At Digital Telepathy, we are all about crafting meaningful experiences. In fact, we are so passionate about our mission that we have taken it to heart and infused it into everything we do. From finding a way to make the best coffee ever, to reinventing the typical industry party, we are always looking for ways to better the world around us, and ourselves.

Enter the Betterment Bonus. Every year, DT employees get $1,500 towards a year-long project to better themselves. The idea is to craft an experience for yourself–learn a new skill, try out a new activity, do something for the first time–and grow from that experience, whether in knowledge, health or spirit.

No project is too big, and reaching for the sky is encouraged. These are just a sample of what our Betterment Bonus has enabled some DTers to do in the past year:

Burning Man Art Car – Arnold Yoon, President

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

I wanted to build an Art Car for Burning Man. Technical/mechanical/electrical manufacturing and fabrication are things that I have always been interested in, and I wanted to learn more about these while building the car. As an 11-year participant of Burning Man, I’d always wanted to build one of these – and give back to the community in another way. It took nearly a year to complete, but the end result was awesome.

How did it make you better?

Working on a creative project was good for the mind and soul (I don’t get to be creative a lot). I got the chance to learn technical skills such as welding and metal fabrication work, and even a chance to work on my creative thinking skills.

Athens Marathon in Greece – Brent Summers, Senior Strategist

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

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I wanted to set a personal records at the Athens Marathon in Greece, while raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I am a cancer survivor, so this cause hit home for me. I knew that no only would this be physically challenging, but it would also be an extremely meaningful event for me to attend.

How did it make you better?

I trained longer than I have ever trained for a marathon before, paying attention to my nutrition and using Garmin data to push myself further. Surprisingly, along the way I also learned Photoshop and After Effects as part of my fundraising campaign. Greece was incredible, too.

Getting into Shape – MK Cook, UX Designer

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

I had chronic shoulder pain and was not feeling my personal best. Unfortunately I don’t have time for working out before and after work, so I decided to work out at lunch, nearby the office. I feel more tired and not as high energy as I would with fitness in my life, but getting into shape would reduce the pain that I often feel in my shoulders and give me more energy to complete more in my day. I took up CrossFit to reach my goal of 15% body fat, less should pain, and the ability to run a 5k.

How did it make you better?

I lost 10 pounds, built muscle and feel stronger. Even better than that, I redefined my relationship with food and fitness, and ultimately my body. I learned to look at food as nourishment, because food can be poison or it can be medicine. Establishing the principles of “nourish” and “move” in my life has made me happier and given me confidence and a clear mind. And the “you look great” comments are pretty fun too!

Astrophotogrpahy – Jason Amunwa, Director of Products

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

I wanted to learn astrophotography (night sky photography). I love space, and am very inspired by pictures of the Milky Way, but I knew nothing about photography–let alone how to photograph space.

How did it make you better?

Through patient iteration of my gear and process, as well as sheer force of will to keep going out there even when my shots kinda sucked, I managed to take some pretty clear shots of the Milky Way. I also learned the ins and outs of long-exposure photography, and how to play with the settings of my camera for the best effects. The pictures speak for themselves!

Running to the Limit – Jamie Hamel-Smith, Developer

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

I wanted to run. I’d never done any running before, so my goal was to run a 5K, a 10K, and a Half Marathon. The real goal was simply to find my limits in running.

How did it make you better?

My fitness and endurance levels are so much higher! I feel better, and I learned a whole lot about running in general, and how my body responds to it. I also understand a lot more about my current fitness level. I was told that running is easy for some, and really difficult for others. I feel like I fall into the second category. But I did it, and that’s the most important thing for me–to know that I could.

Wood Working – Dave Shepherd, Director of Development

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

I’ve always enjoyed building things with my hands and wood has appealed to me as a medium. Inspired by all the wonderful things that my dad built for our home growing up, I decided to tackle kitting out my own workshop and learn how to fabricate with wood. The proposed idea was a farmhouse style dining table, but due to the wonderful surprise of a baby, I decided to replace this year’s project with a closet organizer. I’m continuing to build the table still, but its completion will be in early 2015.

How did it make you better?

In a word: confidence. Tackling building (let alone designing) a closet organizer, assessing tools required for the work, learning how to operate those tools and in then end (in spite of screw ups) still complete a great looking and durable closet organizer has been an enormous confidence booster. I feel now that even though I am still a novice, I have learned enough to get over that thought that these sorts of projects are beyond my capability. Not anymore!

New Mode of Transportation – Cody Iddings, UX Designer

What was your Betterment Bonus project?

My pitch was to better my transportation buy learning to drive and purchasing a scooter. A scooter would be a cheap and easy way for me to get to work without taking public transportation, biking, or relying on my wife.

How did it make you better?

I got my motorcycle license by way of the 3-day intensive RiderCourse, bought a Yamaha Zuma (and necessary safety equipment), learned out to do all the maintenance. I am so comfortable on the open road now. I never thought I would be since I’ve always been so deathly afraid of bikes. It’s fun weaving through cars and getting a jumpstart on traffic. I currently ride my scooter to work and surf daily!


What would you do with a Betterment Bonus? Let us know in the comments!

Comments
  • Hi,
    I live in Sydney and am moving to San Diego in August. I am currently a psychotherapist, but my passion is adventure and the great outdoors. Is am starting a new company, Adventure Mate, which is a 5 in 1 adventure tool.

  • Marketa

    The blog left me inspired. Not only it is fun to see what people want to do and see the beauty of achievement, but if you all do it in the company – the synergy and the energy will be in the air for a long time, and the desire to preserve the betterment “events” will continue on without the financial stimulus. I will think hard what I would do…? Thank you for sharing!