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!

Walking through the narrow streets of Rome

Even though I was in Rome for a team meetup, we had a free day on the Friday. I took a train to the central station in Rome with one of my colleagues, with the intention to go visit some of the attractions we’d read about on foot.

We were happy to see the various sites from the outside. We didn’t want to spend our day waiting in lines. Our first stop was the Colosseum.

As you can imagine, it’s a pretty popular tourist destination. One of our colleagues mentioned that it isn’t really worthwhile waiting in lines to see the inside so I took some photos of the outside instead.

From there we walked towards the Altare della Patria, via a series of ruins. There was some work being undertaken along the route so the pedestrian walkways were pretty busy. The ruins are pretty spectacular in themselves. I just kept thinking that they’re almost scaled up versions of the smaller ruins we’ve seen here in Israel (yup, the Romans left their mark here too).

The Altare della Patria is a pretty spectacular structure. It’s pretty over-the-top, and apparently locals refer to it as the “Typewriter”.

It’s a little difficult to get a sense of the scale of the building from the photos, but it’s really big.

At that point in the day, it was time for lunch. We walked for a little bit to move out of the overpriced tourist zone, and settled for a small cafe in an alley somewhere nearby. I definitely achieved my goal of eating pizza in Rome, and the pizza I had was pretty good.

As much as I enjoyed the ancient remnants of the Roman Empire, I think the blended modern-ancient architecture of modern Rome appeals to me more. We walked in the rough direction of the Pantheon through narrow streets. I loved walking through those streets, peering down narrower alleys. This stroll was a real highlight of the trip for me.

I was surprised when we arrived at the Piazza Navona. After walking through these narrow roads, this huge square suddenly opened before us.

It’s pretty much what you expect when you think about some European public square, complete with ornate fountains, and cafes along the edges. I really like the space, although I don’t feel like my photos quite do the space justice.

From there, we made our way to our hotel, but not before stopping off at popular Gelato spot called Frigidarium. We were told that this is the place to get Gelato. We weren’t the only ones who heard this.

20180525_144319.jpg
The famous Frigidarium Gelato spot

The Gelato was good, sure, and it was worth the visit. I think I agree with my colleague that the Gelato spot near our hotel was just as good, if not better. Still, if you’re in the area, I can recommend it.

From there we continued back to our hotel, passing Castel Sant’Angelo, and making our way through Piazza San Pietro, in the Vatican City.

It was a great way to spend the day, and get to know Rome a little better. It’s certainly my favourite way to explore a new city.

You can find more, higher resolution photos from the day here.

Spectacular views of Rome from Gianicolo Hill

On one of the days I was in Rome, we hiked up Gianicolo Hill (I’m just calling it that, it may have a better name). It was a nice hike up from the area we were staying in to what seems like a popular vantage point where you can see much of Rome.

The views of Rome from Gianicolo Hill are pretty spectacular. You can get a sense of the history of the city when you look out at the buildings ahead of you. It’s pretty remarkable.

Hike_Gianicolo_Hill-13

You can literally see much of Rome from there. The view actually reminds me of the view from the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town.

Hike_Gianicolo_Hill-14

We arrived there late in the afternoon. We were due to meet up with the rest of our team at Pappa Rex Ristorante, near our hotel, for dinner so we didn’t hang around very long.

Still, it was a good hike up there, and back down again. It was certainly a great way to work up an appetite for dinner at what became our go-to restaurant for most of our meals.

You can find higher resolution versions of my photos here.

A stroll through the Vatican City

I went for a relatively quick stroll through the Vatican City with a colleague this afternoon. It’s spectacular, and busy. I snapped a couple photographs along the way.

I’m planning to return there tomorrow morning to spend some more time taking better photos.

St Peter’s Basilica at night

We have a great view of St Peter’s Basilica from our hotel. I went up to the hotel’s rooftop deck before heading to my hotel room for the night to take a couple photos, including this one:

St Peter's Basilica lit up at night
St Peter’s Basilica lit up at night

We’ll probably get to see more of the Vatican, and other sights in Rome on Friday. For now, we have a pretty good view of this structure.

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: