2019 Grand Meetup – the details

Usually I just write one big massive post about the GM, but I’m not mentally ready for that yet (still tired) but I do want to highlight the amazing details that went into it. Kudos to our amazing events team!

Mostly, it centered around the Automattic creed, which you can read in full here.

It was always handy, in the form of the room key cards…

And more:

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2018 in review

It’s time to look back at 2018 before too much of 2019 has gone past and I forget all about it.

It was a busy year! And I definitely didn’t blog enough, especially at the end of the year, where I had to rely too much on Instagram posts for my recaps. I’ll try to fix that for 2019. But my mantra for this year is “stop trying to do everything” which I’m afraid might turn into “turn into a lazy blob” so 2020’s mantra might need to revolve around moderation. We’ll see. Anyhoo, onto the year’s recap:

January

I turned 43. Had a nice day.

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It (sorta, not really, but close enough for the boys) snowed!

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But the best part of January was going with Steph to see My Favorite Murder live. What a fantastic night that was. Eeeek!!! The best part, of course:

 

Meeting and hugging the hosts of the show, Karen and Georgia, and getting a picture. Eeek! So fun.

And then, at the end of January, Linus said something to me that would change the course of the entire year. He said, “Mama, I think I want to play soccer again.”  Continue reading

My desk

I have been utilizing the services of a coach at work to help me with time management and today we talked about the state of my desk and how it affects my productivity and stress levels. So my assignment at the end of today’s session was to clean off my desk, take a picture of it, and blog about it. (I was going to post it on one of our internal blogs at work, but someone did a “show your desk” thread a few months ago, so I figured I’d post it here instead. I mean, if you want to show a picture of your desk in the comments, feel free!) The blogging part is for accountability, and if you look in the menu up at the top and see all those 365 projects I did way back in the day, external validation is a powerful motivator for me. (Words of affirmation are my love language, yo.)

(Also gifts.)

I’m getting off topic.

Voila!

Somehow it looks way neater in real life. But trust me that is as clean as it gets. Hooray!

Next step: Every morning, I will spend five minutes straightening it up before starting my day. (Hopefully won’t be too necessary, but just in case.)

PS Cleaning up my desk had a beneficial side effect: that Amazon gift card had $15 on it!

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.

But the VERY BEST PART of the whole week (erm, aside from, you know, uh, hanging out with my amazing colleagues) was Tuesday night.

Dinner at Harry Potter World!

Ack!

After hours – so we had that section of Universal to ourselves! It was seriously magical. Of course, I had special outfits for the entire day. My day outfit was my Harry Potter t-shirt with a pinafore, and my evening outfit for HP World was a Harry Potter skirt. We got to ride the rides and there was food and drinks and we could get free ice cream and wander around Diagon Alley and eeeek, it was so awesome. Words can’t really describe. Fortunately, I took pics. Natch.

One of the best parts about the GM for me (and the most nerve-wracking) is meeting all of the people I’d interviewed and/or hired over the past year. One of the days we had a Happiness Hour, where all of the Happiness team got together and did some activities (like writing cards that were delivered throughout the GM) and got t-shirts and hung out. The crazy thing is that Happiness is now the size (or maybe bigger) than the whole company was when I joined. Insane!

Sadly, I had to leave a day early because of the boys’ soccer tournament in Pensacola (yes, also Florida) but that’s a post for another day….

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!

 

10 years on WordPress!

It’s hard to explain how the decision I made on July 10, 2001 to document my marathon training literally changed my life. WordPress didn’t even exist yet. In the beginning, this blog was just an HTML page that I updated and each month I’d start a new page. (Not to worry, you can read all those posts here – I copied them into blog posts a while back.)

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Hand coded HTML
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Every website needed a splash page in 2003!

But ten years ago today, on July 11, 2008, I moved my blog to WordPress.com – for several years before that, it was hosted, uh, elsewhere. But once I met WordPress, it was love at first site sight.

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Finally on WordPress.com in 2008!

And of course, in 2013 it led to me working at Automattic. My dream job!

I don’t blog for a big audience. I blog to document my life, so I can go back and read it later. (I’m hopelessly nostalgic.) I blog because there was no way I was going to be able to keep three baby books going. I blog because I love photography. And I love to photograph my kids. I blog because I like to keep in touch with old friends.

And if it weren’t for WordPress, I surely would have given up long ago. And I wouldn’t have the amazing colleagues and friends I’ve made over the past four and a half years. I wouldn’t have a job I love, that constantly challenges me. I wouldn’t have Ziggy!

This is post 3,808.

Here’s to 3,808 more.

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

I’m in Singapore!

After 28 hours of travel (which included maybe 20 minutes of sleep) I finally made it to Singapore late Tuesday/early Wednesday (I left New Orleans Monday at 7am for context.) And then we only had about 5 hours to sleep before we had to get up to work Wednesday morning. Thank goodness the hotel has a magic coffee machine in the restaurant so all you have to do is press a button and caffeine comes out.

We haven’t been anywhere except the hotel and the coworking place so far (and they’re only about 500 meters apart) so I don’t have much of an impression of Singapore yet but tomorrow we’re going to do fun stuff.

Some photos so far, mostly from airports.

Tokyo airport!

After the one hour flight to Houston, I had a 13-hour flight to Tokyo. I watched lots of movies on that flight. Then I had a four-hour layover where I met up with Karen and Deborah, and we walked around the terminal pretty much the entire time. We had some delicious ramen, I bought the boys some manga in Japanese (obvs more for funsies than anything) and I got my Starbucks mug. But I was so, so, so tired. Deborah and I got on the flight to Singapore (Karen was on a different one) where I slept a little, watched a couple more movies (it was a seven hour flight) and ate a little bit of a real Japanese meal (this leg was on All Nippon Airlines.)  The airplane also had the fancy bidet toilet seat too. (I keep wanting to say “I was tickled that the airplane had the fancy bidet toilet seat” or similar, but it just comes out all wrong so I’ll leave that out.)

Anyway, we got to Singapore after midnight, met up with Karen again, got an Uber to the hotel, passed out in our rooms, and basically worked all day yesterday, passed out last night, and are finally feeling a bit rested today. Oh, and so you don’t think I’ve completely forgotten about sewing, I wore a Cashmerette Concord shirt I made last week that I’m really happy with, and I made Karen take a picture of me wearing it.

My new shirt!

 

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Look how cute we are!!

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Hopefully my next post will have more actual photos of, you know, Singapore.

2017 in review

Years that end in 7s have typically been pretty eventful for me. Well, at least two of them have. I spent a good chunk of 1997 in London, which was life-changing for me. And 2007 brought a trio of little clones into our lives. So I expected 2017 to be equally eventful for me personally. I mean, hey, it was also the year I was 42, so expectations were high.

But it didn’t end up being particularly noteworthy, at least not for me. In fact, generally speaking, I’d say it was not a great year overall. But for our family, it was fine. Let’s recap. Continue reading

Four years at Automattic!

Well, you know I love an anniversary. But this is a big one! No, for real this time. After you’ve been at Automattic for four years, you get a new custom laptop with a lit up W (or Jetpack logo, or Automattic logo. I went with the W.) It’ll be a while before I actually get it, since it’s custom made and all that, but it’ll be worth the wait.

And next year is even better – a three month paid sabbatical after five years! I have already started planning how I’m going to use my time (organizing every inch of the house, rocking NICU babies, cooking a lot, you know, the usual.)

I was thinking about how Automattic has changed since I started. We have stats for everything, and I found this one:

You started on 2013-11-18. Of the 632 other Automatticians, 166 (26.3%) started before you, 2 (0.3%) started on the same day, and 464 (73.4%) started after you.

Wow! Yeah, we’ve grown quite a bit in the last four years. (And I hired 38 of those!)

I think there were about 45 Happiness Engineers when I started, and now there are over 200. We hadn’t yet acquired WooCommerce, Calypso wasn’t a thing, heck, we were barely offering live chat to our customers! Now users with the Business plan can upload themes and plugins! (Trust me, this is huge.)

I have traveled to at least 18 cities in the last four years for work – from Dayton to Auckland. I’ve been up mountains and dipped my toes in the sea. I’ve seen the sun rise in Utah and in Spain. Okay, I’ll stop being poetic now.

I’ve met amazing people, made amazing friends, learned so much. I can’t wait to see what the next four years holds.

(Can you find me?)

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Oh yeah, and as usual, we’re hiring!

London and Manchester 2017

How lucky am I? The second time in a year to go to my favorite place on Earth, and this time, no one was barfing all over the Airbnb. (Okay, honestly, nothing could ever beat our trip last Christmas, but that was definitely a low point.)

This trip was for work. My team (the Happiness Hiring team, also known as Athena) met up in London to work on things, and then we went to Manchester for a couple of nights for an event. It was very busy, but what better place to be busy? Plus, we’d just made our three European teammates (Dan, Cécile, and Hannah) travel to Canada for the Grand Meetup, so it was only fair we went to them this time. We’re so kind and generous.

Monday
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