Ever wondered what it’s like to work at Automattic? Well, I’m part of a team that provides support to WordPress.com VIP clients. My role is as an “Enterprise Happiness Engineer”, although this has been known as a “VIP Wrangler” in the past.
Here’s what a typical day looks like for me.
My alarm goes off. Well, ‘goes off’ isn’t quite right. It’s one of those modern clocks that slowly simulates daylight and then wakes you up through the sound of bird-song. It’s a better way to start the morning. Thankfully, I’m good at getting up and are straight up and ready (albeit, often not quite awake yet). I pull on an old t-shirt (I often use free ‘swag’ t-shirts that I’ve picked up from WordCamps) and loose-fitting trousers (joggers, normally)
But why so early? My wife gets up at this time, so it makes sense. It also means I’m awake and ready at 7am, when my daughter wakes, to wrestle her ready for school.
I head down stairs, feed the cats and then myself – Weetabix and a strong cup of tea kick me off nicely.
This is when I head into my office. The smallest bedroom of the house has been converted to a home-office.
I sign into Slack and have a quick check of Zendesk – this is the ticket system we use with our VIP clients – to ensure there are no tickets nearing their SLA time. If so, I grab them but, most of the time, I don’t need to.
I’m usually the first EU-based support person around (often for the first hour), which works out well, allowing me to look at tickets earlier than, in the past, they may have been. When I first started in the role, we didn’t have anybody outside of the EU/US timezones but we now have people in both Australia and India who are just finishing up at the time I start.
I spend around 30 minutes catching up on the previous day. Automattic uses P2 blogs (although technically it’s O2 we use, we still refer to them as P2s) for communication, along with Slack. The latter is the more immediate ‘chat’ and P2s for the less-immediate, particularly bulky, communication. I track certain P2s and read up on anything that’s been posted to those. I also check emails (we still use email at Automattic but, barely, so I only check it once a day), the team calendar and other things.
During this time I may also be called upon by my wife to wrangle an unruly 8-year old.
My wife heads off to work, dropping off our daughter just down the road at the child-minders.
Now I’m up-to-date with what’s been going on, I head back to Zendesk. Each week I will be doing 1 of 2 roles – triage or support.
Triage involves picking up tickets from clients and, basically, dealing with them as much as you can – either resolving them yourself (which is the case in most situations) or passing them to another VIP team (Development, usually). We use Slack to communicate with our colleagues, so can often enlist their help to assist with resolving the tickets. Clients have SLAs in place, which we need to ensure we answer within, but more often than not we will respond well within these times.
When doing the Support role, we’re responsible for looking at the backlog of unresolved tickets and trying to close, or update, as many of these as possible.
A quick trip across the landing to the bathroom, I clean my teeth before heading downstairs to grab a coffee. This is usually the only coffee I’ll have during the day, and the last caffeinated drink – all tea from now on, is decaffeinated.
An alarm on my phone goes off. It’s time to stretch my legs and go for a walk for about half an hour. I live close to a canal, so will usually walk along that – canal boats are abundant and the owners are friendly. If I get no other interaction during the working day, I do at least get some here. And passing dog walkers too. Here are a few pictures I’ve taken whilst out…
I can be spotted from my use of a grey hoodie and a pair of Apple AirPods (I like to listen to podcasts whilst I’m out).
I head to the shower. Finally. It makes sense to do this AFTER a potentially warm walk (and even if it’s cold outside you tend to wrap up warm and sweat anyway). I then dress in jeans and a slightly less scruffy t-shirt.
Lunch! I make myself a salad each day. It usually consists of lettuce, tomato, radish, cucumber, spring onion, celery, egg, salad cream, cottage cheese and a random Quorn product (to at least convince my brain that I’m eating meat, even when I’m not). A cup of tea and yoghurt finish it off.
The timing of lunch may and will vary and I’ll spend time during it doing various ‘odd jobs’ around the house.
I’m back working.
Many people would wonder if it gets lonely, working like this. But don’t forget I’m constantly talking to colleagues on Slack and regular video calls (see later) gives me face-to-face contact with them. At least once a year we meet up in person too – in February the whole VIP team met in Barcelona and next month the Support team will meet in Scotland. In September is the annual company meetup.
For me, loneliness is not an issue but other people’s milage may vary – it’s really what you make of it. A job at Automattic allows you to work anywhere you want, so you can always work in a local park, a coffee shop, or anywhere else you can think of (and get WiFi). The fact that I choose to sit in a home office is my preference and works fine for me. Having just spent 28 years working in a traditional company office, it’s a nice transition, and I don’t mind my own company – having spent my teenage years, locked in my bedroom writing code on a Commodore 64.
When there’s been good weather I’ve often sat outside with my laptop – I get no extra contact but being outside is a change and, if you worked in a traditional office, is already more than you could do there.
Every 2 weeks I have a 1:1 with my team lead. This lasts, usually at most, half an hour. We’ve used Zoom in the past but seem to be moving more to using the video capabilities in Slack, which is useful for a simple person-to-person conversation.
Every week we have a team meeting using Zoom. This is a great product as it shows everyone’s video on screen at once. VIP support meet each week but, every 4th week, it’s the whole VIP team instead.
I log off soon after my wife comes home from work. I usually then accompany her to pick up our daughter.
My wife and I have tea (or dinner, whatever you call it). Our daughter, Lucie, will have had hers at the child-minders but on Friday she skips it to join us.
Lucie goes to bed and peace falls once again. As much as I want to get things done at this stage of the evening, it normally consists of drinking more tea and watching TV. Some nights, I’ll spend in the company of my PlayStation 4, often gaming until after 11pm.
And that’s the average day in my life as an Enterprise Happiness Engineer! Of course, an average means that it’s not always like this. Some may think my days look long but I take regular breaks, often just ‘pottering’ around the house, getting jobs done. I may go out to the shops, or even take a few hours off to go to the cinema – that’s what the flexibility of this job gives.
Out and about
As part of the role, there are lots of opportunities to attend WordCamps and similar. The map below gives you an idea of what I’ve been up to just in the last 11 months. Click on any for further details, including photos and diaries that I’ve written.
Want to know more about VIP? My colleague Shannon can tell you more about the role…
Another colleague of mine, Ryan, can tell you about how he got his job at Automattic.