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Automattic Travel

It Was Grand

Nearly 400 Automatticians descended on Park City, Utah, earlier this month for our annual Grand Meetup (GM). The intense in-person time together helps forge new bonds and reinforces personal connections that stay with us through our daily remote work after returning home. Here are a few highlights of my week.

Practical Development

I spent the first few days of the Grand Meetup immersed a programming class taught by Code Wrangler Jennifer. I refreshed my PHP coding skills and flexed brain muscles that haven’t had quite such a workout in some time. Jennifer possesses a rare gift – she’s not just a highly skilled developer, but she also has the ability to share that knowledge with others in an accessible way. I was lucky to be part of her group.

Collect Them All

My fellow Happiness Engineer Karen put together a set of colourful badges to represent the different teams and aspects of tech support we’ve each worked on. Some are just for fun; +t+d stands for “totes def” and somehow became a common abbreviation internally at one point. They remind me of the Red Cross swimming badges I used to get as a kid. Now to decide where best to show them off.

Happiness Badges

Yarn Party

Any Automattician can organize an activity or workshop for their colleagues at the Grand Meetup. As someone who’s never moved beyond knitting a rectangular scarf, my ears perked up when I heard that Andrea was planning a yarn party, where people could learn how to knit or crochet, or get help with a project. Sensing an opportunity, I picked up some beautiful soft blue and grey wool from my local knitting store, packed up my supplies in a wine bag (a delightful discovery), and during the knitting circle somehow convinced experienced knitter Shawna to help me get started. OK, so it’s still another scarf, but this one is tapered and multicoloured – look how cute!

The Paint Mixer

To counter some of the more adrenaline-heavy GM activities (Paintball! Go-karting! Alpine slides!), I brought in a local company to run a painting activity for anyone wanting to get creative. I was pleased to see everyone from Theme Wranglers and UI Designers to Happiness Engineers and Code Wranglers – many of whom had never painted before – take pride in their finished artwork.

Photos courtesy of The Paint Mixer

Picture Not So Perfect

One evening my colleague Marcus shared his passion for night photography and his handy exposure calculator. While I’d brought a tripod all the way from Montreal, it turned out my mighty little camera was not quite robust enough to capture shots of the stars, and every frame looked pretty much like this:

night photography

Fortunately, all was not lost in the photography department. Later in the week, Happiness Engineer Jen organized a photo tour with local pro David Schultz, who taught me how to use the manual settings on my camera – and happily didn’t make me feel inadequate for not having fancier gear. David guided us through some local nature trails and wildlife preserves and while we didn’t encounter any exotic animals – the most exciting creature I saw was a squirrel – the stunning fall scenery made it worth the huffing and puffing through high altitudes.

♦ ♦ ♦

The week featured many other memorable moments: a fun trip into town with my fellow theme-team members; an incredible closing party with performances by talented musician/singer Automatticians, a relaxing hot-tub hangout at the end of a long day; a workshop on how we can foster a more inclusive and diverse company; a cozy hot chocolate-fuelled knit-fest in my suite; and many good chats with colleagues I’d only previously talked with online.

Until we meet again next year, my dear Automatticians.

Categories
Personal Travel

Summer Scenes

I’ve spent a bit of time at the end of this summer relaxing and recharging, which for me, doesn’t come naturally – I’m much more comfortable keeping busy and crossing items off my to-do list. While up in the country for a few days without much Internet, I even managed to read an entire book in under 24 hours – and I’m positive these two things are closely related. 😀

Categories
Automattic Personal Travel

Hawaii in February

Earlier this month I took an extraordinary trip to Hawaii. The entire Automattic theme division met for its annual gathering on the island of Kauai – a meetup locale rather different from last year’s Charleston ice storm. I stayed on in Hawaii a bit longer, getting a few more days to enjoy this beautiful place.

As cliché as it may sound, Hawaii was simply magical. Sea turtles silently crawling up the shoreline on Poipu Beach, scenery as stunning as it gets, and an unforgettable helicopter ride around Kauai – including the waterfalls where the famous arrival scene from Jurassic Park was filmed. It rejuvenated my soul and provided sustenance to carry me through the rest of this vicious winter.

I can’t wait to go back some day.

Categories
Automattic Personal Travel

Hasta la próxima, Miami

I had the opportunity to spend time in Miami last week after a long time away. A lot has changed but in some ways the city seems stuck in the past. I put together a few observations.

Things I will miss about Miami

  • Hearing Spanish all around me
  • Fresh tropical fruit juices
  • Cafe con leche
  • Sun and blue skies
  • Palm trees
  • The turquoise ocean
  • Mojitos everywhere
  • Cuban rice and beans (congri)
  • Fresh fish
  • Plantain chips
  • Cheap parking

Things I will not miss about Miami

  • Styrofoam everything
  • Lack of public recycling bins
  • Pedestrian traffic lights that take forever to turn green
  • Needing a car to go any distance
  • Taxis that may or may not come
  • Taxis that take forever to arrive
  • Taxis that don’t take credit cards
  • Basically, taxis in general

Until next time, Miami – thanks for your hospitality.

Categories
Automattic Travel

Charleston

There is something special and surreal and intense and wonderful about getting together and living with your colleagues – who hail from around the world – for a couple of weeks throughout the year.

And this particular trip was extra-memorable. Trapped on Isle of Palms in South Carolina during a freak deep-south ice storm, we battled closed bridges and slick icy stairs/streets/sidewalks, fought through weather-related transatlantic travel mishaps, cooked enough pasta for an army and barbecued All The Things in lieu of the planned restaurants, and eventually made it into Charleston to see some sights five days later than expected.

Despite challenges, it was an amazing meetup. There was a lunch picnic in front of a cozy fire, long chats about everything under the sun, brainstorming sessions, and raucous games of Cards Against Humanity. During the last few days of van rides I heard more belly laugh-inducing Han Solo/Chewy repartee than over the past ten years.

When the key bridge reopened after several false starts and we finally made it into downtown Charleston there were gluten-free bakery wonders and vegan delights. And we collectively ate more fried southern food than most of our stomachs had ever experienced before, with mixed results.

It was a week to remember forever. Thank you to my funny, smart, warm-spirited colleagues – and friends – for making it so.

tdiv panorama
The Automattic Theme Division.