Four years at Automattic

Four years at Automattic

Today marks four years since I joined Automattic full time. 🎉As I mentioned last year this is the longest time I’ve ever stayed with a company and now we’re just extending that record.

There was a point this year where I briefly thought about looking for a move though. For over two years now I was in the role of Team Lead where I learned a lot, had some good success, but also had some areas I really struggled as well. It is a busy role that has a lot of responsibility and I’m not sure I was ever successful in all aspects of the role at the same time. There was much of the role that I really enjoyed. Working with my direct team and trying to help them grow and get better was by far my favourite. Being surrounded by the others in the lead group was also such a positive thing. They kept me honest, helped push me, but were also always there for support as well.

Automattic has grown a lot and as that happen things change and roles change. For the last while it felt like I was needing to spend more of my time on the aspects of the lead role that were not tasks that I derived energy from and that caused a drain.

Thankfully I didn’t have to look elsewhere. Automattic doesn’t see the lead role as a promotion, it is simply a different role. That means when I went into the role I didn’t get a pay raise and so, while there were many factors I weighed and went back and forth on in my head when looking at my options, salary and pay didn’t have to factor in. It made it much easier to focus on where I wanted and where I could best spend my energy. 

In the end a few months back I talked with my lead and let them know I’d like to start making plans for me to step out of the lead role. It was a relatively painless process for me, though it did accelerate a couple other organizational team changes internally. Now I’m still on Team Jupiter, but it looks a bit different, there were a few folks I had worked with before came back to the team, some people who were on the team went to another team, and there were some new folks added to the mix. Though the people have changed it is still a great team.

My days now are spent once again directly helping customers for the majority of time. Though differently than when I was a lead I can still help others grow and get better at the Happiness Engineer role. When I come across a conversation with a customer that I may have handled differently, or where it seems to have hit an area someone is not as familiar with I can share that feedback directly with the other person involved. In turn I can get the same type feedback and improve myself. 

The past two months have energized me again. Working with customers is something I really enjoy, but I also still have time that I can contribute and work on other projects as well. One of the things I loved most about the lead role is I felt like I could have a big impact in that role. That hasn’t changed with the new role. I still see so much I can do to help myself, our customers, my colleagues, and the company be successful. 

Reflecting on Vacation

While on vacation for the most part we kept really busy. Even when we had down time when driving a lot of it was either driving or navigating. There was also a lot of talking and planning that took place on the drives. For me I got up early before everyone else, grabbed some coffee, and made my way to a quite place. I used this time to write, read, and just think in general. It made a great way to start each day.

It seems that after every vacation I end up thinking about customer service. Not sure if it is because of all the interacting I end up doing with different people all over, or because I actually do have time to think, or a combination of both. Coming back I felt the same way I did last year, almost every interaction I had was positive. In the past I used to think that small talk was a big part of being friendly. While that certainly has it’s place you can be friendly and professional and stay on point. For many people this is even more important. They have other things to do with their time than chat. That was the majority of the service I had, everyone was friendly and helpful, but they stayed on point and got the job done.

The only one time that comes to mind that was not a great experience was one of the hotels we stayed in. We arrived basically right at 8:00pm. We had been driving pretty much all day, it was still light out and 30 degrees Celsius out. On the way we figured it would be great for me an the older kids go relax and stretch in the pool while Jen put Noah to sleep with no one else around. As I’m checking in I ask about how to get to the pool, she tells me, but then says it closes at 8:00. It’s not a supervised pool, still really warm and light, so there is no real reason for it to close at 8:00 except that it’s the rule. It made me thankful that in my job I wouldn’t have had to say no. If this hotel were like Automattic I pretty much would have been able to say, go swim and have fun, then let everyone know that I let them go swim and that we should revise our thinking on pool closing times.

In all the vacation was a great time away and I feel refreshed and looking forward to getting back to work. I’ll take the good parts from interactions I had and use them when I talk with our users and make sure I don’t follow any of the things I didn’t like. I also read this great post by Andrew Spittle on Customer Success and renew my efforts to ensure I take advantage of the opportunities I have each day.

Wonderful Customer Service During Vacation

Wonderful Customer Service During Vacation

Nova Scotia Canada has been my home for the vast majority of my life. Although in my childhood we did live in a number of different Provinces across the country we settled here when I was about seven years old.

Throughout my life I recall hearing about how Maritimers are the friendliest people in the world. A person I met in Boston, after telling them where I was from, told a story about how some people from away were ended up in a small town in the Maritimes and asked directions to their friends. The person who gave them directions promptly gave them their car to get to where they needed to go and simply told them to drop it off when they were done. I’m not sure the story if the story is really true or not, but I wouldn’t doubt it.

Working for a number of years in the Call Centre industry our manners and kindness were cited as one of the reasons so many centres set up shop here as well.

Hard examples escape me at this point in time, but there have been many occasions where I’ve heard about the rude Americans. It would seem to me that for a lot of people in this area that is the general feeling about our neighbours.

Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to travel a number of times to the United States. My wife an I were even married in New Orleans. Every single trip I’ve made I’ve had some of the best in person customer service I’ve ever experienced.

During this past week on our vacation it really hit me. There was not one interaction I had that wasn’t extremely pleasant. It didn’t matter if it was on the ferry, at a gas station, grocery store, Dunkin Donuts, or just walking down the street. Even before I left calling into a T-Mobile Call Centre was a great experience. People were friendly and very helpful, every single time. This has generally been my experience throughout my travels in the States. This trip we went through five states and it was all the same. Even a previous trip to New York City I didn’t find anyone I would consider rude. People did seem to be in a hurry and there was less small talk in general, but nothing rude.

To be honest I think there are a lot of people who could take some lessons from every person I dealt with on this last trip. Granted I’ve only been back a few days, but in the few encounters I’ve had in stores / gas stations I’ve been less than impressed. It’s almost seemed like I was putting someone out by coming and purchasing something from their place of work.

Also lets be honest about the Call Centre industry here in Nova Scotia. A lot of the companies setup shop here because of the unemployment rate, so there are lots of employees, and government incentives. I’m sure the fact that we speak English and are genuinely nice play into it as well, but that is not the main reason.

I truly love the area where I live in the world and the people here as well. I know the majority of people are kind and friendly. But if I was going to do a general comparison from my personal experience, I really believe the customer service I received everywhere I went during this trip was at a higher level than what I receive on a daily basis here in Nova Scotia. That makes me sad as I want people, when they come to visit our Province or Country, to have the same great experience I had when traveling. Not just tourists here either, we should always strive to provide great customer service to everyone we deal with.

Personally I know I will work even harder to make sure I leave people feeling the way I did after leaving any establishment I was in. It made me happy and it genuinely felt like they were happy as well. I fail to see any downside in that.