The Tyk Retreat 2019: 27 Tyks go to Thailand

Another year, another Tyk retreat, and as usual it went far too quickly for my liking.

This year we regrouped on Koh Samui, Thailand for a week of workshops, activities and, in some cases, mild-to-severe sunburn.*

Given that the other 358 days of the year we tend to work on our open source API Gateway in our own corners of the world, these retreats are a fantastic opportunity for us to reconnect in person. It’s a chance for us to work, play, and plan how we’re going to make Tyk even better in the coming year.

They’re also hella fun.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here are 6 of the team to tell you more.

*Not me for once!

Already like the sound of our approach? We’re hiring. Mosey on over to our team page for more information.


Josh Blakeley, Go Engineer, TykJosh Blakeley, Go Engineer, London, UK

After the excitement of our last retreat in Crete it was decided this year that the team would be meeting in a Travelodge by the side of the M1 near Luton.

Just kidding, Tyk all went to fricking Thailand WOOOOOOOO!

As we’ve grown over the last year we are now spread across 15 countries (probably 30 if you take an average of wherever Matias, Emma and Leon are over any 6 month period) and after several months of amazing efforts by our ops team we all started arriving in balmy (ok, really really hot) Koh Samui.

It was going to be our own little island paradise – just like the Swiss Family Robinson, except if they spent each morning workshopping kickass ideas about changing the world of APIs and less time navigating pirate kidnappings. We couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Before you ask, yes this is our own professional photo taken by our resident drone pilot.


Martin Buhr, Founder & CEO, Tyk

Martin Buhr, Founder & CEO, Auckland, New Zealand

The way we like to run our annual retreats is a decent balance of work and play. In the mornings, while tired and (potentially) a little worse for wear, we run workshops that help solve problems and seed ideas for the coming year. Then, in the afternoons, we down tools, do something fun and get onto the more important work of the retreat: really getting to know each other.

But more on that later. This year’s workshops were spent covering technical, commercial and product strategy, as well as trying to solve some of the hairier problems of a company that is scaling quickly.

In previous years the management team came up with, and ran all the workshops, but this year they were almost entirely inspired and run by members of the team. Some of the standouts were:

  • An in-depth discussion on HTTP/2 traffic modulation and how HTTP/2 as a protocol is parcelled up and transmitted across the wire.
  • How we can best measure success in our teams, and make sure we can easily identify ways for individuals to find their way in a career at Tyk.
  • Multiple workshops on how to improve our product UX, with a dash of product know-how, and presentations to discuss the future of the Tyk platform.
  • Our COO, James, ran a Ted-X style presenter workshop that gave anyone the opportunity to do a quickfire presentation on any topic of their choice, especially those that haven’t presented before. There were laughs, there were tears, there was confusion, and there were some amazing and unexpected insights into how foraged mushrooms can help your brain (don’t ask).

And then came the ad-lib…

I ran a new “get-the-stick-out-of-your-butt” workshop for our client-facing team, where we ran our own version of “Whose Line is it Anyway?”. It combined a bit of drama warm-ups, a bit of acting, a bit of ad-lib and a lot of humour and once again the team proved that we are not above laughing at ourselves. In fact it was so much fun that we’re considering opening it up to everyone next year!


Matias Insaurralde, Go Engineer, TykMatias Insaurralde, Go Engineer, Paraguay (or Argentina, Valencia, Berlin, Thailand, depending on what month of the year you ask him)

The workshops included a variety of activities, from brainstorming and designing new Tyk characters (we have great art skills in the team!) to exciting discussions on day-to-day software development topics.

I really enjoyed the technical workshops and it felt different to me as I’m used to more async experiences (we’re a distributed team!)

It was also a great opportunity to get new Tyks involved into these discussions. After the retreat, some of us stayed in Thailand to continue working and having fun together before we went our separate ways again.


Rachna Karwasra, Operations Manager

Rachna Karwasra, Operations Manager, London

Our annual retreat is a good mix of work and fun! After all: “All work and no play makes Tyk a dull girl”. This year’s retreat was the best ever, as per the Operations team vote on the matter. OK, half of the team were on leave at the time of the vote, but it certainly felt the best ever to me!

Where were we again? Koh Samui – a relaxed and delightful Thai island just to the east of mainland Thailand. It offers many temples (and a large Buddha) and the following day, we went for some local sightseeing. A few places we visited were: HinTa HinYai rocks, Big Buddha, Na Mueang Waterfalls and Fisherman Village. Enchanting beaches were aplenty and the streets were full of hawkers selling everything delicious and 100% Thai.

My highlight of the week was our “Sun, Sea and Snorkelling” trip, followed by a beach picnic at a beautiful, remote(ish), turmeric-hued beach, where we ate fresh & fragrant Thai dishes! Any ice melted away, leaving us laughing, singing, and, in some cases, burning (who forgot the suncream?!)

It already feels too long ago, but what’s stayed with me are the memories created by the whole amalgam of colleagues joining from 15 different countries across the world ranging from the Americas (Paraguay and Canada) to Oceania (New Zealand). Such a great kick-start enabled us to gel together for the workshops and then team-building games planned for our second half of the week.

The last day, we all gathered for our customary group dinner in the resort, and our extremely prestigious Tyk medals were given to the team. Another great year celebrated, now onto even bigger plans: stay tuned!


Tamara Evans, Bid & Account Manager, TykTamara Evans, Bid & Account Manager, London

As the agenda for the retreat approached, the part that I was most worried about was the annual Tyk Sports Day. How far would we need to run? Do I bring sportswear? Should I be training? But no, this was a Sports Day for the mind, and a really fun way to work together.

Aptly hosted by ‘The Tykmaster’, teams were tasked to come up with innovative ways to solve problems over 6 rounds. The Tyk teams did employ some unusual methods: some innovative, some out-there, some downright cheating (wooing the CEO with an ice cold beer comes to mind). From trying (and failing) to stick balloons in trees, some weird leaf dances and demonstrating elbow licking as a ‘talent’: sometimes, it’s just nice to be silly together!

Soon to be more famous than TEDx (maybe), Tyk-X was a great opportunity for some of us to practise public speaking, with guaranteed applause, no judgement and minimal no heckling. The talks were wide-ranging in subject, and we learnt about everything from Ultra Running & some easy Japanese to personal experiences and the healing properties of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms!


James Hirst, Co-Founder & CEO, Tyk

James Hirst, Co-Founder & COO, London

We run Tyk as a distributed business for a reason. It allows us to hire and develop the most talented team possible. With no Head Office and everyone from administrators to Board members working remotely across time-zones, Tyk is able to deliver the best possible service and product for our clients and allow our team-members to fit their work around their real, more important lives.

However, there are some things that are best done in-person once-in-a-while: for instance innovation workshops across teams (and timezones), or meeting for dinner and a few beers.

This requirement to meet and socialise was the genesis of our retreat programme, and over the years we’ve refined scope and agenda to keep ensuring everyone gets the most out of our short time in-person together.

The most inspiring part of this retreat in 2019 has been that the agenda was largely suggested, convened and delivered by the Tyk team, entirely independent of the leadership team.

I guess it really does take a great team to make Tyk.

Our approach to hiring and our internal culture was specifically conceived to enable our team to operate in this way. Seeing it in action, across the entire organisation, made for a truly inspiring week. Bring on next year’s!


What was your favourite part of the week?

Getting the opportunity to meet and chat to people I hadn’t before and getting to know more about the people I already work with. – Tamara

“Tykmaster” Sports Day! So, many impromptu acts and all were so amazing! It was such great fun. And not to forget: Mango & Sticky Rice Pudding! – Rachna

So hard to choose because the whole week was AMAZING.. but lizards are my spirit animal and I loved being able to spend my afternoons basking like one by the shore. – Josh

As always, meeting all the new people that have joined the team since we last got together. Also, the impromptu newscasts produced by our teams during Tykmaster Sports Day were hilarious. – Martin

It’s hard to pick a favorite part but I would say that Tyk Sports Day was the funniest activity we did. Even though I’m not very good at sports, the team I was on took home the gold medal! – Matias

When we took long-tail boats across the Gulf of Thailand to snorkel on a reef, landed on a deserted white sand island where a private chef cooked us fresh seafood, cracked coconuts right out of the trees and served us iced drinks on the beach. Rock and Roll. – James

Did you learn anything new? If so, what?

Every retreat increases my awareness of just how much I don’t know. Being surrounded by such a wide range of experts and specialists, so many cultures and backgrounds, all with so much to learn. Truly humbling and truly inspiring. – James

The Thai greeting (wai) and a lot of funny stories from the Tyk team! – Matias

That it’s never too late in the day to jump in the pool and lots about the exciting year ahead! – Tamara

Planes can run out of gin. Who knew?!? – Josh

I took part in Martin’s workshop “Whose pitch is it anyway” and discovered I can ACT! – Rachna

I learned that our team are fearless. We’re remote-first, and have some far-flung folks: one had never been out of her home country, one had never left Europe, and one didn’t have a passport before the retreat. I was most impressed by how willing one of our team was to open up to everyone about a difficult past, and even more impressed by how supportive everyone was when that happened. It really was incredible. That’s the kind of folks we have in the team, and who we need more of. – Martin

Like the sound of the Tyk approach to teamwork? We’re growing rapidly and have a wide range of exciting opportunities. Many of our roles are available remote, with flexible hours, and all members of our team have unlimited holiday. If you’re interested in joining us, find out more about our current positions.