The Day a Software Company Became… Rappers

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Team in Car
Urm…. yeah

It was a rainy August day in Poland when the sales and marketing team for the Atlassian Platinum Vendor, Old Street Solutions, got together with their CEO and co-founder for the first time to shoot a hip hop video in a shisha bar.

Wait—what?

Now, I’m not going to name names as to whose idea this was (not mine!) but it was supposed to be a recruitment video, telling people about Old Street Solutions and why you should come work for us. There was a moment when we were dancing in the disco lights of the shisha bar and could barely see for cigar smoke when the CEO turned to me and said, “Er – why are we doing this again?!”

Let’s set the scene. Warsaw, Poland. With the world coming out of lockdown, the Old Street Solutions team were itching for a get-together. One that would mostly be a jolly, with a bit of actual work. Our predominantly remote team spanning Poland, the UK, the US, and Australia, several of us had only ever seen each other’s faces on Zoom.

Over the course of those few days, Warsaw sights were seen, Polish delicacies were sampled, and a lot of alcohol was drunk. And the bit of actual work? Well, that was the day we spent shooting our, erm, “recruitment video”.

The rap song was already in the bag and, while I myself am not a rap fan (I’ve recommended we grow our hair down to our waists, source guitars, and shoot a heavy metal video next), it’s got a pretty good beat I have to admit. Better still, the lyrics contain some great messages about empowerment in the workplace and why flatter hierarchies (like ours) are better.

Jamale talking to the dancers
Jamale holding court at the shisha bar

The shoot, I believe, was an attempt to emulate stereotypical hip hop videos. Hence we had cigar-smoking, scantily clad female dancers, horrendously gaudy hoodies, and the staple burning of bank notes. And at one stage we found ourselves cruising about in a 1969 Cadillac Deville. I say “cruising about”. Thanks to the dreadful weather, that part of the shoot was confined to a multi-storey car park. Yeah. We were keepin’ it trill. (I know, I really can’t pull off this shit.)

We also had a professional production team with flashy equipment and expensive-looking cameras and directors telling us what to do and where to stand. And to be fair, the end result looks just as good as something Hollywood might churn out. It looks like a hip hop video should. That’s why it’s probably for the best that I didn’t make any creative decisions for this video myself. Knowing approximately nada about hip hop, I probably would’ve dressed everybody up as Jedis and Klingons and had us cruising about in a flux-capacitor-equipped DeLorean whilst cavorting with Daleks. Less cool, more nerd.

Berry DJing
Me, er, DJing apparently

In fact, on the day of the shoot, I was wearing a T-shirt with the words “SITH HAPPENS” on it. You know, like “shit happens” but Star Wars. One of the dancers asked me what it meant and when I explained, she said, “Ooooh, so you’re a GEEK!” – to which I proudly said, “Yes, 100%”, after which she admitted that she liked to paint Star Wars art. (Hey, geeks come in all shapes and sizes you know!) Anyway, I suggested that when Jamale raps his line, “Come on the dark side”, that we zoom in on my T-shirt! Great idea, no? Alas, it was vetoed, and it was because, well, that day we were all pretending NOT to be nerds. Boo, I say. Boo.

So, we all became wannabe hip hop stars for the day. Talk about going off-piste with your team building exercises! But hey, it was fun. We had a laugh. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously (apart from professional poser Gabriel, who was back and forth for makeup touch-ups like Mariah Carey). And we took a risk that the rest of the software community may laugh their asses off at us.

Gabriel getting makeup done
Gabriel with his best friend – the makeup artist

Does it work as a recruitment video? Do we look like a fun and laid-back company to work for? Or have we given folks out there the impression that we’re a bunch of typical blokes that smoke cigars and hang out in shisha bars? I mean, we’re not even just blokes. The lack of women in this video is simply because none of our female team members could make the trip. I’ll always wonder if the production team would’ve had dancers gyrating around my female colleagues…

Anyway, I’ll let you decide what to make of it. And next time, perhaps there will be Daleks, and lightsabers, and heavy metal. A nerd can dream.

Oh, and also, shout-out to Gabriel for at least trying to give this strange experiment some context with his intro clip.

Christopher is a self-confessed nerd who’d probably take the cake on Mastermind if Star Trek: Voyager was his specialist subject. He writes fiction about time travel, conspiracies and aliens; loves roller coasters, hiking and Christmas; and hates carpet, rom-coms and anything with chilli in it. He’s written extensively for technology companies and Atlassian partners and specializes in translating complicated technical concepts, specs and jargon into readable, benefits-driven copy that casual readers will understand.