From team-building to tacos — here’s a peek at what it means to be a Redpanda

ByJenny MedeirosonFebruary 27, 2024
A look inside Redpanda’s FY25 company kick-off

At Redpanda, we know that changing the future of streaming data needs a community, but building a strong community starts with us. That’s why once a year we call in the Redpanda pack from around the world to meet, learn, build, and get inspired at our company kick-off (CKO). 

This year, we landed at The Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. For three days, we exchanged our keyboards for keynotes, Zoom calls for coffee chats, and Slack messages for team dinners to fully immerse ourselves in the Redpanda FY25 CKO. 

So what happens when you gather 150+ pandas in one place? Here’s a peek at what we did, the lessons we learned, and the company culture we pride ourselves on.

Insights, inspiration, and celebration

With an action-packed agenda and a breathtaking venue to explore — we were in for a real treat. To kick things off, each team presented a keynote to share their biggest achievements in FY24 and their vision for the new fiscal year.

From surprising customer insights to impressive sales wins, these keynotes were a rare opportunity to see how each team turned the gears and cogs behind Redpanda’s record-breaking growth in FY24. The golden takeaway? Every win takes a team. What could start with a simple web click could snowball into one of the biggest deals of the year, and each person who played a role in that journey is just as important as the next.

Clint Nelson, CRO. (Photo credit: Travis Campbell)

With warmth, wit, and a generous dose of red pandas in every slide deck—we toured customer journeys, celebrated top performers, and watched in awe at demos of upcoming features. We also looked to the future and learned we were spoiled for reasons to get excited in FY25. 

However, looking back is just as important as looking ahead. So our founder and CEO, Alex Gallego, took us back to where it all began — the moment he opened his laptop and typed the first lines of code with one question in mind,

“What if we could create a better, simpler way of streaming data?”

Five years (and plenty of coffee) later, Alex was now standing before a room full of people who continue to passionately build what we believe will become the foundation for future streaming data applications.  

To add even more color to Redpanda’s journey, Alex interviewed Dave Munichiello, a board member from Google Ventures and probably one of Redpanda’s biggest fans. We learned the backstory of how Alex nabbed his first investor and how highly David thought of Alex’s tenacity to “build technology that changes the way the world is built.”

Leadership on stage (Photo credit: Travis Campbell)

To keep the momentum going, our next guest was a valued customer: Shahir Daya from Zafin. Shahir shared how he stumbled on a video by Alex on how we built Redpanda, and from that moment on, he was hooked. “Amazing tech, fully Kafka compatible, simple Day 2 operations, and a talented team that knows how to support clients and fix issues,” Shahir said when asked why he ultimately chose Redpanda. “It just works,” he concluded with a smile.   

While it’s always a joy to hear how your work is delighting customers, nothing makes you prouder than learning how valuable your fellow pandas are. 

“The people are fantastic. I use them as an example to my own operations team.” — Shahir Daya, Zafin.

These highlights only scratch the surface of all the success stories, head-turning initiatives, and drops of wisdom from these sessions. As intended, they revved everyone up for an even more ambitious FY25 and reminded us why we’re proud to be a Redpanda.

Building stronger teams and practicing what we preach

At Redpanda, we hire people based on our company values to ensure everyone plays well together. These values aren’t just a professional compass—they’re a way of being. They define everything from how we treat our colleagues and customers to the very code we write. 

These values are simple:

  • Win as a team 

  • Obsess over customers

  • Be a good human

Every activity at the CKO touched on these values in some way. From leadership workshops to a dedicated women’s lunch, here’s how we highlighted our values while strengthening our teams:

Win as a team

You have to feel like a team to win as a team, and that’s precisely what CKOs do best. From dedicated team breakouts to shuttling each department into town, a big focus at the CKO was to bring our pandas together with group activities and a good dose of fun. (If we learned anything, it’s that our engineers are surprisingly good at pickleball.)

Before long, the sense of community and camaraderie was undeniable. Folks from different teams shared snacks and offered drinks, veteran pandas were swapping stories with newly minted members, unlikely panda packs would go for walks around the resort, and a group of engineers even began teaching a few words in Spanish to the UX team. In the end, simply spotting someone with a Redpanda shirt or hat was reason enough to form a friendly pack.

Obsess over customers

Redpanda is all about making things better and simpler—not just for developers looking to stream data, but also for our teams so we can better support our customers. To this end, we held two separate workshops: one on how to lead teams more effectively, and another on how to bring out the best of Redpanda for both our company and customers. 

Nobody knows more about what customers need than the folks supporting them day-to-day, so this exercise allowed every panda to learn what really happens under the hood and brainstorm creative ways to help everything run smoother. And yes, we’ll be implementing the winning idea.

Be a good human

Being a good human is at the core of everything Redpanda stands for. Happily enough, our CKO was brimming with them. If there was one standout activity that rounded up all of Redpanda’s values, it would be the Base Camp Games

Eight teams. Eight colored bandanas. One goal: to win

This company-wide activity wasn’t just an excuse to fling a frisbee at that panda who sends emails on the weekends,* but a chance to give back to the local community. Whether it was axe-throwing, catching marshmallows in a bucket, or fanning ping-pong balls into a cup, each activity earned points and a bag of school supplies.

At the end, each team filled several backpacks with these supplies—rulers, notebooks, pencils, and other tidbits—destined for the local Gila River Indian Community.

Redpandas competing for backpack supplies for the Gila River Indian Community
Redpandas competing for backpack supplies at the Base Camp Games

Being such competitive pandas, the result was a table overflowing with generously filled backpacks that would be delivered to 160 youths later that evening.

That’ll do, pandas. That’ll do.   

* No Redpandas were harmed during the Base Camp Games.

Work hard, play hard. This is the way.

Between all the keynotes, workshops, and brain-tingling sessions, our hardworking pandas had some well-deserved downtime. Some chose to play their hand at golf or tennis at the resort, others created running or cycling groups to make the most of the Arizona landscape, and some skipped off to grab a pizza or hold their own “team building” session at the nearest arcade.

Redpandas winding down at the CKO. (Photo credits: Andrew Salas, Towfiqa Yasmeen, Tristan Stevens)
Redpandas winding down at the CKO. (Photo credits: Andrew Salas, Towfiqa Yasmeen, Tristan Stevens)

In the evenings, everyone was gathered once again to share a company-wide dinner surrounded by music, blankets, and candles. The rest of the night was spent chatting and laughing around the firepit, perusing the generous buffets, and keeping the hotel bartenders busy.

The air buzzed with excitement as our pandas mixed and mingled, started new CKO traditions (like this TikTok featuring Alex), and continued old ones—like the annual photo with Alex and his fellow Colombian pandas.

Colombian Redpandas taking their annual reunion photo
Colombian Redpandas taking their annual reunion photo. (Photo credit: Simon Soriano)

Regardless of how everyone spent their free time, it was a much-needed space to kick back, recharge, and connect with others in their own way. Christina Lin, Director of Developer Advocacy, said it best,

“Being here has been eye-opening. You meet different sides of the company and get to learn who they are and how they work. You can have interesting conversations and pick up ideas that might never come up in a work call. It was truly a memorable experience.”   

Want to join our next company kick-off? We’re hiring

This year’s CKO showcased the unmistakable power of bringing people together. It was a space to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, to spark new ideas, discuss different perspectives, and have candid conversations. More importantly, it was a chance to ask the bigger questions—to look at what we’re doing right and challenge ourselves to do even better. 

However, none of this is possible without the right people.

From local meetups to Redpanda-wide reunions, we put humans first in a remote-first world while advocating for their freedom to work wherever they’re most productive. We know for a fact that this approach works, given that in FY24 Redpanda’s revenue skyrocketed 300% and saw a 179% spike in customer growth. 

So, if you feel you’d fit in with our pack and are keen to join a rapidly-growing company that builds game-changing products, head over to the Redpanda Careers page and check our open roles! Next year’s CKO will be even bigger and better, so now is the perfect time to join. As Alex said in our FY24 announcement

“We’re just getting started.”

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