Joined January 2018
I joined Automattic three years and two months ago. So far, it has been quite the ride: In the past three years, I have worked on three different products, I have spoken at three WordCamps, and I have moved from Asia to Canada.
How it started
I still recall the day I told my brother, who also works as a software engineer, that I had received a formal offer from Automattic. He paused for a moment and asked, “But… that’s a place where you can do a lot of good!” He nailed it. That’s precisely why I submitted my application.
How it’s going
For my first year, I worked on the WordPress iOS app. Then I switched teams and worked on the WooCommerce iOS apps for about 10 months. At that time, I joined the first wave of mobile engineers who jumped into a rotation with Tumblr. And after a year of working on Tumblr, I returned to WooCommerce.
In a way, I feel like I have started a new job four times in the last three years, but hey, that was my choice! And it’s one of the things I like about working here: You get to choose what your adventure at the company looks like.
As I am writing this, I am 49 years old, which is not exactly common in this industry. I have worked as a software engineer for long enough that titles do not mean much to me anymore. I have the immense privilege of being a man in an industry where that privilege multiplies, so I can afford to say that being labeled as a Senior, Staff, Principal, or Senior Principal Engineer does not really matter to me.
What matters to me is the quality of what I do during my work hours, the fruits of my labor, and who benefits from them.
Seeing things through that lens, Automattic has been quite the adventure so far. I have worked on accessibility, on having fewer walled gardens on the internet, on democratizing commerce, all while being paid to develop open-source software.
To me, work is not only about what you do, but also about what you learn, and about the agency you have to decide what you want to learn. In that sense, these three years have been excellent.
By switching teams and products, I have exposed myself to different processes and different codebases at different stages of maintenance, offering completely different challenges. That has made me revisit many of my previous assumptions, what I thought were truths about software and software development, which, in turn, has made me a better-rounded engineer. If I had to point out one specific change in myself that’s resulted from this process it is that now I am way more pragmatic than I used to be. I have a renewed appreciation for legacy code, for code that provides value to users, instead of code that is “correct”.
But there is more. I am a non-native English speaker and, as I mentioned, I am almost 50. This is probably the first job where someone (actually more than one person) has spontaneously mentioned that they figured non-native English speakers might be at a disadvantage in the industry. It was an expression of understanding, instead of the usual passive-aggressive or just fully aggressive comments about accents, verbosity, or colorful grammar that I have faced and witnessed in the past.
I have never really believed in the concept of “company culture.” In my experience, the culture of a company is what leaders allow people to get away with, something that is defined by omissions, by folks not speaking up when they should, by folks not saying “we don’t do things that way here” when they see something that should not be allowed. Automattic is the opposite of that. This is a place where people will acknowledge their advantage and be mindful of it.
So that’s pretty much how things have gone these last three years. Now I am working on an exciting domain, side by side with extremely accomplished folks, where I learn something new every day, where everyone appreciates and respects what others do, and where the end result of my work will benefit a significant number of people. I can’t ask for much more than that.