Boats, Hikes, and Kissing A Fish – Oh My!

St. John’s Newfoundland, located on Canada’s East Coast, is one of the country’s most historic cities. Birthplace of the first transatlantic wireless communication, the city sits along the windy shores of the North Atlantic about 2,000 nautical miles from Ireland, where most residents can trace their roots. With just over 100,000 residents, it’s a city of proud, hardworking people who are as famous for their music as they are for their fresh cod, humor, accents, and warmheartedness. What better place to hold our 2022 Converge Canada Sales Strategy Off-Site than a city known for new foundations and lifelong connections? 

Our main goal for this trip was to gather team members from across Canada and align on the Converge go-to-market and sales strategy, as well as build relationships with colleagues – and who wouldn’t bond while walking along the edge of a cliff, braving the North Atlantic waves, or kissing a real fish? 

Responsible for organizing the trip, it was my team’s role to ensure we arranged new, exciting, and memorable local experiences for everyone. The first was a hike. Signal Hill is one of St. John’s most iconic landmarks and one of the most breathtaking hiking areas you can find anywhere in the world. With 5km of trails, the must-do of them all is North Head Trail, which begins from the highest point on the island where you can see for miles in all directions… when the weather is clear. Another thing infamous to harbor towns is the fog; and we had plenty of it that day. It was also quite chilly, and as any Newfoundlander will tell you, the cold there is of the ‘bone-chilling’ sort. The damp sea air penetrates even the best Gore-Tex and settles right underneath your skin until finally, the sun comes out or, more likely, you find a cozy pub to warm up in. 

On the day of the hike there was no sunshine or warm pubs in our immediate future, but thankfully, the fog cleared a little as we ascended the wooden staircases leading to the first lookout. One of the first things you’ll notice about St. John’s is that the people are very laid back, which also carries over to safety precautions. They trust that a person will know better than to fall off a cliff – and really, we should! We were standing at the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet above the Atlantic Ocean with no railings, fences, or warning signs. Talk about team building, right?

Pictures taken, it was time to keep moving, but the trail was about to take an exciting (terrifying?) turn. Without any warning (of course), we were suddenly scaling against the cliff wall – single file, gripping an old piece of rope attached to the rockface. I have never been so grateful for a bit of rope, but I wondered if there shouldn’t be another one on the outside. Thankfully, we made it to the next leg of our journey through the iconic yellow, blue, and red ‘jellybean houses’ stacked along the rocky cliff. Did I mention the people were friendly and laid back in St. John’s? This portion of the trail goes right through people’s backyards, past their kitchen windows, and it would seem they’re totally cool with that. Just as laid back about property lines as they are safety signs. 

We walked across several porches, through a few back gardens, down an alley, and up a flight of stone stairs as old as the city itself, ending up at someone’s front door. There are no arrows, signs, or painted footprints on the ground to guide you. If you aren’t from St. John’s, you wouldn’t know to walk around a privately-owned house where the stone staircase continues and brings you back to the trail. Luckily, Bernard Libby, a Converge Inside Sales Rep and resident of St. John’s, knew the way and was even good enough to come back to get us after he’d disappeared around the building momentarily, forgetting he had a bunch of ‘mainlanders’ to look after. 

Finally, (near) the top, we found a shop that served hot chocolate and fresh lemonade. We still had about a half-hour to go, but our second adventure awaited. Perhaps slightly lazily, we asked our bus driver to pick us up. 

Back at the hotel, refreshed and invigorated, it was time to gather the Sales Teams from the boardrooms and head towards the harbor, where a boat waited to take us to see something genuinely characteristic of St. John’s: puffins, whales, and icebergs, and not necessarily in that order. Oh, and we had to get ‘screeched-in’— more on that in a second.

If you’ve never experienced taking a boat tour outside the calm waters of a harbor only to crash head-on into 4ft waves while a musician serenades you with a song containing the lyrics, “we are on a sinking ship, a sinking ship, a sinking ship”, you’re missing out. That bone-chilling cold I mentioned earlier didn’t seem to bother our seasoned crew as we cruised along the same cliffside we’d just hiked. From where I was huddled on the main deck of the boat praying to the sea gods not to let me get sick, I every so often would steal a glance out the window hoping to spot a whale’s spout, white speck on the horizon, or colorful water bird. Unfortunately, there was nothing but swirling grey water and whitecaps. I did note that this didn’t seem to bother any of the passengers. Mingling on all levels of the boat, the Sales and Marketing Teams were getting to know each other and doing something fun – only a handful were the same shade of green as I was. Mercifully, half an hour into the ride, we turned around and headed with the waves back towards the harbor. The boat now having stopped its vicious rocking back and forth, I could finally compose myself and participate in one of the oldest and most unique maritime traditions. It was time to be screeched in.

Getting ‘screeched in’, turns a visitor into an honorary Newfoundlander, but involves doing jigs with an ugly stick, kissing a real codfish, and taking a shot of not-so-great rum (author’s opinion!). Thankfully, in this ceremony the skipper had switched out the codfish for a stuffed puffin and the ugly stick with a tongue-twister of a pledge. The music was fun and the atmosphere cheery and even though we didn’t see one puffin, whale, or iceberg (in any order), it was the perfect way to wrap up a brief trip full of colorful and lasting memories. 

As the Converge family grows, it is becoming more dynamic and resourceful, however, it is also more spread out. It’s more important than ever to gather and get to know our teammates with whom we will be working very closely to leverage our skills and services to help Converge do what it does best – provide solutions to our customers. 

Looking back, this experience was one of the easiest and most enjoyable off-site events I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. I think that’s partly because of the people in St. John’s being so friendly and laid back, and partly because of the new faces and wonderful personalities I got to meet. As an unofficial ‘Newfie’ I’ll sign off in the St. John’s way: “Go on, b’y”!