As most of you know, I work as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic (a8c, for short), which means I provide support for people who use WordPress.com. This week, a bunch of my colleagues are posting about our daily work. If you’re interested in what people who have my same job do every day, check out the posts under the a8cday tag.
However, I’m not going to write about my daily routine, because before this current posting challenge came along, I was asked if I would post something about how I came to work for Automattic, my a8cstory, and I neglected to do that. But better late than never!
My past work experience is a bit of hodge-podge. I’m a generalist by nature, and I have a severe fear of missing out. I want to leave all of my options open all of the time. I understand this is a generational affliction. At any rate, I was never able to commit to a career path. I entered college as an opera major, which I then switched to premed/psychology, and then to technical writing, and then, in my very last semester after having filled up my previous years with electives as disparate as African Religions and Italian study abroad, I finally picked creative writing because majoring in that would enable me to graduate a year early. I was in a rush to graduate, because I had decided I wanted to go to Chicago and take improv comedy classes.
The next decade of my life followed this general pattern, which is to say, no discernible pattern. I lived in several cities, I worked all sorts of odd jobs, I spent a lot of time in the performing arts, I burned through bucketloads of hobbies, I backpacked through far-away nations, I met all kinds of fascinating people, and I collected life experiences like a hoarder on a deadline.
I had a whole lot of fun.
My (slightly-more-than-)Quarterlife Crisis
And then, around the time I turned 30, I started to feel discontent. I was living in Brooklyn, and I was sick of the city. I was sick of drifting from thing to thing without any sense of completion. I was sick of being broke. And I had started feeling like I wanted to use my time to contribute something more meaningful. I hear this, too, is a generational affliction.
I wanted to do something more challenging and interesting to me, something I could feel passionate about. I wasn’t sure what that might be, and I didn’t know how to translate my non-traditional work and life experience into a narrative that would convince a potential employer that this career move made sense.
So I did something difficult and embarrassing. I moved back in with my parents in my hometown, and I started job-hunting from there. While fully acknowledging my privilege and how lucky I am to have a supportive family who could afford to put me up while I floundered, is it ok if I also admit that this was not the most glamorous turn of events in my life? I mean, it certainly wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but I wasn’t jazzed about it. It wasn’t a move I bragged about on Facebook.
I spent the next six months job-hunting in the same scattershot way I do everything: I applied to a variety of grad school programs, I took a grant-writing course, I applied for everything from flight attendant positions to au pair work, I looked into the prereqs I’d need for nursing school, I thought about becoming a court reporter, I reviewed the fitness criteria for entering the police academy. I also waited tables at a Mexican restaurant alongside a bunch of 19-year-olds while praying that no one I knew from high school would come in to eat.
My Decision to Apply
While I was doing all this, I joined a fiction writers’ group in town to keep my creative hand in, and to get out of the house and have a mental break from worrying about my life. And one of the other writers was Daryl, who works for WordPress.com, where I have hosted this very blog since March 2007. We became friends, and when he learned I was job-hunting, he asked why I hadn’t applied at WordPress.com.
It would never have occurred to me that I might be qualified. At the time, I’m not sure I was even fully aware that there were actual companies with employees behind the cool tools I used online — I had once or twice peered at the Gravatars of the various authors over on the WordPress.com blog and wondered, jealously, what their jobs were like. But I didn’t know how to code, so I didn’t think any more about that.
However, as Daryl explained, for working in support, Automattic looks for good communicators with excellent writing skills who enjoy helping other people learn. We also like to work with people who use and love WordPress. All of which applied to me. And so I sent in a resume for the Happiness Engineer position, I got a trial, it worked out, and I was hired!
My Job Today
Automattic is fully distributed, which means I can work from anywhere in the world (as long as there’s wifi). I am also entirely in control of my own schedule. My company doesn’t care when or where I work; it only cares about results. This perfectly suits my inability to commit to a set schedule, my wanderlust, and my inability to get out of my pajamas before three in the afternoon.
I spend my days helping people write about their interests and their lives, and then I help them share what they’ve created with the world. This work is important to me, and I believe it has value. And at the same time, I enjoy doing it.
I think that this is the magic combination of loving what you do: finding a job where you can feel good about what you’re contributing to the world overall, and where the day-to-day work itself is engaging and interesting to you personally. Many jobs are one but not the other (or they’re neither).
I also work with hilarious, whip-smart, deeply kind people, who all have backgrounds and interests as wonderfully varied as my own. And on top of all that, I get to travel, speak, and write (my three favorite things) as part of my job.
Basically, it’s my dream job, and had a friend not encouraged me to, I never would have thought to go for it. I know there are a lot of folks out there in a position similar to what mine was a few years ago. If this story resonates with you, and you think you might be interested, check out our Work With Us page! We are hiring.