Dimagi’s tech team recently had their first off-site ever and wanted to report back some of the findings. The team went for a 3 day long summit from Sept 17th – 19th.  One of the team members was kind enough to host at her family home in Western Massachusetts. It was a great opportunity for the team to bond and also discuss important, higher-level topics that we haven’t had a chance to address back at the office.

Before starting, the whole team spent some time brainstorming topics and dot-voting on which sessions would be most interesting to the group. In this blog, I wanted to touch upon some of those sessions, and what we discussed.

Team Culture

The first topic was the culture of the team. As the team grows it is important that we maintain a the composition. To do this we identified the characteristics that are most important. The list was rather long, but these were some of the highlights:

  • Self motivated
  • Good at their job
  • Dependable
  • Good communicator
  • Excited by our mission

Thinking about the process for selecting candidates, it becomes clear that most of the time is spent looking at bullet #2. Most of a software engineering interview is focused on ascertaining if the candidate is a good developer. One of the big takeaways from this session was needing to ensure we emphasize the other traits we look for, not just the pure development side.

Personal Initiative Days

At Dimagi, every Dimagi employee is given 10 personal initiative days a year to work on any kind of project that you want. For developers, this often means stepping back from the day to day work, and address a pain point somewhere in our process. The first part of the discussion focused on how we could encourage team members to take PIDs. The proposed response was to block out time in advance (less likely to have overlap), and to choose someone to work with for the day. Some of the interesting ideas proposed were experimenting with new frameworks to learn what they do differently/better/worse. 

Communication Streams

We have a ton of different ways to communicate at Dimagi. Tickets, Emails, Skype, walking over. With so many different avenues, we wondered if there a better way to streamline this process? It was interesting to see that that even though everyone felt confident they knew how things worked, there was disagreement over the process of getting a new feature specced, coded, qa’d, and deployed. I found this session to be particularly valuable, especially in highlighting that even with so many different communications channels, our expectations about communications can still be slightly off. We’re currently working on these, especially as our office (and dev team) grows globally. 


We finished the Summit with an afternoon “hackathon.” While not very long, it was a great chance for people to start working on some of the ideas proposed in the PID session. One team experimented with a data library to visualize custom reports.  A second created a mobile interface for the existing application exchange.  A third worked on a style guide to synchronize our internal coding practices.  Four hours isn’t long, but it was very exciting to see everyone excited to work on a topic of their choice, and it will definitely spur some more PID days.

Finally, check out some of the photos below to see us at work during the Summit in beautiful Western Mass!

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