My Fourth Anniversary at Automattic

Yesterday was my 4th anniversary at Automattic, working as a Happiness Engineer, supporting people who use WordPress.com.

So much has happened since then, let’s just look over the history a bit, shall we?

My friend Jenifer and I were in the planning stages of WordCamp Albuquerque. It was the first WordCamp in New Mexico, the first WordCamp we’d both ever been to, and obviously the first WordCamp we’d ever planned. I can’t recall how we got connected with Automattic employees that lived in our region, probably on a recommendation from the folks at WordCamp Central, the people responsible for supporting local WordCamp organizers like me. One way or another, we ended up inviting Lance Willett, Kevin Conboy, and Joseph Scott to be speakers. Little did I know how conversations with them would lead to me submitting my application to work at Automattic as a Happiness Engineer.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what Automattic was or what they did. I knew they did something with WordPress.com but at the time, as far as I was concerned, WordPress was WordPress. I had zero experience with the WordPress.com side of things, having built my WordPress business around creating self-hosted WordPress sites for small businesses in Albuquerque. I’ll even admit I was one of those people who scoffed at WordPress.com as the thing for beginners. I’ve changed my mind since then🙂

WordCamp came and went. Somewhere in there I had a chance to talk to each of the guys from Automattic. Most notably, my husband gathered that they were hiring. And thus it began.

“You should apply,” he says.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” I said.

“Of course you can, you know WordPress. You make websites for people. Why not?”

“Because it says right here, they hire the brightest and the best, and I am not the brightest and the best.”

“You should apply. What do you have to lose?”

“Fine, I’ll apply. But it’s going to come to naught. You’ll see.”

I had been doing website work for, oh, about 4 or 5 years with a mix of static HTML, basic PHP includes, then a stint with Joomla before I discovered WordPress. I did contract work for some design firms in Albuquerque and freelanced before officially started my own business.

I had this idea that other WordPress folk had a magical font of knowledge. I on the other hand, was constantly scrapping and searching to find answers to my questions. I spent my days banging my head against the wall to figure out how to add widgets to a theme, how to troubleshoot wonky plugins, how to fix the dreaded blank page, and on and on. Surely all this came easy to anyone who would be considered to work for a company that was responsible for something like WordPress.com?

But, really, what had I to lose? So I got to work on my at-that-time nonexistent resume. The last time I applied for a job was before I had my four children. After Jack was born I decided to stay home with him and I spent the next years homemaking and homeschooling. Mixed in and around my Stay at Home Mom life I went back to school to finish my Theology degree, trained to be a childbirth educator, started a birth professional network, started homeschooling my kids, and taught myself how to make websites. Together with my husband, we moved to another state, started our own website business, and had three more kids. There had been no need for an updated resume since the last time I had a paying job an administrative assistant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

It was a bit of an undertaking. Two weeks later, I was ready. I carefully followed the instructions on the jobs page, shipped it off, and pushed it out of my mind.

That’s a lie.

Of course I obsessed about it every moment of every day. I had heard it took a little while to hear back so I was a bit astonished to hear back a few days later.

Shortly after, I had an interview with Hanni Ross, who was in charge of hiring back then. I will never forget waking up in the morning, getting ready, hair done, makeup on. I was so nervous I was shaking when I opened up my computer and fired up Skype. Hanni started typing and we chatted for a while. I kept wondering when she was going to start the video call. Little did I know that text was the default at Automattic. How much I’ve changed since then. Now, our emphasis on text based communication seems like the most normal thing in the world.

Fast forward to today. Now I’m one of the people responsible for hiring Happiness Engineers at Automattic. Amazing. I guess my husband was right, it was worth a shot to throw my hat in the ring. It’s been challenging, it’s been fulfilling, it’s been frustrating at times (what job isn’t), but I don’t regret it for a moment. The past four years have been incredible. Here’s to four more!

Lastly, there is no way I could attach enough photos to this post to cover the highlights of the last four years so here is a smattering of pics:

 

32 comments

  1. Congratulations! Interesting how each of us came to it from different backgrounds. I started my WordPress life with WordPress.com back in 2008 and eventually I discovered self-hosted and started using that on my other sites. I still have the first site on WordPress.com active and running.

    Anyway, I’m glad to have met you and I look forward to working with you in the years to come.😀 (When can I expect treats in the mail?😛 )

  2. First one who is not an employee to comment? This will be (not) fun. :p

    I just read this post on Automatic’s Facebook page and guess what; I was going to submit my application in the next week or so.
    Now I know that you can expect the unexpected here.

    I will be prepared – for a “no reply” or something crazy.

  3. This is awesome! I love what you said about feeling like the people inside WordPress must have all of the answers while you bang your head against the wall – that’s me :)! I’m about to “text chat” with Lori and I’m SO excited!

  4. I have absolutely loved the learning process that happens when one decides to start a WordPress.com site. It’s been almost 2 years of learning for me so far. I decided to do it a little differently by making more pages than posts. I’m sure this will change over the years though as posts seem to end up being so much fun with tagging of categories. I’d love to join the team one day as I’ve found while joining the different workshops that the urge to help others with their start up questions brings tons of happiness to them and myself in the end. I feel I’m in the same situation as yourself…. three kids later and a resume that doesn’t stand for much! Congratulations on your past 4 years and for your future with WordPress. You have given me hope that there could possibly be a smidgen of chance to one day join the team.

  5. Your story is the first one I got to read about making the leap into applying for the same position as you have. Now, and I’ll be perfectly honest here, I attempted to start my WordPress blog several years back and was totally confused as to how to start, I still am, but by the process of elimination and clicking here and there. My second, or maybe it’s my third, attempt has been a lot more positive and blog is starting to shape up.

    Now, I’ve hit the other side of 50 years and after spending years standing on my feet as a salesman who always manged to remain number one is sales and with 35-plus years in sales and customer service, I wondering, can someone like myself, who knows zilch about coding, css, etc… do a job like this? I’ve been clicking on every link possible to see and read about it and the more I read and learn, the more my curiosity is peaked.

    • Thanks for sharing your story🙂 The Happiness Engineer job description on automattic.com has a pretty thorough list of the things that we look for in new support staff. Give it a careful read through and that might help you decide whether to apply or not🙂

  6. Karen, I’m so glad that your story is one that is shared on the “Work with us” page of Automattic. I feel a little connected to you since you’re from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I’m just a few miles south of that in Sioux City, Iowa. I just found out last night that Automattic was hiring for a myriad of different positions and the Happiness Engineer seems to be the one that fits me best. I emailed my resume in today and I’m hoping to hear something soon. I’m very excited!! I can’t wait to hopefully join the team! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your awesome story. I hope I get to meet you one day.

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