Last week I was away at my first Automattic meetup – in this case a meetup for the VIP team.

I left, via East Midlands Airport, on Sunday 29th January and returned to Birmingham Airport (yeah, I know, but it’s complicated) on Saturday 4th February. The meetup itself was the 5 weekdays in-between.

A main venue was arranged which had bedrooms on the 1st floor along with a casual area that we often met-up at, particularly for lunches, and even a very nice lady who helped with any arrangements that needed making.

The 4th floor (thankfully there was a lift – albeit the oldest lift I’ve ever seen) had a series of large open rooms which were used for out various group get-togethers and general discussions.

For those not at the main apartment, a number of shared AirBnB apartments had also been sourced. The one I was in, which I shared with 4 others, was about a 20 minutes walk away from the main one.

The day started at 10am at the main apartment – I usually grabbed a pastry on the way there as breakfast – and consisted of talks or discussions until lunch at 1pm. These were pre-prepared cold lunches and, to be honest, were of variable quality. We then had more discussions from 2pm until 4pm, after which we broke to do some co-working – the idea was for us to group up and work together but this time was sometimes spent shopping or generally exploring the city.

The discussions were very good, whether I understood them or not (a week into the job, I don’t think much was expected of me). However, it was the attitude that impressed me the most – positive and very focused towards doing the best for the employees, in stark contrast to the attitude of my previous employer.

On Friday afternoon a treasure hunt around the city had been arranged, which was great fun and a good ‘team bonding’ exercise. We were away for hours and I walked a LOT.

At around 7:30pm we’d all meet up out for dinner. The exception was Friday when a number of Automatticians cooked for us instead. On Tuesday night we met up with a number of other Automatticians that were also having meetups in Barcelona and, because of the sheer numbers, Matt Mullenwegg flew in to join us. He sat at my table but I was just too far away to be able to join in the conversation. None-the-less, he did say ‘hi’ and was impressed that he knew my name – with over 500 employees, that can’t be easy to do.

The night’s were often late, alcohol was imbibed, there was often a lot of walking during the day so I was very tired as a result. It took its toll on me by the end of the week as I began to feel unwell, something that took a couple of days upon return to get over (healthy food, rest and sleep helped).

But did I have a good week? God, yes. It’s the longest I’ve been away from my family but I gained so much in those few days – some knowledge picked up but, most importantly of all, meeting my new colleagues and making new friendships. The fact that it happened so soon after I joined the company is a blessing.

Barcelona is a very beautiful city and I loved the brief time I had to look around it. I’d definitely like to go back there one day, this time as a ‘proper’ holiday.