Tech’s Hardest Partying Company? Forget Open Bars, Our Celebrations Involve Power Tools

by Brian Caulfield

Friday morning Tom Dewey pulled on a pair of work gloves and picked up a power drill to assemble a dozen outdoor wooden benches.

When that was done, the mobile GPU engineer crawled around on his hands and knees with a tape measure and a roll of blue tape putting down guidelines so new basketball courts could be painted on freshly laid blacktop.

Digging deep: NVIDIANs redefining what it means to party hard.

And after that job was done, the father of two helped three others wield a 300-pound gasoline-powered auger to drill holes in the unyielding dirt for all the new benches he built that morning.

“Well, that was a lot of work,” Dewey says with a smile as he took off his baseball cap to mop the sweat from his brow at the end of the day.

Dewey was one of hundreds of NVIDIANs who showed up Friday and Saturday at Ocala Middle School in east San Jose for Project Inspire — our annual holiday celebration — to rebuild everything from playing fields to Ocala’s teacher’s lounge.

At NVIDIA, this is called a holiday party. And if you follow a few NVIDIANs around for a day, one thing becomes clear: nobody parties harder. Signs of progress — and serious toil — could be found everywhere at Ocala Friday.

Project manager Don Chase moved mounds of dirt in a Bobcat utility vehicle as a dozen NVIDIANs scurried around him to build an exercise structure out of thick metal bars and heavy 4x4s.

PR manager Ken Brown wielded a 100-pound auger to help plant a row of wooden benches before taking a break to guide television reporters from a local news station around the work site.

GPU Architect Gerald Luiz brought a truck full of tools.
GPU Architect Gerald Luiz brought a truck full of tools.

And NVIDIA co-founder Chris Malachowsky could be spotted quietly muscling around loads of dirt in a wheelbarrow.

These are people who came ready to work: GPU architect Gerald Luiz even brought his dusty gold Ford F-150, a 5,000 watt generator, and everything from pneumatic hammers to laser levels to share.

Rebuilding a school is a lot like building a processor, says Luiz, as he took a moment to glance at the hundreds of NVIDIANs doing everything from painting buildings to rolling out fresh sod across the six acres of softball fields next to the school.

Like designing a GPU, the key is to delegate. ”One person can’t think about what all 7 billion transistors can do,” he says. “Same here.”

Maybe the hardest work, however, went into organizing the event. After months of planning, members of NVIDIA’s global corporate citizenship team, led by Tonie Hansen, roamed the work site, walkie-talkies in hand.

Working with them: almost 100 volunteers from City Year — an AmeriCorps program that puts youth aged 17 to 24 to work helping kids stay in school — who had put in hundreds of hours of prep work for the day.

The City Year volunteers, clad in yellow jackets and tan pants, made all that exertion feel like a party as they passed out everything bottled water to sunscreen.

And when the day was done, volunteers from NVIDIA — and the community all around — were rewarded with coffee, cake pops, gooey pecan bars and apple cider.

Forget the open bar you’ll find at traditional company parties. After a day of hard work, it’s hard to imagine anything sweeter.

NVIDIA's Corporate Social Responsibility team worked for a nearly a year putting Project Inspire together.
NVIDIA’s Corporate Social Responsibility team — from left to right, Liz Austin, Tonie Hansen, and Laura Clemmensen — worked for a nearly a year putting this year’s event together.