This year marks the fifth Grand Meetup I’ve been with the company for. I didn’t attend last year (my phantom fourth GM), because I was on maternity leave. A lot has changed.
This Grand Meetup is my first out of the United States, although the company came to Whistler last year, too. I switched roles at the beginning of the year, so I spent the majority of my time with WooCommerce people instead of WordPress.com people. Flash talks were no longer mandatory for everyone – just for new people who hadn’t given one before.
We tried an experiment this year, called Homeroom. Homeroom was a concept created to help Automatticians become familiar with a smaller group (no Homeroom group was larger than 30 people), and spend some time doing silly activities to bond over. I was asked to be a Homeroom lead (each Homeroom had at least two leads), and I found it to be really fun. I had been a little concerned that if Automatticians were resentful about being there (it was a required work event, as part of the GM), they would direct that irritation at me. Instead, it was a fun period for my group, and all the people in my group came with an open mind and were willing to give the idea the benefit of the doubt.
I was a part of a lot of conversations, and adjacent to a lot more conversations. The things I heard everyone talking about this year spanned a wide variety of topics, as you might expect with nearly 600 Automatticians from across the globe all in one place. Some conversations I could not, of course, understand, as people spoke their native languages. Something interesting I noticed was that I heard a lot of my male colleagues discussing their children with other men; the childcare they do, the stages their kiddos are going through, tips and things that have worked for them. I also heard a lot more conversations between women about their roles at work, and the things they were excited to be working on. In larger mixed groups, I heard both types of conversations happening at the same time. Other topics covered politics, music, Homeroom, bears, where the GM will be next year, technology, food, our day-to-day work, sabbaticals, and how many new people were at the GM.
For the first time, I spent my week working on my regular job, instead of a class or project. I really enjoyed it, and I can imagine continuing to do my regular job at the GM going forward. We made a big push to be able to provide coverage for our customers during the week we were away, and we saw good results. Our Happiness Engineers worked hard and worked together to keep on top of our queues across WooCommerce, WordPress.com, and Jetpack. It was a fun and interesting environment to be part of.
I leave on Monday morning. I’m looking forward to being home again, in a quiet, more solitary place. The intensity of the Grand Meetup is not sustainable. I enjoy the week in the deep end of Automattic, but by the end I’m ready to recharge again. It’s only a week a year, so we all try to invest ourselves with intention. I was deeply gratified to be approached by several people who were excited to meet me, and to talk to people from my former teams who told me I was the reason they were where they are today. Feeling that I have been an effective lead, and supported my teams has me walking on a cloud all week. I haven’t been able to talk to everyone I would like to (yet), and sometimes I’ve only been able to chat with someone a few minutes, but the human connections remain the most important part of the GM. Some things never change (I hope).