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Engineering Happiness

300px-Automattic_logoWhen I applied for the position of Happiness Engineer with a company called Automattic, I thought it sounded like a dream job.

I had first heard about “Happiness Engineers” from someone who was telling me that she had reached out to WordPress.com for help on a website she was working on. It is quite a quirky job title, and curiosity got the better of me, so I Googled it.

“Want to make the web a better place for more than a billion people each month? We’re hiring,” said the first page I visited. And, “As a Happiness Engineer, helping people is your passion.”

Looking further into the company I found out more information. Enough to spur me to apply.

The company

I had known Automattic was the parent company of WordPress.com (which provides free websites) as well as other services like WooCommerce, Jetpack and Simplenote, but what I didn’t know was how well the company would match my passions and philosophies.

For example, the company creed may well have been written for me:

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.

Automattic’s overriding goal is to “democratize publishing” on the web. That is, to make it so that everyone can easily have a voice.

The WordPress.org software is an Open Source project, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it, and anyone is free to use it for anything they would like, without any licensing. It now powers 25 per cent of the world’s websites, and has a massive economy of businesses who use it as a basis to make a living. Anyone can download and use the software on any host.

WordPress.com – note the .com part – is a specific service run by Automattic that lets people sign up for a free site, no outside hosting required. It is a little bit less flexible than the version you download yourself, but also offers some advantages, too – one of them being the people standing behind it!

Click here to see an article about Automattic in Business Insider, which ran today.

The application process

The company’s application process is unusual, and a bit of a challenge, to say the least.

It starts with all applications being vetted by the company founder and CEO, Matt Mullenweg, who passes approved applicants along to the hiring team. The hiring team then moves on to the next stage – the initial interview. This was a typed, instant message interview over a messaging system called Slack.

My initial interview then led to a small test project that took a couple of hours.

Then, a second interview, which led to a Trial.

A Happiness Engineer Trial Contract is part of the hiring process, and can last anywhere from 3-6 weeks. It is a paid trial, during which you are trained to do the work, and then you jump in and start doing the job alongside the full time Happiness Engineers.

Because this can be done on your own time, and you typically carry on your existing work at the same time, it can be a hectic and busy time! For me, it meant working long days including evenings and weekends. The challenge of a steep new learning curve at Automattic added a bit more stress into the mix – but with the understanding and support of Jeff and the kids, I dug in and buried myself in the work.

At the beginning of the Trial, I was told what the goals were, and each week, I was given feedback about my progress. There was a huge component of self-assessment, goal setting, and personal improvement.

I made friends along the way – all through Slack, the primary communication tool for everyone in the company. I was provided a Buddy who was in touch with me daily; and I got to know others within the company through the messaging system. There are other Happiness Engineers working in the Okanagan Valley, and one of them in particular was in touch to encourage me and cheer me on through the challenging trial period.

After four weeks, my Trial Lead (the one who interviewed me in the first place) called a meeting with me, again over instant messaging in Slack. We talked a little bit about the trial, how I have enjoyed it, and what my progress has been like.

Then I was told that they were going to recommend me for a final interview, which meant I would move on to the final stage of the hiring process – a chat interview with the CEO.

This interview is not scheduled in advance. Essentially, you wait until Matt gets in touch via Slack. Six days after I was recommended for the final interview, Matt sent me a message and, after a five-hour chat, I was offered a position.

The future

I am excited to announce I officially start work for Automattic on April 11 as a Happiness Engineer. It is a full-time remote position, meaning I will still be working from Oliver, but I will no longer be taking on website design and development clients. I’ve also had to dust off my passport, as there is a fair bit of travelling involved with the position.

That does mean a change regarding my existing business! I have been in touch with other website designers and developers in our area who may be interested in taking on more website work, and I will be meeting with one of them next week to talk further about how to transition some of my active clients. Of course, there is no obligation to move forward with the new person, as there are many qualified website people in the area!

But any of my existing clients are welcome to be in touch at any time to find out more, and I will be happy to pass along contact information to help make for a smooth changeover.

I sincerely appreciate the community’s support over the last number of years of business.

Our South Okanagan WordPress Meetup is continuing and looking for new members, so if you have any interest at all sign up and come to our free get-togethers! Also, don’t miss Vernon’s upcoming WordCamp

You can find out more about Automattic here – and by the way, they are hiring!

8 thoughts on “Engineering Happiness

  1. Congratulations Laurena, all the best to you in your new career adventure.

    1. Thank you!

  2. Congratulations, Laurena!
    We wish you, as always, the best of luck for happiness and complete fulfillment. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.

    1. Thank you Shana!

  3. Congratulations

    Hopefully you will always be there for me and the readers of ODN

    1. Jack, it’s been such a pleasure working on your sites over the last number of years! Thank you.

  4. This AWESOME news! And this article was very well written!
    I’m so proud to be related to an engineer of Happiness!!!

    1. Well thank you! 🙂

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