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Miscellany Social Web

Birthday balloons on Twitter 🎈

Some platforms present a little something special on your birthday. Twitter has balloons that float up over your screen when you visit your profile page on your birthday. I get a kick out of seeing this every year! 😁

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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.

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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.

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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 Coding Events and Life Mindsets

42

Today is my birthday. I’m 42.

I’ve never been a “well, a birthday is just another number” person. To me, each birthday is a special day, an event to celebrate.

I usually celebrate my birthdays with a “Me Day” if the day falls mid-week. Last year I took the day off, watched one of my favourite movies, and went for a photowalk around my city.

Living in interesting times

This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. I’ve been thinking about what to write about it for a couple months and, as I sit here writing this, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

I left my job at InboundJunction in March (it didn’t work out for a couple reasons and my contract was terminated), and I’ve been looking for a job since then. I started doing some freelance marketing work around the same time but my main focus has been on my search for a fulltime position.

As I write this, I’ve applied for 148 positions (I have 67 current applications). Many of the companies I’ve approached and interviewed at, are remarkable companies. One thing that has struck me during my job search is just how many amazing opportunities there are here in Israel.

Granted, not all of those companies are my dream employers but those companies are in the distinct minority. Whatever may be going on in the rest of the world, Israel is buzzing.

Code, the Universe and Everything

One of the benefits of the Israeli social net is about 7 months of unemployment benefits to help get you back on your feet. You can’t retire on the monthly payments but they give you some breathing room.

Rather than spending my time watching Netflix in between job applications, interviews, and occasional freelance work, I started learning to code in earnest. I started with HTML (I knew some HTML but my knowledge was patchy), moved on to CSS, and just kept going.

Although I’ve wanted to learn to code for decades (literally), I never really got around to it (aside from developing a proficiency in MultiMarkdown, and picking up a little Python 2.7.x last year). Being unemployed with time on my hands gave me the perfect opportunity.

A couple factors pushed me off my procrastination ledge. One was seeing our son learning basic JavaScript on Code.org earlier this year. Another was watching a friend of ours spend a few minutes showing us a few simple (yet awesome) command line “tricks”. Then, there is this terrific video from Code.org:

Learning to code has helped me realise that code creates possibilities. Like Karlie Kloss said, “understanding coding is … like a superpower”. It takes from a place where you wish “someone” made that thing you want, to be able to make it yourself.

My journey that started with <!doctype html> has taken me through a fantastic world where, using a text editor and an Internet connection, you can build amazing things. Here are a few of the languages I’ve learned (in varying degrees):

  • HTML;
  • CSS;
  • JavaScript (including Node.js, React and Ember);
  • WordPress-oriented PHP;
  • Shell scripting (I’ve learned to love the command line);
  • Build tools like gulp, npm scripting, and even a little Webpack and grunt; and
  • Git.

I feel like I’m just getting started. There is far more that I don’t know (and want to learn). And yet each time I write code that does something, it’s thrilling!

Along the way I’ve created projects that use what I’ve learned. They include little ones like this birthday site I created for our son when he turned 10, and bigger ones like Modiin Bus (currently being overhauled as I learn).

My coding journey has consumed me. There is always something to learn, code to improve, and projects to build. My personal writing and photography have taken a back seat (as you may have noticed). At the same time, I’ve gained so much in the process.

For one thing, learning to code opens the door to a whole new line of work for me. Rather than being limited to content marketing, I can explore web development roles too[1], and everything in between.

Mostly Househusband

One of the huge perks of my protracted job search is being home for most of the year. It’s almost given my wife and I an opportunity switch traditional roles.

She goes to work (as an awesome account manager at mySupermarket) and I take the kids to school, handle much of the housework[2], manage play-dates and after-school activities.

Being unemployed also made the annual school summer vacation (2 months!) so much easier to handle, logistically, because I was around to take and fetch from holiday camps, and be with the kids when they were just on vacation.

Although the challenges of my job search haven’t always been conducive to recognising the gifts of my current status, the experience of working from home all this time has highlighted what is most important to me.

Rather than never being around due to the demands of an intensive career that keeps me away from home, I’ve been around to watch our kids grow up over the last year.

It’s been a busy period, for sure. I am definitely not the type of person who’ll toss in a load of laundry and veg out till the kids come home. I’m constantly learning more code in between my freelance work, job search, and being here for our kids.

In the meantime, Gina’s career is blooming. She moved into a new account management role a few months ago and is awesome at it. I’m proud of her and of what she’s accomplished. If me being home has given her a little more space to do that, then this is yet another benefit.

So long, and thanks for all the .zsh

Of course, it didn’t escape me that there is something special about this birthday.

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.

At the very least, I feel like I have a better grasp on what’s really important, and what isn’t. Regardless of where I may find myself working (hopefully soon), I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had this year to learn, grow (a little), and be more present (mostly).

Ultimately, living in Israel (and in most of the world) generally means that both of us need to earn an income. So, my search continues. I love coding[3], I’ve had opportunities to interview at some of today’s most exciting companies, and there is still so much more to do.

I don’t know what lies ahead in 2018 but, as I keep reminding myself when I find myself slipping into Regretsville, we only really have the present moment. Sometimes, the moment we are in can be source of boundless opportunities.

It might even hold the answers we seek.


  1. Roughly half of my current job applications are for coding positions.  ↩
  2. Gina still does most of the cooking.  ↩
  3. Even when it frustrates me, when I suddenly can’t remember how to string a function together, or both.  ↩
Categories
Events and Life

Thoughts about my father and fatherhood on his birthday

Today would have been my Dad’s 66th birthday (I think). My father’s birthday is always a pensive day for me and I miss him a little more on these anniversaries.

On days like today, I often find myself trying to conjure up memories of what he was like as a father. I wonder how he would deal with all the little situations we encounter each day? I don’t have many clear memories of my childhood and yet I sometimes have a sense of how he would behave in random situations.

Being a father isn’t easy. We have our own personality quirks to muddle through at the same time we are learning about how to be better dads and parents to our children. There is always room to improve, to give our kids more attention, play more with them, be more present.

On one hand, it seems I can never live up to my expectations of myself as a father and on the other, I wonder if each step towards meeting them is all we can really do.

Even though I almost always feel like I am falling short of my expectations of what it is to be a good father, perhaps having those expectations is a testament to my father. He wasn’t perfect (none of us are) but he set the bar pretty high by his actions and by what he was able to do in the short time he was alive.

To say that I ask myself what my Dad would do often is an understatement. In many ways he guides my actions as a father even though he passed away years before I became a father. That makes the journey a little easier and his loss a little more meaningful.

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Business and work Mindsets People Web/Tech

A birthday, a radio interview and a magazine profile made for a crazy, awesome day

Wow, today was a crazy and awesome day for me. Today is my firm’s birthday so we celebrated with cupcakes which we delivered to some of our clients to say thanks for their support over the years. I only saw them at the end of this crazy day and ate two of them in quick succession. I had to eat a fruit afterwards to try balance out the extreme sugar hit! The cupcakes were made by Angel Conradie who runs The Cupcake Lady. Her cupcakes are practically the stuff of legend! If you haven’t tried some of these cupcakes, you are either incredibly disciplined or utterly deprived.

Cupcakes for Jacobson Attorneys birthday-9

To make my day even better, I was interviewed on Radio 702 about a fascinating case in Durban where a judge authorised service of court documents using Facebook. I’ve been interviewed on radio and TV before but this was more fun than usual and related to something I have been thinking about for a while. It’s pretty exciting to see the law developing in this direction even if this next step is a fairly small one. Of course the feedback from the radio interview was terrific too!

I had a chance to take my little girl to her first Kindermusik lesson after lunch and she loved it. That was some awesome Daddy-Daughter time. Then, to round off a crazy day, I found out that Tamaryn Watkins‘ profile of me has been published in Brainstorm Magazine. I love the article and I am stealing that title (Tamaryn agreed so I guess it’s not really stealing …).

Profiled!

Today has definitely been a good day both personally and professionally.

Categories
Business and work Entertainment People

Birthday @UberEllis

Birthday UberEllis-1

I do some work for Cerebra and I was at Cerebra’s offices when the staff gathered to celebrate Andre Ellis‘ birthday. Birthdays at Cerebra are great and I’ve only seen the office stuff. The staff gather in the kitchen area, sing happy birthday to the lucky birthday person and there is cake. Its a terrific environment and I love how the team gathers to celebrate.

Birthday UberEllis-5

Anyway, I take my camera with me pretty much wherever I go and had it with me yesterday. I took a couple photos which came out quite nicely and thought I would post them.

Birthday UberEllis-2

Birthday UberEllis-4

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