“How Do I Get a Job at Automattic?”

I get about a half-dozen emails a year via my contact form asking me this question or asking related questions, like how to craft a resume, or what it’s like to work at Automattic. I thought I’d jot something down so I can just send a link the next time this happens, as my advice hasn’t changed much over time. :)

I’ve been here for seven years as of this writing, so I thought I’d share what I tell people who ask me this question (in a slightly expanded format). I’m not involved in hiring. This is not “official” advice of any kind. It’s just what I say to people, made public and repeatable.

First things first:

I love working at Automattic. You might not.

I will extol the virtues of my job whenever you ask me about it. It’s the best place I’ve worked, and I have found it to be very rewarding.

Not everyone will feel this way. The amount of freedom we have to get or not get our jobs done is unlike anything else out there. It can be very isolating and lonely to not see your team in person more than two to three times per year. I think even those of us who have embraced what we do struggle with this from time to time, and for some it can be significant.

But if you are willing to engage without having to be asked to do so, love working with people who are intelligent and come from all walks of life, and are down with being challenged often, you’ll probably fit in well.

So, how to get a job here? Let’s talk.

Read through our open positions and see if something is right for you.

You can find Automattic’s open positions here. Take a look and see if you spot something you’d enjoy doing and think you can do well. Read the job description and requirements to make sure you understand them and know how you would theoretically fit in the role.

Now, take a strong, focused look at the part of the job listing that talks about how to apply. This is going to be very important. :)

Follow the instructions regarding how to apply. Read them twice.

There are some things you will see in every job listing regarding how to apply. Take note of them and follow them. They are not there at random. Basically:

  • Make a resume/CV/whatever you want to call it. Prioritize and emphasize experience and skills that would directly impact the job role, but don’t ignore even side things that make you unique.
  • Attach it to an email sent to the address provided in the job description. The email is your cover letter. Introduce yourself. Be concise. This is your first impression, and it’s text-only. (As we are largely a text-communication-driven company, you should get used to this idea.) Make sure you include anything that’s specifically requested in the job description call for applications.
  • Double-check your spelling and grammar. Fix anything you need to fix.
  • Check it again.
  • Once more.
  • Send and wait. :)

You might get a trial; you might not. But putting yourself out there is the first step.

(Oh, and if you don’t know about how our hiring works with the trial process, where you perform contract work to see how that goes, you should probably read about that.)

I’m not lying when I say that’s pretty much it. When you boil down the process of applying for a job here, it’s pretty simple. That said:

Here are some focuses/traits I believe in based on my time at Automattic.

Again, let me stress this is my opinion and not in any way “official.” Nothing I say here is even remotely a guarantee, and I don’t have anything to do with hiring (really, I don’t), but these are things I will usually recommend to someone when they ask me personally what they can focus on.

These are mostly things I really like to see or admire in people I work with. :)

Be open to criticism.

It’s totally possible you’ll be rejected for the job, either before or during the trial process. When this happens, you may receive some reasons why you were turned down. Or you’ll receive some constructive feedback during your trial. Be open to it. Embrace the idea that you don’t know everything, because believe me—as a full-time employee for many years now, I still realize this often.

Be dogged in adapting to and implementing that criticism.

I applied to Automattic three separate times over a year-and-a-half before I received a trial. I had to change focus mid-trial before I was hired based on feedback. Some of the best colleagues I have at Automattic went through a trial, received feedback and a rejection, and then trialed again later with success. If and when you receive feedback, take it to heart and then apply it. Or apply again. Or both. :)

Be willing to say up-front when you don’t know something and be open to learning.

I would rather work a million times over with someone who is willing to admit when they don’t know something or are stuck on something and ask for help than someone who tries to fake it. Admitting you need help is not a weakness. It is literally impossible for everyone to be an expert at everything.

Be willing to help others.

I’m big on leading by example. Everyone has gifts and strengths, and everyone is at a different level. Just as you should be willing to let others help you, be willing to share your knowledge and experience with others. Be kind and instructive. Don’t always offer to just take charge of things—though on occasion, that’s necessary—but aim to level up your (potential) team.

Be yourself.

Automattic contains the most diverse and interesting group of people alongside whom I have ever worked. It is an amazing collection of individuals from whom I have learned much and with whom I have enjoyed spending time during meetups. Embrace this and be willing to commit yourself to it as well. (BTW, if the real you is introverted, that’s totally OK. There are lots of us here. If you have to take a break, we understand.)

Have at least a passing familiarity with the Automattic suite of products.

How much of this depends greatly on the job for which you are applying. Some positions might not require a lot of PHP or familiarity with WordPress. Others will be based almost entirely around this. I think it’s a good rule of thumb to at least know the core business of Automattic and what we do before wanting to work here. :)

Embrace open source.

An open source ethos drives Automattic and is core to our identity. Know what that means. Past and ongoing contributions to open source projects, whether it’s code, testing, design, documentation, or whatever, will give you valuable experience in what it’s like to work with those types of projects and is a bonus.

(Again, this will somewhat depend on your desired job role.)

Get comfortable with text-only communication. And in learning how your writing tone can be interpreted.

To be honest, I still have trouble with this sometimes. Text communication is hard. Without vocal inflections, facial expressions, and other body language, it’s easy to read something and get the wrong impression.

It’s a skill to craft your text communication in a way that others will understand your tone and intention. Dedicate yourself to learning that skill. (Yes; sometimes this means using emoji. They are very, very helpful for establishing tone.)

This space reserved.

I’m sure there are things I’m not thinking of, but I have been writing this blog post for three days and I should probably just publish it. If you are a fellow Automattician and reading this, and I forgot something obvious, ping me and let me know. If you are a reader and you have additional questions, feel free to contact me. I’ll edit some things in to this post later if needed.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

“Real Support”

If you have talked with me, my skepticism with regards to Avyd and what they are doing should not be much of a surprise at this point. (I hesitate to talk about it much because there are good people I respect who are doing business at and with Avyd and I am of course always worried about causing hurt.)

I need to say something about this, though.

Today, they are talking about the support they’ll offer as part of their service:

This reminded me of the job posting they’d put up a couple of weeks ago, about which I’d intended to say something more directly.

The listing is here, but I’m assuming that it will expire at some point, so I’ll put the pertinent bits below:

Responsibilities

  • Customer Service Representatives are responsible for handling our Client’s highest level of service issues to ensure customer issues are resolved in an efficient and timely manner. Agents provide knowledge and expertise to all online customers to effectively resolve any service-related, while balancing both the needs of the customer and the business.
  • Use empathy with the customer; allow them to vent frustrations, while staying in control of the conversation and maintaining focus.
  • Must be able to multi task
  • Follow up with customers to ensure issue has been resolved
  • Will be answering customer support tickets, inbound calls, and support chats.

Successful Candidates will have:

  • Previous Customer Service experience
  • Proficient in typing and computer skills
  • Energetic and motivated personality
  • Gaming knowledge
  • Available to work nights and weekends as needed
  • Be fluent in English
  • Team player
  • High School Diploma or equivalent

What We Offer:

  • Unparalleled work environment
  • Unlimited growth from within
  • Paid training
  • Continued development beyond entry level
  • Travel opportunities
  • Career advancement into management

On its own, that’s mostly fine. It’s a lot of attention-splitting, and the bit about nights and weekends without specifically stating what that means is a little concerning.

And then you get to the stuff about “growth” from the support position. It’s so much of a focus that it’s literally half of the bullet points in the list of “What We Offer.” It’s a red flag, especially when you hit this part:

Job Type: Part-time

Salary: $10.00 /hour

I don’t suppose I need to state that this is in an office and not remote, because the job posting should lead you in that direction on its own.

This is troubling because it doesn’t see support as a worthwhile career in and of itself. I am growing to understand that my current employer is somewhat unique in this, but I want to see the idea and the respect for support professionals continue to grow.

User support has been my full-time, salaried and benefited career for the last six years. It supports my entire household. I have had different responsibilities and been on different teams, but through the whole thing, I have been well-appreciated and been given the ability to build my career on having pride in the fact that I make our customers’ and clients’ lives easier, and that the ability to do so in an exceptional way is deserving of being a full-time employee.

The wage and (lack of) benefits in this Avyd job posting is sadly reflective of how a lot of tech sees support. Support is a place where you go to wage slave until you earn yourself a place as a supervisor, when you make a bit more and maybe get full-time, and then after even more time you might end up in charge of support for something and possibly get a salary and benefits. Or you have the (often just a) pipe dream of learning another skill and changing job responsibilities, which is seen as a promotion simply because you aren’t doing support.

I’m proud to work somewhere that prides itself on seeing professional support as a career, helping people build that career by supporting them and helping them develop, and giving those people good compensation, good opportunities, and good resources with which they can make the services we provide amazing experiences for the customers who pay for them. We make all employees who don’t work in support do a rotation in support every year, and every new hire regardless of position does front-line support for the first three weeks.

User support and respect for the people who work it is foundational to the culture here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter your industry, I encourage you to consider making it just as important to your company as well.

And yes; we are hiring.

So, That Net Promoter Score

J Jennings Moss for the San Francisco Business Times:

Alignable, which is headquartered in Boston and has members across the country, started doing its SMB Trust Index at the beginning of last year but this is the first time the company has released its findings to the public. To do its analysis, Alignable relied on the Net Promoter Score approach companies use to gauge their own customer loyalty.

[…]

Most trusted: WordPress— The website creation tool had a NPS of 73 and the report determined that “WordPress proves ‘free’ doesn’t always mean ‘junk.'” Groves said he was surprised by how trusted WordPress was, which he attributed to its passionate following. “I knew it was a great platform, but I didn’t know that their following was that ravenous.”

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(h/t Matt)

How I Work: AntiRSI

One of the problems I have historically had is either keeping focus on something too long or not enough. When I acquired a standing desk, I knew I would not want to either stand or sit all day long, as there is plenty of research now that says too much of either is bad for you, rather than one or the other being necessarily better.

I had spent a lot of time looking for a good timer to help me break up my day. After a lot of searching and trying out various options, I found AntiRSI (link opens in Mac App Store).

What it does is very simple, and gets the job done. It’s designed to prevent repetitive stress injuries, so it schedules both very small (“micro”) and long (“work”) breaks based on intervals you create. When a break happens, an overlay pops up on your screen and tells you to get with the not-working:

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Because I don’t have any true RSI issues, I don’t run it with the micro breaks, just the work breaks. It’s nice because it does a few things I really needed it to:

  • Detects when you naturally stop typing/mousing and go do something else. This will either freeze the countdown internally or will actually count as a break if you are away for enough time.
  • The overlay steals focus and forces me to pay attention (if I want it to).
  • I can postpone the break if I’m really in a flow and want to just push it back 15 minutes, which both is helpful and forces me to be more responsible with my time. It’s no one’s fault but mine if I work too long in a row.
  • You can drop it in as a menu bar item, which is an unobtrusive look at how much time you have until your next break:

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I use it mostly as a long-form pomodoro timer. I will work on a single task for the whole space of a work session. When the time is up, I’ll use that as a cue to at least stand up and walk around for the eight minute break I have configured. I’ll see what my wife is up to, refresh my water, check on something with the house, or check in on the kids to get some hugs. Then, it’s back to the desk for another 50 minutes of work.

If you have any questions, drop them in the comments. In case you give it a spin and want to know what my settings are, here’s my Preferences pane.

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Home Office 3.0-beta

The electrical work was finally completed on Saturday morning; I now have a second dedicated circuit as well as a cat6 dedicated run to the office. Once that stuff was in place, I was able to start moving things into the room proper and wiring everything up for the new environment.

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The electrical work was done by Jeff Foutch at Loco Electro, and for the most part it was a very pleasant experience and the work was well-done. The finishing in the room itself is great and the basement work is top-notch. He very clearly understood the correct way to route cat6 so it didn’t run into EFI problems with the power run, and secured the cables the correct way.

However, the process of getting it installed was needlessly destructive to the walls. They tore up a fairly large section of wall in the garage before finding it was in the wrong place and then having to move two studs over and do it again. And because my home has what was to them an unusually large gap between floors, they ended up having to cut into the ceiling as well.

My poor garage:

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And because of that same gap, they had to take a larger-than-I-would-like chunk out of the boys’ room as well, which because of the proximity to the baseboard, is going to be more problematic to repair than it should have been:

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My final opinion on his work is that he is an amazing electrician and the right one for the job (he even came in under bid) but I’m going to have to pay out more than I thought I would to fix the cutting into my home, and I can’t even get started with any of that until the electrical is inspected later this week. I’m disappointed in that aspect of the project. I blame part of it on the ridiculous construction of my home, which is probably fodder for a whole other post.

I would hire this out but I’m not even sure how much that would cost. (Read that as I’m dreading how much it’s going to cost.)

After another few hours of finding the right cables and trying to wire things up proper, I at least have the room in a condition where I can work, but it’s going to be another half-week at least before I can stream from it just because I need to wait for some different cable lengths.

The shelf of consoles is put together, but I haven’t hooked most of them up to power yet, and I need to get some more ethernet cables to hook them up without insane amounts of coiled cable everywhere.

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You can see that I had to finally upgrade to a 16-port switch there under the shelf. Really, after a couple of days of trying to get everything wired together, it’s close enough that I can see light at the end of this tunnel.

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(The PC is the big loser in the setup right now and the main reason I can’t stream yet.)

I even found a place for my 3DS and Vita charging cradles.

Now, I just need a longer power cable for the TV, one for the PC tower, and some various ethernet cables and USB runs. When I have everything together, I’ll try to remember to post about the connections and the various bits of hardware that come together to create my office environment.

I call this the “beta release” of the office because I can technically work out of it now but it’s not what I would call “complete.” Hoping for RC1 this weekend. :)

Previous office posts: 2.72.5hugs (2.0), 1.4, 1.3, 1.2, 1.1, 1.0, beta

Home Office 2.5

For the last two-and-a-half years, my office has been a good friend and a nice space in which to get things done. For a while, I’ve had some bookshelves behind the desk, but last week Amanda and I moved those around to fit another shelf and instead put the couch behind my desk, which worked OK:

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But after putting it there, I sat down on the couch and Amanda sat across the room, and we looked at the desk. We realized that it was now the most out-of-place thing in that room.

It had to go.

So the question became where to move the desk and my office space. We have a fourth bedroom that is not normally in use except as a library for all of our books. (We have many.) There was also a bed in that room as it is normally where my parents stay when they are visiting—or any other guest with us.

Amanda simply said, “Sofa bed.”

And the furniture moving began.

And then the furniture purchasing.

Less than a week later, my coworkers have been very generous and patient with me as I have been without the comforts of my desk and standard work environment, because the room I normally work in looks like this right now:

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(Actually, there is even less in there now. The wall hangings to the left are down and there is new furniture in the room. It is no longer my office.)

The room that will become my new office is in this state right now:

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I haven’t moved my desk in yet, because there is still a whole lot that needs doing in that room before I can do that. The list, in order of what gets done when:

  • An electrician needs to come out and install a dedicated circuit for my PC, laptop, and screens. I’ve probably been putting too much stuff on the one in my current office, so I thought I would just cut to it and have a new one put in this time.
  • The same electrician is going to run a Cat 6 line in that room because it will be both my work and my stream room, and I am not doing either on wifi because wifi sucks.
  • The room is getting painted. My best friend has for some reason volunteered to do this with me. I hope he is still my friend after we are done.
  • It needs some lighting. I am already looking at ceiling fixtures, and I need to come up with some kind of solution for streaming/video calls that is not behind me.
  • Then we move in the desk and the gear. I’m taking the opportunity to do things like install a cable tray on my existing desk and get a better ethernet switch for the room as well.
  • Wall hangings are totally happening.

Sadly, the electrical work is probably not going to happen for a couple of weeks, so I’m nomadic within my own home for a while. At the very least, I have created a cozy nook in my bedroom using one of the chairs we moved out of the lower level of the house.

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I’ll be working out of this space for the near future as I wait for the work to be done on my new office. I’m really stoked for the new space, so I’m happy to put up with some inconvenience to get there.

And—oh yeah—we managed to throw out a ton of stuff, which is pretty cathartic, even if it is very sad at the same time because it feels like we are saying good-bye to the “parents of tiny humans” phase of our lives as our youngest will be turning four soon.

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Previous office posts: hugs (2.0), 1.4, 1.3, 1.2, 1.1, 1.0, beta

Six Years an Automattician

I had meant to write this much earlier in the day, but it’s been so busy that I’m just now sitting down to hammer it out.

Today was the sixth anniversary of my start date at Automattic. It’s hard for me to think that so much time has gone by and to consider all the things I have learned, accomplished, and even gracefully failed at (and learned from!) as an Automattician.

At six years, that means I’ve been around longer than a huge part of the company as it stands now. From the time I joined to now, the company is now almost 10x the size, which I could not have imagined when I started. And we keep finding amazing people to work with, who we can hire because we don’t make them move anywhere. :)

I’m constantly grateful for the opportunity I have to work with colleagues who are as thoughful, intelligent, patient, kind, and supportive as my friends at Automattic. And I get to work with an open source ethos and a dedication to improving the ability for people everywhere to have a voice. It’s humbling and sometimes even intimidating.

Think about all the things in my life I likely would not have had I not been doing this for the last six years:

  • Learn so much more about code and about how things just work, even though IMO I still have so much more to go and am nowhere near where I want to be
  • Gain the ability to leave a job and path I ultimately found much less fulfilling and satisfying to work and learn from and alongside fantastic people
  • And do it while now getting to spend more time with my wife and children than I could have otherwise, simply by eliminating my commute
  • Travel to places I never thought I’d see or experience
  • Help countless people with their WordPress sites so they can get on with making content and not worry about the technical bits
  • Be constantly challenged by new problems and questions that push me to my limits and nudge me to develop new skills and proficiencies
  • Help coordinate the migration of an entire platform (Live Spaces!) of sites over to WordPress.com
  • Launch some of the biggest websites on the planet with some of the coolest partners around
  • Re-discover my love of Doctor Who
  • Learn there are other smart people out there who think pro wrestling is rad
  • Overall, worry a lot less and just have fun with what I do, how I balance that with the rest of my life, and who I am

There are probably other things I am forgetting, but I have only five minutes left to publish this post. :)

I really do love what I do. Maybe you’d like to join me? We’re hiring.

More WordPress.com VIP Open Source

At WordPress.com VIP, we are currently hard at work designing new platform services for our clients we think will help us take their sites to the next level of WordPress awesome. And today, my colleagues open sourced two of the tools we are using internally.

(Both of them are use on this very site, actually—because my blog has been running on our new platform as a test for some time now.)

The first is VIP Jetpack, which is a series of forced module activations and testing preparation we use with the Jetpack plugin suite for VIP Go. (Yes, this site and other sites on VIP Go always use Jetpack. No, it’s not a performance hog.)

The second is VIP Support, which we use to access client administration pages when troubleshooting a site. This ensures that we don’t always have admin access to client sites, but that we can assist when something goes wrong.

This project is so exciting for me, because we have a dedication to developing as much as we can in the open, a test-driven development process, and a peer review-heavy culture. I’m not actually generating any of the code you see in these repos, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of what we are accomplishing and how we are doing it.

By the way, the source used to power this site on that same platform is available here; I’m working on things in the open as well even though I don’t have much time to work on them. :)

Another View on Post-Sabbatical at Automattic

Andy Skelton, one of my colleagues at Automattic, also recently returned from his sabbatical and wrote a quick post about what it was like to come back. I echo this thought in specific:

Automattic can change a lot in just three months. People come and go, projects advance, priorities evolve. Three things are making the reintegration easy: full documentation, good search and great coworkers. It’s good to be back.

It absolutely is good to be back, even if I’m having to relearn what day it is sometimes. I’ll post more on what my sabbatical was like later, but if you want to hear my thoughts on it before I took it, you can find those here.

And if what you read interests you at all, a gentle reminder that we are hiring.

Sabbatical Start!

As I type this, I have just closed Slack on my main workstation, and I don’t plan on opening it up very often (if at all) for the next three months.

I previously mentioned the benefit at Automattic of the sabbatical every five years of employment, and I’m taking mine starting this weekend. I hope to be blogging a bit about what I’m doing with the time I’m gifted and other things while I am out.

I do have some rough goals for the time I’m out. I’d like to:

  • Take the family on a road trip at some point during the summer.
  • Get in an hour of guitar practice at least three days a week, to focus on just basic learning.
  • Up my CrossFit activity from the current 3 times a week to five times a week.
  • Get another one of my eternally half-baked plugins out there for others to start using.
  • Raise some money for Extra Life prior to my 24-hour marathon for the year, hopefully a good chunk of it. This means more streaming on Twitch!

If I get in even half of that, I’ll feel like I’ve done a good job. I want to use the time to spend it with my family and do more things with my children while they are out of school, but I also want to take the time to level up some skills and improve myself while I’m not in the daily routine.

It’s going to fun! If you want to follow along, following this blog is a pretty good way to do that, or following me on Twitter.

And subscribe to my channel on Twitch!