New Office Smell

Our house has been a veritable hive of activity lately. We’re doing a lot of work on it this summer, and by “we”, I mean contractors, of course, because I’m barely competent with a drill.

The first big project is mostly done, and that’s our new office!

First, some “before” shots for context:

This is the second floor of the oldest part of our house. When I was a kid, it had a staircase in the middle, leading down to the living/dining/kitchen areas, and served as my parents’ bedroom and my brothers’ and my nursery. Eventually my parents moved their bedroom to a newer part of the house, the staircase was closed and replaced with a new one in a different location, and the upstairs became a storage room and makeshift guest bedroom.

By the time we moved in, it was the de-facto place for all those odds and ends my parents didn’t know what to do with, plus all the stuff we moved that was supposed to go to the office. We planned to renovate sooner, but the costs of moving, taking a loss on our condo, and Gwen’s hospital bills set us back.

Three years later, we hired a family friend to start bringing the space back to life. It needed a new ceiling, trim, paint, and carpet…and to have all our junk cleaned out of it and sorted. Mom took care of most of her stuff, and we left the contracting work to a pro. Sorting everything was an exercise in nostalgia; even though I did a big purge before we moved, there were still a lot of things I didn’t miss in the three years they sat up here, unused. A lot of stuff was donated.

I can’t reiterate how nice it is having a dedicated workspace. I haven’t had an “office” that was truly my own since before Ellie was born, so having the freedom and space to do what I want with space is a thrill. And having worked here for a couple weeks, I’m surprised I managed as well as I did at the kitchen table; there are still interruptions, of course, and always will be while the kids are small, but it’s great having a place to escape to.

And the timing worked out perfectly, because now the front wall of the house is being redone, so the kitchen, dining, and living rooms are a mess! The office has become my sanctuary amongst the chaos.

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An “Ooh, shiny” moment

One of the coolest perks of being a four-year Automattician is a new ColorWare laptop with a custom cut WordPress logo on the cover.

I opted for a glossy red-orange-almost-pinkish color called “Spicy” and was not disappointed. This is definitely the most beautiful computer I have ever laid eyes on. Thanks, Automattic!

Now someone needs to explain how I’m supposed to get any work done when all I want to do is pet the shiny cover…

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A Day in the Life of an Automattician: Revised Edition

I’ve written about my life as an Automattician before, but much has changed in the last two years, so I thought I’d update that post!

Now that Tim is a full-time stay-at-home parent, he wrangles the kids in the morning. Gwen goes to a summer pre-K program and Ellie hangs out with us during the day. It’s gotten easier to work with the kids at home now that they’re older and more independent.

My little corner of office paradise.

My little corner of office paradise.

Our office renovation is finally finished (post forthcoming), so I usually grab coffee and breakfast with the family before heading upstairs to my little corner to work. I sign into Slack and say hello to the team, then check email to catch up on P2s, adding anything of note to my day’s to-do list (I use Reminders).

My desk is electric adjustable, so I switch between sitting and standing throughout the day, which keeps me active. When my feet get tired, I sit; when my butt gets tired, I stand. Automattic provided an ergonomic setup when I was hired, and I’m happy I can finally use it!

Several months ago I switched from managing a “squad” within the Theme Team to leading the whole Theme Team, which is currently 12 people. I still review code and make themes, but I also keep up with (or attempt to keep up with) company goals, and make sure the team’s contributions line up. It’s a lot of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic checking in with my team and our division lead.

Midday meetings with my office mate.

Midday meetings with my office mate.

On Mondays and Tuesdays I focus on theme development, code review, and non-administrative tasks as much as possible. Keeping this balance is essential to my happiness; I don’t think I could be fulfilled in a role where I wasn’t making things at least part of the time. Right now, I’m reviewing a couple premium themes and coding a health-and-wellness-focused theme designed by my esteemed colleague and theme-designing machine, Mel, taking her mock-up and turning it into a working theme.

The team’s focus has expanded from theme review and development, so I’m learning a lot of new things from my peers; there’s a strong focus on testing, targeted research and UX/NUX, and filling out our collection of themes to better serve WordPress.com customers. This means we’re more careful about which themes we launch, as we’re trying to fill niches based on data-driven results.

Components

Components is not only functional, it’s *adorable*.

We also have a lot of standardization and customization projects in the works; one such project is ongoing work on Components, our new starter theme generator, which helps us build themes using standardized components, making the development process faster and more streamlined than starting from scratch. It’s like the next generation of Underscores, but more flexible and powerful, with more cool stuff built in.

Wednesday through Friday I check in with my team in one-on-ones, and on Wednesdays we have a video team chat to catch up and discuss priority projects or issues that have come up during the week. We also have a bi-weekly division meeting to do the same with other division team leads. It’s pretty amazing to work in a company of 450+ people and have only a handful of “meetings” each month. We don’t meet for the sake of it, but there’s a distinct communication boost when we’re able to sit down and chat face to face, so we try to take advantage of that.

One huge benefit to having an office is the reinforced lunch break; I have to go downstairs for food, so I’ll usually take an hour in the middle of the day and get lunch, play a card game with Tim and the kids, go for a walk, or tidy up. Staying on my feet means I’m more likely to take short breaks during the day as well.

Typical work attire.

Typical work attire.

The office dress code hasn’t changed; I still wear pajamas 90% of the time, although my Ninja Turtle pants have been retired in favor of leggings or yoga pants. I’ve been working like this long enough that the majority of my wardrobe is t-shirts, either for WordPress/Automattic products or X-Files graphic tees. I faintly remember a time when I had “work clothes” and “home clothes”, but that’s no longer the case. 🙂

Another benefit to having a dedicated workspace means I rarely work in the evenings. My laptop stays on my desk, and at night I’m likely to be found downstairs, playing games with the kids or watching a movie. I still keep an eye on notifications using my phone, but I don’t check work email or P2s. I think I can finally say that I’ve found a solid work/life balance.

Four years in, I’m as happy to be working at Automattic as the day I was hired. As with any job, there are good days and not-so-good days, but even on the not-so-good days, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

And y’know, we’re hiring!

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Goodbye, Nala

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Yesterday, we put our kitty Nala to sleep.

Tim and I adopted her 14 years ago at the Old Town Animal Orphanage. We liked to say that she adopted us; Tim was standing back-to the wall of animal crates when she reached out her paw and patted him on the shoulder. “Look at me! I’m the best one!” And she was.

She was our first baby, and we were anxious new-cat parents. Was she eating and drinking enough? Was that a cough or a hairball? We lived in a tiny loft apartment, and we were paranoid she’d fall from the loft railing.

She used to drink water by dipping her paws into her dish and licking them off, which would have been fine if we hadn’t used super-tough clumping cat litter. During her first week at home, we spent a lot of time fretting and prying caked litter from between her toes.

Before we had the kids, she’d sleep in our bed, curled around my head. She’d wake me by licking my eyebrows and purring into my hair. We adopted another cat, Stitch, a few months later, and she and Nala became fast friends. They were “our girls” long before we had human girls.

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Having had pets all my life, I’m no stranger to this cycle, but it was harder than I expected to see her go. Blood work revealed she’d been sick for a long time, unbeknownst to us; I hate to think we prolonged her suffering.

But it is what it is, and at least she’s not suffering anymore. Sleep well, Nala-boo.

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