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WordPress

VIP Workshop 2014: Sage Advice

vip-mug

I’ll write more about my week and takeaways from it in a bit, but this is one of the swag pieces we gave to our clients at the WordPress.com VIP Workshop this past week in Napa.

The best preview I can give is that I’m much more motivated to be in a position where the above pictured advice will be useful.

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Markel!

Four Years

About five years ago, I took a chance and sent in a cover letter and too-thin resumé to the email address jobs@automattic.com. And then I did it twice more over the succeeding months.

A little over four years ago, two gentlemen named Michael Pick and Matt Mullenweg took a chance and gave a guy with entirely the wrong masters degree and who was working in the traditional publishing business two successive interviews and then a trial for helping to manage a thing called WordPress.tv.

A tiny bit over four years ago, Matt took a chance and gave that same guy a full-time offer to join a company that was still small, but growing. I still hadn’t met anyone from the company.

And four years ago today, I started my first day full-time at Automattic, taking a chance and leaving behind that publishing job to join a growing company, work from wherever I wanted, and get paid to work with the software I was increasingly using both inside and outside of work.

In the last four years, Automattic and I have proceeded to take successive chances both on each other and on things in general. It’s been a surreal adventure the whole way and I still have days where I sit down (or stand!) to work and wonder how I got here. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.

And it’s taken me from working on videos for WordPress.tv, to supporting WordPress.com users in multiple forms, to my current assignment of working with some of the biggest publishers and media companies in the world hosting sites on WordPress.com VIP. (I spent my last trip to New York agape at how many buildings I saw with our clients’ logos on them. It was crazy.)

It’s been four wild years so far. I’ve met some of the most amazing people and formed some pretty great friendships along the way. Automattic is still growing, and it’s still providing me with opportunity to improve myself, learn new things, and stretch my abilities.

So, hey. Four years is a big deal. I’ve worked here longer than anywhere else now.

Here’s to many more years of amazing people, amazing opportunities, and taking chances.

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Markel!

The Automattic Four-Year Laptop

Next week, I’ll be celebrating four years of working at Automattic, which has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. One of the perks of reaching your four-year anniversary is being given a MacBook (Air or Pro) model of your choice, with the WordPress logo customized onto the top cover.

As it turns out, the laptops are customized/branded at Colorware, and I asked before ordering mine if I could also have it painted. The answer was yes. :)

I went for a glossy red for the main piece, glossy white for the hinge, and matte black for the top and bottom plates. So far, the consensus is that it’s pretty sweet-looking:

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It even looks pretty boss with the hinge closed, due to the fact that the main plate also covers the sides of the construction:

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Red and white mixed with black has become a bit of a color scheme for me since I started working at Automattic. When you start here, you get a bag with the logo embroidered on it:

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Originally, I’d gone this route because it matched these guys:

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And it happened to match these guys, too:

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But then at some point, it kind of turned into matching this guy/girl, which dawned on me when I bought this:

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That’s of course not the only thing I have that matches the scheme, like my iPad in black with a Product Red case:

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And my 3DS, which is in red and black:

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And my wallet, which is the image of the grandaddy of them all:

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But this new one is my favorite.

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I’ll say more on the actual anniversary, which is next week. :)

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Markel!

Yo, VIP. Let’s Kick It.

In just four more months, I will have been working at Automattic for four years full-time, which is one of those things that feels both like it’s been forever (because it’s such a part of who I am now) and a really short amount of time (because, you know, time flies).

When I started here, I was updating WordPress.tv as often as possible, and being a Happiness Engineer the rest of the time. After about a year of that, I moved to being a Happiness Engineer full-time.

In four years, I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do in Happiness Engineering: I’ve been in our forums, I’ve been answering tickets for WordPress.com and almost every other service we provide, I’ve been in-person at Happiness Bars and doing workshops at WordCamps, and I’ve helped train and welcome several new “classes” of Happiness Engineers to Automattic I’m happy to call colleagues. It’s been a lot of fun being sort of the Happiness Engineering Obi-Wan.

Today is my first day not being a part of that Happiness team. I’m pleased to share that I’m joining the team working on WordPress.com VIP, supporting enterprise and time-sensitive customers with that same dedication to happiness. I’ve been working a rotation with the VIP team for the past two weeks, and it’s been both rewarding and challenging. I’m looking forward to extending this into the next few years.

Matt says often that within Automattic, we should look for new things to do every few years to make sure we’re keeping the mind sharp and learning new things. If the past two weeks are any indication, this is going to be a grand new adventure. It’s wonderful to have team leads who supported this move and teammates old and new who have provided encouragement.

So here’s to new things.

If you think this sounds like a great place to work, it is. And we’re hiring.

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Markel!

Four Little Numbers

My colleague Joen Asmussen writing about the process of shaping the new default theme for WordPress 3.6 (that happens to be powering this blog now):

Designing Twenty Thirteen has been a pretty remarkable experience, mainly because I got to work with such an amazing community. There’s nothing to temper a theme into shape like hundreds of people submitting patches. It’s as much a privilege as it is a learning experience and the design has changed so much since my initial mockups, all for the better. Here’s how it all started.

Joen and the WordPress community have outdone themselves with this one. I find myself saying it every year, but I don’t see how I’ll switch away from this one.

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Markel!

https://twitter.com/RyanMarkel/status/326350768443633664 Two things about this: It was totally

Two things about this:

  1. It was totally awesome and in the dream I was a total badass. Saved the day.
  2. It’s possible that I may have some repressed feelings about that job.
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Markel!

Automattic Sign Time-lapse

My main man Warren set up a GoPro outside the new Automattic office space in San Francisco as the new sign was placed on the building.

I’m already trying to concoct a reason for me to be in San Francisco so I can see the place and enjoy the new digs. I always enjoyed going to SF and just working from our “home away from home” on Pier 38. The new place looks great and I can’t wait to be there.

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Markel!

Office Space

I got a bit tired of my workspace a few weeks ago and decided to do something about it. I never really liked having my back to the door (having read Dune, of course), and didn’t think the space was very helpful though it was nice and bright.

Office v.1:

Office v.2:

The biggest change I like is that I got rid of the chair mat I was using that kept shattering every six months and bought a small area rug that’s pinned under the desk and protects the carpet.

I have a couple of Lack shelves for the wall that is now behind my desk but I’m dragging my feet on installing them. I think maybe that’s Office 2.5.

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Uncategorized

The Automattic Creed

Matt shared on his blog the Automattic Creed, which is how my colleagues and I live and breathe on a daily basis:

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

Working for with Automattic has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and certainly the best job I’ve ever had. I love what I do and the impact I have in making the experience of WordPress.com users and visitors better each day.

If you’re reading this and think this sounds interesting, maybe you should consider applying.

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Uncategorized

Keeping Things Moving

As an Automattician, I spend the vast majority of my time working from home. This has its advantages and disadvantages, like anything else, but I didn’t think of my physical activity (or lack thereof) in quite the right way until I saw this tweet from my colleague Beau:

http://twitter.com/#!/beaulebens/status/113780084149719040

For reasons that I plan to write about soon, I have been taking a long-overdue look at my habits throughout the day in an effort to improve them and their effects on my overall health. It’s no secret that it’s not a great thing for you to be sitting down all day long.

I know this because the best shape I’ve been in for the last 10 years or so was when I was working retail at Circuit City. Being on your feet for 10 hours at a stretch and walking a store floor will do that to you. Once I shifted to a desk job, I quickly ballooned to over 300 pounds until I hit a high of around 325 in the last couple of years.

(I have since dropped a good amount of weight but that will need to wait for that other post I was talking about.)

What I have been using for about the last year or so to keep myself from getting leg cramps is a little utility called AntiRSI. It sits in your dock (and with the newest version, can sit in your menu bar instead) and has a configurable set of controls for taking breaks.

The options are pretty straightforward:

I don’t use it for the micro breaks as I don’t have any issues with strain (yet) and they were interrupting my flow a bit. Instead, I use it to force myself to take an eight-minute break every 50 minutes (so about every hour). When the 50 minutes of work are up, this appears and won’t go away unless I dismiss it, which I try very hard not to do:

When that appears, I do exactly what it says. The important part is that I stand up when prompted for a work break and walk around a bit. I check on how the kids are doing in school, take a biobreak, refill my water, or any one of a number of things, but (a) don’t work and (2) stay standing and moving as much as possible. Sometimes I will set an eight minute timer on my iPhone and take a walk outside. I walk past the desk every so often to see if the break is up, and when it is I sit back down and get to it.

Now I read tonight that I might not be getting up enough. And it’s possible that using a standing desk (which I have considered) is getting up too much. This is of course only one source of information on this, and you can always find a study or paper that agrees with you, but:

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes.  Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day).

You can read the original text here.

So maybe I will give 30 minute intervals with smaller breaks a shot and see how it goes for a while. I’m thinking 5 minutes’ break every 30 minutes or so.

Do you have a method that works for you? Something you do to stay active throughout the day? I would love to hear about it.