A Symbol of Culture
Cultural anthropologists in the 60s started a study known as “Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology”. These few found the connections between objects of significance and the larger culture around them (notably: Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Clifford Geertz). If I were to put on the hat of a symbolic anthropologist, and my mission was to study Metal Toad, the first object that would come in focus would be The Kegerator. Simply, it shows who we are. This could be why Metal Toad is so often showing it off to everyone. Clients, friends, and pretty much anyone else who wants a beer--I recently even invited the guys at my favorite coffee shop Barista to come up to the office for a beer. It is an amazing focal point of the company and I believe it is because The Kegerator represents Metal Toad in three ways: the culture, the tech, and the trust.
All around the world, over many cultures and customs, people welcome others into their home for a drink. Friends and family socialize over a beverage, and these examples point to the inviting, casual, feelings uncommon with what we associate with a business. But this is exactly how Metal Toad operates, as a friendly, comfortable, loving environment. We are fortunate to have a great Office Concierge, Aaron, who is quick to welcome people with a beverage (beer, or otherwise).
Part of us having a kegerator may also be a reflection of the geographical culture we live in. In Portland there are 72 breweries within the city limits and many more in the surrounding Oregon area. We love our microbrew in the Pacific Northwest and brewing beer is a common pastime for many Toads. Often The Kegerator will be stocked with at least one (if not multiple beers) actually brewed by one of us in the office (most notably by Peter Bliss who wrote a blog post about brewing, and Tyler Ward). Metal Toad’s podcast “Toadcast” has even devoted a full episode to the brewing passion.
Our culture is also big on work/life balance. In addition to our unlimited PTO, The Kegerator speaks to our culture of balance, removing feelings of being the code monkey for your 8-hour shift, and leave. The Kegerator is a place to gather, talk, relax after a hard project, rejoice in a small victory, or make a 4 pm meeting--the one that you know is going to take you well after 5--feel fun.
Our culture is most importantly about technology, and once again, The Kegerator does not lack in showcasing this aspect of our culture.
I hope this blog post inspires a follow up blog post by our very talented Sr. Developer Aubrey Francois, as he will have the real information on the technology that has gone into making The Kegarator awesome, but allow me to do a high level overview of what we got.
First and foremost, The Kegerator has been a completely D.I.Y. project (Mostly by Dylan Tack). Using an old refrigerator to outfit 3 corny kegs and drilling out the slots for taps was just the beginning. We additionally used the freezer space for the display screen and that is where the real magic began. You need to know what's in the kegs! So our team got to work. A 23-inch screen to display all the necessary beer information was done by building a website that's accessible to all to see what we are drinking.
So now we have a fancy display, a website to show off. . .how do we make this even cooler? We put in a real-time display of stats! Using the guts of a wii balance board we built a scale to send the weight information to an animated pint glass that gives the current read of how full the keg is.
All in all this project which is part instillation work, part technology, and part culture is a great representation of who we are, what we do, and our spirit of intelligence and ingenuity.
As you read this, I imagine your reaction is like most people I talk to about this, your brain is probably coming up with all the ways in which this could go wrong or why it could never work at your business, but Metal Toad also has a strong culture of trust, and for this reason as well, I think The Kegerator is a great example of our culture. We trust each other to not get drunk in the middle of the afternoon and fail hard on a project. We trust each other to be wise about our intake, and we trust each other (mostly Aaron Kennedy) to keep the kegs full. To repeat our VP of People, "we treat each other like ladies and gentlemen,” which comes with trust rather than the distrust that something could go wrong, it removes the idea that our leadership needs to be risk adverse versus catering to a positive and fun environment.
When considering what The Kegerator does as a totem of our culture, portfolio piece of our work, and symbol of our trust, it encapsulates how The Kegerator shows who we are.