Lisbon recap!

It’s been a week since I got home so I’d better post about my trip before I forget everything!

I left on Tuesday, and flew the long leg with Deborah and Erica, which was nice, since I had a five hour layover at Newark. We spent that time doing our nails and I got my boots shined and okay this part isn’t exciting.

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Actually, shiny boots are kind of exciting.

We got to Lisbon Wednesday morning and got a tiny coffee and my first pastel de nata at the airport. Got to the airbnb, but the owner was running late meeting us so we stocked up on groceries in the store below our apartment (very handy, that!) Once we were in and settled, we…well, I don’t remember. Took a nap, I think. I was exhausted. Mahangu arrived and we went to walk around and get some dinner.

We walked down to the Time Out market, where I had another pastel de nata (this one warm from the oven and even tastier than the airport Starbucks one. Go figure.) We noticed flocks of Uber Scooters around, so Beckett, Mahangu, and I hopped on them while Erica decided it was best not to. We found a flat plaza and rode around and around and around.

Then dinner up a hill. It was yummy. There was ham and cheese and various other good food.

The next day was my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!

We went to the bigger grocery store to get more provisions, and ended up having a very unsatisfying breakfast there. But we did get me a candy birthday cake! And we got followed around the store by security people. Turns out you’re not supposed to take photos in grocery stores. Weird. And then outside the grocery store was a pretty yellow tiled wall, so I made Mahangu take pictures of us all.

Back to the apartment where we got some work done. We were going to have lunch but then we decided to wait for Karen, who was arriving that afternoon. And by the time she got there we just waited for dinner. But that was fine because we had lots of ham and cheese and other delicious snacks to eat.

We had a call early in the evening with some other colleagues around the world, and then it was time to eat again!

Dinner was at a lovely restaurant on top of a hill. We had to climb a lot of stairs to get to it. We dined on delicious Mozambiquan-Portuguese food. Happy birthday was sung to me in Portuguese. We walked around some more after dinner.

Friday was a work day – we left to get lunch at the Time Out market. I had a prego steak sandwich. So yum. Later, Erica and Mahangu and I went to the Benfica game! It was pretty cool, even though I knew the boys weren’t exactly happy with me for going to a professional game without them. I did bring them presents back, at least. Benfica won, thank goodness, but it was close. After the game we got these amazing pork sandwiches (bifana) and Erica and I split the most amazing waffle with Nutella on it.

Saturday we worked. And walked around some more between working. I found my favorite book in Portuguese at a book market and of course bought it. We also found a fabric store (shocking) where I…bought fabric.

After that we went up to this elevator that basically just goes up a hill. The line was too long to wait, but someone told us about a free elevator we could use that didn’t have a line. No brainer! The views were beautiful. Didn’t hurt that it was a gorgeous, sunny day.

We ordered in for dinner that night. And Erica and I finished a puzzle Beckett brought.

Sunday we worked some more, and in the afternoon, Beckett and Mahangu and I went to a different part of the city where he was meeting up with someone. Beckett and I went on this little gondola thing and then over to a mall that was like Black Friday packed. It was nuts. But it had a ginormous grocery store in it as well, and I do love a grocery store. Picked up some souvenirs to bring home (but didn’t take pictures, of course.)

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Beckett on the gondola. So pretty!

Monday we decided to bring our work on the road. We took a train to Sintra, which is west of Lisbon. There’s a palace (Pena Palace). We had a driver bring us around, which was a great idea since it was cold and VERY STEEP. After the palace, we had lunch and the driver gave me a birthday present! (I mean, like I didn’t tell him my birthday was a few days prior? Do you even know me?)

After working for a little while at a coworking spot, the driver took us on a very winding and nauseating ride out to the coast, where you can stand on the westernmost spot of Europe. It was cold and windy, but beautiful!

We headed back to our apartment after that and got all packed up. Karen and Beckett and I had 5:20am flights, which was horrible. I slept for about an hour and a half, and then traveled for 24 hours and then made it home. Hooray!

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Got a frankfurter in the Frankfurt airport.

It was a great, productive trip. Lisbon is beautiful! But thank goodness I practiced for the hills by power walking at Orangetheory. Those hills are no joke!

01/07/2020

Flew to Lisbon, and met up with my teammates Beckett and Erica in Newark, where we had a five hour layover. I had jackets made for our team, since we have a new name (HappEx, which is short for Happiness Experience.) (Happiness is our support team.) I am very tired.

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:

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!