The Grand Meetup thoughts

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.

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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.

Running Inspirations

These days I classify people as runners and non-runners. Fit and unfit people.

I look up to Iron-women (and men), ultra-marathoners, marathon runners and generally fit people. I look up to the #6amClub and Project Awesome  – people who have a daily job (just like you and me), but find time to keep fit.

I look up to every one of those Strava entries that says and asks “I did something to make myself better – what have you done?”

  • I look up to Anna, who is running solo across NZ
  • I look up to Susie – she brightens up my timeline with her runs, smile and chatter (someday, I wish I can run like her!)
  • I look up to Mehul and his Ironman training
  • I look up to Andy – I hope I can be anywhere as fit as him when I get to his age
  • I look up to Runj and her consistency in training – gym, swim, Zumba, body combat – and thank her for introducing me to running and questioning me every time I slack
  • I look up to middlering – if I ever do as good as him, I am overachieving 😉
  • I look up to Shailja – I am still in awe of the splits in her first marathon!

… and many more.

Running has changed my life – I wouldn’t cope with pressures of daily life, of under achieving in everything else, if not for the runners high (this Oatmeal comic sums it up very well).

Non-runners do not know the mental benefits of running – there is not a single run till date I haven’t felt better after a run compared to before, however bad the run was.

Running is the best anti-depressant. Try it.

Indians, vacations and gap years

It had been 5 years since I came back from Fontainebleau when I was desperately looking for an opportunity to set foot in Europe again. I was moving jobs in April 2008 and hence took the opportunity to plan my first international vacation from India. It didn’t really feel like a first time because of all the traveling I did when I was in Fontainebleau but there were people who were surprised I was taking an ‘abroad’ vacation! Wasn’t that reserved for the upper class? Don’t ask me what they thought when I went on a girls fortnight out to Eastern Europe with Ms.N, but then I was too happy too care.

One of the things I keep googling about these days is the concept of a gap year. My mind has played the scene umpteen times where I ask my boss for my gap year – I think about it almost every other day, but I am still not sure I will do it! Anyways, what I was saying is there are tons and tons of information, personal experiences and dedicated websites from Europeans and Americans. There are even families that travel and home school their kids. I know, whatay experience for the kids!

But nothing from the Indians, almost nothing from the Asians.

Is this because Indians are still trying to figure out travel?

I have had colleagues who are proud of the fact that they don’t take holidays from work and get bored at home even during the mandatory block leave period and end up coming to office! Whoosh, kill them. One of the things I love about my London office is how everyone takes 2 weeks off in August and December + a ski vacation in Feb!

But the travel bug is beginning to bite people in India – I can see almost all my friends taking time off from work even if it is just for a week. Even it is somewhere near by. Some of them are even venturing abroad.

Well, I do understand that not everyone has the finances to plan a vacation abroad every year. But believe me, at least a trip inside our vast country (outside of the home city) every year is an experience to remember.

I am proud of my friends A&J who have acted on their dream. A has taken a sabbatical and J has quit his work to travel abroad and India for 3 months. They are having the time of their life and have given me belief that this can be done. A gap quarter. This is the closest to a gap year I know in India.

Even if the attitude changes and everyone does take vacations, I think the gap year is still too far for Indians. The biggest fear people have about taking a break from the career, is the career. Will the recruiters look at it as a ‘gap in the career’ or an ‘experience that would add to the resume’?

The other big challenge is the number of visas we need with an Indian passport (that the Europeans and Americans don’t need). Every embassy will ask for a letter from the employer, which is going to be a challenge during the gap year. Especially given one can’t apply for all the visas before embarking on the around the world journey (Most countries require you to apply for the visa within 3 months of the travel date). This is where the British Passport lures me!

As I dream of my gap year and dream of my travel based career, here is to hoping that there are more Indian dreams that want to experience the world and take gap years.

PS: Do leave me a comment with links to any gap year experiences you have written / read. If there are any around the world experiences by an Indian passport holder, I am even more eager to hear / read the story.

I shed a tear today

… for the great master. I am one of those billion people who feel ‘lucky’ to have been living at the same time when the little master is entertaining us.

As I sat in front of my desk today, fighting my mental and physical exhaustion due to tremendous amount of insignificant work and a body which yields to pain because it hasnt been taken care of well enough, I heard all my colleagues huddled up in front of the TV cheering for the genius, who has been chasing his dreams for 21 years and counting. As I hear that eruption across the country, I smile for him and close my eyes for that few seconds to let it sink in and feel a happy tear, while I need to meet a deadline in the next few minutes. I smile.

Later in the day, i glance at my twitter timeline and no, I didnt have to read many to know #sachin or #sachinisgod must have been trending pretty high today. I smiled once again.

I came home exhausted and as I neared my home, I saw traffic jammed in those small lanes next to my house as numerous media vans thronged to get ‘bites’ from his neighbourhood ‘fans’! I enjoy the drama and smile once again.

I watch replays and re-replays and know they are not as good as the LIVE match, but then this is not the first time… and neither is his last one. I reminisce my childhood, which would have been quite different without cricket and sachin. He made me smile… and he continues to make a billion people smile 🙂

Lucky b*stard

Its time for those performance reviews, the pages that I hate filling… I dont think it makes much of a difference except when someone wants to justify a firing!

Still, I was left dumbfounded when I opened the site for reviews and found that A^2 has managed to get my name removed from his list of reviewers… man, this was one review I wanted to write!!!