First We Eat: #LifeatPromega, The Culinary Experience

The Promega Culinary Garden

In the Promega garden. (L to R): Logan Morrow, gardener; Nate Herndon, Promega Senior Culinary Manager; Mike Daugherty, Promega Line Cook and Gardener

First we eat, then we do everything else.–MFK Fisher

Swatting away mosquitoes one July morning in the garden on the Promega Madison, WI, campus, Senior Culinary Manager Nate Herndon leans down and pulls back the leaves of a squash plant, revealing the bright yellow flowers that in a couple of hours will highlight a seasonal special on the lunch menu at one of the company’s cafeterias: green onion-cream cheese stuffed fried squash blossoms served on a grilled jerk pork tostada with black beans and cilantro sauce. Herndon explains that dishes made from scratch with high-quality, locally sourced (and sometimes unexpected) ingredients are the rule at Promega Madison kitchens, where it’s not uncommon to find entrees like house made ramp garganelli with oyster mushrooms and asparagus, braised beef ragu with house made buckwheat parpadelle pasta and baby kale, or fried perch tacos.

Food is an extension, a daily demonstration, of our overall commitment to sustainability, the community and employees

Many companies are realizing the benefits of upscaling their corporate cafeteria offerings. Some are engaging employees with ever-changing theme lunch menus or energy drinks on tap. Others are echoing the popular farm to table movement. But Herndon explains that Promega’s sensibilities surrounding the importance of food goes way beyond simply following popular trends. Continue reading

Promega Employees Find Their Muse in Company Band

Becky Guy (keyboard), Randy  Dimond (left), Eric Vincent (Trombone) play for the Promega Employee Recognition Meeting as part of Lead Generation.

Becky Guy (keyboard), Randy Dimond (left), Eric Vincent (Trombone) play for the Promega Employee Recognition Meeting as part of Lead Generation.

Musicians wait onstage as the sound tech adjusts the cables around them. He signals “OK” and runs back through the seats of the empty auditorium to the mixing board. The musicians all dressed in black, instruments in hand, prepare to play. Four sharp whacks from the drummer’s sticks and music fills the space. Horns, keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and harmonica back singers as they belt out the upbeat earworm Drive It Like You Stole It. They sound great and make it look pretty effortless too, which is why it’s hard to believe these “rock stars” are also scientists, marketers, IT specialists, lawyers, you name it, who make up the Promega employee band, Lead Generation. (Thank marketing for the name.)

“Lead Generation is just one of the many opportunities at Promega that make it truly unique,” says Kris Zimmerman, a research scientist who sings and plays trumpet with the band. “Any kind of expression of creativity can help you to have different perspectives and be a better problem solver. Fostering an environment where collaboration and creativity are rewarded really helps to create a sense of belonging, and creates a vibe of excitement that you don’t find just anywhere. Plus how cool is it to tell people that you play in a band? At work?”

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You Become Your Habits

29980706-AugustBlog-BrainPuzzleHumans are, by nature, creatures of habit. The Experts Blog from the Cleveland Clinic tells us up to 95% of our thoughts are repeated every day–habitual thoughts, and they can take root in our lives without our conscious realization. Habits help us get through the day. Imagine having to wake up each morning and decide what you should do next. Knowing that you need to shower, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, etc. saves us some major brain power. Problems can occur when our habits unknowingly become incongruent with our values and goals. Many of us have habits that no longer serve us, such as smoking, the way we respond to our spouse or the thoughts we have about ourselves. These habits can keep us stuck and they don’t leave much room for creative thought and solving problems.

The obvious question is “how can we break free from obstructive habits?” Committing to just 10-15 minutes of meditation per day will create changes in the brain that allow you to increase the time between stimulus and response, which will give you greater freedom in how you respond and react. The cultivation of conscious awareness through meditation, therefore, can help us break habits that are unhealthy or that are no longer serving us. Just by recognizing our habits and placing our attention on them they will begin to soften. With commitment we can begin to see these habits change.

If you want to try an experiment, pay attention to the choices you make and your reactions over the next few days. Make a mental note of these thoughts and reactions and decide if they are in line with your values. You may also begin to notice what triggers precede these habitual responses.  If they are thoughts or actions you’d like to change, make an intention to respond differently next time. No one can break these deeply rooted patterns all at once, but by noticing and deciding what you’d like to do differently, you will be taking a huge step forward in the process.

How’s That for Wellness?

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just trying to find a fun activity to do with a coworker, a 5K run/walk can be a fun event for all.  Promega recently hosted its 7th annual 5K run/walk and had more than 155 participants at the Madison, WI,  location.  The event was a fun activity for everyone to get out, get active and be social. The event also helped raise over 160 pounds of food and over $115 in cash that was donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

As a nation, we have become more focused on our health and wellness than ever before. Nearly everyone is trying to drink more water, be more mindful of what they eat, and it’s hard to look around the room without finding someone wearing a fitness tracker to keep track of their daily steps.  Health and wellness has also become increasingly popular in the workplace. According to Health Fitness Revolution, the top benefits of a Workplace Wellness Program are as follow:

  • Fun
  • Improved Productivity
  • Happiness
  • Sense of Community
  • Lower Healthcare Costs
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • Improved Physical Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Less Stress
  • Healthier Habits

At Promega our focus on wellness as an organization is no different. We recognize that being active and taking care of your health, and your family’s health, has an impact beyond how you feel.  Because of that, we have a wellness or fitness center in each of our facilities to make staying active and fit more convenient. We also believe that wellbeing extends beyond physical health and have a campus that features native gardens with walking paths and dedicated meditative spaces to encourage total wellness. Promega strives to be a leader in health & wellness initiatives that enable our employees to become the best version of themselves. We don’t do this for a potential monetary return on the investment, but because we truly believe that by becoming the best version of yourself, our employees also become the most fulfilled.

 

Wellness at Work: Pedal to Petal Summer Bike Event and Other Initiatives

Corporate wellness programs have been discussed in the media over the past few years, and as I read more about them this week, I discovered that the tangible benefits of such programs are vast, ranging from blood pressure and cholesterol management, to stress reduction and mental wellness. I also came across articles claiming wellness initiatives don’t encourage healthy behavior beyond the requirements, or can be an invasion of privacy when employees are required to submit to comprehensive health screenings. Do corporate wellness programs really work? In my experience, they are indispensable. Wellness programs can serve as motivational starting points for employees interested in leading healthier lifestyles and are thus a very positive component of a company’s culture. In my case, the programs offered at Promega greatly facilitated my personal efforts to become more active and mindful.

Bike PicAs many Wisconsinites can attest, staying active in Wisconsin during the winter months can be incredibly challenging. Even walking from your car to the gym might cause your eyes to water and fingers to go numb from the cold. It is no wonder that when given the chance to snuggle up on a warm couch or to go for a run in the brisk weather this winter, I chose the former. Continue reading

ProMindful

35988076_lMindfulness is all over the news these days, with people touting research-backed benefits like stress reduction, better grades, improved emotional regulation and even boosting you towards your weight loss goals. Here at Promega we have offered yoga classes and meditation sessions for years, and we just finished an 8 week internally developed mindfulness training program.

The approach was to present mindfulness techniques in a “profoundly lighthearted” way. As participants, we were encouraged to be our own test subjects and experiment. In the 30-minute Friday group sessions we learned about a new aspect of mindfulness through teachings, stories and practice and were then encouraged to practice throughout the week. The results were nothing less than life-changing for some participants. Here are a few techniques you can experiment with incorporating into your life.
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Ghosts

buddhabrot fractal image

Formless, recursive and abstract, it can be tough to wrestle the ghosts of the conscious mind.

Please believe me when I say this is the hardest thing I’ve done. Typing this sentence might as well be lifting a boulder, and the next could be even heavier. Before this, the hardest thing I’d done was say “good morning” to co-workers, and before that, it was simply getting out of bed.

Just about the only thing I find easy is going to bed, but sleeping is a different story. Every night I lie down, unsure if I’ll fall asleep within seconds and wake what seems like moments later, swatting aimlessly at my alarm clock, or if I’ll remain awake, tired beyond belief but some mysterious finger in the dyke preventing a flood of sleep from washing over me.

I’m one of the approximately 21 million people in the United States who suffer from major depression. Let me tell you, it’s kind of a bummer. Lying awake at night might sound terrible, but it’s the easiest thing in the world compared to writing a sentence, saying “hello”, smiling. I live each day negotiating a watery fog, often unsure what people tell me, confused about what comes next, and desperate for the energy to participate in the world.

This isn’t an essay asking for sympathy; receiving pity from others would only make me feel worse. Besides, as a function of suffering from depression, I’m convinced nobody is reading this, that nobody is going to read this. This essay is for me. Only by engaging and grappling with this disease in words and in actions can I ever hope to pin it to the ground.

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Stand Up and Walk; Repeat Often

As someone who regularly works at a computer both at work and at home, sedentary activity is a part of my daily life. Unfortunately, my desk is the standard kind that requires me to sit on a chair; I can only dream of the kind that has a treadmill to encourage movement as I work. The health consequences of sitting for long periods of time have been covered in research papers and other blogs, but a recent paper highlighted how it is not only how long we are sedentary but how often we step away from our desks and sofas that affects our health. Continue reading