Distributed Team

Recently I was telling someone about my job for the first time. We were talking about how we communicate and how there is almost always someone else online working no matter when you are. They said something along the lines of that it must be like talking to some random stranger.

While that’s true some of the time thankfully because Automattic hires great people there is never a worry involved if I have to message someone I’ve never spoken to before. I’ve yet to have someone be unapproachable or find it hard to talk with them. This isn’t something unique to a distributed work environment either. We have close to 1000 employees, even if we were all in the same office building I wouldn’t know everyone.

There are also many people at the company who I know well and have built good relationships with. These are typically the people I work directly with, and especially my team, or those who have been on my team at some point. With them especially it doesn’t feel much different than people I’ve worked with side by side.

Partially this is because we do get to spend time together in person each year, but also because we talk regularly in our day to day work. Each year we have a team specific meet up where we all travel to one location and work together for almost a week. Then each year there is also the company wide meetup where we have time to spend together as a team as well. The next one is coming up very soon and I can’t wait to see my team again.

While we don’t get to do things the same as people who work in a office together, it isn’t that different, we just have to find different ways to do it. We don’t eat cake together in the break room for everyones birthday, but we do regularly celebrate each others milestone moments in life.

Recently a team member became a Grand Parent for the first time and we got to be there with them and see pictures almost instantly. I’m about to become a Grand Parent for the first time myself and we’ll get to go down this path together and support each other. It took me a while to come to terms that I was really going to have a Grand child and she already helped me come around and see the blessing it will be.

As I’ve written about I’m working on getting back into shape and I share my milestones in that with my team as well. They cheer me on, motivate me, and even push me to keep going and do better. One team member when it had been a couple days since I’d ran went on a run themselves and shared it pushing me to go too. We’re doing it together even though we’re far apart.

Learning to play tennis and I’ve had team members who play giving me tips, and are challenging me to matches if we can make it work when we are together soon.

One of the hard times is when a team member is having a hard time. You badly want to be there for them, close to help, and it is harder being far apart. Thankfully it’s easier than ever to arrange deliveries or ship things to people. Even if it is just a distraction from what is going on in their lives.

Even being distributed I consider my team friends and I’m so glad to be able to work with them. Very much looking forward to getting some in person time again soon.

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.

 

 

 

Our Team

Our Team

Another post about my work, I know, I know, but this one is a bit different. I talk a lot about Automattic, the work we do, and how much I love it. The people are a huge part of that, and they are all great. This post is about a small group of those Automatticians though, our team, team Jupiter.

These are the folks I have the privilege of working everyday. We're a team of ten including me, and I'm thankful for everyone of them. Each has their own strengths and skills and compliment each other very nicely. When talking about our most recent team meetup I went into a bit more detail about how diverse we are.

We lean on each other for support, we have fun and joke together, we can complain and vent to each other safely. We can also come together to make things happen.

The end of last week I pitched a half baked idea for something I figured we'd be able to try to have a big impact on the work we do. We takes it over, there were some concerns, but everyone was willing to give it a try. It's early on but already it seems to be having an impact. We've found things that could be better as we go and are coming up with a good process on the fly.

I'm so thankful to this hard working group for everything they do, but feeling especially proud this week to be part of Team Jupiter.

Jupiter in Lisbon

Jupiter in Lisbon

Our team at work, team Jupiter, recently got together in Lisbon Portugal for almost a week to socialize and work together. This is our first meetup as a team and since the last company wide Grand Meetup our team has grown by four people so this was our first time meeting in real life for a good portion of us!

We have such an awesome and diverse team it was such an opportunity to get together and build better bonds with everyone. We have two team Brazil, two Spanish team members, one from Spain and one from Bolivia. Two Americans but one has been living in the UK for some time. Three people living in Canada, though I’m the only native Canadian. There is also another from the UK but they weren’t able to join us on the meetup. Our team is evenly divided with five women and five men. Four of us have children. Though I don’t contribute to this I believe I counted about 17 different languages known on our team.

The main purpose of the trip is of course to work. We did a series of skill building workshops which members prepared and put on, the main focus was around feedback and giving and receiving it. We have some good followup work as well which we can do async now that we are back to our respective homes.

When we first booked our meetup we had a fair amount of extra space in the deal we received for our accommodations so I helped convince another team to join us as well. Independently another team booked their meetup in Lisbon which overlapped ours by a few days. This allowed us to interact with a couple other teams as well and do a bit of work together.

In the evenings especially, and one day which we set aside, we were able to explore Lisbon and take in some fun activities. Just walking around the city was an experience itself. Such neat buildings many with beautiful tile work, the roads and walk ways done with stone. The city is pretty hilly so we were up and down hills and stairs on our walks. There were trolley cars in some areas which would take you up and down. There was live music being played in many areas by street performers. One day we had a parade right outside our co-working place which we took a few minutes to go and see. On a walk home one evening in the square right in between our accommodations and co-working place there was a group swing dancing. So many little cool moments.

One afternoon we last minute signed up for an escape the room as a whole team. The concept was that we were to follow the clues and solve the puzzles to show we were worthy to join the Illuminati. We were pleased when we finished the room the host came out with a stop watch showing us that we had beat the record in the time it took us to solve it. What great team work!

One of the highlights for me was a pastry cooking class we did together on the morning of our activity day we set aside. One of Lisbon’s famous treats are Pastel de Nata which are a delicious custard pastry. Since I’ve been home I’ve made them twice to rave reviews. There were a couple others treats as well but these were my favourite by far.

We made our way to São Jorge Castle as well. Many of the team ended up here at different times. When I went there were five of us together. We timed it to go up just before sunset so we could have some light but also watch the sun set  from the great view the castle provides. Walking around the castle grounds was impressive, but it was when we made it up on the castle walls where I had to stop and take a few minutes to take in the the whole situation. So thankful!

At home I missed a dance competition where Ella and Caile did awesome. Ella was offered an invitation and scholarship to do a dance tour and experience in either Barcelona or Paris. Unfortunately even with the scholarship it isn’t meant to be. It’s fairly expensive and we wouldn’t feel comfortable sending her on her own so at least one of us would have to go with her. Though it sounds like an amazing opportunity. Maybe another year she’ll get a similar chance and we’ll be in a different position to do it.