Automattic has split. Kind of. The VIP team are now working as a separate, autonomous entity, albeit still part of Automattic, and as a result we have the inaugural VIP Grand Meetup. It’s back to Canada again, although the East coast this time.
For once, not an early start for me, as I get picked up at 10am for a trip to Heathrow. We’re there around 12:15pm. Terminal 2 was relatively quiet, pleasant and the security were very friendly (Manchester should take note).
I spent some time in a premium lounge before heading for the flight, which was at 3:20pm. There were 4 other Automatticians on the same flight and I’d found 3 of them before I embarked.
I’d paid extra for leg room, which is already nice, but the window seat was lacking something… a window. So the journey lacked any external visual input, which made it a bit… weird. Instead, I watched 3 films back-to-back and the flight (7 hours in total) wasn’t too bad. We landed around 5:20pm, local time.
Like last year’s GM, customs took an exception to me – asking me a lot more questions than they did my colleagues and, finally, just before the exit (the taxis were in sight!), pulling me aside for secondary questions. I finally got to leave, and met up with my colleagues (and we were not joined by others that had turned up on other flights around the same time).
The hotel in Montréal we were staying at, the Novotel, was a 45 minute taxi ride away and is a pleasing enough hotel.
Everyone was meeting downstairs and food was served from 7pm, although I skipped this as I’d already eaten my share of meals that day! At around 9:30pm, I finally crashed (it was 2:30am back in the UK) and headed to my room. I was asleep by 10:30pm and I woke at 5am.
Our first full day of the GM. I was showered and downstairs for around 7am (I was on rota to work from 6am, so had been getting some of that done before heading down) and had an excellent breakfast.
There was an opening presentation from 9am until noon from Nick, our CEO. This was followed by a lunch at the hotel (again, excellent) before we split into our individual teams and met up. For triage, after introductions, we talked around various learnups that we wanted to see, amongst other things. As always with these meetings, there was not nearly enough time.
We then had a couple of hours before our evening meal, so I did some co-working with colleagues in a room provided at the hotel for just that.
Around 6:45pm, we left the hotel to head to Observatoire 360, which is at the top of the very tall Place Ville Marie. The views were amazing, particularly as the sun set. The meal, consisted of a number of seemingly never-ending canapes, delivered to us throughout the evening. The food was amazing and it’s a shame I was too full to try Poutine[/wiklink].
I headed back to the hotel around 10pm and was asleep by 11pm. I awoke at 6am.
9am until 11am today was the start of Flash Talks – quick talks, by volunteers within the team, on a variety of subjects. I did a combination of watching of these but also come co-working (the Flash Talks are recorded so I can catch up on any at a later date, if needed). This was followed, until midday, by a presentation from our HR team.
After lunch, there were a series of already arranged activities – a beer tour, a walking tour, or an escape room. I was due to do a walking tour but something else came up and I missed it. However, I did find time to visit the Pride march that was taking place in the city, as well as do a little bit of shopping too.
After some more co-working, we headed out to dinner. We have been divided across 3 different restaurant, and it’s a different one each night. Tonight, I headed to LOV, which is a nearby Vegan restaurant. I had Kale Mac N’ Cheese and a Gnocchi main course. The food was very good, particularly the Mac N’ Cheese.
The evening was topped off in the games room – a room (replete with staffed bar) where we can play video/board/card games until we can no longer stand. After winning a round of Quiplash on Jackbox, I called it a night. It was around 10:30pm, I believe. I have to be awake for 6am tomorrow for tickets.
Once more the day kicked off with a morning of flash talks. At 11am, Kinsey Wilson, President of WordPress.com, gave a presentation.
After lunch, was a Town Hall AMA from Matt. It was VIP centric but was broadcast, live, to the whole company, who could take part via Slack.
Dinner that night was at EAST, which serves Asian food. And very nice it was too. After, a few of us (9 in total) went to Upstairs, a jazz bar – this included Nick, the CEO of VIP, and Matt (CEO of Automattic, for those not paying attention).
I was back at the hotel for around 10:30pm, at which time I took part in a single game of Secret Hitler, before heading off to bed around midnight.
I woke up at 6:45am and was, yeah, tired. Unlike every other morning, I skipped the shower before heading for breakfast. After, I returned to my room, laid down and slept for 2 hours. Then I showered.
I’d missed the flash talks but made sure I went to the Systems AMA, which was as entertaining as I’d expect from Barry 🙂 After lunch was the first of many Workshop sessions – I’m helping to run one tomorrow but, today, I attended one about VIP Branding, which was really good and very enlightening!
Dinner tonight was at Gustave, a French restaurant. I had duck, which was very nice – although, portions were generally quite small. Feeling pretty tired, I retired early to my room.
The last official day of the GM! Workshops continue throughout the day and, in the evening, we have a closing reception at Auberge St-Gabriel. I hadn’t been out much during the day so decide to walk there – a good opportunity for some final photos of the city.
I also take the opportunity to grab an ice cream from La Diperie – it was pretty amazing too.
The food at Auberge St-Gabriel was amazing but the week has been so long that, despite having the venue until 3am, many people, myself included, leave soon after the dinner.
My leaving day! My flight isn’t due until 7:10pm but, considering traffic and ploughing through airport security, I plan to leave around 3pm.
I grab a final breakfast, work in the morning and then a group of us head out to Burger Bar Crescent – the burger was really, really good but the chocolate shake (pictured behind it) was totally amazing. Highly recommended if you’re in Montréal!
Around 3pm, I left with a colleague for the airport. Traffic was bad but we were still there within about 40 minutes. To be consistent, I had some issue with security – my backpack was separated and searched. But, once through, I found a nearby lounge and waited for my flight.
The flight was a little late, due to an initial delay plus a passenger not turning up. However, we landed soon after 6am, UK time. This time I whisked through security but baggage was slow to appear.
At about 10am, I arrived home. It’s been a long but glorious week but I’m glad to be back with my family.