Q&A: What is Working At Automattic Like?

This past week, I received an email from someone that was interested in working at Automattic. This person had found me on LinkedIn and asked if he could ask me a few questions.

After taking a look at the questions, I thought it’d be nice to go ahead and publish the questions and answers on my site in case others were interested as well.

Note: What follows are my personal thoughts and opinions. So, take them with a grain of salt.

1. What would an engineerís work week/day look like? Meetings, new development, refactoring legacy code, planning for future architecture, customer support, etc.

I can gladly give you an idea of what my work day typically looks like. But, keep in mind that there are developers across the company that have different focuses, different teams, etc.

On a typical workday, I wake up as early as 7:15 am and as late as 8:30am. I usually start my day by immediately looking at any pings on my phone from Slack or the WordPress.com app. This gives me an idea for how quickly I need to start work. There are usually no disasters, which means that I take my time getting breakfast, catching up on company news, and finally I go “online” between 9am and 10am.

In regards to meetings, I average ~3 hours a week doing video meetings.

Calypso developer meeting

On Mondays, we have a weekly team video meeting. This is the only required video meeting. Besides that, there are usually a few video meetings that are optional. Each week there is usually a WordPress.com Calypso framework hangout. And some weeks there are learnups that are led by outside people or Automatticians.

Outside of those meetings, most of my days are spent on new features. For the past year, these new features have focused on porting functionality from legacy WordPress.com to the new Calypso codebase. If important issues come up, I will fix them before moving on. Otherwise, I try to focus on bugs in a sprint.

2. Thereís a very negative Glassdoor review that heavily criticizes Automattic (though I always take reviews with a grain of salt). The reviewer claims that the company is very disorganized, the employees are apathetic about WordPress and other Automattic products, and that no one communicates with each other. Do you find any of this to be true in your experience?

I can understand how someone might view Automattic as disorganized. Automattic is now comprised of 400+ people that are spread across the globe. We work on A LOT of stuff. And to be completely honest, the first phrase on the Field Guide (internal documentation site) is “Welcome to the chaos.”

That being said, there are systems in place to minimize the disorganization and chaos.

Shortly after starting as a full-time hire, a new employee will be assigned a mentor. This mentor’s job is to help the new employee adjust to their new role and generally feel as comfortable as possible.

We use Slack, which makes it easy for real-time communication around a project or team.

We have internal P2s, which is where more important information is shared. P2s are especially important, because ideas can get lost in the black hole of chat. To read more about P2s and how we use them at Automattic, check out this Fast Company article.

I could come up with a few other tools/systems that help minimize the chaos that is remote work at Automattic, but let’s move on to the other part of the question.

Moving on to the statement of Automatticians being apathetic about our products Ė I certainly don’t agree with that.

3. Assuming that workers manage their time well, what kind of work hours should be expected (consistent overtime, 35-40 hours or less, not clocked, etc)? How flexible are the work hours (is it entirely up to the employee, as long as they get their work done)? Are engineers expected to be on-call?

I don’t keep track of my hours. I feel that a 40 hour work week is probably close to the norm. But, it’s hard to give you an answer, because, as far as I know, there are no systems in place to keep track of hours. We certainly do not encourage consistent overtime.

For the most part, Automatticians are free to set their own schedule. The only exception I can think of is that Happiness Engineers sign up for live chat shifts. But, even then, I don’t believe these “shifts” are full work days.

Are engineers expected to be on-call? I’ve personally never had to be on-call. I imagine that we may have some sort of on-call system for the systems team in case things get wonky in the middle of the night, but I’m not sure.

4. Do you feel there are good learning opportunities to become a better developer (or other non-programming skills)? Does the work get repetitive and stale, or is it new and challenging?

I have learned a ton while working at Automattic. As a developer, there is so much here that you can work on.

Do you have an itch for testing? We’re working on end-to-end browser testing and visual diffing.

Like JavaScript? The new version of WordPress.com runs on React, Node, Express, and all kinds of other stuff that I have yet to explore. The Mac, Windows, and Linux apps also use this same codebase with an Electron wrapper.

We have our own internal analytics system that is run by a pretty amazing data team.

I could go on and on. But, suffice it to say that there is plenty of interesting work to be done.

If you ever get to a point where you’re bored with your current work… do a rotation on another team for a few months, or just switch teams completely. Both are very common practices.

5. I know some open vacation policies end up with employees taking very little vacation time out of peer pressure. Do you feel that employees are actively encouraged to take vacation? How much vacation did most employees actually take this past year (if you had to guesstimate)?

I’m not sure that I could guesstimate that for you. But, I will say that we have a very healthy view on vacation.

We even have a widget on team P2s that says, “Whoops! You have no time off scheduled”, if an Automattician doesn’t have any time off scheduled in the near-ish future.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 10.49.48 PM.png

My first year at Automattic, I believe I took just over 25 days of vacation. I took two weeks for Christmas holiday, 1 week to study for finals, and 2 weeks for summer vacation.

6. Why did you want to work for Automattic (work remote, didnít like last job, etc.)? What are the main things you like and dislike about the company after working there for over a year?

The benefits were a big push as well as it being remote work. But, the biggest push was that I would be working on WordPress, which honestly changed my life. Automattic was, and still is, a dream job for me.

I really have a hard time coming up with something that I don’t like about the company.

After 19 months, I think the thing I like most about the company is the people. I believe in Matt’s vision for WordPress and Automattic, I have a great team lead who I feel believes in me and pushes me to get better, and I have a great group of team mates who have become friends.

Mercury and friends drinking pisco sour in Lima, Peru

Do you have questions about Automattic?

Leave a comment below or use the Contact Page to send me your question.

Interested in working at Automattic?

Automattic is always hiring. Visit Automattic.com to get more information about and apply for our open positions.

30 responses to “Q&A: What is Working At Automattic Like?”

  1. I do have a question for you Eric. In regards to the meetings for the teams in various locations around the world, I just want to know if the company assists in bringing a husband/wife/kids along? Right now, my wife and I, do not have any children and knowing her she would be extremely jealous of my traveling without her.

    1. Hi Michael,

      To the best of my knowledge the company does not assist in bringing along family.

      That being said, the one exception that I have seen is that we almost always get private rooms when we travel, and Automatticians have shared a room with their significant other. I don’t believe there is a hard and fast rule about it, but as far as I know it’s OK as long as it doesn’t interfere with the meetup.

    2. Michael, I think I can answer this for you. During most meetups, the team basically spends all of their time together, many times even sharing a house for lodging. This wouldn’t be the best time to bring family along. However, many folks schedule vacation time before or after meetups to explore the location or something nearby. In such a case, one could invite and spend their time with a partner or family before or after the meetup.

  2. Thanks for your article, Eric. I came from Automattic to read your article. I’ve been trying to get hired and it’s been two years almost looking for consistent full-time work. The only thing with WordPress that I’m passionate about is building themes. My clients love me but it’s really hard finding new clients. Check me out, http://lionsdendesigns.com and Twitter @DanielBrinneman. Take care and Merry Christmas!

  3. Eric, thanks for this post. As you may recall, I referenced it the other day in my own blog as I’m trying to stand out a bit and get past the initial mass culling of applications.

    I spent years working remotely and ruminating on what I’d change to make the environment more flexible, efficient, and fun, only to find out that it already exists. Of course, when each spot gets a few hundred applications, the barrier to entry is pretty high. Do you have any advice on how to get on the radar and earn a tryout?

    1. Hey Alan,

      I’m glad you’ve decided to apply at Automattic! I’m not sure of a great way to speed up the application process.

      The best advice I can give is to reach out to Automatticians at WordCamps, meetups, WordPress core, etc. since there is a referral mechanism that Automatticians can use to recommend people that have applied. I’m not sure that it’ll speed things up for you, but it’d probably be nice to reach out all the same.

      Best of luck!

      1. Thanks for the suggestions! I’m going to my first WordCamp this Friday in Wisconsin, nice little fourteen hour round trip. Great lineup of speakers, too!

        Also, turns out we have a mutual friend. Carissa, a Happiness Engineer down near you, is a former coworker of mine, and she’s been filling me in on the culture. Small world. ūüôā

      2. I figured I would leave a one-month follow-up since I happened to come across this comment again tonight. I start my trial a week from today and I’m very appreciative of the various blog posts out there, including this one, that helped me down the path to applying. Thanks!

        1. That’s awesome! I look forward to seeing you in Slack. ūüôā

  4. The screenshot you shared of your Calypso developer meeting only has men in it. Are there any women on your team? Do you have a sense of the ratio of male to female developers at Automattic?

    1. Hello there,

      To add some context, that screenshot is of a zoom call where developers from various teams were talking about Calypso.

      On my team, there are 5 men and no women. But, there are several teams that I can think of that have women on them. These teams span many types of development, including systems, data, and frontend wrangling. We haven’t publicly shared demographic data like what you’re asking for, but that’s in the works.

  5. Hi Eric
    Thanks for the Q&A, I’ve recently applied for a position at Automattic in the marketing design team. Would you know anyone within that group I could reach out too, as I’m trying to findout more about the hiring process of a designer.

  6. Hello! Eric, I am Rekha, a technical publications specialist and have across the Happy Engineer requirement. I am currently working but looking at being involved on latest trends and also understand the company culture which sounds very exciting for me. Could you connect me with someone who could refer me for this position. Thank you.

    1. Hello Rekha,

      Referrals tend to be a bit more personal, usually based on past work experience or friendship. So, I’m not sure me connecting you with a Happiness Engineer would be beneficial in this case.

      One option might be to see if there’s an Automattician near you on this map: https://automattic.com/map/

      Then you could reach out to that person on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

  7. Christina Lewis Avatar

    Hello Eric! I am Chris, a CPA who is crazy excited to have found Automattic’s ad for a Accounting Wrangler on FlexJobs. I have been looking for this opportunity for months! I have searched your website and the employee videos of employees on YouTube, but I haven’t found anything from someone who works in the financial side of things. I would like to know what it is like to work as an accountant for Automattic. Can you help me connect with someone?

    1. Sure! Please send me an email via the contact form on this site and I’ll forward it to someone at the company.

    2. Hi Christina!

      I’m on the accounting team, I’m our Debit Defender ? And we should do a blog post on it, shouldn’t we?

      Overall, I’d say it pretty much aligns with Eric’s post here. We have some style differences (as all teams do at Automattic). We’re still one of the smaller teams.

      Accounting specific, though, we do depend on technology much much more than location based accounting teams. Being distributed, we need iron clad ways of sharing information and being able to discover source documents supporting transactions and such. It’s not like we can have file cabinets where we can go pull papers when we need to review backup! So in that context, we’re 100% digital.

      The other awesome thing is that we have a lot of insight into how products evolve and develop just through the way we communicate (everything is generally available to us on p2s and slack communications). So that’s really important material when we’re developing accounting positions. It cuts out virtually all meetings you’d normally expect to have at location based company that communicates through meetings and email.

      And we’re growing the team! Hope to see your application.

      1. Hi Eric and/or Caleb,
        Would either of you happen to know or be able to contact someone who knows about the status of the open “Accounting Wrangler” position? I applied nearly two months ago and haven’t heard anything, but the automatic response email said I would be notified one way or the other, and I now see that they are beginning to advertise the position again. Should I apply a second time or should I assume the non-response means no? I am well qualified for this position and would love to be considered!
        Thanks for any help you can provide!
        PS: I’m posting this anonymously just in case my current employer is surfing the interwebs. ?

        1. Hey there, shoot me an email via my contact form and I’ll forward it on to the folks in finance.

      2. Carley O'Connor Avatar
        Carley O’Connor

        I know this is an old post! But, Caleb, I am looking to get into Automattic on the accounting team. I see a Finance Wrangler position posted now. How often would a position in accounting open up or is the Finance Wrangler part of that? I will apply anyway, though, and see where that gets me!

  8. Hi, None of the job descriptions tell you specific experience requirement. For me, I have done 2+ years of internships and am graduating soon. Does Automattic hire new grads (with prior internship experiences)?

    1. Congratulations on graduating soon!

      I was hired at Automattic with one semester left in University. I know of at least one co-worker who was hired straight out of University as well. So, Automattic does hire new graduates.

      That being said, we don’t hire entry-level developers as far as I know. So, I would suggest that you describe your work as an intern as well as how your experience as an intern would help you contribute to the team at Automattic. I would also suggest displaying work that you’re proud of somewhere like GitHub.

      Best of luck!

  9. I already love WordPress not only because itís open source but because 76 yr old dad can use it and shares his rock n roll memories on his website. The more I read about Automattic, itís all the more obvious why WordPress is such an incredible product. The trust, talent and diversity behind the scenes shows.

  10. Does one have to have a background in website building and developing to be hired as a happiness engineer?

  11. what is the policy for the international workers?
    What job authorizations are expected?

    1. Hi Shailesh Ė

      I’m not sure that I’m able to answer your question. What I can tell you is that Automattic has employees in MANY countries, which you can see at the bottom of the following URL:


      What I would suggest is that you apply to Automattic. Then, during the application process, ask to speak with HR about any questions that you have.

  12. Alexis Hernandez Avatar
    Alexis Hernandez

    Hi Eric,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Iíve been haunting the Automattic ďWork With UsĒ page for a while now, and Iíve actually applied to the Happiness Engineer position before. Sadly, I didnít get through the first time, but Iíve been getting really into this coding thing. I might actually be getting good at it.

    Granted I donít have a degree in this field, or plans to get a degree in a computer related field, do you think that would affect my chances if I were to apply again (for a different position i.e. JavaScript engineer/software engineer/etc.) ?

    Also, Iíve browsed the listing for Creative Technologist but canít seem to find much outside of the job page. Do you know anyone in this position? Or have any advice for someone (me) interested in the position?

    Thanks xx

  13. Hi Eric! I found this in 2022Ö curious if youíre experience has been the same ūüôā cheers!

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