Audible Education is a cross-functional team of developers, data scientists, product managers, designers, content curators, localization experts, user researchers, and others, spanning Audible’s Cambridge, MA and Jersey City, NJ offices. Our mission: to unleash the power of the spoken word to educate the world. Our method of achieving this is by offering an authentic, engaging reading experience by syncing up Kindle eBooks with the Audible audiobook so that readers can follow along with real-time text highlighting as the narrator is reading.

Last week, we all gathered in Jersey City for a week of team building to strengthen our interoffice connections by having fun together. The week began with a hackathon on Monday and Tuesday. Cross-functional teams combining tech, product, UX, and content got organized and got innovating. The teams worked to improve processes previously thought to be too difficult to improve, to experiment with new experiences and platforms for our product, and to add new features that would have high customer value.

Audible Education Team hackathon photo

On Wednesday morning, we demonstrated the projects to a panel of judges comprised of leaders from our team and results were stunning—every single team made huge progress in a mere two days. Many of the products will be presented to senior leaders in the coming weeks and considered for the future roadmap. The best result was reinforcing the power of an engaged and empowered team. Given the freedom to explore their problem spaces, invent around dependencies, and deliver results, the team improved at high velocity and developed deep engagement in their projects.

Later that day, we took the the PATH train across the Hudson to attend Hack The Met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a fresh take on the museum experience which included an edgy and fascinating tour of lesser-known parts of the museum as well as a silly team scavenger hunt where we had to take photos of artwork and our teammates and post them to Instagram. Then, we were off to One World Trade Center, taking the elevator all the way up to Floor 102 for a happy hour featuring stunning 360-degree view of the city. We ended the day with delicious food and karaoke in K-town.

Audible Education Team scavenger hunt photo posing as art work

On Thursday, my colleagues Jyotsna Maktha, Mike Miller, and I presented a tech talk about this text and audio syncing technology to an engaged audience interested in learning about our tech stack and the applications of Audible to education. We even met two new team members starting in the next few weeks.

To close out the week, on Friday we all went to the movies together and saw Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (many people on our team enjoy Harry Potter), and then it was time for the Cambridge team to head back home.

Audible Education Team photo with New York skyline

As a cross-site team, we don’t always get to socialize, but weeks like this remind us that we are all one team working together on one common mission: to help our customers improve their listening and speaking fluency in English. The experience of working together and having fun this week has better prepared us for future collaborations.