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MIT Energy Initiative’s Graham Turk hosts VIA’s CEO Colin Gounden on location at MIT for VIA Visionaries interview

The month of April is filled with reasons to celebrate our mission here at VIA: making our communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable. During April, we celebrate Earth Day, Drive Electric Earth Month, and one of our favorite VIA Visionaries interviews, which happened to be on location at MIT, with a dear friend of VIA’s, Graham Turk.

This VIA Visionaries interview was particularly special for us, it was the first time we were on location, and at MIT to boot. We’ve also known Graham for some time, dating back to when he was Head of Customer Care at Green Mountain Power, a company well known for providing 100% carbon-free electricity to 266,000 customers across Vermont.

Before recapping the interview, let’s dive into Graham’s impressive background.

Behind the scenes with Graham Turk and Colin Gounden at MIT.

Graham has dedicated his career to promoting clean energy through research, innovation strategies, customer care, and teaching. Currently, he is a Graduate Research Assistant at the MIT Energy Initiative where he studies the impacts of rapid electrification and explores tariff designs to promote the adoption of electric vehicles and heat pumps (an Earth Day great!). 

Prior to this, he held several roles at Green Mountain Power, where his innovative leadership led to pioneering programs in battery storage, electric vehicle charging, and flexible demand management. Earlier in his career, as a Fulbright Scholar at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, Graham conducted research on energy markets and built a small-scale prototype of a peer-to-peer energy trading platform. His commitment to sustainable practices and his ability to unravel complex energy challenges make him an exemplary leader in the clean energy space.

Chatting live on camera at MIT for 30 minutes, Colin and Graham covered an array of topics including why he chose to join a utility, how he sees renters participating in the energy economy, and all about his blog, The Power Trip which covers energy market pricing (go check it out!). Early in the interview, Colin asked Graham about the project he was most proud of at Green Mountain Power and his answer reinforced why we consider him a VIA Visionary on this Earth Day:

We were able to work with the State House in Vermont. They had an old diesel generator in their basement and instead of replacing it with another diesel generator for backup, they put a battery inside of it that we were able to use for similar purposes, like bringing down costs for all customers. So, the Vermont State House at that point was the first state house in the country to have batteries for all of its emergency loads. A fun little trivia question, if anyone ever asks that at Thursday trivia!”

Colin chimed in with another fun fact: 

“It’s a good observation. Government buildings, in some instances, can be the first trials for lots of things. I want to say, The White House had solar panels put on it in the 70s, some of the first solar panels, because they could!”

Watch the full video below to hear Graham talk about other projects he was proud of at Green Mountain Power, including one with Tesla!

We’re thrilled to showcase Graham’s passion for clean energy and fixing utility rates for our communities as part of our “What’s your mission?” Earth Day series. Thank you again, Graham and the gracious folks at MIT, for hosting our first on location VIA Visionaries livestream.

Follow along on VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, X, Instagram, Threads) for the latest on how we are living our mission each day and to keep an eye out for our next VIA Visionaries interview. 

Power Up! Winner: AI to improve developer experience

Frequent readers of VIA’s blog will know that twice a year we invest several days into “Power Ups!” These are days where 100% of VIAneers to stop bumping their heads on their day-to-day tasks and think about ways we can improve the way we work.

This year, we focused on artificial intelligence (AI). VIAneers self-selected into 13 teams and came up with ideas to leverage AI. Ideas included everything from ethical guidelines for AI, and how to generate more blog content, to how to use AI to support Kubernetes deployments.

This Power Up! we upped the stakes and had the teams compete for a $1,000 USD prize to be spent on anything that they would like. We were privileged to have Major General Kim Crider (ret) former Chief Technology Innovation Officer of the United States Space Force, Tom Davenport, author of more than 11 books on analytics and AI, and Tom Werner, former CEO and Chairman of SunPower join VIA’s COO, Kate Ravanis as our panel of judges to select the winner.

Winners were judged based on four criteria: VIA Value, Technical Readiness, Risk Consideration, Presentation Skills.

All of our VIAneers did an incredible job of not just finding great ways to leverage AI but also implementing them in the 2.5 day Power Up! time limit. 

But, there could only be one winner. 

The team that won was the TL;DR team. As readers know, we love a good pull request (feedback on developer code changes). While we have a whole language system about how to provide feedback on pull requests, TL;DR team figured out how AI could be used to help write a summary of the pull requests to aid reviewers.

“We found that all the teams had done an exceptional job generating ideas and taking a first pass at articulating the benefits and the implementation plans for their AI initiatives. What the judges thought made TL;DR stand apart was that the team had actually implemented their solution and reviewed internal data to quantify a savings of more than $250,000 per year with no additional costs. The fact that they had also thought through how to make the AI generated summaries reflect VIA’s culture and values was a special bonus from my perspective.” said Kate Ravanis, VIA’s COO.

As the video below shows, the TL;DR team’s AI generates summaries of pull requests to speed up the code review process.

Here are a few examples of how the TL;DR team’s project excelled against the evaluation criteria in just a few short days:

  1. VIA Value – The team requested internal data and was able to quantify the expected value (over $250,000 per year) and provided a spreadsheet to show their work.
  2. Technical Readiness – The code was working and demonstrated on a current VIA repo using VIA’s existing infrastructure. Bonus points that the AI model was directed to generate text that reflected VIA values and even use emojis.
  3. Risk Consideration – The team evaluated external solutions but ultimately implemented an in-house solution to protect VIA’s intellectual property. A thoughtful addition is to add a warning to each response that it is generated by AI and may not be 100% accurate.
  4. Presentation Skills – Every team had a 5 minute limit and TL;DR did a great job of summarizing their solution clearly and concisely.

Less than two weeks later, this solution is already live and in use today with VIA developers. 

Consistent with our long-standing commitment to improving developer communities everywhere, after further testing at VIA we will open source this project and make it available on GitHub.

VIA’s 2022 Highlights in 60 Seconds –
How the VIA values shaped our 2022

One clear theme for VIA emerged in 2022: W3. What do we mean by that? VIA CEO Colin Gounden explains in under 60 seconds.

 

Examples of Living Our VIA Values in 2022

The VIA values are expressed not just in our day-to-day interactions and culture, but also as a guide for decisions we make as a company. Here’s a look back at how we integrated our values into everything we did in 2022.

 

Love in = Love out

Our Love in = Love out value is all about taking pride in what you do. VIAneers got to express their pride in our mission captured in the video below.

Be each other’s biggest fan

For the first time in three (3!) years, we hosted our semi-annual Power Up in person at our Montreal office. This was our largest company onsite ever with nearly 20 new VIAneers hired this year. VIAneers got together to share ideas, lend support, and brainstorm.

As a company located across multiple countries, we know that getting ALL of our VIAneers in one space was not an easy feat. In true VIA fashion we’d like to share a shout out to our People & Operations team for organizing and coordinating a fabulous multi-day onsite!

Stay curious

As a company at the forefront of cutting-edge Web3 technologies, not only do we need to be curious about what others are building in the community, but we share our own learnings as well.

In 2022, VIA was featured in a record number of podcasts. One standout interview was with Nasdaq’s TradeTalks, where VIA CEO, Colin Gounden, explained the connections between Web3, blockchain, the U.S. DOD, and clean energy in 6 minutes.

Not only were we giving talks remotely – we did it in person too! Chainlink invited VIA to speak at 2022’s must-attend Web3 event, SmartCon 2022. Didn’t get to be there? Luckily for you we have a 90 second summary of Colin’s talk!

   

Learning never goes out of style

At VIA, we’re always learning. We began the year by being one of only ten companies out of more than 100 applicants selected to join Wharton University’s Stevens Center Cypher Accelerator program, where we learned from the biggest names in blockchain such as a16z and Pantera.

Then, we ended the year with another innovative accelerator program, when we were selected as one of only nine companies out of more than 200 applicants to learn from industry leaders at the AWS Sustainable Cities Accelerator for Infrastructure.

   

Ready, set, RESILIENCE!

In 2022, not only did we improve and upgrade our current technology infrastructure, we added brand new features to our Web3 platform. We wrote multiple blogs about zero-knowledge proofs, homomorphic encryption, and even shared some open source code.

Respect a challenge and challenge with respect

The energy sector faces tough challenges in war, weather, and waning infrastructure globally. This year VIA rose to that challenge with the launch of Skylight, our Web3 platform to support ultra-fine grained demand response. Read about how we leverage zero-knowledge proofs, NFTs, and more in our latest white paper.

And that’s a selection of our 2022 milestones! We couldn’t have done it without the contributions and continued support of customers, partners, and of course our very own VIAneers. 

In last year’s end of year reflection blog, we aimed to scale up in 2022 – all of which came true. After all, the best way to predict the future is to build it. In 2023, VIA is looking forward to announcing our contributions to communities big and small globally.

Values, Mission, Diversity, and … Pull Requests!

One of VIA’s core values is: learning never goes out of style. We believe that real learning (e.g., a new instrument, a new sport, a new programming language) requires feedback from others.

At VIA, we use a common process of pull requests to review code. That is, no individual, no matter what role or how senior, can submit their code to a repo without having it first reviewed by someone else. 

But, how do you give feedback directly and also respectfully? This is an example of living two VIA values: Learning never goes out of style and Respect a challenge and challenge with respect. Balancing directness and respect is especially important in a remote working world, where an increasing portion of interactions may be virtual (e.g., on Slack), which doesn’t include any context or body language cues.

Consider the following comment: “Interesting. Why did you code this way?”

Is the commenter genuinely interested in knowing why? Is it a rhetorical question actually implying that it’s wrong? You can’t tell from the note. You also can’t guarantee how it will be interpreted by the reader.

You could provide more context, but that’s work and even then something can get misinterpreted.

So … At VIA, we use four words to help disambiguate these scenarios and save time. 

VIA VOCAB WORD MEANING
Optional “Nice! Here’s an alternative. No pressure. There are always multiple ways to solve a problem.”
Curiosity “This rocks! How did you come up with this?”
Required “Dude, this has to change.”
Future “Not right now. Let’s come back to this later.”

The result? Clear feedback, succinct communication, and no emotional damage.

This is critically important at a hugely diverse company like VIA. We have team members right out of academia, folks from industry with little academic training, folks from numerous nationalities, and 86% of our technical team speak at least one language other than English. 

“These “VIA vocab” words are meant to move us beyond seeking diversity at work to getting diversity to work. With this approach, we have a better chance of achieving the intended impact of diversity like an increased pace of innovation.”

Consistent with VIA’s mission to enable cleaner, safer, and more equitable communities, we are “open sourcing” our VIA vocab in hopes of encouraging others to make diversity work for them.

You can find a summary and example on GitHub.

End of Year Reflection
People

As this year comes to a close, we are taking our readers on a journey through 2021 in this three-part reflection series written by a variety of VIA’s leaders. The series covers the incredible milestones VIA has achieved in laying the foundation for big things ahead in 2022 as we Scale Up!


2021 was a big year for us at VIA, so big, we needed three blogs to cover all of our milestones! This first part highlights our team, the VIAneers.

All About That Base

To keep up with our customer growth, we had our biggest year ever for new hires: 16! Our new VIAneers tell us that the onboarding experience when they join VIA is incredibly supportive, inclusive, and engaging – even when remote! In no small part, this is due to the continuous improvements we have been making over the past five years. 

From our founding, our core values have been reinforced day-to-day through a cohesive program of supporting processes. These ranged from six monthly offsites, formal mentorship programs, awards and incentives, learning and development, and structured feedback. With a hugely diverse team (e.g., we have 17 nationalities across 39 people around the world) we believe that systematic reinforcement of values has created the base necessary for a scalable organization. 

Our VP, People and Operations, Emma Fechney, deserves a huge shout out for instantiating our commitment to values into a successful system over the past several years. Emma took our theory of the case about the importance of mission, values, and diversity and built a program that we scaled and has an impact every day. In 2021, we branded this program the “VIAneers’ Experience Program.”

Great Support for Great People

A big milestone for VIA in 2021 was raising our Series A. We were genuinely surprised, in the best possible way, to hear from several investors during the diligence process that our “people processes” are on par with IPO-ing companies. 

Unsurprisingly, the first investment we made was in people, in particular, the kind who take care of others. Emma’s People and Operations team grew to include Felice Sicoli, our talent acquisition extraordinaire. Felice has helped shape our candidate experience and ultimately led us to our biggest recruitment year. Angelica Novoa, also joined this year as People and Operations Partner. Angelica joined us through a recommendation of a current VIAneer, Jonathan Chirwa. Referrals of friends are the best possible validation of our company culture and experience – and Angelica has proven this with her thoughtful contributions from day one! Both Felice and Angelica have been instrumental in enhancing and systematizing our onboarding experience.

Welcoming Felice and Angelica has yielded 16 new people to accept offers with us in 2021 while maintaining consistency in quality. Fewer than 1% of applicants ever get an offer at VIA. As one of our technical VIAneers, Antoine Dozois, says when he assesses candidates, “It’s not enough for candidates to be ‘good.’ They have to be ‘VIA Good.’”

A highlight of 2021, was our first hybrid (virtual and in person) company event, called Power Up Week. While we have a long history of assembling our company together weekly through “All Hands” video conferences and bi-annual offsites, this year we extended the invitation to our advisors, Lt. Gen. Spigelmire, Maj. Gen. Nesbitt, and Brig. Gen. Blackstock, as well as prospective advisors. We believe they are an extension of our team and need to be aligned on values and mission as much as our full time VIAneers.

Want a sneak peak at Power Up week? Watch our Day 1 Kick-off video where we cover VIA’s mission.

Hey, 2022!

2022 will be a great year for VIAneers. To keep up with exponential customer growth, we already have three new hires starting in January on our technical team and have aggressive hiring plans across our offices globally.

We feel confident that we have the foundation in place for our next few hundred hires. Some of our processes date back to previous successful companies and are proven in diverse and challenging environments. 

Always staying agile, we look forward to the ways our new growth and team members will continue to spark our creative expansion of our VIAneers program. It is the part of the job our People and Operations team loves the most – and we see it pay off in the many successful commercial and technology milestones we achieved this year. We look forward to sharing more about them next! #lovein=loveout

End of Year Reflection

Over the last six months, VIA has shared 24 posts about our technology and partnerships. For our last post of 2020, we wanted to share a more personal note with our readers.

Looking back at our 2019 wrap-up blog, we had big ideas for 2020. Little did we know what that might entail.

Like every individual and company around the world, the pandemic re-routed us multiple times. However, we can’t help but be grateful for how our colleagues have responded, adapted, and accomplished in a year that was full of unforeseen speed bumps. Below are the ways our team found its way during 2020.

Transition to remote

Unbeknownst to us, Pi Day (3/14) would be the last day that we were all together in our offices.

Just as quickly as we demolished our pies, our team was up and running, fully remote. With some tweaks to home working spaces and more frequent touch points (like more one-to-one meetings and daily Scrum of Scrums), the team found its new groove. Having already worked across Montreal and Somerville for three years, the team remained productive while working from home.

Team growth and engagement

From a hiring standpoint, VIA just kept on growing! 

Our technology headquarters moved from Griffintown to Downtown Montreal. We can’t wait to be all together in the new space and host some exciting events for the local McGill and greater Montreal tech communities.

Our office move was motivated by our growth, since June we brought nine new team members on board and quickly refined the art of fully virtual recruitment and onboarding. We may not know the “in real life” height of our newest colleagues, but thanks to well-organised planning, frequent virtual check-ins, and the tremendous patience and generosity of our onboarding advisors and mentors, each one has been integrated to our team with overwhelming success. 

Always putting our people first

As a family-friendly company and one where “being each other’s biggest fan” is a core value, we doubled down on our efforts to consider the needs and wellbeing of our team. Sometimes, that meant cameos from children in meetings or adjusted schedules. For others, it was an encouraging reminder to keep going during one of our virtual workout sessions.

Above all, we maintained that there is no one way for people to respond in a year such as this. Whether team members needed to disconnect from the virtual world after work hours or join virtual “pub club”, paint night, or our first globally coordinated VIA Thanksgiving, either was equally fine.

Initiatives 2.0

With our expanding, distributed team, and a new style of working, it was important that VIA remained responsive to the rapidly changing environment. We introduced several wellness initiatives and upped our dosage of flexibility and compassion. From things like virtual yoga or frequent surveys to check-in, we always had our team’s wellbeing in mind.

As COVID-19 re-surged in the fall, we introduced the “VIA Vault” where team members earned points for things like technology fails (e.g., frozen video conference screens) or unexpected doorbells or pets joining meetings. The points will go towards a company-wide event, activity, or whatever it might be when we are all back together.

Lastly, this year was the first time in our company’s history that we did not have an in-person company offsite. That didn’t stop us, however, from having a multi-week mini-series to reflect on the year and unite and excite the team around VIA’s clean energy mission. 

We feel incredibly grateful for the resiliency and flexibility our team has shown during this challenging year. We thank them and we extend our thank you to our customers and investors for their continued support as well. We hope that no matter where you will be working from in 2021, you will have a happy, prosperous, and most of all “return to normal” 2021.

The 5 Game Changers that Made 2018 VIA’s Year

Trusted Analytics Chain™ (TAC™)
In 2018, VIA’s Trusted Analytics Chain™ (TAC™) moved from early development stages to first pilots and now, is ready for an official launch in Q1 2019. Along the way, we were invited to speak about TAC™ at events across three continents, including the 9th Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, Iberdrola’s Innoday in Madrid, and Greentech Media’s Blockchain in Energy Forum in San Francisco.

We were honored to accept the MITX Best Technology Innovation Concept award, which recognized TAC™’s potential to transform the energy industry. In addition, we demonstrated TAC™’s capabilities during our first ever webinar this past fall.

CEO Colin Gounden ALC

VIA TAC MITX Award

VIA Greentech Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Growth and Development
VIA nearly doubled in size this year with the addition of 10 new team members in both our Somerville and Montreal offices. And, we are actively recruiting for the following positions to be based out of the Montreal office: Front-End Developer, User Interface and Experience Designer, Software Developer, Software Engineer, and DevOps Specialist. Visit our Careers page for more information and to apply.

VIA Hiring

Press Features
VIA enjoyed a record number of press features this year, highlighting both our technology and the team behind the tech. In January, CEO Colin Gounden was interviewed for Inc. Magazine to discuss VIA’s approach to building its team.

Additional media outlets include: com! Professional Magazine, FutureTech podcast, Digitex Futures, and Clean Energy Finance Forum. For links to these features, visit our Press page.

VIA Inc. Magazine

 

 

Brand Refresh
In March, VIA debuted its new name, logo, and website, as part of a brand refresh. We also introduced “Solve with VIA” as an anchor to our brand, one developed through brainstorming with the entire VIA team and consulting with our most trusted partners. The idea that clients “Solve with VIA” was an ever-present theme through these creative sessions, and ultimately inspired VIA’s newly designed logo. The logo visually represents the journey VIA takes with its clients from identifying a problem to finding a solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partnerships
We are so grateful to our partners that have helped support our progress and made our success possible. And, today we are proud to announce our newest partner, KWHCoin. Through our partnership, KWHCoin will use VIA’s Trusted Analytics Chain™ (TAC™) to securely and anonymously analyze consumer behavior from smart meter data in order to help its utility partners better incentivize their customers to use renewable sources and clean energy. Earlier this year, we also began working with BigchainDB, leveraging their database to make TAC™ a consortium blockchain.

We were accepted to Accelerace, one of Europe’s top-seed accelerators, as part of their Cleantech program. Accelerace will help us establish a corporate presence in Denmark, make introductions to leading European utilities, and gain mentorship from experienced Danish entrepreneurs, cleantech executives, and industry experts.

Additionally, we were accepted to NVIDIA’s Inception program, which is designed to nurture startups revolutionizing industries with advancements in AI and data science.

VIA Accelerace

Six Values in Six Months: A Co-op Reflects

My name is Meg Foley. I have worked as the marketing execution co-op at VIA’s Davis Square headquarters since January. And this is the story of how that became the most rewarding experience of my life (so far!).

That’s me!

In my two years at Northeastern University, I have already made major progress towards some of my life goals, like traveling the world, earning a college degree, and getting real-life work experience (and I still have three more years to go!). I studied abroad in Dublin my first semester, went to classes in Boston for the next two semesters, and worked at a startup in Davis Square for the past six months.

These experiences have all made me who I am today and my time at VIA is no exception. I gained essential professional experience, and each lesson stemmed from VIA’s company values.

Respect a good challenge and challenge with respect

We believe in facing challenges head-on with passion and excitement. We’ve created an environment where team members feel psychologically safe to raise alternative ideas and share their personal concerns, helping us reach better outcomes in the end.

The team loves to step out for ice cream on a hot day! And after a particularly warm day in February, J.P. Licks even featured one of our ice cream photos on their social media.

As the marketing execution co-op, one of my primary responsibilities was maintaining our Zoho CRM (a database that helps us manage all our relationships with our ever-expanding network). But more than just maintain this system, I made it my mission to make it even more efficient and effective. One component of that meant making data reports, like our sales pipeline, more visually appealing. To do this, I worked closely with VIA COO, Kate Ravanis, to hash out the goals and strategy for how this would work.

For me, the biggest challenge was putting my Excel knowledge to work and being patient with changing formats and preferences. Through many versions and rounds of feedback with VIA’s executive team, I eventually found a way to incorporate everyone’s input and all the essential details. Now that visual report is a part of the team’s biweekly demo, and this challenging project led to a new staple piece of internal communications!

Learning never goes out of style

Learning is all about feedback and trying new things. Each person, at every position in the company, has frequent feedback sessions with their manager to set goals and priorities, reflect on accomplishments, and discuss areas for improvement and additional support.

Somerville team at our brand launch (this was a huge deal to be a part of)

One of my friends, who is also on a co-op at another organization, was shocked to hear how often I speak with my supervisor on the marketing team. “I wish I could get any feedback at all!” he said. I was proud to have such an open line of communication, which has been so important and useful for my personal growth.

This open communication also meant I was able to speak up about projects I wanted to pursue, like becoming the VIA Culture Coordinator, and skills I wanted to develop, like written communication, so I was really able to shape my role at VIA to better fit me. With each new responsibility I took on, I created a comprehensive process guide so future co-ops can continue building on projects I started, like our new Instagram account. I hope these guides allow for many future smooth transitions from one co-op to another, and that it’s one way I can continue contributing to VIA’s learning-focused environment.

Be each other’s biggest fan

Everyone deserves a high five once in a while! The more we support each other, the more we encourage wide ranging contributions from diverse backgrounds to solve problems.

The marketing team treated me to a fun brunch on my birthday.

Every person on the team is recognized and celebrated for any number of reasons: professional accomplishments, personal victories, or even birthdays.

In fact, on my birthday I was taken to a lovely brunch by my marketing team. This is a fond memory I’ll treasure forever. Celebrating the individual, like we did on my birthday, is central to VIA’s culture. As the Culture Coordinator, I was proud to be a part of creating even more structure around what we celebrate and how, like birthdays (of course), work anniversaries, and fun holidays like Pi Day and Star Wars Day.

Ready, set, RESILIENCE!

We are solving problems that others have considered unsolvable. Difficult problems require patience and grit. Individuals require resilience to approach a major challenge and overcome all the smaller challenges along the way.

During my co-op, VIA achieved a lot of exciting milestones. One that stands out in particular was winning the MITX Best Technology Innovation Concept Award. We were thrilled to learn we were finalists, but in order to qualify for the next round of review, someone from VIA would need to present a demo of our blockchain-based Trusted Analytics Chain (TAC).

Due to the very busy travel schedules of our client and business development teams, the only person available on the night of the demo was a member of our marketing team. She needed to learn (in just one weekend) the inner workings of TAC and how to demo it, and prepare for any number of questions that might come up with the judges (I was happy to help her prepare by asking the most challenging questions I could think of, and many of those were actually asked on the night of!). Without her determination and ability to deal with high stakes situations, traits that come naturally to everyone on the VIA team, this feat couldn’t have been accomplished.

Love in = Love out

We believe that if you love what you do, it will show in the quality and productivity of your work. Twice a year we get together for a company-wide offsite where team members’ contributions are recognized and new ideas are discussed.

The team has grown from then to now, we have 20 employees as of June 2018.

We had an amazing company offsite this April. This experience was one of the times I felt most immersed in VIA’s love in=love out culture. For example, during the offsite we had an ongoing activity: a fun fact scavenger hunt. Everyone received a list of fun facts with blank spaces next to them, and our goal was to match the anonymous fun fact to the right person. You would not believe how much we committed to this scavenger hunt! I had so much fun getting to know everyone on the team through this activity, while enjoying some friendly competition (people even formed alliances to pool their answers!). It just goes to show that when people really love what they do, it shows, even in small moments of downtime during an all company meeting.

Stay curious

Technology today is moving at a super fast pace. Curious people who constantly explore new approaches and think outside the box help find the best possible solutions.

Some of the marketing team at a recruiting event at Northeastern.

AI and blockchain technology are two of the hottest buzzwords in the tech world (and beyond) right now. But, explaining what they mean exactly is not so simple. The marketing team stays curious about how we can better make writing about what we do more accessible, and our CEO Colin Gounden does a great job of sharing creative anecdotes and analogies to help us.

One example of that is his Van Halen story: the band’s 1982 world tour contract explicitly stated there shouldn’t be any brown M&Ms backstage. Colin explains how this seemingly bizarre request actually illustrates how Ethereum’s smart contracting functionality works. People’s eyes light up every time he explains this (a real A-ha! moment). Marketing was even able to use this to write one of our latest blogs: “Rock Science: How Van Halen Invented Smart Contracts”.

Goodbye and thank you!

That’s my team (on St.Patrick’s Day) rocking green.

I will miss VIA. It was an adventure, one I couldn’t have trekked without the team here in Somerville (shout out to Marketing!). It must seem cliché at this point, but there is not a single thing I would change about my co-op. Being at a company that cares about the individual as much as the company is rare, and I think the strong set of values is to thank for that.

VIA Reflects on its Largest Company Offsite Ever

In April, VIA brought its Somerville and Montreal teams together for our first company offsite of 2018 and our largest one ever (with 16 team members!). Offsites are essential to our company culture: they offer an uninterrupted time of sharing team wins, solving project challenges, and planning for the next big thing.

By VIA Careers

Once the Somerville team arrived at our Montreal office, we launched into our “unconference” – a relatively new format for our offsites. We found that moving away from formal presentations and towards open, free-form discussions made the overall offsite experience even more productive and engaging for everyone.

It’s not entirely unstructured, however! Team members submit topics beforehand about what they want to discuss, like best practices for communication, how to identify the right professional development opportunities, and the future of blockchain in energy and beyond. We vote as a group to finalize the list of topics at the start of the offsite.

VIA company offsite      VIA company offsite

CEO Colin Gounden and COO Kate Ravanis kicked off the unconference with leading the vote on discussion topics and handing out gifts. This time, each team member got a copy of the original Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, with a personalized note from Colin. You may remember from our last offsite blogWinnie the Pooh is special source of inspiration for us.

VIA company offsite      VIA company offsite

The open discussion format inspires even more collaboration across the technical and commercial teams, inviting fresh perspectives and big picture thinking.

VIA company offsite      VIA company offsite 

After our discussion sessions, we hit the links for a friendly round of (glow in the dark!) mini golf: an impressive display of athleticism from all. No offsite would be complete without this time to step away from the day to day and connect with teammates outside of work.VIA company offsite

In the coming months, we’ll continue to grow our Somerville and Montreal teams. If you’re interested in joining the fun, check out our careers page for the latest opportunities.

3 Ways VIA Prioritizes the Team Behind the Tech

VIA is not your typical tech startup. From our unique application of AI and blockchain, to our belief that humans + AI solve problems better together than either alone, VIA has certainly carved out its own niche in a crowded field of solutions providers. But according to our team, what really sets us apart is our people-first mentality. In order for our technology and solutions to stay cutting edge, we need to continue building, cultivating, and supporting the team that got us where we are today.

By Kate Ravanis

1. Building a great team starts with recruiting great team players.

Our CEO Colin Gounden said it best in his recent interview with Inc. Magazine: “What we want are people who are smart and motivated, and who are good at solving problems. You can teach programming and data science, but not innate things like motivation and problem-solving and creativity.”

What we are really looking for are individuals willing to learn, evolve with our technology, and roll up their sleeves to do whatever comes their way.

2. Cultivating a great team requires an effective feedback process that facilitates a regular dialogue around individual’s desires and abilities.

We know that each person on our team has a unique set of strengths, areas of expertise, and career goals. And, we know these things are subject to change over time. At VIA, we rely on our feedback process to ensure we stay in tune with each person’s desires and abilities, which is the first step to ensuring they continue to feel motivated and productive.

One key component of our feedback process is frequency: we schedule bi-monthly reviews (instead of the more traditional annual review cycle) to provide consistent opportunities for self-reflection, goal evaluation, and constructive feedback. To borrow from Winnie the Pooh: frequent reviews are a chance to “stop bumping for a moment” and reflect on what’s working, what isn’t, and what we can change (and how) to become more effective.

3. Supporting a great team means balancing your team’s desires and abilities with the company’s needs. Our allocations team has a goal of matching the Desire, Need, and Ability (DNA) of people and the organization over time.
Understanding the DNA of our team is only one piece of the puzzle. The real value (for both the individuals and the company) comes from putting that information into action. At VIA, our allocations team uses this knowledge to make thoughtful decisions around project and talent management. We strive to balance what an individual wants with the tasks the company needs completed. This means making an effort to create opportunities for team members to learn new skills and tackle new challenges (and not just assign tasks within their current wheelhouse), which is essential to long-term satisfaction and team morale.