Tech the halls: Inside the holiday traditions at 4 LA tech companies

by John Siegel
December 22, 2016

Tech startups are a lot like a family. For all the time and energy spent together, it's natural for employees to get as close to one another as they do to their blood relatives. So when holiday party season comes around, many companies celebrate a time-honored tradition to get into the spirit and blow off a little steam. For these four tech companies, the holidays mean more than just an open bar.

 

The team at El Segundo-based Centerfield take the holiday season very seriously. So seriously, in fact, they have a number of traditions, according to Vice President of Human Resources Sarah Greene.

How does Centerfield celebrate the holidays?

During the 3rd week of December, we celebrate the year in style at a beautiful Los Angeles venue with entertainment, great food and an opportunity for employees to bring a spouse, partner or friend to enjoy festivities with. We cover the charges for a two-way Uber ride in case people want to drink, and we offer an amazing raffle of gifts that include a big screen TV, gift cards for spa getaways, Amazon gift cards, Mac Book Pros, expenses-paid vacations and floor-seat tickets to the Clippers, among other gifts. Every employee gets to go home with a gift, and 10 lucky employees go home with one of the grand prizes! The co-presidents give a heartfelt speech and our New York office flies in to celebrate and mingle along with the rest of the team, as well.

For the final week of December, we shut down the corporate office between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day to give employees the opportunity to work from home (if they are not going to take the time off) and to stay in the holiday spirit through the end of the year. It's a great opportunity to unwind and prepare to come into the new year swinging and ready to score big for the team.

How did the tradition get started?

We have honored these traditions since the inception of the company, with the goal in mind of attracting top tier talent and creating a best place to work in LA.

What do the employees think?

"Our annual holiday party is a spectacular event every year. This year it was held at the Carondolet House in DTLA and it was such an amazingly beautiful place to toast the year with our co-workers. I won a brand new, large, flat screen TV in the raffle and I am so excited. It was an incredible gift.” – Alex Horton, Accounting Manager.  

“I love the shut-down every year. It's a great way to relax, decompress and get ourselves ready for the New Year.” – Amanda Arias, Senior Corporate Recruiter

What it says about the team

“Every year we try to give back, celebrate our successes and help our employees prepare to start the new year engaged, focused and ready to win. Our traditions have developed not just because employees enjoy them, but because they help instill a sense of pride in our company. Centerfield’s award-winning culture is dependent on the happiness of its workers; the company thrives when our workers thrive. Making Centerfield Media the best place to work is our number one passion.” – Sarah Greene

 

Over at Santa Monica-based MomentFeed, the Secret Santa game is serious. According to Marketing Manager Erika World, stealth is key.

How does MomentFeed celebrate the holidays?

The MomentFeed holiday tradition is strong. It involves gifts, games, breakfast and a huge celebration to top the year off. Every year, employees draw a name and keep it a secret until the morning of our annual holiday party. The name of the game? Secret Santa.

On the day of our holiday party, all of our remote employees travel back to our Santa Monica headquarters. Employees do their best "Santa act" and sneakily drop off our gifts on each others' desks without being discovered. Breakfast is served, compliments of one of our national restaurant clients, and we sit around trying to guess who had who. For the those who are truly sneaky and got away undetected, they take major pride in their secrecy.

The tradition ends with a bang as we celebrate the night away at our annual holiday party where we’re spoiled with food, drinks and, most importantly, the photo booth.

What do the employees think?

"We work hard all year, and our holiday games give us an opportunity to release some steam and celebrate just how much we've accomplished during the year.” — Rick Gavin, Demand Generation Manager

What it says about the team

"We embrace the holidays and begin planning our December schedule in August. It's amazing to see how the basic traditions we started with have grown and to see our team try to out-do themselves every year." — Carey Bettencourt, CCO

 

Docler Media certainly doesn't skimp on the prizes it gives out at its annual holiday party. According to People Team Recruiter Betty Zabezhinsky, the company takes the holiday season very seriously.

How does Docler celebrate the holidays?

Docler Media is big on company catered events, karaoke, happy hours and parties. This year, we hosted our second annual holiday party, and our creative office manager, Leslie Bray, transformed our industrial office space into a winter wonderland with 125 gifts under the tree. The gifts were purchased by Docler Media and ranged from $50- $500. Some big ticket items included an Apple Watch, Go Pro, Nespresso Machine, PS4 and a Malibu Wine Safari experience, just to name a few!

Our CEO, Balazs Sipocz, also unveiled our new PTO policy; in 2017, all Docler Media employees get 25 days off every year! 

What do the employees think?

After we hosted our first karaoke night, we quickly realized how awesome it is to watch our colleagues belt out Notorious B.I.G and Backstreet Boys tunes. A tradition was born, one song at a time! 

What it says about the team

“The atmosphere was warm and we were all happy. It was nice to spend time with colleagues in such a festive environment.” – Maria Ekizian, Head of Recruiting

 

Sidebench likes to keep things simple during the holiday season. Over the years, that has gone from a holiday party where clients were invited to something more low-key, according to co-founder Nate Schier.

How does Sidebench celebrate the holidays?

We do an end-of-year holiday dinner party with all team members and their plus ones. As part of it, we do a no-holds-barred white elephant gift exchange and give gifts to all the employees. No work awards or motivational speeches or anything like that, just a fun night out where everyone gets a new toy or two that they probably weren’t expecting.

How did the tradition get started?

Prior to starting the holiday dinner party tradition, we had done larger ‘parties’ where we invited a number of clients and friends of the company. While fun in its own right, we felt it wasn’t the best team-oriented way to celebrate and recognize everyone for their contributions throughout the year. We have now done the holiday dinner party for two years in a row and it has proved to be an intimate and fun event that all have enjoyed.

What do the employees think?

“I always have a great time at the company holiday party, it’s a nice opportunity to hang out and talk casually about things besides work. I also love getting to meet people’s significant others!” — Josh Koenig, Business Development Manager

What it says about the team

“I’ve always loved the holiday season because it brings people together with an emphasis on having fun together and appreciating one another. We’ve tried to foster that sentiment with the dinner parties the last couple of years.” — Nate Schier

Images via participating companies. Responses edited for clarity and length.

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