Still decompressing from a long week with colleagues at Automattic’s 2019 Grand Meetup in Orlando. You’d think after seven of these things I’d remember not to overbook myself (FOMO is real, y’all) but I spent most of the week feeling rushed and mentally exhausted. It was intense. Normally I come away from meetups feeling energized and ready to work, but this time, I left feeling overwhelmed. There’s a lot of *stuff* going on at work these days, and I think all of that overflowed into my GM experience.
That said, I hung out with some of my favorite people, made new friends, sang with the Automattic band at the closing party, spent some time meditating, and caught an absurd number of shiny Pokémon.
I also set aside two days after the meetup to spend by myself at Disney, which gave me some time to rest and ended the week on a positive note. Post forthcoming with those photos!
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:
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.
This is what I left behind, for your reference.
I found a KP at SFO!
The view’s alright.
Someone was interested in the remote work lifestyle.
Early morning walk, cute flower.
So many delicious breakfasts.
No filter necessary.
Sunset game on point.
Thai beef salad at TK Noodle House.
Team bonding over Thai.
Delicious plum liquor.
When life gives you ugly lemons, give them away.
Farmer’s market papaya
Obligatory beach selfie.
Theam in the water.
The life, I am living it.
Dipping the toes in.
Partial Theam portrait by Jeff.
A day out at the markets. (Photo by Jeff)
Cheers! (Photo by Jeff)
Dinner under a canopy of flowers.
Richard’s amazing Banyan tree
Time to say goodbye.
Hot tub Theam machine. (Photo by Allan)
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!
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:
Crossing the border
Coffee with Tim before my flight
My kids always send friends to keep me company
It’s all about the conference name tag and the endless coffee.
Each year at our company meetup, we’re asked to give an up-to-four-minute-long “flash talk” about any subject. The fact that I hadn’t done one about The X-Files in my 5 years of meetups is either a crime or a miracle, depending on who you ask.
But last September, I let my freaky Phile flag fly. Here’s the result:
What a week! Last week, my team met in Montréal to work on projects and planning.
Gwen and Ellie sent friends to keep me company <3
A Shirley Temple for the DD (that’s me)
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.
I kinda forgot to take a pic before I dove into this poor cupcake.
“Spicy” lemonade, as my kids would say.
Themers with a cupcake!
Montreal at night
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).
The frothiest, yummiest iced coffee ever with my cupcake.
Fully painted; the colors darken significantly in the kiln
Ready for firing!
The team and friends!
The finished product! So pleased. 😀
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.
72% dark chocolate ice cream
Authentic dining at Mikado
So much sushi. We powered through it.
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.
When in Rome…eat Tim Hortons.
I enjoyed a Canadian delicacy on my way home.
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!
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.
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.
Hotel Praktik Bakery
Casa Sera, our home away from home for the week.
View from my room.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…oh, right, it’s a bird.
The obligatory “We really do work on these trips” picture.
Barcelona’s architecture brings its A-game.
Catalonia Sq. at night
La Sagrada Familia
Cathedral windows lit by the sun.
I could get into church if it involved this many rainbows.
Ceiling or alien spaceship? You decide.
Gaudi was a busy guy.
View from the Nativity Tower.
Walking in the park.
The tile mosaics in Park Guell are my favorite thing.
Views of Barcelona from Park Guell.
The cool kids.
So much color!
Gaudi knows how to dress up a ceiling.
It wasn’t an easy trip, but as always, the people and the city made it worthwhile. Until next time, Theam!
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’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!
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. 🙂