Boo-yah! Our Favorite Costumes at Aha!
One unicorn, 10 dumplings, and a school of sharks joined the same Zoom call. I know this sounds like the setup of a bad joke. But it is a real experience that happened last October when a crew of costumed Aha!s joined our Friday all-company meeting. Typically, these calls are an opportunity for us to share company progress against goals — each functional group presents completed projects or upcoming efforts.
Building a radically different company is serious business — but our annual Aha!lloween costume contest gives us the chance to be 100 percent silly.
The tradition began just a few years after Aha! was founded. In 2016, a few teammates were looking to carry on some of their favorite in-person team-building events in an entirely remote setting. So we held a small costume contest around Halloween. Even the skeptics had to admit that it was surprisingly fun — a playful way to end the week.
Aha!lloween has since taken on a life of its own. Even teammates who do not care much about Halloween or live in countries where the holiday is not celebrated take part in the competition. The concept behind the event is straightforward but the details are fully infused with Aha! team spirit. For those who choose to participate — we go all in.
Some teams spend weeks preparing coordinated costumes. And everything is a tight-lipped secret until the grand, on-camera reveal.
At the end of the call, the competition begins. Categories include scariest costume, best group, best team, and best overall costume. Everyone votes and it is a nail-biting race to the finish. Winning best costume is among the most coveted achievements — right up there with our official company awards.
I am really looking forward to Aha!lloween this year and I know others are too. So in the spirit of the season, I wanted to look back at how some of the most memorable team costumes came together:
The glitch that launched a thousand Aha! jokes. For some reason the 💯 emoji in Slack was showing as 🥟 — after a teammate pointed it out, nearly everyone in the company was spamming each other with 🥟 messages. So the marketing team put their creativity to work. "I created the template for everyone's headpieces and we crafted them together over a Zoom happy hour," says Ashley Borg. "It was a fun activity to do — plus homemade costumes are always the coolest."
"Aha!niversary," "Aha!lloween" — you can squeeze "Aha!" into most words with an "a" in it. Well, the People Success team took this to the headbanging extreme with a rock and roll ensemble. "At the end of the day, I think we all just really liked playing into our alter egos," says Ashley Thompson (aka MadonnAha!).
Under the weather
Roadmaps with a chance of showers? For this one, the product and UX team teased a new feature that they were going to be releasing — Aha! weather. Each person showed the forecast for their location. "We brainstormed many ideas, from Snow White’s dwarves to a seven-day weather forecast," says Nathaniel Collum. "We went with the latter because it requires less prosthetics and hats."
Over the rainbow
You can make a group costume without having everyone wear the same thing. Take this sparkling group of Customer Success teammates. "We decided to go for a magical theme — rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns," says Debbie Fougere. "One person already had a unicorn costume so it really did come together quickly."
It is hard to find a costume with variations for more than 30 people. So Yuko Takegoshi's ears pricked up when our CEO Brian de Haaff made an offhand comment about his video not working during a call. "He reassured us by saying he looks the same as always — wearing a plaid shirt," she says. "I realized copying that is a concept that works for a large team because 1.) it is relatively easy to find a plaid collared shirt and 2.) there are endless variations. So everyone can put their own spin on it."
Nostalgia is always a good bet for costume inspiration. This Customer Success group went for a classic game. "We were looking for something that was simple to pull together and that we knew our kiddos (those that have kids) might find fun," says Amy Woodham.
Rituals hold company culture together — creating bonds that withstand times of challenge or change.
I love any chance I get to celebrate what makes our team so special. Aha!lloween is just one of the many unique traditions that have formed over the years. Besides, a little nonsense can be a good thing. Whether it is coming up with rockstar puns or crafting dumpling headpieces over a Zoom call, being silly in a competitive setting is great fodder for memorable stories that connect you together. And I know I cannot wait to see what lengths the team will go to for this year's contest.
What kinds of fun rituals does your company have?
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