Happiness Patches

Happiness Patches

A few Grand Meetups ago some of my awesome colleagues started a new cool thing, Happiness Patches. For any team you have been on, or done a rotation with, you get a patch. There are a few fun patches as well and they’re expanding a bit. The idea is similar to merit badges.

Each Grand Meetup I’d collect new patches and then they would live in a bag in my office, I never knew what to do with them. The one main idea I had saw others do was to put them on a backpack. Backpacks wear out though and I didn’t want to lose these. Finally this weekend I did something with them and I’m really happy with the result.

While the kids were doing a craft at our local Michaels store I went and grabbed a shadow box to frame the patches in. Had I just been doing the patches a regular frame would have likely worked, but I had a few pins to throw in as well so needed a big more depth. It has now joined the Automattic wall in my office.

The wall started out with just the print based on the Automattic creed, then shortly after I added the three logos and it has continued to grow since then. A local business, who creates custom pillows, made the WordPress logo pillow for me. Jen wouldn’t let me use it in the living room so now it lives on the top of my bookcase. The next additions were the award I received at work, and the WordPress pennant. One of my previous team members brought me a big glow in the dark Jupiter sticker which made it’s way to the wall as well. Jupiter is our team name. Last night I re-arranged things a bit so I could make room for the new shadow box. The wall can still use some adjustments to fit things better, but I really like it and it makes me happy when ever I walk into my office.




Vegas Trip & Bruno Mars

Recently a bunch of the team leads in the Happiness division at Automattic got together in Las Vegas to learn together and work to ensure we are all working together. It was a very productive trip. I came back with things I can do right away and be better at my job, and feeling jazzed at the bonds I started or strengthened with my co-workers.

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I ❤these folks #happleadsinvegas

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We stayed in the downtown area which is away from The Strip that everyone thinks of, we spent most of the time working and then quiet evenings at dinner together or socializing in one of the hotel rooms. One night though we did go down to the strip for a dinner though to experience the famous Vegas Buffets.

Ever since I caught Bruno Mars on Carpool Karaoke I’ve had one of this songs stuck in my head 24K Magic which has the music video set in Vegas on the Strip.

The night we went to the buffet we went to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, there was about ten of us but everything was pretty impressive. We walked through to the buffet and there was a lineup to pay and enter. Once we paid they pulled our group out of the line and started us towards the entrance. I was feeling all Bruno Mars, like yeah they know who we are, Automatticians getting the VIP treatment and skipping the line.

Instead they moved us into our own little area that was like a sad little holding pen. Not a lot of 24K Magic going on there.


Excited for SupConf

Yesterday I did something extremely exciting, I booked my flight and accommodations so that I can attend SupConf! Previously I’ve written about choosing support as a career, and about how we can make support cool. The community behind SupConf, Support Driven, and the conference itself is a great way to help accomplish this. If you are in support, and are passionate about it, I highly recommend checking out both Support Driven and SupConf both.

Some of my colleagues at Automattic are helping organize the event, and some are also speaking. The line up of speakers and topics looks amazing in general. I’m very much looking forward to spending time with people from a bunch of different companies all dedicated to providing excellent support.

The icing on the cake is that the venue is Automattic HQ in San Fransisco. Getting to visit the company office is pretty neat. To get to visit it while learning and participating at SupConf so I can take home new ideas to help bring happiness to the people who use our products is awesome!

Support as a Career

When I get home and can really reflect I’ll post a better and more full recap of my first Grand Meetup with Automattic. For now I want to talk about something great that has happened for me here. I’ve had a bit of an epiphany thanks to two town hall sessions I’ve attended. One was company wide and one specific to our happiness or support section. Not sure if it is exactly an epiphany, because I really knew it already, I think I just forgot it a little. This allowed me to bring it back in to focus. Now I need to live it even better.

When I came to Automattic as a Happiness Engineer in the back of my head I kind of thought it would be fun to use it as an “entry” position and work my way into a development role. In the past I’ve had development roles, specifically web development roles, that I could likely put to use here. I’d never pretend that I’m anywhere near the calibre of the developers we do have, but I thought I could learn from them. The funny part is the jobs I’ve always been happiest at have been the ones where I’m providing support.

If I’m happiest in a support role, why do I want to move to something else? After the questions and answers in the town halls I think it is because of my biases coming from other companies where support really is an entry level position. It’s not something that the companies I worked at treated as a serious and important career option. It was usually seen as a necessary, yet evil, cost centre. Not at Automattic. Support is seen as an important bridge between everyone that uses our products and the products themselves. Every conversation we get to have with the people who use our products is an opportunity to learn and makes things better. This is exactly the career I’ve been looking for.

There are some things I need to work on though and personally need to get better at. Taking the conversations I have and helping find where things can be made better and communicating that is currently a weakness. There are many parts I already feel I do well though. When I find something that is broken either through testing or from a user I can work with our developers to let them know so they can get it fixed.

While I can read code and understand it, I could spend a lot of time trying to dig through the code to find exactly where the bug is, but really these developers know the code a lot better than I do. It would be a lot more efficient if I instead worked on my bug and deficiency reporting so that I made the reports as helpful as possible. If I do that, they’ll be able to find where the bug is a lot faster than I could and they also can it fixed. The time I would spend looking would take me away from having other conversations with people where I can have a much greater impact in the long run.

Coding is still fun, and I’m not going to stop. In fact while here I took a course on JavaScript as there is a feature I would like to see, so I’m going to try and build it. But that will be in my spare time, as the hobby it really is for me now.

There are so many things I will be taking away from this Grand Meetup, but I think this will be the most important thing. It has helped me refocus on my career here and will help me approach interactions from a different mindset. It will be a lot of work and I know I won’t be able to do it overnight, or be perfect at it, but I’m going to work at being better.

First Halifax WordPress Meetup

Tonight I attended my first ever WordPress meetup. When I found out that Alison and Tara were organizing a meetup in Halifax I was very excited. Seeing co-workers going to meetups and WordCamps talking with others who are either passionate about, or wanting to know more and learn about WordPress had me a bit envious.

It was a really great evening, the first talk was about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This is a complicated topic that has a fair amount of confusion around it and they did a great job at laying things out.

Over the years I’ve helped people in person to use WordPress but it was really neat tonight to get to engineer some happiness in person and I look forward to doing more of it in the future as well. I’m far from an outgoing person, but I found it really easy to talk to everyone tonight and can even see myself doing a talk at some point.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I introduced myself and my job title someone said, “that sounds made up.”

Thanks again to the organizers and everyone who came out. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again.

One Year Ago

One year ago today I wrote this post A New Person, New Attitude, and New Goals. It’s a little bitter sweet looking back at that post. I had just hit my weight loss and fitness goal and set some other goals for myself.

Looking back I’ve made good progress on my three other goal areas: Time, Finances, and Happiness. A lot of that has come from me joining Automattic. There is still work to be done, but over the last year I feel we have become more financially stable. My time is more flexible and I get to spend a fair amount with my family. Overall I feel pretty darn happy.

Fitness on the other hand has taken a nose dive. Around mid October last year I ran a 10K race and after that was proud of myself and thought I would slow down a bit. That led to taking a break and falling back into old poor habits. It really seems to be all or nothing with me when it comes to fitness. If I’m not exercising I also end up making poor eating decisions.

Since mid July this year though I’ve started to get back into my good habits. Even though the past little bit I haven’t been exercising as much I feel like I’m pretty much over this cold except for a rotten cough. Last night I started doing Jillian Michaels 90 day body revolution. This is the same program I used when I lost all my weight. This time I’m going to tie it in with my running and am determined to do well in all four of my goal areas by getting my fitness right again.

Looking back at the pictures in my post a year ago is going to be my motivation. I looked and felt so good then, I want to get back there. There are about two months left before this years 10k race I signed up for so I have some work to do, but if I lose weight by working out hard and eating right it’s just going  to help my running come back even faster.

Reason number …

No longer can I keep track of the number of reasons I love my job. But this is up there with the very top of them.

Yesterday I received this feedback from one the people I had chatted with. It wasn’t only for me as they have chatted with a number of my team over the past while, I just happened to be the lucky one to help right before they left this:

One of the main reasons I am a great fan of WordPress is the chat line. It is especially important to me as I am deaf and trying to hear instructions over the telephone is fraught with difficulty. Anyway, I have learned to use your chat line when I get stuck and I have never been disappointed. Not only do all the people with whom I have chatted know the right answers, they come over as really nice people – the sort you would like to have as friends. I’m sure some could find a fault somewhere but I’m damned if I could.

This made my day yesterday and it carried right over today. I’m very lucky I get to talk with so many interesting and neat people. Of course some days can be stressful or you can let things get to you, but then something like this comes along and all that fades away.

Building actual relationships

For the past while I’ve been slowly working my way through Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It has been out for a while but I hadn’t heard of it, or at least didn’t recall hearing of it. I stumbled across it recently at a second hand store and the title grabbed me. Maybe something to do with my job title. I then realized it was by the CEO of Zappos.com and figured it would be a good read. Just because I’m taking my time getting through it doesn’t mean it isn’t good, I’m really enjoying it so far.

One section that stuck with me was when he was talking about building friendships and relationships. For the most part I’ve always been a pretty shy and find it hard to just approach people and start up a conversation. I’ve attended a few traditional networking type events before but always felt like they were mostly a waste of time. Probably what I made of them.

This section Tony included was from his excerpt in Ivanka Trump’s book, it talks about making real relationships.

If you are able to figure out how to be truly interested in someone you meet, with the goal of building up a friendship instead of trying to get something out of that person, the funny thing is that almost always, something happens later down the line that ends up benefiting either your business or yourself personally.

Then continues

So my advice is to stop trying to “network” in the traditional business sense, and instead just try to build up the number and depth of your friendships, where the friendship itself is its own reward. The more diverse your set of friendships are, the more likely you’ll derive both personal and business benefits from your friendships later down the road. You won’t know exactly what those benefits will be, but if your friendships are genuine, those benefits will magically appear 2-3 years later down the road.

I’ve never quantified this before but what he says holds very true in my own life. It would be difficult for me to look back and see just how much having good relationships with people have helped me along my path which has led me to where I am. Whether it was a friend who ended up helping me get a job or even just having a good relationship with a previous manager ended up resulting in a lot of great contract based work much later on.

It almost sounds like what some people would call karma, if that is something you believe in, but I think it is just in human nature. In general I think people want to be nice to others so having good relationships with people is naturally going to bring opportunities.

Career Balance, Money vs Happiness

From a young age I’ve been finding ways to make money for myself. I grew up in a family of four children with my single Mother. She is an amazing Mother and raised us all well. Some of the choices she made to ensure that she could be there to care for us and shape us into the people we are now had the side effect of us living off little income. At one point when I was old enough to realize we were on social assistance but still to young to comprehend I remember being ashamed of it and told her so. Her response to this was perfect and I’ll never forget it. “The government essentially pays me to make sure that you and your sisters grow up to be good, tax paying citizens in the future.”

We never went without, but we didn’t have money for extra things. Extra things I had to figure out how to get for myself. Though she always supported me and helped me with any of my crazy ideas. At a very young age I remember getting the idea that my mothers “Sticky Buns” were the best dessert in the world and I wanted to sell them. So she taught me how to make them, fronted me the first supplies to do so, and I went door to door in my neighbourhood selling them. After people tried them they wanted to order them again. I made enough money that I could pay back my mother for the initial supplies and buy enough for the next batch. It didn’t go on for many rounds before it became too much work for us to sustain though. This was my first taste of making my own money though and I liked it.

As I grew I found lots of other ways to make money even before I was old enough to really enter the work force. I had an evening paper route that I delivered every day after school. Of course I did the usual things as well for some of my neighbours, mowing lawns in the summer time and shoveling driveways in the winter.

From their I moved on to a “personal assistant” position. In reality I had an elderly neighbour who had a hard time doing most things for herself so she paid me to help her. I would do basically anything she needed, from cleaning her house, to doing her banking and grocery shopping. Once a week we would take a taxi together and stop at the bank first. I would go in and cash her cheques. Then transfer the funds to the different accounts and pay her bills. Once we were done I would take the grocery money out and we would move on to the grocery store. She would sit in a dining area and I would go around and get everything on her list and go and pay for it. Looking at some now at some of my children this seems like an awful lot of responsibility for a child, but the experience I gained from this was invaluable.

Since then it seems that I’ve been in a constant back and forth in my jobs trying to find the right balance between money and happiness. Some jobs have paid very well but ended up making me unhappy or incredibly stressed out. While other jobs have not paid enough, or not steady enough, but made me happy.

Currently I’m in a position that is close to being perfect. The work environment is almost ideal. I have a great set of co-workers, they are very understanding when it comes to family things to allow me to take time and make it up later as long as I am getting my work done. Of course within reason. I am supporting the staff and patrons who are there mostly during typical business hours, so that is when I need to be there as well. But for the odd things that come up I have the needed flexibility. Nothing of course is perfect but for the most part I’m very content.

The biggest concern is that I seem to be making just enough money to pay all the bills and let the kids have the extracurricular activities they want to be in, but not really getting ahead when it comes to paying off debt and getting a savings going. Right before I took this position I was unemployed for a short while, but long enough to eat through our savings and build up our credit card debt.

We’re not behind on any payments and just got back from a nice family vacation so we’re not in dire straights. But when anything unexpected comes up, like a few things this week, it really shows how we need to be making better headway on debt and savings.

What I really need to do is find that magical balance where I have a great position doing the things I love, in a very flexible environment, while at the same time getting paid enough to get ahead. Over the years this seems to be very elusive and I realize that to a lot of people I likely have unrealistic expectations. However I know there are opportunities out there and I will work on finding the best fit. My eyes are set on a position with an amazing company and I’m working on showing them I would make an excellent team member, but I realistically know it’s a long shot.

Luckily I’m in a great position. I’m far from desperate to find a job, because I’m happy where I am and we are getting by. This leaves me so I can take the time to work at getting my dream job. Somewhere that I can finally feel both happy and in good financial health.

A New Person, New Attitude, and New Goals

A New Person, New Attitude, and New Goals

Seven and a half months of hard work and change have finally paid off. This morning when I weighed myself I’ve finally hit my goal.

My weight is now 178 lbs which means two things, I’ve lost a total of 80 lbs and my BMI is now in the healthy range.

See where I was and where I am now.

We all know the physical benefits of losing weight, so I’m not going to talk about them here, I’m going to talk about the way this has changed me mentally.

Over the years I’ve accomplished a number of thing which weren’t easy to do. Things I had to set my mind to and work hard at to achieve. A couple of big difficult ones were quitting smoking and going back to school with a large family to take Computer Science. Neither of those tasks were as difficult as this. Yes the degree took four years of work to get, but it’s over now, no one can take my degree away from me. At any point I could put this weight back on if I’m not careful.

There is something about setting a goal like this for your self and then having to battle to get it. Besides the self confidence I’ve gained just by looking better and being in better health, the act of reaching the goal brings a lot of that as well. It’s reaffirmed for me the fact that if I put my mind to something, and work for it, I can get there.

Of course none of the accomplishments I’ve mentioned can I take full credit for. My wife and family have been with me through all of them. They’ve put up with me when I’ve been cranky and tired, and helped motivate me to keep going. That will be the same in any goal I set. Knowing I have their support, no matter what, makes chasing my dreams that much easier.

With my new self esteem I’ve realized something else, I’m not done yet. Not just health wise, that is going to be a life long goal I work at now. My weight is where I want it but I can still be a lot more fit in general. Now I can look at the other aspects of my life and set goals for them to make them even better.

The most important part of my life is my family so what I really want to do is improve my family life. I believe I’ve identified four key areas I need to focus on to do this.

Health: Was/is part of that. I wanted to make sure that I would live a long healthy life in which I can play and help my family.

Time: Making the time to be there for them, to support them like they have me. Time to play with them, talk with them, just to be there with them.

Finances: I want to be able to ensure we always have everything we need and not need to worry and fret about money. That just takes energy away from enjoying my family.

Happiness: This is something else I’ve learned during this. I am responsible for my own happiness. I wasn’t happy with the way I was, now I am. I need to continue to make sure I’m happy so that the time I do spend with my family is positive. To do this I will be making sure I spend my time doing things I truly enjoy, staying challenged, and helping others. These are all examples of things keep me happy which in return I can pass it on to my family.

These are the areas I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. They are all intermingled. As I’m working at some, the others will fall into place. I’m determined and I have a renewed self confidence that I can attain my goals.

Just because I’ve reached one of my big goals doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back, now is the time for me to keep pushing and make more progress in these other areas of life. Lets Go!