XS Holiday Party
It is unseasonably warm for mid-December- sunny and crisp, hinting at the start of an early spring, rather than the entry into a long winter. It’s the day of our company holiday party, and as part of the decoration committee, I arrive early at the banquet hall to a flurry of activity. I’ve worked at a few companies in my decade or two as a developer, but XS is the first I’ve seen where the employees are eager and willing to donate their free time towards planning, tasking, and building an event. Missing is that cynical “not my job” attitude prevalent in corporate America. Instead of not enough volunteers, we have an overabundance, and each and every one is looking for a task, and all can be depended on to see their tasks through. Not everything is perfect, of course, because no one has a degree in interior decorating or corporate event planning, but we are all eager to please and quick to learn.
It has been a long time since I’ve attended a company holiday party. My employer prior to XS hadn’t had anything similar for years – parties and team building events having been a casualty of the bottom line – a drawback of working for a large, multi-national corporation. So, I am unreasonably excited about this one, and have been helping plan it for months. I, along with half the company, have donated my time and energy in ensuring its smooth success. As always, those who have come early to help with the setup work together flawlessly, and without malice or drama. We are a team of people pulling together, rather than a group of individuals pulling apart.
As with holiday parties past, the theme this year is Casino Night, with winnings to be used in a company sponsored auction at the end of the evening. Not a theme that screams holiday and good cheer, but despite all this, it works. The warm oak of the poker tables glow in the candlelight, the brass fittings of the roulette wheel gleam, and the appropriately colored red and green felt tops provide a festive backdrop to the evening’s events. The candles lit, bright platters of delicious offerings of meats, cheeses, and other delectable food choices carefully placed, the tuxedo clad poker dealers and bartenders are collected and ready. With every detail attended to, the big picture is even better than imagined. The air is alight with energy, a collective intake of breath held in anticipation.
Bedecked in sparkle and pearls, the guests arrive – dinner jackets starched, heels dusted and donned. XS is a casual work environment. We tend more towards jeans and shorts than heels and ties, so to see everyone dressed to the nines is a surreal experience. As the coat rack reaches maximum capacity, the chatter in the room increases. Laughter interspersed with excited shouts permeates the air as greetings are expressed, introductions made, drinks had, and food eaten. The 3 piece jazz band, a new addition to the party this year, provides the perfect bass note to the joyous music of laughter and conversation.
As an outsider looking in, I can imagine some people might be surprised by the easy camaraderie that exists within XS. Seeing everyone together, no one would ever guess that most of us are new to the company and to each other. Due to the exponential growth we’ve seen in the last year, nearly half of our current employees are new hires. For some, this incredible growth might have caused a great deal of turmoil as new personalities clash with the old, and challenges and obstacles become harder to bear. Not so at XS. Regardless of whether you’ve been around for 10 years or 10 days, you can’t help but feel at home. Even if you’re still working on everyone’s names (like I am), you still somehow feel as if you belong. As a person who has been around the corporate block a few times, I can tell you how rare this is – this belonging. This acceptance, regardless of belief, race or creed. This team that shouldn’t work so well together, with so little known of each other. This thing that is XS. Maybe it’s due to careful hiring practices, or to the industry, or maybe it’s just sheer, dumb luck, but whatever it is, everyone fits in as if they were made for their roll, and we all have our comfortable chair at the table. On this night of all nights, we forget the long hours and the hard work, and we fit together as easily as old childhood friends discussing times past. It is a good night. A great night. One of many before, and the first in many to come.