A Meeting of Minds

My team – minus one who was with us in spirit and in our hearts

September darted right through a pretty pivotal week in the life of me. On September 15, 2019, I celebrated my fifth anniversary of working at Automattic. Little did I know, back in the day, that in five years I’d be celebrating the occasion while attending the Grand Meetup in Orlando, FL, where we merged 808 Automatticians from 72 countries into a hotel and embraced the rare opportunity to live, learn, laugh and share a love of WordPress together. In person.

Back when I was hired there were around 200 of us, and I thought that Grand Meetup was overwhelming. Interestingly, I found this meetup less overwhelming. The sheer number of humans allowed me to acknowledge that there was absolutely no way I could meet everyone so I had the freedom to allow myself to enjoy the company of whoever I was with whenever I was with them without stressing about leaving anyone out. If I couldn’t connect with someone, we agreed to meet in a video call in the future.

We stayed at a lovely hotel in Orlando, and it was brilliantly decorated — Our creed was everywhere!

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

https://automattic.com/creed/

The staff treated us like royalty, and it was very humbling to see all the amazing people there. My colleagues and the hotel staff. Talk about examples of customer service! Smile and greet others by name? Look them in the eye? Have patience? Listen fully before responding? All noted.

The company lined up incredible speakers who mentally challenged me and sparked a sense of creativity in me. There were embarrassing moments (results of exhaustion and too much people-ing) and moments where I could reach out to reassure others. We had times of intense work and times of relaxing with colleagues.

I tumbled through a gambit of emotions from elation and excitement to depression and homesickness with bits of times where I felt really smart and others when I wondered why I was even hired and how I was worthy to sit in the same room as others. I learned more about our products, tips for supporting others better, how to focus on maximizing my own talents so I can be there for others.

One of the things I love best about this company is how we do come from all over the world. I brought some US stuff for colleagues, and came home with some chocolate from Bolivia, chocolate from New Zealand, spices from Sri Lanka and wine from Portugal. Amazing! One of the best gifts actually came from Peru. My team lead brought the sweetest sweater for my granddaughter:

Again, I am so thankful for this job and experience. I also look forward to working every day, still. I’m going to stop blogging now so I can sign into live chat and start doing some support. 🙂

Breathe and Relax — Get the Most out of Life

Life is too short to step back, breathe and relax. At least that’s what my brain tells me as I take on “just one more” task or commitment. But isn’t it interesting how time actually seems to slow down so we can immerse in truly living when we step back, relax an breathe?

In dance we are encouraged to take two steps in a dance move then pause for two counts–taking the time to think about and learn from what we are actually doing.

In music, the intense beauty in a sound clip is often found in the rest between notes.

What inspires you to step back and breathe? And how did you find it? I found a recent happy place during the crazy schedule we had at our company meetup.

We hit the ground running on a Saturday afternoon. From that moment on, we had opportunities to play, learn, laugh, and work next to comrade-colleagues we only see once or twice a year. Events and sessions kept us active (if we wanted) from about 6am until 2am the next day every day (and some nights went later for some). It’s an exhausting and beautiful time.

Since I am struggling to maintain a healthy weight I was determined to exercise and ward off a repeats of last year’s +7 lbs gained over the amazing week of incredible food choices. Because of this, for the majority of my days at the meetup, no matter how late I was up, I tried to go for a 7-ish am swim. I really missed it and felt off-kilter the days I didn’t do it.

It wasn’t a huge swim (I also went for walks during lunch and in evenings), but I got some laps and treading-water time in. Then came my blissful moments — for about five minutes, I would just float on my back and…

Relax and Breathe

And this was my view as I did so:

Dawn in Florida with birds segmenting the distance between my floating body and the setting moon.

Bliss, right?

Now that I’m home, on a daily basis I find myself back in those moments as I lay in a bed of gently lapping waves, staring at the sky, and listening to my own long breaths as they echoed underwater. As I think of it, I’m filled with tranquility.

I’m going to leave those thoughts there. And in closure, join me in my quest for some peace amidst the chaos of life. I think the impulse of my brain is wrong. We DO have time to breathe and enjoy all we have and refocus. On that note…

breathe in help GIF

Walking to Work

Yesterday was my day off so I didn’t go to work at all, but if I had, I would have celebrated this walk to work day that Bing announced (screenshot in my featured image). As a worker in a fully distributed company (Automattic, Inc),  I work anywhere I have Internet. Frequently from the passenger side of a car.

My husband often wishes me a “safe commute” in jest after our morning coffee together. I reply that I will do my best to not trip as I walk up the stairs to my office. I’m very thankful for this work life I have and the freedom it offers.

Winning Fun Things

IMG_4838.jpgDay 24/30 – Today I’m thankful for fun memories of winning things. In September I was at our company meetup at Whistler (since our company is distributed, we gather once a year so all co-workers can be together in person).

Some years I take classes, but this year I joined a bunch of others in working my regular support job while I was there.

There was a random drawing for those in the room, and I was the lucky winner of these awesome coasters 🙂 Now when I set my coffee down, I’m reminded of a super fun week and am also reminded of how fortunate I am to work where I do.

  • For November (the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US), I’m trying to blog about something for which I’m thankful for each day of the month.

Thankful for Flex Days

weekend-1756858_1920Day 8/30 – It’s 3:23pm on Wednesday afternoon as I sit down to write this. I’ve been cleaning house for over half an hour, and got a notification that the audio book I was listening to while cleaning has a broken connection. So now I deleted the bad file and am downloading the good one from the library and am writing while that happens. Really, anything I choose to do now is completely flexible because it’s my weekend.

I LOVE having my weekend take place on Thursdays and Fridays (and half of Wednesdays). Even more, I am thankful that I have the flexbility to adjust my week however I need to. Now that my kids are grown, there’s no problem working on weekends. (Actually, when there were here it wasn’t a problem either since we homeschooled. I got to see them all week then they were gone on weekends, hanging out with friends.)

It’s tough to work in support on weekends when it’s the only time you see your family. And it’s tough to need support on weekends if nobody is there. So I feel very fortunate to be able to help my co-workers and our product users by working then. And since I’m working, I might as well put in as many hours as I can. Pretty much I work until my brain fries out or I get cranky. I average 20-ish hrs on Saturdays and Sundays then 8 or 9 hrs on Monday then grab a half-day Wednesdays.

Another great part of having my weekend “flex days” on Thursdays and Fridays is that I can get business done with banks and such while they are still open. And the stores are generally not crowded.

Sometimes it’s an issue because friends invite us to things on their weekends, but fortunately my job comes with the flexibility to adjust for those times.

Who gets to set a work schedule any way they want like that?!?! I know some do, but I’m one of the fortunate few at a global level, and I’m highly appreciative.

  • * For November (the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US), I’m trying to blog about something for which I’m thankful for each day of the month.

 

Customer Support Users who Leave Feedback

Day 6/30 – Today I’m thankful for people who not only use customer support, but also leave feedback.

I work at Automattic, Inc., the company behind WordPress.com, and I mostly work on helping people with the mobile app. It’s completely awesome working together with people who use our product, and I especially appreciate it when people offer feedback on how I supported them (using a feedback tool after each issue is closed)

It’s not always pleasant, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes the one-star reviews are really tough to take. But they help me become better at my job (and often make me a better person since they remind me to be kinder, or to be a better communicator, or a better researcher, etc.).

On the flip side, it’s super sweet to read those 5-star reviews with feedback. How often do I contact someone for support, get my answers from them then move on? Not cool. These people show me that.

Not only do their responses to my help feel good, but they remind me to always work to keep those strong areas strong. (And now I always try to do follow-up surveys when I ask for support with other products.)

So, yes, today I’m super thankful for all customer support users who leave feedback.

  • * For November (the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US), I’m trying to blog about something for which I’m thankful for each day of the month.

Ageism and Automattic

Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).

Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).
Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-worker Jen Hooks at our company’s Grand Meetup at Whistler).

About a week ago I read an article on age and the workplace that was a bit chilling. It linked to a study, which shows that in the tech industry

43% of employees worry about losing their job due to their age

The thought was sobering. Downright sad. And scary.

What really gets me about all this is the fact that this is the tech industry we are talking about. While I know computers “became a thing” over a century ago, the people who really got the momentum going for the techie-world we work and thrive in now are now are still alive. This is not a history lesson from some old moldy book. We have the pioneers living right in our midst. Why in the world would we not want to tap into this knowledge?

It reminded me once again of how fortunate I am to be working at Automattic, Inc where we constantly strive to maintain and cultivate an inclusive environment. Inclusivity refers not only to race and gender but also to many other facets of one’s being. This includes age, geographic location, disabilities, etc.

Our company currently has a bit over 600 employees, and over 80 of us are over 40-years-old. I was 42 when I was hired.

Not only do I not fear for my age being a factor in my job, I often feel that my age is considered an asset. Yes, we do have/have had young people working in the company. Brilliant, energetic individuals who might not have experienced their first legal alcoholic drink yet. But we also have people decades older than my current 45 years. We all have something unique to bring to the table, and overall, it helps us provide a better product for our customers and relate in different ways as we offer customer support.

I wish other companies would realize that.

The report suggests ways for companies to become more inclusive in regard to age. Our company not only implemented those suggestions long before my hiring, but it is constantly re-evaluating to make sure all our needs are met.

For example, as a mid-forty-year-old woman, I’m now in the sandwich generation. The company allows me to set my own schedule so I can take time to be with my kids when they are home from college or visiting, and I can also arrange my work days so I have the flexibility to take my mother-in-law to doctor appointments and on errands.

I, myself, have some of the fun health issues that come with age and life-experiences. My arthritic fingers balk at typing and mouse-use at times. The company provides me with the keyboards and special mouse options I need to relieve that pain.

What does the company get in return? Well, for one thing, I’m so grateful for flexibility in schedule that I will happily work overtime if it’s necessary (and sometimes even when it’s not because this job is so wonderful, it’s addicting). I offer life-lessons I have learned from things that have worked or not worked in past experiences. Also, as stated in the study linked above:

Research by David Galenson of the University of Chicago showed that approaches to problem-solving differ between generations, and Galenson found that older people tend to do better at solving thorny, complicated problems due to the deeper levels of understanding they have acquired over the course of their careers.

Good stuff, that. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it’s been in my thoughts this week. And I’m really thankful for my job.

BTW, if you are into tech and/or customer support, we’re hiring (and age won’t be a factor against you 😉 ).