Auckland time!

Sorry for the delay, have been catching up on work and life and sick kids.

So I left off with us leaving Sydney on Friday. We had breakfast at the airport (Beckett said it was the best eggs benedict she’d ever had) and then got on our flight to Auckland.

You know, when you are flying from Australia to New Zealand, you think “oh, that’ll be an easy jaunt, it’s so close” but then you realize it’s a) not as close as it looks on a globe and b) another country. So the flight was almost four hours but since it was international, we got a meal and wine. Score! (But it also means passport control and customs yet again.)

So anyway, we watched La La Land on the flight, ate some reasonably yummy airline food, drank some New Zealand wine and then landed in Auckland. We got in a cab to get to our airbnb and proceeded to sit in gridlocked traffic for an hour and a half. The traffic was due to torrential rain that was causing…I dunno, flooding? Or just bad driving? In any case, our trip took three times longer than usual so by the time we got to the airbnb, we were tired and missed the speaker dinner.

Welcome to Auckland!

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A few days in Sydney

I really need to be better about blogging more during trips and not saving it all for the end when I get overwhelmed. I also need to remember to set my camera clock to the local time so I don’t have to figure out exactly how many time zones to adjust it afterwards. Especially fun when you have DST starting in one country while you’re gone. (Ultimately I decided life is too short to care if my photos’ data is off by that many hours.)

I apologize for any repeated photos from the last post or social media. And now, let’s start the recap…

I left for Sydney on Sunday, March 5. George and the boys dropped me off at the airport after lunch at Chipotle, and everyone was in high spirits. I had a bit of time to wait, so I was still at the gate when Linus called me, sobbing, and begging me to come home. Well, break my heart, why don’t you? Talk about feeling like the World’s Biggest Jerk. Sigh.

Leaving #nola. #travelmattic #timelapse

A post shared by Pam Kocke (@pyjammy) on

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the next 20+ hours. First I flew to San Francisco, which took 4 hours. Then I waited for Beckett, and we got on the 15 hour flight to Sydney. It was fine. I slept a few hours here and there (which is huge for me, so yay) and I watched a few shitty movies. United can bite me for still having the old movie selection on the plane, so there was nothing I hadn’t seen a zillion times. LAME.

We arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning, which still doesn’t fail to freak me out a little bit (WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY?!?!?) Getting through security and customs and all that was a piece of cake, though I was pretty upset not to get a single new stamp in my passport during this entire trip. Sad! However, the reason for this appears to be that everything is automated and therefore extremely fast, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

We got a taxi to the hotel, the Metro Hotel on Pitt. It was nice. They held our luggage while we got lunch at a sushi place in a nearby shopping center. I posted a pic on Instagram and it seems as if everyone on earth has been to this exact sushi place. We did a little shopping after, and I got some lipstick that was very appropriately named for my job. (The final interview for everyone applying to work at Automattic is called the Matt Chat. I wrote a little about it here.)

After we were able to check in, we took little naps, then got some dinner from a place down the street. Found a bottle shop for wine, and watched some Australian tv before crashing. (Well, American shows on an Australian tv set.)

The next day we went to find somewhere to get some work done. We ended up (after getting lost and going to the wrong train station) coworking at an adorable cafe on an adorable little side street kind of alley thing in an area called Artarmon with our coworker Kristen. When the cafe closed, Kristen invited us back to her lovely home where we drank her wine, ate her candy, petted her bunnies, and played Ticket to Ride. We are outstanding guests.

That evening, we…ate again? Probably drank a little wine? It was a week ago, now!

The next morning we got up bright and early for a run. Our hotel was not far from a park (Hyde Park?) that connected to another park (?) that led down to the Sydney Opera House and the harbour.

It was such a nice run! It was cool outside and not sunny, and we ended up running 5k (but Beckett only counts running, so including the walking and climbing stairs and stopping to admire the flowers, we actually went a lot further.)

 

It was a great run. After we got back to the hotel, showered, and ate breakfast, we headed to the Zoo. We were determined to see some Australian animals, and since we were sticking to cities, we figured this would be the best way to go about it.

We saw adorable schoolchildren, koalas, kangaroos, lots of snakes that can kill you, and other exotic and deadly and cute creatures.

Later, we made our way across the Harbour Bridge (via train again) and got off in Milsons Point. The view of the Opera House from this vantage point was really spectacular, but we really came across to see Luna Park up close. Kind of nutty. It wasn’t open, sadly.

After lunch, we headed back across the water and did a little shopping and saw a giant fluffy dog and then rested up before our event that evening. We were hosting a little gathering for the local WordPress meetup group, where we chatted about support and hopefully convinced some people there to apply to work at Automattic!

The next morning, we had to pack up our stuff because we were headed to Auckland!

To be continued…

 

A few pics from Sydney

Today we are in Auckland, but Beckett and I were in Sydney from Tuesday to Friday. I will post a lot more photos and words when I have more time, but for now, just a few pics…

Mardi Gras – what does it all mean?! 

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Costuming is a big deal.

After I wrote yesterday’s post about riding in a parade, it was brought to my attention that a lot about Mardi Gras doesn’t make sense. Now, I’m really not the best person to write this probably but it’s my blog so I’m going to anyway. Interspersed are random Mardi Gras pictures.

First I’ll start with Zandy‘s questions.

How many krewes are there? Are there always 42 floats? What are throws and why do some krewes have certain ones? Do krewes have a theme? Do they have a larger goal (like donating to charity)? Do they do other parades?

There are a bunch of krewes. If I had to guess, I’d say…50. Now let me google that to see if I’m right.

Okay, I was wrong. 35. That said, those are only the ones that roll in New Orleans. Metairie has ten parades, and there are more on the Northshore. So maybe my initial guess was close. My memories of Mardi Gras as a child involve going to my aunt’s house on Bonnabel in Metairie and watching the parades roll by while my sister made out with her boyfriend on the sidewalk. Good times, good times. So I can’t discount the non-NOLA parades.

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Stuffed animals are very coveted throws among the younger set.

The number of floats in each parade vary. I’m going to guess again and say 42 is on the high end, but I don’t really know. I could probably look it up. Nope, wrong again. Endymion has 81!!! Holy cow!

I should back up. What is a krewe, and why is it spelled so…ugh?

According to Wikipedia, “A krewe (pronounced in the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season.” I can’t see any good reason they spelled it “kreatively” but it’s been spelled that way since the 1800s so I’m going to just have to let it go.

They are non-profit organizations, or social clubs. I think some of them do charitable things throughout the year, but I’m not sure, to be completely honest. The purpose seems to be to put on a parade at Mardi Gras. And for some krewes, to show how fancy and rich you are. (I mean, that’s probably not in their mission statement, but let’s face it, it’s true.)

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A good wig collection is a must.

Anyway, a krewe basically equals a parade. So the Krewe of Nyx rolls on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras, and that’s the Nyx parade. The Krewe of Endymion rolls on the Saturday night before Fat Tuesday, and you say, “I’m going to Endymion tonight.”

So on to throws. A throw is anything you throw off the float. Get it? Beads are the traditional throw. But most krewes have a signature throw. As I mentioned, Nyx has glittered purses and Muses has shoes. Tucks has toilet paper. Zulu has coconuts. They also will have custom cups and doubloons and stuffed animals and basically all sorts of random stuff. That’s part of the fun! But the purses and shoes and coconuts are the coveted prizes. Those are the things you want to get.

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When you see your mom’s friend all dressed up to dance in the parade.

All parades have a theme. For instance, Nyx’s theme was something about music and dancing so all of the floats had a music or dance theme. My float’s theme was Belly Dancing so our float and the headpieces reflected that. Tomorrow, Thoth will roll with a theme of “Thoth’s Cookin'” so I imagine they will have a lot of cooking-related throws. (Great chance to restock the kitchen!)

Oh, and how could I forget what goes on between the floats? A parade is not just a line of floats going by. Oh no. Between each float might be a high school marching band. (Or elementary school!) Or a group of grown women dressed in corsets and wigs doing a choreographed dance down the street. Or men, for that matter. The music is what makes the parade.

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There’s Liam marching!

Okay, I think I hit Zandy’s questions. Robyn asks:

I actually want to know the schedule of things. How many parades? Are they all different? Why was your parade NOT on Mardi Gras? Does the whole city get involved? Is it a school holiday?

As I said, there are 35 parades in New Orleans. They are all different, yes. Mine wasn’t on Mardi Gras because…well, 35 parades running on roughly the same route uptown at an average of, what, 3 hours each (totally making that up), would take, well, a lot longer than a day. So they’re spread out over a few weeks. The majority of them run from the Wednesday before Mardi Gras through Fat Tuesday.

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How you parent at Mardi Gras.

I’d say the whole city is involved in some way. I mean, you can’t really escape it.

School is out for Mardi Gras. The boys get off the entire week of Mardi Gras which enrages me, since Mardi Gras is on Tuesday. Why they need Wednesday – Friday off after the holiday is beyond me, but I know a lot of people vacation then. But still. A week? Ugh.

I suppose you might also want to know about King Cake. It’s basically a circular brioche bready thing, maybe with cinnamon, usually frosted with colored sugar on top. Everyone has a favorite bakery or grocery store king cake, but I’m not even going to touch that with a ten foot pole, so I made my own.

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I could go on for hours talking about the weirdness of Mardi Gras. But I have a parade to get to!

What it’s like to ride in a Mardi Gras parade

Two days ago, I rode in a Mardi Gras parade! I feel like the whole process is shrouded in mystery, so I am here to BLOW THE WHOLE THING WIDE OPEN!

Just kidding. Am writing it here because that’s what I do.

So I think two years ago I filled out a form for the Krewe of Nyx in the hopes that one day I’d get to join. My friend Megan had been riding in it for a while, as well as my friend Mary. Last year not long after Mardi Gras I got an email saying I was in, if I wanted. So I paid my dues (I mean literally, I sent them a pile of money) and then not much else happened for a while.

In the fall I officially found out I was on a float with Megan and Mary, yay! I figured I should start working on my purses. Nyx’s signature throw is a glittery purse (think Muses and their glittery shoes and Zulu and their famous coconuts) and we were allowed to decorate and throw 20 of them. I couldn’t even think of starting until after we got back from our trip to the UK, so not long after we got back I went to a Mardi Gras supply store and bought 20 cheap glittery purses and a shitload of glitter glue, feathers,  plastic jewels, and other random bits and pieces.

Yeah, really not my strong suit, decorating purses.

Meanwhile, Megan and I decided to share a package of beads and throws, so she took care of ordering that.

img_7951In early February was the first big event with Nyx, the ball! I’ve already written all about that, but let’s look at the glamorous picture of Pam again, shall we?

There.

Next was costume pickup. We had to go to a warehouse to pick up the satin tunic, wig, mask, and headpiece we were to wear on the floats. These all had to remain TOP SECRET until parade day.

Finally, it was nearly go time! The day before the parade, I went early in the morning to bring a cooler and some other throws I’d bought and put them on the float. It was exciting to see it up close and to go on a float for the very first time.

Later that day, I needed to go back, so I brought the boys on the way home from school. They got to climb up to the top deck where I’d be riding and look around. Cool!

The next morning, after I brought the boys to school, it was finally time to get ready! I put on my tunic over some Mardi Gras leggings I got from my friend Mary, my glittery sneakers I’d made for the parade I marched in last weekend (more on that later) and the wig. I mean, typical outfit for a Wednesday, right?

Then I glittered up my eyelids and waited for Megan to come over so we could ferry over to the pre-party.

We stopped on the way for some food and daiquiris, and then it was time to go into the pre-party! Booze flowed and I found some friends who were riding on other floats. Not easy when everyone is wearing wigs and elaborate headpieces!

After getting the headpiece (which was quite heavy) ziptied to my head (not joking) and finding some tylenol because it was squeezing my brain and giving me a headache, it was time for our float to get on our floats!

It was pretty early, maybe 3:30 or so when we got on our float? Keep in mind the parade wasn’t supposed to start until 6:45 and we were the 41st of 42 floats. So we were going to be on that float for a long, long time.

It’s hard to describe how full of beads and other throws and women and coolers the float was. We were on the top deck (no shade up there, but at least the sun was on the way down) so we unloaded our throws while sipping on the daiquris we brought on board. I talked to some of the other riders, including a twin mom that I had a lot in common with. That was fun, meeting some new people!

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I’m sure we were stone cold sober in these pics.

After a few hours, it was time to go! It had rained quite a bit the day before, so our float got a bit stuck in the mud and it took a bit to get out of it, but soon enough we were on our way! Well, on Tchoupitoulas, the road I drive on every day on the way to get the kids from school. That’s where the floats line up before the parade. It was so beautiful with the sun going down, the cool breeze blowing through my polyester curls, a daiquri in hand…

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The kids waiting for me to get there.

We were on Tchoupitoulas for three hours waiting to get going. We hung out, read books (thank god for the Kindle app on my phone), chatted, went into a bar (we were stopped so long we got off the float), and reorganized our throws for the tenth time. Finally, we turned the corner onto Jefferson, then hit Magazine Street. We were off!

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Tee made this one for me!

I had made a list of the friends I had along the route. I looked for signs and threw beads and purses and bracelets and spears and about a million Nyx-branded throws.

The best parts were seeing the people I knew, but nothing could beat seeing George and the boys and a bunch of my friends. We waved and yelled and I gave them a huge bag of fun stuff, and we blew kisses and the boys were jumping up and down giddily and too soon, we had rolled past them and they were out of sight. (Just as well, it was 10pm by that point and the boys had school the next day.)

Megan did a photo burst as we passed everyone. Yay!

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A pic of me throwing stuff:

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The rest of the parade was more throwing, more waving at friends, more and more fun. My neck was killing me so I had to take the headpiece off.

A video I took as we rolled down St. Charles Avenue:

Near the end, as we passed Gallier Hall:

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I really loved it when we got down to Canal Street at the end. It seemed to be a lot more tourists down there (which makes sense, it’s where the hotels are) and they were very grateful for whatever you threw them. Uptown, people wouldn’t bother to pick up anything off the ground. Argh. THAT WAS A PERFECTLY GOOD KOOZIE SIR. That kind of thing was what I yelled a lot.

So after it was over, we got off the float and…went home. Kind of anticlimactic, but it was midnight at this point and I was exhausted. Would I do it again? Probably not. I had a fun time, but to be honest, it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance that isn’t really me. Also the expense and the time, I dunno. I’m really, really glad I did it once, though.

And now I can enjoy the rest of Mardi Gras with no stress!

A typical day at work

This post is part of a series describing what Automatticians do on a daily basis. You can read more posts like this by following the tag #a8cday on WordPress.com and Twitter.

Back in October 2014, I wrote a post describing a typical day at work. Since then, my job has changed quite a bit, so I’m writing an updated version.

6:05ish: I hear the boys getting up and getting in the shower. Yes, they are now taking showers by themselves in the morning. Hallelujah! I doubt this will last very long, but I’m enjoying having clean children and not having to nag them to bathe. I lie in bed and play Two Dots and catch up on my email until the bathroom is free.

7:00: Everyone troops downstairs. If I’m driving them to school that day, I’ve showered, but usually I don’t. So I’m still in pajamas. I make my coffee, they make their lunches, put their shoes on, and get their stuff together. I pour cereal into bags for them to take with them.

7:30ish: The boys get picked up and I grab some breakfast and go upstairs to my office.

The biggest difference between my job in 2014 and now is that instead of primarily providing support to WordPress.com customers, I now hire more Happiness Engineers to provide support to our customers. And now WooCommerce is part of the Automattic family, so we’re hiring HEs to support WordPress.com, Jetpack, and WooCommerce.

So I sit at my desk and the first thing I do is go through my email. When I did support work, email wasn’t a big part of my work at all. But in Hiring I use it a lot more. We get applications via email, we send out interview requests, tests, and of course rejections via email as well. We use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to send out most of the emails, but the replies come in to our normal mailbox.

img_7731It would probably help to explain the hiring process a bit here.

First, we get emails from applicants, which we import into our ATS. The various members of the team review each application twice. The rejections get emailed back and the ones that pass the reviews get a small project.

If the project is done well, we schedule a first interview, which is done via Slack. If the interview goes well, we send another small assignment, which may or may not lead to a second interview. Assuming the second interview goes well, we may offer a trial.

The trial lasts from 3-6 weeks and is paid. (My trial paid for work on our house. Yay trial!) Usually we follow someone through from the first interview through the trial, but occasionally we’ll pass them along to someone else on the hiring team to run the trial. Right now, I’m running four trials, and it’s likely I’ll have a few more starting up over the next few weeks.

So I spend a good part of the morning checking on my trials. How much work did they get done the day before? (They either answer support tickets or do live chat with customers.) How was their feedback from users? How are their answers? Their tone? Are they interacting with other Happiness Engineers?

Every trial also has a buddy, so I may have some feedback from the buddy or other HEs. All of this gets fed into our ATS so we can review it easily.

Once I’ve looked through the trials, we may have applications that need reviewing. I may have gotten some projects back so I’ll need to review those as well. If they go well, I’ll send out interview requests.

Another big part of my job is organizing new hire Support Rotations.

Every new Automattician who doesn’t work in Happiness starts off their tenure with three weeks in support. So they are trained how to use our tools and how we provide support for two days alongside HE trials and then are let loose. So I keep track of who is starting and when, and get their training set up and a buddy for their rotation, and all that good stuff.

Oh, and training. How could I forget training? I also organize Happiness training. Nearly every week, we have either trials or support rotations starting at Automattic. And since we all work remotely, we can’t ask someone in Australia to train at the same time as someone in Europe and someone in the US. So we have a few different trainings. I schedule Happiness Engineers to do those training sessions, and make sure everyone gets trained on time.

So this all takes up most of my day. But if I get through all of that, I try to spend some time doing support tickets or live chat. It’s incredibly important that I not only help out the team, but also that I always know what’s going on in support. How can I evaluate a trial’s live chats if I don’t know how accurate their answers are? If I don’t know how to use our tools (which are ever-evolving?)

Right now my coworker Deborah and I are getting ready for a recruiting trip to Australia and New Zealand so I’m also helping to get our accommodations sorted out, swag sent to the hotels, and events set up. We’ll be speaking at WordCamp Auckland so we need to get together to work on our talk as well.

So that’s my work stuff. I might also go work out at Orange Theory at some point during the day.

3:15: I log off and go pick up the kids from school. If traffic isn’t terrible I’m home around 4:30 and I log back on to finish up anything I hadn’t done before.

5:30: Log off. Get dinner started. Nag boys to do homework.

8:30ish: Get boys in bed. Read a book.

10:30: zzzz