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. 

Proud Dad / Coach

Proud Dad / Coach

This weekend has caused me to fill with pride, not because anything I’ve done, but because the effort and growth Noah and his whole basketball team has made this year.

Last year I had told the coach of the Little Dunkers group Noah was in that I’d be happy to help out with anything I could. At the beginning of this year in the Under 10 group he asked me if I was still interested and that led me to be sort of an assistant coach to the team. Basketball is the sport I know the most about, because I played a lot of in my younger years, but I was never coached and have no experience being a sports coach. Thankfully the other coaches are fantastic so I get to learn from them and basically repeat everything they say while helping the kids in practise. Honestly I’ve probably learned as much as the kids have over the year.

We technically finished our season a while back but didn’t want to quite yet. We asked some of the kids from our team and another local team if they wanted to keep going and so made up a new team. We’ve been practising hard usually a couple times a week and they are keen to learn and push themselves. It’s inspiring to see the kids put in the work, get noticeably better, build trust with each other, and really become a team.

At the beginning of the year Noah was timid, would pull up early when dribbling down the court, and just hold back in general. Throughout the year he’s become a good defensive player, he’d stick to players and fight for rebounds. This weekend he took it further, he was diving for loose balls and driving to the net. Watching Noah’s confidence grow makes me so happy.

This weekend we played in a small tournament we were invited to. We played two games on Saturday where we won the first game and then lost the second by one point in a very hard fought battle against a strong team. This morning we won again which took us to the final game against the team we lost to yesterday. Once again it was a hard fought game that came down to us winning by just a couple points. You can see from the players on the bench in the background while Noah was taking this foul shot in some of the last seconds of the game how invested they all were. Everyone on their feet as each point here made a difference. I don’t have many fingernails left today.

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We still have a couple tournaments we’re going to play in and I can’t wait to this group get even better. Here’s a little video that we put together as part of a contest to see more of this team.

This guy wouldn’t let the cold stop him

This guy wouldn’t let the cold stop him

Yesterday I didn’t move very much. Right up until about 9pm my Fitbit was only showing about 1200 steps, that’s pretty lazy. Earlier in the day when it was even lower than that I was chatting with my team about how I should go out for a walk but that I was being a wimp about the cold. Trying to assure them that I wasn’t always so lazy, and afraid of the weather, I shared this picture from a few years ago when the cold didn’t stop me and I’d go out running in about anything.

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This morning my teammate Guga shared this, I think he was trying to make me feel better about being such a baby about going out in the cold that he tried to make me look like a badass. Even funnier this was the only first person shooter style game I ever played any amount of, I was terrible at it.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

 

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!

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.

Feeling better

After four days of feeling horrible and then two days of taking it pretty easy I think I’m finally getting back to myself. 

Losing 15lbs in four days, although needed, is not ideal. Today I actually ate some food and it felt good. 

Taking the kids to dance class did wear me back out quite a bit. But I’m confident after taking it easy tonight I’ll be good tomorrow. 

The best as we can figure is that it is the antibiotics that wreaked havoc on my system. Hopefully now that I’m done with them I am at the end of it all. 

Once again I am blown away by team during all this. Not only do they all encourage me to make sure I take the time to get better but one of them had this sent to my house today for me. Thank you all!