Opticon 2017

Today was the official first day of our annual user conference. I worked as a greeter and usher this morning to help get participants seated and acquainted with the space. Somehow, we managed to get over 1,200 participants from literally all over the world. We even had a good handful of customers who flew in from Europe and Asia for this event. As I stood in the back of the keynote ballroom, I had a similar funny feeling as I did when we had our wedding and had our friends and family come from around the world. These people all came because they are either partners, sponsors, customers, or prospective customers, and they actually believe in our product and our vision. To see the excitement and hear how passionate customers were about experimentation actually got me excited, as well. It was this weird, proud moment to hear all the applause and cheer, to see all these people gathered in this one place to learn more about us and the value we’re trying to bring to them and their businesses.

I’ve never really felt proud or excited to be a part of any company before this one. Being here and feeling all this energy in one place really has me feeling like I am actually drinking the Kool-aid — not in a delusional, fantastical way, but in a way where I feel proud to be part of a company that’s actually doing great things that has a future.

Conference life

I landed in Las Vegas at around 10am this morning and took an Uber to the hotel where I’ll be staying, where our conference is also happening. After settling in at my room, I did some work and then scrambled to eat my $35 buffet lunch in the ten minutes I had before my volunteer shift started as a greeter. It wasn’t the most organized because I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to eat the provided lunch on the first day, so it was a bit hectic.

The funniest thing about being a greeter at a conference is that people generally don’t ask you what you think they will ask you. You think they will ask, where can I find this class or this session? Is this the right room for X session?

Well, what did they actually ask me? They asked questions like, do you really work at Optimizely (I was wearing my employee badge and my conference shirt!); can you help sneak me into this class, can you get me a free trial for X product? Where can I get water?

You learn something new every day.

Admitting bias

None of us are perfect. We all have our hidden prejudices and reasons for not liking certain people or even certain groups of people. I frequently say that I can’t stand men… but I also ┬ásay women really suck and make things so complicated when they don’t need to be. But I was really disappointed today when I came in to be told that my doctor from Tuesday wasn’t going to see me today and that a different doctor would be seeing me. I immediately was skeptical and thought this was going to be bad. And once the doctor walked in, I immediately knew I couldn’t stand him.

He was this old, immigrant Chinese doctor with a thick Cantonese accent, and he barely made eye contact with me. He didn’t introduce himself, came in and said, “Yvonne, is your throat feeling any better?” so no greeting, and basically immediately wrote me a cough suppressant prescription, a NEW antibiotic which he didn’t even explain until I asked him what it was for (laryngitis?!! because I still don’t have my voice back?!), and almost rushed out of the room, but then realized he forgot to check my lungs and breathing, and hurried to get that done. I was barely in the room with him for four minutes, start to finish. It was a rushed job, he clearly didn’t care or have any bedside manner, and despite my notes clearly saying I was coming from out of town, he told me to come back in a week. Just like my dad’s idiot retired Cantonese male doctor who said my dad didn’t have any heart conditions just two days before his scheduled double bypass surgery, this Cantonese male doctor is a total moron who should have his medical license revoked.

This is the reason the medical industry in this country is terrible, and is the reason so many people probably avoid doctors like the plague and ultimately die earlier than they should. If you can’t trust the ‘professionals’ who are supposed to help you, then who can you trust with your health?

 

Exceptional service

I’ve been working full-time for just over nine years now, and for the majority of that time, I’ve been in a client services role. When you work in customer service of any form, you will probably know that you rarely get compliments or praise from your customers; you’re more likely to hear about all the times you screwed up or could have done better. I’ve received plenty of internal praise, but it’s been only a rare occasion when I’ve gotten very specific, positive feedback about any good work I’ve done. It stinks, but that’s the nature of this job.

So as someone who is obviously receiving service constantly, whether it’s at a restaurant, in a hotel, or on a plane, I usually try to be as pleasant as possible. I know how hard the work can be, and how exhausting it is. I am usually forgiving of the blunders I encounter unless they are truly egregious. But maybe something I could be doing more actively is offering official praise.

On our Qantas flight from Sydney to LAX, we were upgraded to Business Class and had a comfortable setup, but as I have been ill, I was not able to enjoy the experience as much as I normally would. Our flight attendant, Tim, picked up right away that I was unwell, and he proactively filled my hot water with lemon and honey constantly without ever being asked. When I napped, I’d miraculously wake up to my half-empty water bottle being completely filled. He stopped by frequently when I was awake to ask if he could provide anything additional for me to make me more comfortable. This guy was like a god-send; to truly be god, he just could have gotten me some real fresh, non-recycled airplane air and then I’d have probably married him.

So I just finished writing him an official compliment on the Qantas site and sent it through. I think in my entire life, I’ve only written two official compliments for airlines, and this is the second one. We need to give more credit where credit is truly deserved.

“Hotels”

When I checked into my supposed hotel yesterday, I asked the woman at the front desk if there was a coffee maker or water kettle in my room. I had a feeling just based on how basic and bare the lobby was that the answer would be negative, but I wanted to know right away so I could prepare myself for supplies given that I’m unwell. She said that no coffee maker or kettle would be provided, just the “basic hotel amenities like towels, toilet paper, iron and ironing board. Things like coffee makers and water kettles aren’t provided by hotels; they’re provided by motels!” She had a slight smile on her face, as though she were educating me on the differences of classes of accommodation.

I could barely speak with my hoarse and broken voice, I was coughing a lot, and I was in no mood to call this ignorant woman out on her bullshit. Was she really going to look me in the eye and tell me that hotels do not typically provide water kettles or coffee makers? Is she saying that places like the Marriott, the Westin, or the W, which I frequently stay at during regular work trips, do not offer things like that at a charge of $300-400+ per night?!

This “hotel” needs to be put in its place. And at $260/night, it really needs far better amenities… but then again, this is San Francisco, the city with the most expensive hotels in this freaking country. So maybe they think they can get away with it because they are in San Francisco.

Second doctor’s visit

I’ve really only lost my voice twice. The first time was when I got whooping cough back in December 2015 and thought I was near death. The second time has been this past week, and it’s been loads of fun. It’s always a terrible feeling when you try to speak to strangers, whether it’s buying things at a cash register or at the doctor’s office’s front desk, and as soon as you open your mouth, the person responds back with pity in his/her eyes: “poor you, you poor, sick child.” I’ve gotten that glum look from too many people to name, whether it’s been saying hi to my doctor today, asking where I can find a thermos, to purchasing water and squeaking out a quiet and hoarse “thank you.”

I went to the doctor’s today… for the second time in four days, right here in San Francisco. I haven’t been to a doctor’s office in this city since my college days when I was still on my mother’s insurance. My doctor was kind and gentle, explained everything very well, and also walked through a lot of the same ideas the New Zealand doctor I had seen had. At least they weren’t completely contradictory. She prescribed me a steroid to help open up my throat and ease my breathing, and to see if this was potentially bacterial given the length of my suffering, an antibiotic. I’m due to see her again on Friday before I leave to see if the antibiotic has helped at all.

I’m on steroids, and I’m also on antibiotics for the second time in almost two years. I feel like an invalid. And I’m still trapped in a crappy hotel room with no ventilation, no AC, and no fan, that my dad asked, “Did your company downgrade? This place is like those really old apartments in the Tenderloin. Even the elevator is outdated!”

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

A highlight of our trip to the North Island of New Zealand was our visit to the relaxing Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. The water that fills these pools each day is taken from the Te Manaroa natural boiling spring, and as it’s 100 percent natural thermal water, it’s not treated with any chemicals or filtered or recycled back into the pools. The water is anywhere from 35 to 38 degrees C. It’s probably the only real thermal pool I’ve been in where it not only felt good and relaxing, but the ambiance and setup of the pools was as natural as it could be. Some of the pools are set against a backdrop of actual natural and active thermal pools; these were our favorite ones to soak in. It was quite cold outside since it is the end of New Zealand’s winter and it was early evening when we went, but once we were in the water, it was steamy and relaxing.

The last time we were in a “thermal pool” was in Banff last summer, when we mistakenly went into a crappy pool that was overcrowded with too many tourists (loud, likely mainland Chinese ones), and the pool was chlorinated and felt like a regular swimming pool. I think we lasted about 10 or 15 minutes in the pool before we just got out and left. That was a hack pool and had contaminated water that wasn’t natural.

But this thermal pool in Rotorua – this was amazing. It unfortunately didn’t have enough healing powers to cure me of my illness, but it temporarily made me feel very comfortable and clear.

Seeing doctors in other countries

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never enjoyed seeing a doctor. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dentist, a gynecologist, a general practitioner – whatever, it’s never fun. It’s not fun having things poked and prodded in my mouth or vagina. It’s also not fun having to fill out endless forms of medical history before a visit that probably won’t even last more than 15 minutes if you are lucky, especially in New York.

So now, because I guess my body just doesn’t like the Southern Hemisphere, I’ve now had the misfortune of seeing a doctor in two countries other than my own; first in Tasmania, Australia, in December 2015, to then be diagnosed with whooping cough/pertussis that I unknowingly brought with me from New York to Australia, and now, in Rotorua, New Zealand, to be told that I’ve caught some viral infection that likely won’t end or even start to get better for another ten days. A lot of people at the wedding came with sicknesses they brought from Melbourne given the bad weather there, and the kids at the wedding, all of whom were in frequent proximity of me, were sick. it’s no wonder I got sick.

Side note: the doctor here, like in Tassie, was so down to earth and sweet. She just said her name was Julie. No mention of “doctor” or last name or anything. Just Julie. So humble and so normal. She’s originally from Scotland and has been here twelve years… and never intends on going back.

My friends are joking that I’m allergic to the Southern Hemisphere. I don’t want to joke because violently coughing up massive amounts of phlegm and not having a voice to speak with really, really hurts. That is not fun.

Stinky stinky

After experiencing the sulphuric geysers of Yellowstone National Park last month, I figured it couldn’t get stinkier than that. I mean, we’d end our days in the national park, and when I’d wash my hair in the evenings, I could actually smell the sulphur/rotten egg smell getting rubbed out of my hair and scalp. That’s how deeply embedded the odors were on our bodies.

Then, we arrived in Rotorua today, and it’s as though the rotten egg haters’ worst nightmares were fulfilled. It’s known for its geothermal activity and mud pools, and… it does not disappoint. You really can’t walk far in this town in New Zealand without being bombarded by that terrible odor. Even our Holiday Inn lobby and the hallways on the higher floor that we were staying on reeked of the smell. And don’t even get me started when it comes to actually being at the geysers and in front of them; it’s so bad that at times, I was gagging and holding my scarf over my mouth and nose.

It’s certainly an experience, though. To be around these wonders of nature is a bit surreal, and to think that things like this exist kind of blows my mind. The natural colors that come from these areas — the nearly florescent blues and electric greens and bright oranges and reds — seems like someone just painted it all and claimed it was real so that they could justify charging high prices to visit these sites.

That doesn’t really happen in a place as pure and gorgeous as New Zealand, though. They don’t even allow GMOs here. And I’m positive that their farm raised fish is 100 times safer and healthier than ours back in the States.

Always short

Time is always so short the older you get. I remember being in those miserable elementary school classes, wondering why class was so long and unbearable when I had teachers who barely taught me anything. I still look back on elementary school, particularly my third through fifth grade years, and think they were a complete waste of time. I had incompetent teachers, classmates who generally were numb skulls, and what I actually learned during those years were with the help of my brother.

Now, time always feels like it’s not enough. It’s not enough to study for an exam (or, it seems that way with a work exam), it’s not enough to get up to speed with a customer, it’s not enough to see a travel destination, and it’s certainly never enough time to properly and fully catch up with family and friends when you have limited time in specific geographies. Chris’s mother was saying we barely got to spend any quality time together. We really only had the breakfast the day before the wedding as true 1:1 time. But Chris’s argument was that we spent every meal together… though all those meals included wider family members, and we know that the more people there are, the less you can focus on any individual. I feel for his mum when she says that, and in fact, it kind of mirrors how my own mother feels when I’m in town. She never feels like it’s enough time. They’re both probably right to a degree. But that’s the way life is – you have to make the most of what you have, and it’s never going to be perfect.