Grand Meetup 2018 – Orlando!

Before too much time passes, I have to blog about this year’s Grand Meetup! It was my fifth, can you believe it? (In a way, it’s my sixth at Automattic, but I didn’t go to the 2013 one – but I was on trial and I sure did work my butt off while it happened.)

I hate to say it, but I wasn’t as excited about the GM this year as I have been in the past. I mean, Orlando? It’s hot, whine, whine. One of the greatest things about the GM for the past four years has been the weather. Actual fall weather! In the mountains! And the forecast for Orlando was hotter than New Orleans, bleh. And the only mountain around was Space Mountain, and I wasn’t going to be going near that. And I wouldn’t go on it even if I could (THANKS DAD FOR SCARRING ME FOR LIFE.)

On the bright side, the flight was under two hours and direct! That almost made up for the weather. I mean, not having to take two long flights to Vancouver and then sit on a bus for two hours to get to a (granted, gorgeous, luxurious mountain) resort was amazing. And I did sew all of the clothes I wore (with the exception of my bathing suit and workout clothes and one team t-shirt) so that was stressful fun.

But once I got to the airport in Orlando and started seeing friends, and then to the hotel, well, you know, it was awesome. The whole thing.

We arrived on Saturday and the opening party was around the pool at the hotel. We got fancy water bottles and fun buttons to attach to our lanyards. Needless to say, there was plenty of food and drink and lots of people to catch up with. Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, the boys were at a soccer game, and Miles scored his first goal of competitive soccer! This mama got pretty weepy at having missed it. (Thanks beer!) Sigh. But still, a great night.

Work started the next day – we spent it with our team. Actually, I spent the whole week working with my team, but some people spent other days in classes or working on projects. And then we did have some downtime for socializing. Like in the party suites. And at Disney Springs. Even went to Orangetheory one day. Continue reading

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I’m in Orlando for this year’s Grand Meetup (which of course I’ll blog about later) so Daddy had to fill in as the photographer this month.

I am leaving my wonderful colleagues a day early because the boys have a soccer tournament this weekend, so while I am sad to miss a day with everyone here in Florida, I’m excited to see my boys again. (Oh and guess where the soccer tournament is? That’s right. Florida. I’m flying home from Florida tomorrow and I’ll be driving back to Florida with the boys in the afternoon.)

A trip to King’s Dominion (367 days ago)

The subject of King’s Dominion theme park came up this morning in conversation at work and so, as I do, I went to my blog to illustrate the conversation with photos, and *gasp* I realized I hadn’t really blogged about our trip that day! And it was a really fun day! I posted a bunch of pictures on social media, but that’s not good enough. So I hope you don’t mind a little trip down memory lane. Kristina and the boys might have to fill in some gaps for me later, though.

(I know it was 1 year and 2 days ago, thanks to FB reminding me Saturday.)

So let’s see…we were visiting Kiki at that point in our trip to Virginia, so we left Woodbridge and headed to wherever King’s Dominion is. I remember we stopped at a rest area and saw something on the news. Oh yeah, the flooding in New Orleans. 😦 Anyway, we got there and it was pretty empty, which was awesome! I think it was some day in the middle of the week, I guess that’s why.

I was excited to see that King’s Dominion was basically Peanut-themed! SO MANY LINUS PICTURES!

Anyway, we rode lots of roller coasters…that’s a lie. Kiki and the boys got me on ONE roller coaster and after that evil ride, I was like NO THANKS and stuck to things like the swings that go in slow circles and kid rides instead. Much better.

Later, we headed to the water park area, where Linus impressed the hell out of me by going on this terrifying water slide where you stand on a platform and the floor drops out from under you and you fall down this tube and well no thanks, but I can’t believe one of MY children did that. (Also Kiki did, but she is super brave and makes me sit in the back car of roller coasters so I’m not surprised.)

Also there was a water slide where we all sat in a huge round tube together and that was really fun but sadly, no pics from the water park because my phone was in the locker and I didn’t bring my waterproof camera. DANGIT.

Anyway, we rode more rides after, and there was a cute part later where the kids got to drive around a tiny little town with roads and traffic lights and stuff. And then they got their caricatures, and then Miles kept falling down, and was getting really pissed, so we decided it was probably time to go, so we did. But it was a great day! Yay! And I’m glad it’s now been recorded on my blog.

SD Expo 2018 recap

This may come as a surprise, but I didn’t go to Portland solely to shop for fabric. The main reason I went was to give a workshop at SD Expo, a conference for support professionals.

My former coworker and current friend Andrea Badgley now works for Support Driven, the company that puts on SD Expo, and I was excited to hear that our flights arrived at about the same time. We took the train from the airport into the city together, and then met up with Denise, another Automattician for lunch at Deschutes Brewery. It was so great to see them again!

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Later, we went to the AirBNB offices and met up with some of the conference attendees and also toured the offices. Sounds weird, right? I was a bit skeptical about touring offices, but they were actually pretty cool.

The next day, we were up bright and early for the expo, which was held at an arena on the campus of Portland State University. Automattic was also a sponsor, so we set up our booth and I freaked out about my workshop, which was that morning.

My workshop was meant to help customer support agents get to the bottom of confusing questions from users. It happens. It was charmingly titled “I’m sorry, can you repeat the question? Getting to the bottom of what the customer is really asking”.

I didn’t finish polishing it until the night before I left for Portland. I work best on a deadline, and I know this, but nevertheless, I probably could have done without the stress. And I was also determined to tailor a couple of WordPress t-shirts to wear, but they weren’t getting delivered until that day. So yeah. Time management skills are definitely not my forte.

Since I was running a workshop and not just giving a talk, I needed an activity. I had a basic idea of what I was going to do (use low-tech scenarios to have people role-play customer and support agent) but I wasn’t sure how to execute it. I just couldn’t make it gel. But finally, about a week before, it came to me in a flash.

Fast forward to Thursday at about 10:45am. I’m walking towards the workshop room with my colleague Ainslie, who volunteered to help me demonstrate and keep things moving. There was a crowd of people waiting outside the room.

No, surely these people weren’t waiting to get into the room for my talk. Surely they were just…waiting in line for the bathroom? Or just chatting? Or were lost? Alas, my dream of having a half-full room for my workshop (just enough to not feel pathetic, but not too many to be overwhelmed) was shot down when all 48 seats at the tables were taken and another dozen or so people sat in chairs along the walls.

I nervously confidently got started, and fortunately, only had to talk for about ten minutes before the fun part started – the activity.

Looking nervous confident in the shirt I tailored (I can’t not talk about sewing a little.)

And also looking just like the nerd emoji. 🤓

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Uncanny.

The workshop part went like this…everyone divided into pairs. One person was the customer, and the other was the support agent. They were given an envelope with two sealed cards. The customer’s card detailed a problem they were having with a company’s product. The support agent’s card only said what the company was. The agent had to guess what the problem was, using techniques I’d discussed in my talk.

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In the demo, I was the customer, and Ainslie was the support agent.

Her card simply said “You are a support agent for ACME BOOKSELLERS”

I started out saying “I got a book to read to my kid, but I can’t read it!” She asked, “is there anything wrong with the book?” I clarified that no, the book itself was fine, the pages weren’t torn or anything. But I just couldn’t read the words. And YES, I can read.

After a few probing questions, she thought to ask me to spell a few of the words to her.

“B-O-N J-O-U-R”, I said. And voila! She figured out the problem.

Here’s what my card said.

The rest of the scenarios were similar, and you can download the set here, if you like.

The discussion was lively, and people ran through several scenarios in the time we had. The room got loud! So loud we had to borrow one of the participants to whistle for us.

There were still about ten minutes left, so I opened the floor to let people talk about their experiences either at the workshop or in real life, or if they had questions. Naturally I expected dead silence, but I was happy that we had a lively discussion with people asking questions and hands being raised and I got to call on people and pretend like I was a teacher and everything. It was fantastic.

But the best part of all was after. The people who came up to me to tell me how great it was, and how much they got out of it. It really made all of the stress worth it. But maybe next time I’ll start earlier. (Yeah right.)

I can’t talk about SD Expo, though, without talking about my colleagues’ talks. Denise gave a workshop on weekend scheduling that gave me a profound respect for the work she does at Automattic. Maureen talked about the concierge support we give to our Business-level users, and we got to do a fun Mad Libs activity. And Kathryn talked about her experiences in the WordPress community forums, which she’s been involved with for many years.

I also got to talk to potential Happiness Engineer candidates (you know we’re hiring, right?), pick the brains of other people who hire support teams for their companies, eat amazing doughnuts, meet some famous cats, and fly home first class. Not bad!

 

A visit to Portland, Oregon

I went to Portland a couple of weeks back for work. I really should be blogging about that part, but I’ll save that for the next post. This time, I want to talk about the fabric stores I visited! (Also what I made with my bounty so far.)

I had a few free hours here and there, and when possible, I snuck away to one of the zillions of sewing stores in the area. The first one I went to was Mill End. I had to take a Lyft there and back, which wasn’t cheap, but I’m still glad I went.

But it was overwhelming. Probably a good thing for my wallet, because I could have spent thousands in there. There was so much fabric! And types that I just can’t buy in person here. Knits and swim fabric and linens and silks and sequins and on and on and on.

Continue reading

25 year reunion!

It’s getting to be overwhelming but if I put it off much longer, I’ll just never do it. So I’ll just do it.

The most important thing was my 25th high school reunion, which I already posted a little bit about in my last post, since I wore a bunch of clothes I made to it. But it was more than just showing off my sewing prowess, believe it or not. Getting to hang out in Natchitoches (Na-ka-tish, duh) brings back such fond memories and of course getting to see friends I hardly ever see is so great.

I wish I’d taken more pictures, though. So let me give a quick (?) recap.

Friday, Ren and I drove up, somehow managing to miss major rains and flooding in New Orleans, but not missing the police officer waiting for me to do 51 in a 35 in a small town near Bunkie. (“Let’s take the scenic route,” said Ren. “It’ll be nice,” said Ren.) Continue reading

Wrapping up Singapore

As I mentioned before, most of our time in Singapore was spent working, so I don’t have a ton of pics or anything, but I do want to wrap up my recaps so I can post about sewing again. 🙂

Mostly it’s gonna be a bunch of pictures again. Sorry.

Food and beverages. [Not pictured: The cheapest bottle of wine I could find at the only store I could find with wine and that was $23 (SG which is $17USD but tasted like $3USD wine) but had a corkscrew and we were staying at a hotel that didn’t serve alcohol so I tried to dig out the cork with a housekey but that only bent my key but turns out this hotel was quite nice so even though they don’t serve booze they do have corkscrews. Whew!]

Fabric shopping! We had one free day to do stuff, and you already saw my flower pics, so now you have to see where I dragged Karen and Deborah.  Continue reading

Flowers in Singapore

Yesterday we had our team activity day and one of the things we did was go to Gardens by the Bay. If this place was in the US I’d probably think it was super touristy and be sniffy about it. But the fact is, it was gorgeous and amazing and I don’t care if it is considered touristy.

I took a bunch of pictures (shocker) but the surprising thing is that I didn’t bring my DSLR on this trip. 😬 And I didn’t even regret it! I did have the lenses for my phone that George gave me for Christmas though and I especially had fun with the macro lens. Oh, and none of these photos were edited!

Behold:

And some non-macro shots of the flowers and the Cloud Forest dome that we visited next, which was lush and jaw-droppingly gorgeous:

Okay, maybe I took too many pictures of flowers.

The other thing about this beautiful setting is that we couldn’t resist taking a bunch of selfies and pictures of each other. So many nice backgrounds!

Okay, I suppose that’s enough photos for today. Tomorrow (well, to be honest, some other time) I will blog about the other adventures we had yesterday!

Oh, and in these pictures I’m wearing a dress I made by elongating a Seamwork Akita. Not perfect (in fact, definitely too big, and the pattern on the fabric not bold enough so the overall effect is a bit hospital gown, but it’s comfy and cool and soft, so whatever.)