Automattic Grand Meetup 2017

I spent last week in Whistler, British Columbia for Automattic‘s annual Grand Meetup. If you aren’t familiar with Automattic, (and let’s be honest, the only people reading this are my parents and other a12s, so you should already know) we’re the company that builds and supports things like, Jetpack, WooCommerce and several other products on the web.

One thing that makes Automattic unique from most traditional companies, is that our company of 600+ employees is scattered across the globe. We have no central office, and we all work remotely. Our day-to-day communication is done using Slack (RIP IRC), internal blogs called P2s, as well as voice and video chats. Except for one week out of the year… That one week, everyone in the company gets together to work, socialize, and spend time together.

Throughout the week, some folks work on projects, some take or teach classes, and others hold down the fort by doing their regular job. The time outside of those work hours is filled with socializing, a Town Hall Q&A with our CEO, 1:1s with teammates, group discussions, team building, Alpine Bar, and… exhaustion. It’s a busy week.

This was our second year in Whistler. Last year, aside from a hike to Whistler’s Train Wreck, I didn’t get outside of the hotel conference rooms too much. I tried to change that this year. I once again hiked to the Train Wreck with Karen and Erica. I went for a long walk around Lost Lake to talk about Q4 with my fellow leads Kraft and Anne. I walked around Whistler village while talking with teammates. Although it’s an exhausting week, it felt good to get outside a bit more this year.

Keeping with my personal theme of late, I also had a chance to reflect. This year’s Grand Meetup was my fifth. At my first Grand Meetup, Automattic was a company of about 150 people. We could all fit in one (large) room. I remember being daunted by that number. I remember talking with employees who had been here for 4 or 5 years, and it seemed like such a long time. Today, according to an internal stat, I find myself closing in on that 5 year mark myself:

You started on 2013-05-28. Of the 610 other a12s, 128 (21.0%) started before you, 2 (0.3%) started on the same day, and 480 (78.7%) started after you.

By some rough math, that means that I’ve been with Automattic longer than four out of five folks I awkwardly stumbled into on elevator rides last week. It seems bizarre to me, because I so often still feel like the “new kid” at school. Maybe it’s Impostor Syndrome, maybe it’s social anxiety, or maybe it’s just a byproduct of our growing company. Whatever it is, it’s been interesting to reflect on. And while the GM can be exhausting, challenging, and long, I find it a good opportunity for me to grow as a teammate, as a lead, and as a person.

It’s almost been a week since I’ve returned to Massachusetts, but I find myself still decompressing from the Grand Meetup. It’s been a rollercoaster of a week. I’m glad to be home with Alanna and Sammy. But I miss my friends and coworkers, most of whom I won’t see for another year. It’s hard to go from 0 to 100 with structure and socialization, and then back down to 0 again, within eight days. I suppose that’s just part of transition…

In the coming weeks, things will return to “business-as-usual” – whatever that means. And come next year, I’ll worry about the structure and long days of socializing in the days leading up to the GM. But I’m already excited for it, and several more to come.


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