Category: Work

Fatigue: Emotional and Intellectual

I know not everyone follows my LinkedIn profile with rapt attention. That’s OK – I don’t follow your LinkedIn profile very closely, either.

So, you might not know; I’ve moved into a different-but-not-so-different role at Automattic (the folks behind, Woo Commerce, Jetpack, and a heap of other great stuff)

I was previously leading a support team, and have since moved into a role that we call a Data Analyst, on the Marketing team.

If you’re familiar at all with Automattic’s naming policies, both for jobs and teams, yes, this is an outlier in the direction of the mundane in both cases. I went from being a Happiness Engineer on Team Athens (and also technically on Team Redwood) to being a Data Analyst on Customer Activation.

100% consistent with Automattic standard, though, are the many and varied hats that come with this role: at other companies my day to day work could be described as Marketing, Growth Engineering, SEO, SEM, Pay Per Click, Customer Success, Data Science, even a little bit of database architecture. It’s a lot!

(As a sidebar, I think the job duties and title change may make it seem like I’m making a career change or otherwise sort of changing direction – let me assure you, my focus continues to be on building explosive value for our customers. I’m expanding my tool set – not changing my approach.)

Today, was a cognitively demanding day. Working remotely means taking on a lot of responsibility for structure and organization of one’s work – I’m still figuring out how to do that the best way I can, in this new role. It also means being disciplined to push back distractions which are constantly at the ready in any browser window.

Spending hours looking at databases, considering queries, performance, outputs, accuracy – this is work, it’s real work, and it builds fatigue. A day of work, focused, attentive work, can certainly leave me in need of a deep breath and a long walk.

(I personally find it especially hard to think critically and well about SQL, statistics, databases, and so forth, near the end of my work day. It’s like I’m running out of gas.)

What struck me today was how different this kind of fatigue feels, especially compared to the kind of fatigue I’d feel after a tough day leading a team of Happiness Engineers. I’ve reduced them into two distinct types for the title – Emotional and Intellectual – but I’m sure there is some overlap, maybe some days more than others.

Maybe the difference is, in the lead role, the fatigue comes from trying to serve others, trying to hold them and their full personhood in your mind, whereas in this analyst role the fatigue comes from the intensely individual and personal kind of focus it takes to do it well, to take it seriously.

It does feel different to say to my wife, “I had a hard day – I couldn’t get the data types to reconcile the way I wanted,” rather than “I had a hard day – I think I really let some people down.”

Maybe they’re not different. Maybe I’m different.




It’s Good that Data is Man Made

There’s a post from the folks at Highrise that’s been going around Customer Support and Success circles over the last couple of weeks: Data is Man Made, from Chris Gallo.

As someone who writes and speaks about customer support and leveraging data to do customer support better, I’ve had this article dropped to me in at least two Slack channels. Folks get a sense of mirth, I suspect, from needling me with articles and arguments that run contrary to the sorts of things I write about, and try to be persuasive around.

Yes; I will admit that I found this piece hard to swallow at first blush. Opening with…

Here’s a secret from the support team at Highrise. Customer support metrics make us feel icky.

… is a guaranteed burr in my side. Arguing against measurement from emotional premises?

Continue reading “It’s Good that Data is Man Made”

A Civilian at World of Watson Part Two: Business

Back in October I was invited by IBM to attend their World of Watson event in Las Vegas – I wrote a little about it at the time.

Now that I have had some time following the event, I’ve been able to percolate and put my thoughts to paper, as it were. In the interest of you, dear reader, I’m splitting these thoughts into three different posts; Technology, Business and Philosophy. Note that there are no bright lines here: I’m sure to touch on each of the three topics in all three posts.

(I predict #1 and #2 will far outshine #3 in terms of traffic – such is life, friends!)

This post is the second, talking a little bit about Business. You can find my first post, discussing the Technology and my experience of it, here.
Continue reading “A Civilian at World of Watson Part Two: Business”

Research in the Right Order: When to Interview Your Customers

One of the parts of my work that I get the most satisfaction from, and the part that most consistently surprises me, is in listening to our customers. has a lot of customers. When you are dealing with a B2C company at this scale, it gets to be important not just to learn to listen, but learn to seek information in the right order.

(If you were at my SupConf talk, some of this is going to be very familiar!)

I like to talk to people – it’s part of who I am. I am an unapologetic talk-to-think-er. My most successful side hustle was a thinly-veiled attempt to get incredibly smart and incredibly busy cutting-edge farmers to talk to me. It worked! I interviewed them (and other members of their industry) for over a year. I think the art of the interview is a subtle one, and I’m the sort of person who literally reads books about different types of interviews.

Continue reading “Research in the Right Order: When to Interview Your Customers”

Packing a Conference Bag & Recommended Reading

Or, Packing a Carry On, 2016 Edition

I have a conference coming up next week, so I’m putting together my things, as one does. In prepping for the trip, I figured I’d do another What’s In My Bag post, since things have changed some since January of 2015!

Check it out:

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The last conference I attended was the first-ever SupConf (number two is coming up!) and it illustrated for me the allure and the failure (for me) of one-bag travel. I love the idea – go where you’re headed, have one bag and only one bag. The simplicity! The ease!

On the recommendation of my dear friend Clicky Steve, I went with the Osprey Porter 46 – it’s a great bag! I could backpack using it through all sorts of terrain and terroir for as long as I’d like and it would never let me down. It’s a great recommendation and it will be coming with me on this trip as well – but not as a solo bag.

The problem, for me, is that I don’t want to bring all of my luggage with me from the hotel room to a conference floor. Carrying a 46 liter backpack through a professional setting – it’s not a good look. At SupConf I settled on a reusable grocery bag to shuttle my laptop and conference materials from the AirBNB to the conference – and then promptly stashed it away from sight. I have some impostor syndrome around looking professional, I guess!

OK, so the Osprey Porter 46 will be acting as my clothes-and-sundries bag. Not a problem. That means that this faux-leather Timbuk2 will be doing double duty as my carry-on and my day-carry conference bag.

While it’s true that Automattic provides all of its employees a WordPress branded Timbuk2, and I absolutely adore mine, the lack of an exterior water bottle holder has come to be a consistent irritation on longer days – this bag, which I’ve had since my days as a community organizer for the City of Binghamton, has water bottle holders on both sides.

That means I can have a travel mug of coffee on one side, and a reusable water bottle on the other. What more could I need?

Here’s what’s going in my carry-on and daily-carry conference bag, for a 3-night conference trip with air travel:

1.) This is the bag itself. A quick look at the Timbuk2 website doesn’t look like they’re actively producing them anymore – it has the TSA compliant laptop compartment and notably fewer pockets and zip-ups than my WordPress bag. This will be its first big trip. This is your chance to shine, little buddy.

2.) A little notebook! It’s unlined, a sort of oversized Field Notes notebook. I’m 90% sure my colleague Timmy gave me this for doing QA testing on our new Editor. This is for various travel notes, potential blog posts, sketches, doodles, talk notes, etc. Your classic catch-all.

3.) It’s a Kindle! I left my last one on an airplane. This one, also, is secondhand. It’s full of books! Sort of! I’ll have to find my Kindle light before I leave, it’s not pictured but I would like to bring it – airplane overhead lights are too diffuse, and I always worry I’m keeping my seatmates awake with it on. A nice focused book light is key for late night and early morning flights.

4.) Fitbit Blaze! I did not think I was going to like this as much as I do – the latest update especially has added a few new front-facing templates. Being able to have the screen stay off until I’ve turned my wrist always gives me a sense of “Oh yeah we’re living in the future.” Plus, quantifying my heartrate, etc, is really interesting to see over time. This is the only small device I’m bringing that doesn’t charge using a micro USB charger.

5.) Stickerbombed Anker Powercore battery pack – this thing is seriously a lifesaver, especially in unfamiliar towns where I’m using GPS, wireless data, and other power-sucking functions. I can charge my Galaxy S4 up to six times with this beast!

6.) Karma Go Wifi Hotspot – Certified 100x better than airport wifi. Plus, it creates a wireless network that anyone around you can use, and when they do, you get some additional free data. Being friendly to strangers and getting free data is a nice combination!

7.) Dopp kit! This has toiletries, mints, an eyeglass repair kit, all that sort of stuff. Super handy to have on layovers! Once I get to the hotel this will stay in the hotel bathroom. I could do a whole post on the contents of this bag alone – it’s changed over time and is, I think, a pretty ideal balance of the necessary and the nice to have.

8.) 13″ Macbook Pro. Not pictured: the charger for this.

9.) Another notebook! This one is a slimmer Moleskine, specifically a Bullet Journal! The Doc has been following the format for about a month, and has been raving about it, so I’ve started giving it a try. I’m still undecided!

10.) I AM CRAZY ABOUT THIS THING! It’s a leather travel wallet made by a local company called Samwell Leather – I met them at a craft fair and they were the coolest folks. I’ve been complaining that I needed something like this for travel every time I came home from a trip – it holds a little notebook (how many notebooks do I need?), plus has space for your boarding documents and a pen. I am also the kind of maniac who likes to have hardcopy boarding documents, even with a massive smartphone battery pack.

(I’m skipping the pencils, pens, crayons and pencil sharpener – y’all know what those are, right?)

11.) Backup headphones! These are the in-ear headphones that came with my phone. They work, they fit fine, and they don’t need a battery to operate. They take up nearly no space, so I tuck them into a bag pocket and forget about them until I need them.

12.) These are the same on-ear wireless bluetooth headphones from Outdoor Pursuits that caused such conversation in the last Post! I still like them a lot for travel (since they fold up and don’t have a cord) and they’re holding up to lots of being thrown into and yanked out of bags, which is a good sign!

In addition to getting my bags ready, I’ve been doing a literature review of blog posts and other articles on maximizing my conference experience – I tweeted my way through them, but here are those links if you missed them in the information dump truck that is Twitter: