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Automattically hired

 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on the job hunt for remote positions mainly in development and customer technical support. I’ve made friends and professional contacts with a number of different companies and gone on a ton of coffee lunch meetings. In the end, I applied to a few different remote companies and completed a handful of projects and trials. I wanted to focus on companies that were distributed and didn’t have offices to go into. I really like the idea of being able to work from anywhere. I decided in the end that Automattic would be the best place for me and I’m pleased to announce that my first day was July 17, 2017. However, how did I get to this point?

The Hiring Process

I was fortunate enough to land a great job working at a creative branding agency in Brooklyn in 2016.  After a year of building and managing sites for some of New York’s largest non-profits, I was enjoying my job. However, I was the only technical role and that left me in a silo at times. I wanted to work somewhere where I could bounce ideas off of others and work with a team with more technical knowledge. The sites I built at this agency were built in WordPress and I was able to learn my way around PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript through my role. I learned I really liked helping people with their websites and I wanted to transition to a role that was more customer-facing. I applied to Automattic, the company that owns WordPress.com, and was lucky enough to hear back from them.

The hiring process was like no other hiring process I had done before. It was conducted primarily through email and slack. In fact, I didn’t hear anyone’s voice from Automattic until after I was hired. The initial application process consisted of sending in an application to Automattic. They replied back and we arranged for an interview, all through slack. The interview was just typing back and forth, but going through the usual interview questions. After the interview, I was offered a project. I completed the project and was offered a second interview, in slack again. This interview consisted of answering some more questions about the project and then offering me a trial employment opportunity.

The Trial

My trial started June 5, 2017, and lasted 3.5 weeks (I had to take a few days off at the end of the trial). I worked with customers answering their questions as if I was a real employee of Automattic. During my trial, I was assigned a trial buddy who I could ask questions to and a trial lead who I would check-in with weekly. At the end of my trial, I was referred to Matt, the creator, and CEO of WordPress.com. About a week went by between my trial ending and my chat with Matt. The chat, like the interviews, was also conducted via Slack and was all typing. It makes sense that typing would be the format since working for a remote company involves far more typing than talking, but it was still an unusual experience. Matt was returning from Paris and on a slightly later schedule than the standard 9 to 5, so our Slack chat started a bit later and ended around 7pm.

Getting the Job

At the end of the Matt chat, I was offered the job and scheduled to start the following Monday, so my first day ended up being July 17th.  It was surreal to get this job. I was looking forward to working at Automattic, but I was also cautiously optimistic about my chances of passing the trial. I’d heard from other people and read other blogs about people who hadn’t passed the trial, and a friend of mine had even gone through the trial and not passed. I took that Friday to myself and then prepared over the weekend to start my new job full-time Monday.

Brewin’ up a Storm

Rebecca and I started brewing beer. Years ago (2012) I started brewing beer with my friend Alex. I gave it up when I moved to South Korea since my apartment was so small. However, since back to America, I started brewing beer again, and Rebecca was happy to join in.

 

It’s a lot easier to get into brewing beer now. I remember four years ago having to scavenge on Craigslist for equipment. This time around I just went on Amazon and found a basic kit from Northern Brewer for $99, including a recipe for a beer (~$40 value). Our first beer was the White House Honey Ale. We spent a Saturday morning and afternoon brewing the beer. Once the active steps were done, we transferred the beer to a carboy to ferment for the next 2 weeks. Extract beer brewing (the sort that you can buy all-in-one recipe kits for) is pretty easy to do. Essentially it’s some variation on:

  1. bring 2 gallons of water to a boil
  2. put grain (look like oatmeal) into a cheesecloth
  3. steep in boiling water
  4. add malt extract (looks like honey)
  5. stir, add hops
  6. add enough water to bring total size to 5 gallons
  7. leave to cool
  8. transfer to a big white bucket
  9. leave to sit for 2 weeks
  10. bottle it

It can become a lot more complicated than this, and it often is, for example, there are usually specific amounts of time for many of these steps. An IPA might require adding hops in 15-minute increments for an hour. Sometimes you may also let the beer ferment an additional two weeks with some additional ingredients added to it. This second two weeks is referred to as a secondary fermentation. Coffee beers or anything with fruit in the name usually means it had a secondary fermentation with coffee or fruit added to it.

Following that beer, we also made a brown ale, a grapefruit IPA, and a Saison. The grapefruit IPA won second place at a beer brewing competition in Ridgefield, CT. The competition was judged by 2 brewmasters from Two Roads Brewery in Connecticut. The second place finisher didn’t get a trophy, but Rebecca’s dad had a trophy made for us online, which was awesome!

Rebecca and I at the beer competition

Italian Ladies Heritage Night and Roller Coaster

One thing I really like about New York is the ability to do seemingly anything you want at any given time. For example, last night, Rebecca and I took the subway out to Coney Island to see a minor-league baseball game and ride roller coasters. Rebecca’s friend got us all tickets for the game and we met up in front of the stadium. That night’s theme was both Ladies Night and Italian Heritage Night. The game was pretty fun. I love watching minor-league games because of all the gimmicks. They draw a much smaller crowd so they do a lot to try and keep people entertained. There were prize giveaways, races around the bases, and lots of drink specials (yay for public transportation).

After the game, Rebecca and I went on a roller coaster on the boardwalk then hopped back on the subway to return to the city. I don’t think there are many other cities where I could go to a baseball game, ride a rollercoaster and then take public transportation back to my apartment. The ease of getting around the city without a car is really growing on me.

Storm King Sculpture Garden

Rebecca and I borrowed her family’s extra car and drove up to Storm King Art Center,  a giant sculpture garden in upstate New York named for it’s closeness to Storm King Mountain. It’s about an hour and a half drive North of New York City and once you’re out of the city, it’s quite peaceful. The property is huge and we spent the better part of the day wandering around the grounds.

Raisin’ Branding

I’ve been at the small branding agency in Brooklyn for a few months. My first project was building a portal for students at a college in New York. The portal included sections for professors to post syllabi and other course material, a class directory, and a message board. It was a tough undertaking but I was able to complete it in a few days. The next project I had was building a site for an independent physician association for a major hospital in New York city. That project took me a few weeks.

Remote Control

The third project was building 3 sites simultaneously. At that point, I spoke with the founder and expanded the business from one junior developer to one project manager managing a team of remote developers.

I moved from a junior developer to a technical project manager and started working with a remote team. The team was based primarily overseas. My main focus was making sure the code was written up to our standards and fully customizable on the backend. I instituted a series of standards such as commented code, Foundation CSS, and standardizing plugins based on functionality such as trying to always use the same plugin for caching or for forms.

Let’s Get Analytical

This new role greatly expanded the business. Based on this new workflow, we were able to reduce website development costs by 30%, increase our bandwidth by 400%, and reduce our development timeline by 50%. I made it a goal of mine to revisit sites in the companies catalog and optimize those as well. I was able to reduce the page load time of older sites by an average of 20%.

Overall, I’m enjoying the work I do and the sense of ownership I feel over the projects as a whole. By working with more sites on shorter timelines, I’m also able to expose myself to more functionality and increase my WordPress knowledge at a faster rate.