In May of my 10th year at Automattic the company adopted a paid sabbatical policy: 5 years on, 3 months off. It wasn’t easy to consider how to spend this opportunity. It took a couple of weeks to decide that my first sabbatical should be personal, free-form and soon.
The policy was still new and evolving. One early amendment was a planning requirement: if taking 3 months off, give notice 3 months in advance. I got in before that went into effect (or abused my senior privilege, maybe) and chose July, August and September of 2015.
It took the month of June to clean up after myself, document things and pass leadership of our in-house Hadoop projects to Xiao Yu. I offered to be on call for emergencies but Xiao knew that it was just the workahol talking. No ping would issue.
The first couple of weeks were a period of withdrawal. Soon I was able to stop scanning my inbox for important requests. One work-related tweet momentarily elevated my pulse but it was actually nothing.
We took the kids to Vermont to visit friends and family for a month. This was our shortest Vermont summer trip to date. We used to stay for fall foliage but the kids are in school now. Automattic lets me work from anywhere so I would just rent office space and keep working. But this time it was a real summer vacation for the whole family.
On the way home we crossed into Canada to see Niagara Falls. That’s one box checked, but probably worth doing again in a few years.
Other than a few Swift tutorials and false starts with iOS ideas, I didn’t code at all. Everything I did was in Xcode so my Emacs hands will need some exercise.
One significant event was my oldest child starting kindergarten. Every weekday morning at 7:15 we walk to school. This is my first externally enforced daily routine in more than ten years. This rekindled my interest in knowing what time it is throughout the day. So I got an Apple Watch.
Automattic can change a lot in just three months. People come and go, projects advance, priorities evolve. Three things are making the reintegration easy: full documentation, good search and great coworkers. It’s good to be back.