An end-of-year party to rule them all

I was looking outside the window of our 6-person helicopter, trying to rationalize what was going on. Indeed, why was I in a helicopter, skimming the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge? And why was it that earlier in day, I was defending the merits of a favorite pop-philosopher, while incongruously sitting on the warm leatherette of a stretch Hummer limousine? I focused my attention on the harbor beneath, picking boats, a lone cyclist on North Head. Apparently this was the Campaign Monitor end-of-year party, but it could just as well have been a commercial for a men’s fragrance.

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In all honesty, we had some idea of what was coming. There was tense anticipation late in 2009 as to what the end-of-year party would bring. Speculation became an office game, with every activity from bowling (seriously) to game hunting (not so seriously) being proposed. Someone was honestly convinced we were going to the beach. However, just days prior to the proposed date, we were called together. After what had been a challenging, yet intensely gratifying year, our celebration was to be pushed back due to the bushfires that were razing the suburbs north of Sydney. All the helicopters required to transport us to the venue were tied up in the fire-fighting effort. We were collectively stunned. Helicopters? Somewhere, a pin dropped.

Dave, Ben and Karen keep an excellent secret. The game may have been up, but it wasn’t until we were queued to get into the stretch Hummer that we realized the scope of this operation. I knew I was out of Kansas once I stepped into this cocktail lounge on wheels and was near-blinded by the frantic, in-car laser show.

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It wasn’t until we reached the heliport that the notion of flying off somewhere started to appear feasible. Seemingly as an example as to how this thing is done, a news chopper deftly touched down in front of us. We excitedly downed a glass of sparkly Dutch courage and were ready to go.

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After a scenic ride tracking east over the iconic Sydney harbor, then north along the coast, we touched down at the Bimbadgen Estate winery. Apart from a rather brief visit for plonk at an off-highway cellar door, I had never visited a vineyard before, let alone sat down for wine tasting. For most individuals, lessons in wine appreciation start and end with college house-parties. Here, they are imbued with the names of French towns and a jargon-fuelled sense of elevation.

A generous selection of ‘signature’ this and ‘distinguished’ that was followed by a meal at the nearby Peppertree vineyard. Sure, our free catered lunches at Campaign Monitor may be a cut above your average cafeteria fare, but the food was truly exemplary. From the rockmelon delicately wrapped in prosciutto, to the final triangle of soft cheese, we were ecstatic. The day was only half-out, but as full as it could be.

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It was near-impossible to keep our eyes open after a three-course lunch with accompanying wines. Thankfully, after being driven to a neighboring vineyard, we had a moment to lie on an inviting expanse of grass and nurse our feelings of excess.

The respite was short-lived. We were back on our feet again for another wine tasting, this time at the Tower Estate. Again, glasses were handed around and we were laden with a selection of wines, including a series of full-bodied, near-opaque reds. For most of us, the cup had runneth over, so we turned our focus to the art of spitting our wines, like venom from desert snakes.

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A short stay in the cool room provided escape from the Australian Summer heat. We lingered here for a moment, not wanting to move much while digesting wines-stacked-on-lunch-stacked-on-wines, in this mellow, oak-smelling air. This was as close as commercial wine production gets to what you see in the movies.

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It was time to follow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lead and “Get to the chopper”. So we bade the Hunter Valley a wan farewell and bundled ourselves back into our aircraft. Days like this are never long enough.

Like a mirage amongst clouds, Sydney soon came back into view. I’ve flown over our iconic harbor countless times, but never lost sight of how complex our city is. It’s an intersection of ideas, from what could be considered to be Danish adventurism in the form of the Opera House, to the Harbour Bridge’s Depression-era engineering, seated heavily amongst the colonial sandstone of The Rocks’ district. It’s no wonder that we’re perennially entangled in cultural debate – flying over Sydney is a rich reminder that we don’t suffer from a lack of culture, but an abundance of every influence imaginable.

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It wasn’t until our wrap-up dinner that these experiences came into relief. My partner (who had travelled in on the train) asked me how my day had been. I stared at him incongruously. How do you summarize a full day of wine tasting and generally tackling all sorts of uncommon excess? What words can describe being the person in the helicopter, instead of someone looking up? “Good”, I responded, with the nonchalant understatement saved for epic sports matches and big nights out, “Yeah, we had a great time.” At Campaign Monitor, it was business as usual.

You can view the entire end-of-year photo set on Flickr.

Want to join in on the fun? Developing awesome software isn’t all hard work and no play - if you think you’ve got what it takes to join our top-notch team, come work for us!

Posted by Ros Hodgekiss

24 Comments

  • Matthew Magain
    12th January

    Great write-up Ros. Sounds like quite the day!

    Love the tilt-shift snaps from the chopper too.

  • joey
    12th January

    where can i sign up =(

  • Remy
    12th January

    I’m with joey on the signup thing!

    Oh yeah, special kudos to the photographer: some nice images, especially the tilt/shift shots of the heliport and Sydney Harbour :)

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    12th January

    Thanks, folks! It certainly was an unforgettable day. Photo credits go to Ben, James,  Trish, Jarrod and myself. Ben and James did the incredible tilt-shift snaps - their other pics that didn’t make the post are stunning, too!

    Take a look at the link above if you’re curious about at the roles on offer at Campaign Monitor. Don’t know how we’re going to beat this end-of-year party, though…!

  • Al
    15th January

    Another thought for 2010 end of year party that might just give the Hummer, Hunter Valley and Sydney harbour a shake up . How about a spot of pig shooting with the flies and red dust out west, maybe out around Cobar. Here it’s great out there that time of year.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    15th January

    Cobar wouldn’t know what hittem’ , Al!

  • Mark
    22nd January

    You might want to think about your bragging over how great a party you can throw when the rest of us are still struggling to keep our heads above water.  It makes me wonder if our money is spent wisely with CampaignMonitor rather than with one of your competitors.

  • meks
    22nd January

    I hear the folks at iContact all sit on plastic buckets and share the same computer. Lighten up Mark.

  • Unimpressed
    22nd January

    I completely agree with Mark’s comments! I was put off by the “envy us” email, the over-the-top spending in the middle of such a recession (and so many individuals and organizations are shuttering/losing homes), the wastefulness… the HUMMER limo…the helicopter fuel… geez, not very eco-conscious!

    This tone set by Campaign Monitor makes me wonder if money is being responsibly spent wisely with the company. I want to give my money to companies that put more emphasis on the good they do in the world, not how much they consumed in a day. I believe the company could display its pride, positive team, its success - without being ostentatious.

  • Designer In SF
    22nd January

    I agree with Mark and Unimpressed. Stretch hummer? Helicopters? “envy us” Ew, yukky. Doesn’t make me like you very much. Hmm, should I use campaign monitor - or maybe the other guys who are less full of themselves?

  • Mathew Patterson
    22nd January

    I’d like to just say that we certainly were not intending to insult anybody - the Campaign Monitor team works really hard all year, and the company founders surprised us all with a great Christmas party.

    Part of the reason for mentioning it is to let people know that we look after our team, and that Campaign Monitor is a great place to work. We’re currently looking for a couple of other team members, and this kind of post is a great way to show what it is like to work with us.

    We do understand that the situation is not great for everyone, but on the other hand, we’re paying out tons of money back to web designers every month through markup profits and helping them grow their businesses too.

    I hope you can take the post in the spirit it was intended, just a way for our team to say “hey, I work at a really cool place”.

  • Hamish
    22nd January

    It’s probably best that your newsletters feature content exclusively about email marketing (related to your business), and not about how much you love to party.
    No disrespect - I think you guys do a great job and offer an excellent service. It’s just my 2 cents worth on the matter.

  • Catherine G
    22nd January

    The non-stop information, tips, advice, and support that Campaign Monitor gives back to their community is what stands out in my mind, and yes, it does seem like a great place to work. Party on and keep the great content coming our way.

  • Talton Figgins
    22nd January

    It looks like you guys had a lot of fun.  Don’t worry about the haters above.  You guys make a good product and if you need to relieve some stress to make it better then so be it.  Keep up the great work!

  • Gregg Oldring
    22nd January

    You’re partying like it’s 1999. The only difference is that you’re spending money you’ve earned!

    Nice!!

    P.S. It was -43 the night of our Christmas Party. The coldest day in years.
    http://www.climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climateData/hourlydata_e.html?Prov=XX&timeframe=1&StationID=1865&Month=12&Day=12&Year=2009&cmdB1=Go

  • Tai Lee
    22nd January

    I wonder if Mark, Unimpressed and Designer in SF would be happier if the Campaign Monitor crew worked out of an <strike>office</strike> dungeon with no windows, 1.5 square metre cubicles and 5 year old hand-me-down computers so that they could pass even more money back to ungrateful customers?

    Maintaining staff morale is part of any business. Employees stick around and do better work when they enjoy their job. This benefits everyone. Campaign Monitor isn’t not-for-profit, so quit hating and if you work hard instead of complaining maybe one day you’ll work at (or own and run) a great business that can afford to treat its employees as well as its customers, too.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    22nd January

    Hi folks, this is Ros here. I penned the blog post and the newsletter, so I take full responsibility for any perceived disrespect towards our fine readers, customers and Earth.

    The blog post was intended as a ‘high-five’ amongst staff and friends of Campaign Monitor, which in retrospect, perhaps didn’t make it an appropriate addition to our monthly mail-out. It was also aimed towards getting folks to take a look at the roles available here. The bottom line is that all companies value true grit and hard work. Campaign Monitor rewards its staff for this commitment in truly memorable ways.

    I’m not at all ashamed of the fact that this is the best team and the most awesome customer community I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Our ability to have a great time meets our passion for beautiful code, elegant design and positive experiences. However, we will be more mindful of how this is portrayed in the future and hope our distinctly Australian humour causes no further discontent. Thank you always for your love and support.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    22nd January

    Gregg - Partying in Alberta? -43 degrees? You folks are Hard Core. If you came down to Sydney, you would totally take us to school.

    It’s 32 degrees right now. If anyone pipes up about the heat, I’ll tell them about your party.

  • Laura
    22nd January

    Gosh, there always has to be a few ‘downers’ to ruin a perfectly acceptable story. Thanks Mark, Unimpressed and Designer in SF.

    Campaign Monitor Team - Great Party! You deserve it!

    Ros, great story. A pleasure to read. Don’t let a few negative nancy’s ruin it for the rest of us who enjoyed.

  • Catherine Connell
    22nd January

    I think it’s great that you had an awesome Xmas Party and as a prospective customer it looks like you treat your staff really well - you are also obviously making money and successful - which is a big draw card to me!  Good on you!

  • Al
    23rd January

    Ros, I hope my comment “you should come out to Cobar for 2010” didn’t start the neg comments that followed, certainly wasnt my intention.  Wish I had the skills to do more than check email and surf the web I’d be lining up for a job with you guys. Well done,  there is nothing wrong at all with celebrating a good year and sharing that with others. I was impressed with the end of year party write up and think it must be great to work for a company that know how to share the joy with their staff.
    And in all honesty I’ve been there, Cobar wouldnt really make the cut for 2010.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    25th January

    Haha, Al, it certainly wasn’t anyone’s fault, let alone yours! :) Our newsletter reader base is more diverse than our blog subscribers, so whenever we send out our monthly newsletter, we anticipate the gamut of comments and opinions to flow in. I should blog about that sometime.

    Country NSW rocks. Keep up the positive attitude and thanks again!

  • Mark
    30th January

    I do not begrudge anyone having a great end of year party.  I love to party also and it looked like a great time.  My comments are based more on the timing of the event in relation to world events.  Our end of year party was a pot-luck for the first time in company history.  There are times when you can be proud of the ability to spend a lot of money on a party and there are tims when you should keep it to yourselves.  We all need to be concious of what is going on around us in the world and be sensitive about what others are going through.  You might want to think it through before creating a post like this during the worst global recession since the great depression lest you be perceived to be insensitive and wasteful.

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    1st February

    Thank you for the wake-up call, Mark. We’ll certainly be more mindful of this in the future.

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