Fun At Work Day 2018

In celebration of Fun at Work Day, Tata & Howard employees took a break from lunch and competed in The Marshmallow Challenge!

Table 5 in deep concentration.

Made popular by TED Talks’ Tom Wujec, The Marshmallow Challenge is simple – teams compete to build the tallest freestanding structure in 18 minutes using only 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to sit on top of the freestanding structure.

Did we mention the challenge is simple? Well…interestingly the challenge is not as simple as it seems – the marshmallow is pretty heavy! In addition, time ticks away very quickly!

While we were having some ‘Fun at Work’, The Marshmallow Challenge was also a terrific team building exercise and we did learn some valuable lessons.

Key lessons we learned from this challenge:

  1. Teamwork is key. Every team member needed to contribute. Working well together was especially effective and efficient.
  2. Testing the design intent

    Testing: Working out theories and testing materials early in the challenge helped formulate the overall design. However, taking too long in the planning impacted the construction time.

  3. Time Management. As we learned from the testing phase, time management turned out to be an equally important lesson. Teams needed to plan and manage enough time to build the structure.
  4. Innovation: Creativity and originality was really the fun part of this challenge. All teams approached this challenge differently and every structure was unique.

Here’s a blow-by-blow account of the competing teams:

At our Marlborough office five teams competed:

Table 1 planning their structure

Table 1 – Mike, Molly and Maya spent a good part of the time planning and testing. They also exercised good time management and built a very stable structure reaching 15 ½”.

Table 2 – Using all their materials, Katie, Jenna and Meghan built the tallest structure at 16 1/2”. Although not the prettiest to look at, it was very stable and even with vigorous table shaking the tower stood tall!  Winning Team!!

Table 3 – Brian, Maria, and Derek had the sad misfortune of their structure collapsing shamelessly into a ½” pile of broken spaghetti!

Table 4 – Although, James, Mary and Karen’s structure measured 10 1/2” after partially collapsing, they finished with time to spare and managed to have some materials left over!

Table 5 – Adam, Matt and Jim ambitiously engineered a very tall structure, but it sadly collapsed under its own weight.  Still, there were some measurable structural components and came in at 8” high.

At our Waterbury, CT office, two teams competed:

The Seniors at work.

The Seniors (Sal, Bill, Dave and Nan) had an early lead and constructed a fairly stable structure of modest height with about 5 minutes left.  However, their table was jarred, and the structure ended up toppling. They could not re-assemble before time ran out.

The Young professionals (Chelsea, Ryan, Kevin, Will, Natalia) used the early stages to plan the construction and had some good ideas, however, they were a little too ambitious with the final marshmallow top and their structure also collapsed.  In fact, it never really stood at all.  And, the final height of their marshmallow was below the table surface!

Young Professionals make progress.

In less than an hour, the Marshmallow Challenge is a fun way to foster innovation and teamwork. If you’re interested, the challenge rules can be seen here [Marshmallow Challenge Instructions].  Hope you find time to  have fun at work too!

The Team That Plays Together Stays Together!

At Tata & Howard, we place high value on teamwork. In fact, it is one of our five core values on which the firm was founded 25 years ago. Teamwork is important on many levels. Working as a team internally ensures that our clients are receiving the best, most innovative and technically accurate service on projects. Working as a cohesive team with our clients allows us to truly hear what our clients are saying, enabling us to understand their needs and concerns, and to work together to efficiently find solutions to their challenges.

But team building doesn’t happen by chance; rather, it requires a concentrated effort from employee-owners at all levels in order to build and maintain positive and meaningful relationships. Because of this, Tata & Howard encourages and invests in activities that bring all of us closer together. A large part of our team building comes in the form of our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Since 2014, 100% of the stock in Tata & Howard has been owned by the employees, and since every member of the firm is an owner, the success of the firm becomes much more personal. Just like a football team that must work together to win championships (we might be talking about the Patriots here!), we also work together to deliver the best projects to our clients, enabling us to grow the firm.

EOs participated in the Charles River Cleanup event in April

To further our ESOP culture of ownership, we have four dedicated ESOP committees: the ESOP Communications Committee, the Green Committee, the Wellness Committee, and the Philanthropy Committee. Working independently and together, these four committees strive to bring team building, a sense of community, physical and mental health, and positive change to the firm. To that end, the ESOP committees plan and fund numerous activities and initiatives throughout the year.

EOs donated supplies to teens at Monty Tech during a backpack drive, and plan to participate again in the fall

Some of our 2017 initiatives have included the purchase of flatware and the elimination of disposable utensils at all offices, a backpack drive to benefit disadvantaged high school students, participation in the Charles River Cleanup, a special night of teaching girls about engineering, employee-initiated and company matched donations to the Colonias program and to Water For People, a cookout at Hopkinton State Park, and several special lunches and after work events. Planned events include the Navajo Water Project 5K (everyone can participate! Click here for more info), a scavenger hunt at the Museum of Science followed by dinner at the Union Oyster House, an Operation Gratitude necessities drive for our nation’s veterans, a volunteering event at a local soup kitchen, and numerous other philanthropic and fun events.

CT EOs were all smiles during their cookout!

Last week, the weather was spectacular, so the ESOP Communications Committee decided to host an after-hours cookout complete with grills, burgers, sides, beer, and lawn games. Employee-owners in Marlborough enjoyed chatting and lounging in the grass, as well as a bit of friendly competition in the form of 4-Square. Down in Connecticut, EOs chose a shady spot and enjoyed a variety of food as well as each other’s company. The Vermont and Maine offices had some team members in the field and on vacation, so they decided to postpone their events for a couple of weeks, but we’ve heard rumblings of a possible Portland Seadogs excursion in the near future!

We believe that our team is what sets us apart and what makes the firm special, and the firm of choice for innovative solutions in the water environment. From working together on innovative projects — like the recently completed 8.0 mgd DAF Long Pond Water Treatment Plant in Falmouth, MA or the under construction 7.0 mgd biological filtration Home Farm Water Treatment Plant in Shrewsbury, MA — to participating in philanthropic ventures and fun outings, the Tata & Howard team focuses on camaraderie, positivity, support, efficiency, and innovation. By working and playing as a team, we bring out the best in each other and provide a superior level of service and productivity to our clients. And the best part is that we have fun while doing it!

Tom Hoctor, Bill Andres, and Dave Lombardo found a shady spot to relax.
MA employee-owners grabbed some food before playing lawn games.


Engineer Tom Hoctor grilled up the goods for the CT crew!



Happy Arbor Day from T&H Employee-Owners!

April 28 is Arbor Day and National Planting Day in the United States, and two of our ESOP Committees — the Wellness and Green Committees — joined forces to host a planting event for our employee-owners. Studies have shown that plants are proven to enhance the workplace by reducing stress, increasing productivity, reducing sickness and absence, creating a better environment in which to work, improving air quality, reducing noise, and increasing creativity.

Employee-owners from the Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine offices participated in the event, which happened to be a gorgeous, sunny day throughout New England. Everyone enjoyed the activity, had a lot of laughs, and brought their plants back to their workspaces to brighten things up. In the spirit of cooperation and teamwork, several of our employee-owners planted for those who were out of the office and unable to attend. Overall, the event was a fun way to enjoy some sunshine and good company, and to improve our workspace and environment.

Happy Arbor Day!

The CT office had plenty of laughs while planting

Nan Nanadoum from our CT office
MA office employee-owners pose with their masterpieces
The Marlborough, MA office did their planting outside
The Massachusetts crew got to work
Collin Stuart from our Maine office
Maine’s finished plants!
Paul Cote from our Maine office

National Fun at Work Day!

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” —Henry Ford

Friday, January 27 is National Fun at Work Day (not to be confused with International Fun at Work Day, which falls on April 1). Because teamwork is one of our core values and we are a 100% employee-owned company, we take teambuilding and fun…seriously? That seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but put it this way – we like to have a good time together!

Tata & Howard celebrated National Fun at Work Day by planning a summer barbecue in January, complete with summer fare, outdoor (but indoor) games, and casual attire. To start the festivities in our corporate office in Marlborough, Massachusetts, we fired up the gas grills in the parking lot and cooked burgers, including beef, turkey, and veggie. While it was a little chilly and windy outside, there was no rain or snow, and the smell of grilled food was certainly reminiscent of a warm summer day. EOs contributed by bringing in their favorite summer barbecue dishes, including pulled chicken, slow-cooked ribs, pasta salad, chips, and dips. Even the desserts were summer-themed – popsicles and ice cream cake, in addition to cookies and brownies. Once EOs finished up their lunches, they participated in some outdoor games – inside! Steve Landry once again showed his gaming expertise by capturing the title of cornhole champion, while Karen Gracey learned how to play Lawn Yahtzee for the first time. Phil MacClellan, a seasoned dice expert, scored the day’s only Yahtzee.

Lawn Yahtzee and corn hole were the games of choice in our corporate office.
Phil MacClellan scored the day’s only Yahtzee!
Katie Carreira and Mike Quint played corn hole while Steve Daunais and Matt Barry finished lunch.
Mike Kaczowka tried valiantly for a Yahtzee, but didn’t quite hit the mark.
Matt Barry helped grill some burgers while Karen Gracey shivered!
Lunch was plentiful and delicious.

At our Waterbury, Connecticut office, EOs agreed that the big food hit of the day was Dave Lombardo’s delicious pulled pork. Other offerings included baked beans, chicken wings, potato salad, cole slaw, cornbread, and donuts. Showing innovation even during fun activities, Waterbury EOs decided to create their own office version of cornhole using empty boxes of various sizes and plan paper weights. Nobody is quite sure who won, except that it definitely wasn’t Steve Rupar – he may want to stick to water audits!

Empty boxes at the end of a hallway coupled with plan weights made up Waterbury’s cornhole game!
Waterbury EOs enjoyed barbecue prior to game time.
Steve Rupar tried his hand at corn hole, and Jack Keefe’s face tells the story of how Steve did!
We captured an action shot of our newest EO, Chelsea Henderson.

Maine may be known for its brutal winters, but that didn’t deter our Portland, Maine EOs from braving the elements to have an outdoor barbecue. Dan Bishop manned the grill and cooked hot dogs, sausages, and burgers, and team members joined him outside for some fresh air and camaraderie. Other fare included homemade pickles, dips, and veggie offerings. Paul Cote even wore his favorite Hawaiian shirt to add some extra summer flare.

The Portland, Maine office was all smiles during their summer in January barbecue.
Dan Bishop did a fabulous job manning the grill.

During our Fun at Work Day activities, there were a lot of smiles and laughs, and afterwards we all went back to work feeling refreshed – and quite full! EOs overwhelmingly agreed that the day’s activities were very fun, and we all enjoyed spending some quality downtime together. Did your team participate in Fun at Work Day? We’d love to hear how you celebrated!