Switching to Automattic

After many years of commuting to a city office in a 5 speed manual I came across the opportunity to switch to Automattic, and ditch the commute altogether! I had been thinking about looking for a remote development role for some time, and while hunting for new opportunities at the end of 2018 I came across this advert for Javascript Engineers. I was tempted, but on looking at the work conditions it seemed too good to be true.

I did however drift back to the vacancy page a couple more times for another read, and on the second or third visit the following message appeared:

That was enough encouragement for me, what was there to lose, so on Christmas Eve 2018 I bit the bullet and submitted an application.

Some time in January I received an invitation to attend an interview for the role. This initial interview was conducted entirely as a Slack chat. This made it the most relaxing job interview I have ever attended. It was amazing how much easier it made it to compose your thoughts and think of the best answers to the questions without the pressure of a group of people staring at you across the desk.

The next step was a small coding challenge. Whew, no reversing a binary tree on a whiteboard here! This was a take home task of around 6 hours, with the opportunity of questions, code review, and discussion with a mentor, so no pressure to work in isolation and get it 100% correct the first time. There was still plenty of challenge in it to make it an interesting and satisfying task to complete.

After a bit of a nervous wait to see if I had completed that challenge successfully a Slack message popped up asking if I would like to commence on the longer trial project on contract. As with the previous steps plenty of information was provided about what this would involve. While it is a reasonable time commitment, it is possible to stretch it out over up to six weeks to fit around your other commitments. I figured I had nothing to lose, and had made it this far, so went for it.

Working remotely doesn’t mean being stuck all week in your spare bedroom – the view from one of my new co-working spaces

The project was challenging, and interesting to work on, and the great thing was that a mentor was provided to answer questions, and provide code review and feedback along the way. This really did feel much more like a work project than a test. The code review comments were always helpful and friendly, and it was as much a learning opportunity as anything.

Although this project did soak up quite a few hours, the interactions with Automattic staff, and being able to see some of the actual work discussions going on in other Slack channels, gave me a really good feel for what working at the company would really be like (you never really know what a company might be like to work at after the usual 1 hour work interviews).

The effort paid off, and some time in April 2019 I was offered a role as a Javascript Engineer at Automattic, and started in the last week of May. The on-boarding process is incredibly organised. To say that the company is internationally distributed I have felt more immediately part of the wider team than in some previous roles where the whole team was in a single office.

Two months into it, and it appears that those conditions outlined on the work for us page aren’t too good to be true. They really do let you take a paid two to three-month sabbatical every five years – two of my current team mates are off on theirs at the moment! Working from home may not be for everyone, but so far I am loving the freedom and flexibility it brings, and working with people from all over the world on a daily basis you certainly don’t feel lonely!

If you have any questions about the hiring process, or working at Automattic, feel free to leave a comment.

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