Every year, Automatticians (the name we fondly use to describe those like me who work for Automattic) gather for a week to meet in person to learn, create, teach, question, celebrate, and grow with each other. We call this the “Grand Meetup”. This year’s location was in Whistler, Canada which proved to be a gorgeous spot for this kind of company time to happen. I don’t know if it’s just me but being near mountains tends to put me in both a reflective and inspirational mood.
Officially, I’m a happiness engineer and team lead working on WordPress.org products like Jetpack, Akismet, VaultPress, etc. Somehow though from the very start of my time at Automattic, my passion projects gravitated towards diversity & inclusion work. I think sometimes my coworkers must have imagined me as a college student protesting the latest injustice, attending rallies, signing petitions, etc. I wasn’t like that at all. I’m much more of an individual person to person impact maker than I am on any sort of collective level. Joining Automattic brought me into this grand community filled with brilliant, thoughtful, and creative thinkers & doers. It was magical to see how things got done in this remote environment. Within this kind of world, somehow this part of me that cared so deeply about others manifested itself into focusing a large part of my “free” time on diversity & inclusion work. It was easy to do when I was surrounded by people pushing me to constantly think differently about the work I was doing – to question, reconsider, run an analysis, dive in deeper, bring in other people to review, etc. Anyone in the company can “ping” (contact) anyone else on slack. Anyone in the company can comment, post, or like anything on any other teams internal posting system we call “p2s”. I had complete access on every level to everyone.
It was through this lens I started thinking through what we weren’t and were doing about diversity & inclusion. I started with what I was comfortable with – I started an internal version of iLifeChat which was a random side project I ran my senior year centered on connecting with other folks at UNC. It was my way of “cross pollinating” the teams more as I noticed the divides while I jumped around reading my fill of each team’s p2. An awesome coworker later took this over and scaled it in a way I didn’t think of 🙂
Teamwork makes the dream work.
From there, I was lucky to be living in SF and be connected with folks from Google who were looking to do outreach to LGBTQ nonprofits and small businesses. My dad is a small business owner and I did a ton of work with nonprofits in my time at UNC. I knew that while Google’s tools were awesome, they didn’t compare to having a stellar website to direct folks to from adwords and to analyze with analytics. This morphed into Accelerate.lgbt which I’m very proud of.
I stayed in my wheelhouse for the most part though in the first year and worked on what I could impact around me and within the company as that was the easiest place to start. Throughout the last year, I’ve managed to move outside of just my comfort zone in finding new ways to address diversity & inclusion. It’s exciting, exhausting, and rewarding all at once. Something was missing though – a public statement from Automattic. Last week, this changed and I’m thrilled about it. Efforts like this are reflective of the collective and I’m so proud of this V1 despite the many things to improve (like internationalizing the page!). We now have a public statement folks can look to and before even applying to automattic can feel welcomed. It’s also a way for us to keep ourselves accountable to drive this forward.
When I applied to Automattic, I never knew if they would be okay with me being LGBTQ. I mean I figured they would be but you never know. I dropped the whole “girlfriend” word in the first interview and, based on the text reply, it all seemed… fine 🙂 Later after joining Automattic, I went to a diversity townhall at my first Grand Meetup where I asked where the other LGBTQ people were if there were any at all?! Someone kindly called out “um right here!” only to show off an awesome shirt with the WordPress logo and a gay pride flag. I then found out they had a private slack channel that they invited me to. Queeromatticians! It was wonderful to go from wondering where other folks like me were to immediately finding them and being welcomed.
Fast forward to last week two years later… I am walking around in beautiful Whistler at my third Grand Meetup only to see Matt Mullenweg, our CEO, wearing the same style shirt I saw in that first diversity townhall. I nearly shed a tear thinking about how awesome it was to see the CEO of the company I work for walking around purposefully letting it be known he is an ally and stands with us. I had to get a picture because it was such a 180 experience in my mind. My phone was dead but another coworker graciously offered to snap the shot you see on this post. It’s hard to explain but to think about how different it felt coming into my first Grand Meetup two years ago not knowing if I was really fully accepted or would find others like me to seeing the CEO of the company happily wearing this shirt (and confused about why I would want a picture of him in it) was awesome.
Teamwork makes the dream work. It wasn’t a straight shot to get to where we are today and loads of people were involved in fanning the flame. Diversity and inclusion are truly long term visions – there’s no to do list you can copy over and implement. There’s no clear way of driving things forward. When approaching this work though, I remember this quote:
“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.”― Francis de Sales
The only way to head in the right direction is to put the work in to learn what that means. With that, check out this awesome page and see where Automattic’s collective lessons have led us.