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Automattic Life

A Day in the Life of a VIP Support Lead

Many years ago I wrote a post about my life as a Support Engineer at WordPress VIP and it’s been very popular, particularly for those interesting in applying. I kept it up to date but, some time ago, I stopped doing so. Why? Because in January 2021 I became a Support Lead.

I look after the EMEA Support Team (so, that’s people from Europe, Middle East and Africa. Right now, we don’t have anyone in the team from the Middle East). As I write this there are 8 people in the team (myself not included), consisting of 2 roles – Support Engineer (SE) and Customer Success Engineer (CSE), the latter being a developer role.

So, it’s time to tell you what my day is now like.

6:30am

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 help wrestle her ready for school.

I head down stairs, feed the cats and then myself – breakfast cereal and a strong cup of loose-leaf tea kick me off nicely.

7:10am-ish

I crack open my laptop, whilst still on the sofa, and 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.

Once they’re out of the house, I put on the coffee machine.

I remain downstairs for now, having my coffee, and, finally, open Slack. I respond to any urgent pings and catch-up on any conversations.

If I have a 1:1 with any of my team that day (there’s a very good chance that I do), I’ll spend some of this time preparing for that. I look at recent performance – the 1:1 is not necessarily about talking about that, unless there are any issues or questions (work can often be invisible, so making sure that there are no apparent “gaps” in output is important). I also look at recent communication to see if there any particular things I can surface (e.g. any problems that they mention they’ve been having).

Eventually (often around 8:30am) I’ll move upstairs to my small home office.

The rest of my day

It’s hard, unlike when I was a Support Engineer, to be specific about what I’m doing each day. The list of work often remains the same but the order, frequency and length of them all varies so much, no day is the same.

But, as a lead, it may consist of…

  1. 1:1 calls with my team and my leads
  2. Preparation for the above calls and any work that results from them
  3. Team calls (we have a team call each week and a social call every other week)
  4. Wider team calls
  5. Working on feedback for HR. If this is a request for one of my team members, I can spend at last half a day on this, spread over many days, as I work with the individual on this
  6. Various projects – I’ve been heavily involved with Support Engineer hiring in the past and now I’m working on something else, which is taking a lot of my time
  7. Various P2 posts and discussions to help to improve our Customer Success team
  8. Monitoring ticket queues and incoming urgent issues

And that’s just a selection off the top of my head. I spend as much time talking to my team, assessing performance but also looking out for concerns (not necessarily about individuals but maybe blockers that may be getting in the way of them doing what they to do in their role).

Also, I’m really lucky in that Automattic offers a professional business coach to everyone. If you’re a lead you get twice as much time with them, and I make good use of this. My coach is amazing, btw.

Getting out

On most days, I’ll head to the gym around 8:30am. I get changed for this, jump on my bike and head off, via a local park, to the leisure centre, where I’ll hit the tread mill and lift a few weights. I’ll be back from the gym by 9:30am.

On Tuesday, I’ll be heading off to the leisure centre on my bike again but, this time, at 10:45am for an 1.5 hour of badminton playing, as part of an Over 50’s Badminton group that I belong to. I won’t return until 12:45pm.

In fact, Tuesday is even busier for me, personally, as at 2:45pm I leave again but, this time, for a drum lesson.

All of these are things that I started during my sabbatical but have continued doing.

Lunch

Usually around 12 noon, I make myself a salad (and, yes, in the winter as well!). As well as the usual salad items it will also include a random Quorn product (to at least convince my brain that I’m eating meat, even when I’m not). A cup of tea finishes it off.

The timing of lunch may and will vary but I spend the time downstairs, away from work for a while.

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. We also have regular meetups – support meetup once a year and so does the whole of VIP too.

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.

4:45pm

I log off soon after my wife and daughter comes home from school. 

5:30pm-ish

We all sit around the kitchen table and have our evening meal together.

8pm-ish

Our daughter 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 Pro.

And that’s the average day in my life on WordPress VIP! 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. There are also yearly team meetups as well as the wider VIP Grand Meetup.

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.

    Find out more

    📽 What’s it like to work at WordPress VIP?

    📽 Shannon Smith, Enterprise Happiness Engineer, on working at Automattic

    📄 A Day in the Life of a VIP Support Engineer (Allie Mims)

    📄 “How Do I Get a Job at Automattic?”

    📄 Happiness Everywhere

    Also check out the Twitter hashtag #a8cday for more Automattic stories.

    Talk to me!

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