Today, I celebrate my fifth anniversary at Automattic!
On Monday, May 18, 2015, I began my first day as a full-time Happiness Engineer at Automattic.
Five years have passed since then. How have these five years been? What have I learned? What has my experience been like? Here’s a post to look back on my five years as an Automatticians as shortly as possible.
The ever-evolving products
Ever since I joined Automattic in 2015, the products the company offers have gone through many major changes. That means I had to stay up-to-date about the products in order to ensure excellent customer support for those that needed it.
As our products grew more complex, it was crucial that I knew as much as I could to be able to support our users as best I could. When I applied to work at Automattic, I thought I knew everything about running a WordPress.com site. But I soon learned that there were a lot of moving parts. Even outside of the developments (coding), there were internal tools that I needed to learn in order to assist our users.
It proved to me that you need to know a lot more about a product when you’re actively supporting users and not just using it for yourself.
My colleagues often say (not to me, but in general) that we often forget how much we’ve grown in terms of our knowledge of the product. If I were to bring my 2015 self to the present day and put him to work, I think he would be pretty badly stuck.
The heart of the company, the people
The best part of working at Automattic, among many other things, is the culture. The culture that is held up by the people, known as Automatticians. A friend of mine told me that he had never seen a single Automattician get angry for asking questions. I can assure you, in my five years of working at Automattic, I haven’t seen one either.
Not to brag (because I’m an Automattician too), but Automatticians have been some of the most wonderful, supportive, helpful, and compassionate bunch of people I’ve ever met.
I mean, yeah, I’ve met non-Automatticians who possess those virtues as well. But they are not grouped by something. At Automattic, they are. And it’s called Automattic. 😉
Auomatticians come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. You’d think, being a fully distributed company that brought people from all over the world, it would be a disaster for Automattic to get them to work together, especially with the nature of our text-heavy conversations. However, you’d be surprised that it’s not.
If I were to leave the company for any unfortunate reason, something I do not plan for anytime soon, the opportunity to work with such an amazing, smart, and talented bunch of people would be the first thing I’d miss the most.
How Automattic helped me grow as a person
In my honest opinion, what I learned over the last five years at Automattic in terms of product knowledge or technicality is not nearly as valuable as what I’ve learned that helped me grow as a person.
What I learned over the last five years at Automattic in terms of product knowledge or technicality is not nearly as valuable as what I’ve learned that helped me grow as a person.
The culture at Automattic has taught me inclusivity. The job has taught me to be compassionate. I’ve learned to understand other people’s perspectives. I’ve learned to put myself in others’ shoes and feel what they feel. I’ve learned to have empathy and be open to offering help and support.
Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is to not belittle others just because they know less. As our creed says:
I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.
I think it’s an amazing thing to be humble, helpful, and have the mindset to challenge the status quo. Somehow, it’s deep within Automatic’s DNA that makes people such. And when I say DNA, I clearly refer to the creed, which you can read here.
It’s no secret that I love remote work, and I’m very vocal about it. Everyone who ever talked to me about workplaces knows that I dislike the traditional office culture. However, despite enjoying and advocating for remote work, I understand the importance of meeting people in real-life from time to time,
Thankfully, Automattic, like many other fully distributed companies out there, has yearly meetups. The most common is the Automattic Grand Meetup that brings the whole company together for a week. There are smaller events throughout the year as well that brings teams together, among other reasons.
So far, I’ve attended five Grand Meetups and two team meetups. I missed a bunch due to visa complications. But the experience from those Grand Meetups have been nothing short of amazing.
Firstly, there are tons of learning opportunities at every Automattic Grand Meetup. There are ‘keynotes’ from various industry experts. There are workshops to learn from our colleagues who are subject matter experts. There are various classes to learn new things. For the most part, we are free to choose what we want to learn.
Those learnings aside, some of the most memorable experiences came from meeting up with colleagues and going on day trips. Take the trip to Venice Beach, LA, for example. All of us from our team went to the Getty Museum, the Griffith Observatory (which was particularly amazing I had already visited it virtually, on GTA V!), Santa Monica Pier, and more.
I’m constantly reminded of those trips by the Apple TV screensavers that can’t show enough of the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign, and Santa Monica Pier.
The most fabulous trip was the Automattic Grand Meetup in the years 2016 and 2017 which took place in Whistler, Canada. I can’t forget how beautiful the place was. The short walk to the nearby village nearly every day was memorable. We also took a Peak 2 Peak Gondola trip which is a cable car ride that takes you up one mountain, and then between two mountains. It was the longest (3+ km) cable car ride without any spans. The cable car had a glass bottom so you could look and see the top of the trees as you were crossing. It was a surreal experience.
So you may be wondering, that’s great. You get to travel a bit. And you’re right. However, it’s not just the trips themselves that were amazing. It’s the connections we made.
Trading stories, exchanging experiences
For an introverted person like me who prefers to stay indoors and is not good at socializing, it might sound weird, but I really enjoyed every chance to socialize at Automattic events.
For example, at the Automattic Grand Meetups, we have our tables pre-arranged for lunches and dinners. Every day, you sit with different people from different parts of the company. They may be from an engineering team, they may be from the marketing team, they may be from the legal team, who knows. I think at this point I’ve had the chance to meet at least one person from almost all departments at Automattic (even though I don’t really remember who they were).
But that’s not a bad thing. It was the connections, even if for a short period, that we made. Sharing of stories, talking about our different backgrounds, what we do at work, what it’s like at home, what our culture is like; these make for interesting conversations.
And you also aren’t exactly dropped into people at random. We get to see who we’ll be sitting with weeks in advance. Before the lunch of dinner, a Slackbot invites all of the Automatticians who’ll sit at a particular table and remind us to plan our way to the lunch/dinner place. So there’s enough time to put a face to the people you’re going to meet beforehand.
Dinner conversations are even more interesting. Usually, there are fewer people at dinner tables than at lunch. Besides, as it’s the end of the day, the conversations tend to become more in-depth, more interesting, more meaningful.
What I’m getting at is that it doesn’t matter that I don’t recall every conversation from every table I’ve been to over the last five Grand Meetups. But it was those moments that mattered. And I’m glad to have been a part of them.
Here’s to many more five years!
The pandemic has made a lot of things unpredictable. I don’t know when it will be safe to travel again. But even as a creature of comfort whose ‘outdoor’ activity is limited to driving a car on the road, I can’t wait for the next opportunity to meet my colleagues.
But on a broader scale, I’m looking forward to continuing to work with this fantastic group of people for many years to come!