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.

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.

Hermes Team Meetup

Two weeks ago our team (Hermes) at work got together in Durham North Carolina to spend time together and plan our coming months. As I’m sure most readers of my blog know, Automattic is a fully distributed company. So while we communicate all the time, it’s rare we get to spend time in person together. That makes the time we do get all the more important.

Even though I’ve only been on a couple meetups, one team, and one company wide, I don’t think it will ever cease to amaze me the awesome people I work with. Since the last team meetup we went on our team has changed a great deal. In fact there are a number of people on the team who weren’t at the Grand Meetup in October so I hadn’t met them yet, so I was really excited for this one.

While I was excited I was also pretty nervous. I volunteered to organize and plan the work we would be doing while together. With the help of my colleague Simon who introduced me to it at our last team meetup, I came up with different activities using Game Storming. This was something out of my comfort zone but very was really fun and seemed to go pretty well for my first attempt. We spent our work days exploring different questions to help bring our large team together and come up with a shared understanding of what our teams contribution to the company goals over all should be, and what we can do to get there.

Although we accomplished a lot work wise during the week,  I think my favourite part are the connections we build. When you spend a week working closely, eating meals, and spending fun time together outside of your normal day to day routine, it really seems to speed up this bonding process. A couple team mates have said that after returning from meetups they can now hear the persons voice when reading things they’ve written. It just helps add that extra bit of context to written communication when you have a better feeling for the personality behind the words.

Durham is a neat city. It is really easy to get around, which is great, as it gave us the opportunity to explore it by walking. In the mornings some of us would get together and go wandering. It’s also how we went to most meals as well. The weather was beautiful just about the whole time we where there and I miss my early morning runs and being able to wear shorts and t-shirt.

We were staying right beside the beautiful Duke campus which we walked around. A group of us also spent a lot of time one day taking in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Coming from a place barely hitting spring and seeing all the flowers in bloom and all the green trees made for a memorable time.

Things are in the planning stage for this years company wide meetup and I’m already looking forward to seeing all these folks again.

Here are some pictures from my iPhone of Durham and the people I’m fortunate enough to call team mates!

Noah and Dad Time

Noah and Dad Time

Today was my first day home after a week where our team at work was able to meetup with each other. I’m going to talk more about that amazing time, but today Noah and I were able to spend some time together while everyone else was out.

The day before I had left for my trip a bunch of us had gotten together to go for a hike and find a waterfall. We had a lot of fun so I asked if he wanted to do it again except to another falls I had never been too. He agreed, so off we went.

We had a great time even though it was rough going while trying to stay dry. I had read others advising to go right through the brook but we tried to stay on the sides which were steep at times.

It wasn’t very far though so we made it and were pretty proud of our team climbing skills 🙂

The Grand Meetup Gitters

This past week has had me getting caught up on a lot of things, trying to be prepared to go away for a week to our annual company Grand Meetup. Last year I started working at Automattic on my Trial just shortly after everyone returned. At least one of my interviews was as they were all together. While I am very happy that this year I get to go myself and meet a large group of people who I’ve never met before, I also have a lot of anxiety about the trip.

I love traveling. Getting to see places I’ve never been, and all the people I work with are great. A few I’ve met during my team meetup the beginning of this year, but there are so many I’m really excited about getting to meet. There are going to be fun activities and interesting classes going on. The whole trip I’m confident is going to be a lot of fun. So what has me so nervous about it?

It’s not that I’ve traveled a lot, but there have been a few trips, and many of them I’ve gone on alone, not knowing anyone where I was going on the other end, but somehow this is different. Part of it is certainly the flash talk everyone will be giving. Getting up in front of people, as I’ve talked about before, is not fun for me. My presentation has been prepared and submitted for sometime though and I feel like I know how I want to present it well enough.

Even just the traveling part stresses me out. Flying is by far my favourite way to travel. I love looking out the window and seeing clouds or everything far below. The whole process still amazes me every time I do it. Airports on the other hand I don’t like. It feels like I never know where or how I’m supposed to move through. Do I take a carry on only, or check a bag? Do I have to pick up my checked bag and take it to the next leg of my flight, or does it follow me along automatically? What happens if I miss a flight? So many variables, even though I’ve never had a really bad time it still worries me.

Part of it is leaving everyone else here at home, it’s not often I’m away from Jen and the kids. Having the incredible flexibility I do with my job has allowed us to arrange our lives where we take full advantage of it. Lots of times Jen and I are just crossing paths or going opposite directions taking kids to where they need to be, or going to PTA meetings etc. So leaving everything to Jen has me stressed. Not that she can’t handle it, because I know she can, she does the lion share of organizing everything and making sure our household runs smooth anyway. But just the driving alone will be impossible to handle for one person. Luckily we have family and friends who are great about helping whenever they can, but I know it is still going to be extremely rough for her.

All week I’ve been knocking things off my to do list for before I leave. Even just little things seem to be bigger when you know they need to get done. Getting a hair cut, flu shot, car to the garage. Getting the lawn mowed, making all the phone calls you’ve been putting off. Making more arrangements for the car when you realize it needs a lot more than just an oil change.

Being an introvert and being around people, even though I enjoy it, takes me out of my comfort zone and I have to work at it. Having just gone to a conference this week and remembering how tired I felt afterwards, both because of everything going on, and because it also takes a lot out of me being in social situations like this. So realizing that I’m going to spend a week with a bunch of people, and getting to know them, makes me a bit tired just thinking about it.

All that said, I’m very excited to go on this meetup. Every interaction I’ve had with anyone at work so far has been a positive experience. Getting to meet these people and build real memories with them will make relationships stronger. One of things I’m most thankful for was getting to go, so soon after starting with Automattic, to Barcelona and meet my team. I feel it made us much closer and really solidified us as a team. Getting to do this with more people in the company will be awesome.

Knowing how much it costs, both financially and by taking people away from their regular jobs, goes to show that Automattic thinks the employees are important and that building these relationships with each other is a huge benefit. Another reason I feel so lucky to be a part of this.

Public Speaking

Like many, or most people public speaking is a bit of a phobia of mine. It’s not one that I can’t get over, but certainly not something I enjoy. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to get up in front of people but that’s going to change soon.

Over the past little bit I’ve had a few offers to talk about WordPress in particular, I’ve never come out and given straight answer on whether I would do it or not. Deep down I want to be able to these sorts of things but it is just so uncomfortable. So I leave the door open but never come right out and jump in.

That’s going to end soon. It’s good to get out your comfort zone and do things that are hard, it will help me grow. The first time coming up will kind of force me into it. At our coming all company get together each of us will do a flash talk. It can be pretty short and about any topic we want so that makes it easier, but it is still in front of a bunch of people most of who I have never met before.

I’m also going to commit to doing a talk at our local Refresh Annapolis Valley meetup that we do once a month. The organizer of the new WordPress meetup in Halifax has helped me work out a good topic for me to talk about at a future event there as well.

Hopefully when I get a few of these under my belt I’ll feel better about doing it more often. Talking about and helping people with WordPress is something I really enjoy doing either one on one or in small groups. If I can do that with even more people it will be even 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.

Getting Out and Being Social

This is something I struggle with. Working from home I am always interacting with co-workers and other people, but it is all online. As a family we go and do lots with other families and this is wonderful. Our group of friends are a great group and I always have a lot of fun with them and talking to them. Having these in person relationships and conversations are essential for me to stay a sane person.

Tonight I went out to a meeting with a group I haven’t been to in way to long, Refresh Annapolis Valley. There were three presenters tonight and they were all unique. Renée Downs is one of the organizers of the upcoming conference BlogJam in Halifax. She spoke about being a reluctant blogger and her story how she got started. Cheri Killam spoke about her year long project she’s undertaken called 5 Down. I’ve been following along and it’s an extremely interesting project, I encourage you call to take a look. The last speaker was Laura Churchill-Duke talking about her site and blog Valley Family Fun.

Equally beneficial to hearing the speakers is just the social interaction with other people. There were new people who I met for the first time and there were friends who I hadn’t seen or talked to for some time. Just tonight I’ve been invited to speak at a future Refresh event about WordPress. Tonight I also got talking with a professor who asked me to come be a guest lecture about WordPress to one of her business classes.

After getting a little taste I’m now even more looking forward to going to BlogJam and hearing and talking to more Bloggers in real life and to the upcoming first meeting for the Halifax WordPress Meetup.

Distributed Downfall

Working for a distributed company, and in particular Automattic, is amazing. There are so many upsides and I think talked about a lot of them previously. Don’t just take my word though, take a look through some posts by coworkers. For the past little bit however I think I’ve found the downfall of working remotely.

The people I interact with on a daily basis are awesome. Getting to meet my team so shortly after joining the company might have spoiled me, but I think I’m now going through withdraw. I want to be able to be closer to them, work with them, hang out with them.

Lately seeing some others getting together at local events, WordCamps, or conferences has me feeling a little jealous. Don’t get me wrong traveling is hard. It leaves Jen to balance everything by herself and get kids to the places they need to be which can be difficult with her job if these things fall in her regular working hours. If I’m gone we have to rely on other people to help out with the logistics of everything.

I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t have the opportunity to go and get together with others, I’ve never asked or tried to make the arrangements to do it. I know if I found something reasonably close and made the case to go I’d be able to do it no problem. This is me putting the limitation on myself.

The good news is in a few months we will be having the annual Grand Meetup where the whole company gets together. I’ll have a full week to meet and be with everyone! If you can’t tell I’m very much looking forward to it.

2015 Starting out big

2014 was a very good year and 2015 seems like it is going to continue right along.

We started last night with a great group of friends and family coming over with their kids to our house for a get together. We had good snacks and conversation. The kids had a good time, playing, watching movies, and some sparkler fun outside.

New Years Eve Sparklers

The grown ups ended the evening off with a game of Settlers of Catan, I came close to winning, but no such luck.

The first bit of this year is going to be pretty interesting. Jen and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary on the 3rd of this month and then the next day I leave for my first team meetup.

While I’m very excited to get together with my team in person, I’m also pretty nervous. I mean I barely leave my house these days and now I’m preparing to leave the continent for the first time. It will be worth it though and Spain will be nice this time of year. It’s calling for a fair amount of snow the day I leave so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get out easily. We’ve had pretty decent weather so far, but it’s turned cold now so it will be nice to go to a bit warner climate.