Part 3: Journey to Happiness Engineer at Automattic! What Happens in a Year!

This is Part 3 of the series Journey to Happiness Engineer at Automattic! You can find the first part and second part!

The Roots

This day last year, I wasn’t the happiest person. I followed the rules of graduating college and getting a job; however, it seems rules are meant to be broken to get further in life.

After graduating college with a BS in Information Technology, I got a full-time Systems Engineer job in the city. It would have been great if I got paid more for being in the city, but I didn’t. As a result, the struggle to pay my bills, having trouble adjusting to the real world, and the long hours I worked provided no assistance to a healthy and happy mind.

One day in July, I came back from a strenuous day of work. I called my significant other, Holly, and complained again about my current life situation. She listened intently, paused, then said something so simple, yet so powerful.

“Then do something about it!”

It shocked me back to reality. I realized I was one of those graduates that blame everything on outside events instead of focusing on what’s inside and changeable. This realization lead me on a path of pursuing meditation, business, and positivity. It progressed to the point of finding Automattic.

In April 17, 2017, I managed to grab my life and change direction. I became a Happiness Engineer for the distributed company Automattic. I began working from home, traveling the world, and experiencing a world beyond imagination. I decided it’s time to let y’all know what’s happened since becoming an Automattician and how 2017 changed my life!

Remote Work

Working from home is like the new American Dream. When I mention I work from home, people always say “You’re soo lucky! I wish I could work from home!” To this, I usually say, “Yeah it’s pretty cool but it’s still tons of work.”

There is a misconception that working from home equates to work getting ten times easier. Rather, it’s easy in some aspects and harder in others. Working for home is NOT for everyone. It requires mental strength and focus. Being able to switch from work to home mode is not a simple task. You’ll be working and mail comes to the door or you notice your room is a mess or you notice the dishes need to be cleaned. Small distractions can get you out of your flow easily, ending in little or no work done.

Personally, I remedy this mainly with music. There’s a select few playlist I use to really get me in the zone. These playlists are usually instrumental in the genres of chillhop, funk, jazz, or hip-hop. With my noise-cancellation headphones, music bumping, and work windows open, I transport to my own world. Other ways are by working outside the house at a cafe. This also opens opportunities to meet new people consistently and change your environment often. It’s all about keeping the balance of work and play.

Traveling

It’s been a decade since I’ve been in the sky. Two weeks into Automattic, I was on a flight to San Diego. I’ll admit, it was my first time on a plane alone and don’t remember the feeling of taking off from the ground. However, the adrenaline of being on my first work trip and meetup with my new colleagues was enough to diffuse the worries of the trip there and back!

My first team meetup with Automattic is a trip that will be an ingrained memory. It symbolized that my life changed for the better. I entered the world of remote working for the best distributed company in the world! During my trip to San Diego, I danced on screen at the Padres game, saw gorgeous red pandas, visited a zen garden, and had some of the best fried chicken to date! Since this trip, I’ve gone to Boston (work), Whistler (Grand Meetup), Ecuador (Personal), Nashville (WCUS), and Miami / Norwegian Cruise (Personal). I’m super grateful for what I get to experience now and do not take it for granted. I even get to take small trips to see my family more often which, even though I need to work on, helps bring me closer to them. This experience of traveling and going around the world at my age is very rare and I find myself lucky where I am now in my life.

Experiences

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

– Tim Ferriss

A distributed company means that my colleagues live in countries across the globe. This comes with a language barrier and many uncomfortable conversations. However, I learned from speaking with my various colleagues at the GM that the language barrier is just a veil. Once broken, it unleashes a world of knowledge. Through my colleagues and trips around the world, I gain better understanding of the differences between my world and other’s.

I’m grateful and humbled by my colleagues/friends because through them, I get to learn about different cultures, languages, and lifestyles. A colleague of mine, Nagesh, teaches me a small bit about Indian culture each time we talk. I’ve even learned how to say “Good Morning!” in Sanskrit / Hindi, Su-Prabhaat! How Nagesh lives in comparison to how I live is different but I get to learn from his world each day which is something I’m happy to always hear about.

One thing to take away is that happiness and teamwork can be universal even through a language barrier. Our creed undoubtedly symbolizes who we are and it shows through my daily conversations within my team residing from Canada to Vietnam.

The Synopsis

There’s really not much to say about the past almost nine months at Automattic. I’m comfortable here and I expect to be here for a good portion of my life happily enjoying what the world and work has to offer. Last year, I never imagined being on the other end of the of these posts. Since I joined, I haven’t posted at all and 2018 seems like the year to begin showing y’all my life in Automattic. I’m glad you have read this far into my journey and I look forward to taking you on this trip I call life!


Should You Apply?

That’s honestly up to you. If you resonated with any of my story, felt that a Happiness Engineer is in you, and have the work ethic for it, go ahead! If you wish to contact me about it, feel free to! I’ll be waiting for your email, future Happiness Engineer! We’re always hiring! 🙂

Part 2: Journey to Happiness Engineer at Automattic! Becoming an Automattician!

This is Part 2 of the series Journey to Happiness Engineer at Automattic! You can find the first part and third part!

Where We Left Off

Last time on Journey to HE at Automattic, our hero discovered Automattic, did the research along with meeting Automatticians, and submitted his application to becoming a Happiness Engineer! In the months to come, he spent countless hours researching working on the WordPress.com forums helping anyone and everyone he could. Each day he vowed to do at least 15 tickets a day. This resulted in 369 replies in December and 753 replies in January. Then, on the fateful day of January 16, 2017, he received an email…

The Timeline

January 16, 2017 started the journey to my new life. I got an email (Thanks Pam!) from Automattic and set course to becoming a Happiness Engineer! The timeline for me can be found below; however, everyone’s timeline varies greatly!

  • 12/12/16: Application sent
  • 1/16/17: First email with assignment
  • 1/25/17: First Interview
  • 1/26/17: More ?s similar to forums
  • 2/1/17: Second Interview & Trial Acceptance
  • 2/13/17: Trial Start
  • 3/20/17: Trial End
  • 3/31/17: Matt Chat
  • 4/17/17: START DATE

As you can see from this timeline, I passed! It started with the assignment and interviews. They weren’t too bad and were more on seeing your ability to problem solve and your current understanding of WordPress. However, the trial was a monster of its own.

The Trial

The trial experience is not for the faint of heart. You really need to give it your all in these coming weeks. Everything around you becomes null and void and the trial becomes your life. For context, I was working a full-time job alongside my trial. My weekdays looked like this:

  • 6AM – 7AM: Wake-up and get ready for work
  • 7AM – 8AM: Commute to work
  • 8AM – 5PM: Work as IT Consultant
  • 5PM – 7PM: Commute home and have dinner
  • 7PM – 12AM: Trial work at Automattic
  • 12AM – 6AM: Sleep

On the weekends, I generally worked as much as I could. Somewhere around 7-10 hours per day. I took good amount of time into the trial and did my best to work hard and stand out. I’ll summarize my weeks briefly.

Week 1 — Organized Chaos

The first two days of training were intense! The training goes over all of the basics of what HEs use on a daily basis. On the third day, you get thrown in. The gif accurately describes what it feels like internally and externally on that first full day on your own! You walk in all excited and ready with your food (tools), take a look around, see many situations (tickets) everywhere, and just stare in disbelief. Also, I love Community and Donald Glover a lot.

The first week consisted of getting my footing and establishing what I knew about WordPress.com and enhancing it. It turned out that everything is organized chaos. When you read, “Welcome to the Chaos!” on your first days, they aren’t joking! That’s why you also get an awesome buddy (Hey Drew!) to help you out!

Week 2 — Let’s Talk Now

Support takes a turn when switching from helping via email to live chatting with the user. When live chatting, the user is there in real-time like you were talking to them without a picture of who they were. With a8c, I feel this is the most important aspect of support within the company and its goals. Providing consistent live chatting worldwide sets a whole new standard of supporting. Being able to provide high quality support, in real-time, and around the world is the biggest game changer in supporting our users. Also, we’re doing our best to keep a 24/7 presence as we go.

The second week proved that my mentality of support is right but my responses need adjusting. Coming from an IT background, it’s hard to break the habits of being straightforward with the user rather than actually trying to help them. I was told we need to teach others how to fish instead of fishing for them.

Week 3-5 | The Flow

As the weeks went on, it got better and better. My buddy gave me more tips on each feedback on what to do better, tools to use, dealing with tough users and general fixes/habits to my speech or formatting. Happiness Engineers always provided support and encouragement whenever we conversed through DM or live chat and the support felt like it came from everywhere! If you’re thinking that you won’t get to talk much with your colleagues in a distributed company, you got the opposite thought. As they say, communication is oxygen! If you’re not talking and working with others, things can go wrong!

It surprised me how well everyone communicates in one fluid motion. Got a question or need clarification? Someone checks and gives direction. It’s about time to go and need to transfer? No worries, someone’s got it, go live life. Need something tested? You got it! Slack provided such a great gateway to communication I never imagined was possible! Everyone worked efficiently and in-sync (or should I say, async 😉 ). You can go to any channel for even more depth to your questions! It was great seeing all the different sides of a8c through one platform itself.

When it came to the users, they were fantastic! I began feeling like a Happiness Engineer with how the users reacted and feedback went. If I had to choose a favorite chat through this whole trial, it would be where I became a travel agent for a user. To briefly summarize it, a user was asking on how much a trip to WordCamp USA is from Italy. At first, I was hesitant to help since it was only tangentially related to WordPress. But, it ended with me helping them with finding prices, giving some information on America in general, and answering questions about a8c. It was a long chat that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Matt Chat

The weeks passed by with ups and downs. Eventually, I was given one last project to work on. I completed the project within a day and sent it in. In a few days, I was told I passed my trial! After a bit, I was allowed to ping Matt and waited. This wait varies but I got lucky and got a reply the next day! The chat lasted 8 hours with a positive end! Afterwards, I received my offer and waited to start after my two weeks at my now previous job are over.

Epilogue

This whole adventure felt like a punch in the face to my world. What I realized is that it’s a new story beginning to a new me. From day 1 of the trial, I felt like I belonged. I got lucky and also had Anne, who I previously met in person, as one of my trainers. I felt like part of the family by the end of it. It seemed pretty effortless to feel a part of it, which is mostly thanks to the a8c environment.

I had my ups and downs through it but the whole experience has been positive. The downs were mistakes I made and learned from or the frustration/nervousness I had at times. Who doesn’t have those days? I learned that it’s about consistently improving and doing your best for the users, the company, and yourself. If we do so, we’ll continue to grow each aspect seamlessly.

The only thing that I will not look back on in this trial is the 70-90 hour work weeks between two jobs while sleeping only 5-6 hours per night. Now that it’s drawn to a close, I finished knowing I did my best and I’m proud to say I’m a new Happiness Engineer for Automattic!


Should You Apply?

That’s honestly up to you. If you resonated with any of my story, felt that a Happiness Engineer is in you, and have the work ethic for it, go ahead! If you wish to contact me about it, feel free to! I’ll be waiting for your email, future Happiness Engineer! We’re always hiring! 🙂