The past few days Noah and I have been able to spend quite a bit of time together. We started the weekend out with Saturday morning basketball. This is his second year in basketball but we switched this year to a new program. This one is part of Jr NBA which includes each kid getting their own smaller basketball and NBA team T-Shirt. Noah got to choose between OKC Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors, he choose the Spurs. There were also the Toronto Raptors to choose from, but they were gone by the time Noah choose. The parents don’t always get involved but this time I did. We practised chest passing back and forth and had a fun game where we had to pass our way across the gym.
We spent most of the rest of Saturday painting Noah’s room. We swapped rooms with Alexandria and let Noah choose a new wall colour. The room was previously pink and blue, two walls of each, Noah kept the blue and choose a green, clean n crisp, for the other two walls. I’m not a fan of painting and for some reason it took us four coats to cover the pink over. In the end he was very happy though so it makes it worth it.
Sunday afternoon he and I went out together on a bit of a shopping date. Each year we take the kids out to pick out Christmas presents for their siblings. It’s pretty early this year to get started but we had an afternoon free and the weeks seem to fly by, so we decided to just do it. When we were done shopping we stopped for a treat of his choice at Tim Hortons.
Noah seems to be really liking math and numbers lately, especially number patterns. The one he really likes is the power of twos. He doesn’t really know what that is but he starts out with 2 + 2, then 4 + 4, then 8 + 8 etc. Tonight he went on sticky notes up to 2^13 (4096 + 4096 = 8192). It seemed to be the perfect opportunity to teach him my cell phone number which ends in 2^10. He was pretty impressed with that and it’s one of the reasons it’s my favourite number I’ve ever had.
Today my colleague Jeremey DuVall wrote a post called Highs & Lows of Leading a Team, if you’re not following him already you certainly should. The feelings he wrote about are certainly ones I’ve been feeling recently at work. Like many business / leadership books and articles I’ve read there are many comparisons I can make to parenting.
Parenting is certainly a series of ups and downs as well, except recently I’ve been stuck in the completely incompetent area. Some would say I had it coming as 20 years ago I was making my mother feel the same way that I am right now. At the age of 17 I left home and moved in with friends. For years I barely spoke to her. Spent my time blaming her for what I perceived as a rough childhood, thinking I was so much smarter than her. How arrogant.
Now fast forward 20 years I’m going through essentially the same thing with my oldest. As much as I tried to protect her from making the same mistakes and wrong choices I made it doesn’t seem to have worked. She’s at least doing better than I was at that age, she’s at least living with her mother instead of staying with friends and spending some nights sleeping in 24 hour Tim Hortons. The choices I made back then caused me to take two years more than it should have to complete high school and come very close to getting myself into some real trouble. It was the news of my daughter coming a long that finally caused me to straighten myself out. That makes this all the more painful.
She was able to help me through a dangerous period of my life and I wasn’t able to protect her from seeming to head down a similar road to the one that I was once on. She’s not there yet though and I’m hoping she can change course before it really effects her life in ways that are difficult to come back from. While I can learn to live with her not talking to me as long as she is happy and safe, I’m hopeful that she will have a change of heart, and sooner than I did at that age.
To my Mother, even though I’ve done it in the past I want to apologize again for the trouble that I gave you and the heart ache I must have caused. Having some experience being a parent now it’s obvious to me you make the best decisions you can. I’m far from perfect so my decisions won’t always be the right ones, but I know, like you, I’ve made them all with the best intensions.
To my Daughter, hopefully some day you will see this as well and we can have a good relationship again. I will always love you no matter what and can be patient.
Feeling an overwhelming sense of failure these days. I’m generally ok with failure and making mistakes. Failing is a leaning opportunity.
Most of the time though there are there is usually a mix in my life. Some areas where I feel I’m succeeding but others not so much. This is ok I can concentrate on the things going well and make effort to fix the areas I’m failing.
Right now I’m having a hard time seeing the successes. Parenting, career, health, finances, all of these areas of my life which need serious work.
Overall I know my life is privileged which makes me failing in these areas all the more painful.
Saturday was the first day I’ve felt back to myself and on the Atlantic timezone since the end of the 2016 Automattic Grand Meetup. So far I’ve written several posts about the trip but wanted to post about my thoughts overall. Talking about the zip line adventure or the wwwp5k only goes into some of the planned fun we do. We also do a lot of work planning, and having awesome discussions.
One of the great things we all do I’ve posted about before as well, our flash talks. Each Automattician prepares and gives a maximum of four minute presentation on any topic they want. With the company getting so big this takes up a lot of time. This year we had four rooms setup to allow four streams of flash talks to be going on at the same time. They were broken up over the week. This means at most you can only see a quarter of the flash talks, but every one is also recorded so you can watch them later as well. I love flash talks. Both watching others and learning a bit about them or what interests them, and even though they make me very nervous, even giving my own.
One of the first days was dedicated a team day. This allowed us to get together in our own teams and do some planning and in person discussion which doesn’t happen very often. One of our team members wasn’t able to make it, and shortly our team will grow by one, but all of us there had worth while discussions and spent time showing each other a bit of our typical work flows to share how we work.
Near the end of the time we opened it up so that we could have a Happy Hour. This was a spot and time where the whole Happiness Team could get together. There were tables setup and seeded with questions to start the discussion. We would then move people around to other tables so you could meet even more people.
We had town halls for the whole company where our CEO, spent until early morning hours at the front of the room fielding questions and having discussions with all who could stay up as well. There were lots of other town halls throughout the week which were similar style for different groups throughout the company. Such a great way to get an understanding of where other teams are and what their plans are.
There are also projects and classes which you can signup for ahead of time and spend the week working on. At the end of the week the projects all do a demo day showing what they have worked on. It’s inspiring to see what can be accomplished in such a short time. The classes are all taught by co-workers sharing the knowledge they’ve learned with others. This year I took a class on People and Project management put on by a couple from our HR team and one of the team leads who I highly respect.
One of my favourite parts are the meals. We have an internal site, and now app thanks to one of the meetup projects, where you can keep track of all the other Automatticians you’ve met. This data is used to help assign people to meals with people they haven’t met. Having small groups who may not know each other doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but because everyone is so approachable it almost always leads to interesting conversation where I learn lots. It was also very entertaining to look around the restaurant and see it being almost completely taken over by co-workers. Picture this group in the pictures below spread out in restaurants throughout the village.
One of downfalls which we are still learning to best deal with is how to handle support during a week when everyone is meant to be learning with each other. In addition to the project and classes some people do choose to do their regular job during the meetup. So for Happiness Engineers that involves doing support. In some years past we have closed our support contact forms with a message letting our customers know where we are and what we are doing and when we will be back at it. This year we tried not to completely close it but leave it open for some of our newest customers on WordPress.com. Other products handled things similar as well.
With WordPress.com support we still ended up quickly getting a large number of tickets submitted in a short time. It was clear we were going to fall behind in our response times. Some of this is expected and we booked time for when we arrived home for many people to spend time answering as many as they can to get caught back up. To make that job easier though we sent out a call asking for people to get together after dinner one night and answer tickets. This ended up being a highlight of the week for me. We had people who don’t normally do support join us. We had people who support other products join us and help answer our WordPress.com customers. With this group of people we spent a couple of focused hours going through tickets and were able to answer a large amount. It was really something to watch and be a part of. There were some pictures floating around, but I wish I had taken a step back and taken one myself.
Since we’ve been back we have been able to get caught back up and ready to start this week strong. There have also been talks already about how we can make more improvements for next year and holidays. This isn’t all coming from the Happiness team either! It really makes me happy to be with a company so dedicated to support.
To finish off here are some more pictures from my trip and walks around Whistler Village.
During the Grand Meetup one of the events organized was the wwwp5k, a Worldwide WordPress 5k. It’s something that has been going on for few years now where WordPress users can run 5k from anywhere in the world and yet do it together by blogging about the experience. Even though you can do it alone and from anywhere we figured it would be a good chance for a bunch of us to do it together.
It was a chilly rainy day in Whistler BC, but the scenery was beautiful and the company was lovely. It’s been a while since I’ve done much running and being over tired, wet and cold, so things were very slow. It worked out really well though because part way through I met up with a co-worker who I’ve wanted to spend some time with. It allowed us, through long breathes, to chat and come in together.
Every time I get a chance to spend some time and chat with one of my co-workers I’m reminded how amazing each of them are. At the Grand Meetup it is even evident without directly interacting with anyone. The level of organization and planning that goes into this event is mind boggling.
Even this event there was about a large number of us who all came together at 7am to run and walk the course. This year it was also arranged that for each Automattician who ran we would donate to Souls4Soles. Just one more thing to make me proud to be working with all these people and for this company.
One of the activities which was organized while we were there was a zip line tour. Even though I have a pretty bad fear of heights I’ve always enjoyed the idea of sky diving. Not sure I would be able to brave my way through that one, but zip lining through the British Columbia rainforest seemed like a viable option. When I made it to the top and started walking down the first set of stairs I was petrified. The only reason I noticed the hail / rain falling on us was because my glasses were getting covered. Relying on some advice from my smart co-workers and watching a very brave one go before me even though she was just as scared as I was helped me press through.
Like many things it was well worth the bit of initial discomfort. Once I got moving and was able to take in the view it was more peaceful. After the first line I just couldn’t wait to get to the next. The initial step at each line still made me nervous but each one was easier than the last.
Here are some more pictures from my zip lining adventure.