A day in the life of an Automattician

I probably talk about my job too much, but I do that because it’s awesome. But it’s not all about traveling to fun, exotic places, hanging out with brilliant coworkers, and designing pretty things…although that’s a big part of it. A typical day goes a bit more like this.

I get up at the ungodly hour of 6 or 7 a.m. You’d think I could sleep in, but I have these adorable-albeit-early-waking things called “kids” that need to eat and leave the house to go to school. It’s a mind-boggling concept, that one should have to leave their house. I don’t understand it, personally, but what can you do?

Formal attire.

Formal attire.

The stringent office dress code calls for a t-shirt and jeans or pajama pants, naturally. I grab coffee and breakfast, feed the kids and dogs, the standard morning routine. Then I’m ready to settle in, and get down to the tacks of brass.

Currently I’m working from our dining room table, since our office has yet to be renovated. Gwen sits next to me, playing, and interrupts frequently until E arrives (three days a week). Thankfully today is a sitter day, so I have seven hours of kid-free time to focus.

Yes, that's a toy pirate ship next to me. Of course.

Yes, that’s a toy pirate ship next to me. Of course.

The first thing I do after logging into Skype and IRC, our company’s primary communication channels, is check email. As Automatticians we’re supposed to be more progressive, but I’m old school–new posts from our internal blogs are filtered to my inbox, and I refer to these, check my to-do’s for the day, and comment on stuff that’s come in overnight. A bunch of my coworkers are in Europe, so often by the time I get online, they’re already taking lunch.

Next I check commits for my squad. One of the coolest parts about being a WordPress.com developer is that we’re constantly updating the code, fixing and improving things, and themes are no exception. We have a lot of them–well over 200, in fact. That’s a lot of code.

Theme Team!

I know it’s hard, but try to find me in this picture.

I’m currently overseeing five of my peers, but that sounds a lot more formal than it actually is when you’re working with a talented, self-directed group. They’re great like that. I act as a reference if needed, but mostly I try to stay out of the way and let them do what they do best, which is…

Wrangle themes!

By “themes” I mean the WordPress-powered things that make your blog look cool. In less WordPress-centric terms, I review, develop, and design templates for websites.

Theme Wrangling entails several different things. Sometimes this means reviewing another theme’s code for security or visual aesthetics, or making a new theme from scratch, or writing a blog post announcing new releases. If I’m on support that week, it means fixing bugs and helping our support staff with theme-related problems as they come up. Today, it means going over several premium themes’ code. We work with outside sellers to offer a wider array of choices to our users, and all that code has to be combed through to ensure it’s safe and meets our standards.

Coffeecoffeecoffee

Coffeecoffeecoffee

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled post for coffee.

I also check in with the squad members each Friday to recap the week’s events, see what’s coming up, and just chat. This is one of my favorite parts, because again, see the part about my coworkers being great.

More coffee!

After that, I start work on a new free theme I’m converting, and by “converting” I mean I take a theme from the WordPress.org repository and polish it up, give it a thorough code and visual review, and make it work with our unique tools (like Custom Design). Eventually I’ll set up a demo site and write documentation, and when it’s ready, launch it with a post on the WordPress.com blog (affectionately known as “en.blog”).

My office mates are real dogs.

My office mates are real dogs.

At some point I may take a lunch break, although I’m guilty of working through it. Note, this is not a recommended practice, just a bad habit I’ve found hard to break. But I do take frequent breaks to let dogs in and out (and in and out and in and out and…) do laundry or dishes, or check in with the kids.

Around 3 p.m. Ellie gets home from school, and our sitter leaves at 4, so we try to pacify the kids with TV for an hour to finish off the day at 5. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s rarely my most productive hour, so I use it to wrap up–check on commits, email, or read work blogs.

After the kids go to bed, I’ll occasionally work for a bit, usually light duty stuff like reading and responding to notifications. I try not to do that too often, though. It’s easy for me to get too absorbed in a project, and setting clear boundaries between work time and free time is a constant challenge.

Is that everything? Not by a long shot. As with any job, random stuff draws me away from my to-do list, priorities get shuffled, and unexpected projects pop up. Thankfully most of the work is flexible, and I can always turn to my team for help. I like that it’s varied, and I’m rarely working on one project too long.

That’s my average day in a nutshell. Like the idea of working in your pajamas, making your own schedule, and building cool stuff? We’re always hiring!

11 thoughts on “A day in the life of an Automattician

  1. Caroline,

    Caught the link on Twitter, thanks for sharing the details! This has been my life for just over five years and I find it hard even thiking about an office job at this point. Although I don’t think I ever worked in PJs :)

    I’ve actually had http://automattic.com/work-with-us/theme-wrangler/ bookmarked for a few weeks, but combination of feeling I’m not good enough to apply and the fact that I already have a part-time job have prevented me from applying. But I can’t imagine how cool it would be to work with Automatticians. Are Automattic jobs full-time only, or how does it work?

    • Hi Slobodan! Yes, most of the jobs (if not all) are full time. Like a regular job, except way cooler. ;) I strongly encourage you to apply, most of us have “impostor syndrome” at one time or another (myself included)–don’t let that deter you if you’re interested!

      • Thanks for the response, as well as encouragement.

        Oh, I know it’s cooler than a regular job. Probably like a non-stop WordCamp, and that would be hard to top. Been thinking about this for way too long not to do something about it :)

    • Wendy S. says:

      Same here! That’s awesome! Oh, and I’m totally onboard with the PJ-pants-as-office-attire thingy. And the coffee.

Leave a Reply