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Business and work Events and Life Mindsets Writing

In person kudos at the Automattic Grand Meetup

Appreciating our colleagues

We have an amazing culture at Automattic that includes giving each other kudos as one form of recognition for great work, whether that’s delivering happiness to a customer, or to each other.

Typically we use a Slack bot to share kudos, and that’s posted to an internal WordPress site dedicated to showcasing internal kudos.

At the Grand Meetup (which we attended in mid-September – I’ll probably share more from that soon), we also have the option of giving handwritten kudos to each other. I like the ease of giving digital kudos, and at the same time I really like being able to write a note to my colleagues to express my appreciation for their efforts.

Kudos IRL

This year I was fortunate to receive a few cards from my colleagues, and really appreciate each of them.

I decided against sharing details of all of the cards I received as the messages can be pretty personal. At the same time, I’m grateful for each card.

Categories
Business and work Coding Mindsets Policy issues

New Automattic research on how to improve gender representation for technical roles

Our team has just released a white paper titled “Trust, Growth,Inclusion: A Study ofWomen Engineers’Job-Search Priorities” that explores what motivates women and non-binary technical professionals to join companies, and what helps retain them.

Better gender representation is a challenge. I’m proud of our team’s efforts to better understand this challenge, and how to meet it. It’s clearly not something that’s capable of a simple fix, but I’m glad that we seem to be moving in a good direction. Here are some links if you’re interested in reading further:


If you’re interested in joining Automattic, we’re hiring people for a number of roles, especially in Engineering!

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Events and Life Travel and places

My Lisbon experience

I’m in Lisbon for my team’s meetup (last year we were in Rome). Our first day was a free day, and we went on a walking tour of parts of Lisbon. It was a terrific introduction to this city. Of course, I made plenty of photos.

We took the Metro to where we were going to meet our tour guide. I really like Lisbon’s subway stations. They each have a distinctive design, most of which appeal to me.

Rossio Square

We started off in Rossio Square where we met our tour guide, and started our walk.

Lisbon Massacre Memorial

Our first stop from there was a church that was a focal point of a tragedy for the Lisbon Jewish community, the Lisbon Massacre.

From there, we made our way back past Rossio Square deeper into the city.

Carmo Convent

We made our way up a hill (Lisbon is pretty hilly) to the Carmo Convent, which is also near an archaeological museum. There was a public gathering ahead of the Portuguese Freedom Day (also known as the Carnation Revolution). According to Culture Trip:

The words “military coup” and “peaceful” don’t usually go hand in hand, but they do when describing Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. Every year on April 25, Portugal remembers the non-violent rebellion that ended a 50-year long dictatorship and reestablished democracy in the country. Also known as Freedom Day, April 25 has become a national holiday that is celebrated across the country and in particular, in Lisbon.

How the Portuguese Celebrate April 25th, the Carnation Revolution

Santa Justa Lift

The popular Santa Justa Lift is nearby, so we went there next. Most tourists seem to queue at the bottom of the lift (you pay to go to the top). We walked across from the Carmo Convent to the public viewing deck (no charge for that), and had a remarkable view of much of the city.

Snack Break

We made our way back down to the street to head to a famous pastel de nata bakery for a snack (it was still Pesach, so I just had to admire them).

Tram Ride to the Old Quarter

From our snack break, we took a tram up to the older sections of the city. Much of Lisbon was destroyed in 1755 by a massive earthquake so the buildings we saw so far were relatively new as the city was largely rebuilt. The older section of the city, higher on the hill, fared better as it was built on bedrock.

The view from up there was pretty spectacular. You can see the harbour, and much of the city from that vantage point.

Alfama’s Illustrated History of Portugal

Alfama also contains a curious history of Portgual in the form of a comic painted onto the walls of a tunnel.

After that, we made our way through the twisting alleys towards the bottom of the hill. It started raining on and off, along the way.

At the bottom of the hill, we passed a series of water fountains that were separated for the various classes of people visiting Lisbon at the time. The fountains were in one of the walls that, at one point, protected the city.

Comércio Plaza

Our guided tour ended at the spectacular Comércio Plaza where there were preparations underway for the Freedom Day celebrations that night, and the following day. From there, we started making our way to lunch.

We stopped for lunch at the extremely busy Time Out Market where we picked something to eat from a variety of options. By this point we were exhausted.

We split up, with a couple of us heading back up a hill to a coffee spot one of my colleagues recommended, The Mill (map).

It was good coffee, and after that, we made our way back to the Metro, and back to our hotel. It was a pretty packed day, and a great way to get to see more of the city than we normally would.

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Business and work Events and Life Travel and places

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:

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Business and work Events and Life Travel and places

43

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!

Categories
Business and work Design

The Explainer

A big part of my role as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is explaining stuff to our users. I have a knack for it, particularly when it comes to email support.

I commented to some colleagues today that I should change my job title to “Explainer” (we can basically choose our job titles at Automattic). One of them came up with this awesome mashup:

The Explainer

I had to share it. It’s awesome!

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Travel and places

When in Rome …

One of the perks of working for Automattic is having the opportunity to travel for team and company meetups. I arrived in Rome earlier today for a week-long team meetup.

Because we’re a distributed company, we don’t often have a chance to meet our teams in person. Meetups are fantastic opportunities to get to know the people we work with so much better.

I started capturing my experiences when I arrived at the train station in Modiin on my way to the airport, partly so I could share my journey with my family through a shared Google Photos album.

Here are a couple of photos that I took of the area around our hotel, about a stone’s throw from the Vatican City:

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Blogs and blogging

All The Blogging At Automattic

One of my favourite aspects of working at Automattic is how central blogs are to how we communicate (another important tool is Slack). We have loads of internal blogs that we call “P2s” (because they generally use the P2 theme).

We use P2s to post support requests, share tips for doing better work, update each other on new additions to our families, submit internal support requests, and more.

It feels like we’re using blogs in ways that seemed like futuristic stuff back in the early 2000s, and that really appeals to me. There’s something about blogs that have appealed to me every since I first came across the medium in 2003/2004.

To actually work in an environment where they’re actively in use for so many purposes, and by so many people, is like being in Blog Nirvana.

I find more interesting ways to use our blogs each day at Automattic, and I love it.

When I see people dismissing blogs, I can’t help but think that they’re missing a huge opportunity by turning away from this incredible platform.