How Aloha Fridays became an Iris tradition

“Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Iris team all wearing Hawaiian shirts on a large balcony
Aloha Friday at the Iris 2019 Retreat

One of the most exciting things about joining an early stage start-up is the opportunity to make an impact outside of your area of expertise. For some at Iris, it’s getting involved in product management despite being a production engineer. For others, it’s helping to write regulatory waivers despite being a UAS pilot. For me, it was wanting to leave my mark on Iris culture despite working as a computer vision software engineer. I didn’t know how I would, but I knew that I wanted Iris to always feel like a fun place to work — more than just having a mini basketball and hoop at our first office— especially when the team was building the early version of our product.

This used to be a typical Friday at the Iris San Francisco office

When I joined the team in May of 2017, Fridays always felt a little dull — we were at the end of a long week of hard work, and we just needed to power through one more day to make it to the weekend. So I decided to bring Aloha Fridays to Iris. Every Friday, I’d encourage my teammates to throw on their best Hawaiian shirt and come into the office in a more relaxed and cheerful state of mind. I hoped it would make the end of our weeks a little more vibrant and help boost spirits. At first, the team was more than a little hesitant to adopt the idea. In fact, it took about a year of being the only participant for others to join the movement.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 when the movement started to become a revolution

During the summer of 2018, two of our software engineering interns finally embraced the Aloha mindset. This was enough to convince a couple other Irisians to temporarily join the movement, but after the interns left, participation was low (one colleague did institute his own version, Feline Friday, of which he remains the sole participant). A couple others and I still donned a Hawaiian shirt every Friday, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2019 when the movement started to become a revolution. I’m still not sure what caused this massive wave of adoption, but at a certain point, at least half of the San Francisco office began regularly participating in Aloha Fridays.

Here I am sandwiched by our two like-minded interns

All of this peaked at our recent 2019 company retreat; I asked the organizers if we could take our Aloha Friday tradition to the next level, from which our first annual “Aloha Parade” was born. Groups of Iris team members took turns parading/Hula dancing around the balcony as “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” played in the background. Team members were also competing for prestigious honors such as “Best parade performance” and “Best style.”

Almost everyone brought or borrowed a Hawaiian shirt and showed off their uniqueness, style, and overall Aloha spirit to the rest of the company — proof that the Iris’ Aloha Friday revolution had reached its full potential!

After everyone had so much fun during the parade, I genuinely believe that Aloha Fridays are here to stay. It is so gratifying to know that my small contribution well outside my technical role’s wheelhouse has made a positive and permanent impact on Iris’ culture.

Aloha Parade (featuring Feline Friday)