Work Travels Sandwiching my Summer

My teammates in Atlanta

My summer was wrapped by work trips. I knew this, and thought it was a nice beginning and closure, but I’m blown away by how quickly everything happened.

My teammates in Atlanta
Jupiter – My Team at Automattic.

It seems like just yesterday that I was with my team at a meetup in Atlanta, Georgia. And I didn’t even write about it (aside from a brief mention another post)!

This was partially because I knew social media was flooded with the summaries of the trip from my teammates, partially from my lack of time to give it due diligence, and partially because I didn’t have the words to focus on how much the meetup meant to me. I kind of still don’t have the words but figure writing something is better than writing nothing at this point.

I truly love my job and my team and my other colleagues. It’s not just the ever-evolving world of technology that fascinates me. It’s the people. My heart and soul back up what we offer. And though my job and this medium, I get to meet amazing people like those of you who follow my site.

Yes, I know, there are flaws. But I also see the inside story and know we have a committed team of people constantly striving to make it possible for people to tell their stories, share information and promote businesses. This is not a simple task since people do all this from their homes and on the road, using different networks, different browsers and different devices. It is pretty amazing.

Once a year my team gets together for a week of learning and bonding. The days are filled with general support as well as sessions for further learning and discussion on how we can improve on what we offer. And UNO. Lots and lots of UNO. In Atlanta this year I learned a lot more about WooCommerce and also learned how to troubleshoot in cases where plugin conflicts break sites (for customers using our Business Plan).

My teammates and I also got to spend time bonding at the pool and at meals. One day I even got to go to the Georgia Aquarium, which was a trip highlight for me.

Now I am writing this post from the airport on my way to the full company meetup in Orlando, FL. Tomorrow evening will find me at the kickoff party with almost 1,000 colleagues for a week of super-intense learning and bonding.

I’m flying out today because we realize it’s a bad idea to leave customers without support as we all travel, so a bunch of Happiness Engineers (myself included) offered to arrive a day earlier and stay a day later at the end of the week so we can cover support while our co-workers travel. And they are doing the same for the days we travel.

It’s a real treat to see my colleagues live. We meet each other at various conferences and as teams shift, but we mostly talk online while we work using Slack. There are some fun things we are going to do, and there are also various classes and seminars offered. I’m okay at CSS thanks to past meetups, but have a long way to go so getting better at that will be one of my goals for my week.

Later this week, on Sept 14th, it will have been five years since I was hired to work as a Happiness Engineer (tech support for WordPress.com), and I still wake up every day thankful that I get to work. It’s a blessing I don’t take for granted.

Rejuvenation

Life changed, and I was a bit wary about it at first. Near the end of 2017, after 2+ years working in mobile app support for WordPress, I changed gears and went back to the arena I originally worked in–general support for WordPress.com.

I love the mobile app. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this post. I thought I never wanted to leave that arena of support. Still, I understood when the company made the decision to have myself and other coworkers take turns working in specialized areas of support. Now other people could learn about the app.

When I started gearing up my knowledge quiver, preparing to provide general support again, I flashed back 3.5 years to my trial. Everything has changed so much since the last time I had been in general support. We are using new-to-me internal tools, and we offer so many different things than we did last time I worked in here (ex: you can now use plugins with our Business plan). I felt like a complete novice. And it was really exciting ๐Ÿ™‚ There was/is so much to learn!

My coworkers, as always, cheerfully and readily pointed me in the right direction whenever I got stuck on something. This is such an amazing company to work in.

Now I’m a month and a half into my new role, and I can’t believe how much I’m loving it. I thought I would dread it, but I’m back to looking forward to waking up every day so I get to work again.

When I was in mobile support, I answered questions through a medium that was very similar to texting, but it wasn’t an immediate back and forth. Now I get to work in a mix of mediums. Sometimes it’s email, but I often do live chat, which is like instant messaging. I really enjoy that because even though we are typing, I actually get to talk with the people who use our product.

One of the beautiful things about WordPress is that it’s so versatile. Pretty much — if you can dream it, it can happen. Talking with people who use it inspires me as I see their creativity and the great things they are doing in the world. From art to nonprofits to regular business, the list of inspiration is unending.

One of my super favorite parts of my role in my job now is that I get to meet with people who use this product in a screenshare session so we actually get to talk with each other. Voice to voice. That’s for people with a Business plan. When one works remotely, as I do, the personal interactions like this are a real treat. For example, on Monday I talked with someone in Canada, someone from Norway, and someone from the southern United States in separate sessions. We talked about websites set up for nonprofits helping school children, we talked about websites for sharing rental properties, and we talked about setting up a store on website so someone could work from home. I love the global and business variety that comes with the job.

The only thing that is missing is something that I knew would be hard. I really do miss the mobile app world. But then I remembered that I could still be part of it by testing beta versions ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m using a beta now.

I wish you could all personally meet the developers for the mobile app. They are super amazing people who are really dedicated to making the app the best that it can be. And they really listen when people report back to us with things that they want to see and with things that are problems. I’ve seen that first-hand. So I find it a real treat to test the app, work with what’s coming up down the road, and know that my voice is heard when I report any problems with it. If you’re into that sort of thing, you should give it a try. The beta testing option is open for everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

A change this has been, for sure. But it reminded me that change can be a really good thing. As I get older, I am starting to see the signs that change is a bit trickier than it was in my past. I am thankful for reminders like this — change can be very beneficial.

Customer Service and Life Tips

Those of you in my arena know there is no other way of saying this. I have the best job in the world. For me. I have the honor of providing tech support to WordPress users around the world. And I have an amazing company behind me (Automattic) that understands that the way to provide the best support is to provide support for the supporters.

Support gets tough sometimes. Like today. My brain just wasn’t up to par. My heart wanted to help people, but my brain wasn’t spinning at warp speed, and I was out of sorts.

I know why.

In the past two days I was informed that one young person in my world-circle had an untimely, unexpected death, and another person who is greatly loved, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

And I received a message about some unsettling behavior from others close to me. Behavior that dredged up a lot of past hurt and unfairness, making me want to retaliate, even though I knew that wasn’t the answer.

Bottom line? I was plain ol’ distracted, even while trying to focus.

I usually am very patient and have a knack for empathy. Today I was lacking in both. Really not cool for customer support. It was unsettling, and I felt like a failure.

But guess what?

My team had my back.

And my faith gave me support. By the end of the day, I was all right (and I even helped some people in the meantime).

How did this happen? By having caring people in my life.

When I was stuck (even on simple issues), my teammates backed me up, offering helpful answers and tips to help the people I was helping. And they never ridiculed me or made me feel sub-par. When I commented on the tough day I was having, they responded with cyber hugs and cyber coffee ๐Ÿ™‚ (We work in places all around the world so it’s all cyber). No judgement at all.

This is an amazing thing in the work force, I am finding. In a world where the underdog is crushed, it’s incredible to find a space where everyone’s goal is to be kind and helpful. Amazing. And inspirational. I certainly hope I give that help to others.

While I never reached top-notch performance in the day, I was able to move on and provide quality support thanks to my knowledge that I had a team behind me.

I found out that one of the more difficult people I was dealing with today was really not mad at me personally. They were frustrated because of a work situation they were in. I really struggled to be patient with them as they swore at me through an issue they were having, and after we fixed their issue, they stayed on the chat line, venting to me about the pressure they were under. Thanks to my co-workers, I was able to have the patience and empathy to listen and support.

Because really, while we love WordPress and support it, the bottom line is that we care about the people who use it even more than the product itself. Thanks to my team and their support, I was able to dredge up the patience and understanding to convey that, even on a tough day.

When the work day ended, and the realities of life one again hit my brain, I went to my ultimate source of comfort. A daily devotional with Bible passages. Coincidentally, today’s section of reading was one of my absolute favorites, and it ties in with dealing with the harsh realities of life as well as customer service. Great stuff.

I have this color coded passage hanging on my wall at home. It’s from Galations 6 in the Holy Bible. I use the version called The Message:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.37.29 PM

  • As always, thanks for helping me keep my sanity is also due to my greatest friend –my husband, Chris, who is always there to listen to me vent, remind me of passages like the one above, and point me back to the path of helping others when I go astray.