I posted a ton of pictures of last year’s Grand Meetup here and posted my thoughts here. And just realized that I forgot to post them for the Grand Meetup we had back in October of 2016 (which was around 5 months ago).
Wait, so what is a Grand Meetup?
Automattic is a remote company, which means that all employees work from wherever in the world they are. While we do have several offices or lounges in San Francisco, Maine, and Cape Town, no employees are expected to work out of there. The one time of a year we all get together is for the Grand Meetup (or what we fondly call the “The GM”) where Automattic flies all employees to one location where we all work together for a week.
In 2015 it was in Park City, Utah. In 2016, it was Whistler, Canada.
With 399 employees at the time, my first Grand Meetup in 2015 was overwhelming and completely amazing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I am very much an introvert and for most weeks out of the year I’m not used to being in the same room as 400ish people.
For my second GM, even though we had way more employees (500+) I felt much more mentally prepared, I had already met around 150 Automatticans, so it felt a lot less like walking into a room where you didn’t know anyone (even though I recognized them by their avatars) and it felt more like getting together with a group of friends.
A quick visit to Vancouver
This year, before the Grand Meetup, my sister and I flew in a bit early to spend a few days in Vancouver. It was SUCH a gorgeous city and we had a blast seeing some of the sites.
Finally, the Grand Meetup starts…
Then, we drove up the coast from Vancouver to Whistler Canada. My sister works remotely as well (for an amazing company called Buffer) and it’s very rare for me to travel anywhere without her. I always feel much more at ease mentally with her around. So I was super thankful that Automattic made arrangements for her to stay in my hotel room with me. She planned on working remotely during the day while I was at work in the GM. This wasn’t really a vacation for us, as I wouldn’t be able to spend much time with her during the GM since I’d be in classes, workshops, townhalls, and spending time with my colleagues until pretty late in the evening (usually until around 11pm).
I was also SUPER excited because my good friend Megan had just got hired at Automattic a week before the GM. So she’d be joining the company in Whistler as well.
So what happens at a Grand Meetup?
First off, I can’t talk about a GM without telling you how well organized EVERYTHING is and how Automattic genuinely takes care of everything for us. We took over two hotels that were right next to each other.
There are a few parties throughout the week. The day everyone arrives, there is a Welcome Party in the evening. It really feels like a big reunion with everyone. And then there is the closing party, where there is typically dancing and photo booths. Also the Automatticans that play instruments play some live music as well.
Other than that each day has a schedule. Before the GM you can choose between taking a class (they offer it on a variety of subjects) or working on a project (where you’re actually making something together). Both years I chose to take a class. My colleagues are amazing people, who are the best in the world at what they do- so I try to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from them.
Within that, there was also a team day. Which meant I got to spend an afternoon specifically with my team. It was amazing and I LOVED it. My team did some brainstorming and general planning for the year.
There was some free time you had during the week to do pre-arranged activities (zip-lining, painting, and many many other options). And finally in the evenings, after dinner was townhalls. Townhalls were my favorite thing in the world. The main townhall was with Matt, where everyone got in a room and it was AMA style, you could ask Matt literally anything. There was also a Happiness Townhall (for everyone that works within Happiness Engineering). I think so much magic happens during Townhalls, the questions that are asked, the clarifications around directions the company is going, and of course many great ideas get brought up.
So much happens during this one week at the GM, it really is such a magical time and something I look forward to all year.
And finally… a few of my favorite tweets from my colleagues that sum of the week so well: