Last week I was in Whistler, British Columbia for my company’s Grand Meetup. Once a year, our entire company gets together to be in person for a week.
The company I work for is entirely made up of remote workers. We used to have a head office, in San Francisco, but with the company successfully scaling to over 600 remote employees now without a need for an office, we just didn’t need it!
This is a relatively uncommon way to work, but for our company, Automattic, it works so well! It allows the company to hire the best people in the entire world for the position, rather than just those willing to live in San Francisco, or another similar big city.
What do we do? We build and support software, likely some that you’ve even heard of, like WordPress.com, Jetpack, WooCommerce, and PollDaddy.
I have coworkers in 58 countries now! I would have thought I’d have nothing in common with these people, having such different lives, but something special happens once a year when we all get together. We laugh, smile, learn, plan, build things, share, joke, and even hug! It’s a bit like a children’s summer camp really!
This was my fifth Grand Meetup, and each one is definitely more enjoyable than the last. The first one, when I didn’t know as many people, and was new to the company, well I was still a little outside my element. With each one, I know more and more people, more and more people know me (as the crazy one who lives up in the snow), and I’m more deeply involved in the work.
Because the time is so precious to me, I didn’t turn in until 3-5am each day. I just didn’t want to miss a moment! After the formalities of the day, we had some drinks and fun each night. I even sang karaoke once!
There are so many elements packed into the week. We spent one full day with our immediate work team and our product division. I support our Jetpack product and spent the day with the other members of the support team, along with the developers, designers, and growth team. The rest of the week is designed to get everyone interacting with other areas of the company.
For our meals, we have assigned seats at lunch and supper, designed to sit us with people we haven’t met yet. These meals are so important to me. Each time I got to meet new people, and learn about their lives and families and where they live. Everyone is so interesting, and kind. How did we fill our company with such interesting people? Is it the company culture? Could I select any 3 people in the world to sit with at supper and have just as interesting of a time?
For other sessions of the week, we were able to continue our regular work, or work on a project, or take a class taught by a colleague to improve our skills or learn a new one. My favourite Grand Meetup task is always working on a project. These are often “wouldn’t it be nice if we had” type of projects, or a “how can we enrich this part of our software we haven’t revisited in awhile” project. I was a project lead again this year and had the most amazing team of three, none of whom I had met previously. We did some incredible work, and launched a new improvement to a very popular feature of our software. While it was later reverted so it could be further tested, it was an incredible experience of iterating on a product feature, researching every angle, talking to people across the company, working with two developers and a designer to implement our plan, testing it, and then presenting it to the entire company on our last day together. What a terrific opportunity to learn!
On our last night together, we have a delicious meal together, and then have a final party. This year over 50 of my coworkers got a band together and each did a few numbers, performing over 20 songs for us! What rock stars they were! Afterwards, we had a DJ play for the rest of the night, DJ Mick, and we danced and hugged and partied the night away.
I take so few photos at Grand Meetups and instead really live in the moment. Here are a few that I did find on my phone though:
To see more of the week, I’d highly recommend my friend Steve’s photos:
Also, check the #a8cgm hashtag on Instagram for more photos from my coworkers: