Flash Talks

At Automattic, we have an all-hands “Grand Meetup” once a year to bring the entire company together under one roof. It’s a crazy week in various ways, but one particularly fun part are the flash talks.

Everyone in the company from the guy who started yesterday to Matt gets up in front of everyone and gives a 4-minute talk on whatever they want to share.

Some of them are funny, others informative, some are completely random semi-off-the-cuff, and others are well-crafted well-timed presentations.

The joy in this is that you get to learn a little bit about all of your coworkers, their humor, what they care about, their preferred drink, or experience a piece of their creativity.

With 200 people, the process took a long time. I admit, I snuck out more than one time during them to call home to check-in. Thankfully, we record all of them and post them on an internal blog (which is a great way for new folks to “meet” some of the old timers a bit faster).

Even though it took a great amount of time, I loved them. It is a relatively quick way to build community and know quirks about your coworkers that we’d often never see working remotely and with so many people. I have a coworker who loves roundabouts (traffic circles). I’d never know otherwise, which is a shame, since anyone who loves traffic circles is a-okay in my book.

Or the guy who sings as Kermit the Frog to his kids?

Or the gal who found animal-lookalikes for everyone’s Gravatar?

Or the guy whose cancer research in a previous job was freaking amazing (and way over my head)?

The next time you’re part of a team that has a retreat, throw these in. When I was president of my fraternity in college, I wished I knew what I know now about flash talks. It would have been such an easy win for building community to give each member 5 minutes (or more, depending on the size of the group) to just talk about whatever they wanted to share.

I don’t know if this is kosher or not, but check out my flash talk from last September about living life with the @Kraft twitter handle.

featured image photocredit: flickr/laffy4k.

Team Lead

“Team leads! When I call your team name, report where your team will meet. Downing!” “By the ping-pong tables.” “Haymarket!” “Upstairs” “Oxford!” “… … …”

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, is a distributed company. We all work everywhere. While there’s an “office”, we call it a lounge. It’s more of a home than a place to work.

Because of this, we get together annually for an all-hands company meeting, our “Grand Meetup”. Part of the work of the week is to break up into project teams. Organizers placed individuals from all across the company on teams to allow folks who may very well never interact to work together on a common project.

This is my first Grand Meetup.

Each team is given a problem and tasked with researching the problem, determining , building, testing, and demoing the solution during the course of the few days of the meetup, then deployed to production.

To my utter shock, being in a non-development role in the company, only 10 weeks into employee status, I am a team lead.

Funny enough, we’re growing fast enough that two of the team members either started on as of the meetup (yay Cloudup!) or technically go full-time after the meetup.

By design, the team project idea lets members of the company work with others we never will work with, folks leading others who haven’t been asked to lead before. It is a chance to help us expand our “social” network within the company while exposing us to new aspects of the product and helping us to stretch and grow into new roles.

It is a sprint to handle all aspects of a small project from conception to deployment within a few days, all while having other activities going on a well.

How did this all work out? I’ll let you know.

Automattically Kraft

I’m proud to announce that, as of today, I am now working full-time for Automattic, the makers of WordPress.com, the Jetpack plugin for WordPress.org sites, Akismet, Gravatar, and more, as well as a major contributor to the self-hosted WordPress.org software and related open-source projects.

I can’t begin to express my excitement about joining the team of the amazing folks I’ve worked with for the last six weeks while under contract and am excited about the great things in the works. Read More