Pointless Learning

Pointless Learning

After driving through some of the more boring states and provinces on our way out west I decided I was going to have something to do while sitting in the passenger seat on the way home.

For a while now Noah has wanted a Rubik’s Cube so we finally got him one. I remembered as a kid wanting badly to figure out how to solve one but never putting in the time to do it. There was going to be lots of time on this drive home, so I picked one up for myself as well.

Thanks to the internet I was able to figure it out and can now solve one pretty quickly! I’ll not be going to competitions, but I’m just happy to solve one.

This the first time in a while I learned something not useful to me but it was still fun to do. Who knows, maybe someday knowing how to solve a Rubik’s Cube will come in handy for something.

I will never stop learning.

I will never stop learning.

Since I was a teenager I have thought about getting a tattoo of some sort. In the end I always ended up not going through with it as I could never decide something I would be happy with having on my body forever. I’m thankful that I held off as some of the ideas I had back then wouldn’t be choices I made today.

A while back I found the perfect thing to get, something that I knew I’d be happy with long term and yesterday I had it done. It’s the first sentence of the Automattic creed: I will never stop learning.

I reference the creed quite often, whether it is while I am working, or in posts I have written here, but the first sentence is what has always struck me most. Friends and family already poke fun at me because so much of my wardrobe is either WordPress or Automattic themed, but this goes beyond that. Even though Automattic is a fantastic employer I’m not naive enough to think that nothing could happen in the future to make me not feel the same way about it. Long before I joined Automattic I had told people if I could be a professional student for the rest of my life I’d be happy.

It wasn’t always that way though. High school was a rough time and I wanted to do anything but be there. Not that I didn’t learn anything during that time. I learned lots about life, how to have fun, and hard times. It wasn’t the learning I should be doing, but that was a lesson within itself. I won’t make that mistake again and won’t pass up opportunities to learn.

Going forward this tattoo will be a reminder to not let myself become stagnant but to keep moving and learning new things. Accept challenges and use them to learn. When things get frustrating to remember there are answers to be found. Also, no matter what the future brings, to remember the great opportunity I’ve been given and the amazing people I’ve met because of Automattic.

 

Tattoo
I will never stop learning.

Automattic Grand Meetup MMXVI

Saturday was the first day I’ve felt back to myself and on the Atlantic timezone since the end of the 2016 Automattic Grand Meetup. So far I’ve written several posts about the trip but wanted to post about my thoughts overall. Talking about the zip line adventure or the wwwp5k only goes into some of the planned fun we do. We also do a lot of work planning, and having awesome discussions.

One of the great things we all do I’ve posted about before as well, our flash talks. Each Automattician prepares and gives a maximum of four minute presentation on any topic they want. With the company getting so big this takes up a lot of time. This year we had four rooms setup to allow four streams of flash talks to be going on at the same time. They were broken up over the week. This means at most you can only see a quarter of the flash talks, but every one is also recorded so you can watch them later as well. I love flash talks. Both watching others and learning a bit about them or what interests them, and even though they make me very nervous, even giving my own.

One of the first days was dedicated a team day. This allowed us to get together in our own teams and do some planning and in person discussion which doesn’t happen very often. One of our team members wasn’t able to make it, and shortly our team will grow by one, but all of us there had worth while discussions and spent time showing each other a bit of our typical work flows to share how we work.

Near the end of the time we opened it up so that we could have a Happy Hour. This was a spot and time where the whole Happiness Team could get together. There were tables setup and seeded with questions to start the discussion. We would then move people around to other tables so you could meet even more people.

gm-jupiter
I mentioned we have fun too right? This was at the closing party photo booth!
We had town halls for the whole company where our CEO, spent until early morning hours at the front of the room fielding questions and having discussions with all who could stay up as well. There were lots of other town halls throughout the week which were similar style for different groups throughout the company. Such a great way to get an understanding of where other teams are and what their plans are.

There are also projects and classes which you can signup for ahead of time and spend the week working on. At the end of the week the projects all do a demo day showing what they have worked on. It’s inspiring to see what can be accomplished in such a short time. The classes are all taught by co-workers sharing the knowledge they’ve learned with others. This year I took a class on People and Project management put on by a couple from our HR team and one of the team leads who I highly respect.

One of my favourite parts are the meals. We have an internal site, and now app thanks to one of the meetup projects, where you can keep track of all the other Automatticians you’ve met. This data is used to help assign people to meals with people they haven’t met. Having small groups who may not know each other doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but because everyone is so approachable it almost always leads to interesting conversation where I learn lots. It was also very entertaining to look around the restaurant and see it being almost completely taken over by co-workers. Picture this group in the pictures below spread out in restaurants throughout the village.

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Support at the Grand Meetup

One of downfalls which we are still learning to best deal with is how to handle support during a week when everyone is meant to be learning with each other. In addition to the project and classes some people do choose to do their regular job during the meetup. So for Happiness Engineers that involves doing support. In some years past we have closed our support contact forms with a message letting our customers know where we are and what we are doing and when we will be back at it. This year we tried not to completely close it but leave it open for some of our newest customers on WordPress.com. Other products handled things similar as well.

With WordPress.com support we still ended up quickly getting a large number of tickets submitted in a short time. It was clear we were going to fall behind in our response times. Some of this is expected and we booked time for when we arrived home for many people to spend time answering as many as they can to get caught back up. To make that job easier though we sent out a call asking for people to get together after dinner one night and answer tickets. This ended up being a highlight of the week for me. We had people who don’t normally do support join us. We had people who support other products join us and help answer our WordPress.com customers. With this group of people we spent a couple of focused hours going through tickets and were able to answer a large amount. It was really something to watch and be a part of. There were some pictures floating around, but I wish I had taken a step back and taken one myself.

Since we’ve been back we have been able to get caught back up and ready to start this week strong. There have also been talks already about how we can make more improvements for next year and holidays. This isn’t all coming from the Happiness team either! It really makes me happy to be with a company so dedicated to support.

To finish off here are some more pictures from my trip and walks around Whistler Village.

I Will Never Stop Learning

This afternoon I was came up with an idea of something I wanted to do with an internal tool at work. It didn’t quite do what I was looking for unfortunately, but I wasn’t sure if that was the case at first.

Chatting with the main developer Timmy Crawford on the project we realized it didn’t work, but that it could be a good thing to have. I’ve been wanting to learn how to work with Github for some time but just never have. Timmy took the time on, my whim, and helped me through making my first pull request making the needed changes and getting the new feature live. Thanks so much!

In the end it was only a few lines of code, and it took a few tries to get it right, but I now have code I contributed to running in production that is used by most of the people I work. Even if they don’t use the feature we added, it’s there available to them and that’s a cool feeling.

The project was also in CoffeeScript which I have never written in before, so that was a learning curve. It turns out CoffeeScript doesn’t like ternary operators with the question mark colon syntax. That was one of the tries that didn’t work 🙂 So x = test ? a : b; needed to be x = if test then a else b;

All in all it was a really fun evening, even if I did get a bit of dirty looks from Jen because I was on my laptop so long when we have house guests over, ooopps.

Love What You Do

It’s coming up on the one year mark from when I started my Trial with Automattic and I’ve been working full time here for about ten months now. Looking back on my past jobs and places I’ve worked I really don’t remember a time where at this point I wasn’t looking for other opportunities. Not this time. There isn’t any part of me that wants to be looking to move anywhere else. When I realized this I thought I should sit and think about what makes this company so different for me.

There are the obvious things that you can see when you read the benefits on the Work With Us page, and although those go to show that they do value you as an employee and want to keep you happy, that is really only a small part of it for me.

One of the biggest things for me is that I’m doing something I really am passionate about. Helping people get online. The mission of WordPress in general is to democratize publishing. That is a short statement but very powerful. The goal is to make the same opportunity to have your message available online to everyone. WordPress already goes a long way to make this happen, but there is still along way to go as well. Automattic is dedicated to working towards this. Whether it is by offering the free plan to everyone on WordPress.com, working on getting the software available in many more languages, or by dedicating as much time and effort as we do contributing to the open source project.

One of the things that really makes me proud to be a part of is when it come to freedom of speech. If everyone is going to have the same opportunity to publish their views, that is going to end up including people who have views you don’t agree. Automattic goes above and beyond to fight for the rights of all people using the service. One example of this is scoring perfect on the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Who has your back report. You can see some other examples on our transparency reports Hall of Shame.

Even though we all work remotely and I’ve only met a handful of my co-workers in person so far, the people that get hired here are amazing people. The hiring team and process do a great job to make sure the people hired are going to be a good fit.

When I was sick and in the hospital I received many well wishes. A co-worker from Scotland had a lovely plant delivered to me  and my team sent flowers as well. This in addition to everyone letting me know not to worry about anything. Take as much time as I needed and things would be covered. They were genuinely concerned with me getting better.

That’s an example of when something major happens and everyone showing their support. This also goes on in little ways every day. Everyone is willing to take the time needed to help you solve a problem, work something out, or even listen to you vent about something work related or even something outside of work that has you frazzled. The support I see given to me and to everyone else is outstanding.

A lot of these things come back to the Automattic Creed which I’ve previously written about. People here believe in and and live it.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

When I did my Trial I had a Buddy, a full time employee who would be with me through the process to help me in what ever way they could. It meant a lot to have someone you knew you could count on to ask anything. I’ve been a buddy to a few new employees who were doing a support rotation after they were first hired, but currently I have my first Trial Buddy. It is exciting that now I get to be the person to help pass on the things I’ve learned to someone else in this bit more formal way.

I will never stop learning.

That’s the first line in the creed. There is so much to learn here in general, let alone that it is in the tech industry which is always evolving and changing. There is no way I could ever get bored unless I purposely avoided trying to learn new things. Automattic helps make this possible as well. Reimbursing for books, courses, and encouraging learn-ups between co-workers.

Trust. From the minute you’re hired you have the same access to everything as every one else. You’re free to make decisions and do what you feel is right. As a Happiness Engineer most of that centers around ensuring what you’re doing is best for the person I’m working with, or the people in general who use our products.

Automattic values their employee’s happiness and well being as well. That’s why there is so much flexibility left in terms of schedules and vacation policy. It comes back to being trusted as well. Recently I approached our Events Sponsorship manager with not much notice about us supporting an upcoming local conference BlogJam. She made it work and we were able to help out the conference. This is great for me as it is the first year it is running and selfishly I want to make sure everything goes well so it can be around for more years and just get larger and better.

Just the other day I was reminded in another way the value us when a co-worker was doing a support rotation, where one week you give up your usual role and spend it doing support instead. It is similar to the first three weeks when anyone is hired. They were working doing live chat and one of the users was abusive, intolerant, and making just rotten comments in general. When the lead of our Happiness group found out about this he personally refunded this person all the money they had paid us for services and emailed them directly letting them know with such an interaction they were better off not being a customer with us and asked them to move their services elsewhere.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this done, but it really shows they value all the employees and aren’t going to allow someone just because they are paying to treat people here like that. Luckily this is not a common occurrence as the vast majority of people I interact with are no where near like that and appreciative of the support they receive.

This ended up being a bit longer than I expected, but if you’re still with me think you and Automattic would be a good match, we’re hiring, come work with me.