Automattic, six years on

Photo by Lucas Gao on Unsplash

On looking at my site’s stats, the post Automattic: my journey from application to hire is third most popular for 2021. A lot has changed with the hiring process since then, but I leave it up to show people what my journey looked like.

My longest tenure with a company before Automattic was three years. By that point, I was always ready for a new challenge and moved on to a new company. Yet here I am, still here after six years at Automattic – and that’s due to the different work I’ve been able to do within the company.

Woo Happiness Engineer

For the first two and a half years, I was a Happiness Engineer handling front-line support for the WordPress WooCommerce plugin and our premium plugins across tickets, chat, and the forums. I wrote a few “what does my day look like?” posts:

During this time, I went on a three-month rotation to a different division to learn and share knowledge. I was also a member of three different teams as we shook things up to switch from knowledge-based teams to timezone-based teams.

Team lead within Woo Happiness

In July 2019, I became a team lead within WooCommerce Happiness. Since then, I’ve tried multiple times to write a “day in the life” type of post, but my job is so varied – I felt like every try didn’t really show the scope of what I’ve been doing. So instead of writing a post like that, here’s a list of the kind of things that I do:

  • Front line support – as a lead, I’m still a Happiness Engineer. I also need to know the work team members are doing to both understand obstacles and be able to assess it. I usually aimed for about 16 hours per month of support.
  • Lead a team – the team varies from about 8-14 members and covers Europe, Africa, and some of Asia. Living in UTC+1 myself, I can comfortably work with team members in UTC+8 or so. We’re one of the UTC+ Woo support teams. The work consists of onboarding new team members, 1:1s, team calls, performance management, and generally supporting the team. I love helping people – in this case, I get to have a longer working relationship with people and see them grow.
  • Supporting the Woo division – the Woo Happiness division consists of a number of teams just like the one that I lead. The leads work together with the other Happiness leads and our division lead, as well as other groups of Happiness Engineers. Each lead tends to have a preferred area of expertise: I tend to gravitate towards processes and planning, as well as onboarding both new Happiness Engineers and new leads.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a lead when it was initially suggested. Nearly three years down the road, I’m so glad I took this opportunity – I’ve grown so much and enjoy most of my work.

Woo Happiness team lead and lead of leads

Per January 2022, I continue to lead my own team of Happiness Engineers – that work will stay approximately the same, as will the division support work. I am now also “lead of leads” (also known as a LoL :)) to a group of team leads.

I work together with a co-LOL for the division level work and soundboard. We cover quite a bit of ground and while we have the final responsibility for these areas, the actual work is often picked up by other leads within the division. We focus on the “who” part of Woo Happiness – here’s an overview of some of the things that we handle for the division:

  • Lead developement / building our bench
  • Lead career development
  • Coordinate with hiring on our needs and placing incoming new hires
  • Training and onboarding for both Happiness Engineers and leads
  • Performance management (i.e. write templates, help other leads work through the process)
  • Performance issues (supporting other leads, coordinating with HR)

We both also lead a team of leads, currently with 4-6 leads reporting to each of us. We support them as needed: onboarding as leads, supporting their team, helping them to grow, etc.

And the workspace

This seems to be a feature of these “day in the life” posts, so I can’t leave it out.

Last summer, I switched to a standing desk – my rule is that I start most meetings standing, but I can sit down if I get tired. The saddle chair is comfortable but active enough that I don’t feel sore.

When my partner needed to work from home due to the pandemic, I initially moved into the bedroom. Working three steps from the bed was not productive, especially in the mornings: it’s so much easier to just go back to bed. I also felt tucked away in the bedroom – while my mindset could have been changed, moving into the kitchen made me feel so much better. On the plus side, it’s close to the coffee machine!

However, in this photo, my workspace is tucked into a corner of the living room due to water damage in the kitchen. It’s a small apartment, so I do what I can. I don’t live close enough to co-working spaces, especially ones that would be okay for lots of calls – and I don’t frequent cafes/coffee shops as much anymore for the same reason.

At this point, I’m using a Preonic ortholinear keyboard (still Colemak!) and an Apple trackpad. I switched from a mouse to the trackpad when dealing with lots of big spreadsheets as it lets you easily scroll horizontally. I use a Leuchterm 1917 for rough bullet journaling and notes – the fountain pen makes writing feel smooth and lovely. The computer is a MacBook Pro, as that’s fairly standard for Automattic – you can just spot the Woo logo on the laptop: it’s my four year anniversary gift from Automattic. I run Endeavour Linux on my PC these days.

So, why still Automattic?

As I initially mentioned, I haven’t ever worked for a company for six years. What’s keeping me at Automattic?

  • I love open source and what it stands for.
  • Working remotely suits me very well.
  • Automattic is continually growing and changing, which keeps things interesting and often offers new opportunities.
  • I get to make an impact within the company and with the people I work with: what I do matters and that’s intensely satisfying to me.
  • I love the opportunities to travel. Since joining Automattic, I have been to so many places: Barcelona, Berlin, Brighton, Manchester, Utrecht, Lisbon, Abuja, Belgrade, Paris, Taipei, Helsinki, Rome, Majorca, London, Cape Town, and likely more.
  • Beyond travel, the perks are pretty great – for example, that three month paid sabbatical after five years.
  • I work with fascinating people. For the longest time, I was the odd one out with my strange history of moving around between countries. At Automattic, I fit right in. I love getting to work with this diverse, capable group of people.

And yes – we’re hiring!

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