Support as a Career

When I get home and can really reflect I’ll post a better and more full recap of my first Grand Meetup with Automattic. For now I want to talk about something great that has happened for me here. I’ve had a bit of an epiphany thanks to two town hall sessions I’ve attended. One was company wide and one specific to our happiness or support section. Not sure if it is exactly an epiphany, because I really knew it already, I think I just forgot it a little. This allowed me to bring it back in to focus. Now I need to live it even better.

When I came to Automattic as a Happiness Engineer in the back of my head I kind of thought it would be fun to use it as an “entry” position and work my way into a development role. In the past I’ve had development roles, specifically web development roles, that I could likely put to use here. I’d never pretend that I’m anywhere near the calibre of the developers we do have, but I thought I could learn from them. The funny part is the jobs I’ve always been happiest at have been the ones where I’m providing support.

If I’m happiest in a support role, why do I want to move to something else? After the questions and answers in the town halls I think it is because of my biases coming from other companies where support really is an entry level position. It’s not something that the companies I worked at treated as a serious and important career option. It was usually seen as a necessary, yet evil, cost centre. Not at Automattic. Support is seen as an important bridge between everyone that uses our products and the products themselves. Every conversation we get to have with the people who use our products is an opportunity to learn and makes things better. This is exactly the career I’ve been looking for.

There are some things I need to work on though and personally need to get better at. Taking the conversations I have and helping find where things can be made better and communicating that is currently a weakness. There are many parts I already feel I do well though. When I find something that is broken either through testing or from a user I can work with our developers to let them know so they can get it fixed.

While I can read code and understand it, I could spend a lot of time trying to dig through the code to find exactly where the bug is, but really these developers know the code a lot better than I do. It would be a lot more efficient if I instead worked on my bug and deficiency reporting so that I made the reports as helpful as possible. If I do that, they’ll be able to find where the bug is a lot faster than I could and they also can it fixed. The time I would spend looking would take me away from having other conversations with people where I can have a much greater impact in the long run.

Coding is still fun, and I’m not going to stop. In fact while here I took a course on JavaScript as there is a feature I would like to see, so I’m going to try and build it. But that will be in my spare time, as the hobby it really is for me now.

There are so many things I will be taking away from this Grand Meetup, but I think this will be the most important thing. It has helped me refocus on my career here and will help me approach interactions from a different mindset. It will be a lot of work and I know I won’t be able to do it overnight, or be perfect at it, but I’m going to work at being better.

Change of Plans

Today Jen had a rare day off during the week. When we found out about this we decided to take advantage and I made arrangements to be off work today and work another day instead. Our plan was to hike Cape Split for the first time together. Jen has never made the hike before and I did it many years ago probably when I was around 12. I don’t really remember it at all, and I’m not sure I even made it to the top.

This plan had me very excited for a couple reasons. I’ve wanted to do the hike for some time but just never seem to get around to it, but the main reason is because Jen and I never seem to get time alone together besides at night when the kids are in bed. Even that with an almost 16 year old means we aren’t really alone because she stays up almost as late as we do and there have been times I go to bed before her.

We’ve been getting a fair amount of rain the past few days so I knew there was a possibility that today wouldn’t happen. But today itself was supposed to be overcast but no real rain. We ended up getting rain this morning coming down fairly heavy for a bit early so everything was soaked. Anecdotal stories from friends and family suggested that the hike wouldn’t be real enjoyable with a wet, muddy trail. Wet roots and fallen leaves would make things slippery and not the easy hike we were both looking for today. Therefore we decided to put it off until another time.

We were disappointed but really spending time together is what we really looking forward to and we were still able to do that. As I wasn’t going to get the exercise from the hike though I started the day with a run. I intended to just go for a short one at a decent pace but decided to keep pushing and go for 10k at the same pace I’ve been doing 5k runs. To my surprise I was able to do it!

We did have some errands to run but before that we dropped off some books to our local Wee Library and then went for a walk around the marsh where it is located as well. Once the errands were done we decided to go out and have lunch together. Quick calculations while we were there have us guessing that it was about two years since we shared a meal out just the two of us.

It wasn’t the day we initially planned but we made the most of it and had a fun day, even while running errands.

Things Not Working? Change It Up!

Last week was the first week at Automattic that I was starting to feel stressed and a little burnt out. This weekend I took sometime to try to figure out why, because nothing had changed.

Reflecting back it seems like it was a combination of things. Luckily all the things are in my own control to resolve. The first thing that I changed was that I was obsessing a bit about my stats. Trying to push myself to do better and be more efficient, the funny thing is that this pressure was all coming from me. We all set goals for our selves, I take them very seriously. I try to set reasonable goals but because of that if I don’t hit them it’s disappointing and frustrating.

One of the great things about this position is that I get to make my own schedule. One of the downsides to this position is that I’m responsible for making my own schedule. That sounds dumb but having all those options can make it difficult to find what works best and there is no one else to pass it too, it’s you’re responsibility to make it work. So I really looked at how I was typically spending my day and how I can make it work better for my personable life and be more efficient at work.

In the afternoon my day can be broken up due to picking up kids from school and getting them to where they need to go. So this morning I started with a new approach. I moved my tasks that are better suited for uninterrupted time to the part of the day that is less broken. Today, felt much better again and it flowed really well. Previously I felt like I was working a lot of hours to meet my goals. Where today I met and exceeded my goals and worked a much better portion of my day.

I’ll keep trying this schedule for a bit and hopefully now that it is better organized I can work at just getting more efficient.

Another change I’m working on is becoming a more efficient typist. All of my communication with users and colleagues is done in text, so any improvements I make in this area will have longterm benefits. So I’ve been teaching myself to use the Dvorak keyboard layout. Right now my speed is much slower than it is with QWERTY, but from what I’ve seen the speed will come and my fingers seem to move a lot less. That can only be a good thing my fingers and wrists. Right now I’m only using it during personable time as I’m way to slow to use it at work.