Well, I’m finally at the bottom of the ride. I came home from our meetup on Sunday afternoon and promptly crashed for several hours of much-needed sleep. Thankfully I had the foresight to take a couple days off to recover. Monday was spent in a time-zone-befuddled daze, and yesterday was spent in Bangor for appointments.
…okay, maybe I’m not entirely at the bottom of the ride, but I’m getting there.
Most of the meetup itself was spent planning and thinking and brainstorming, which explains the relative lack of pictures this trip. Sticky notes lose their visual appeal after one or two photos.
Up at 3:30 am to catch my flight. Joy.
Hello, San Diego
It’s windy on this boat.
A little time with family
When in San Diego with five hours to spare…go to the zoo!
Pretty fly for a pink guy
The kids struggled with my absence more than usual, and I’m feeling the sharp divide between work and motherhood. Pulled in multiple directions, it’s hard to know if I’m doing enough on either front. But it was good to spend time getting to know my team, and I enjoyed working against the backdrop of ocean air and spring sun.
I met up with my aunt and cousins for lunch on my last day, and a late flight out afforded me the chance to have some alone time in the city. I wandered around the San Diego Zoo, taking pictures of the animals so I could share them with the kids.
All in all, a successful meetup, but I’m glad to be home!
At work, we were recently asked to examine a common problem among bloggers of all types: how to get more views.
As someone who has been blogging since before it was called “blogging”, web traffic is still a bit of a black box to me. Any success I’ve had has been the result of persistence and longevity, and I’ll admit to feeling like an imposter writing about the subject.
That said, looking at past traffic stats for my personal blog, I’ve picked out some of the things that have helped increase my readership over time. Here’s what I recommend based on what I’ve learned:
Post quality content, frequently. I notice I get more traffic during months where I blog at least once a week, and I try to make at least one new post each month, minimum.
Offer freebies. Wallpapers, themes, step-by-step tutorials, code, or a coupon; make the reader feel they’re getting something tangible for their time. The most popular posts for any of my blogs are how-to guides. For example, one of my most popular recent posts is a comparison of print-on-demand services I’ve used, with the intent of helping other potential print-on-demand customers.
Get involved in an existing community centered around your topic of interest. For example, when I wanted to get into WordPress themes, I joined the Theme Review Team. When I wanted to promote my fanfic, I started interacting with more fan blogs on Tumblr. This allowed me to make new friends and connections, which leads me to…
You get what you give. Promoting others’ work can often help draw attention to yours (and it’s just plain nice!) Ask to interview someone who works in a related field and post the interview on your blog, or write a review of a piece of work you admire. I wrote a brief post highlighting the artists I chose for my fan art wall project; it felt good to spread the word about other fan artists, and the post got several views from the fan community.
Use word of mouth. Ask your friends and family to have your back. A genuine request for help is usually answered favorably, and your friends may have connections you didn’t know about.
Promote your work.. This is obvious, but don’t be shy about promoting yourself via email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, or other relevant social networks. Utilize your blog’s sharing tools (tips: Jetpack | WordPress.com) to cross-post to different audiences for more views. An example tweet from my blog:
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.
Our house has been a veritable hive of activity lately. We’re doing a lot of work on it this summer, and by “we”, I mean contractors, of course, because I’m barely competent with a drill.
The first big project is mostly done, and that’s our new office!
First, some “before” shots for context:
Ceiling in progress.
Painted, and the 40-year-old carpet is gone.
So much stuff to sort!
This is the second floor of the oldest part of our house. When I was a kid, it had a staircase in the middle, leading down to the living/dining/kitchen areas, and served as my parents’ bedroom and my brothers’ and my nursery. Eventually my parents moved their bedroom to a newer part of the house, the staircase was closed and replaced with a new one in a different location, and the upstairs became a storage room and makeshift guest bedroom.
By the time we moved in, it was the de-facto place for all those odds and ends my parents didn’t know what to do with, plus all the stuff we moved that was supposed to go to the office. We planned to renovate sooner, but the costs of moving, taking a loss on our condo, and Gwen’s hospital bills set us back.
Three years later, we hired a family friend to start bringing the space back to life. It needed a new ceiling, trim, paint, and carpet…and to have all our junk cleaned out of it and sorted. Mom took care of most of her stuff, and we left the contracting work to a pro. Sorting everything was an exercise in nostalgia; even though I did a big purge before we moved, there were still a lot of things I didn’t miss in the three years they sat up here, unused. A lot of stuff was donated.
Tim’s corner, 90% books.
My work corner. <3
The guest bedroom!
My X-Files wall, missing a couple prints, but coming together nicely.
I can’t reiterate how nice it is having a dedicated workspace. I haven’t had an “office” that was truly my own since before Ellie was born, so having the freedom and space to do what I want with space is a thrill. And having worked here for a couple weeks, I’m surprised I managed as well as I did at the kitchen table; there are still interruptions, of course, and always will be while the kids are small, but it’s great having a place to escape to.
And the timing worked out perfectly, because now the front wall of the house is being redone, so the kitchen, dining, and living rooms are a mess! The office has become my sanctuary amongst the chaos.
Now that Tim is a full-time stay-at-home parent, he wrangles the kids in the morning. Gwen goes to a summer pre-K program and Ellie hangs out with us during the day. It’s gotten easier to work with the kids at home now that they’re older and more independent.
Our office renovation is finally finished (post forthcoming), so I usually grab coffee and breakfast with the family before heading upstairs to my little corner to work. I sign into Slack and say hello to the team, then check email to catch up on P2s, adding anything of note to my day’s to-do list (I use Reminders).
My desk is electric adjustable, so I switch between sitting and standing throughout the day, which keeps me active. When my feet get tired, I sit; when my butt gets tired, I stand. Automattic provided an ergonomic setup when I was hired, and I’m happy I can finally use it!
Several months ago I switched from managing a “squad” within the Theme Team to leading the whole Theme Team, which is currently 12 people. I still review code and make themes, but I also keep up with (or attempt to keep up with) company goals, and make sure the team’s contributions line up. It’s a lot of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic checking in with my team and our division lead.
On Mondays and Tuesdays I focus on theme development, code review, and non-administrative tasks as much as possible. Keeping this balance is essential to my happiness; I don’t think I could be fulfilled in a role where I wasn’t making things at least part of the time. Right now, I’m reviewing a couple premium themes and coding a health-and-wellness-focused theme designed by my esteemed colleague and theme-designing machine, Mel, taking her mock-up and turning it into a working theme.
The team’s focus has expanded from theme review and development, so I’m learning a lot of new things from my peers; there’s a strong focus on testing, targeted research and UX/NUX, and filling out our collection of themes to better serve WordPress.com customers. This means we’re more careful about which themes we launch, as we’re trying to fill niches based on data-driven results.
We also have a lot of standardization and customization projects in the works; one such project is ongoing work on Components, our new starter theme generator, which helps us build themes using standardized components, making the development process faster and more streamlined than starting from scratch. It’s like the next generation of Underscores, but more flexible and powerful, with more cool stuff built in.
Wednesday through Friday I check in with my team in one-on-ones, and on Wednesdays we have a video team chat to catch up and discuss priority projects or issues that have come up during the week. We also have a bi-weekly division meeting to do the same with other division team leads. It’s pretty amazing to work in a company of 450+ people and have only a handful of “meetings” each month. We don’t meet for the sake of it, but there’s a distinct communication boost when we’re able to sit down and chat face to face, so we try to take advantage of that.
One huge benefit to having an office is the reinforced lunch break; I have to go downstairs for food, so I’ll usually take an hour in the middle of the day and get lunch, play a card game with Tim and the kids, go for a walk, or tidy up. Staying on my feet means I’m more likely to take short breaks during the day as well.
The office dress code hasn’t changed; I still wear pajamas 90% of the time, although my Ninja Turtle pants have been retired in favor of leggings or yoga pants. I’ve been working like this long enough that the majority of my wardrobe is t-shirts, either for WordPress/Automattic products or X-Files graphic tees. I faintly remember a time when I had “work clothes” and “home clothes”, but that’s no longer the case. 🙂
Another benefit to having a dedicated workspace means I rarely work in the evenings. My laptop stays on my desk, and at night I’m likely to be found downstairs, playing games with the kids or watching a movie. I still keep an eye on notifications using my phone, but I don’t check work email or P2s. I think I can finally say that I’ve found a solid work/life balance.
Four years in, I’m as happy to be working at Automattic as the day I was hired. As with any job, there are good days and not-so-good days, but even on the not-so-good days, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.
Time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing at Automattic for the last four years.
Only slightly terrified in a helicopter
Working hard in Italy
Not a bad view
I’ve strengthened my programming skills, learned responsive design and development, picked up Sass and Grunt, and tried all sorts of interesting tools. I’ve designed and built themes that are used by thousands of people, and it’s just as humbling to watch those numbers climb now as it was when I first became a Theme Wrangler.
I’ve watched a sunrise off a Hawaiian cliff, eaten a myriad of cuisines, weathered an ice storm in Charleston, discovered a taste for sushi, adopted a puppy, seen a rainbow over the Tuscan countryside, ridden in a helicopter over inactive volcanoes, gone stargazing with my colleagues, mastered the Oxford comma, and gotten a tattoo — to name a few things.
Hello, Golden Gate
Presentations in Charleston
Beach time in Miami
Cain & Obenland in the mooooorning!
I’ve been present when my family needed me; when my daughter was in the hospital for burns, when my father was sick, when my kids had recitals and concerts. I’ve taken long, rejuvenating vacations and, and I’ve never had to worry about losing my job for balancing career and family. My company has been supportive and encouraging, and as a result…
I’ve been more productive in the past four years than I’ve ever been. I’m constantly being challenged to think in new ways, to try new things, to stretch a little further and not be afraid to fail. My role has continued to evolve in ways I never imagined it would when I first started.
Park City photo walk
Shaved ice in Kauai
Hangin’ out in Hawaii
ThemeConf in Keswick
Black bean burger at the Lancrigg
There are hundreds of memories I wouldn’t have and dozens of amazing people I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for this quirky, driven, distributed company.
Grand Meetup Park City
Gettin’ my tat on
Theme Wranglers in Lisbon
Theme Team in Vancouver! Photo by Tammie Lister
Yep. We rock.
Thank you, Automattic, for an amazing four years. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I spent a fun and productive week with my team in Vancouver, BC last week!
Even the busses in Canada are apologetic!
Cute train stop park
My first impression of the city was that it smelled nice, unlike most cities, which either smell like pee or exhaust fumes or both. It also had the cleanest train system I’ve ever encountered. Well done, Vancouver.
Taking advantage of the nice weather
Stanley Park Seawall
Totems at Stanley Park
…but they actually weren’t?
Everyone talks about the rain, but it wasn’t as soggy as I expected (except for the last day, but that’s a different story). It was either cloudy, misty, or lightly raining. Occasionally we’d catch a hint of sun, which was a nice surprise.
Coworking at HiVE Vancouver
Discussing components and probably splitting hairs
Generators generating a generator
For an all-digital company, we appreciated this whiteboard until it knocked my laptop on the floor.
My team kicked butt on our project, a new iteration of Components. We worked on the first version as a squad in Lisbon, and similar to Lisbon, we broke into groups to tackle different parts. The idea is to bring everything together to create a starter theme generator that includes custom-built user-selected components as well as common theme types.
Granville Island giants
Big spinny arty thingy
Vancouver Art Gallery
My drink came in a take-out box.
Our waitress at Brix & Mortar was The Best.
When we weren’t working, we saw some of Vancouver’s many sights. We toured the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, saw the Mashup exhibit at Vancouver Art Gallery, grabbed lunch and did some shopping on Granville Island, and walked around Stanley Park.
Totems at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Out and about in my usual work attire; sweatshirt, t-shirt, yoga pants, sneakers.
It’s hard to convey the scope of the landscape as seen from the bridge, but those tiny dots are people
No one lost their phone over the side
KP and Ola being as Canadian as possible
Hanging out over a 300-foot drop. Me, Richard, Thomas, Allan, and DK.
Watching everyone come together to collaborate inspired some serious proud Theme Mama feels. These people are amazing, and I’m honored to work with them every day.
Wrapping up my last major travel event of the year with a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, to spend a week with my squad.
The only way to fly…
So much color!
So many stairs
Sun in the sidewalk
The groups’ project turned out amazing; it’s not quite ready to be made public, but for now I’ll say I’m super excited about it and proud of everyone for pulling it off in four short days.
What lies beneath
Drogaria Alves Almeida
Delicious tomato soup at The Food Temple
View from the Santa Justa lift
Lisbon itself was a treat. The warm, sunny weather was a relief from Maine’s gray November cold, and the people were gracious and patient with us non-native speakers. I was shocked at how inexpensive things were compared to other city-based meetups we’ve done. Amazing food and lots to see, and we came in well under budget.
Theme Wranglers in Lisbon
View from the Santa Justa lift
King José I
Rainbow over Lisbon
Arco da Rua Augusta
We had two days to explore, and we didn’t cover even an eighth of what was there; to say it was a busy week was an understatement. We did get to see a beautiful view of the city from the top of the Santa Justa lift, and the gardens and architecture at the Jerónimos Monastery.
Cute restaurant at LX Factory
Flying bike bookshop
Selfie with Jerónimos Monastery
Oh, and Sarah dyed my hair!
Oh, and Sarah helped me put a purple streak in my hair! You never know what trouble fun Automatticians will get up to when they get together.
I had a great time, but it’s good to be home, knowing there’s no travel in my immediate future. Three months in a row was tough for this homebody.