How I became an Automattician Part 1

The interview process for Automattic is well documented across the internet. If you’re thinking of applying or currently in the interview process, and if you’re anything like me, you’re scouring all blogs to find that extra edge, some secret je ne sais quoi that leads to a job offer. Let me save you some time and share that there isn’t a unifying, magic factor, nor is this series going to suggest one.

However, before and during my interview with Automattic, I found it oddly therapeutic to read about other experiences, successful or not. When I was feeling particularly pessimistic about my chances, I vowed to the powers that be that I would blog about my experience if successful. I swore that I would be detailed and describe the lows and highs I felt, and thus share my experience with future Automatticians. I like to think that I would have shared whether I got the job or not, but I’m making good on my promise. If you are an aspiring Automattician, I wish you all the happy vibes, that this series helps, and that we get to work together one day.

TL;DR Timeline Summary

  • August 2017: Apply for Community Wrangler Job with Automattic
  • October 2017: Hear back
  • December 2017: First interview and skills test
  • February 2018 – April 2018: Trial time + all the emotions
  • May 2018: Feel awesome about new opportunities ahead
  • June 11, 2018: First day at Automattic

Step 1: Finding the courage to apply (Guess what, we’re hiring!)

Eight days after our wedding, I found the job description for a Community Wrangler with Automattic. I was modestly excited. Automattic offers some incredible perks and has set the standard for distributed working, but it was the fact that I could see myself in the job description that made me anticipate the best and the worst. Needing a second opinion, I sent the link to Dane with the note “I like this job description,” to which Dane supportively responded, “Do it.”

Still, I hemmed and hawed for a bit. At that point, I was working at Heartland, a commercial real estate consulting firm, and this raised two major concerns.

First, Automattic is an entirely different industry. I have solid community building experience which, I felt, fit with the posted job description, but what if Automattic disagreed? Would they want more technical skills (such as the ability to code) or someone intimately familiar with WordPress? I had experience building and maintaining a WordPress site for the University of Washington Commercial Real Estate certificate program, but no familiarity with the WordPress community.

Second, I loved my close-knit Heartland family. We were just under 20 people who enjoyed working hard and spending time together. What was corporate culture like for a distributed company like Automattic, and how would I feel long term about working remotely?

In the end, I acknowledged that I had nothing to lose and applied to Automattic on August 15, 2017, exactly ten days after our wedding. I also did a quick internet search to find another Automattic Community Wrangler on LinkedIn, and messaged her with a list of questions to address my concerns. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a swift reply with honest, but encouraging answers. In summary, she shared that working at a distributed company is simply different, and while it can be hard to get used to how people and information work, it is rewarding. We had a few additional exchanges that helped me better understand the job, WordPress and Automattic. With this, and a dip into online accounts of the Automattic interview process, I began wishing that somehow, somewhere, Matt Mullenweg would pick out my application email and set me on the path towards a career with Automattic.

Step 2: Wait. 

Dane is reassuring me that all is well, and that once I forget about it, I’ll hear back. I insist that by his logic, I’ll never hear back because I can’t forget about it. We both somehow find this really funny.

Step 3: Hear back! But also, more wait.

I heard back from Automattic on October 6, 2017, and immediately tell Dane he was wrong because I did the exact opposite of forgetting that I applied. However, due to travel and work on both ends, I didn’t connect with Automattic for my first interview until the morning of December 20, 2017, when I’m about to fly to Prague for a Christmas adventure with Dane and my wonderfully energetic mother-in-law.

This was my first interview over Skype chat, and I found that I was still able to connect and communicate well with my interviewer. Post interview, I wondered if this was because I grew up in the days of AIM and text messaging as a major method for communicating with friends.

This first interview was pretty standard. I was asked questions regarding my interest in the Community Wrangler position, my past work experience, and my experience with WordPress and the community. Then, I was provided with more detail about the job and how it fit in within the WordPress ecosystem. Throughout the interview, I was able to ask questions, which made it feel more like a natural conversation.

At the end of the chat, I was told that there were a couple of other applicants who were further along in the interview process. This worried me to some extent, as who likes being behind in an interview process? However, I was appreciative of the transparency and communication offered, which made me want to work at Automattic that much more. I was then also provided with interview next steps, which entailed a skills test to be delivered by email. After getting off Skype, Dane and I dashed to Seatac, happy that I had passed the first interview.

Step 4: Mad skillz

It’s my first time in Prague, and all I want to do is lose myself in chamber music, gothic architecture, outdoor holiday markets, and trdelník. Not to mention the legendary pivo and delightfully warm mead. Before I can focus on any of that, my mind is firmly set on addressing the emailed skills test. In that moment, I could tell that Dane wanted to go and explore, but he also knew how important this was to me. He decided to keep me company, and reads a book while I hover over my computer and pound out a response. Not a surprise ending: Dane goes above and beyond in supporting me throughout my Automattic interview.

The skills test is designed to assess communication style, which is critical for this particular position, but also for Automattic as a whole. It’s a straightforward exercise, but difficult if you don’t know how the Community team operates or the tone it keeps. Luckily, there were many resources available on WordPress.org. I spent roughly two, intensely focused hours researching and drafting a response, after which Dane and I ran off in search of a gratuitous hunk of Prague ham and some well-earned cups of mead.

The next morning, I re-read my response, and sent it off. It was my first real dive into WordPress.org, but I felt cautiously optimistic about my responses thanks to all the documentation available and thorough research on my part.

All things interview compete, we enjoy a very memorable Christmas together.

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This post continues in How I became an Automattician Part 2.

1 thought on “How I became an Automattician Part 1”

  1. […] I’m happy with my career path. My immediate team is comprised of fantastic and very collaborative folks, and I’m also meeting new friends in the WordPress community and across Automattic. I’m learning a ton, loving what I learn, and have so much I’m looking forward to. […]

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