In the world of continuous digitization and acceleration, the role of a community cannot be underappreciated. As our social interactions are expanding beyond people in our vicinity, we are forming online communities that defy geographical locations and time zones. This is even more noticeable after the COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized the way we work, revealing the immense potential of remote or hybrid environments. As a response to this paradigm shift, Symphony Solutions took a bold step in 2022 by transitioning to a fully virtual company, although not without its fair share of challenges. Let’s explore how Virtual Communities came into being, where we are standing in our transformation today, and what the future may hold. Pre-Virtual Community Era Symphony Solutions is a Cloud and AI-driven IT company with headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, working with over 35 international clients and virtual teams of experts now present in over 20 locations. The journey to a fully virtual mode of working started at Symphony Solutions way before the world health crisis of 2019 made it a necessity with the presentation of a Symphony Anywhere virtual office. For a while, we operated in this hybrid mode, where we had office locations in Ukraine, Macedonia, Poland, and even headquarters in Boston, USA to cover a wide geographic reach to service current and potential clients. Symphony Anywhere became the gateway to get onboard professionals from all around the world. Operating in a virtual landscape necessitates a reimagining of corporate dynamics, including interpersonal and team interactions, as well as the integration of corporate culture, which now primarily revolves around project-based teams. Moreover, cultivating a virtual culture demands fresh approaches to communication, team leadership, and fostering a sense of unity and belonging. Recognizing this need, Symphony Solutions has embraced the power of communities as a vital tool for running a virtual company and promoting engagement. These communities serve to connect like-minded individuals, providing an avenue for encouragement and support. Virtual-First Company Transformation To facilitate informal communication, we have introduced a groundbreaking platform Viva Engage which became our internal social network. The launch of this community-focused initiative was an intellectually stimulating endeavor. Our aim was to create something distinctive, capable of enticing a multitude of participants to embrace this new approach. We delved into ideation, tirelessly exploring concepts that would harmoniously align with our flagship brand: music. Ultimately, we conceived a vibrant system adorned with unique slogans and banners, ingeniously integrated into various events and activities. And since music is at the core of Symphony Solutions, it was a given that our internal communities were called bands, as if giving every Symphonian a place to reclaim their childhood dream of being in a rock band. To invigorate the atmosphere and offer even more avenues for interaction, we have curated a series of exciting events, such as Symphony Persona Live, Symphonyzer, Spead Talks, and Banda News. These meticulously crafted activities play a pivotal role in achieving our crucial objectives: fostering connectivity aligning with our core values of intimacy and innovation nurturing a harmonious virtual environment that transcends physical boundaries Implementation of Symphony Bands The intimacy built over the years continues thriving through our vibrant virtual communities. Our Symphony Bands encompass three distinct types: Corporate, Technical and Social Bands. Symphony Bands connect you with like-minded individuals across various tech and non-tech interest groups. Whether you're passionate about coding, cooking, AI or creative writing, we've got a community for that. 10+ technology-focused communities 15+ social communities various projects and corporate bands Bands introduce a spectrum of activities such as workshops, technical talks, discussions, and mentorship. Symphony Solutions’ virtual communities foster connectivity, align with our core values of intimacy and innovation, and nurture a harmonious environment that transcends physical boundaries. The Corporate Bands cater to technical fields and specializations, serving as a conduit for tech-savvy individuals to connect based on shared technologies and engaging in a spectrum of activities such as workshops, technical talks, discussions, and mentorship. This invaluable network enables Symphonians to seek and provide the necessary support and guidance, surrounded by skilled peers. Conversely, Social Bands revolve around engagement and connection based on shared interests. These diverse communities cater to the varied passions of our esteemed workforce, boasting groups such as the English-speaking club, the band for music and literature aficionados, and numerous other personalized communities. Furthermore, any individual within our organization has the liberty to create their own band, encouraging an environment of inclusivity and self-expression. Challenges in Implementing a Virtual Culture Of course, implementing virtual bands and switching entirely to the hybrid mode was a considerable challenge to all of us. This process could be rightfully called a transformation, which required changing the work environment and the mindset. Mindset shift. The main difficulty in implementing virtual communities was the need to facilitate a change in mindset. There are Symphonians who support Viva Engage platform and get excited at the prospect of building new bonds with their colleagues in a virtual setting. Then there are people still in the process of accepting it. The company events, both technical and engagement ones, have already proven to be quite a success. Finding the right work environment. A lesser of two ‘evils’, figuring out the technical side of the solution was a challenge of its own. We had initially established online channels of communication for efficient collaboration within teams. However, those weren’t enough for a more radical solution. After juggling multiple channels of communication while in search of the right platform, we gradually shifted to Viva Engage and tied up all loose ends. What Was Accomplished, What Comes Next Symphony Solutions Virtual Communities have been a part of Symphonians’ lives for almost a year now. Recently, they have become the main hub of all non-project-related communication, offering a balanced mix of professional and leisurely conversations. Here are our accomplishments so far: 300+ active participants 10 Symphony Persona Live streams 2 fully virtual parties 4 episodes of Symphony Banda Podcast 6 Symphonyzer events with up to 40 participants Summer Jam Virtual party at Symphony Solutions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v52jT8eqPmGY Unique activities presented in Viva Engage can always keep the conversation going: AI Challenge is an ongoing contest that’s found its place in the dedicated AI Band. Symphonians are encouraged to share their findings in AI tools and ways to apply them to their everyday work and life, and even get a prize for the best cases. United by Music is one of the favorite activities in the Music Lovers Band. Symphonians share their favorite songs and tracks, which are then compiled in themed Spotify playlists, such as Release Deadline OST, tunes for running, etc. Charity initiatives. For the time being, the main lot of our charity initiatives are concentrated in the Ukraine Band. Since the war in Ukraine has in a way affected most Symphonians, we are coming together to support friends, colleagues, and good acquaintances, currently protecting our peace in the frontlines. Of course, we never forget what it really means to be a Symphonian, which is why the Music Lovers Band quickly became one of our favorite communities with over 250 messages posted since its beginning. Since the launch of virtual communities, many of our internal fundraisers and charity activities found their place on Viva Engage. One of the sweetest fundraising campaigns we've recently held at Symphony Solutions was to support our colleague currently serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Today, we proudly present Symphony Bands, each epitomizing a safe haven for connecting and sharing thoughts with fellow enthusiasts who share a common passion or interest. Through this unity of purpose, these bands instill a profound sense of togetherness and intimacy. The Next Steps for Virtual Communities Now around 50% of Symphonians are using Viva Engage, and almost 75% participate in technical and engagement events and workshops. These are the results of 10 months' work. Like now, people who are in the bands, they know more people, know the company better, feel more comfortable and have the vibe of Symphony Solutions. The bands help newcomers onboard easier. To Sum Up Symphony Solutions’ Virtual Communities continue to grow and welcome new professionals eager to jump right into a vigorous discussion on the latest trends in QA automation or AI solutions for business needs, read together the thought-provoking works of Khaled Hosseini, or chat up their colleagues in the English-speaking club. Would you like to become part of this exciting chapter in our virtual transformation? See if you've got the skill and wit to become a Symphonian, discover our latest vacancies or contact us right now.