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Rocket President Encourages Employee Collaboration With House Band

Rocket Andy Youniss
The Rocket Band is an ever-rotating group of employees who bring their shared interest of music together to perform at company and technology events. Photos by Rocket employee Alison Ishimaru

Andy Youniss has been drawn to music for as long as he can remember. Both his parents played guitar, and the president and CEO of Rocket Software would ask them to teach it to him. When he was in second grade, his dad taught him three chords, and he’s been playing the instrument since. Two years later, he began playing piano, and still does to this day. Beyond playing, he enjoys attending performances, watching people play and seeing how they work together while maintaining their own role.

This approach to teamwork is something Youniss has brought to Rocket, a global software development firm. “In music everybody has a role,” he notes. “Everybody has to stay connected and give each other the space to do their thing. This is very similar to running a company where everybody has got to stay tightly connected but has a role to play.”

Being a self-taught musician looking to improve, Youniss says trying to learn something new keeps him curious. And those traits carry over to business. “When I play, I try to surround myself with musicians who are better than me. That’s how I learn and that is how I get better,” he admits. “It’s exactly the same thing in the context of running a company like Rocket. You are constantly trying to surround yourself with people who are smarter, who know more. That’s how you learn and get better.”

Out of that love of music and teamwork came The Rocket Band—an ever-rotating group of employees who bring their shared interest of music together to perform at company and technology events. From its humble beginnings seven years ago—when Youniss had employees over to his house and they began playing—the group had a more organized performance at a sales kickoff event, and the band was officially born.

“The Rocket Band came out of that, where you realize this music thread weaves through a lot of people in the company and not just engineers, but sales people, marketing people, all different functions,” he says.

Youniss ensures the band is as inclusive as possible and, as a result, it’s never the same lineup or performers twice. Everyone from interns, veteran employees to IBMers and partners have been involved, playing anything from classical to jazz to funk to rock and punk music.

Because of this love and inclusion of music, Rocket is known as a place where music is a big part of the company culture. At conferences, you can find guitars hung on the wall of its booth for attendees to look at and play, and people stop by out of curiosity.

“Music is such a human way to connect and relate to people,” Youniss notes. “It builds relationships, it builds trust, it builds those connections that last forever, really.”

Valerie Dennis Craven is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.



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