Tag Archives: Miami

What are you looking at?

Whenever I find myself venturing out of the 305 (even when it’s just to the 954) people inevitably ask me, “Where are you from?” which is promptly followed by, “Miami? Really? What’s that like?” To which I usually respond with this brief, funny, and slightly embarrassing anecdote that I will share with you all now.

I grew up in the middle-of-nowhere Florida in a place that no one has ever been to unless you play golf or are 70 + years old. That was pretty lame so I thought a brief stint in the Midwest would be fun. Now this might seem lame to all of you, but it actually was really fun. This Florida girl got to experience all four seasons for four whole years. I learned to sled, layer clothing in ridiculously effective ways, and practice a devotion to Green Bay Packer football that rivals my culturally Catholic roots. But the most awesome thing about the Midwest are the people. Everyone is as nice there as everyone else tells you they are. No starving models, Jersey Shore fist-pumpers, or cynical city folk here, just smiles, cookies, and a helping hand with just about anything you need.

Okay, maybe I am idealizing this a little bit, but not the smiles part. When you walk down the street and make eye contact with someone you will inevitably be greeted with a smile that you are expected to promptly return along with a wave or a passing hello. I embraced this regional practice fully and completely (probably because of its pseudo-sunshine effect in the absence of legitimate sun, but hey it still counts). So much so, in fact, that I decided to bring it with me to Miami when I moved here four years ago.

If any of you are from Miami you know this ended badly. My first couple of weeks on the University of Miami campus I was just like any other freshman, excited and thrilled about my new found freedom. Everywhere I went I enthusiastically greeted people with a smile and a wave. I didn’t care if they had mega-giant sunglasses on or even if they didn’t respond. I was the normal one here.

Or so I thought, until one girl literally stopped in her tracks, looked me square in my smiling face and said, “What are you looking at?!” I stood there completely shocked and speechless. This was the first of several Miami culture shock moments for me, but more importantly it was the day that I figured out friendliness can actually be regional. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that there are no friendly people here, it’s just not what we are known for.

So began my descent into the land of hater-shades, suspicious looks towards the typical tourist suspects, and an unhealthy amount of road rage. As many of my friends have lamented to me, and as I have found out first hand, Miami is a tough place. We come here expecting to prove to ourselves that not only can we survive the shuffle, but we can make it bend to suit our fancies, whether it’s jump-starting our career, extended bouts of partying, or trying to make it our home. Very few of us survive for very long here, making the trip back East, West, or Mid-West after a few years, but almost all of us adapt to try and make the most of it.

I share this with you not only to provide you with a laugh at my expense, which I encourage you to enjoy as much as the other people who have heard this story, but to provide a real-life framework for how adaptation occurs. As industries shift, technologies change, and consumer expectations grow, we must all be able to adapt quickly, but also be willing to have those “smiling fool” moments. Those are the ones we learn the most from and the ones our customers (and maybe even our readers) will respect us even more for.

Confessions of an OCD Event Planner

I woke up this morning to “thump, tap, tap, tap, tap, thump.” My two puppies were chasing each other around the living room engaging in their favorite past time, squeezing through the tiny space between the couch and the wall in an effort to make the chase a little more adventurous with the possibility of puppy brain damage. Usually this would be cause for a very grumpy morning, but this morning I woke up from a full 11 hours of sleep which may seem excessive, but after a combined 10 hours of sleep over the last 7 days, it was pretty much life saving.

Between busting out proposals, lunch meetings with clients, and putting the final touches on WordCamp Miami I had pushed myself to the limit of exhaustion. I pride myself on being calm under pressure and providing perspective to my stressed out colleagues, but this week was full on “OCD Event Planner Jess” as I coordinated the WordCamp Miami Speakers’ Dinner at The Ivy in Coconut Grove, did a walk-through at the University of Miami School of Communication to make sure the venue was just right, and then panicked when I found out we had actually sold out of the 200 available tickets. For most people a sell-out is a definitive victory, but for someone planning an event in Miami it brings the promise of not only a full house, but a long line of party crashers you don’t have room for. And so I broke my calm under pressure mantra and completely freaked.

Courtesty of AlexDesigns.com

Then yesterday came even earlier than usual with a 6:00 a.m. wake up call and a quick sprint to set up the WordCamp Miami venue. As people started to flow in at 8:00 a.m., in other words exactly on time, I knew this event was going to be different. Everyone was smiling and excited about the day before it even began. No one was standing in the corner waiting for the event to impress them, they were talking to one another about how great of a deal they were getting for only a $30 ticket. Impromptu volunteers pitched in to hand out swag, check in attendees, and point people in the right direction when they couldn’t find the right room.

When one of the speaker’s dropped out of the first session because he was sick, no one complained. Instead, they quickly moved on to the next room to listen to Jim Turner talk about his transition from “Daddy Blogger to Business Blogger” or Pete Bernardo talk about “Great Plugins for Your Next Client Project.” For the first time in 24 hours I breathed and for the rest of the day I just smiled as people thanked me for a great event full of great speakers and great people.

When I was approached about helping to organize WordCamp Miami I took on the project as a favor to some great local geeks who needed an event planner’s touch. I didn’t expect to learn much or even really meet many people I had anything in common with yesterday, but I was completely wrong. The enthusiasm, generosity, and just general awesomeness of the Miami WordPress community not only gave me the feeling of a job well done for a community of people who definitely deserved it, but an intense appreciation for the tight-knit, intelligent, and motivated community of users, developers, and fans of WordPress. Using a completely organic, community motivated approach, WordPress has cultivated an army of brand advocates who preach the gospel of the platform and convert even the most non-technical word smiths, old-school developers, and social media cynics.

End geek mushiness here.