Around 6 years ago, I flew from San Francisco into Salt Lake City for my first Automattic Grand Meetup, the name for our company wide retreat. I think we were around 230 people then which felt massive coming off of working at a startup for a few months with less than 20 employees. I landed in a daze only on my second week into the job and wandered over to where I was told to meet for a shuttle before quickly spotting someone in WordPress swag who I correctly guessed was a coworker. He was from a place I’d never heard of before and we spent the hour drive together to Park City in the backseat of a mostly empty van chatting. We were both new and nervous full of questions with no answers to offer each other. It was absolutely delightful.
There’s a special energy when you get a group of automatticians together thanks to the baseline curiosity, kindness, talent, and passion that usually makes it seem like only good things can happen. When you combine that with truly unique, unexpected backgrounds that led somehow to Automattic and a global perspective with people from 70+ different countries, you get a pretty magical feeling. The dynamic this creates is what causes many of us to push past our limits to stay awake and engaged early in the morning and late into the evening when we’re in person. I crave replicating that feeling right now months into quarantine.
Cut to 6 years later, I’m living in Salt Lake City a mere drive away from that first company wide meetup and I miss my coworkers. I miss hearing about their lives. I miss digging deeply into problems we want to solve. I miss hearing their new ideas and what’s keeping them up at night. I miss witnessing them share of themselves in flashtalks, classes, and presentations. I miss meal time where we all try our best to come together despite the jetlag, cultural differences, and language barriers. I miss walking down the hallway only to see someone I haven’t had a chance to talk to yet and giving them an excited hug/handshake/wave depending on their preference. I miss playing games with my team and laughing loudly as we tease each other. I miss connecting with new coworkers I’ve never talked to before excited to now have that connection going forward. I miss our company photo where all the short people (myself included) scurry to the front and strike a pose. I miss meeting someone for the first time that I’ve been working closely with and suddenly having a rush of context wash over me like a puzzle coming together before my eyes. I miss reuniting with coworkers turned friends and sneaking away to catch up away from the crowd. I miss the final party on the last night and the goofy pictures inevitably balanced out by tearful goodbyes. I miss sitting back and just observing the wonderful, bizarre collection of people working on such a pivotal part of the internet.
Sigh. You see the world differently when you deeply miss people flung all over the world. I remind myself that the emptiness I feel now without this in person time is only because I had an unexpected and unique fullness to begin with from the last 6 years of working here. Where did the time go? How is it possible that I’m still so engaged in this work when so many tell me that “in tech years” 6 years at a company is like a lifetime? When I joined, I took the crown as the youngest person at the company (for a time at least). Now I’ve found myself suddenly placed in the tenured employee category. I enter this new stage with feelings of great responsibility for those coming after me, appreciation for those who came before me, and excitement for what’s to come for all of us.
I think happiness for me right now is working on problems I enjoy at a scale of impact that feels meaningful with people who inspire me. I have that happiness. Thank you, Matt. Thank you, my fellow automatticians. I hope I can pay it forward. For now, I shall send some of you obnoxiously long Wall of Text slack messages, read too many of your p2s rooting you on, and schedule calls with you just to catch up. It’s an honor to do this work from afar.