One Year Automattic Anniversary

One Year Automattic Anniversary

Today marks my one year anniversary at Automattic! For most people that probably doesn’t seem like a very big deal but for someone like me it really is. My first “real” job was when I was 16 years old which was 20 years ago. Before that I had summer jobs, things like my paper route, and odd jobs around the neighbourhood. In that time I’ve worked for quite a few different companies. The longest time I’ve stayed in one position was fourteen months. Even though I really enjoyed that position and the people I worked with I was already looking for my next move about halfway through.

Automattic is different, at the year mark I’m not checking job banks every day or searching online for that next opportunity. In fact I really feel like I’m just getting started here. So much more to learn, so much further to grow, and so much more to contribute.

The year I’ve been here has been an exciting for Automattic as well. Building, launching, and just recently releasing, as open source, Calypso. It’s a whole new interface to work with your sites. When I started a year ago there were under 300 employees and now today we are over 400. That included the acquisition of Woo!

Automattic has given me so much. My first trip outside of North America to a team meetup in Barcelona. My home office setup is pretty amazing. My new wardrobe full of clothing with the WordPress logo on it. A trip to the Grand Meetup in Utah to spend a week with our entire company. This was an incredible experience. Freedom and flexibilty, being able to schedule my time off and days around the rest of my life has helped provide a great work / life balance. Endless learning, I’m still learning new things all the time and I’ve just barely scratched the surface of the different teams that I can rotate to and spend time learning and helping on. Confidence, it took a while to feel like I actually belonged with all the other smart, amazing co-workers and that I might be able to offer the support and help others had given me.

In this year I’ve started to give back as well. Since starting I’ve had thousands of interactions with the people who directly use our products. Helping them use and learn our products while also getting their feedback to help make things better. Watching Calypso being developed and being able to help test and troubleshoot features as they were being built was very rewarding. Probably the most rewarding though, as much as I never thought I’d get to this point, is the fact that I’ve been able to be a buddy to new employees starting out including helping with their training.

Fairly early on when I was doing a lot of live chat I built a tool that I could use to track my productivity. I found it useful so I made it available for others to use. It doesn’t get a lot of use, but there are still people who do use it. Along the code route I, with a lot of help, added a very small addition to an internal tool that was helps us communicate a bit better.

Currently I’m working on organizing a series of hang outs where developers can answer questions about key features or products so us Happiness Engineers can better support them and better understand how they work. We’ve had one so far with more to come.

There are still many things I have to improve and get better at, but I’m looking forward to it. With my co-workers and team mates there is so much I can take away from each one of them to make myself better and more productive. In this past year, and only spending very little time in person with them, I already consider many of them friends. Even though it is just here in my house I look forward to going to work and interacting with them.

Thank you to everyone that has made this past year one of the best of my life all around. To those who took a chance on hiring me, training me, mentoring me, and just being there for me in general, my hope is that you’re not disapointed in your decision and that I’ve been worthy of your efforts. If I have it my way, and if Automattic agrees, this will just the first of many anniversaries as I know there is still so much that I can learn and in return also contribute.

Love What You Do

It’s coming up on the one year mark from when I started my Trial with Automattic and I’ve been working full time here for about ten months now. Looking back on my past jobs and places I’ve worked I really don’t remember a time where at this point I wasn’t looking for other opportunities. Not this time. There isn’t any part of me that wants to be looking to move anywhere else. When I realized this I thought I should sit and think about what makes this company so different for me.

There are the obvious things that you can see when you read the benefits on the Work With Us page, and although those go to show that they do value you as an employee and want to keep you happy, that is really only a small part of it for me.

One of the biggest things for me is that I’m doing something I really am passionate about. Helping people get online. The mission of WordPress in general is to democratize publishing. That is a short statement but very powerful. The goal is to make the same opportunity to have your message available online to everyone. WordPress already goes a long way to make this happen, but there is still along way to go as well. Automattic is dedicated to working towards this. Whether it is by offering the free plan to everyone on WordPress.com, working on getting the software available in many more languages, or by dedicating as much time and effort as we do contributing to the open source project.

One of the things that really makes me proud to be a part of is when it come to freedom of speech. If everyone is going to have the same opportunity to publish their views, that is going to end up including people who have views you don’t agree. Automattic goes above and beyond to fight for the rights of all people using the service. One example of this is scoring perfect on the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Who has your back report. You can see some other examples on our transparency reports Hall of Shame.

Even though we all work remotely and I’ve only met a handful of my co-workers in person so far, the people that get hired here are amazing people. The hiring team and process do a great job to make sure the people hired are going to be a good fit.

When I was sick and in the hospital I received many well wishes. A co-worker from Scotland had a lovely plant delivered to me  and my team sent flowers as well. This in addition to everyone letting me know not to worry about anything. Take as much time as I needed and things would be covered. They were genuinely concerned with me getting better.

That’s an example of when something major happens and everyone showing their support. This also goes on in little ways every day. Everyone is willing to take the time needed to help you solve a problem, work something out, or even listen to you vent about something work related or even something outside of work that has you frazzled. The support I see given to me and to everyone else is outstanding.

A lot of these things come back to the Automattic Creed which I’ve previously written about. People here believe in and and live it.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

When I did my Trial I had a Buddy, a full time employee who would be with me through the process to help me in what ever way they could. It meant a lot to have someone you knew you could count on to ask anything. I’ve been a buddy to a few new employees who were doing a support rotation after they were first hired, but currently I have my first Trial Buddy. It is exciting that now I get to be the person to help pass on the things I’ve learned to someone else in this bit more formal way.

I will never stop learning.

That’s the first line in the creed. There is so much to learn here in general, let alone that it is in the tech industry which is always evolving and changing. There is no way I could ever get bored unless I purposely avoided trying to learn new things. Automattic helps make this possible as well. Reimbursing for books, courses, and encouraging learn-ups between co-workers.

Trust. From the minute you’re hired you have the same access to everything as every one else. You’re free to make decisions and do what you feel is right. As a Happiness Engineer most of that centers around ensuring what you’re doing is best for the person I’m working with, or the people in general who use our products.

Automattic values their employee’s happiness and well being as well. That’s why there is so much flexibility left in terms of schedules and vacation policy. It comes back to being trusted as well. Recently I approached our Events Sponsorship manager with not much notice about us supporting an upcoming local conference BlogJam. She made it work and we were able to help out the conference. This is great for me as it is the first year it is running and selfishly I want to make sure everything goes well so it can be around for more years and just get larger and better.

Just the other day I was reminded in another way the value us when a co-worker was doing a support rotation, where one week you give up your usual role and spend it doing support instead. It is similar to the first three weeks when anyone is hired. They were working doing live chat and one of the users was abusive, intolerant, and making just rotten comments in general. When the lead of our Happiness group found out about this he personally refunded this person all the money they had paid us for services and emailed them directly letting them know with such an interaction they were better off not being a customer with us and asked them to move their services elsewhere.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this done, but it really shows they value all the employees and aren’t going to allow someone just because they are paying to treat people here like that. Luckily this is not a common occurrence as the vast majority of people I interact with are no where near like that and appreciative of the support they receive.

This ended up being a bit longer than I expected, but if you’re still with me think you and Automattic would be a good match, we’re hiring, come work with me.

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.