Fully Automattic – Joining the WordPress.com Family

I’m extremely happy to announce that I’m joining the Automattic team (the parent company of WordPress.com) as a Happiness Engineer starting on Monday, October 28th.

I couldn’t be more excited to join a team of passionate people that are helping to power a large portion of the web including many writers, designers, and creative folk. In fact, I didn’t know this until recently, but WordPress effectively powers close to 20% of the web. That’s pretty impressive in itself. To make matters more impressive, they accomplish this large reach even with a much smaller staff in comparison to other companies with a similar-sized audience:

Monthly Uniques (US) Employees
Google.com 196M 53,861
Facebook.com 140M 4,619
WordPress.com 130M 211
Amazon.com 79M 88,400
Yahoo.com 69M 11,700
eBay.com 68M 31,500
Aol.com 34M 5,660

I’ve written before about my transition from personal training into the world of digital publishing, blogging, and writing. This career move is certainly a step in the right direction. It’s really hard to believe that just a year ago, I was personal training full-time while also blogging and freelance writing on the side. I knew I wanted to transition into the digital media space; I just wasn’t sure how to make that happen.

Working with Federated Media taught me so much concerning the blogging/digital media world. I was exposed to various arenas that I never even knew existed. Truly, I can’t imagine how bloggers and writers can manage the various advertising options alongside creating quality content (many even do it alongside a full-time job). The people I worked with at Federated really were hard to leave, but the opportunity to work with the Automattic team was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

So, the inevitable question – what does a Happiness Engineer do exactly?

In short, as a Happiness Engineer, my job (as you would expect) is to keep users happy. Largely, that means answering questions, explaining new features, and helping bloggers have the best experience possible on the WordPress.com platform. There’s also some other aspects like feature testing and bug fixing, but the large majority of the job is direct interaction with WordPress users (something I’m really stoked about).

Being that the hiring process for Automattic was a bit different than any other hiring process I’ve ever been a part of, I thought I would write down some thoughts.

Get Hired at Automattic

As with any company that gets thousands of applications for every one position they post, getting hired on at Automattic was anything but a cake walk. Hiring for each position is different, but my progression went like this:

  • Interview #1 – Getting to know you
  • Interview #2 – More questions about the position and your previous experience
  • Trial – 4-6 weeks of actually doing the job you’re applying for alongside the team
  • Interview #3 – Final interview with Matt Mullenweg

When I told other people about the interview process and how carefully Automattic selected potential candidates, they were floored by how detailed the process was. As someone that went through the hiring process, I can tell you that it was the hardest I’ve worked to get a job in my short career.

During the trial period, you perform the job just like you would if you got hired on full-time. I was allowed the same permissions, answered the same tickets, and worked alongside the same folks as I will on Monday when I start full-time. To be honest, the first few weeks were rather intimidating. Being the new kid on the block in any role is tough. However, coming into a team of Happiness Engineers that know far more than I do and working directly alongside of them goes beyond intimidating. Still, the full-time folks were extremely helpful in getting me up and on my feet.

I worked the trial alongside my full-time job at Federated meaning I worked on WordPress mornings and nights mainly (one reason you haven’t seen much posting here). Despite how difficult it may have been, forcing applicants to work a trial before being hired on guaranteed three things:

  1. really wanted to work at Automattic.
  2. I seemed to fit in well with the team. Full-time team members were able to give their opinion on whether or not they wanted to work alongside me.
  3. The hiring team was able to watch me progress through the trial and observe how I adapted to certain tasks and evolved my skill sets during the trial.

This comes in direct opposition to most hiring procedures that go something like this: Interview -> Interview -> Hire. Most companies don’t get to see applicants in action before they’re hired on. In my role at Automattic, my interaction with users directly reflects on the company as a whole. So, there’s a huge benefit to Automattic to make sure that new employees fit well within the company culture. The trial period gave them a chance to see me in action, but it also gave me a chance to see them at work as well.

Automattic isn’t the only company to institute a trial working period of course. Other tech companies like Buffer are doing the same thing. While it can be difficult to navigate the trial period alongside a full-time position, I think it’s extremely beneficial to both parties and can really save some major headache in the end.

100% Distributed

The Automattic team is 100% distributed meaning everyone primarily works from home. Sure, there’s a home office in San Francisco, but to my understanding, not many people frequent the office. Being that I’ve never worked from home, I’m intrigued at the thought of not having to go to a central office on a daily basis.

On one hand, this allows me the freedom to work anywhere and everywhere. On the other hand, I’ve never worked exclusively from home. So, I’ll be trying out a variety of working situations including working from home, coffee shops, and coworking spaces. If you have experience with any or all of these environments, I’d love to hear it in the comment section.

Going Forward

I’m excited to jump into the WordPress world full-time next week. As far as writing goes, you’ll likely see a shift of the focus towards more topics on writing and blogging along with tips, tools, and ideas for working effectively. Anything else you would like to see? Let me know!

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