Becoming an Automattician

The last few months have been a pretty wild ride, intensely focused on one single, all consuming goal:

Get the Ring to Mordor and cast it into the fires of Mount Doom.

Wait. No, that was Frodo. My goal was to land my dream job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, Akismet, Vaultpress and other products.

Probably not as epic as Frodo’s quest, but it was a challenge all the same 🙂

The Company

I won’t fill this post up with Automattic’s history, but I did want to touch on some of the important aspects of working here.

First off, we’re a distributed company. That means we work from wherever we happen to be – at home, in a coffee shop, on a beach, in an office or coworking space, wherever.

Personally, I prefer to work from home. I’ll occasionally mix it up with a few hours at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, or the library if I’m feeling like I want a change of pace.

a8ctrafficchartWe do travel. There’s one company-wide Grand Meetup per year, plus one or two smaller team meetups.

We also keep pretty busy. Relatively speaking, we’re not a huge company – especially when you look at the company we keep.

That’s the chart as it was when  I started at Automattic (I think I was number 391 🙂 )

The Process

The Automattic hiring and trial process is very well documented, but as a new Happiness Engineer, I wanted to take a little time to share my experiences.

If you’re embarking on the same journey (yes, we’re hiring!), I’d recommend reading as many different accounts as you can. I did, and it helped a lot.

dontbehastyFirst off, don’t be hasty.

Apparently this post is going to be full of Lord of the Rings references. That wasn’t the plan going in, but oh well, these things happen.

There was a bit of a delay between sending in my resumé email and hearing back from Automattic – about six weeks in my case.

I spent that six week jumping up and running at every email notification.

Eventually, I received an email from the hiring team to set up an interview the following Monday. Obviously, I was over the moon.

I was added to the company’s chat tool shortly before the interview, which was conducted completely in text. No voice, no video – just text. Extremely cool.

One of the reasons the interview is held this way is because text is the primary form of communication within Automattic. Being part of a distributed company means you can’t just stick your head into the next cubicle to ask someone how they did something.

That’s just not how Automatticians roll.

My hiring team was a pair of Automatticians, who explained the entire process that was about to unfold, and asked me some questions about myself, why I wanted to be an Automattician and other topics relevant to the job.

That interview was followed by a mini project, which led to a second interview.

The second interview was similar in format to the first – my two hiring leads and I chatted and got to know each other (they, like everyone else in the company, were extremely friendly).

The Trial

This is the when the real fun began.

After my second interview, the hiring team recommended me for a Trial – basically a four to six week period where I’d actually do the work of a Happiness Engineer.

I’d spend those four to six weeks working as an hourly contractor, earning the standard $25/hour the company offers regardless of the job you’re applying for.

My Trial started about a week and a half later. My hiring team (now my training leads) gave me some different starting dates so I could choose one that would fit my schedule.

In terms of scheduling I was lucky enough to be able to focus on my Trial work full time, but not everyone goes that route. Trials often work on nights and weekends, around a full time job.

Prior to starting, I got different tools and profiles set up so I’d be ready to go when the time came.

The first two days of the Trial were dedicated to training. After that I got to work helping real users with real questions.

I met my Trial Buddy, who was always on hand if I needed advice or guidance, and got set up on the different systems I’d be using.

I worked in the email support queues to start, responding to new support tickets that users had opened and following up with them until the issue was resolved.

After that, in my second week, I went through live chat training and dove into helping WordPress.com users in real time. I honestly found that I enjoy live chat immensely, even more so than I expected.

There are a lot of really cool people out there doing some really amazing things online, and I was getting to meet them every single day.

During the course of my Trial, right from the beginning, I  was exposed to an incredible volume of information. There were more resources and training materials available than I knew what to do with!

To be honest, I still haven’t gone back and read through everything I bookmarked for later reading. There’s that much.

gandalf
Sorry. I had to squeeze in another one…

At times, I’ll admit, it nearly bordered on being overwhelming.

Until I really learned my way around, there were times when I’d have no memory of where I’d read something when I went looking for an answer.

There were times when I’d come across a question, but not remember exactly where I’d seen the answer.

The good thing was that there was always someone available to lend a hand.

Once I adjusted to the onslaught of information, I learned a few really important things about being a Trialmattician (one of which is that there are a lot of fun names like that within Automattic).

The first thing was that I had an entire team of people pulling for me. Everyone seemed to genuinely want me to succeed, despite the fact that we’d never met before. That helped a lot, right from day one.

The people at Automattic were, and still are, the most welcoming and supportive group I’ve ever met.

Success at Automattic, for each individual and for the company as a whole, is all about communication. The more I reached out, the more questions I asked, the better things went.

My Trial was a very fluid process, but had some structure. I sent weekly self assessments to my training leads. They would then offer their own feedback, both on general topics as well as specific tickets or chats.

It was up to me to use that feedback to improve my skills each week.

As my Trial progressed, I was able to meet more and more of the team. A big part of that was diving in and being as involved in the community as possible – both in the company chat channels and on the internal blogs.

Week four was by far the most stressful. All the challenges I’d faced up to that point didn’t even come close to comparing to the looming question of what the hell was going to happen next.

There were three options:

  1. Game over. For one reason or another, I wasn’t what Automattic was looking for, and my Trial would come to a disappointing end.
  2. I wasn’t out, but I wasn’t in yet either. That would mean at least one more week.
  3. It was time to move on to the final phase of the hiring process: the fabled Matt Chat.

At that point, I honestly would have been thrilled with either of the second two options, but the suspense was killing me.

Fortunately, my training leads opted for Door Number Three 🙂

My Trial wrapped up in about four weeks – largely (I think) because of the number of hours I was able to work. That number averaged over 50 hours per week for me. It was a pretty intense month. 🙂

The Matt Chat

The last step was a final interview, once again all in text, with none other than Matt Mullenweg.

Yeah. That wasn’t nerve wracking at all.

I got in touch with Matt, found a time when our schedules meshed (apparently he’s a pretty busy guy 😉 ) and settled in for one really cool conversation.

Prior to the chat I asked around for advice, clues on what to expect. The response was a unanimous “Be yourself!”

Did that completely ease my nerves? Of course not.

I mean, this is Matt Mullenweg we’re talking about.

All the same, it was nice to know that one of the main goals of the chat was to give Matt a chance to get to know me before I came on board.

At the end of the chat we ironed out details like my start date. When Matt asked when I wanted to start I replied with “Tomorrow?”

We settled on the following Monday. That was just about two weeks ago now and I’ve loved every minute since.

Looking back, it’s pretty crazy where this journey has taken me. Six months ago, if anyone had told me what I’d be doing today, I wouldn’t have believed it.

dangerous business
One more, for the road.

Planning on applying to be the next Automattician? Or maybe you already are one 😉

If you’re in that first group, I hope you come aboard… And be sure to drop me a note when you start your Trial!

17 thoughts on “Becoming an Automattician

  1. I’m planning to apply for a position as Theme Wrangler (or Happiness Engineer sounds great too), but I don’t have a background in web design (I don’t even work with computers). I’m not ready just yet (a lot to learn), but I want to apply before the end of this year and hopefully we will be colleagues the year after! 😉

    I plan on building three or four more themes, finish my own website, contribute to core (well, fix a good first bug 😉 ), help answer a few more support questions on the support forums and keep learning to code.

    How did you prepare? Any advice you can give me? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great! I’ll keep my fingers crossed and watch out for you to start your Trial! 🙂

      When I was getting ready, I dove into the .org forums – I’d spent a lot of time there already and it was a great way to engage with the WordPress community.

      Another thing I’d definitely recommend is becoming as familiar with WordPress.com as possible – learn about the products and settings, maybe even jump into the support forums to ask and answer questions 🙂

      Something else I did a lot of, and it looks like you’re already doing the same, was read as much as I possibly could about Automattic, posts by current Automatticians, interviews with Matt, anything I could find. I really felt like knowing as much as I did helped going into the process.

      Good luck, and keep me posted!

      Like

  2. Google search: Trialmattician
    1 result
    Becoming an Automattician | Chadmattician

    🙂

    Congrats on passing the test and remaining Chadladriel! Or is that stretching too far? You started with the Lord of the Rings references. 🙂

    Thank you for a comprehensive and candid look at your trial process!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you sure went the extra mile on that one! Well played 🙂

      I don’t know that I’ve ever been the only result for a Google search before, that’s kind of crazy!

      Glad you enjoyed this… Are you planning on applying?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rizqi!

      It sounds like you’re already on the right track – spending time in the forums is a great way to get a feel for things 🙂

      If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by the Work With Us page. I’m actually off to the forums now, so I’m sure I’ll see you there!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hi Chad, I have theme Canard on my WordPress site, but it has changed as of now, June 2017, I no longer have a sidebar (widget) gutted! Can you tell me how to get it back, IF I can get it back, has the theme changed permanently? Best wishes,Alice

    Like

    1. Hi Alice!

      Sorry you’re having trouble!

      I’m not able to work on site fixes from here – could you please open WordPress.com/help/contact to request assistance directly? 🙂

      Like

  4. I am enjoying reading current Happiness Engineer’s stories of how they applied and were hired 🙂 Each if you has a unique history and story; very inspiring. I am currently working toward this goal as well 🙂 I look forward to the day I write my “hired” post

    All the best

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely and inspiring, have been working on my way to getting there, I remember you to inspire me, when I started volunteering on a Menu question;)
    Would be great to get some more inputs From your side. Thanks 🙂

    Like

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