Work, family, basketball

Work, family, basketball

Seems like a lot of the posts I end up writing these days are either about work, family, or basketball. That makes a lot of sense because that is basically my life and I’m happy with all of it.

There is a really nice balance with everything right now that hasn’t always been present. I’ve written about this elusive balance a few times over the years and I believe it’s helped me get to this point. Starting back in the summer of 2014 when I really started looking for and going after what I wanted. Then in the fall of that year when I was in the heat of it, essentially working two jobs in an attempt to get there. Then the summer after I started my new job, life and work seemed to occupy the most time still. 

For a while I had running. That was my dedicated time for myself where I was spending hours every week with just my thoughts and the trails, but as I fell out of that habit any free time I had, I filled up with less productive things. I still need to make time for my health and make that a habit again, but I’m so happy with the overall aspects of life right now.

My job is fantastic, family life is busy but full of love and happiness, and I have found a hobby that I enjoy, is fulfilling, and I can share with my family, basketball. It’s funny Jen wrote a bit about it this morning as I was thinking over the ideas for this post. Noah’s love for playing basketball has really gotten us all into it. For me it is back into it, but everyone else truly enjoys it now as well.

For many years I stopped following basketball but as Noah got more and more into it, and I started helping coach the two teams he plays for, we started watching more. We go to live games at the local University watching the Axemen and Axewomen play. We follow the Raptors pretty closely, but even if they aren’t playing most nights I find some game to watch. 

It’s entertainment yes, but working with Noah and his team and helping them develop it is also very fulfilling. I played a lot of basketball when I was growing up, but never in a real team environment. So being involved in a team sport and seeing the importance of everyone working together, even at their young age, really helps me see connections to this and work.

Having a strong team means helping everyone develop their individual skills, but also having them work together as a team to make each other stronger. Each team member has a role to play and it will likely change over time and situations. As a coach or team lead you help the members develop their skills and to find their role in the team.

Noah plays on two teams and his role is different on each team right now. On our club team, seeing this is his second year at the U10 level, he has more experience than others, a strong drive, and can score. In yesterdays game we were a couple people short and needed someone to score. Noah ended up scoring 27 points out of teams 48 for the game to help the win. On his other team, everyone is pretty much at the same level. Lots of people can score and others have more advanced ball handling skills, but Noah with his speed and determination can play darn good man to man defence. So in those games he may not always score as many points but instead prevent the other team from scoring while his teammates get the baskets. 

With my recent role change at work, and the team changes that happened in conjunction with it, I’m still trying to see where my role is with my team. We have a solid group where everyone has areas they are really strong in. We work together and help each other with problems which helps everyone learn and get stronger. Some people are really great with domain names, some with CSS, and some do a great job at staying up to date with new products or changes and help everyone else learn about them. I’m one of the more experienced on the team because I’ve been with the company longer than most. My recent experience leading a team and the skills and knowledge I learned there can be a strength. Maybe my role is that of a player coach, where I’m doing the same work as everyone else and using my experience to help others on the team continue to grow and develop.

For now, I’m really happy with all aspects of my life and seem to have found the balance I was chasing after for a long time. Life has a way of changing things up and causing things to rearrange but like always we’ll roll with those changes keep making things better. 

Four years at Automattic

Four years at Automattic

Today marks four years since I joined Automattic full time. 🎉As I mentioned last year this is the longest time I’ve ever stayed with a company and now we’re just extending that record.

There was a point this year where I briefly thought about looking for a move though. For over two years now I was in the role of Team Lead where I learned a lot, had some good success, but also had some areas I really struggled as well. It is a busy role that has a lot of responsibility and I’m not sure I was ever successful in all aspects of the role at the same time. There was much of the role that I really enjoyed. Working with my direct team and trying to help them grow and get better was by far my favourite. Being surrounded by the others in the lead group was also such a positive thing. They kept me honest, helped push me, but were also always there for support as well.

Automattic has grown a lot and as that happen things change and roles change. For the last while it felt like I was needing to spend more of my time on the aspects of the lead role that were not tasks that I derived energy from and that caused a drain.

Thankfully I didn’t have to look elsewhere. Automattic doesn’t see the lead role as a promotion, it is simply a different role. That means when I went into the role I didn’t get a pay raise and so, while there were many factors I weighed and went back and forth on in my head when looking at my options, salary and pay didn’t have to factor in. It made it much easier to focus on where I wanted and where I could best spend my energy. 

In the end a few months back I talked with my lead and let them know I’d like to start making plans for me to step out of the lead role. It was a relatively painless process for me, though it did accelerate a couple other organizational team changes internally. Now I’m still on Team Jupiter, but it looks a bit different, there were a few folks I had worked with before came back to the team, some people who were on the team went to another team, and there were some new folks added to the mix. Though the people have changed it is still a great team.

My days now are spent once again directly helping customers for the majority of time. Though differently than when I was a lead I can still help others grow and get better at the Happiness Engineer role. When I come across a conversation with a customer that I may have handled differently, or where it seems to have hit an area someone is not as familiar with I can share that feedback directly with the other person involved. In turn I can get the same type feedback and improve myself. 

The past two months have energized me again. Working with customers is something I really enjoy, but I also still have time that I can contribute and work on other projects as well. One of the things I loved most about the lead role is I felt like I could have a big impact in that role. That hasn’t changed with the new role. I still see so much I can do to help myself, our customers, my colleagues, and the company be successful. 

Fast Forward 20 Years

Today my colleague Jeremey DuVall wrote a post called Highs & Lows of Leading a Team, if you’re not following him already you certainly should. The feelings he wrote about are certainly ones I’ve been feeling recently at work. Like many business / leadership books and articles I’ve read there are many comparisons I can make to parenting.

Parenting is certainly a series of ups and downs as well, except recently I’ve been stuck in the completely incompetent area. Some would say I had it coming as 20 years ago I was making my mother feel the same way that I am right now. At the age of 17 I left home and moved in with friends. For years I barely spoke to her. Spent my time blaming her for what I perceived as a rough childhood, thinking I was so much smarter than her. How arrogant.

Now fast forward 20 years I’m going through essentially the same thing with my oldest. As much as I tried to protect her from making the same mistakes and wrong choices I made it doesn’t seem to have worked. She’s at least doing better than I was at that age, she’s at least living with her mother instead of staying with friends and spending some nights sleeping in 24 hour Tim Hortons. The choices I made back then caused me to take two years more than it should have to complete high school and come very close to getting myself into some real trouble. It was the news of my daughter coming a long that finally caused me to straighten myself out. That makes this all the more painful.

She was able to help me through a dangerous period of my life and I wasn’t able to protect her from seeming to head down a similar road to the one that I was once on. She’s not there yet though and I’m hoping she can change course before it really effects her life in ways that are difficult to come back from. While I can learn to live with her not talking to me as long as she is happy and safe, I’m hopeful that she will have a change of heart, and sooner than I did at that age.

To my Mother, even though I’ve done it in the past I want to apologize again for the trouble that I gave you and the heart ache I must have caused. Having some experience being a parent now it’s obvious to me you make the best decisions you can. I’m far from perfect so my decisions won’t always be the right ones, but I know, like you, I’ve made them all with the best intensions.

To my Daughter, hopefully some day you will see this as well and we can have a good relationship again. I will always love you no matter what and can be patient.

 

One Month In

One Month In

It is amazing how fast this past month has gone by. I had to look back on my blog to double check to see if it had really been a full month. It was really was June 1st that I started in my role as a team lead and here we are at June 30th and almost the end of the day.

There have been a number of times during this month where I have felt way over my head. The group of leads at Automattic are such a smart and dynamic group, like the company as a whole, impostor syndrome has kicked me pretty hard at times. What business do I have being associated with these folks? To prove how awesome they are, and rub it in a bit more, they have also all been extremely supportive and assure they went through the same thing. My previous lead Zandy has been so helpful to me moving into this role and sharing so much good information and her knowledge from her experience.

When it comes to interacting with the team I’m on directly I feel pretty confident. They make things pretty easy and I enjoy being able to interact and talk with each member. Most of the stress comes from me trying to figure out how to organize my time. What is the best things I can be doing to support the team? Then when it comes to working with the group of leads, despite their support, I’m still lacking confidence to contribute a lot in this front. Most of the chats I’ve been on with them involve me being pretty silent and just taking it all in.

The past few days especially seem as though they can be a turning point for me though. They days have gone very smooth and I’ve been feeling on top of things. A big part I’m sure is just time, I’ve been at this a month now, but yesterday I went back to really analyzing my time and how I’m spending it. It forced me to think about my day in advance and then I track at a pretty granular level how I’ve been spending my time. I’m still not sure I am using my time as best I can, but I have a good picture of where my time is going and I’ll continue doing this for a while more. From there I can work on making sure I’m spending my time where I’ll have the most impact.

I won’t go into all the details but I thought I’d give a run down of what my day was like today.

Typically I start my day fairly early. This morning it was about 6:15 am when I first signed on. I started by getting caught up on things that had happened over night from when I last checked on things. Typically this is reading only, I don’t usually respond to anything just read things over. Then I take a break for a bit to grab breakfast and coffee.

7:30 am is when I had myself scheduled to do a session of live chat. When chat was quieter I would also work answering questions in our mobile app support. Always lots to do! I had scheduled for 2.5 hours but I ended up on for just about 3 all together. I love that I’m still able to provide direct support to our users. For one it is something I’m comfortable doing so it is a good confident boost when some of the other things I’m not so sure on yet. Plus I get to have comments like this one I received this morning.

You are a life saver Sandy

After a quick break and more coffee I went into start preparing to have a one on one with a team mate. I reviewed things we talked about last time and the goals they were working on. Double checked to see where they were in working towards them. From there we went right into the meeting. The chat was really enjoyable and we had a good conversation.

Last night I had been sent a request to provide a bit of feedback on one of the team. So my next task was to get that done. It was at this point where I figured I was on the right path. The feedback came pretty easily because I knew them pretty well. I knew what they were working on and where they were in the process.

From there I took another short break to get more coffee, do you see a trend here yet? Thanks to my flexible schedule I was then able to take my oldest to an orthodontist appointment. While I was there I was able to spend some time getting caught back up in slack conversations. The appointment ran a bit longer than I thought so it became clear I was going to be late for a lead chat that was scheduled. I let the rest of the group know that I would end up being late. My lead Andrew tells me not to worry if I can’t join and to take care of family stuff, which is extremely comforting, but I really did want to attend as well. As it ended up I made it back home pretty quick and was only a few minutes late.

Once were done there I took a bit of time to do some organization. There were some things I needed to add to my todo list from the chat so did that and organized some other tasks and added some reminders to my calendar.

Took another break to grab some food and give my teeth a good cleaning because it was time for me to go to my own dentist appointment. It seems the past couple weeks it’s been dentist season in my house. The kids all had cleanings and some then had follow up appointments. We have the orthodontist appointments, and I was having some serious pain. Heat really bothers it so I’ve been making and drinking iced coffee instead. Earlier this week I had a checkup and then was scheduled in today for a root canal. I’ll take this time to say how thankful I am for the benefits plan Automattic provides as well or else I’m pretty sure between the dentist and orthodontist they would own my house by now.

Before I had to leave for the appointment I had a bit of time so I started in on watching a recording of one of the Leadership Workshops that co-worker Simon has setup and organized. This one was on Thinking Like a Founder by Chris Hardie. I didn’t get to finish it then but after my appointment I came home and took one of my daughters to their dance class. While she was there I went to the cafe where I could bot drink a hot coffee again and finish off the leadership session.

This evening I hopped back on to write up a few posts to get feedback from the team on that were followups from the lead chat earlier. So I spread the day out a bit, but I had a couple breaks in there for the appointments which is the great part about having a flexible schedule. Thinking about the day and month in general led me to send this tweet earlier.

The downfall of tweets though is that it is hard to get the full story, so that’s what inspired me to write down the post showing some of the reasons I’m so thankful for my job and just some of the things that make it so great.

If you’ve been here before you probably already know how I’m going to end this off. We’re hiring!

A New Role

A New Role

The past few months for me at Automattic have been simply out of this world. In December I let myself get into a little rut and had concentrated myself almost exclusively on providing support in our Mobile apps. I would spend just about my full day there everyday without a lot of interaction from my peers. It was then I decided I needed to mix things up a little bit.

It started with me doing a rotation to another team. January and February are typically some of our busiest months so I waited until close to the end of February to start. For two months I was able to experience working with another team and supporting other products that I wasn’t very familiar with, VaultPress and Jetpack, with the most focus on VaultPress. They are excellent products for WordPress used to help bring some of the security and features which we offer on WordPress.com to self hosted versions of WordPress. During these two months I learned so much about these products and just about another aspect of Automattic I didn’t have a lot of connection to previously.

Pretty much right when I started my rotation I also offered to help organize my home teams upcoming meetup and project we would work on while we were there. To go along with that I started to help out organizing our weekly team chats as well. Although at times it felt like a lot to balance it worked very well to keep me connected to my team while working with another.

Pushing myself to learn new things and take on new tasks, many of which were not in my comfort zone, was a turning point for me. It allowed me to gain insight into some of my work habits and allowed me to make improvements, expand my skills and develop new ones.

As a team we started the discussion of our teams future. We had ended up being a large group and it made sense that we should split our team into at least a couple of smaller ones and I was asked if I would be the Team Lead for one of them. During our meetup one of the things we worked on was splitting us up into three squads with the idea that if these became our teams it would give us lots of room to grow as we are hiring more.

Since we have been back from the meetup we have been working together closely in our squads but still as one big team and it worked out very well. Being able to attend SupConf excited me and put me in a good mindset to come back with.

As it turns out SupConf was really great timing for me as on Wednesday we made the split. Each of the squads we had broken into became their own team each with a new team lead. It’s a little bitter sweet for me. While I’m both nervous and excited about my new role, I’m also a little sad to see the team I was on since being hired become part of Automattic history. I’ve learned so much from the team especially from Zandy my team lead. I’m so thankful for her guidance and little bit of pushing to get me here.

While I’ve held team lead type positions at previous companies, like most things, Automattic is very different from them. Early on when I was asked about where I saw myself in Automattic or what direction I wanted to head my answer was that I did not see myself in a team lead role. Here a team lead isn’t considered a promotion, just a different role. This makes it possible that if this role and just end up not being meant for each other I could easily move back into my previous role. However, as Automattic is so different I now feel this will be a good fit and that I will be able to make good contributions to our team and Automattic as a whole, while growing myself.

It’s still very new and I have a lot to learn, it’s a similar feeling to when I first started my Trial, just so much information and new things to consider. Thursday morning I got up early and went for a short walk just to prepare myself for the day. I took a couple minutes just to look out over the beautiful view, stand, think, and be appreciative of everything in my life right now, in particular this new opportunity. I’m very much looking forward to this new role though and excited to be working with our team.