4 Things a Healthcare IT Nerd Learned at Burning Man

Posted September 12, 2017
By Nick John

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion about the convergence of tech and art, specifically when it comes to Burning Man. As highlighted by
Tech Crunch, the annual arts festival is beginning to be seen as the ultimate respite for creative technologists looking to express themselves.

Though that article focuses on how Burning Man is seeing a growing attendance of folks from Silicon Valley, I suppose I, too, could qualify as a person who works in technology and made the trek out to the desert of Black Rock, Nevada last week.

Believe it or not, while on the playa, I spent a fair bit of time thinking about how my experiences at Burning Man relate to my work environment and to Redox as a whole. My job is part of my lifestyle, and I love my life—my hobbies, my city, my job, my colleagues, all of it. We do things that are important, and even better, we have fun doing it.

But while Redox is so unique, it’s still a company, and so I wanted to carry forward some of the things that resonated with me at Burning Man and share them with you.

Takeaway One: Knowing You Need Help is a Sign of Competency

Burning Man’s culture is built around ten principles articulating the common cultural values of the community, which, coincidentally, is much like Redox’s Core Values, which are agreed upon (and constantly workshopped) sentiments we know, live by, and celebrate at every opportunity. One of the first things you learn upon arriving on the playa—which is the term we use to refer to the environment out there—is the true meaning of the principle “radical self-reliance.” In essence, this means you know and take responsibility for what you need in order to survive. In the desert, this means water, sun protection, temperature control (it’s extremely hot during the day and extremely cold at night), food, dust goggles, a mask, etc. In a barren, harsh environment like that, if your fundamental needs aren’t top priority, you cannot enjoy anything else that happens (and trust me, there are things you want to be enjoying).

Likewise, to be a badass at Redox (which is at the core of one of our most important values) and do your job effectively, you must always be aware of what you need to succeed—proper equipment, necessary information, time to focus, and knowing what you must prioritize are all crucial to being a contributing member of Redox. What’s more, only you know what those things are and how to pursue getting them, whether it’s requesting equipment, declining meetings to give yourself time to focus, or asking for help from others. If you’re unhappy, uncomfortable, or ineffective, it’s your job to take the steps to work through that, even if it’s simply speaking up to ask for help. You don’t even have to know precisely what you need—you just need to know you need something, and put forth the energy to find it.


Take Away Two: It’s Okay to Not be Okay

Surviving in the desert is hard. It’s too complex to master prior to getting there, and once you are, things rarely go according to plan: you’re dependent on others to get by; your bike gears break; you get blisters; you run out of water at inopportune times, and then you get dehydrated and your brain stops working properly.

In keeping with radical self-reliance, one lesson I found particularly difficult to learn out there is that it’s okay to not be okay. The fact is, we all have points in our lives when we don’t have it all together. In order to grow meaningfully, another one of Redox’s values, we all must do things outside our comfort zones. Our jobs are hard, and we all run into tasks that we’ve never done before, which is why we don’t expect everyone to be good at everything. We don’t expect everyone to get it right the first time, nor to do it without help. It’s okay to not know the answer, and sometimes, it’s okay to not feel comfortable.

But—it’s not okay to not ask for help. Let me restate that to be more clear: ask for help when you need it. You’ll be surprised how helpful people can be, both on the playa and in general life.

Take Away Three: Generosity Breeds Strength and Community

This is where Burning Man’s gifting principle comes in. Burners embrace the idea of “gifts given freely”, which is to say that everywhere you go, people are giving something away. Snowcones. Lip balm. Toast with a shot of whiskey. Fans with mist spray. Knowledge. Hugs. Temporary tattoos. Someone gave me a glass of kombucha at the exact moment I was in dire need of a familiar taste of home (I burst into tears when he handed it to me).

This gift giving made the community of more than 70,000 people feel inviting, strong, and sincere. It removed the possibility of someone soliciting something from you, leaving behind only interactions that were fueled by goodwill and generosity. It made me happier to be there, and it encouraged me to give freely, too.


In a different way, Redox upholds this same value—our team is built around a common interest in building an awesome product, in helping the world, and creating a network that truly makes a difference in healthcare. While we’re teammates to each other and have built an internal culture around supporting one another, our focus is to extend that sense of helpful community to all of our partners. We know that the industry we work within can be challenging, and that to succeed, organizations must truly collaborate. Redox has to be willing to go the extra mile and give our partners the time and dedication their projects deserve. We have to be willing to be up at 3 am fixing any problems that arise so that connections are healthy and our partners’ products function properly. And we’re happy to this, because while Redox has our own goals and benchmarks, ultimately, our customers’ success is our success.    

Take Away Four: Sharing Your Culture Takes Effort

Perhaps the most iconic imagery from Burning Man comes from the principle of “radical self-expression”, which encourages you to unapologetically express yourself in any way you see fit. There is art everywhere you look and in practically every experience you have—the costumes, the rituals, the interactive art, even the dance parties. These events bring the community together through common interest and mutual respect.

At Redox, we are invested not only in our awesome product, but conveying our awesomeness to the rest of the world by delivering a user experience that delights our customers (which is, you guessed it, another core Redox value). We work hard to ensure our personalities shine through and that our culture can be seen by everyone in the industry. Our quirky-yet-informative blog, our colorful gear and swag, our direct and honest candor with customers—these are all representations of our culture that we want to ensure remain vibrant and received. Because healthcare doesn’t have to be boring—it can be fun, generous, and good.

On top of the traditional principles observed every year, this year’s theme at Burning Man was radical ritual. The biggest ritual on the playa is the burning of the man, where everyone gathers to watch as a procession of fire performers dance and sway, followed by large-scale pyrotechnics setting fire to the man and kicking off a night of celebration.

While we don’t have such an extravagant annual ritual, Redox comes together every quarter for Team Week, where we cram 50 employees into our offices (or coming up next month, a North Wisconsin resort) and spend as much time together as possible. Our Redox rituals may seem minor in comparison, but sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Ritual brings a community closer and reminds us that we are all on the same team. I’m so happy to be part of this one.