Something magical happens when this company gets together. It reminds me of summer camp; you come away from it having changed, but it’s difficult to describe the experience to others. Suffice it to say, I work with some wonderfully smart, talented, and fun people.
Most of all, I love that I can be myself at Automattic. I’ve thrived over the last three years, thanks to an environment in which I feel safe to take risks and tackle challenges, knowing I’m supported by my team and my lead.
I was sad to leave, but I do so with many new ideas and forged connections. It felt like a week with friends, particularly the time spent with my team. My brain is full, my body is exhausted, but part of me has been rejuvenated. I’m ready to see what the next year has in store.
We’ve talked about this for a long time, so it’s hard to believe it’s finally come to fruition. When we originally moved here, the idea was to reduce our expenses and save money, with the end goal of living comfortably on one income.
It goes beyond our budget, though. Tim has wanted to be a writer for as long as I’ve known him. I’m sure it was one of the first things we talked about during the get-to-know-you phase of our relationship, fifteen years ago.
It’s an adjustment, but a necessary one. We’re already seeing the short-term positives to having someone on full-time house- and kid-wrangling duty, and the long-term benefits make the loss of income more than worth it. It helps that my job is secure and still fun and engaging.
Speaking of my job and big changes, I recently started a new lead role at work. Prior to this, I led a “squad” of about eight people; now that’s almost doubled, and with it, my responsibilities. I’m lucky to have a great team and a solid support system in my leads, but it’s going to take a bit for me to settle into the new role.
And finally, Gwen started pre-kindergarten this week, which is mind-boggling and exciting and scary and sad. This will be the first time we have the house to ourselves on the weekdays to work, the first time she’ll be away from us for a few hours at a time, and her first time in a structured learning environment.
I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at ThemeConf in Keswick, UK this last week. It was quite a trip; I think I covered all manner of modern transportation to get there — planes, trains, buses, and taxis — but the conference, the people, and the scenery made the journey worth it.
Black bean burger at the Lancrigg
ThemeConf in Keswick
The conference was generally about forward-thinking web development, with a bias toward WordPress. Attendance was small, but that made it more intimate and easier to socialize. I learned quite a bit from each presenter; the level of each talk reminded me of CSS Conf, but without the massive venue and hefty price tag.
As for Keswick itself, the town is adorable. Small enough to be walk-able, with lots of cute shops and restaurants. People had a lot to say about the weather, but I had no complaints; I got re-acquainted with my sweaters.
(I did not enjoy coming home to 80-degree temperatures and suffocating humidity, but that’s a different story.)
Tim and I spent last week in Park City, Utah, for our company’s annual grand meetup. After much discussion, laughter, food, and games, I am feeling both energized and exhausted by the experience — a pretty common post-meetup feeling.
Couple on a plane selfie
Season 1 Agent Scully demonstrates how to access your life vest…
I’ve been working on a post about fanfic writing and how that’s coming along, but it’s pretty uninspired. Ironic, given I’m feeling otherwise inspired about writing; I guess writing about writing is too meta for my muse.
The last month has been a bit crazy with travel, which is why the blog has been quiet. After Miami in May, Tim traveled to Saratoga Springs for a week, then I had a barely-two-day fling with Florida, this time for CSS Conf.
The conference itself was great, but the next time I say I’m going to fly to the opposite end of the country for a one-day conference, and fly back at 6 the next morning, just slap me. I’m claiming brain damage from a too-long winter and sunlight deprivation, because who in their right mind takes a “day-trip” across the country and back with two connections? Me, apparently.
But I did get a bright pink t-shirt out of the deal, so I’m calling it an overall win.
This week, Tim’s galavanting around in Scotland with our colleagues while I try to work around the kids, both of whom are home for the summer. This amounts to 100% less getting up at ungodly hours to get Ellie on the bus (win), and 100% more whining about all the random things five-year-olds whine about (lose). This is the part where I thank my lucky stars for our amazing nanny and the abundance of parks within driving distance.
Oh, and Ellie got a haircut!
As for the two-year-old, she’s requested Cheez-its for breakfast every morning for the last month. “Accept no substitutes” is Gwen’s motto, and she applies it liberally to every aspect of her life. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know.
Meanwhile, I’ve discovered the joys of cold-brewed coffee, and am dominating the DVR with David Duchovny movies and old X-Files episodes since Tim’s not here to roll his eyes at my weird and/or obsessive taste.
I just got back from six days in Miami for a work meetup with our squad. This is the first squad event I’ve planned, so I was a bit nervous — mostly about the location, and driving in the city. Thankfully both things worked out (as they usually do).
South Beach apartments
The hotel wasn’t anything special, but it was affordable, clean, the internet worked, and there were a few restaurants and a Starbucks within walking distance.
We drove through the city and out to the South Beach area a couple times, and I was a surprisingly calm and competent driver (this coming from the woman who learned to drive on teeny back roads, and a highway where you’re more likely to hit a moose than another car…) We would have been totally lost without Michelle, my trusty navigator.
South Beach at night
The food was especially great; a big win, since we had an array of unique dietary requirements in our six-person group. Lots of Cuban and Latin influences, and a couple Japanese restaurants stood out (I have a newfound appreciation for sushi/maki after this trip). It was usually possible to find something for everyone, and a couple of the dinners were particularly amazing. We also did a food tour activity on the last day, and that was a hit.
Breakfast at Courtyard Marriot
Colorful tofu at Black Brick
Tuna tartare on crispy rice at Makoto
Crab roll at Pubbelly Sushi
Salmon Maki at Pubbelly Sushi
Dylan’s Candy Bar
And there was the beach! We spent a couple hours just hanging out in the sun. It’s been such a long winter, the ocean breeze and sub-tropical scenery were a welcome change.
Tammie’s beach time
Turquoise and blue
Beach time in Miami
I completely forgot to take photos of everyone working; suffice it to say we did work, and you’ll see the results in the next couple weeks. All in all, it was a successful, engaging, and fun week.
With that in mind, I’m glad I don’t have to plan another one for at least a year. 🙂
I probably talk about my job too much, but I do that because it’s awesome. But it’s not all about traveling to fun, exotic places, hanging out with brilliant coworkers, and designing pretty things…although that’s a big part of it. A typical day goes a bit more like this.
I get up at the ungodly hour of 6 or 7 a.m. You’d think I could sleep in, but I have these adorable-albeit-early-waking things called “kids” that need to eat and leave the house to go to school. It’s a mind-boggling concept, that one should have to leave their house. I don’t understand it, personally, but what can you do?
The stringent office dress code calls for a t-shirt and jeans or pajama pants, naturally. I grab coffee and breakfast, feed the kids and dogs, the standard morning routine. Then I’m ready to settle in, and get down to the tacks of brass.
Currently I’m working from our dining room table, since our office has yet to be renovated. Gwen sits next to me, playing, and interrupts frequently until E arrives (three days a week). Thankfully today is a sitter day, so I have seven hours of kid-free time to focus.
The first thing I do after logging into Skype and IRC, our company’s primary communication channels, is check email. As Automatticians we’re supposed to be more progressive, but I’m old school–new posts from our internal blogs are filtered to my inbox, and I refer to these, check my to-do’s for the day, and comment on stuff that’s come in overnight. A bunch of my coworkers are in Europe, so often by the time I get online, they’re already taking lunch.
Next I check commits for my squad. One of the coolest parts about being a WordPress.com developer is that we’re constantly updating the code, fixing and improving things, and themes are no exception. We have a lot of them–well over 200, in fact. That’s a lot of code.
I’m currently overseeing five of my peers, but that sounds a lot more formal than it actually is when you’re working with a talented, self-directed group. They’re great like that. I act as a reference if needed, but mostly I try to stay out of the way and let them do what they do best, which is…
Theme Wrangling entails several different things. Sometimes this means reviewing another theme’s code for security or visual aesthetics, or making a new theme from scratch, or writing a blog post announcing new releases. If I’m on support that week, it means fixing bugs and helping our support staff with theme-related problems as they come up. Today, it means going over several premium themes’ code. We work with outside sellers to offer a wider array of choices to our users, and all that code has to be combed through to ensure it’s safe and meets our standards.
We now interrupt your regularly scheduled post for coffee.
I also check in with the squad members each Friday to recap the week’s events, see what’s coming up, and just chat. This is one of my favorite parts, because again, see the part about my coworkers being great.
After that, I start work on a new free theme I’m converting, and by “converting” I mean I take a theme from the WordPress.org repository and polish it up, give it a thorough code and visual review, and make it work with our unique tools (like Custom Design). Eventually I’ll set up a demo site and write documentation, and when it’s ready, launch it with a post on the WordPress.com blog (affectionately known as “en.blog”).
At some point I may take a lunch break, although I’m guilty of working through it. Note, this is not a recommended practice, just a bad habit I’ve found hard to break. But I do take frequent breaks to let dogs in and out (and in and out and in and out and…) do laundry or dishes, or check in with the kids.
Around 3 p.m. Ellie gets home from school, and our sitter leaves at 4, so we try to pacify the kids with TV for an hour to finish off the day at 5. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s rarely my most productive hour, so I use it to wrap up–check on commits, email, or read work blogs.
After the kids go to bed, I’ll occasionally work for a bit, usually light duty stuff like reading and responding to notifications. I try not to do that too often, though. It’s easy for me to get too absorbed in a project, and setting clear boundaries between work time and free time is a constant challenge.
Is that everything? Not by a long shot. As with any job, random stuff draws me away from my to-do list, priorities get shuffled, and unexpected projects pop up. Thankfully most of the work is flexible, and I can always turn to my team for help. I like that it’s varied, and I’m rarely working on one project too long.
That’s my average day in a nutshell. Like the idea of working in your pajamas, making your own schedule, and building cool stuff? We’re always hiring!
Winters are long, white, and cold up here in Northern Maine. I’m trying to look for the beauty rather than the ugly. Like how brilliant the stars are on a clear night, or how the world looks perfect with a fresh coat of snow. I just have to look past the fact that I’ll end up shoveling said snow eventually.
My folks have the right idea–they turned into snowbirds at the start of the new year and are traveling in warmer climes (you can even read about their adventures!) Our family has grown by two. Their dogs, Dillon and Coco, have temporarily adopted us. Atticus is happy to have regular playmates. He’s also thrilled to have mountains of snow to romp, dig, and roll in…the Husky is strong in that pup.
The kids spend a lot of time inside due to the weather, but we’re armed with Play-Doh, finger paints, baking, LEGOs, puzzle games, movies, and a ridiculous number of toys. They have an entire playroom to themselves, but you can guess how often they use it.
Ellie is making us proud with her reading skills, although now it’s harder to sneak stuff by her by spelling it out loud.
Gwen hangs out at home, and as a result, our family hasn’t been ill all winter. Usually by now I’d have had at least two stomach viruses and a cold, but so far (knock on wood) all I’ve come down with is a case of the sniffles that barely registered on my Radar of Sick. Even elementary school germs can’t compete with daycare germs. That alone has made this winter more tolerable than most.
I realized the other day that when Ellie was two and some months, I was already pregnant with Gwen. This is probably why I’m enjoying Gwen’s two-year-old-ness–life on the whole is more enjoyable when you’re not vomiting and/or exhausted! Who knew?
It occurs to me, as Gwen moves away from baby-dom and into full-fledged kid-dom, that we’re rapidly shedding the accoutrements of baby life. She gave up both her binky and diapers in January. Her crib has been retired to the basement. She’s talking more clearly and showing preferences, and her goofy, sweet-hearted personality is making itself known.
I admit, this is a transition I’m feeling great about. They were cute as babies, but now they’re cute and (more) independent! I’m getting the best of both worlds, with the occasional tantrum thrown in for good measure. I can handle that if it means I spend less time wiping other people’s butts.
I’m also taking advantage of the indoor time to redesign all my sites that have fallen into a state of neglect over the last year, including this one. I’m using slightly modified versions of my recent theme designs, a process developers know as “dogfooding.” Dogfooding takes on a more literal meaning in this house.
I feel like I’m coming out of a rather uncomfortable phase that’s equal parts hormonal-sleep-deprived-mother-of-two-little-kids-craziness and late-twenty-something-problems and oh-my-god-we-moved-and-adopted-a-puppy-at-the-same-time-last-year-insanity.
In other words, things are finally starting to level out. So while the weather is still brutal and bitter cold, to the point where I have an actual physical craving for spring, I also feel pretty good about life right now. Maybe even great. Yeah, we’ll go with great.
Charleston was an adventure! We visited during the ice storm, so the area where we stayed shut down for two days, and the majority of our division’s European contingent got stranded in Florida/North Carolina due to flight cancellations. We spent a lot of time inside. I suppose when I wished for a winter trip to a warmer climate, I should have been more specific. It was warmer than Maine…but not by much. 🙂
That said, our team pulled together and made lemonade out of lemons. Sure, the lemonade may have been spiked with sweet tea vodka, but it was pretty damn delicious.