Automattic: trial to hire

My Background

I started working from a young age as I come from a background that requires self sufficiency. In the last 6 years, I’ve worked in many different places. As soon as I finished the army, I started working for the Association of Former Residents in China, initially as a translator and liaison for the Chinese Embassy in Israel. A year later I was already the website manager, editing and updating it daily. At my will to expand my resume (and salary…), I tried out for the customer service position at a local financial investments firm. Six months later I was promoted to tech support and then to managing the technical department. Since the business is around financial investments, it taught me a lot about economic trading, Forex and Binary Options, as well as market analysis and some other boring things. Later, I moved onto an advanced position of directing the customer service department in another city. Although I felt out of place there, it was a great way to learn new things and also helped me pay for my overly expensive college. That being said, every cent I paid to that college paid out quite recently, since thanks to them I found out about Automattic.

During one of the Organizational Psychology courses, one of Automattic’s employees came about to speak about the unique and wonderful organizational design and culture of Automattic. Working with people from all over the world, everyone unique and hilarious in their own way, from the comfort of one’s home and pj’s. As soon as I heard the lecture, I could not resist but to ask and learn everything there is about Automattic. Indeed it was very surprising at first as it is not like any other company I’ve ever worked for.

Application Process

Although most people worry about the perfect fit, and whether Automattic is really the place for them, and worry a lot about that – I never did. It sounded so perfect to me, that I didn’t even bother contemplating the options. The same day as I heard the lecture, I came home, edited my CV as best as I could, and started drafting the cover email. It sounds simple, but that alone took me two days. Hours went by and all that I changed was a single sentence. It had to grab attention, had to be sincere and just had to be perfect. Two days later, when I was already going mad about the cover letter, I took a deep breath, and clicked the “send” button. Then I freaked out and thought I forgot to attach the CV, but luckily I didn’t =) I got an answer a week later, and was invited to have an initial chat interview. It was a bit surprising to me that it’s all going to be typed out, rather than a Skype interview (with a camera, and you know, speaking), but it was important to facilitate the environment in which I would (hopefully) be working in. The general process is as follows:

  • Application Submission (Matt reads every application)
  • Chat Interview #1 – with a mini project assigned to me at the very end.
  • Chat Interview #2 – with follow up questions from the project and skill questions related to WordPress.
  • Trial Contract Spanning 4-6 weeks (mine was a bit longer). The first two days are training days.
  • Final Interview with Founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg

After making it through the first two interviews, I started working as a Trial Happiness Engineer. Normally this lasts 4-6 weeks, depending on how much time you put in and your general progress. Mine was a bit longer (almost 7 weeks), since I could only put in about 4-5 hours a day, as I was still working back in Israel full time, and that job alone was very time and energy consuming. However, motivation is key here. Many other trials were not working elsewhere and could only concentrate on their trial, but don’t let that stop you. Automattic takes every person’s individual situation to heart and only compare your progress to your own self, not anyone else. I was massively relieved when I heard that from my trial lead.

Week 1

During the first week, you receive training in the first two days, where you learn to use the different admin tools that are available to you, as well as learn about the organizational culture, language, how things work, and so on. Since the training session is guided by conversation, you can always ask questions to clarify things you’re unsure about. After the first two days – you dive into Automattic’s pool of tickets, and start to dig in. You will also be introduced to your trial buddy (a full timer) who will be there to help you and answer your questions.

Week 2

You might feel like you’re going a little slow, and rush through tickets, missing out on important information and not giving 100% responses. The best thing to do here is to slow down a little bit, and learn as much as you can from every single ticket you touch. At least that’s what I did. In the first two weeks, I had done about 100 tickets total. In the next 4 weeks, I did over 500 extra. The speed will come with practice and the efficiency will follow – but at first, learn as much as you can. This week also focuses around learning Automattic language. Motto? Professional and friendly. You don’t want to sound stuck up, and you also do not want to appear as clown. Finding the perfect balance is key.

Week 3

During this week you’re most likely have seen the general questions that you encounter over tickets. This involves everything from refunds, upgrades, cancellations, domains, renewals, and questions about the different features of, or how to find something specific. Once you’ve been through those over and over, you’ll find it to be a lot easier to pull out the right support doc, the correct response, and the right mood for your answer. Your focus will then be to find the perfect solution for every case, and not just any solution.

Week 4

After the first 3 weeks, you’ll feel a lot more confident in your replies, the solutions you provide, and the knowledge you already have. Your next goal would be to sharpen the language you use, and to go above and beyond for every user. The key here would be to provide the best solution, and also have an alternative solution in mind, that will get the user to be where they’d want to be. Never shy away from questions, we’re always happy to help as our goal is to make every user as happy as we possibly can.

Week 5-6

This is the final week. You’ve already received plenty of useful feedback from your trial buddy, and your trial leads. You’re more confident and you know what you’re doing with the tickets. So the next step? To toss you into the live waters of the Live Chats! Here, you’ll be chatting with users one on one, listening to their questions and giving them the best solutions. The main difference? Time. With Tickets, you can stand up and make a coffee, get back to it – and nothing’s changed. With chats, when you have one, two, or three at a time, it can get a little confusing. The key here is to take the time, don’t overload yourself with too many chats, and focus on 1 to 2 chats at a time at first. You can grow from there.

Next step: Matt’s chat

Once you successfully pass the trial period and the interviews, the next step would be to speak to Matt, the CEO of Automattic. You might get a little impatient waiting for that chat to happen, where you ping him daily to receive no answer – but don’t give up. He’s busy, but he will make time for you. It’s very important for him to meet all the new Automatticians, and you will definitely enjoy the chat as well.

Final words: should you apply?

In my subjective opinion: yes. Really, it’s made me the happiest in a long time, and you’re surrounded by wonderful people that are available to you 24/7! In my objective opinion: hell yeah. What do you have to lose? You’ll either try out for one of the most unique places in the world and succeed, or you might try out and see that it’s not for you – but you’d learn so much from the experience! Being serious though, if you ever have any questions, or consider applying but you’re not sure, feel free to contact me and I’ll happily chat to you about that. You might want to check whether this resonates with you, as the Automattic Creed is:

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.

If this feels to heart, give it a go! If still in doubt, you’re welcome to look up the tags below and learn even more about Automattic.

#a8ctrial – read trial experiences from other Automatticians.

#a8cstory – read about how we all got to know Automattic.

#a8cday – read about a day in the life of an Automattician.