On the banks of the Willamette: NCX visits Portland
Josh Surridge
Josh Surridge
18 October, 2021 min read

72 hours of forests, festivities, and the fight against climate change as NCX hosts its annual all-company gathering.

In the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood where the meandering Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet, lies Portland, Oregon. This is the destination for 30 employees of NCX. Although NCX has been a 100% remote company since the day of its birth, deeply rooted in company culture is the tradition of All Hands – a quintessential gathering, pondering, debating, and reveling in camaraderie and shared purpose for all colleagues.

In the era of COVID-19, the decision of whether to convene in person is not taken lightly. Employees are polled. The choice to attend is optional. Vaccination is a prerequisite. PCR tests are taken before travel and antigen tests are offered regularly on-site.

Most decide to attend but some do not. When your All Hands is missing a few hands, it becomes Many Hands. For those colleagues who remain home, livestreams are broadcast, video segments are captured and shared, and a virtual happy hour is put on to ease any wistful disconnect.

Buildings of downtown Portland, Oregon from the east bank of the Willamette River

Tuesday

12:00 p.m. | Arrival

From every corner of the United States, NCX employees descend on Portland. It’s a bluebird day and the sister volcanoes of Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier line up to offer a stunning welcome to Oregon’s largest city.

The Hoxton has been chosen as home base. This stylish, open house hotel resides in the heart of Old Town Chinatown, a quirky and cool entertainment and streetwear shopping district that is Portland’s oldest neighborhood and original downtown. The locale sets a perfect tone to match the waves of jubilant NCX colleagues stepping off the MAX Light Rail on their short journey from PDX.

2:30 p.m. | The Power of Possibility

Old friendships are quickly restored and the newest saplings attending their first Many Hands are warmly welcomed into the grove of trees who are the colleagues of NCX.

After a heartfelt welcome from co-founders Zack Parisa and Max Nova, individual teams head over to Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It’s an idyllic setting for casual conversation, professional level setting vis-à-vis the fun and excitement of the days ahead, and eventually, strategic discourse regarding the urgent, interdisciplinary innovation required to make an immediate impact on climate change.  

6:00 p.m. | When in Rome…

Prior to feasting and fellowship later in the evening, most colleagues avail themselves of the opportunity to visit Portland’s haven of knowledge – the largest used and new bookstore in the world. Occupying an entire city block, Powell’s City of Books stocks more than one million titles. Although NCX is a library unto itself – habitually sending compelling literature to any colleague who desires a copy and cultivating an inclusive and intellectually stimulating book club – the Siren’s Call of Powell’s must be heard.

Almost everyone visits and finds themselves feeling lucky Oregon has no sales tax. Unfortunately, airlines charge additional fees for luggage in excess of 50 pounds, and any savings are rendered moot.

A group of NCX colleagues sit on blankets and talk in Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, Oregon

Wednesday

7:00 a.m. | Run for Fun

An impressive number of colleagues begin the day together, breaking into small groups and selecting an invigorating run that matches their desired fitness output. Each run crosses any number of historic bridges silently guarding the Willamette River. The morning air is cool and carries the rich sensation of conviviality.

11:45 a.m. | Peace and Good Food, Y’All

Following an inspiring morning of company goals and vision led by CEO Zack Parisa, lunch is catered by a family-style Mediterranean restaurant skilled at exploring flavors of The Levant, Shalom Y’All. The experience is scintillating. The food evokes joy, but it is the simplest of choices that wins the meal: deciding where to sit.

Colleagues across disciplines grab an available chair to savor their meal but soon realize they are enjoying the camaraderie even more. Data science, customer success, engineering, marketing, and finance all sit together – laughing, appreciating lunch, and slowly realizing that each colleague they’re dining with possesses an expertise that is disrupting fields as diverse as carbon accounting, climate technology, insurance, timber economics, sustainability, forestry, and more.

7:00 p.m. | Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life

Following a day filled with creativity, brainstorming, and possibility, colleagues retreat to The Hoxton’s rooftop restaurant and bar known as Tope. NCX has secured the chic space as a private event and colleagues spill out onto the rooftop, enjoying the temperate weather and invigorating friendships.

The night is passed with laughter, deepening bonds, family-style eating, a celebration of birthdays, and gratitude for the chance to be with exceptionally talented, like-minded colleagues who are driven to change the world.

A group of NCX colleagues smile and laugh at Tope rooftop restaurant and bar at The Hoxton Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon

Thursday

8:30 a.m. | The English are Coming

English ivy suppresses all other vegetation to form a ground cover unsuitable even for wildlife habitat. As an established vine, this invasive species encircles native shrubs and trees, preventing light from reaching their leaves and dominating the ecosystem.

In partnership with the Forest Park Conservancy, NCX colleagues venture into one of the largest urban forests in the United States to remove invasive English ivy and give native plant species a fighting chance. Precipitating the hard work is a serene hike through the woods to arrive at the chosen location. The labor is arduous but the connection and service to nature is gratifying for all.  

12:30 p.m. | Song of the Forest

Visionary and NCX CEO Zack Parisa is prompted to gather everyone together to sing a song of the forest. Though not literally a song, Zack teaches about the past, present, and future of the forest the NCX team is standing in. He speaks in pure poetry and the talk instantly becomes a highlight of Many Hands. Contact Director of Marketing Cheryl Sansonetti to view this talk.

4:00 p.m. | Create and Inspire Climate Champions

After an incredible lunch at the Fifth Avenue Food Cart Pod and time to rest up or collaborate independently with colleagues, NCX travels to the World Forestry Center in nearby Washington Park. Colleagues wander the woods of Hoyt Arboretum admiring 2,300 species of trees from six continents, and strengthen their bonds while exploring the Discovery Museum. A memorable dinner and awards ceremony at Cheatum Hall cap off the special evening.

A beautiful grove of green trees and ground cover in Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

Friday

10:00 a.m. | Get Away Day

A funny thing about beginnings – the idea of what is to come fills you with excitement. Anticipation can be even more thrilling than the actual event.

Many Hands is not that. The end is even sweeter than the beginning. Relationships are built, strategy is crafted, and the work ahead fills NCX colleagues with vigor. Our climate needs immediate help. A massive market failure exists that, if corrected, will drive scalable change.

NCX has built the technology and economic levers enabling forests to be properly valued for the first time in history. While that means desperately needed carbon sequestration in the short-term, the long-term is even more exciting with biodiversity offsets, water yield management, wildfire mitigation, and many other nature-based solutions.

NCX friends return home, inspired to do their greatest work on the most important challenge facing civilization.

Want to join this fight? Your talents are needed. View open opportunities.

NCX colleagues sit on the green grass of Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon and listen to CEO Zack Parisa speak

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Josh Surridge

Josh Surridge

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