I’m on the train to the Vienna airport. It’s time to go. My mind is a jumble of WordCamp Europe, Viennese architecture, flower boxes, Wiener schnitzel, dancing at the WCEU ball, showing our hotel bartender how to make a proper martini, and laughing and talking long into the night with coworkers.
The company I work for, Automattic, is a distributed company. We don’t have an office: there is no headquarters where we all go to work. Instead, 470 of us work from wherever we want, whether that’s a home office in Australia, a coworking space in Seattle, an Airbnb in Prague, or a cafè in Vienna. What this means is we must communicate an immense amount online in order to get our work done. We “talk” constantly (thousands of messages per week) via Slack (a messaging tool), P2s (internal blogs), and video hangouts.
Talking to each other via text gives tremendous insight into our colleagues’ personalities — do they use emoji and GIFs? Are they succinct, direct, contemplative, punny? Which watercooler P2s do they engage with: music, fitness, homeownership, books?
Communicating via text allows people who refrain from speaking up in a physical space, where extroverts may jump in faster and louder, to have more of a voice: they can compose their thoughts in writing, without interruption, before sharing them.
What this amazing distributed life also means is that we rarely see each other in real life. Some of my favorite people on earth are my colleagues, who I have become very close to through our online communications.
I work with them every day but only see them once or twice per year.
So when we get together, we squeeze every second of together time out of it. We breakfast, explore, lunch, sightsee, work, drink, dine, talk, laugh, talk deep into the night, and sometimes even stay up until sunrise together. As one of my coworkers said last night, “This is the first place I’ve worked where I like everyone I work with. I actually want to be with my coworkers.”
I’m now at the gate, waiting to board my flight from Vienna to Paris, reflecting on the amazing time I spent at WordCamp Europe. I have memories of getting on stage in front of 300+ European WordPress enthusiasts; ambling the streets of Vienna on long walks with my colleagues; hanging out after dark on a giant grass covered water-mattress outside the children’s museum; and most of all, conversations and laughter.
Goodbye, Vienna, goodbye, friends, and thank you, Automattic.