CM Goes Fiji

Despite being an accomplished airplane passenger, I must admit, after such a long time of not crossing any oceans I felt a little unsettled to be on a plane that was going to be crossing four hours of Pacific. But between my podcasts and my Kindle it whooshed by in the blink of a moment.

It is impossible to complain when your employer flies you to Fiji for 4 days to meet all your international co-workers face-to-face. Thanks Ben, Dave and Alex, and Campaign Monitor in general!

As first impressions go, Fiji leaves an interesting mix.

Landing against a backdrop of sharp volcanic teeth biting into fluffy clouds rouses an expectation of something raw and elemental. But that has proven more a set-piece to a pleasantly relaxed and hospitable stay.

The first step off the plane greets me with a blast of warm humid air. I quickly dispose of my jacket and sweater and drape them over my arm as I wind my way through the customs queue. The walkways into the airport feel improvised and the customs desks themselves seem accidentally placed in the middle of an otherwise bare carpeted room, more so than a well-planned line of border security. I guess there’s just not a lot worth worrying about.

Even the x-ray of my bag seems more cargo-cult formality than security per-se, when nobody questions the contents of the bundle of jackets, wallets and miscellaneous electronics I carry right past the machine through a striking absence of detectors.

And that’s just the first taste of an interesting contrast between a laid-back culture and signs of tourism-induced modernity along the way to the resort.

2015-07-16 - Fiji Hibiscus

The entire landscape leaves an impression of barely-tamed nature on the verge of consuming what civilization has been built among it. The place looks incredibly green everywhere, except where it is a natural yellow from the reedy grass. Strangely absent are flowers other than an occasional spray of hibiscus. Green is the colour of nature. It is the only colour omni-present.

Even the road looks like a merely temporary encroachment on nature, ready to be swallowed up by the grass if I look away for a moment… Don’t Blink!

Unnaturally narrow railway tracks follow the contours of the roads through the cane fields. My curiosity over the stability of any passenger train on these tracks is resolved when I spot the carriage packed with what I first mistook for bundles of twigs. The rail seems only intended for the sugar cane that grows everywhere.

And then every once in a while a cow.

Grassy field… Cow. Cane field, cane field,… cow. Bend in the road… group of cows blocking our way. I am completely desensitised to random cows now. It’s all good. Relax. Fiji time!

And then the resort.

2015-07-16 - Fiji Village

It looks like a little village in the jungle at the side of the bluest lagoon you’ve ever seen. It’s almost a shame to be “working”. But this is an incredible opportunity to make connections when working in a company with co-workers all over the US and Europe.

I have been chatting my ass off trying to put faces to HipChat aliases while drinks just keep materialising from smiling faces. I may recall about half, but that’s half more than I knew before. I think I’ve spoken to at least half of our international support team. And I had a few great conversations with members of the GetFeedback team (like SurveyMonkey, only much cooler, now with 99% less monkey). And a good number of the sales and marketing teams besides.

2015-07-16 - Fiji Shirts

And in between social events we have had an awesome All-Hands meeting with most of the company here. Our core values are now expressed everywhere through the medium of interpretative t-shirts. The thing indelibly impressed upon my mind from that session is that the head of sales has the energy of a pack of toddlers on red cordial.

Yesterday we went out into the community to build desks and tables for a school in a nearby village to kick of CMs new Community program which sponsors up to 4 days a year of community work for each staff member. I thought I had reached peak-pride in my employer, but there always seems to be more “up” there. We each brought a book for their library as well, which is now stocked with 150-odd new English books.

That’s another fact about Fiji that surprised me. English is the official language. It’s so strange to arrive on a tropical island and see all the street signs, and roadside shops advertise in English.

Sadly, I missed out on the great Team Building experience this morning. I woke up at about 7:30am with a migraine from what the bed had done to my freshly massaged back. I had to take some Panadol and another 4 hours sleep, rolling straight into lunch-time at the beach. I wish I could have joined in the fun.

2015-07-16 - Fiji Path

And the last day is left for free time to mingle.

Part of which I squandered wisely learning how to play “Up-and-down-the-river” with some of my Engineering friends (thanks Trips, T4, Rich, Ken and TJ). Apparently it has many other names, but I personally call it “screw over whomever you can; the game where someone always loses – the beginnening (part 1)”. I may have had a few drinks though, so it might be called something else tomorrow. I did poorly, but I screwed a whole bunch of people over so that’s winning in a way, innit?

To an introvert a holiday like this is a little like work. But an incredibly worthwhile time, and hopefully reason enough to repeat the exercise next year when we’ve grown even further!

Bula!

Oh, and the best time to join Campaign Monitor is obviously last week (everyone gets to come along; plenty of bemused three-week-hires floating around)… but the second best time to join is right now, so go and have a look at our Careers Page and apply!

2015-07-16 - Fiji Buggy

Campaign Monitor – 8 Weeks In

I can’t quite decide whether to say “I cannot believe it’s only been 8 weeks” or “I cannot believe it’s been 8 weeks already”. Both interpretations have merit.

The change was unbelievably effortless. One week in I felt at home, two weeks in I felt like I could do something to add value, and three weeks in I was throwing all my crazy first ideas into the ring without regard for what people might think. It is liberating in the most wonderful way.

Despite diving in the deep end of the Web Technology pool, learning all the required AngularJS, ASP.NET, and how-to-order-my-coffee-online has felt somewhat effortless as well. I should have gone head-first into Web 2.0 long ago; the first four weeks at CM got me further along than two years of miscellaneous dabbling in my own time.

And the first four weeks flew by; I was holding off for the longest time fearful of the draining commute to Sutherland, but I think I probably should have made the call sooner. Alas, that is the nature of Unknown Quantities; even things that look great on paper are a little scary when they require getting out of one’s comfort zone. Had I known how much I was going to enjoy the work itself (to the point of dabbling and studying quite significantly in my own time as well), I would have given it a second thought.

And then, we moved to the CBD and things got better still.

2015-04-09 - In The Clouds

Cozy offices turned into a spectacular office. It is easy to get a bit blase about the view 38 floors above Sydney. The first week I’d take a few minutes to admire the view before starting work, but now that tends to come later in the day. At some point my mind will briefly not be stuck with a problem and I’ll catch the view, and then it catches me.

The view over Hyde Park and the Harbour are strangely disorienting. The perspective does strange things to my sense of distance. I could swear Darlinghurst is but a brief stroll away from Hyde Park by the look of it from up here. And everything looks like a game of The Sims. It feels like I somehow should be able to control the weather. Maybe there’s a switch I haven’t found yet. I should ask the OPS team.

The days go by in a pleasant productive rush. After some experimenting, I’m finding an early commute in and out most comfortable. I get up at 6:50am, have a quick shower, get dressed, 7:05am when I feed the cats, 7:15am I am stepping onto a train to work at the station.

That may sound like a rush, but I genuinely have little to do before heading out. Breakfast and lunch are both catered, so I have really nothing to prepare for.

I walk into the office at about 8:15am, boot up the laptop and have a quick look around the HipChat rooms for anything interesting, and go through any overnight emails. By about 8:20am the internal coffee ordering system comes on, and I punch in my large cappuccino.

Breakfast is 8:30am, featuring bacon and eggs, and whatever else our amazing chefs throw into the mix. This week I have been unable to resist the pancakes with poached plums. Between 8:40am – 9:10am I get back to whatever problem I left behind the previous evening.

Why 9:10? … well… that’s when we have our daily 10 minute stand-up with the team. A quick run around of what we did the previous day and what we will work on today. A chance to keep the team in the loop and to ask for help or clarifications where needed with broad input.

Then 9:20 through 12:30 rushes by faster than I can believe. A mix of learning and programming, leaning more and more towards the latter.

It is easy to tell when 12:30 comes around because by 12:35 the floor is almost empty. Many rush to try and beat the lunch queue.

Catered lunch is amazing. More amazing than I could have realised. It obviously saves some money (more or less depending on a propensity to buy lunches otherwise). But more than that, my lunch has never before been this varied. I’m probably eating healthier even if it is a tad more than I perhaps should… more gym for me.

And that is not uncommon either; there are various groups of employees that go running together or see a trainer before lunch, etc. On the flip-side, there is a page on the Wiki that chronicles the weight-gain that people experienced upon first starting at Campaign Monitor. The chefs are hard to resist.

Then, after lunch, more programming till about 16:45 which is my cut-off to make it on the last not-completely-packed train back home. Soon I will start experimenting with taking a gym class in the city before going home so that hopefully I can catch a train after the peak eases off again on those days. Luckily there is a lot of flexibility in the hours, as long as I make the 8-a-day excluding lunch, and I am available for all the important meetings.

Somewhere around 14:00 there is another round of coffee orders, and most days there is some kind of pastry or dessert on offer as well. Today was an apple crumble that did full honour to its name; I forgot my cutlery and it resisted my attempts to eat it most valiantly.

2015-04-09 - Hyde Park Below

Four more weeks and I’ll hit my 3-month review point.
But I am sure the 6-month mark will arrive in just another blink or two as well.

Everything about what the job demands and gives back just fits together perfectly to keep me energized and motivated, and feeling on top of the world in all the senses possible.

Day 200 – Dan’s Party

Right now, I am frantically sorting through some 200 odd photos taken at Dan’s birthday party in the city. I want to cull it down to a decent 40-50 at most, post them to the proper place and then go sleep up for tomorrow at Wet’n’Wild.

Although the day started gloomy and threatened rain it ended as all Dan’s BBQs do… with a beautiful sunny day in the backyard. Alas for the last time, for everyone is moving. Sad times. But also glorious times, because now there will be new places to have BBQs.

I had a great time photographing, eating all the delicious foods people brought, and insulting and threatening the life of a garden gnome… twice. I must hasten to add that I had nothing against said gnome myself, but some of the house-mates were not so fond of it, and I was merely offering suggestions of suitable accidental disposal. You know… as good house guests do. I feel very misunderstood now.

Met some new interesting people too, which is good for at least one of my new years resolutions.

And now to get ready for my last day off before work comes crashing back onto my shoulders. I’m going to make the most of it by spending it in the sun and water. I intend to return to work a shell of my former self. What point in having a holiday only to return back to work relaxed and then waste it on the stress of catching back up? I have to burn all that off for my betterment before I go back.

Day 156 – Going Swimming

I bought myself a Wet’n’Wild Gold Pass early on when the park was first advertising availability. I like the idea of somewhere nearby with water that I can go to, to relax.

I missed out on the preview days before the park opened on the 12th, on account of being in Melbourne at the time. Since returning I haven’t really had time to go yet.

I’m hoping to remedy this tomorrow.
They are open till 11pm.
The weather forecast indicates 40+ during the day, going to 28-ish in the evening.

This all sounds perfect for having a look around the park. I don’t even need the water-slides so much the first trip; just bobbing around in some water will do, and not thinking of anything else.

I wish I could come back with pictures tomorrow night, but alas… modern society has decided that taking a camera into a water park is tantamount to pornography, so just words will have to do. We live in sad sad times.

Sydney Savaged – A Dangerous Idea

Mid last week, an envelope arrived from the Sydney Opera House. It took me by surprise, because I wasn’t expecting anything.

The contents of the envelope looked like advertising, but luckily I looked more closely before referring it to the bin. They were my Dan Savage tickets that I had ordered months ago and had completely forgotten about again.

For those that do not know who Dan Savage is, let me give you a small selection of links to follow. Beware; at the other end of these links there is a high dose of snark, sarcasm and wit. Also, sex advice from his column… it is often funny, but I need to make sure you know what you’re in for.

  • Dan Savage’s online columnin which people write in their problems (sometimes hilarious problems, often hilarious advice)
  • Dan Savage’s podcastin which people leave voicemail with their problems (see above)
  • Dan Savage’s YouTube channelin which Dan visits campuses and students write their problems on cue cards
  • Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” projectin which Dan has tried to counteract despair with hope to cut suicide by gay teenagers

I’m not sure what to expect from the show the tickets are for, but my guess is it’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of the third bullet point. It’ll be great to see him speak up-close and in person.

Day 102 – CBD

Today was a great day to be out in the sun. I half wished I had brought my kindle and not the camera, because the lawns in the botanical gardens were immensely inviting.

On the other hand, I *did* get some great shots today.

Day 62 – A Day Without Strain

Last week, I decided to make this a long weekend to allow me to use my birthday gift voucher for Face Of Man in the city.

But first, a visit to my masseuse.

It’s amazing how much my back tightens up after a visit to Melbourne. It could just be the general strain of my classes at the gym, but I’m sure the uneven load in the form of a messenger bag and a backpack that I use to travel is probably not doing my back any favours either.

Still, an hour with nothing else on my mind but to relax while my knots get prodded forcefully fixes that very quickly.

If Only It Were Always This Quiet
If Only It Were Always This Quiet

And then after quickly grabbing a coffee it was time to catch a train into the city. I can heartily recommend travelling in the early afternoon. None of this congestion that I always hear so much about.

The sky had been looking gloomy all morning (it looks like the weather can be relied on to be cold and wet when I take a day off), and as I was halfway to Sydney it started raining down very heavily.

I have no umbrella.

I Should Have Brought an Umbrella
I Should Have Brought an Umbrella

One look out of the Queen Victoria Building made me realise I’d be better off first covering the distance inside the building out of the rain. Only to discover at the other end that a true downpour had developed in the three minutes it took me to cover the distance.

Luckily I had some time up my sleeve to wait out the worst of it, but I really need some different footwear. My Nike Frees are more permeable than I would have liked… the price I pay for the most comfortable 3.0 model. Basically, as I start walking my feet pick up just enough water on the soles that it sloshed in through the mesh fabric where it then slowly soaks into my socks. And I wasn’t even on my way home yet! 🙁

And It Was Pouring...
And It Was Pouring…

I got to my appointment in time though, and I opted for lasers. I have very sensitive skin on my neck, and it really doesn’t like shaving much. Removing the hair permanently stings badly, but in the long run it’s less painful than scraping off the skin with a razor on a semi-regular basis.

They adjust the strength of the laser based on skin type and hair colour. Luckily I’m very white, and my hair is still very dark. That’s the best combination, because the point is to expose the hair itself to so much intense heat that the follicle burns out without burning the skin. Even so, I wasn’t supposed to expose my skin to sunlight right after (hah! I guess the rain was good for something after all!)

It may need another couple of treatments after this to sort the problem permanently, but with each lasering it should be thinner and easier to shave.