automattically awesome

The big news–starting next week, I’ll join the crew at Automattic as a Theme Wrangler!

(I’m not doing my own excitement justice with so few exclamation points, I know, but I’m trying not to look as dorky as I feel. ;))

When Tim was hired by Automattic last summer, it was an eye-opener. I was about to have our second child and didn’t have much time to focus on a career shift at the time, but I knew my position at UMaine had stagnated and it was clear I needed a change. I’d spent the last three years working with WordPress, and I have a long history with web design and development, so that seemed the natural place to direct my efforts.

While on maternity leave, I focused on learning more about advanced WordPress development, particularly theme development, and I started applying to jobs, including a few at Automattic. In an effort to get better at code review, I joined the WPTRT (WordPress Theme Review Team). I also knew my portfolio was weak, so I set to creating and polishing. I built the kind of themes I would use–cute, illustrated, simple–and was thoroughly surprised when people actually liked them!

Tim encouraged me to apply as a Theme Wrangler, but I distinctly recall telling him, “Pssh. I don’t have that level of skill. I just draw pretty things and make them into themes, I’m not a theme developer.”

Several months later, Ian contacted me after seeing some of my themes and asked if I was interested in designing a premium theme for WordPress.com. I sent in another application around that time, thinking the extra visibility couldn’t hurt. When I finished the premium theme, I (tentatively, wincing all the while because I’m terrible a putting myself out there) followed up with Ian about my application, asking for some pointers… and was surprised when the response was positive. Not even three hours later I had a friendly chat/interview with Lance and started a trial contract that day!

I’m thrilled to be joining the Theme Team. Like I said in my previous post, I’ve worked at the same office for about nine years so this is a huge change. But I’m in a unique position because Tim is also an Automattician, and I’ve seen first-hand what’s involved with this type of job. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with my new colleagues for the last few weeks and that’s reinforced the fact that I’m in really good company. The work will be challenging, but that’s what makes this transition so appealing to me–new things to learn, new experiences, and a chance to work on some really cool projects with some equally cool people.

This means Tim and I will both be working from home. Some people look at me with raised eyebrows when I say that, but we’re not worried about this arrangement–we have separate offices (mine in our bedroom, his in the guest bedroom) in case we get sick of each other (haha) and we’ve worked together before. In fact, I imagine we’ll collaborate less at Automattic than we did at UMaine because we’re on separate teams. And I think it will make working almost entirely from home less isolating for both of us, while allowing more flexibility for our family.

And if all that wasn’t exciting enough, this time next week I’ll be on my way to Las Vegas for my first team meetup. I still don’t believe it. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and I’m eager to meet my colleagues in person, then hopefully get into some semblance of a routine and start the real work of learning the ropes. Wish me luck. 😀

2011 in review

It’s that time again! 2011’s highlights:

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: We had a baby!

serious cute

I spent most of the first nine months of 2011 gestating this cutie, and as such, 75% of the year is a blur. But yeah, she’s pretty awesome. I can officially remove “Have a home birth” from the life list, since Gwen is most definitely our last child and, once again, the home birth didn’t work out. In retrospect, I’m not disappointed with either of my babies’ births. The experiences were just as powerful and life-altering despite having taken place in a hospital–and I got two amazing kids out of the deal so I can’t feel bad about that!

In July Tim started a new work-from-home job, putting his WordPress expertise to work at Automattic. While this isn’t my accomplishment to share, it’s certainly had an impact on our family. Prior to this we worked together in the same office for several years, but he quickly realized he couldn’t keep up with both workloads and resigned from his position at the university in August. The new job also means more travelling and that’s been difficult for both of us. So far he’s been to Montreal and Budapest, and next month he’ll spend a week in Hawaii (the stinker!) Despite those challenges, I really can’t complain–his new schedule offers more flexibility than the university could, the benefits are excellent and it’s a significant step up in his career. We’re still figuring out how to navigate this new world, but I have a feeling it will get easier as time goes on.

I had my gallbladder removed shortly after Gwen was born. Although certainly not something I wanted, in one sense I’m glad it happened. It was the wake-up call that allowed me to take a critical look at my daily habits and take steps to better myself. I bought a Fitbit which motivated me to start exercising and monitoring calories again, and after just a few weeks I feel ten times better about myself and my abilities. It’s a careful balance between doing the work and becoming obsessive about it, and while I don’t always win that mental battle, I’m getting better.

Creatively I don’t have much to show for myself. I’m not feeling the illustration bug, my shops have been dormant most of the year, and I have a few ideas for photo shoots but it’s too darn cold outside and there’s not enough room in our house. Meh. I did spend a few months teaching myself about WordPress theme development and crossed off “learn PHP” from my life list, so that’s something!

Three of my list items had to do with the kids–make their Halloween costumes, make Ellie a birthday cake (I didn’t bake it but I decorated it, so I’m counting this one) and take them to Santa’s Village–so it’s easy to see where my focus was this year. However, Tim and I also took our first “long” trip away from Ellie in April to see Iron & Wine in concert (something I never wrote about due to pregnancy yuckiness) which was fun. And I visited my extended family in North Carolina for the first time, crossing off another state on my “visit all 50 states” goal.

Overall, I would say this was a banner year for personal and family growth, not so much creativity. That’s an acceptable exchange, though. I’ve devoted many years to creative pursuits, so it’s only fair that other things come into focus for a bit. As the kids get older I will have more time to spend with my projects, but right now it’s all about them. Seeing how much Ellie has grown and then having our second child has made me keenly aware of just how fast it goes by.

Next year I’m looking forward to more of the same–more introspection as I get closer to my thirties and more time spent enjoying my family. I’m hoping to travel a bit, too–nothing crazy long distance, but now that we have a bit more disposable income I want to get out of the state occasionally!

Happy new year, all!

of web geekery and other things

Oh, hey! Yes, I’m still pregnant. I passed my due date six days ago and it looks like I’m going to pass my original due date, which was… today! I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I am about that. I’m just telling myself all the extra waiting now means I’ll have a shorter labor than last time–although I think the odds are in my favor there, regardless.

Since the kiddo is in school and I’m on leave, I’ve been distracting myself with WordPress themes. I finally consolidated all the work I do with WordPress–personal, professional and otherwise–into one portfolio. I’ve been working on some new free themes, mostly as a way to teach myself some of the more advanced techniques in theme development. Plus I’m always looking for an excuse to design a new website. Some things never change!

I’ve also been tossing around some photo ideas. A coworker found a small, perfect bird’s nest on the ground and gave it to me a few weeks ago–she knows me too well! I can’t wait to play with it, and now that the university is back in session there are more potential models in the area. Fall is my favorite time of year for photos, so I’m hoping the new baby won’t totally drain me of all motivation. Even one good photo shoot would be an excellent way to wrap up this rather unproductive year.

Of course I would be a fountain of creative energy all of a sudden… right before I’m supposed to give birth and devote a substantial amount of time to mommyhood. Ahh, well. Maybe I’ll get lucky and finally strike the balance between daily life and creativity I’ve been seeking since… forever. A girl can dream!

crazy summer

What a crazy summer! When we do things here at casa de Moore, we do them big and we do them all at once. No screwing around.

Tim just picked up a fantastic job with Automattic, the company best known for WordPress and related deliciousness. It’s an amazing opportunity and we’re both a little in shock about the whole thing, in a good way. Tim loves the work he’s doing there, and so far he describes everyone he’s met as “the nicest people ever.” I’m so proud of him! And now whenever I have blog issues I have an official Automattician on hand to help. Win-win. 😉

Ellie started pre-school a couple weeks ago, and that transition is going well. The change of scenery hasn’t slowed her down. If anything, she’s on the go more than ever. I’m not sure what this “energy crisis” is everyone talks about, because energy sure isn’t a problem in our house, at least not for Ellie. Tim affectionately refers to her as “our little warlock”; we’re convinced she’s using some kind of Drain Life spell against us.

And then we’re waiting on baby #2 to make her grand entrance sometime in late August, which means I’m attempting to get all that work stuff and business stuff wrapped up. I would be perfectly happy if she decided to make her appearance earlier rather than later because truth be told, I am very tired of this pregnancy nonsense. Originally I said I’d try to soak up every last moment because there are no plans for more babies… this being our last, I wanted to be more sentimental about it. But right now I am overly hot, tired and uncomfortable and very much looking forward to meeting this kid.

Whose bright idea was it to have a late summer baby, anyway?

(Whenever I ask this question, Tim just glares at me and reminds me of all that whining I did back in October when I was convinced it would take us years to get pregnant again. Hah. Ahahahahaha. Baby fever makes me not so bright.)

I haven’t done much in the way of photos or illustration this summer, which is unfortunate (but not surprising.) Give me a few months postpartum and I’m sure that will change. Actually, I’m kind of bored with my current desktop background, so maybe that’s the motivation I need to doodle something today…