How I Became A Happiness Engineer At Automattic?

This is a story about how I became a Happiness Engineer (technical support engineer) at an awesome company called Automattic (the parent company of products like WordPress.com, Jetpack, WooCommerce, etc).

I get a lot of questions about this so I thought to document my story as a blog post. I hope this becomes a good resource for anyone who is planning to apply for this role.

Background

I started creating websites in early 2009. That was mainly using SMF (Simple Machines Forum) and Joomla (a content management system – CMS, like WordPress).

These sites were fun personal projects for GTA gaming clans. I must say, I learned a lot from the GTA gaming community – Servers, Coding, Web Development, Photoshop, etc.

After a while, I started writing tutorials on Orkut (2010), moved to Blogspot and then finally to a self-hosted WordPress site (in July 2012). That’s when my work started to turn into real money (using Google AdSense).

2013-14 – I moved to YouTube, made cool edutaining videos using illustrations, got hired by MinuteEarth (sister channel of MinutePhysics, thanks Henry). I also did a lot of web dev projects on the side (some were based on WordPress).

I completed my 4-year long Computer Science degree in June 2015 and was looking for my next adventure.

In 2016, I quit MinuteEarth and spent a lot of time thinking about what I really want to do. I came up with a 3-step plan to get where I want in life (more on that in a separate post).

The first step was (obviously) to join Automattic (one of the top companies in the WordPress world and the parent company of WordPress.com). It was a long shot but achievable, given my background in WordPress and web development.

So I applied for the role of Happiness Engineer on March 31, 2016.

Rejection

After waiting for about 3 months, I received the famous “you’re not a good fit, try again later” email from their end.

I made you go through my background to prove that all of that didn’t matter. I thought I had enough experience for them to at least consider my application and get me to the interview stage. Nope, I was wrong!

Looking back, I think it makes sense. I had no real world support experience (I did some support work in Google product forums to become what Google calls a rising star, but that wasn’t enough!).  I had zero contribution to the open source community. I had read zero books on support.

My resume was good on paper but in the real world, it was useless.

Preparation

I was not going to take no for an answer, especially when I knew that I was good enough for this role.

So I started working on my support skills, reading posts (like the one you’re reading right now) by other Happiness Engineers (their experiences), working in WordPress.com support forums, learning the product, reading books like “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit”, etc.

I was kinda jobless in this period. I was working with my friend Nigel and the team on the Programming Hub app and was also working in WordPress.com support forums on the side till the end of October 2016.

November 2016 onward, I worked in support forums full-time for free. This gave me some real-world support experience. I was almost ready but I didn’t apply. I continued to work till January 2017.

That’s when I got a postcard from Velda (@supernovia) –

This gave me the confidence to apply again and I did. My second application was sent on January 15, 2017.

Interviews

I got a reply within 6 days (January 21, 2017). They gave me an assignment. It was super simple but of course a bit tricky as well. You should be able to solve this if you have general knowledge about WordPress/websites/internet.

After passing that, you go through two interviews (over Slack). The first one is mostly about getting to know you, your motivation to apply and general technical support questions. The second one is similar but has more depth to it.

Again, passing these interviews should be fairly simple if you know WordPress, have done any support work, know English and have a good typing speed of about 30-40 WPM (cuz everything is text).

I was fine because I have about 90-100 WPM record (showing off because this is my blog and I can do what I want).

Note that, in your interviews, you’ll spend most of your time thinking and then converting your thoughts into real words by typing them on screen. So practice that before the final game.

Tips

If you want some tips from me for your interviews – Don’t rush into an answer. Think before you type. Give more to the interviewer in fewer words. Be concise. Don’t go for one-liners.

Use stories to connect your answers to your past experiences.

I was working on X where I found Y issue and I solved it by doing Z. This involved leading a team of N people. I learned XYZ and ABC in this process.

Use numbers and data to talk about your contributions/achievements.

I did 900 support requests on WordPress.com forums in 1 month. I optimized someone’s site speed and brought it down from 50 secs to 5 secs. I did XYZ that increased our conversion rate by 10 percent.

Trials

After you pass your interviews, you’re offered a trial. That basically means you work as a full time HE for about a month and get paid $25 an hour.

This is a win-win situation for both parties because they get to see if you’re a good fit and you get to see if you’ll like doing this as a full-time job going forward.

In the first week, you’ll go through some training (mostly self-lead), you get to learn the internal tools and you start working on support requests (tickets/email) right away.

At the end of each week, you’ll write a self-assessment about how you’re doing, any mistakes you made, how you handled it, what you learned, the challenges you face, the targets you’ve set for yourself, how you plan to achieve them, etc.

There is no standard format to this but it gives you a chance to show off what you’ve learned (and it helps your trial lead understand your progress).

In the second week, you’ll start doing live chats along with tickets. There’s no set number of ticket/live-chat expectations.

But if you ask me, I’d say aim for 20-30 and continue to push your limits. Don’t focus too much on the interaction number, look for other areas to contribute.

The most important thing is “Progress”. Are you getting better? That’s what they’re looking at!

HR Chat

If you make it past your trial, you’ll be scheduled for an HR chat (previously Matt Chat). That’s where you discuss your salary and starting date.

I had a Matt Chat (just saying!). And I made it 🙂

Note: In some cases, you may need to wait for days or weeks before you have your HR chat (even if you’ve passed your trial).

We call this “The Wait”. Almost everyone I know has gone through it. Here’s “The Wait” group from my time –

Thanks

Thanks for making it this far in the post. You’re awesome! I hope you apply and make it to Automattic. If you need me to review your application or suggest edits, email me at omkar.bhagat [at] automattic [dot] com.

Also, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and helped me become a better version of myself (good enough to join an awesome company like Automattic).

So thank you Mom/Dad, Kruti, Sudipto, Rob/Haley(UntamedScience), Rajant/Akshata(YouTube/Google), Henry(MinuteEarth), Shailesh/Hrishikesh(Destylio), Rohan/Muzzu(WisdmLabs), Nigel(Programming Hub), Nagesh and Automattic.