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What's in a Name?

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” - William Shakespeare

Or would it? Despite what Juliet argues in Romeo and Juliet, names do matter. Moving to a new office space in Chicago in 2006 created an opportunity to rebrand the Thoughtworks space and honor progressive innovators and leaders at the same time.

Here’s how we did it.  

Our more than 20 office spaces and conference rooms were all blank slates - and we could have gone the traditional path of calling them by flowers, trees, or state names. But we had a different idea.

We set out to remember amazing individuals who made a real difference in the world through their accomplishments. The scientists, Charles Darwin and Marie Curie. The anti-slavery heroes, Harriet Tubman and John Brown. And great leaders from around the world, including Gandhi and Mandela.

A small team, including our Founder and Chairman Roy Singham, created the initial list which was sent around to the Chicago office. We chose people that highlight the global nature of our company and emphasize the contributions made by both men and women. Today, new hires are introduced to the naming convention during the interview process and at orientation.

It may seem like a minor point but where else in corporate America can you say to a group of co-workers, “Let’s meet in the Alan Turing room (he was a founder of computer science and WW II war hero who was later persecuted for his homosexuality)?  Or let’s have lunch today in Robeson (for Paul Robeson, the talented actor, singer and athlete who was also outspoken against racism in America)? Or, "The client meeting is in Rosalind Franklin," (the researcher who led to our understanding of DNA)?

We want to keep the memories of these brave individuals alive. And, we hope, may inspire today’s technologists to “be the change” they wish to see in the world.

Here’s some of the other people we acknowledged.

  • Rachel Carson - author of Silent Spring who alerted the world to the dangers of DDT
  • Mary Wollstonecraft - one of the earliest of feminists
  • Toussaint Louverture - leader of Haitian independence
  • Albert Einstein - groundbreaking scientist and opponent of war
  • Bob Marley - the voice of millions who had recently become independent of colonialism
  • Margaret Mead - Pioneering anthrolopogist who challenged traditional gender roles
  • Clarence Darrow - Crusading lawyer for rational thought and the labor movement
  • WEB DuBois - the founder of the NAACP

What do you think about our approach? Share in the comments section who else you would include.  

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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