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….

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Whistler on film

I brought my film camera (the old, beaten up Pentax K1000 that I’ve had since I was about ten) to Whistler, thinking the scenery there would make for much better photos than my backyard. I was sorta right…

I don’t know if the film was not great, or if I wasn’t getting exposure right or what, but these pictures feel a bit muddier and grainier than my last batch. I think the film was ISO400 this time as opposed to ISO200, which would certainly explain the grain. And I bought a new battery in Whistler but somehow the meter kept konking out. So maybe I just need more practice? Better film? A fresher battery? A less beat up camera? (Though this isn’t a hobby I want to invest a ton of money in.)

(None of these photos have been edited digitally in any way. The negatives were scanned for me at the photo lab.)

It’s also interesting to compare these with the photos I took with my phone. Maybe I’m just used to digital photography. I want to argue that the film pictures feel warmer or something, maybe I’m just hopelessly nostalgic or fooling myself.

Film left, iPhone right.

I look at the left photo and it just feels nice, but then I look at the right one and I think “oh yes, that’s much better.”

Who knows? Maybe I just need to try with better film, for a start.

 

Elizabeth, on top of the world!

 

 

Automattic Grand Meetup 2017

Back to Whistler!

And even more gorgeous than last year. The weather was stunning until the last day, and even in the rainy mist it was beautiful. On to the pics!

Day 1: Arrival and the opening party

Checked into hotel, found the view of the pool wasn’t quite as nice as last year, but I’m not complaining.

Look, it’s Bob! Not my big brother! Bob looks like my brother, only with dimples and technically younger than me by a couple of months. (But seriously tho.) Continue reading

Automattic Grand Meetup 2016

Here it is, the massive, picture-heavy post recapping our big yearly company meetup. This year (and I hope next year and beyond) it took place in Whistler, British Columbia. What a gorgeous setting! Getting there wasn’t my favorite (mostly because of the two-plus hour bus ride from the Vancouver airport) but once we were there, it was fantastic.

The first day was our team day, so I spent the first half with the hiring team, and the second half with all of Happiness.

Beckett and I got up early one morning and went for a run around a 3.5 mile loop. It was hilly (mountainous, even, for this NOLA girl) and I almost ran all of it. Except for a few steep uphills. I wish I had better photos of the route, but they’re all blurry.

We spent time over the next few days in classes, and I didn’t really take pictures there. But here are a bunch of pretty pictures of Whistler Village:

The whole company took a pic. See if you can find me!

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On our activity day, I went up the mountain in a gondola with a few others. It was terrifying and fun and awesome and gorgeous. We hiked a bit, saw some snow, rode a chairlift into a cloud, and saw a giant rainbow. Good stuff.

Video of the chairlift up. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful. Except when I was shrieking in terror. (Kidding.)

The chairlift down looked WAY scarier, but because we couldn’t see anything, it was okay! I took a time lapse video of it:

More pics on a mountain:

The weather was so random, as you can see from those photos. Turn one way, and it would be cloudy and gray, and in another direction, sunny and blue.

After the chairlift, we took the peak-to-peak gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. It was pretty crazy.

One day I had some free time and spent it hiking with some friends. We went to Lost Lake, and I don’t think we found the path with the incredible views everyone else got, but it was a lovely hike and I did get some nice pics.

Does it chap my hide that my favorite pic was taken with my iPhone? Maybe a bit.

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Ahhhhh. Nice.

The WWWP5K was Monday morning, and it was on the same path that Beckett and I ran a few days before. The distance was a bit vague, but we ran straight for 37 minutes WITHOUT STOPPING AND ON HILLS AND STUFF so I figure we covered at least 3.1 miles. I guess Orange Theory works after all, eh? I haven’t really run distances in a while, so I was very pleased about this.

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Proud of those feet.

Okay, one more batch of pics from our closing party. I was wise this year and didn’t stay up until 4am the night before, so I was able to enjoy it a bit more.

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My beautiful be-wigged team.

But not too much, as I had to be up at 3am to catch the bus back to Vancouver, and then fly home for a zillion hours (whyever United thinks a layover in Newark between Vancouver and NOLA is a good idea, I’ll never know.)

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First meal in Canada, last meal in Canada.

 

Finally made it home at 10:30pm, to many, many, many hugs from my boys. Here’s what Oliver drew before I got home. (RIP me.)

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Until next year!

Automattic Grand Meetup 2015

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Grand Summit Hotel in Park City, Utah, watching my colleagues head out to the shuttles and off to the airport. Most of them I won’t see for another year. Well, you know, see in person. The way Automattic communicates, it doesn’t feel like that at all.

It was a busy week. And a hard one from which to be away from home, what with Gareth’s memorial and all.

Monday, I arrived and we had the welcome reception. It’s probably the most overwhelming part of the whole meetup, especially since we have about 150 more employees than we did last year. (We’re up to nearly 400 and we’re still hiring!)

Tuesday

I worked in person with my teammates. What a concept! We’re allowed to choose to either do a project, take a class, or do our regular job during the GM, and I chose the latter. It was a gorgeous day and so we had a little walking meeting and enjoyed the scenery while strategizing about hiring.

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That evening, I gave my flash talk. I was glad to get it over with early in the GM, so I didn’t have to stress about it for the rest of the time. I didn’t mumble or nervously stumble over my words, and I even got a few laughs, so I’ll call that a win!

Later, I attended a workshop on Lightroom given by another Automattician, and learned a bunch of new tricks for processing photos.

Wednesday

I woke up early-ish and took my camera up the hill behind the hotel to take some sunrise photos.

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Spent the day working again, and possibly streaking our hair with fun colors. While we worked, obviously. (I interviewed a potential Happiness Engineer with bleach in my hair.)

Thursday

Woke up early for the Automattic 5k. (Not my best time, but heck, I did it.)

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More working, and then in the afternoon, I painted a pretty picture.

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In the afternoon, we took the company photos and some with our teams. And some goofy ones with friends.

That night, I attended a nighttime photography workshop and tested out what I learned. I wouldn’t say it was a total success, but it was fun and if you don’t look too closely, they look pretty good.

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Hit the party suite that night, took some selfies with coworkers.

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Friday

I had a pretty quiet morning, watching some fantastic flash talks and visiting with friends. Then around lunchtime, a few of us headed into Salt Lake City to get our tattoos.

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Saturday

Had a quiet morning. Went on a tiny hike with Zandy, watched flash talks, and then failed with the rest of my team to escape a room. (But at least I got a few of the clues!)

Went into Park City with some pals where we had a yummy lunch and did a bit of shopping. It was raining, so we didn’t stay for too long. But we saw a bunch of Automatticians doing a bike tour. (Confession: I was supposed to do that bike tour like I did last year, but I was scared to ride on hills in the rain.)

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That evening, I had a great dinner where I had some wine. And then I didn’t stop having wine until about 4am. Uh. It was fun. There were lots of pics at the selfie wall that night. And plenty more tomfoolery.

Sunday

I…did not feel well. I managed to make it through the day and then last night was the big closing party. It was awesome. I do wish I’d felt a bit better.

Robyn sang a song!

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And the photo booth…so much fun!

Good times.

Until next year!

 

 

 

Park City so far

I should be blogging more about the Grand Meetup so far. Let’s see. Monday I left New Orleans (after breakfast at IHOP with George and the boys)

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Fortunately, getting there was uneventful, which is the best you can really hope for.

When I arrived, I found some friends and we went off to the welcome party, which was a tad overwhelming, but great. Went to sleep way too late and woke up way too early yesterday.

But it was a gorgeous day. Mostly spent working, but we had a walking meeting outside.

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I also got my Flash Talk done (everyone in the company has to give a 4 minute or less presentation on the topic of their choosing) which was a relief. Last year, I presented a video, so I just had to stand there while it played. This year I actually had to, you know, speak. So that was a bit trickier. But I pulled it off without mumbling too much, I think. (My topic was based on this blog post – it was 10 things I hear as a mom of triplets.)

Anyway, went to bed early last night after a workshop on Lightroom given by a coworker, so I’m excited to go take some more photos (with my actual camera and not my phone) and test out the new tips I learned.