Joining Automattic

This post has been rattling around inside me for some time now so I think it’s about time that I get to writing. It’s been just about a month since I first started working full time at Automattic but the whole process started long before that.

I’ve been using WordPress to build websites for quite some time. I signed up for a WordPress.com account in 2007 I’m guessing to get an API key to use Akismet to handle spam on one of my self hosted sites. Years later I did help a client customize a site on WordPress.com but for the vast majority of the work I did it was all self hosted version of WordPress.

I know I had heard about the company Automattic before this, but the first real time I remember it was in 2010 when I heard Matt Mullenweg on an episode of the Big Web Show that I really realized what they were doing. I had just recently graduated from University and was just getting started so I never really considered applying at that time.

It wasn’t until July of this year that I ended up reading another interview of Matt. It really struck me that I might actually stand a chance at working for this company and it sounded like an amazing place to work. So I set out an applied to be a Happiness Engineer. But I rushed it and I didn’t do a good job of presenting myself. It didn’t take long before I received an email saying they weren’t interested at this time with the suggestion to volunteer in the support forums to better get to know the product and to get a feel for some of the work I would be doing if I was hired.

If there has ever been something that I’ve been good at over the years though it is getting the job. I don’t have a good track record of staying at one place very long though. It’s certainly not because I haven’t worked for good companies but I always just thought I saw something better, got bored, or something made me unhappy. I’m fairly certain a lot of it was just not being overly happy with myself though.

With that in mind I slowed things down a bit and made sure when I applied again I would make sure I would at least get to the interview stage. I didn’t even wait a long time to reapply, but I worked hard in the forums trying my best to help people and to get to know the WordPress.com product. I started using my WordPress.com account as well which this blog is on.

At this time it wasn’t until mid September that I heard back again, but this time I was offered an interview. The hiring process is tough, and long, but it I really appreciate it and I’m convinced that our hiring team knows how to find the right people because I haven’t had a negative interaction with anyone yet.

After my interview I was asked to do a small project. In this case I was asked to look though the existing support documentation and find a something that needed improving and fix it, or find something that didn’t exist and write it. From there they must have liked what I did and I moved onto a second interview. Keep in mind that all these interviews and communication were text based. Arranging times over email, but then the actual chats over Skype messaging.

At the end of the second interview I was asked to do a Trial. This entails essentially doing the job as a contractor for a number of weeks. This allows you to really figure out what the job is and if you like it, and allows them to ensure that you are a right fit for the team as well. No one expects you to do it for free, or to leave a job you already have to do the trial. They are flexible and allow you to work the hours you can around your existing job and responsibilities.

Obviously the more time you put in the faster you will figure things out so my wonderful wife Jen basically completely took over the household while I worked all day at the University and then came home and put in as many hours as I could into the Trial. It was honestly exhausting and at one point I really almost burnt myself out so I slowed down a bit.

I love the Trial aspect of hiring. One job I previously took I tried to get the company to let me come in and get a feel for the job, the environment, and the team before I accepted an offer. I would do it for free on my own time, I just wanted to make sure I was making the right decision. They let me come in for a few hours one day, but that really doesn’t give you a full picture of how things will be. For Automattic to immediately give me access to just about everything full time employees have access to and let me learn as much about the job as the company and the culture itself works well for both them and me. Plus they paid me well to do it.

On my birthday October 30th I was having a feedback chat with my hiring team at the end they surprised me with the good news that they were happy with everything I did during the Trial and they were moving me to the final part of the hiring process. That is a chat with the CEO Matt himself. This part amazes me as well. He still talks to every person and signs off on them before they are hired. Keep in mind how crazy busy his schedule must be even without the hiring aspect, but to take the time to talk to me for a long time truly shows how much he cares about the company and the employees alike. I was nervous as can be but it went well and at the end he told me was offering me a job and sent the letter of offer.

It’s been a fairly long journey to this point, but it is only getting started. You are a trusted and valued employee and it shows in everything the company does. In return we all love the company and what we do. I mean how great is it that I get to help people get themselves setup online so they can share their thoughts and ideas. I honestly feel that this company and this position were almost tailor made for me.

We are hiring so if you want to hear more certainly let me know, or better yet visit our site and apply.

The Women of Automattic

One of my new team mates made me aware of this post today written by our team lead Zandy Ring. A lot of the things she talks about apply to everyone.
I shared a lot of her feelings even after I was hired. I still seem to be suffering from impostor syndrome, although it’s getting better all the time in a big part to my amazing team.

Revelry Reverie

Something pretty amazing happened yesterday. All the women of Automattic had dinner together to talk about something incredibly important to us: getting more qualified women to apply at our company.

We are lucky. Automattic makes sure that an open position goes to the right person, regardless of gender. A lot of companies work hard at this, and many are getting it right (at least most of the time).

We have noticed, however, that in our case, fewer women apply in the first place. Anyone in a technology or traditionally male-dominated field obviously knows this already. One of the things we discussed was how each of us ended up applying to Automattic – interestingly, many of us believed – no, assumed –  we wouldn’t be qualified enough, and ultimately needed a nudge.

We, as women, can read a job description and see one item that we may be weak on or…

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Good Christmas Gift Idea

In my Boxing Day Reflection post I mentioned that I wanted to get more gifts that instead of being physical things would be things that build memories and experiences. It’s not like we don’t do any of this now I just want to do more of it in the future.

For the past few nights we’ve been playing board games. These were gifts that we bought and had been given. These always make for fun family evenings. Sitting around the living room floor and watching the competitiveness come out in the kids 🙂 They love beating Mom and Dad at games.

Another tradition we started a few years back was to stop buying gifts between our family and my sisters family. We have four kids and she has three, with another on the way, so it adds up pretty quick both in cost and the number of gifts under the tree when we were buying things.

For the past few years instead we plan out an event fun for our families to get together and do. This year we were going to separate the boys and the girls which I wasn’t really fond over. The girls were all going to go do a jewelry making party at a local shop. Us boys were still unsure what we were going to do. Last minute though the shop had to cancel the party so we were looking for something else fun to do.

The kids love the Madagascar movies and The Penguins of Madagascar was playing at the theatre so we all went to see that instead. It was a pretty fun movie. I love how they throw silly things there for us adults to laugh at as well. One common bit of humour throughout was the shouting puns of celebrity names. Things like Nicholas, cage them, and Drew Barry, more power.

Even though you don’t get a chance to talk to everyone at the movies it is still a fun way to spend an afternoon, taking it easy after the busy holidays and building up that memory with family. I like these types of gifts.

Snowman love, as long as it’s indoors

My wife hates winter, and in particular snow. That’s pretty rough seeing as we live where we do.

It’s turned into a running joke with all the kids she looks after and their families. Snow really is a four letter word. Whenever it snows the kids laugh and say Jen’s going to be so mad, or it’s doing the bad word outside.

The funny part is that she loves decorating with snowmen in the winter. She went shopping today and came home with another one.

Here’s a some of the ones we have around the house.

Some presents I enjoy, others not so much

Last night after coming home from our family dinner at my Mom’s house we put Noah to bed and we took the time to enjoy one of our family gifts. We were given the board game PayDay.

I don’t recall ever playing it before, but Jen loved it when she was little. Alex was up in her room putting away her things so Caile, Ella, Jen, and I sat down play. It’s been a while since we had a game night but I’m looking forward to playing again really soon, it’s a good game, but it doesn’t really matter what we play. Caile received Settlers of Catan Junior so we’re going to have to play that soon with them too.

This morning on the other hand I spent way to long doing one of unfun tasks associated with Christmas, assembly. Alexandria got a new desk. They call it an Artist’s Loft Art & Craft Creative Center which translates into hard to put together.

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The kids were in the living room with me while I was putting it together so I kept the bad words in my head, but I do not enjoy putting these types of things together. I only dropped the top of the desk on my foot once, and luckily only barely nicked my thumb with the knife opening the packaging, so it only bled for a bit. I was on a roll with the knife too. I’m not sure how I managed this but the front drawers now each have slit in the front of them that I can only assume I put there when cutting the plastic off them.

It wasn’t really that bad, I put a couple things on backwards so I had to do some parts twice, but that was my fault for trying to go too quick. It’s actually pretty neat and I think Alex is going to get a lot of use out of it.

Boxing Day Reflection

There are so many parts of Christmas that I absolutely love, and I think this year might just be the best one yet. For the first time in years I haven’t felt stressed or Grinch like at all. Maybe it’s because there are just so many other things on my mind lately to keep it busy, or maybe it’s because Jen looked after even more than usual. In any case I’m thankful that I was able to enjoy celebrating with my family.

Last night however, while sitting on the couch after cleaning everything up, and the pumpkin pies for tonight’s dessert were in the oven, I started thinking. I found myself worrying about how I was going to dispose of all the waste that comes with the packaging and wrapping paper. If that is not a hit of reality that you likely have or consume too much I don’t know what is.

Now I have to try to figure out what to do about it. Sometimes I feel like we buy stuff for the kids just for the sake of buying things. Not so much during most of the year, but during gift giving holidays I think this is the case. We do buy a lot of clothes which are certainly things that they can use and we would likely buy anyway. Of course a few fun gifts aren’t going to hurt anyone, but I’m certain we could scale it back. Get them something they really want or need and let that be that.

Maybe instead of more physical gifts we find ways to build more memories together. Not sure how we do that. We talked before about giving up Christmas and taking a vacation somewhere warm as our big family Christmas gift. That would be great, but it would cause us to miss all the other Christmas traditions I love. Getting to spend time with the rest of our family.

At this point I’m really not sure what the answer is, and I’m not confident I can get buy in from the rest of my family, but I’m sure something needs to change. We are at a point where we don’t really need more “things”. Sure we could use new tires for the car, and boring everyday life things like that, but those aren’t things you can put under the tree for the kids.

It’s also hard for me because I know first hand getting together with your friends after Christmas and comparing the things everyone received. It can be difficult when you don’t have either as much or that big gift to share. Obviously that shouldn’t be a big concern as you shouldn’t worry about comparing yourself to your friends or anyone else, but it’s also a part of our reality. There has to be a way we can do both. Scale back the needless things that they might get a few moments of enjoyment with and then not touch again for a long time, if ever, while at the same time give them something memorable that they can talk to their friends about.

There is a solution and it will likely take a shift in the way we consume things in general year round, so it won’t be quick or easy, but I think it will be a good goal to work towards.

Our Typical Christmas Schedule

Seems we’re full of Christmas traditions. We have a almost set in stone schedule for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. 

It works out well so we can spend lot of time with everyone. Christmas Day is also my Mother In Laws birthday. So we get up in the morning and my in laws come and open gifts with us. 

Then in the afternoon we head to my moms house to open gifts with them. Most importantly though we have a Mexican food style lunch!

Enchiladas, quesadillas, and guacamole. This is one of my favourite meals of the year. Mom makes two versions of everything, a kids version, that lots of adults including my wife eat, then the adult version that actually has some spice to it. 

Soon we’ll head back to our house to have a turkey Christmas / Birthday dinner with my in laws. 

I really love this time of year. Getting together with everyone and sharing good food,  presents, and conversation. 

Hot Toddies Don’t Cure Colds

I was hoping that hot toddies would cure this cold I quickly came down with last night but no such luck. 

I mean they didn’t hurt anything, and my throat feels a bit better, I think. But I’m still all stuffed up and can’t breath right. Now I’m just hoping that they actually help me sleep a bit tonight.

Last night did not go well, and Christmas morning being both sick and tired will not be fun. 

So the morale of this story is: don’t expect hot toddies to cure your cold, but go ahead and have some anyway.

Christmas Eve Gift Tradition

For the past few years we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We do up one special gift for each kid and let them open it.

The gifts all include the same things and are meant for use tonight. Here’s a play by play of my son opening his.

A new snowman book!
New Santa Jammie’s!
Hot chocolate, mmm I’m going to eat this hot chocolate.
New socks? These look kinda girly.

What a kid.

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Even we put on our new jammie pants, or for me business pants!

Thank You

This year I feel incredibly blessed for many reasons, and I’ll likely get into a more detailed post closer to the end. For now I just wanted to say thank you specifically to Pam one of my amazing new team mates.

Of course no Christmas Eve would be complete without one last trip to grab some forgotten things. So on my way out I stopped to check the mail. Even though I am still very new Pam had taken the time to send me a Christmas card with pictures of her adorable family on it.

Everyone on my team, and the company in general, has made me feel extremely welcome. We all work distributed and I haven’t met anyone face to face yet, so in this digital world of communication I find it’s all the more special to get a card sent in the mail.

Thanks Pam and I look forward to meeting you and everyone else very soon!