Recreational Equipment (REI)
Recreational Equipment (REI)
Best Companies rank: 8
Name: Jim Gosnell
Title: Tech Advisor
Years with the company:

Jim Gosnell started working at REI in 1978 for similar reasons as most other outdoorsy people join the company -- for the sweet gear. Decades later, the company helped him realize a long-term dream -- going to base camp at Mt. Everest.

REI offers something called Mega Prodeals, which are discounted trips exclusively for employees. The excursions are first-come, first-serve. Gosnell heard about the opportunity to take a 21-day trip through Nepal while he was on the way to a Dave Matthews concert in 2010. He had REI on speed dial, he says, and found out that he got placed in one of the trip's 13 slots while he was still on the road.

"I'd lived it in my mind for years," he says, but nothing could compare to experiencing the famous place he'd read so much about.

The adventure was memorable for Dave for another reason. REI has an annual peer-nominated award, called the Anderson award, named after the founders of the company. Last year, 150 out of REI's over 10,000 employees received one. Jim was one of the recipients of the Anderson award in 2010, which his co-workers told him while he was at base camp at Everest.

"They actually had arranged it with the Sherpas there to make me [a] surprise cake, and they delivered it up at base camp at 18,000 feet. They snuck it up to base camp. It literally knocked the wind out of me."

He still keeps in touch with the 12 other participants on the trip, and Gosnell plans to keep exploring. REI doubles the vacation time of employees that have stayed with the company over 15 years, which will allow Gosnell to take eight weeks and hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

By Shelley DuBois, writer-reporter @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 20 2012: 6:55 AM ET
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