinner? The Syllable team loves to talk about food. If you prefer grabbing a delicious sandwich to go, one of our engineers, Alex M, loves the chicken club sandwich from Boudin in SF and turkey club sandwich from Whole Foods.
Occasionally we’ll even cook for each other! 🍪 Our teammate Dan graciously sent cookies to those who were interested during the holiday season. He used this recipe with modifications to sugar: 40% light brown, 40% dark brown, and 20% white sugar. Pro tips from Dan: the key to a great cookie is good, high-fat butter such as Kerrygold. He also recommends that you avoid chocolate that is too sweet, mix all purpose flour with cake flour, and adjust baking time as needed with different oven types.
We also have a “Delicious Food” chat room where we post photos and recipes. It has been especially helpful since dining out has not been as much of an option in the last year.
3. Cool science lessons
One of our co-founders, Andrew, bought a “Grow your own mushroom” kit! I can’t believe there are about 14,000 species of mushrooms. Did you know that mushrooms have mycelium with mass branches through their roots that link trees through the ecosystem? That is how a tree can tell that another tree is sick and ensure it doesn’t get sick too - nature works in incredible ways!
Andrew ended up cooking and eating the mushrooms he grew. All paths lead back to food at Syllable ;-)
4. Strength in diversity
Let the nostalgia commence! The age diversity at the company has led to conversations on everything from 80’s music to 90’s toys to TikTok hacks nowadays. We had many throwback discussions about the scary troll dolls, Furby’s, Tamagotchi’s and learned all about their modern counterparts (yes, they still exist).
5. Endless travel recommendations
The company as a whole is very well-traveled and it is easy to find recommendations. One of our consultants recently mentioned she was going to Kauai for a hiking trip, and our Chief Medical Officer Adam recommended Koke’e Lodge for the amazing cornbread (food again!) post-hike. Once international travel is safe again, I’m excited to crowd-source a list of spots for my next trip!
6. Fun staycation ideas
Stefanie, a senior product designer on our team, started having “international staycations” with her husband by selecting a country (e.g., Japan, Georgia) and immersing themselves in its culture for a couple of days through movies, cooking, and “people watching” or “walking around” via YouTube. I thought that was such a fun and unique way to get to know a different culture and learn about a country during a time when travel is mostly off limits.
7. Diving into the YouTube rabbit hole together
Syllable water cooler conversations regularly lead members of our team down rabbit holes on interesting topics such as car detailing, life of bacteria, hydroponic fruits, etc. Did you know the largest hydroponic mangos grown in Japan weigh around 1.5 pounds, cost $70, and are 15 times sweeter than regular mangos? How did we learn about all this before YouTube?!
8. Pet stories and photos
We love our pets! Many people fostered or adopted animals from shelters and rescues while we worked from home. A couple of our team members also moved with their pet. Adam survived a cross-country move with a dog and cat in the car; talk about impressive (not without struggles though - he recommended a strong sedative for road trips with cats)!
9. Our love of numbers shines through
Many of our teammates are data-driven in their personal lives in addition to their work. As an example, we once spent a virtual water cooler brainstorming what categories of things we could name 500 of. Our co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Kobus can name 500 unique car models!
10. Human resilience with adversity
The final and most heartwarming thing I’ve learned is how we face adversity together as a team. We as humans crave personal connection whether we are extroverted or introverted. As the pandemic continues to challenge us, we have fought gallantly to keep things feeling “normal,” and we will continue doing so. Why not? We spend so much of our time at work that not only should the work be enjoyable, but it’s such a fantastic feeling being able to get to know and understand your colleagues.
Everyone has so much going on in their life, and I’ve never been happier knowing that leadership, managers, and coworkers all care about each other’s well-being despite some people never having met anywhere except virtually in a Zoom meeting. Regardless of the distance between us, we’re all connected and that fundamentally won’t change as we continue to grow even more. I’m so proud of the ways we’ve come together and to be a part of the team!