2018 Automattic Grand Meetup, Orlando, Florida

What a week! From the guest speakers to an advanced development class to meeting new people to Harry Potter world to playing Pokémon to touring Disney Springs, it’s hard to say what was the best part of this year’s Automattic Grand Meetup.

I tried to split my time between my new team and my old team when I wasn’t attending class or various presentations and sessions. These events have gotten so huge that it takes some serious effort to find and hug every person I know over the course of the week, let alone have meaningful conversations.

I made new friends raiding in Pokémon Go, and spent most of my downtime wandering around Disney Springs. I had a great one-on-one with my new squad lead at the Star Wars VR experience, and now I think all one-on-ones should involve shooting Stormtroopers. XD

Automattic arranged a special event dinner at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios mid-week. That in itself was impressive, but the afterparty remained my favorite. Epcot fireworks, the ever-present photo booth, and the Automattician-powered band was a great way to round out the week. Just when you think your colleagues couldn’t get any more brilliant, they get on stage and blow you away with musical talent.

And of course, there are the pictures; my favorite souvenirs:

Hawaii, 2017

For those counting, this is my third trip to the most beautiful state in the country. But as lovely as it is, this was a work trip; there was only one dip in the pool, one brief trip to the beach, and a tiny bit of sightseeing. The rest of the time I was head-down with my group, learning the ins and outs of Gutenberg and working on a new theme.

The view and the company made up for the lack of time spent in the wild, though. I don’t use the word lightly when I say I’m blessed to have these opportunities. Thanks for a memorable week, Hawaii!

Whistler, BC, 2017

The Theme Team and our poop, less one Richard.

The week before last I met up with 570-ish of my Automattic colleagues in Whistler, British Columbia for our annual Grand Meetup — and what a Grand Meetup it was! I’m still tired and I should have posted this a week ago, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

Photo booth shenanigans with the Theme Team

Theme Team in Montréal, Quebec 2017

What a week! Last week, my team met in Montréal to work on projects and planning.

Since it’s fairly close, I rented a minivan and drove the 7+ hours to Montréal. My first meetup road trip! Huzzah! After a brief and unexpected pit stop at the border for some paperwork (harrowing but successful), I was off. There was a lot of Tim Hortons coffee and a Stephen King audiobook involved, and I spent a fair amount of time arguing with Google Maps.

We stayed at a cute boutique hotel downtown, where we could walk to most places. When we couldn’t walk, I also drove the group around, which was an experience. I managed to shatter the right-hand rearview mirror on a narrow detour at night, but I also parallel parked almost perfectly one time, so I figure I broke even (pun intended).

I spent most of my work talking with my teammates in 1-1’s and feedback sessions. We also found out that there are some major changes happening in our division — namely, the dissolution of our division! Thankfully our team is still together, but the announcement gave me pause. I’m also stepping down as team lead when I come back from my leave; it’s bittersweet. I’m still struggling with pre-sabbatical FOMO and anxiety, but I’m sure that will resolve itself as I find other things to occupy my time.

We had a lot of fun in the city, though, braving the cold and rainy weather to go out to eat and activities. There was a storytelling show, a lively ceramics painting session, a tour of the local marketplaces, a craft fair, and a fun group game of Codenames to top off the week.

The trip home was “eventful”. At one point I was stopped at the Quebec/New Brunswick border for a random police check and asked if I had any alcohol, tobacco, or dead bodies in the vehicle. I’m still not sure if he was being serious about that last one…

I also came thisclose to running out of gas in an area with no cell reception and few gas stations; that was exciting, but I made it with 4 miles to spare. Rural NB is no joke!

I’m glad I got to see most of my team one more time before I leave for the majority of the summer. I have no idea what I’ll come back to, but I know it will be positive. Thanks for a great meetup, team!

Five Years at Automattic

Yes, my current job title is “Theme Mama”.
It’s pretty hard to believe it’s been five years since I wrote this post announcing my start with Automattic.

In many respects, I feel like I’m still new, still learning the ropes. It’s rare that I look at my work as a “grind”; it’s a challenge, and there are definitely times when it’s more stressful than others, but most days I wake up, don my work outfit (ahem sweatpants), and face the day with excitement.

The company has grown so much since I first joined (to the tune of about 380+ people!) but I still feel particularly close to my team, and for that reason I’ve been sheltered from many of the “growing pains” that come from a company’s rapid development from startup to bigger business. It’s not always easy, but we keep it light, and keep on keeping on.

Every five years, Automatticians have the option to take a 2-3 month sabbatical, which is what I’m doing in a couple weeks! It’s a great benefit, and one of the many reasons I love working here, but I can’t help but think of how much I’ll miss the people I work with, and how weird it will be not to think about my job for several weeks.

Here’s to the next five years! 🙂

Barcelona, Spain, Nov. 2016

Theme Team in Barcelona's Park Guell. Photo by Tammie Lister.
Theme Team in Barcelona’s Park Guell. Photo by Tammie Lister.

The day after the U.S. election, I flew to Barcelona for a team meetup. It was a bittersweet trip; on one hand, I was happy to have the distraction of travel, for the opportunity to escape to a foreign city and immerse myself in something that wasn’t U.S. politics.

On the other, I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to go home, curl up under a blanket and hide.

The election results were a frequent topic of conversation throughout the meetup, but we didn’t let it completely overshadow our fun. Besides, the trip itself threw its own interesting obstacles our way; lost (then found) wallets, viruses, a stolen laptop bag, and only one fluent Spanish speaker in the group, which made for some unique exchanges.

It wasn’t an easy trip, but as always, the people and the city made it worthwhile. Until next time, Theam!

Theme Team bringing the drama.
Theme Team bringing the drama. Photo by Tammie Lister.

Automattic Grand Meetup, Whistler, BC

Where's Waldo? Credit to Donncha for the photo.
Where’s Waldo? Credit to Donncha for the photo.
What an amazing week.

I didn’t take as many photos as in past years; I blame Pokémon and soaking in the experience rather than trying to capture it. But my friends and coworkers took lots of photos and I have plenty of memories to share.

I walked a 5k, I got not just one but two tattoos, I saw coyotes and beautiful mountain scenery, and painted my own version of said scenery. The afterparty included tasty drinks and dancing. There were lots of meetings (so many meetings) and lunches and dinners and discussion, and now my head is full and I want to sleep for a week.

I did the WWWP5k!

Automattic runs/walks/hops
Where’s Waldo, #wwwp5k edition.

And it begins!
And it begins!

I’ve never been a runner. I will probably never be a runner. I tried Couch to 5K once and got about a week into the program before I decided to save my knees and walk instead.

But I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately (thanks Pokémon!), and my endurance has improved. Each year, Automattic does this world-wide WordPress 5k, and this year they’re donating to a good cause, so I figured what the heck; let’s do it!

Scenic Whistler
Scenic Whistler

I was with a small group of other walkers, and I had my trusty Pokémon to keep my mind occupied when I wasn’t chatting with my walking buddy (who was also playing Pokémon). It was chilly and rainy (45℉/7℃), but the scenery was beautiful and the company made it so much fun.

I may have found myself a new Grand Meetup tradition. 🙂

 

Post-5k Soggy Walkers selfie. Photo by Jen Hooks.
Post-5k Soggy Walkers selfie. Photo by Jen Hooks.