Episode 15: Inside the Grand Meetup
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Read more about the Grand Meetup in “The Importance of IRL in a World of Screens.”
On this episode of the Distributed podcast, we get an insider’s look at the Grand Meetup, Automattic’s annual weeklong all-staff event, where employees have an opportunity to collaborate, learn from one another, and hang out face-to-face. Folks from across the company share what makes this gathering so special, talk about social cohesion in the context of a large distributed company, and reflect on what’s great (and what’s tough) about the distributed lifestyle.
The full episode transcript is below.
Mark Armstrong: Okay go.
Josepha: The song that’s in my head right now is “Good morning. Good morning.” My name is Josepha Haden Chomphosy. I shouldn’t say it like a question. That is my name. My name is Josepha.
Mark: Great to see you. Thank you for stopping by the Automattic podcast booth. Josepha what do you do with Automattic?
Josepha: Great question. A little bit of everything. I am the lead of the .Organization Division, which is the division that supports and helps to guide a lot of our open-source work with the WordPress project itself.
Mark: Who are you? Tell me your name.
Aaron Douglas: My name is Aaron Douglas. I am a Mobile Wrangler for Automattic. My official job title is actually Chief Tater Tot Officer — I neglected to change that and it just stuck. I work on the WooCommerce mobile app as my primary thing, but everywhere around Automattic I try to help out where I can.
Mark: OK. Here we are in the hallway again. What’s your name and what do you do at Automattic?
Brandon Kraft: Hi, I’m Brandon Kraft. I’m a Code Wrangler working with our Jetpack plugin.
Mark: What is your name?
Sheri: Sheri Bigelow.
Mark: And what do you do at Automattic?
Sheri: I am an Excellence Wrangler.
Rocío Valdivia: My name is Rocío Valdivia. I am from Spain and I’m a Community Wrangler at Automattic.
Achaessa James: I’m Achaessa and I’m with the Legal team.
Will Brubaker: So my name is Will Brubaker. I am the Chief Mechanical Officer.
Erin Casali: So hello, I’m Erin Casali, often referred as “Folletto,” and I currently work as the Design Lead of Jetpack. And how long? It’s been a while now, six years.
Mark: Where are we now, here?
Erin: So we are — I think — in Orlando, because we are inside a hotel, and have been a while, so I’m not entirely sure where we are? Your hotels look all the same. But we’re in Orlando. I lost count of time. I think we are on day three or four of the Grand Meetup.
Mark: It really is a blur, isn’t it?
Erin: It is.
Mark: Thank you for being here.
Matt Mullenweg: Howdy howdy, I’m Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic, and the host of the Distributed podcast. Those voices you just heard? Those were Automatticians — folks who work for Automattic — and today we’re going to be hearing from them about this year’s Grand Meetup, and more broadly, what distributed work means to them. Back in September, Automattic held its annual Grand Meetup, which is the one time during the entire year that pretty much everyone at Automattic gets together in one place. The other 51 weeks of the year, we all work from different places all over the world — over 70 countries now. So this is a chance for some of us to meet face-to-face for the first time, and for everyone to catch up with old friends, discuss our work and align around our goals, and hear great talks from folks like Stephen Wolfram (who was a guest on this podcast a few weeks back). We set up a recording booth at the meetup and talked to a bunch of folks from around the company to hear about their experiences with distributed work. My colleagues Mark Armstrong and Ben Huberman were on the ground, asking questions throughout the meetup. Mark and Ben are from Automattic’s Editorial team, and they’ve also been helping out a ton with this podcast. We’ll kick things off with some Automatticians talking about why meetups matter for distributed teams, then get into an interview with Megan Marcel, our Director of Global Events & Sponsorships, about what it takes to pull off this huge event with so many people — I think we had around 900 this time. Then we’ll hear some remote work tips, and finish with some stories about why these folks have chosen the distributed lifestyle. OK, let’s do it. Take it away, Mark.
Mark: OK, thank you, Matt. Now that we’ve met some of our colleagues from Automattic, let’s go deeper and learn a little bit more about their experiences at the Grand Meetup. If I can set the scene a little bit, Ben and I stationed ourselves at different tables outside in the hallways of this conference room in Orlando — just a few miles from Walt Disney World. We just flagged down people as we saw them, or people would see us with a microphone and say, “Hey, what’s that? Can I get interviewed?” I have to say it was super fun to have an excuse to pull people aside and interview them and ask them about their experience at the Grand Meetup. It can be such a nerve-wracking experience to be surrounded by all the people you work with, so it’s just fun to take a step back and look at the scene, and ask some questions of each other on what it’s all about and why we’re even there in the first place.
Mark: Now we’re here at the Grand Meetup in Orlando, Florida. What is the Grand Meetup?
Josepha: The Grand Meetup is basically like a company all-hands. I think that’s how corporate places call it, where we get everybody from the company who’s able and willing together in one place to do some additional training, additional team-building, and a lot of [the things that have] to happen when you work in a distributed company. So when you work in a distributed company, every time that you interact with your colleagues via text, or however you are away from them, you are taking out of your social bank account with them. And so when you get people together, that’s when you have the opportunity to see each other face to face, remind everybody that you’re all human beings, and fill that social capital back up, because it’s so hard to communicate via text. That’s one of the main benefits of bringing everybody together this way. Of course we have a lot of trainings and a lot of opportunities to have high-bandwidth conversations. But I think that’s one of the main benefits, and it’s almost a side-effect benefit. I don’t think anyone thinks actively about that when they bring everybody together for this.
Mark: When did you join Automattic?
Achaessa: November 1 in 2018, so I give a flash talk this year. It’s my first GM.
Mark: Fantastic. So what how has it been so far?
Achaessa: The GM? I love it. I love it. I’m meeting all these people who I’ve been working with all this time and it’s so awesome. It’s like the best in the world.
Will: It’s a very energizing experience to be here. My job is very demanding, and my life is very demanding, and everything around us is very demanding. I start to get de-energized in about July or August, and it’s also like things are physically — it’s hot outside, and things are more difficult in this time of year, at least for me. But then I get here, and I get around people and I ask questions there that are on my mind and what I’m passionate about, and I want a real answer here. And you know what? I get a real answer, and I get an answer that inspires me and makes me want to go home and work harder. You know what? I’m empowered now to fix the things that have exhausted me, and we’re going to start over, and we’re going to move towards the next year’s goals, and I’m very clear what those are. And that’s what this does for me, is that it’s a reset. It energizes.
Ben: So right now we are in Orlando for the annual Grand Meetup. What does the Grand Meetup mean to you?
Rocío Valdivia: Wow. The Grand Meetup means a lot of things to me. I love the energy. I come back home with all my batteries charged for the rest of the year. I’m very aligned with the values of this company and I’m very aligned with the kind of people that I find here in general. Nobody’s normal, right, and everybody’s different in so many different ways. And in this company you can be however you want to be, and [be] nice to each other. And something that I will highlight as well is that everybody helps each other. I love that. And what I value the most about the GM is the connections that I create in person, that I can use them. It’s like I take advantage of all the connections I create in person during the GM the rest of the year. I learn more what people do. For example, I sit down and I meet someone during lunch and hey, this person just tells me that [they] work in marketing or [they’re] working on this and that. And then we have a conversation and we realized that we have so many things in common. And then for example, I am marketing seeking help maybe with WordCamps, and then we start planning. “Oh we should do this. We should do that.” And I love it. Because normally those kinds of things don’t happen during the year because you are so focused on your daily-basis job that you can not find the time to just hang out in different teams’ channels. I don’t normally do it because [I am] so busy. Right?
Mark: What was your first Grand Meetup like?
Josepha: Oh, my first Grand Meetup was terrifying. I’m a wild extrovert, especially compared to a distributed technology company standard-issue employee. Wild extrovert.
Mark: What are you talking about?
Josepha: “I’ve never heard of such a thing!” I was told by my team lead at the time that I didn’t need to prepare for anything because I was so extroverted. And so I arrived and I had no idea what to expect or who was there. I joined a tiny team — like seven people, maybe six even — and so I joined and I knew them and that was it. I didn’t know that there was this whole other company going on. I didn’t know that we had classes we had to attend. I just showed up to stuff randomly on the day that they were happening and it was really stressful. Even for me, I remember thinking at the end of it like, “I’m not sure that I’m an excellent fit here.” I wasn’t prepared. Everybody knows everyone. I don’t know anyone. I have nothing in common because of course I hadn’t spent any time trying to figure out where I was headed. It was really stressful. But I made it through.
Mark: It’s a sensory overload, isn’t it?
Josepha: Yeah. It’s like the first time you go to CES, in case anyone does. You can make it about two-and-a-half days before you’re like, “This is terrible and I’m going to hide in my room until everyone is gone. And then I’m going to get on the first very slow transportation out of here, and that’s it.”
Mark: But it’s like CES, but they are everyone you work with, and a bunch of people who you have already chatted with, but you have never met them in person.
Josepha: Exactly. Exactly. And you’re not sure whether you inadvertently offended them. And sometimes you completely forgot to respond to them cause you hadn’t figured out how to use all the communication channels yet. And they’re like, “I asked you something two months ago, it probably shouldn’t have been time sensitive, but now I’m mad and it is.” So you run into all these surprises because you hadn’t figured out how to communicate. You hadn’t figured out how to work with all of the information that comes in because there’s so much information all the time and you have to be proactive about finding it, which is good, in a way, and also really difficult in ways as well.
Mark: We’re in a big hotel complex in Orlando, Florida right now. We’ve got a bunch of employees in front of us. How does this compare to your first Grand Meetup?
Josepha: It was so much more casual, because, if you think about the difference between 300 employees to almost a thousand employees, and the types of employees, and the roles that they have — that we’ve taken on since then — it was so much more casual. It was almost familial before. And I don’t know if it’s mostly a matter of the way that my work has changed, but I remember that I was in full discovery mode the whole event and just trying to figure out who did what and why, and where all the work came from, and what we were doing, and why we did it. And now it feels like — and I don’t know if it’s accurate or not — but it feels like for the most part, everybody already knows where they’re supposed to be, what they’re supposed to be doing, how the work is supposed to go. We show up and everybody already has this excellent plan and a goal for what to do for the week, even if that goal is “finish my support rotation.” And I think that’s a really nice thing, to have a really easy, collegial sense, which before was a “Hey, casually figuring out what to do now that we’ve arrived.”
Mark: Now there’s another element to Grand Meetups that continues to this day, although it’s evolved a bit. Your first Grand Meetup, correct me if I’m wrong, you did not know that you were going to have to present a flash talk?
Josepha: Yeah, I didn’t quite know. I had never seen a flash talk. I didn’t even do any research. So I arrived and someone had told me, “This is a thing that has to happen but it’s really easy, because you’re an extrovert, and so you show up and you talk for four minutes, it’ll be easy.” Now I love public speaking and I’ve done a lot of it, and four-minute presentations for me are way harder than 45 minutes, because you have to choose and plan what you’re going to say, every second of all of that. You don’t have any room for extemporaneous chatter. And so I showed up and they were like, “Oh we never received your slides.” And I was like, “What slides? Why do I need slides? What is it? What is the flash talk?” It’s short. I thought I just had to get up and say my name. And so I had to suddenly pull together slides and it was the most boring, bland title for a talk I could have ever imagined. It was like “Learning to be a better mentor,” which is super on-brand for me. And also, especially seeing what I do now, super on-brand for the future of my work here. But I didn’t know that at the time. No one else knew it at the time. I was just someone here to manage meetups. Man, I felt so stupid because everyone else is “Making paella the best: why Spaniards hate your stupid ham.” And mine was like, “Be a better mentor.” I was so serious. I showed up and I was serious and it was mildly embarrassing, but I survived.
Mark: I have to say, I think I remember watching your flash talk and saying, “Yes, Josepha is here.” I really enjoyed it. I remember enjoying it. Kudos to you.
Josepha: Thank you.
Mark: But it is a funny thing because you come in and you think the flash talks are going to be half about work or maybe some lighthearted stuff. But very rarely they’re about your day-to-day work. I have learned we have such a talented group of people at this company and that’s what I feel like I learned so much from these flash talks. People have such diverse interests and hobbies and passions.
Josepha: It brings back that human element, and humanizing people again and reminding people that we’re more than just a Happiness Engineer or someone on Editorial. There’s more to who we are than just that one thing. And I think that’s really special and really important and something you don’t get in corporate settings that are this size.
Mark: What are some other pro tips for attending a Grand Meetup?
Josepha: I think the thing that is most important is to consider what your boundaries are before you come. It’s so easy for introverts and extroverts to get swept up in the excitement of it, and like — are you willing to stay up until two in the morning in the party suite? Because that’s where the people that you had dinner with ended up. Because if you don’t, you don’t prepare for it. If you normally go to bed at at 10 o’clock at night and wake up at 6:00 AM and have a really clear routine, and then you get so far off your routine because you’re so excited and you want to connect with people and learn more about them, you can really forget to prepare yourself for that and just wear yourself out long before the event is over. Because especially now, we have these really — this year we have these big Team Days for the first day-and-a-half, and then a bunch of individual trainings all the way through, and ways that people can learn and do high-level planning and teamwork throughout the week. You want to be remotely fresh all the way through that. And if you just don’t remember that you plan to be an extrovert this week and so your introverted self forgot to have lunch by yourself in your room, you’ll feel really overwhelmed by the end of it. And so just planning for that, knowing what you’re wanting to do and how it’s going to change your routine, and being mindful of that for yourself is the biggest thing I think anyone can do before they come.
Mark: What’s been your favorite part of the Grand Meetup so far?
Brandon: That’s a hard question. There’s so many great parts of the Grand Meetup. In some sense we have some amazing keynote speakers. And hearing these folks that we would never meet in person otherwise, and having some really great insight there. But frankly, really it’s just this time here, like right down the hallway between sessions, being grabbed by you, Mark, just to talk for a few minutes. I really like that ability to meet with different people like that, that we wouldn’t normally ping each other on Slack because we don’t really have an operational reason to. But we know each other and we see each other and we rekindle that relationship, even though we don’t work together day-to-day. And if we never had the Grand Meetup, we wouldn’t be able to keep that going. I think the best part is just seeing people that I know from other parts of the company. And even if it’s just a quick hello, or a handshake, or a cup of coffee, or five minutes on a podcast. I really think that’s the most valuable part of the Grand Meetup.
Mark: Now what are you doing this year? Are you doing a project?
Erin Casali: The last few years I’ve helped with organizing the classes. This year I just taught a couple of classes — well, more workshops. I prefer the full workshop format myself. And this year I was helping out with one on floor storming, which is a workshop technique to synchronize and discuss processes. We worked on one on fast design — how to generate ideas quickly, how to push ourselves to create wild ones that then can become useful to projects.
Mark: What else happens at a Grand Meetup?
Erin: A lot of things. This year is probably one of the most varied ones. So you have a combination of assigned tables, which is something that at the beginning you’re like, “Why are you assigning the table to me?” But then if you feel relaxed because you’re like, “Yeah, I know I need to go to the table, and I know it’s going to be all new people.” And so you chat, you know new people. And then there are keynotes, external speakers, and then there are projects. And then there are a lot of occasions to catch up with people and coordinate things. One of the most beautiful things is how some of the — in the free time between activities — how naturally some discussions pop up. For example, today I’m just out of a discussion that was organized one hour earlier. And because some teams felt the need to discuss some critical topics, some problems they found. And they pulled in the right people, and in an hour we were able to identify some problems, identify some steps forward. It’s still a challenge, but now everyone is synchronized. And it happened just because someone was like, “Yeah, let’s pull the right people in the room together.”
Mark: When you have something like that happen, do you sometimes ask yourself, “Why do we not get together more often?”
Erin: Frankly, I think there is a balance there. There are times when you’re like, “Oh, I really need to pull people together.” But remotely, you still can. Sometimes it’s just a matter of spinning up a remote chat and sometimes it’s also faster remotely because everyone’s just typing away. You send that private message and that’s very simple in a way. For me that’s one of the powerful — that is a bit understated when we talk about remote work because in practice, very few discussions actually require people to be there in person. What you need is people to synchronize, and there are many ways to synchronize. In this case, I think this could have happened digitally. But it’s just effective because we are here.
Mark: How does it feel to you seeing the evolution of the company and the evolution of the Grand Meetup, for you to be in this giant hallway and surrounded by a thousand of your closest colleagues?
Sheri: It’s so many people. That’s really funny because I came into this meetup like, “Oh, Grand Meetups are not the same. It won’t be the same feeling anymore. This one, it’s too big now. It’s like I don’t know anyone anymore.” I’ll just be walking around and I won’t know anyone. I won’t see anyone that I know and how will that feel? And I thought “Oh, maybe it won’t be as good.” But when I got here, I found that I just see someone, I can’t move through the hall without stopping like 20 times. So it takes me really long to move from one place to the other because I recognize someone, I see someone I worked with, I see someone I’ve only met online ever before and I want to say hi to everyone. And so yet again I’m here saying “I love everyone,” but I haven’t met — I don’t think I could possibly meet them all, actually. There is some really nice balance for me in the sense that I can have some great deep conversations and see my teammates. There was time set up for teams in the beginning, which I greatly valued and that whole “this is massive” feeling, like, “Oh my gosh, look at this room that we filled with people who are my people. They’re just like me.” And that’s one of the things that I thought when I — the very first WordCamp San Francisco that I went to, I was like, “These people are just like me. These are my people.” I feel a strong connection and [hold] a special place in my heart for everyone before I even meet them because I know that if you work here you’re probably pretty great.
Mark: Had you met any Automattic employee in person before the Grand Meetup?
Achaessa: In person before the Meetup? Yeah, a few.
Mark: So just to clarify, before you joined the company — the interview process, none of that was in-person, right?
Achaessa: No, none of it was in-person. None of it all. But I’ll tell you the reason that I even applied. So I saw this job posted — the corporate paralegal position posted. And I was like, who is this? What’s this company? And so I went and I did my homework and when I got to the HR page, there was the link to the Diversity and Inclusion videos. I went there and I started watching those videos and tears just started shooting out of my face. And I was like, these are my people. I don’t know, it’s just — every single one of them spoke to my heart. In 2016 I got laid off from a consulting job and I had to take an in-house job that required me to be in an office in San Francisco. And I will just tell you that I feel closer to the Automatticians than I felt to those people sitting next to me in that office. Because in an office, sometimes you form cliques and so — I’m 60. You can see my hair, you know, and these were all very young people and they were — they partied a lot. They were still in that age. I’ve been through that age, but I’m not there anymore. And so it was very hard for me to integrate myself in that community. But at Automattic we have interest groups, I guess you would call [them]. We have Slack channels for every level of interest, and I have never felt more included in my life. I have people coming up to me at the gym: “I know you from this channel,” “Oh yeah, I love what you said here,” “Are you going to do this?” And “Let’s do this!” It’s like coming to family, you know, it’s like a family reunion.
Mark: Tell me about your flash talk.
Achaessa: Ooh. Okay.
Mark: What is a flash talk?
Achaessa: So a flash talk every first year. Now I hear I lucked out because it used to be every single person, every single year had to do a flash talk until what year?
Mark: I would say that would have been 2016 or 2017…
Achaessa: I just lucked out. So now it’s every person at their first GM has to give a “Four minutes about me.” So whatever — not necessarily about you, but whatever you want to talk about, you’ve got, maximum, four minutes to do it. And I really freaked out at the beginning, which is funny because in my industry, equity comp, I do speaking engagements all the time. I used to run an education program. I did talking all the time. But this “four minutes about me” was just like, “Ugh.” But I did it. Well, I haven’t done it yet, but I prepared. I prepared my flash talk. It’s about aging and adventure. It’s called “When Does the Adventure End? 30? 40? 50? 60?”
Mark: Spoilers? Can you tell me when the adventure ends?
Achaessa: Never. It never ends. It absolutely never ends. It just depends on how you approach it, right?
Mark: Now how does this compare to your very first meetup? When did you join Automattic?
Aaron: It was barely two months before the Grand Meetup. That was in San Francisco, and also Santa Cruz, California.
Mark: How many employees at the company at that time?
Aaron: Oh gosh. I think I was number 220 at that point. So it felt like a large company to me at that point, and having not come from the WordPress community. I’ve used WordPress, but I have an iOS developer background, some Android as well. My sphere did not include the community around WordPress, so I felt a bit out of sorts when I first came to the Grand Meetup because I felt like I didn’t belong. But it was maybe an hour in after sitting on the couch at the old Automattic headquarters that I immediately knew that I was at the right place, connecting with the people that were there and just felt very welcomed and included. I was already in on the jokes on day one, so it was great.
Mark: That’s fantastic. So how does the vibe compare, 220 employees, to — here we are with going on over a thousand employees?
Aaron: Realistically the vibe hasn’t changed all that much in my mind, because there aren’t that many times that you’re all together in the same room. So I will say that if we’re doing a major Town Hall or we’re doing a keynote and you happen to turn around, then yes, it’s very obvious that we’re a lot larger. I’m one of those people that tends to sit in the front row. So my perspective hasn’t changed all that much. When it comes to the hallway conversations, we tend to do training or classes — people hold classes for other Automatticians to teach their own things that they’ve learned. Those are still relatively the same size and those conversations haven’t really changed their format at all. So yes, we’ve grown in scale, but really the heart of what the annual Grand Meetup is, is still the same, at least in my mind.
Mark: Why, if you’re a distributed company, why would you have a Grand Meetup? Why would you do this every year?
Aaron: Financially it’s a hard hit on Automattic’s books because you’re flying everybody into the same space, you’re giving them a place to sleep, and feeding them fairly well, actually. But the reality is, it’s hard to quantify what the Grand Meetup gives us — in material things, swag, I guess we get. So that’s cool as an Automattician, but the reality is I’m developing relationships with people across Automattic that I may not have a chance to work with on a daily basis. I have not crossed paths with you all that much except for a few Editorial PR-related things. But we’ve had a ton of conversations at the GMs over the years and what I like to call — well we use Slack, so I’ll just say Slack. The Slack Effect is that, when I’ve met someone in person and I’ve heard their voice, and I’ve seen their eyes and their face. If I have further conversations with them after Grand Meetup, my brain has a hard time discerning whether or not the conversation happened in person or in a Slack or offline asynchronous manner.
Mark: So you’re able to project that personality in conversation under all sort of communication thereafter?
Aaron: Yep. If I’m reading a message from you, your personality bleeds through into how I’m interpreting things to be written. If I haven’t met someone yet, I have a general Automattician voice, [I] assume positive intent and all that. But I think it really helps make me not feel like I’m alone at my house when I have all the Automatticians’ voices, when I’m interacting with people through electronic means. So to me the Grand Meetup is essential for me to feel successful.
Mark: What tips would you give in terms of how to navigate the Grand Meetup?
Aaron: Listen to yourself. If you’re in a state where you are overwhelmed, or if there’s so much input — too many voices, too many smells, too many places to go — you feel like you’re being left out of things. It’s OK to just find a quiet place, sit for a bit, process your thoughts, and then continue on with the day. If you need to go hide in your room for a little while, that’s perfectly acceptable. It’s a lot to take in. You are quite literally, from waking up to going to bed, always subject to things happening. It could be meals, it could be keynotes, conversations in the hallway, and — we all work from home. We have a lot of control over our day and here you have to give up a little bit of that control, and that can be overwhelming, so, self care is really a big thing. The other tip that I would give any new Automattician is just to say hello. It’s amazing what I’ve been able to do by meeting people here at the Grand Meetup that I don’t normally work with on a daily basis. How that’s helped me even years later when, I do need to get something done for my job [that requires input from someone who] happens to work with a team that I haven’t been able to work with before. I can look at someone on a team — like, I had that conversation with them at lunch that one year, and suddenly when there’s a conversation about work, there’s a level of respect or a level of known truth coming from you to that person, because they had a previous conversation. You’re not just some unknown. It’s a very subtle difference, but just knowing who you’re talking to and having that conversation in the past has really helped me in a lot of cases.
Mark: So what is your name?
Sheri: Sheri Bigelow.
Mark: And what do you do at Automattic?
Sheri: I am an Excellence Wrangler, so we do automated testing, manual testing, and keeping track of all the bugs for — I specifically work with a mobile division right now.
Mark: And how long have you been with Automattic?
Sheri: Going on 11 years.
Mark: That’s pretty close to the founding of the company, Sheri.
Sheri: It’s quite close. Closer than it is far. A lot actually.
Mark: So explain to me what your first Grand Meetup was like. Did you have a Grand Meetup when you started?
Sheri: No. When I started, we used to all meet up at WordCamp San Francisco.
Mark: Got it.
Sheri: I’m very extroverted, but I was so nervous, so nervous to meet new colleagues. I looked up to everyone so much and — one thing that I still laugh about and tell quite often — I told Matt, “I love everyone.” And he just kind of looked at me and he said, “You haven’t met everyone yet.” I said, “I love them all anyway.” I was so excited. It was a really fun time.
Ben: Thank you, Sheri. Hello everyone, Ben Huberman here. The Grand Meetup is a huge undertaking that takes years to plan. We’ve heard from people from all over the company talk about what it’s like to attend the GM. Now let’s talk to someone who knows what it takes to actually pull it all together and make it happen.
Ben: Okay. Hello?
Ben: Could you tell us your name and title please?
Megan: Megan Marcel and I am an Events Wrangler on the Events team at Automattic.
Ben: Could you tell us a little bit what an Events Wrangler does?
Megan: Sure, so Events at Automattic. An Events Wrangler ranges from sponsorships, to our internal meetups — and the biggest meetup being our Grand Meetup, which is when the entire company comes together for a week of team bonding and learning. Really the one time we’re all together in person.
Ben: When did you start getting involved with planning this event?
Megan: I got started working on the Grand Meetup when I first got here. I got off the plane at the Grand Meetup and I was helping people get on buses, but really sticking to it full time for the past two-and-a-half years, last year being the first that I completely owned the Grand Meetup. I’m leading.
Ben: I can imagine that people who’ve never been to a Grand Meetup might not have quite an idea of how complicated this process is. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about what this process entails.
Megan: Right now I’m starting to plan for 2021 locations.
Ben: So two years from now.
Megan: Two years out. But the real planning begins about a year out. We’ll go to contracts, potentially earlier than that. And the real planning starts about six months out. That’s when we start doing it full time — all of the logistics, from people getting visas to come to the Grand Meetup, booking flights — and then we start getting to the stuff about when they are actually on site.
Ben: How many people work with you on this? Cause this is a huge undertaking.
Megan: It’s a huge undertaking and definitely not one I could ever do alone. We have two full-time folks that work with me on the Grand Meetup, and then our extended teams. So on site we have about 10 people dedicated to working on the Grand Meetup, and those folks will help a couple of weeks out and get them all ramped up for what’s to come on site. This way they can easily transition into the Grand Meetup once we’re here.
Ben: Right. Maybe one thing that we are curious to hear about is how you choose the locations. Right now we are in Orlando.
Megan: So we want to choose a hotel that’s able to accommodate us ideally for two years in a row, because we try to go back to the same place two years. For people who attended before, it’s a little easier for them. And then us, coming to plan it — it’s a lot easier because we have those connections with the vendors that we’re working with. So everyone from the hotel to the AV team, to the transportation company and everything in between. Making sure that they can accommodate us two years in a row, that many people. And we’re also looking for a lot of meeting space. Also hotel rooms. We try to keep everyone at the same hotel — just really creating our own hotel. We actually have our logo on the building this year, on the hotel.
Ben: It looks great and I know many people who listen to this could not have seen it, but it looks pretty fantastic.
Megan: Yeah. So we just try to incorporate all of that and work with a hotel that understands we have a lot of different needs that we have to accommodate, with people coming from different cultures. We have different dietary [concerns], so we’re working with a chef that is willing to work with us to make sure everyone’s comfortable.
Ben: What are some of the most challenging aspects of planning the GM? I can imagine that, for example, working on the menus is one of them, because there are so many parameters to consider. Are there some other things that we might not expect but in real life are super challenging?
Megan: Yeah, for a couple of fun examples… My credit card has gotten declined many times — when you try to order 600 yoga mats to do a breathwork session. Right before we were coming here we were dealing with a hurricane and an airline strike. So, trying to figure out how many people we could rebook on a flight for the very next week we have to…
Ben: Sorry to cut into it, but just to make sure that we know how many people are actually here. Right now.
Megan: We have 808 people here right now, not including speakers. We also wrangle all of our speakers, so all of the programming, researching speakers, then connecting with them, contracting them, getting them here, doing rehearsals with them, and we doubled the amount of external speakers we have this year for keynotes. So we have eight this year and that’s not including any of our workshop speakers who are coming in.
Ben: Do you have any favorite memories either from, I know this GM has only kind of started, but I don’t know from either this one or previous ones. Moments where things kind of clicked for you and you thought, “Oh this was all worth it. All my hard work has paid off.”
Megan: Yeah, just seeing people, the smiles on their faces, the small details. If someone’s birthday is this week, getting them a birthday cake, it makes a world of difference when they’re away from their families during this time. I would say being in a general session and having a speaker on stage where the audience is just completely connecting and the thank you’s and people just being so gracious. Everyone is really happy to be here, and just making those connections and seeing people make those connections is just incredible. You see it in the hallways, you see it everywhere. Also, just making the culture of Automattic come to the hotel wherever we are. It’s Automattic.
Ben: This is Ben again. Everyone at Automattic has their own experience of distributed life. Some of us are constantly on the move. Others log into Slack from places like Tasmania or Uruguay or Nova Scotia. Some work from home, where they might also take care of family members or pets. Others, like me, mix it up a little between our home office, a favorite cafe, or a coworking space. One reason the Grand Meetup is special is that it gives us all a chance to learn from one another about what’s possible once you join a distributed company. We were able to capture a few of these stories, so let’s hear some of them.
Will: So for the previous three years I was in a camper. I was on the back of a pickup truck and on the Pan-American Highway for the most part. There were some diversions into Brazil, into a lot of Argentina, a lot of Bolivia.
Ben: How does that even work logistically? Can you just park somewhere, get internet, and then just do your work? How does it work in reality?
Will: You know, this is the age of the internet. Anything is possible. There are apps. And so we relied on an app called iOverlander. This is this crowdsourced app and it was people who lived the same lifestyle we lived. They would drop a pin on a map and they would leave a comment like, “This is a campground, it has WiFi, there’s hot water (or not), there’s electricity (or not),” or “What is the voltage?” So all of this data is all right there. And then you can spend a little bit of time extrapolating all of that data and putting it on a graph or a map or whatever. That’s how we lived, was mapping out the route based on connectivity.
Sheri: I just joined a coworking space actually, and I don’t want to go there often, but I want to go there sometimes, so I can be in a different space and have a different experience and have some more working social time. I love-hate working from home because I’m extroverted. Love that I don’t have to do a commute. Hate that I don’t get to be around my colleagues more often. Not only that, remote. I hate that I can’t go and see friends that I’ve made at the company in the city where I live, or even several hours nearby, right? There’s friends from all over. So the Grand Meetup is really nice and really connecting, and it helps you work so much with people.
Josepha: When I got here, everyone was like, “It’s great because you can work in your pajamas if you want to.” And for the first six months I did. I didn’t have a dedicated office area and I just sort of got up and started working whenever I felt like it, and finished working whenever I felt like it. And I found that that was not a good choice for me, especially in the work that I have to do. It ended up making me less resilient, more reactive, and also I had no concept of when work started and stopped. Our brains compartmentalize the information that we need in various places, and so when I lived and worked and did all of that stuff all in the same area, my brain was like, I guess we work all the time now, cause we work in our pajamas and we work on the sofa, which is also where we don’t work. And so this is just what we do. We work 24/7 I guess. It was a rough first year for me frankly. My first year here I really felt like Automattic and Matt had made the wrong decision in hiring me, because I was having so much trouble getting used to it. So now I have a dedicated office and I have my work computer, which does not come out of my office unless I have to write. If I write, I go to a different room that has a taller ceiling.
Mark: Explain that.
Josepha: I’m just going to tell you everything about how I have hacked my focus. So I have found that when I’m in a room with a shorter ceiling, I’m able to focus better. But if I have to do creative work, I have to go — or rather it is easier for me if I go to someplace with a higher ceiling, because it frees up, it just changes this idea of what I’m doing. It changes how I feel about it. And so interestingly enough, when I have to do really unpleasant writing work, which sometimes happens, I do that on airplanes, cause it’s a very constrained space, but I’m 30,000 feet in the air. I don’t have any place to go. I’m very focused, but I still I’m able to get that really creative, generative feeling so that I can get the writing done, because I’m flying through the sky on a tin bus.
Mark: So when you’ve got a tough email to write, you’ll just book a flight somewhere?
Josepha: Yes, I do all my emails on airplanes. No, no. If I have a tough email to write, generally for an email because it’s that short, I will just get up and walk into the high-ceilinged room and then walk back to my computer.
Mark: That’s great. Now tell me, at home in your house, tell me about how you work at home, and where that is, and what your days look like.
Aaron: My day’s fairly structured in terms that — I get up in the morning, I put the coffee on and I change clothes. I don’t work in pajamas normally, so I have a ritual where I feel like I’m starting work. I’ll hop online and check out things that people have messaged me about overnight. My team is very geographically diverse, so when I come online in the morning, they’ve been working for several hours, if not longer. So I’m playing a little bit of catch up, but I also don’t let that be the focus of my morning. I figure out “Where am I most useful at this point in time?” Because within maybe an hour or two, some people may be going offline. So there’s very little chance for overlap with a lot of people on my team. About midday, it’s when I usually try to get outside. I have ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, and did not realize that until I started at Automattic. So one of the founding things that I realized — in order for me to be successful, I need to do some sort of physical activity at some point during the day to help reset my brain. It feels like I’ve had a good night’s rest and it’s like another cup of coffee, if you will, but it sustains me for the rest of the day. Then I don’t feel like I’m trapped within the four walls of my office. So I’m also one of those weirdos that’s out at -10 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, going for a run. Just because the feeling of being outdoors is really what recharges me, and then I come back and finish my workday. Sometimes I’ll split it up and get some tasks done during the light hours and then in the evening I might catch up a little bit on the things that were maybe less deep work. So, shallow work — things that maybe don’t need my full concentration.
Mark: One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is that Automattic has the ADDmatticians channel and neurodiversity channels for folks to swap tips. What are some things that have been shared among the group in terms of how distributed work works for neurodiversity and for how you work within that?
Aaron: I think the big takeaway is that like most people that belong to any type of unique group, if you have neurodiversity, it means a lot of things. It includes people on [the] autism scale or in my case, Attention Deficit Disorder. In my mind it’s a collection of things that you can’t see that affect a person to see or feel the world differently. So the biggest takeaway that I have, that I’ve shared with other people, is that you have to be responsive to your own signs of being overwhelmed. You have to — self-care is a really simple way of putting it, but you have to develop a mechanism to address when you are feeling overwhelmed. I’ve tried to lead my team with vulnerability, both from myself, and I try to encourage other people to be vulnerable. I think that’s what the ADDmatticians channel and being open about neurodiversity does, is that it establishes that we all have — I’m not going to call them faults — but we have unique things about ourselves that are different. You can only work better with people if you know what unique things make them different from yourself. In my case specifically with ADD, if I’m having a day where I can’t concentrate, it affects how I’m leading a meeting or how I’m having a broken conversation with someone because I’m doing several different things. Then I’ve asked people to call me out if they feel like I’m not giving them the focus that they need. So I’ve been very open with how my brain works and if I tell people, look, I need to go out and go for a run, my brain’s just not working. They know that I’m not just trying to get away from them. They just know that I’m trying to be in the right moment or in the right spot for them and it’s — I don’t know how I could do that without coming across as being non-committed to the team, without telling them with honesty about what is going on in my brain. So me leaving them to go for a run doesn’t mean that my running is more important than them. I’m actually doing this to help me be a better team lead and a better coworker.
Mark: It seems to me overall that distributed work is a huge positive for those that are differently-wired or operate different. Just in terms of — you’re in control of your surroundings in a much deeper way than having to go into an office. Is that your finding?
Aaron: It is, for those of us that are fortunate to have the ability to have a quiet space or to be able to model an office that supports their needs. I feel very fortunate that I’m in a place where I could buy a house that’s more suburb or more rural, and I don’t have a neighbor necessarily outside the window with a leaf blower during the middle of the day. I feel empowered to be able to change things, to make the environment as best as it can be. There’s no requirement for me to have a certain chair or certain desk, and granted, Automattic does give us the ability to buy a really great chair and a really great desk and have the computers that we need, so that eliminates that from being a concern, which is a huge deal for me. Having a great posture and having comfortable things to work on, that’s a majority of what I need. But not everybody else, from previous jobs I’ve worked in — places where the air conditioning didn’t work right. Or one person was fiddling with the thermostats. I have complete control over that. I can move the thermostat as much or as little as I want. Or if I’m having a day where I just want to go work outside, grab the laptop — as long as the WiFi reaches, I’m good to go.
Josepha: I’ve worked in high-stress environments my entire career, so being resilient no matter where you’re working has always been very important to me. And this is a particularly difficult thing, because when you work in a distributed fashion — and I work with the open-source community, so volunteers also — all three of the major risk factors for anyone working with employees come into play there. So you have to delegate things. And for volunteers you’re not delegating, you’re asking them to take part in that. So you are delegating things, which is this huge level of risk. You have all these people that are far away from you so you don’t see them every day, not only [do you not] see them physically every day, but so often we lose track of them because your DMs close so that there’s less noise, but then you forget to go and reach out, and so there’s that one. And then of course the third one, which is the fact that we work in a cross-cultural space, not only geographically cross-cultural, but for the community itself, for open-source WordPress, the different cultures of distributed work versus co-located work. Those are massively different cultures. And if you’re not aware of how that works versus this works, those two different entities, you never have any concept of how to invite yourself into the space in a way that that works for both sides. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure that all of my teams are resilient because we do really hard work on behalf of the community and on behalf of Automattic in the community. And it’s important to me that they’re happy and healthy and safe for as long as they want to work here.
Mark: That’s great. Can I ask you about Slack real quick?
Mark: So do you have Slack on your phone?
Josepha: I do.
Mark: You talk about keeping your computer room and having a set specific time in which work and personal do not overlap as much. How do you deal with that, with your phone and managing your own phone time and asynchronous versus synchronous?
Josepha: I feel like Slack has become the new email. So there’s that. And I do have Slack on my phone. I am in about 15 different Slack channels — Slack instances on my computer, but only two on my phone. One that is Automattic and one that is the WordPress community, not in anything else. And that is specifically for emergency situations, or when I know I have to be moving, but I want to be able to be available for people. I am incredibly aggressive with my do-not-disturb time. It starts at 8:00 PM every night and turns off at 7:00 AM the next morning. And mostly it’s there in case I need it. And I have just convinced myself of that to be true. That’s the only way. A lot of times you just have to remind yourself constantly “this is not for me to be a slave to that information.” It’s in the event I have to get it. And so there’s that. But also I have themed days for what I work on, and also specific times of day where people can expect me to actively reach out and answer their questions. So at 10:00 AM and at 4:00 PM I will go through and respond to any open questions that people have given me over the course of the day or the evening. And I have themed days. So Wednesday, I always do my community check-ins. I check in all the team reps — well not all of them, as many team reps as I can get hold of. I check in with all of them all day on Wednesday. Thursday is a strategy day, so everybody comes into basically a very long meeting with me where they can drop in and out and discuss strategy problems that they have. And Fridays are when I follow up on everything that people need to be responding to me about that they’ve forgotten about. And then Monday is internal Automattic days. Tuesday is external blogger for the community days. I don’t know why I started with Wednesday and worked my way back around.
Mark: So you have not only worked in this structure for a long time, but you’ve studied it and written about it for a long time. How would you say Automattic’s distributed work model has evolved while you’ve been here?
Erin: It’s super fascinating for me because I come from a background in consulting where I was actually helping enterprise companies to work better together. And one of the first things I understood coming here is that the way Automattic was organized, even at the smaller size it was, is that a lot of the practices inside Automattic at that small size were the same practices that I was trying to put in place for companies 1000, 10,000-people large. So I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. They’re already doing all the good practices because working remotely forces them to.” So that was one of the very first insights I had because that also means that scaling that stops being a logistical issue, a tool issue, and you can focus all your efforts, instead of on the people on the leadership, on the processes. So all the things that instead are actually the problems between people that need to scale. And I think that’s one of the biggest advantages we had. And that hasn’t changed because we were 200 people. We were using certain tools. Yeah. The chart we were using at the time is not the same chart we use today, but it’s still the same kind of scope and tool. And we are now a thousand people roughly. And this structure in that sense is still the same.
Mark: Now given that you have studied this, written about it, consulted — what is Automattic doing right and wrong with distributed work? We must have some bad habits that exist, that maybe frustrate you.
Erin: Yes. So let’s start from this. What we’re doing right is, in terms of what is usually referred for example, as a flat organization — but we’re not flat. So the way I would define is that, there is no boundary in contacting anyone in the company. I should probably find a better, catchier way to say this, but we have a hierarchy, but the point is not the hierarchy. The point is that I can reach anyone in the company in any given time and, may actually encourage it to do that, if there is effectiveness. Again, you touched on a topic that is not really about the tools, right? It’s more about the culture and interaction between people. And I think that there’s a little bit of an obsession in the sense that, “Oh, the company’s failing because this information that I used to post, before everyone read it and suddenly I have a problem because I don’t know anymore where to post or where to discuss things.” But we grew, right? We are a larger company and we all know from, for example, social psychology, that we can hold in our mind roughly 200 people, 250 people, as our close connections. And of course it doesn’t limit work, but let’s assume for a second that 200 people is limited to work. Now if you’re a 200-people company, you pretty much know exactly where to send the right message to the right people. It’s natural, it’s implicit. You don’t even think twice. Where you are a 500, a 1000-people company, 10,000-people company, suddenly you’re like, “Oh, wait a minute, my information. How to propagate? How to make sure the right people listen to it?” This is not a problem solved with any tool. It just a matter of skill. Shaping the information channels is part of, in a way, the management, the leadership that should act as a filter. And this is one of the reasons why I’m not a huge fan of flat organizations because I believe that a structure — organization hierarchy works, if it’s a communication hierarchy. It doesn’t work if it’s a power hierarchy, but if it’s a communication hierarchy, it’s effective in helping convey this message.
Mark: Hi everybody, Mark here again. Distributed work is a mode of doing work. But it also changes the ways we live our lives, and it expands the possibilities for work/life balance. Ben and I talked with some folks about what distributed work means to them, and some of the conversations that came out of that were pretty moving. Here’s Ben speaking with Will Brubaker to start us off.
Ben: What are some of the other challenges that being part of a distributed team like yours bring into the picture that you wouldn’t necessarily encounter if you’re all in the same office?
Will: Well, time zones is kind of obvious. When are people awake? This is also very important to “When can we have the best impact? Where are the people who use our product? What time of day are they asking for help? What time of day do they need our help? When do we need to be solving problems?” So we have to balance all of that out between our own needs because we do have our own lives, and we have people in our orbit — our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, our — everybody. So we have to balance all of that.
Ben: Do you have any kind of system or tools that help you stop work when it’s done? Cause one of the challenges of being at a distributed team is that, if you work from home, for example, your home and your office are the same space.
Will: Boy, this is a… Yeah, your home and your office is the same space, and this is such an interesting thing. And also your question about how do you balance all of this. It becomes a question of “Do I work from home or do I live at work?” And that’s its own thing.
Ben: Is it still a work-in-progress for you or is it something you’ve figured out by now?
Will: You know, I’m very much in a transition mode right now myself in a lot of ways. And this is — part of the changes that have occurred as the company has grown over the last couple of years is that we have to be a little bit more rigid. We’re covering a lot more ground. Things are happening a lot more rapidly. We have to be able to react in a much more predictable way now. So I need to be able to say that, you know, next Tuesday I am working from this hour to this hour, and I need to commit to that. And so this has been a challenge to get there, but it’s also… I also get to decide that. So if I need to move all of my work hours until the afternoon so that I can do the things that I’m obligated to in the day, I can do that. When we were asked to start working weekends, I was a little bit resentful about that, and I had a very, very strong team lead who supported me, and we ended up working out a really brilliant solution where now I am working every Sunday and I am happy about it, where I was digging my heels in against working weekends. But we found a way to make this work to my benefit, to the company’s benefit and it’s a win-win situation, and this is the company that allows that to happen.
Ben: What are the benefits to being — you just mentioned a couple, but what are some other things that have made working for a distributed company better for you or for your life in general?
Will: To put it in the simplest of terms, I’m working for a company that allows me to be me, and I believe that to be true across the board. And I look at people who were in onesies as cartoon characters, and this is who they want to be. And everybody is really cool with that.
Rocío: There is a map where you can see all the heads of Automatticians. I was the only one there in that super big island full of snow. Basically, my husband got an offer, a very interesting professional experience to work there. And it was scary at the beginning, but we said, “Hey, let’s take the chance, let’s have that adventure and let’s see how it is.” There is nothing to lose. So I was working remotely at that time already. And living there, it was when I joined Automattic, because for me it was clear. I want to work remotely to be able to live there. So for me, it was awesome. It felt like, “Wow, I can be here, in Greenland, in this extreme weather, right. And to be working for a company that I love and doing what I love without a problem. Wow, that’s a nice feeling.” If someone wants to try to work remotely, I will say “Try.” And don’t expect people to be behind your shoulder checking work you’re doing. Just be proactive on finding solutions, doing stuff, and asking for answers when you don’t know how to do something. When you’re working remotely it’s very, very important to communicate as much as possible with your colleagues because it’s the only way for you to say, “Hey, I’m here,” and to learn from them. If you are in the office and you are new and you don’t know things, you just turn your shoulder to the right and ask for questions to your colleague next to you. But we don’t have that when working remotely. So I will say if you don’t feel secure about things, just ask. Because in this company, everybody knows that communication is oxygen, and we really apply it. Ask for questions. People are going to be helpful and never, never feel ashamed of it.
Mark: As you can hear, there’s so much more to distributed work than hanging out at home all day. Here at Automattic, we try to find solutions that make our work more effective and collaborative — but it also allows us to tailor our own work and environment based on how we’re wired. My colleague Aaron Douglas has some great insights on this…
Mark: Now, you wrote a blog post that made the rounds inside of Automattic. Which is basically, How Remote Work Saved my Life.
Aaron: Right? Yep. That’s it.
Mark: So tell me a little bit about that.
Aaron: About two months after I started Automattic, I was overwhelmed, and I knew that my brain works differently than a lot of people, in terms of my focus and attention. It was never really an issue because I had ways of handling that, and actually working in a regular office where you’re constantly being interrupted, being asked to come into meetings, or the person next to you starts having a conversation you’re listening in. It actually worked really well with how my brain’s wired, but then when I started working at home alone, it was really only my own mind defeating myself. So it was all on me to keep that train going during the day. I didn’t know how to cope with it though and so I talked to my physician to say, “Hey, I think I have ADD, I think I’ve had this all my life, but I’ve just never needed to worry about it.” So that sent me on a path of talking with a counselor, [to] start developing a tool box of things to help combat the issues I was having with focus.
The frustration was pretty real and I needed to walk away from my computer one day and it was, I literally walked outside, took a short walk, which is something that normally I’ve been doing. In a regular office, you go for a walk during lunch and you come back all sweaty and you’re worrying about smelling and not every place has a great shower room. It just was an excuse for me not to do something more physical during the day. But at home, who am I trying to impress? As long as I look presentable for a webcam, I can wait till midday to take a shower if I want to go for a walk. But what I realized early on is that, when I came back from those walks, my brain felt almost reset for the rest of the day, and that turned into a daily habit over time. There’s a lot of bits of story in between, but essentially, I went from the occasional walk, to riding my bike, and then to doing running as well, and it’s now a daily habit. I feel strange when I don’t have the ability to get outside and do that exercise, and it’s part of my toolbox.
Before I started at Automattic, I was having issues with atrial fibrillation, and that is where the electrical system — your heart just goes wonky and it doesn’t beat right. The major issue with that is it can induce strokes, because when your heart’s in a stopped pattern, and the blood’s in an area where it shouldn’t be, it can pool and form a clot and that can go into your brain. So I was really scared when I heard that. So that combined with needing to be outside, to help reset the brain, which is like a one-two punch to motivate me. My focus this entire time has just been on my focus. The side effect is that I’m actually, I’m over a hundred pounds lighter than I was before starting at Automattic. I feel like even though I’ve aged, I feel like I’m healthier and I feel younger than I have, and I attribute a lot of that to Automattic and working remote, my coworkers for helping encourage me, and finding friends to just socially run with them, like Strava, Runkeeper, one of those services. That’s been a big part of what’s kept me going and now I’m returning the favor, and also helping other people motivate themselves. So yeah, that’s effectively how I think Automattic helped me save my life. Because I’ve gone from being dependent on medication for atrial fibrillation and feeling defeated, to feeling fairly successful with my attention problems and being off of the medication for my heart, and overall just being in a healthier place.
Matt: Hey everybody. Matt Mullenweg here again. As Automattic has grown, so has the number of perspectives on the freedom, flexibility, and occasional challenges that come with distributed work. It’s really amazing and humbling to listen to these stories, and to be able to relive the magic of the Grand Meetup too. Thanks to everyone who shared, and to Mark Armstrong and Ben Huberman for capturing these powerful stories.
As you’ve heard, hosting the Grand Meetup every year takes a lot of work. Booking hundreds of flights and hotel rooms, the food, the speakers…it’s a lot! But we think the value of the connections that people forge with their coworkers vastly outweighs the cost, which is now getting into the millions of dollars. This meetup, and the smaller ones that our individual teams have throughout the year, are vital for a distributed company.
On the next episode of the Distributed podcast, I’m going to catch up with an old acquaintance of mine, Anil Dash. Anil is a pioneer who really helped define what blogging looked like back in the early aughts. He cares a lot about the Web and about technology, the direction both are going, and how they affect everyone.
Anil runs a semi-distributed company called Glitch, which has developed a social platform for building and sharing apps. The team at Glitch puts lots of thought into creating a work environment that centers employees’ wellbeing. I’m interested to learn how the company’s decision to go distributed fits into their commitment to employee care. They have an office in New York, as well as being distributed, which is also very interesting to me, now having an office in New York at Tumblr.
Thanks so much for listening and see you next time.