43

Chocolate birthday cake

Another year has passed, and it’s my birthday again! 🎉 Quite a lot has changed in the last year. Last year, I looked back on 2017, and where my path had taken me.

42

I pretty much ended my retrospective with the following:

While I don’t have all the answers (not even remotely), perhaps being 42 brings a few answers to the questions that I haven’t been able to answer so far.

42

Becoming an Automattician

The highlight of this year has been joining Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. When I wrote my 42 post, I had just been informed that I’d be joining a group of applicants in January 2018 to do a Trial for four weeks. It was a pretty intense four weeks, and when I emerged with an offer to join Automattic full-time, it was an incredible feeling.

Working at Automattic has changed my life in so many ways. To begin with, I work with incredible teams (both my immediate team, and the broader Automattic team) every day. We have a remarkable diversity of perspectives, opinions, skillsets, and backgrounds. In those times when I imagined what it may be like to work at Automattic, I don’t think I ever really anticipated being exposed to such an amazing team (you can join us too, we’re hiring 😁).

Automattic at Orlando in September 2018

Beyond the team I get to work with, I work from home, and I’m able to choose my availability for the most part. This means I can structure my days around my family, while taking into account where I can contribute more to our overall effort to provide high quality support to our customers, 24/7.

Join Automattic, see the world

Another benefit of working for Automattic is more frequent travel for our team meetup, and our annual Grand Meetup. This year our team met up in Rome for a week of workshops, sightseeing, and generally getting to know each other better. It was the first time I had met my team in person, and my first time in Rome. I enjoyed the trip tremendously.

Posing outside the Colosseum

In September, I joined several hundred other Automatticians in Orlando, Florida, for our Grand Meetup. It was an opportunity to meet even more of my colleagues, listen to inspiring speakers, and experience more of our company culture.

One of the many highlights of this trip included meeting Matt Mullenweg, our CEO. Another highlights was our evening at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Actually, there were so many highlights from that week, I’d probably need a longer list to do justice to the trip.

Automattic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

An addition to our family

We also expanded our family earlier this year. Gina and the kids had been asking me about adopting a dog for a while. I’d postponed the discussion for various reasons including the fact that we both worked at offices (at the time), and a dog would be alone for too long.

That reason pretty much went away when I started working at Automattic, so Gina found us our new furry child. Her name is Nessi, and she’s a rescue who was found with her litter near their dead mother when they were just a few weeks old.

Nessi

It took a while for her to adjust to us in the beginning. She soon became Aaron’s best friend, and she adores Gina and the kids. Her rough start has left her with some pretty deep anxiety issues, and she’s scared of just about everyone outside our family.

It can be challenging at times because her response to a perceived threat is to become aggressive. We’re working on training for her, to help us better understand her, and how to reach her better. When her fear doesn’t overcome her, she’s cheeky, smart, and really playful.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

With everything that’s happened in the last year, I feel like I’m only just getting started with, well, almost everything.

My role as a Happiness Engineer has expanded beyond our core email and live chat support to one to one video support, buddying for new hires who do a support rotation when they start working at Automattic, and even buddying new Trials hoping to join us as full-time Happiness Engineers.

We don’t have a conventional hierarchy at Automattic, so you can pretty much choose your career path. It turns out I have a talent for training, as well as being a support professional. The work is varied, I’m always learning new things, and I have constant opportunities to apply skills acquired in my past careers to my work.

I love that I get to spend more time with our kids. I see them off to school in the mornings, I’m home when they return from school at lunchtime, and I’m around to help them out with homework in the afternoons (well, I’m still working on this part – it’s really easy to become consumed by my work).

Interestingly, even though we could literally work almost anywhere (we just need a relatively quiet workspace and a good Internet connection), I much prefer working from home. The thought of working at a coffee shop has a sort of romantic appeal, but I like being in my space. 🏡

As 2018 winds down, I’m looking forward to growing more at Automattic, becoming better at differentiating between work and my family time so I can spend more quality time with my family, and continuing with my efforts to learn to code that I started in earnest last year.

My focus has been on learning Python 3 the last few months. I really like the language, and I’m trying to build some consistent learning time into my regular schedule.

Next year is bound to bring more challenges, experiences, and rewards. I’m looking forward to it!

The Explainer

A big part of my role as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is explaining stuff to our users. I have a knack for it, particularly when it comes to email support.

I commented to some colleagues today that I should change my job title to “Explainer” (we can basically choose our job titles at Automattic). One of them came up with this awesome mashup:

The Explainer

I had to share it. It’s awesome!

When in Rome …

One of the perks of working for Automattic is having the opportunity to travel for team and company meetups. I arrived in Rome earlier today for a week-long team meetup.

Because we’re a distributed company, we don’t often have a chance to meet our teams in person. Meetups are fantastic opportunities to get to know the people we work with so much better.

I started capturing my experiences when I arrived at the train station in Modiin on my way to the airport, partly so I could share my journey with my family through a shared Google Photos album.

Here are a couple of photos that I took of the area around our hotel, about a stone’s throw from the Vatican City:

All The Blogging At Automattic

One of my favourite aspects of working at Automattic is how central blogs are to how we communicate (another important tool is Slack). We have loads of internal blogs that we call “P2s” (because they generally use the P2 theme).

We use P2s to post support requests, share tips for doing better work, update each other on new additions to our families, submit internal support requests, and more.

It feels like we’re using blogs in ways that seemed like futuristic stuff back in the early 2000s, and that really appeals to me. There’s something about blogs that have appealed to me every since I first came across the medium in 2003/2004.

To actually work in an environment where they’re actively in use for so many purposes, and by so many people, is like being in Blog Nirvana.

I find more interesting ways to use our blogs each day at Automattic, and I love it.

When I see people dismissing blogs, I can’t help but think that they’re missing a huge opportunity by turning away from this incredible platform.

I’m Joining Automattic – Excitement Factor Bazillion

When I turned 42, I had a feeling that this year would be different for me. Actually, it was more than just a feeling, I had already started a process that has come to fruition.

I’ve had opportunities to interview at some of today’s most exciting companies

Starting on Monday, 19 February, I am joining Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. I’m beyond excited!

My journey, so far

I applied for the position in October last year. The position looked interesting, and it seemed like something I’d been doing to help out for years. Sure, it was different to any other position I’d worked in the past but it looked like a great opportunity to pursue.

Above all, it was an opportunity to join one of my dream companies.

I had my first assignment and interview about a month later. That was followed by another assignment, and a second interview shortly before my birthday. As you can imagine, that all went well because I received the best birthday present from someone outside my family: an offer to start a Trial.

A Trial is part of the interview process. It’s a paid opportunity to work at Automattic so both you and the company can get a good feel for you in the role. Automattic pays $25 an hour, which makes a huge difference. It gives you the space you need to really dive in and do the best you can.

I started thinking about the Trial like this: Automattic had given me an opportunity to work as a Happiness Engineer. I had almost the same level of access to just about everything that a full time Happiness Engineer had. I had the best possible chance I would have to prove to Automattic that I was worthy of keeping this new role.

Because I was freelancing, I decided to commit fully and set aside the four and a half weeks I’d need, and threw myself into it. I worked harder than I had for just about anything else in my working life, and I loved it.

It was challenging, there was a tremendous learning curve, and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing people I’ve met. I was fortunate in that I could treat my Trial like a full-time job. I was part of a group of a dozen and a half people who didn’t all share the same luxury.

Not all of them made it through the Trial, for various reasons. All of them inspired me to keep improving, keep learning, and deliver more happiness with each interaction I had, whether that was with our users, or my fellow Automatticians.

My buddy, Rynaldo, and my Trial Lead, Daniel, gave me great feedback throughout my Trial. They guided me from the start and I owe some of my success to them. I also received so much help from other Automatticians who were doubtless incredibly busy, but who took the time to guide me to the answers I needed. Having the opportunity to work and learn from them is easily one of the best parts of working for Automattic.

There is so much more about the work that I love. It’s difficult to express it all. I spend my days learning, helping users with a wide variety of issues, improving my skills, gaining insights from people I admire … the list just goes on.

And then it became official

When I finished my Trial a week ago, and Daniel told me that the hiring team was recommending me to the HR team, I actually cried tears of joy. It was an incredible feeling.

This morning, I had my chat with an HR Wrangler and, before I knew it, I was official. I’ve been on a cloud for most of today, and I suspect this feeling is going to last a bit longer.

One of the first things you read when you start your Trial is “Welcome to the chaos”, followed by:

The only correct approach is to embrace the chaos, not fight it.

That pretty much covers how Automattic works (and it does, so incredibly well). We are a distributed team, working from all over the world in our homes, coffee shops, co-working spaces, camp sites, and more. We use Slack and internal blogs called P2s to communicate, share information, and keep connected.

Somehow the chaos doesn’t detract from just how effective everyone is.

I frequently found myself just amazed at how incredible everyone is at their jobs, and wondering whether I was worthy enough to join them.

My answer to my Imposter Syndrome was to ask myself this question: “Why not? I made it this far. Even if I don’t see it yet, the hiring team saw my potential and I owe it to them, and to myself, to realise that potential. So, why not me?”

As much as I achieved through hard work, and perseverence, I still believe I owe some of that success to the remarkable people who helped me along the way. They inspire me, they are my heroes, and I am grateful to them.

If you’d like to read a few more perspectives on working for Automattic, and their journeys, here are some of the stories that lit the way for me:


Oh, and by the way, we’re hiring! Join us. 😁

So much to love about Automattic’s 2016 Year Review

Automattic's 2016 Year Review banner image
Scroll through 2016 from Automattic’s perspective

Automattic has released its “2016 Year Review” report and it is a fun overview of the company’s and its products’ milestones for the year. There is so much about this report to love, including the design of the report itself. Worth taking 10 minutes to scroll through it.

Howdy! We’re the people behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and a bunch of other products for WordPress. Take a scroll through our review of 2016.

If you prefer a wordier retrospective, here are some highlights:

WordPress.com in 2016: A Year in Review

Source: 2016 Year Review