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Two weeks in Rio with Epic Brasil

This post was written by Tom Winter and first appeared on the Epic blog on 10th April 2014.

In my time as a learning designer at Epic I have made some interesting trips for work. With an international client base we get to see some exciting places – from Milton Keynes and Runcorn to Milan and Rome. But it was an opportunity to spend two weeks working with our Brazil office that means I can now add Rio de Janeiro to the list.

Epic UK meets Epic Brasil

I was part of a team from the UK who went out over a six week period to share and build our processes and practices. As representatives of the various disciplines within Epic, we worked with our counterpart team (platforms, flash, HTML development, graphic design, learning design) in the Rio office.

It was my first trip south of the equator so it took a few days to become orientated – seeing the moon hang at a different angle was very strange. I also found it hard to comprehend the scale of the place – everything is supersized. Roads which had looked like dual carriageways on Google Earth were in fact 14-lane super highways, rolling green hills were sheer-walled granite mountains thrusting up throughout the city, local shopping centres were 120,000 m2 labyrinths, the traffic was constant, crazy and unavoidable, even the food was enormous!

And speaking of food – lunch was one indicator of the differences I experienced between our Brighton and Rio offices. In the UK, I am used to a quick sandwich at my desk or a short walk on the beach. In Rio it was a different story. Lunch is an essential part of the culture – so much so that every employee is provided (by law) with a monthly food allowance on a payment card only accepted at restaurants. Lunch is always a social affair, and most often taken outside the office in one of hundreds of local restaurants. Having lunch with different groups of people every day meant that I soon got to know the whole office and quickly became part of a very friendly and sociable team.

Becoming part of the team

This social cohesion is an important factor that helps the team deal with the significant challenges of being a very young organisation in the midst of rapid growth. The workforce has grown from 6 – 60 staff in little over a year and sales have increased rapidly since the office opened in 2011. Growth of that scale and speed is hard to sustain, and I was impressed by the skill, expertise, care and dedication that the teams displayed in overcoming those challenges.

I had worried that our language differences would be a significant barrier that might lead to a less effective, purely didactic experience. However, with English-speaking learning designers translating in our training sessions, my concerns were overcome. I was soon involved in a series of lively and enthusiastic discussions about instructional design practice, Brazilian learning theory, AV production processes and much more besides. Google Translate also led to some unintentional ice breakers: A slide on the perils of half-baked graphic briefs took on a whole new dimension with ‘briefs’ translated to ‘male underwear’!

So, I was able to work collaboratively with some of the teams and go beyond presentation to active review and participation in ongoing projects. In fact, collaboration became a central theme of my visit. Proactive collaboration is vital to the success of e-learning projects at Epic – with clients and SMEs and among internal teams and disciplines. It is also a vital component of our success as an international organisation expanding into new countries and continents.

An Oscars-style selfie celebration

Although still young, the teams at Epic Brasil have developed a great tradition. After a successful collaboration in which an obstacle is overcome, a solution created or an innovative idea is made real, the team involved will gather to take an Oscars-style selfie to capture and celebrate their joint achievement. Something I think we could use in the UK to help celebrate our successes. Here’s one from the end of a fairly intense bilingual review session:

Epic Brazil Oscars selfie

 

I look forward to continuing our collaboration (albeit via the web, rather than in person). It was hugely rewarding to see the methods, process and practices we are so used to in the UK, being appraised, comprehended and applied (with added improvements) by a young new team, in a foreign language, in a strange beautiful city, 6,000 miles from home.

To find out more about Epic Brasil, please head to their website.