Softwire Blog

Softwire uprising!

15 November 2016, by

First day at a new job is not all that hard to imagine. Most of it is what you would expect: a bit of admin work, introduction to the new team and the wider company, setting up your workstation, kicking off with a few training exercises. But on my first day, between emails with links to handy materials and those telling me about welcome drinks, I found something I would have never guessed would be there: an invitation to a sword-fighting event. …what? Feeling as if I was back at the University Freshers’ Fair again, I obviously signed up straight away.

And I was right to! Who wouldn’t want to look like this for a few hours?!

Swordfighting 1

But I’m getting ahead of myself – can you tell I’m excited? Back to the beginning though. What is actually going on?

It’s really quite simple: Softwire has a morale scheme designed to bring ideas like this to life. Anyone can come up with one, get it organised and Softwire will cover or subsidize it. Moreover, each employee gets a yearly allowance of holidays solely to be spent on such activities and outings. In the past those have included theatre plays, climbing and laser tag, etc.

Now, sword-fighting. …what? Yeah, “…what?” pretty much describes all of my initial attempts at figuring out what this will be. It hasn’t really cleared up all that much until the day of the event (one of the them, as the interest was so high that this happened twice!), when a bunch of us got up from our desks half-way through the day, grabbed weapons provided by our about-to-be-teacher and set off to parade down through the streets to the nearby Hampstead Heath. There, we were given a quick introduction and soon enough were whacking each other with the newly obtained items of friendly destruction.

The weapons themselves were a very surprising combination of softness, making them completely safe and sturdiness, allowing proper fencing work. Plus, they were realistically looking to boot! We had swords, daggers, shields of different sizes, batons, maces, axes, spears and, best of all, complete freedom to mix-and-match and try out whatever we liked. This meant we learnt the basics of actual fencing (much as would be done with real weapons); we could go all out without worrying we’ll hurt each other; and we looked AWESOME doing it! But don’t take my word for it:

Swordfighting 2

Swordfighting 3

The event itself consisted of a series of different games, some promoting teamwork and cooperation, others more focused on the individual skills. Amongst them we’ve played weapon-equipped variations of British Bulldog and tag, as well as a re-enactment of the Battle of Thermopylae (with rather devastating results for “Team Greeks”).

Swordfighting 4

One of the best things about this event was that it was joined by people from across company; “newbies” like myself, directors, seasoned employees and managers all alike, all equally tired and happy at the end of the games, yearning for more! It was a great chance to get to know everyone better and well, from a perspective one doesn’t get to see in the office. Surely, some people were hooked on more than others; some have done it before, others, myself included, will try to do it again, but at the same time I’m super excited about the next thing that Softwire will surprise me with!

Softwire does Swing Dance

6 June 2016, by

At Softwire the staff are introduced to a lot of interesting new activities, and Thursday 14th April was no exception as Softwire London’s Chillout was transformed into a swinging dance floor from the 1920’s!

Staff donned their glad rags, rock-stepped and shuffled to their first swing dance lesson, provided by the Mudflappers’ teacher Olly. The class was aimed at complete beginners and the hope was to provide people enough simple moves they can string together to make a number to any swing song. Some of the class were lucky enough to have done a fair amount of partner dancing before; like Suzanne who does West Coast Swing every week, and Dom who has been to the Bristol swing dance festival a couple of times!

After a funky warm up which had everyone groove stepping around the room and waggling their hands over their heads, the group partnered up and learnt about 6 and 8 beat steps. Swing, and in this case ‘lindy-hop’, is in 32 beat phrases; this means you need to select the right number of 6 and 8 beat moves to finish with the end of a phrase. Olly armed everyone with a 6 beat basic (twice), a tuck turn, a bring back and then a fancy finish called ‘Johnny’s Drop’ to which the group responded with great enthusiasm and abandon.

Swing dancing, like salsa and tango, is a ‘led dance’ which means the class split into leads and follows. Traditionally this is split along gender lines, in true Softwire fashion everyone got a go at both roles. This created the occasional interesting pairings like Dom 5’5” leading Alex 6’7” in some pretty spectacular twirls!

Everyone involved had a great time and have decided to head along to Olly’s normal lesson, in Dalston, in the coming weeks.

IMG_1878 (002)swing

A Morale Update!

18 November 2015, by

RockstockThe festive season is fast approaching, but it’s business as usual here at Softwire which means we’ve been up to plenty of fun shenanigans. We thought it was time for a bit of an update on our recent morale activities.
There really has been something for everyone in the last couple of months. From our regular pampering slots with massages and manicures through to the slightly more unorthodox bubble football trip we had down to Camden.
It’s not all fun and games though, sometimes we do fun and games for a good cause and we did just that at our charity RockStock evening where a number of bands played and sang classic hits in aid of Broken Rainbow and SCI Schisto Control. The performances went down a storm and we raised over £1843 for our charities, which was a great achievement.softktober

We’ve also enjoyed some exciting culinary treats in the form of sausage salad and obatzda (apparently it’s a Bavarian cheese delicacy) at our somewhat tongue-twistingly named Sofctoberfest, where we also enjoyed a range of German beers and learnt a lot about German music. One could have been forgiven for believing you had stumbled through a portal to Munich. It isn’t just German beverages we’ve been exploring recently either. Our whisky club had yet another successful evening of whisky tasting, but this time we paired it with artisanal chocolate from around the world. A delicious and slightly intoxicating evening!bubblefootball

We celebrated Back to The Future day in style with an impeccably planned and timed screening of all three films in the brand new projector room. You can’t beat the classics shown in HD with surround sound and pizza! If all of that excitement wasn’t enough for you we also celebrated Halloween in style, with lots of great activities like haunted gingerbread house decorating and apple bobbing, and the bar was certainly raised by this year’s fancy dressers.
So all in all we’ve been having a great time and we still have plenty to look forward to before the year is out, like our charity pub quiz our Romanian festival and all of the usual festive activities. It’s not a bad time to be working at Softwire.

Walking desks: the new standing desks?

28 October 2015, by

WalkingDeskThere have been a lot of stories about how there are many benefits to standing all day rather than sitting in an office. But how about a walking desk?

We’ve offered employees the opportunity to use standing desks for a while now, which we provide using some carefully selected IKEA parts (a coffee table and a shelf) and with a small amount of effort result in a great desk for this purpose.

However, recently we decided to take this a step further and set up a walking desk. There are lots of commercial options out there, but as they are quite expensive, we decided it would suit our needs better to build our own. Fortunately we have a very good handyman who helps out with minor tasks around the office, and so we tasked him with building us a desk that:

  • Fit over the existing treadmill in our gym
  • Had a large work area
  • Was adjustable, so that it would be practical for people of all heights

We’ve been using this desk for a while now, and personally, I find it great for maintaining focus, and particularly useful for finally getting round to that task you haven’t been looking forward to all week.

Walking and working helps brings clarity to my thoughts and although it makes my handwriting near illegible, my typing is barely affected. The walking quickly feels natural and it’s perfectly easy to do an hour or so walking along at a slow pace.

The disadvantage of the walking desk is that it can be quite noisy. We got around this by installing it in our gym to begin with and we’ve now moved it to a more permanent home in one of our meeting rooms.

Overall, we think that walking desks are a great idea, and although no employees have planned to switch to one on a permanent basis, it works very well as a hot desk. So if you have the time and skill (or money) to try one out. I’d definitely recommend it!

Ice Skating

13 December 2013, by

To celebrate the festive season, 13 Softwirians went to Somerset House to…

We skated (some forwards, some backwards, some into other people)

We ate mince pies, we drank mulled wine (actually apple crumble and mulled cider), and we were merry

Here’s a photo of us all:


Continuous Integration Traffic Lights Revamp

26 September 2013, by

The traffic lights I converted to monitor our Continuous Integration builds have been poorly for a bit, but I finally made some time to fix them up.

There were three main issues which needed addressing: a blown lamp holder, an aging relay board and a lack of suitable housing.


Oculus Rift Virtual Reality

16 September 2013, by

The Softwire Morale Virtual Reality club got started recently with the arrival of our Oculus Rift VR headset. I set it up during a “Pizza and Programming” evening at the office, and then held an open demo one lunchtime for people in the office to have a go.

Unboxing the Rift


Bristol Narrowboating

13 September 2013, by

To celebrate the August heatwave us Bristolians took to the canal last week and spent a relaxing morale afternoon narrowboating.  We picked up a hire boat in Bath at lunchtime and pottered up the Kennet & Avon canal Eastwards.  Pimms and cider were drunk, the sun shone (mostly), we ate ice cream, we didn’t go very far, and we didn’t crash (too badly).  Nice.

Here are some pictures showing how pleasant it is in the South West…

Bristol boating


Bristol boating

How to have fun for under £5

3 September 2013, by

We’ve posted a few times on this blog on the topic of how seriously we take morale. One of the ways that we do this is to give a budget to the fun police, who are always looking for cost effective ways to make us happier.

Our latest, and silliest, initiative is to allow anyone in the company to request a silly hat that costs under £5. These are then put into the silly hat box, and can be deployed as needed!

Here is a selection of our favourite headgear.