A day in the life of a Happiness Engineer, October 2017 edition

This post is part of a series describing what Automatticians do on a daily basis. You can read more posts like this by following the tag #a8cday on WordPress.com and Twitter.

When people ask what I do at Automattic, I can usually point them towards my A (semi) typical work day for me post.  A lot has changed since I wrote that last February, though, so I’d like to give you a glimpse into what I’m up to right now.

Just a quick background: I’m a Happiness Engineer on the WooCommerce Orion team, and have been working at Automattic for 18 months now. I’m doing a six month 50% rotation on Happiness Hiring; the rotation is from June until the end of December. That means I still do 50% support on WooCommerce, then handle applications, interviewing, and working with trials during the other 50% of my time.

6:45 – Alarm goes off. Remembered that I signed up to do live chat at 7, so reluctantly get moving. The most important thing is heading into the kitchen to hit the switch on the espresso machine.

6:55 – Awesome! I’d been prepared enough (or know myself well enough) to put clothes out. I resist the idea from time to time, as it feels like something you do as a student – but it does help me. That makes getting dressed a lot easier, and I do try to put on clothes that I can leave the house in, or at least answer the door in.

7:00 – I let my team know that I’m going green on live chat. It still tends to be pretty quiet this early, even though it’s already late afternoon in the Pacific timezones.

So why did I volunteer to do live chat this early if I’m not a morning person? I find jumping in helps me get moving and thinking, which sets the tone for the entire day. We’re expected to spend certain amounts of time in live chat per week – for my team, that’s currently eight hours, which is then four hours for me as I’m on a 50% rotation. That number can change based on what we need, plus WooCommerce and WordPress.com handle live chat differently. My team is spread across Europe and Asia, so we’re currently focusing on covering the morning hours.  Given all of that, it makes the most sense for me to chat in the morning.

Speaking of my team, here’s our silly team photo from the GM:

I’m also still responsible for 50% of my workload for WooCommerce support, which includes my personal goal for total interactions for the week. I’ve found it’s better to get this done before I get distracted with hiring stuff.

Good music helps, too – this morning, it’s this great Spotify playlist that was recommended in our Slack #musicomattic channel:

9:00-ish – I had signed up to chat from 7:00-9:00 this morning, so I wrapped up my last chat. I also let my colleagues know that I went red (so no longer available for new chats) and wrap up any outstanding issues.

First order of business: coffee! I’d been a bit slow this morning and wasn’t able to get set up before starting live chat. I fixed that first.

I recently invested in a second-hand Gaggia Classic espresso machine with a Rancilio Rocky grinder. Given the fact that the local cafe is only a two-minute walk down the street, I needed to make having coffee at home more attractive. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this. It’s an older machine, so you can take it apart. So far, I’ve replaced the gasket and upgraded the steam wand. I don’t quite have the knack of creating consistent micro foam, but it’s good fun to practice and result is usually drinkable. The next challenge will likely be latte art.

During this block of time, I finish catching up on Slack (chat was busy this morning, so I’m behind), going through my own mailbox (minimal mail), and the hiring mailbox (lots of mail). It’s interesting to see that when we’re communicating internally, we do generally stick with Slack and P2s. When I started my hiring rotation, I needed to get used to a lot more email as we correspond with candidates through email and our hiring platform, Greenhouse.

There’s the cappuccino I just finished making! So this is my desk, where you’ll find me when I’m doing tickets or live chat – I try to stand up to do interviews and meetings. I’m still very happy with my 34″ monitor, and keep my MacBook tucked away on the side. I also still love my Kensington Slimblade trackball. If you look carefully, you’ll spot the Roccat Kiro mouse I use for gaming – one of its main selling points was that you can switch the buttons on the sides, a truly ambidextrous mouse! You can just see my PC off to the side; I use a USB switch to switch peripherals and change the source on my monitor, then I’m ready for gaming on my PC.

The wallpaper is a photo of the escalators at the Stockholm metro stop, Rådmansgatan. It’s neat that Stockholm’s network of stations doubles as an art gallery.

10:30 – I usually save interviews for the afternoon, but as I’m talking with someone six hours ahead of me, the morning works better. I’m happy with everything this person has done so far, so decide to offer a trial.

As usual within Automattic, we iterate on processes. A few months back, we started batching trials so that a group starts once a month. The first week of the trial is spent answering questions the WordPress.com forums – if that goes well, trials are advanced to the next part of the trial, where they learn our internal tools and then helping customers via tickets and live chat. We generally aim to wrap up the trial by the end of the fourth week.  As before, the entire trial is paid: trials track their hours and then submit an invoice.

Today is Monday and our next group of trials is starting next Monday, so we  need to make sure all the paperwork (well, digital paperwork) is in order for this trial to get started. I make sure that’s wrapped up before the next thing on my agenda…

12:00 – Lunch! I don’t strictly have to take lunch at this time if I don’t want to, but 12:00 falls at a good point in my day. I usually take an hour. Some days, I’m working on running training, and others I run errands. Today, I enjoyed the pretty fall weather while doing the 1k loop by my house.

I’ve been experimenting with so-called “complete food”, so had a Jake shake for lunch. I can’t always be bothered to prepare healthy food – this seems to be a good alternative.

13:00 – Interview time! Whenever I can, I try to block activities together: that can be tickets, live chat, or interviews.  This afternoon, I have two first interviews, and one second interview.

I struggled quite a bit with the timing for interviews with I first started the hiring rotation. Normally, I don’t have that many time sensitive activities, so being exactly on time isn’t important. When someone is waiting to talk to you, it’s rude to be late. I ended up writing the art of being on time to remote meetings, listing on what I learned, as well as what works for me.

During this time, I also needed to check in on the trials I’m leading. I spend some time checking in with them, their buddies, and reviewing their feedback. They’re at the end of their trials, so it’s crunch time. Many of our trials hold down their current full-time job and then do the trial in the evenings and weekends. Between the time commitment, putting other things aside for the duration of the trial, and the pressure of constantly working to improve, the trial is hard. Personally, I’ve never worked this hard for a job in my life.  Trials who underestimate the commitment tend not to do well.  If you’re thinking of applying, I’m not trying to scare you – or maybe I am, just a little, so that you have an idea of what you’re getting into.

If you’re looking for more information on what you should know, Sandy McFadden’s post So you want to be a Happiness Engineer, huh? is fantastic.

17:00 – It’s time for the weekly hiring team call! I usually take video calls from the kitchen, as there’s a nice place to stand… and it’s close to the coffee machine. It’s also just a cozy room, so I like it. Today, though, I’m taking the call from the couch – my partner is home and we have a small apartment. As he’ll be cooking, I’ll cede him the kitchen and the desk.

So instead of photo of our couch, here’s a photo of the Athena team (including rotations!) at the 2017 GM:

18:00 – Given that I didn’t finish working until 18:00 today, my partner has cooked a lovely dinner. We’re now on the final season of Star Trek: Voyager and are also enjoying Star Trek: Discovery (Sonequa Martin-Smith is awesome!).

20:00 – We still needed to get some mythic+ keystones done in World of Warcraft and I’m enjoying playing my brand new monk, so there should be some time to hang out in Azeroth for a bit.

22:00-ish – Get ready for bed, reset everything for the next day. I head to bed: I’m working on Before They Are Hanged, book #2 in the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie.

Monday happens to be my longest day of the week. I start early with live chat to get it done, and then I don’t finish until eleven hours later. I could take more breaks during the day, but there just seems to be a lot to get done and I like keeping up the momentum. The hiring rotation is definitely stretching out my days, as the bulk of the team is in North America – thing get interesting from around 15:00 my time and #fomo is real. I figure that I’ll take the longer days, and get the most out of my hiring rotation – I’m learning so much! I will go back to my preferred 7-16 schedule once the rotation is over. I also tend to take Friday (or another) afternoon off to help compensate for the extra hours.

In some ways, I’m looking forward to the rotation being over. My life will be simpler and quieter. On the other hand, though: wow! I’ve learned so much about hiring as a whole, candidate selection, interviewing and leadership.  It’s wonderful to have a better idea of what the Happiness Hiring team does, and knowing that I’ve contributed to this iteration of hiring within Automattic Happiness.

One of my favorite things about working for Automattic is that my job is always changing.  There’s always something new coming, something new to learn, or somewhere new that I can lend a hand.

Oh, and by the way – we’re hiring. 🙂

Header image credit: Chris Lawton



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