P.MAI Pioneer: Shuai Chen
Shuai Chen is the Founder and Chief Puzzle Officer of Gr8er Good Games. In addition to her work at Gr8er Good Games, she is also an event coordinator with the SF Urban Adventure Club, a co-organizer of the No Ordinary Week (NOW!) Festival, a co-founder of Adult Recess, and a co-founder of Middle Circle. Prior to Gr8er Good Games, Shuai was the Executive Director of SCRAP, a San Francisco nonprofit institution. Shuai has produced, coordinated or hosted over 700 events in the past 10 years, including creativity workshops, field days, cross-factional volunteer events, augmented reality games, art exhibitions, Amazing Race-like challenges, corporate teambuilding games, pop-up escape rooms and more. Her events range from intimate 2-person puzzle-game experiences to educational summits with over 1000 participants. Shuai was proud to represent Team USA in the 2017 World Escape Room Championships in Budapest. She holds two degrees from MIT and one from Stanford.
Tell us about Gr8er Good Games.
At Gr8er Good Games, we create scavenger hunts, races and games that incorporate social good activities. Players might solve a puzzle, race to a secret location and make sandwiches for the homeless, or hero capes for children in hospitals. Our goal is to give our participants a taste of a bunch of great organizations and give them opportunities for follow up later, as donors, as volunteers, or as board members.
Over the past 10 years, you’ve organized over 700 events—from workshops to teambuilding games to massive summits. What inspired you to start Gr8er Good Games? How did your past experiences shape the company?
I've always loved gathering people to do things together and to build community. And the inspiration for Gr8er Good Games came from a combination of a couple of things: my love of escape rooms and scavenger hunts, my passion to get more people involved in nonprofit communities and volunteering, and also my previous experience in hosting corporate teambuilding events at another job. I've lived through some very toxic work cultures-one boss actively mocked us at staff meetings to try to make us cry to "motivate" us to do better-and that experience, really helped me shape the company to help groups create a better working environment. Through organizing so many different kinds of events, I honed my logistical juggling skills. But nothing really prepares you for starting your own business: it's a crazy roller coaster of AMAZING highs and DEEEEEP lows...What makes a game or event successful?
At the heart of it, I'm basically creating a game that gets people to let down their work-faces and kind of get to know each other. Because when you see Bob as a real human being, with feelings, emotions and who can belt out a great Whitney Houston, you're not going to go back to the office and treat him like garbage. It's about creating that psychological safety that Google's Project Artistotle found most important in making great group dynamics. They studied 180 teams and found that the group norms and the way that teammates treat one another is vital to a team's success or failure. Social psychology has known for decades that people in groups tend to normalize to the group, but how can we encourage people to break out of those "group-think" ways of doing things? By doing silly, fun, or meaningful activities outside of the workplace.
How can companies benefit from engaging employees in games or events like yours?
Team building games like mine build trust, teamwork, and company culture. After an event, employees are happier and feel that their work is more meaningful: leading to a more motivated workplace, better team collaboration and communication, less sick days, less employee turnover (each employee costs the company between half and 3/4 of their annual salary to replace) and so many more benefits. There’s lots of great teambuilding companies out there, and it’s not an one-size-fits-all kind of thing. So if anyone’s interested in doing teambuilding games with social good, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wow, we heard that you represented team USA in the 2017 World Escape Room Championship! What was that experience like? How were you chosen? How did you prepare for that?
It was truly an unforgettable experience! We did well on the pre-qualifiers, which was kind of like a giant life-sized video game, where we had to connect things to each other using strategy and communication. Then they flew us out to Budapest to play the semifinals, which was basically a giant set that was built into a warehouse, complete with moving pieces, an over-life-sized light-brite kind of puzzle, a giant lasermaze that we had to navigate and much more! Our team was kind of a rag-tag team of people who actually just met each other in the pre-qualifiers. We had had some email exchanges, and I knew one of my teammates, but we basically had nevere worked together. So to prepare, we all flew to San Diego (since we had played a lot of the games in SF and LA already), and played 13 escape rooms in one weekend together, to develop our teamwork. It was then that we kind of learned who was good at which kind of puzzles, who knew morse code by heart, etc, and so had specific people who would focus on specific tasks. When we got to Budapest, well, it was a haven for escape room enthusiasts, there were so many rooms to play! And the championship was just so beautifully crafted and so interesting to play.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
Avoiding burnout. When you love what you do, you want to work on it from 7am to midnight 7 days a week, but that’s not a sustainable way to work. I try to take at least one day per week where no emails are checked, but it’s hard.
What advice would you share with other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Entrepreneurship is really hard- make sure you really love what you’re creating, but don’t be afraid to pivot.
The Very Best Ways to Pack Your P.MAI Bag
Here are some of our favorite ways to get the most out of your travel bag.
1. Pack the heaviest item close to your back.For maximum stability, load your heaviest item (such as a laptop) in the pocket closest to your back. This keeps it secure and balanced. It also ensures that you’re not putting uneven weight on your shoulders.
2. Stack items as if you’re stacking wood (horizontally).This ensures that your overall load is low and centered, and that items won’t shift around during your commute. If you’re packing clothing, opt for cotton, knits, and wools - these resist wrinkles better than other fabrics.
3. Keep precious items inside, but within reach.Valuable items such as house keys or a smartphone should be kept inside at all times. Use a front pocket or an internal hook to keep them accessible, but also safe.
4. Use the water-bottle compartment for so much more.Instead of just a water bottle, that rounded compartment can hold and secure a variety of items: a rolled-up leash, an eyeglass case, snack pouches, sunscreen, the charger for your laptop, etc.
5. Fit your carry-all … onto another carry-all.Slip your bag through the handle of your suitcase trolley, and now you’ve got a way to breeze through the airport and lighten the load on your body.
P.MAI Pioneer: Holly O'Dell's trip to China
MEET HOLLY O'DELL
Holly currently serves as Vice President of Legal and Strategic Services, for SAIF Corporation. They set the industry standard in workers’ compensation for affordability, availability, innovation, efficiency and service quality. Their vision is that Oregon is the safest place to work, and they exist to serve and protect the Oregon workforce.
Holly recently took her P.MAI backpack on an trip abroad to China. We caught up with her on the experience.
TELL US THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU
Caring, insightful and stubborn.
WHAT'S YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON LIFE IN ONE SENTENCE?
I strive to use my talents and abilities to their highest and best use, for good.
You already had your JD. How did you decide to recently get an executive MBA?
I’m a lawyer and a nurse, and am currently in the Wharton executive program for my MBA. I went back to school to gain a lifelong peer group that always pushes me to continue growing – both personally and professionally. I thrive when part of a community of thoughtful, engaged, global citizens.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
One of my biggest career challenges has been consciously maintaining work-life balance. I started my first full-time role as an attorney nine weeks after delivering my daughter. I determined at that time to always “be in the right place at the right time,” which for me, means reallocating time and energy to make sure I have no regrets. The key to this has been constant assessment and readjustment. When the calibration is momentarily off, my family and I can tell!
What advice would you share with others considering a law career?
For others considering attending law school, I would say “Go for it!” You don’t have to know in advance what you want to do when you grow up. A law degree is useful for all sorts of pursuits – first and foremost, for understanding the world around us. Even the simple things – I understand news events more clearly after learning the logic associated with a law degree.
Tell us about your recently China trip.
I went to China recently with my 11-year-old daughter and some friends to tour, in advance of a Wharton trip related to innovation. We spent the night on a rural area of the Great Wall, where a local woman cooked us an omelet with veggies grown in her garden. We practiced new words in Mandarin, and tried calligraphy. When we travel, we meet new friends, and strengthen our understanding of the richness of the local culture.
P.MAI Holiday Gift Guide 2017
'Tis the season! We're gathered our favorite gifts for the bosslady on the go!
1. Appointed Notebook
Every classy lady needs a sleek notebook to capture her everyday thoughts, ideas, doodles, and personal records.
2. Kate Spade Mittens
Adorable and (somewhat) practical, these mittens can shield our hands from the cold while calling attention to get from A to B.
This smart luggage has an awesome waterproof front pocket that looks sleek for any travel needs. Plus how gorgeous is this color?
Given the number of hours we spend on our laptop, why not treat it to a chic laptop case. Plus it's less than 3 lattes.
Hydration is the key when it comes to flying. When taking a long haul, we love spritzing a mist to keep our skin feeling fresh.
6. Cuyana Alpaca Cape
Surviving winter means mastering the art of layering. This piece is cozy and versatile. Plus, did we mention alpaca?
The most compact high-quality GoPro to capture all of life's adventures.
8. Packing cubes
Organization is sexy. And when we're on the road, we want to have a place for all of our things — ALL OF THE THINGS. These came on our radar because they're machine washable!
With the constant noise of daily life, it's important to find time for calmness. We learned 10 minutes a day is all it takes.
10. Slip sleep mask
We used to think sleep masks were overrated. We were wrong. Add a little luxury to your sleep. It's like a cloud for your face.
Stuart & Lau x P.MAI Giveaway Winner
Stuart & Lau x P.MAI Giveaway Update
Thanks to everyone who entered our ultimate His & Her giveaway. We would like to congratulate Matthew Mendez from New York for winning the stunning black pair.
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