This is the true story of 10 co-workers, picked to go to Orlando, work together, and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real

We’re not reality stars, but the rest really happened during the SECOM Team Building and Treetop Retreat. Last week, the crew of Social-Engineer attended our second annual corporate retreat in Orlando, FL. While the rest of the world was going about their business, we descended on the resort town from all corners of the US with the purpose of getting off our phones and laptops to spend some time together learning, bonding, and growing.

Thursday: The logistical juggling act – 18 adults, 8 kids, and 1 gigantic dog

Imagine getting 10 staff members, spouses, and families into town from as far away as Hawaii, checked into hotels, and over to Chris’ Orlando abode.

SECOM Team Building and Treetop Retreat

That night was a first in-person meeting for some of our folks and families. The motion to promote Amaya’s dog, Dakota, to team mascot was unanimously approved. Bryan’s baby was passed around like a football. Dinner was Thai food, family-style. By the way, Chris cooks a mean Thai curry.


SECOM Team Building and Treetop Retreat – Friday: We believe we can flyyyyyy…

We really wanted a physical activity that encouraged us to improve our team-building skills. When Chris and Michele were discussing a suspended ropes course, the question that came back was, should we go half or full day? “Chris,” said Michele, “we are computer nerds who, at most, move to the kitchen and back from our offices. Let’s do a half day.” Turns out, she was right.

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The activity itself was great. Orlando Tree Trek is a series of ropes and obstacles suspended up to 40 feet in the trees, requiring physical skill and teamwork to successfully navigate each challenge. To make things interesting, our facilitator made us use blindfolds and rely on the verbal directions of a teammate. Mysteriously, ALL of Kaz’s partners took falls when no one else was around. Strange, right?


Thankfully we were relatively light on serious injuries, but at the end of 4 hours, we were all ready for air conditioning and ice cream. We returned to Chris’ and recorded what will likely be a great podcast with the whole team, discussing how to become a professional SE. Look for that in February.



As the day had been physically taxing, we did a carb load at an Italian restaurant with spouses and families. Fun fact: Dan is a child magnet. While at the restaurant, a strange child attached herself quite firmly to Dan and would not be shooed away. Her mother had to come peel her off. Twice.


Saturday – Amy Herman and The Art of Perception

Amy had been a guest on the SEORG podcast a while back, and we liked both her and her content so well that we decided to bring her down to give us a workshop on improving both our observational skills and ability to communicate effectively. By using works of art as the medium in which we honed our skills, it took most of us out of our comfort zones and really kept us focused on the activities; “What do you see?” “What do you NOT see?” “What assumptions are you making?” “How do you communicate this to someone who can’t see your picture?”

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I think we all walked away from that day thinking differently about our work and how we interact with others. A good indicator of the quality of a course and the instructor is when students are chatting excitedly about how to apply what they learned, and there was quite a bit of that going on. We highly recommend this course.

To top off a day that filled our brains to capacity, our last night together was at a company favorite, Fogo de Chão where, if you don’t get the meat sweats after dinner, you’ve done it wrong. Amaya can also attest to the quality of the Shirley Temple there – they bring YOU the cherry syrup and it’s your responsibility to mix it into the bubbly at a concentration that’s pleasing to you.


After dinner, we said our goodbyes until DEF CON, with some folks going back to Chris’ for whiskey tasting while others packed for red-eye flights home.

What did we learn?

Well, we’re not the most physically coordinated bunch out there. But we come from a vast array of backgrounds and bring to the table different skills, talents, knowledge, and experience. We learned that one of our weaknesses might be a teammate’s superpower and the importance of recognizing this and knowing when/how to ask for help (maybe BEFORE you’ve fallen off an obstacle, Colin!). We learned that, in a world of tech and gizmos that attract the eye, looking at a piece of classic art can be the thing to help you see what you haven’t seen before. Finally, we confirmed that, as a team, we are far greater than the sum of our parts.

Now you have a little glimpse into the world that is Social-Engineer. Thanks for being a part of us and stay safe. Until next time.