A heavy heart was all I had, sitting in the lobby for a couple of hours as I said Bye to a bunch of people I had met for the first time a week ago. I didn’t quite understand why I was feeling so sad when I don’t really know most of these people well enough to miss them. After all, they have been colleagues and friends for one week to at most 4 months.
It was the week of the Grand Meetup, the once a year gathering of 500 (and growing) a11ns – the only time of the year when all of us are in one place, while we work remote across the world for the rest of the year.
I work across products with many teams and so for the past week I had made an effort to introduce myself to as many people as possible. I usually find it quite difficult to meet new people – I am rather talkative once you get to know me socially, but I am not the one who will usually start a conversation – so this was expected to be and was an intensive week for me. I had increased my Meetamattician score (the people I have physically met and had a conversation with) from 11% to 41% during the past week.
There were a lot of stimulating conversations, both in the townhalls and also in smaller groups. I attended a class on A/B testing, growth, and sign up flows and had very interesting discussions with the small group of diverse people in the class which I found very useful. I appreciated spending time with the teams I work with, having us all around a table and discussing strategy, design, product, pricing, customers, and user experience.
It took me almost 6 days to get used to the timezone and have a straight sleep through the night. Most days I was very tired by late evening and I found it difficult to focus or stay awake through the town halls. Hopefully I can catch up on a lot of those when the recordings are available.
Whistler is a beautiful place, with a lot of things to do around. I went against advice and common sense, to sign up for too many things, and paid the price. But the few activities that I did do (early morning 5k run around the golf course, swing dancing workshop, and the Via Ferrata) were so much worth it. The Via Ferrata was a particular highlight as it may have been the scariest thing I have done in the last few years. I underestimated the effort and the duration of this one. I wanted to give up, screamed and almost cried, had to push myself and conquer my fears, felt cold and lonely, but I was jubilant when I finished it. A big kudos to Maya, my guide for being patient with me and getting me to the top!
I would have liked to do the walk to the lakes, some of the beautiful hikes around, ride the gondola between the mountains, ride downhill on the bike, and ziplining… but then we are going back to Whistler at least a couple more years, and I will definitely get a chance to do some of those.
During the final day or two, it got a lot more difficult to have conversations with new folks. And I am guilty of skipping the last day’s lunch because I didn’t have the energy to meet any new people. I was feeling rather unsocial and gloomy and needed to preserve my sanity and recharge for the final party that night.
There was a lot happening with a packed schedule, meeting 500 amazing a11ns in a week brimming with energy, having passionate conversations on users and products, having fun, but I would have also liked a few more silent moments to have 1-1 conversations and get to know people as more than just colleagues. It is going to take time, but I hope to be around in the Automattic family for a long time and make lasting friendships.