When Automatticians meet up

Being a distributed team has its challenges (and loads of benefits, too). We meet up with our teams at least once a year in person (last year our team met up in Rome), and the whole company meets up once a year for our Grand Meetup.

Aside from these meetups, Automatticians also meet up in their respective cities or regions now and then. These don’t always happen as frequently, but they’re a lot of fun when they do! Here’s a recent dinner with some of my Canadian colleagues, courtesy of a post from Jen:

When Sandy first started working for Automattic he was the only employee living in Nova Scotia. Today we have 8, which is pretty awesome for our small province within a worldwide distributed company. Since our company is distributed we are given an allowance to have holiday dinners within our own areas and get together with […]

Jen McFadden

It’s also worth reading Matt Mullenweg’s post about the importance of meeting in person:

Pride and self-congratulation before the Idiot Tax (we’ll laugh about this later)

Last week, while my family was in Eilat for a long weekend vacation, I made my way to a shopping complex just outside my city.

I was there to do some research for our daughter’s birthday party (check!), look for running shoes (nope!), and one or two other errands.

While I was there, I thought I’d pick up a spare SIM card, just in case (… one of our kids lost their phones).

I thought this was admirably forward thinking on my part, especially given that this was the only place I could buy this SIM card nearby (in some respects, we’re pretty backwards here in Israel), and it usually involves a nauseating 30-40 minute bus ride to get there. 🤢

As it turned out, when my family returned home, my wife informed me that they had left my daughter’s phone in Eilat.

Not to worry, I thought, we could replace her cheap Nokia feature phone (an 8 year old really doesn’t need a smartphone), and it just so happens I have a spare SIM card! 😁

I’m sure you can imagine how proud I was that I had the foresight to buy that spare SIM card!! 😊

My wife and I went off to the mall so I could get a snappy haircut. While we were there, we bought our daughter a cool, new Nokia 3310 phone.

When we returned home, I went online, and activated the new SIM card. I placed it into our daughter’s new phone, and congratulated myself once again.

Not long afterwards, our son emerged from his bedroom with his phone, and casually asked me why his SIM card had stopped working.

It didn’t take me long to realise what I had done. 😱 Pride gave way to shame, and dismay. I had switched our son’s number over to the new SIM, not our daughter’s.

Oh, and once a SIM is deactivated, you can’t reactivate it.

And I was fresh out of SIM cards! 💩

I took a quick look at my calendar, and realised that the only time I had to journey back to that store for a replacement SIM card was, well, today.

So, I tucked my pride, and sense of wonder at how well prepared I was just a few days ago, and started the journey back to the store.

I bought two SIM cards, just in case.

Thankfully I managed to activate the SIM card for the correct number, second time around. All it cost me was my Idiot Tax for not taking a couple extra seconds to check which phone number I was activating the first SIM card for, as I was basking in the warmth of my self-congratulation.

My Saturday afternoon hike up Givat HaTitora in photos

My blood glucose has been really high lately, so I’ve made an effort to get as much exercise as I can. That’s mostly been going for longer walks, and getting my heart rate up.

I decided to go for a hike up Givat HaTitoria this afternoon as an alternative to parking off in front of the TV for the afternoon.

The hill is an archaelogical site, and recently renovated tourist area that’s also pretty popular with Modiin’s residents. There’s a path around the top of the hill, with spectacular views of the city, and the area around it.

I walked past one of the city’s new water features, that was pretty spectacular in the late afternoon light. I had some fun messing around with shutter speed, and perspectives.

It was a nice way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

43

Chocolate birthday cake

Another year has passed, and it’s my birthday again! 🎉 Quite a lot has changed in the last year. Last year, I looked back on 2017, and where my path had taken me.

42

I pretty much ended my retrospective with the following:

While I don’t have all the answers (not even remotely), perhaps being 42 brings a few answers to the questions that I haven’t been able to answer so far.

42

Becoming an Automattician

The highlight of this year has been joining Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. When I wrote my 42 post, I had just been informed that I’d be joining a group of applicants in January 2018 to do a Trial for four weeks. It was a pretty intense four weeks, and when I emerged with an offer to join Automattic full-time, it was an incredible feeling.

Working at Automattic has changed my life in so many ways. To begin with, I work with incredible teams (both my immediate team, and the broader Automattic team) every day. We have a remarkable diversity of perspectives, opinions, skillsets, and backgrounds. In those times when I imagined what it may be like to work at Automattic, I don’t think I ever really anticipated being exposed to such an amazing team (you can join us too, we’re hiring 😁).

Automattic at Orlando in September 2018

Beyond the team I get to work with, I work from home, and I’m able to choose my availability for the most part. This means I can structure my days around my family, while taking into account where I can contribute more to our overall effort to provide high quality support to our customers, 24/7.

Join Automattic, see the world

Another benefit of working for Automattic is more frequent travel for our team meetup, and our annual Grand Meetup. This year our team met up in Rome for a week of workshops, sightseeing, and generally getting to know each other better. It was the first time I had met my team in person, and my first time in Rome. I enjoyed the trip tremendously.

Posing outside the Colosseum

In September, I joined several hundred other Automatticians in Orlando, Florida, for our Grand Meetup. It was an opportunity to meet even more of my colleagues, listen to inspiring speakers, and experience more of our company culture.

One of the many highlights of this trip included meeting Matt Mullenweg, our CEO. Another highlights was our evening at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Actually, there were so many highlights from that week, I’d probably need a longer list to do justice to the trip.

Automattic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

An addition to our family

We also expanded our family earlier this year. Gina and the kids had been asking me about adopting a dog for a while. I’d postponed the discussion for various reasons including the fact that we both worked at offices (at the time), and a dog would be alone for too long.

That reason pretty much went away when I started working at Automattic, so Gina found us our new furry child. Her name is Nessi, and she’s a rescue who was found with her litter near their dead mother when they were just a few weeks old.

Nessi

It took a while for her to adjust to us in the beginning. She soon became Aaron’s best friend, and she adores Gina and the kids. Her rough start has left her with some pretty deep anxiety issues, and she’s scared of just about everyone outside our family.

It can be challenging at times because her response to a perceived threat is to become aggressive. We’re working on training for her, to help us better understand her, and how to reach her better. When her fear doesn’t overcome her, she’s cheeky, smart, and really playful.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

With everything that’s happened in the last year, I feel like I’m only just getting started with, well, almost everything.

My role as a Happiness Engineer has expanded beyond our core email and live chat support to one to one video support, buddying for new hires who do a support rotation when they start working at Automattic, and even buddying new Trials hoping to join us as full-time Happiness Engineers.

We don’t have a conventional hierarchy at Automattic, so you can pretty much choose your career path. It turns out I have a talent for training, as well as being a support professional. The work is varied, I’m always learning new things, and I have constant opportunities to apply skills acquired in my past careers to my work.

I love that I get to spend more time with our kids. I see them off to school in the mornings, I’m home when they return from school at lunchtime, and I’m around to help them out with homework in the afternoons (well, I’m still working on this part – it’s really easy to become consumed by my work).

Interestingly, even though we could literally work almost anywhere (we just need a relatively quiet workspace and a good Internet connection), I much prefer working from home. The thought of working at a coffee shop has a sort of romantic appeal, but I like being in my space. 🏡

As 2018 winds down, I’m looking forward to growing more at Automattic, becoming better at differentiating between work and my family time so I can spend more quality time with my family, and continuing with my efforts to learn to code that I started in earnest last year.

My focus has been on learning Python 3 the last few months. I really like the language, and I’m trying to build some consistent learning time into my regular schedule.

Next year is bound to bring more challenges, experiences, and rewards. I’m looking forward to it!

Tweeting to preserve history

D Sami Reindeer 12

I suppose Twitter still has its good use cases. Tweeting to preserve history isn’t one of them. I came across this fascinating Twitter thread by Marina Amaral about the Sami people, who’ve been living in what’s now Finland for thousands of years:

The thread runs for several tweets, and it includes wonderful resources such as maps, old photos, and more recent photos that illustrate how these people have adapted to a modern world.

As much as I enjoyed reading Marina’s wonderful overview of these people’s history, I couldn’t help but wonder why she chose to tweet this, instead of blogging it? She has a remarkable blog that covers a range of historical events, and themes.

When it comes to digital preservation of these sorts of cultural and historical legacies, surely publishing it to a blog would be a far better medium?

Photo credit: D Sami Reindeer 12 by Michiel van Nimwegen, licensed CC BY NC ND 2.0

Walking to the library the long way

I wanted to go for a walk this morning. We have some overdue library books so I decided to walk to the library. I managed to drop off one of the books, and got some exercise in the process.

I made a point of doing more walking before I bought my Fitbit, but having the Fitbit is a great incentive to do even more. I enjoy tracking more of my metrics when I’m out, and about.

Earth’s 5 continents

My daughter informed me that, according to her teacher, there are 5 continents:

  1. The Americas (because North and South America are connected)
  2. Africa
  3. Australia
  4. Europe
  5. Asia (no comment on how connected Europe and Asia are)

Antarctica is apparently just a really big block of ice …

The world really has changed since I was at school … 🌎

Update: One of my colleagues pointed out that there are a few ways to count the continents (SPOILER: Each method includes Antarctica).

The end of a busy week

Checked into

Finishing off a busy week, ahead of my trip to the USA for the Automattic Grand Meetup.

Modiin, Central District, Israel