ESnet Builds Morale and Community With a Zoom Competition


Nearly two months into California’s shelter-in-place order, we’ve all been in more than our fair share of video conferences. To boost morale during this difficult time, the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) staff held a Zoom Background Competition during their all-to-all meeting on Monday, April 27. 

Staff were encouraged to create their own backgrounds and display them during the meeting. There were 21 entries. ESnet employees voted. Submissions were judged on overall artistry, functionality (not too distracting as a background), whether it elevated the voter’s mood, and if it made them feel included in the ESnet community. 

The top three winners got bragging rights. Here they are:

First place: Jeff Berman, NOC Engineer

This Zoom challenge inspired Berman, an avid sailoJeffrey Bermanr, to take to the sea. He won this competition with an hour video of the San Francisco skyline, one he filmed while sailing on the Bay. Although he typically likes to go sailing with friends and family, he says that sailing solo brings him a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.  

“What is sailing? Most books define it as hours of sheer boredom scattered with white knuckle periods of terror. On a good day, both are true. Both give you an equal sense of accomplishment. How to be with yourself with nothing to do, good training for our current situation,” said Berman.

Second Place: Sartaj Baveja, Software Engineer

This challenge inspired Baveja to create a background meme of office life. In the background, someone (Baveja) is looking over your shoulder to catch a glimpse of your screen and make sure you don’t procrastinate.

Sartaj Baveja

Third Place: Joe Metzger, Network Engineer

Joe_interviewThis challenge inspired Metzger to use a picture that he took in Barcelona. The focal point of the picture (the blur) is a little girl in a red coat, black dress and white tights who was just running back and forth between the pools of light and shadow created by the stone arches and rosette windows, while her family was sitting in the cafe. 

“I used this as my zoom background because I think it is a really cool picture. It brings to mind a fun evening strolling around the little squares and back streets in Barcelona and sitting in cafes with a good glass of wine relaxing,” said Metzger.

Girl in Red

Written by Linda Vu, Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences.