Woo Mobile Product Lead & Engineering Director
Joined July 2013
Hi there! My name is Aaron Douglas, and I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States. I’ve been working on the mobile apps for Automatic since July 2013.
Before Automattic, I worked for a small boutique consulting company as their mobile apps architect. I enjoyed the work, and the team was excellent. I wasn’t actually looking for a different job. However, I was active in the Milwaukee developers’ chat room on Freenode IRC, and one day I noticed someone talking about working remotely. I had worked at home for a day or two at a time, but never permanently for my job. Automattic was vaguely familiar to me, so I started reading up on the company and chatting with everyone in the forum about it. I wanted to work in Silicon Valley, but I loved where I lived and didn’t want to move. I saw this as my opportunity to work for a big west coast style company and not move.
I applied, and got an interview. It was neat doing my interview over Skype text chat. I liked that I didn’t have to travel anywhere for it. The interview was with two people whom I ultimately would work with daily. I don’t remember specifics about the interview — the whole thing was a blur, to be honest. The hiring team directed me to take a small code test which was a coding task in the WordPress app. I was told it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours of my time. I wasn’t confident about my skills as an engineer, and if they would be good enough for Automattic, but the interview and code test went well, and I was offered to enter a trial with Automattic.
I had never heard of working on a trial with a company. I took the opportunity to learn everything I could about the team I’d be working for. In my mind, I was just hired as a temporary worker and framed all of my interactions in that manner. I discovered pretty quickly that the place was somewhere I wanted to work. Everyone seemed very open, honest, and welcoming. I connected with people, found jokes to share, offered suggestions for other work unrelated to my trial, and dug into things about the company and what its culture looked like from the inside. My trial project went well, and I ended up getting an offer of employment after about a month of working a few hours every week. I liked my current employer at the time, so I gave them a month’s notice.
Starting at Automattic was surreal. Even before I was an official employee, they had me ordering a desk, a chair, a computer, and a monitor, among other things. I even got to order a custom backpack with the WordPress logo on it! How cool is that to have a company so willing to spoil you? It felt like a dream — unreal that it was happening to me. I set up my office well before my start date and was so ready to begin. Within two months, however, I thought I was going to have to quit.
I’ve always known my brain worked a little differently than others. From my early childhood, I’ve had issues with attention and focus. There are many memories of me, as a child, being so focused on some small detail or thought that I was letting the world around me slip by unnoticed. I’d end up somewhere with my mom and not have any context as to what we were doing there. As an adult, I learned to cope with this feature of my brain. I wore noise-canceling headphones, but still enjoyed the constant interruptions in an office — it fed into how I liked to work. I thought I was ready for a 100% remote job — I had worked at home before, so how different would it be if it were every day? It turns out it’s way different.
I struggled to feel like I was being effective with my time and constantly felt that I was letting my co-workers down. I knew I was smart enough to do the work; I just couldn’t hold my attention long enough to get the big stuff done. Instead of quitting, I decided to do something about it. When I got frustrated with my brain, I’d stop working and go for a walk. After a while, I noticed a pattern — I was able to concentrate after getting outside. I talked to a doctor and met with a therapist to get officially diagnosed with Attention-Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD). I tried medications, but I found exercise was the most effective tool for me. I turned the desire of wanting to succeed at work into a daily exercise habit. Fast forward almost eight years, and I’ve made myself a productive member of Automattic and a lead of my team and our product, WooCommerce mobile. The side effect of this increased activity level has been significant weight loss and I was able to stop taking some serious medications that were preventing heart electrical problems. I do feel that I’m in a better place than I ever have in my life health-wise. Working at Automattic, in a way, has saved my life.
I stay at Automattic for many reasons. The biggest one is that I belong to something bigger than myself; I contribute to something that improves real peoples’ lives. Sure, the flexibility of working from home is excellent, but that’s only a part of the equation. Automattic respects who I am as a person, we celebrate the differences between people, and our products succeed from that diversity. I’ve never worked anywhere that is as accepting of me as a human as here. I’m proud of how diverse my team is — from things you can see, where we all live in the world, what we believe, and how we live. I love that I’m a better person because of my team!
The best part of working at Automattic is that we’re constantly changing. Any company that says their culture is a static thing they actively try to maintain is living a big lie. We are continually growing, adding new people, building new products, and hiring people from more places worldwide. The whole point of embracing diversity is the change that happens when new people come in. In seven years, we’ve gone from around 200 employees to around 1,400 as I write this post. While the company feels utterly different in many aspects, the original passion and sentiment I experienced during my trial still exists. It’s part of our company DNA. I learn new things every single day. I am constantly challenged to better myself and to help inspire others to discover their potential. This job is anything but boring, and that makes the ADHD part of me so happy.
So what are you waiting for? Apply to work here, even if you think you’re not ready or good enough. We’d love to have you be a part of us!