Automattic Women: Rebecca Scott

Welcome to Automattic Women—conversations with some of the remarkable women working all over the world to design and develop Automattic software and make the web a better place. Today, software developer Rebecca Scott joins us to discuss technical leadership in the context of Automattic and its unique work culture.

Who are you, and what do you do? 

I’m a software developer by trade, and I’ve moved into leadership roles in the last few years. I’m the Director of Engineering for the Start & Manage Focus group at Woo, where we invest in the activation and management experience for WooCommerce.

My job as I see it is similar to the CTO role for a small startup, where product decisions are being made in different places, often by the CEO (which I equate to our Product Directors). I help the engineering team make technical and tactical decisions, and influence the product direction.

I also assist product directors with technical direction for the product, developing large scale plans and figuring out what resources we need to support projects.

And I work with the team leads within the Start & Manage Focus group to make sure communication protocols are working, refine procedures, and help to solve problems.

Part of this is also acting as a servant leader: I ensure that we’re communicating with other parts of Woo and Automattic, help resolve roadblocks, and work as an interface between the engineering teams and our other stakeholders, such as product and UX design. As a lead of leads, I also mentor and coach the team leads. This gives me a chance to ramble on with my opinions, although I’ve been learning to become a better coach.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I’m not great in the morning, I don’t have a very fixed schedule, so I wake between 6:30 and 8:30, and start work at 9:00 am, after one or two stiff coffees. Most mornings, I don’t have any calls before 9:00 am, although there is the occasional 7:00 am call.

I’ve been using paper lists to organize myself throughout my working life. I’ve tried various apps and techniques, but nothing stuck as much as pen and paper. I start by listing out the morning tasks: Slack, emails, GitHub notifications, and P2s (Automattic’s collaboration platform). Then I copy across anything that didn’t get completed from yesterday.

After writing my list, I start from the top, catching up on notifications: Slack, emails, GH, P2s. That usually takes between one and two hours, but it’s an important part of my job because I use it to be certain I’m talking to the right people, adding comments, and connecting the dots—ensuring I’m across the big picture as much as possible.

Then I launch into different tasks. These might be writing P2s, doing engineering strategic planning, reviewing projects and providing feedback or asking questions, writing HR feedback, working with other teams on feedback or feature requests. It’s a broad range.

Although the bulk of my work is asynchronous, I also have calls booked through the week. I have 1:1s with the team leads and the product director, and I attend team calls such as design reviews when possible. One of my teams is in a different time zone, so it’s rare I can attend their calls, but we’ve started recording important calls so I can review them during my day.

If I happen to get through all my tasks for the day, I have a second list of recurring tasks set up in Trello that I can pick through. These are usually bigger things that I can plug an hour in to and then set aside: longer term planning, lower priority ideas that I can advance a little at a time, working on feedback and improvements to my own processes. I have a professional coach and she often leaves me with “things to think about,” so I try to spend a bit of time self-reflecting. In my position, there isn’t really as much of an opportunity for professional development or passion projects as there is for an IC (individual contributor) here.

Sometimes, if I get through all the critical tasks and only have half an hour left, I don’t feel like I can commit to starting something and actually be able to do anything useful on it, so I’ll just finish a little early. That’s the benefit of our flexible working hours. I know that I’ll be making it up with an early evening call later in the week, so I don’t feel bad about looking after myself. I did 50-60 hour weeks earlier on in my career, and to be honest there’s no real benefit in that hustle. It’s far too easy to burn out and suffer physically and mentally, and you miss out on more important things in life. You don’t win awards for working an 18-24 hour day. I’m glad to work at a place that supports a healthy work/life balance.

What drew you to Automattic and what keeps you here?

I needed a job :-). I had burned out from my last two positions, struggling with my mental health, and had been unemployed for about 6 months. I had used PHP early in my career and it definitely wasn’t my language of choice (that would be C# or Ruby), but I’m practical about languages so switching didn’t bother me too much. Probably the biggest consideration was the remote-first nature of Automattic. I live in a regional area, pretty much in the bush. After working as a consultant in Brisbane for five years, in 2017 I made the decision to move back to my hometown to be close to my family—but that put me in a position where I needed to be able to work remotely.

So that’s what drew me to Automattic. However, once I joined, I started to realize exactly how deep our remote culture goes. Total flexibility, support with setting up a good home office, provided (and regularly upgraded) laptops. And as an IC, I felt well supported by my peers and lead. We could have quite easily been put into a box and just had annual reviews, but instead we have weekly contact to make sure that we’re traveling well, that our future is being thought about, that day to day and week to week frustrations are known and helped with.

I had been a lead before—usually as a CTO or similar in a very small startup—so I knew that that was where I wanted to end up, and when our team restructured, I was able to easily switch to a team lead role. That’s something interesting about Automattic: roles are hats, you don’t get “promoted” to team lead. This can be confusing for people looking for a career path, but essentially, here, you build your own career path and find opportunities to follow it with the support of your lead—which you’re pretty much guaranteed to get.

I loved being a team lead, especially with peer leads, which was something I had never experienced before. Again, I felt like there was a lot of support; it’s not a promotion, but you’re definitely not set up to fail. For example, there are team lead forums and Slack channels, and courses that prepare you for people management.

My career goal is, roughly, technical leadership over a broad product area. I don’t know specifically what job title that would be—job titles aren’t extremely important at Automattic—but when our area’s Director of Engineering (and my former team lead) decided to move on from the company, I had a good talk with him about what the position involved, and decided to give it a try. 

It was probably the best career decision I’ve made! I get to be involved in conversations at all kinds of levels, I  influence the technical and product direction, and it’s really just a lot of fun. I love writing and getting my thoughts out. I have so many opportunities to be heard!

I think we as a company face challenges with building and growing our products (especially our eCommerce products—but I’m biased) in a very competitive market. I’m excited to be part of building a compelling and user-focused eCommerce platform.

What’s your favorite non-work activity?

I’ve always loved playing music. I’m not very good at playing music but it’s a lot of fun. My house has a “kid’s retreat” that I’ve set up as a music room. My kidlette loves playing music (especially drums), so he gets into it too. I mainly play guitar badly and ukulele acceptably.

I recently got a little analog synth (a KORG Monologue) and started messing around with Logic Pro. My plan is to become the next Aphex Twin and be far too famous for Automattic.

That’s it for this edition of Automattic Women. Follow Developer Resources and Automattic Design to meet more wonderful women of Automattic. And if you’d like to do more than just read about these great folks, consider working with us!

Automattic Women: Rossana Menezes

Welcome to Automattic Women—conversations with some of the remarkable women working all over the world to design and develop Automattic software and make the web a better place. Today’s interviewee, Developer Apprenticeship Rossana Menezes, chats with us from her traveling workstation somewhere around the globe.

Who are you, and what do you do?

Automattician Rossana Menezes

At Automattic, I started as a Happiness Engineer in 2017 and am now part of the Developer Apprenticeship Program, an internal pathway into core engineering roles here. I spent one year preparing to apply, working with a mentor, and in January I started as an Android Developer Apprentice working in the WooCommerce mobile team.

The apprenticeship works as a rotation. You are placed in one of our engineering teams across the company and will work full-time on that team for approximately 12 months. The focus of the program is on learning. While you need to have a certain level of programming knowledge to join, the idea is to prepare you to move to a developer role at the end. This has been an amazing experience so far. I am learning so much while also being able to contribute to the WooCommerce mobile app and help our users to manage their stores on the go. 

What’s a typical day like for you?

The best thing about working here is that there is no typical day if that’s what you want. Work-wise, a typical day starts by waking up around 5:00 am, because I am a morning person, and I can work whenever is best for me. So I wake up early, make some good coffee and open my computer to check Slack pings, P2 posts and any notifications on Github. 

Then, I spend about 5 to 10 minutes organizing my day. I use an app called Noteplan 3 that is connected to my Google Calendar, so I can add notes, and have my calendar on the same app. I add a to-do list for that day and as the day goes by and I work on the things I had planned I mark the items on my list as complete, sometimes add more items as they come up. 

Rossana and friends enjoy off-road biking.

With planning out of the way, I start my deep-focus time. It can be either working on a project I am currently assigned to, working on our backlog tickets on Github, reviewing a Pull Request, or focusing on studying something, since learning is a big part of the Apprentice program. I’ve created a blog where I share the things I’m studying.

I started studying programming using Java for a short time and then moved to Kotlin and found it a bit hard to go through its documentation. I felt that everything related to Kotlin was very focused on experienced Java developers, which was definitely not my case. So I  try to post about the things I’m learning using a beginner-friendly approach. 

Depending on the day, I might have a few Zoom meetings too, like 1:1 with my team lead every other Friday, team meeting every two weeks, paired programming sessions with one of my teammates, or group coaching sessions with the other apprentices in my cohort. 

And the best part is being able to do all that from my home office, from the nice coffee house downtown, from the boarding gate while I wait for my flight to Norway to visit my family, or from a super cute restaurant I found while walking around in Carcassonne, France. 

Depending on where I am, my day looks completely different. If I’m home, I usually work from 5:30 am to noon, when I have a break to exercise, eat, and run some errands. Then I go back to work for a couple of hours and work on things that are not necessarily related to coding. So if I need to write a P2 post, work on documentation, or test the app, I do that in the afternoon.

If I am traveling, I usually prefer to work without a long break, so I can finish early and explore the area.

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea…

What drew you to Automattic and what keeps you here?

What drew me here was the ability to work remotely. I have family in Brazil and Norway—and being able to work while I visit them made a huge difference in my quality of life. I am able to be in Norway for my nieces’ birthdays, spending the holidays with them or with my family in Brazil. I get to travel the world while I work, and this is amazing because traveling is one of my favorite things.

That said, what keeps me here is the company’s culture. Automattic walks the talk. Our creed is not just a bunch of words put together to make the company look nice. It is taken seriously. People here truly care about helping others, creating things that will help our users, and making the web more accessible and a better place in general. And I think because of that, the most amazing people are drawn here.

I work every day with a wonderful group of super smart and kind people who are willing to jump in and help anyone at any time. Also, here you feel that you matter as an employee. We are heard, we are respected, and we are supported and encouraged to grow. You have the freedom and autonomy necessary to balance work and personal life the way it works best for you.

What’s your favorite non-work activity?

Traveling, exploring new places, trying new food, and taking pictures of exciting things. 

That’s it for this edition of Automattic Women. Follow Developer Resources and Automattic Design to meet more wonderful women of Automattic. And if you’d like to do more than just read about these great folks, consider working with us!

Automattic Women: Josepha Haden Chomphosy

Welcome to Automattic Women—conversations with some of the remarkable women working all over the world to design and develop Automattic software and make the web a better place. Today’s interviewee, community steward Josepha Haden Chomphosy, chats with us from her home workstation in California.

“This photo is of my favorite pre-COVID workstations—on the floor at WordCamp.”

Who are you, and what do you do? 

Within Automattic, I lead our open source practice which means my work is a bit of tactics, a lot of strategy, and full-time leadership training and support. Outside of Automattic, I lead the WordPress open source project and that work is a lot of short-term coordination of projects and long-term planning for WordPress’s success.

What’s a typical day like for you?

My days typically start out with Zoom meetings (and lots of coffee) so that I can get as much work unblocked for folks as possible. My afternoons tend to mostly be “desk time,” where I focus on text-based work, especially in the WordPress project and community itself—posts, goals, budgets, decisions—all the back-office things that make the world go ‘round.

“This one is of me running away from a goat that I just petted. I get very excited about goats, otters, and alpacas.”

What drew you to Automattic and what keeps you here?

I was originally drawn to Automattic because working as a sponsored contributor in the WordPress project was a dream come true. I had the chance to take the life-changing experience of discovering WordPress and learning to work with it, and offer that knowledge to others. What keeps me here is naturally the people that I’ve been so privileged to work with over the years, but also the fact that I routinely get to empower others through work that I find meaningful and a CMS that I have used for more than a decade.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?

I don’t know how guilty it is, but I spend a lot of time trying to recreate favorite foods from restaurants I’ve been to during my travels. From “best salad” to “best oatmeal,” I’ve tried and failed infinite times on my way to success. But isn’t that the best part of cooking anyway? Taking a bunch of things that are good on their own and combining them until they’re something wholly new and perfect in a totally different way?

That’s it for this edition of Automattic Women. Follow Developer Resources and Automattic Design to meet more wonderful women of Automattic. And if you’d like to do more than just read about these great folks, consider working with us!

Automattic Women: Anne Mirasol

Welcome to Automattic Women—conversations with some of the remarkable women working all over the world to design and develop Automattic software and make the web a better place. Today’s interviewee, engineer Anne Mirasol, talks to us from her home workstation in the Philippines.

Anne Mirasol at her Automattic workstation.

Who are you, and what do you do? 

I am Anne Mirasol, a software engineer for Automattic. My team is currently working on bringing P2, Automattic’s homegrown remote collaboration platform, to the world.

As a software engineer (or a code wrangler, as we sometimes call it internally), my job is to implement new features, maintain existing ones, and just basically keep P2 running as it should.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I’m a big fan of slow mornings–easing myself into the work day. Even though at Automattic, we work from home, I try to keep my work hours fairly consistent. I find that it personally helps me maintain a healthy work-life boundary.

My work day typically begins in the afternoon, which is also conveniently the time that most of my teammates start their day. We don’t have a lot of face-to-face meetings over Zoom, but we do communicate a lot via Slack and P2.

Whenever I need to step back and do some back-burner work, I go for an ice cream break at the small convenience store near my place. It’s never-ending summer where I am, so every day is a good day for ice cream.

What drew you to Automattic and what keeps you here?

My best friend introduced me to Automattic. She said that it was her dream company, and encouraged me to apply. I valued her opinion a lot, so I was intrigued. It then turned out that the more I learned about the company—by reading all the articles and employee blogs I could find—the more her dream became my dream as well.

I was hesitant to apply at first, since I didn’t know anyone at the company personally, and I thought it just sounded too good to be true. I’m truly thankful for that one Sunday morning where I told myself to stop overthinking, sat up, booted my gaming computer, and just sent in my application. I can say that the company has far exceeded my expectations, and I’m glad to be part of it.

What I like most about Automattic and what makes me stay is the opportunity to work with extremely kind and talented people without having to move to another city or country. It feels like a bigger world has been opened to me, and I didn’t have to leave my family and friends.

A photo I took of my sister and her dog during one of our late afternoon walks around her neighborhood. My sister was telling me to catch up, because the dog doesn’t like leaving anyone behind. “Snowstorm” is our code word for it, and it means I have to walk faster.

What’s your favorite non-work activity?

Before the pandemic, I loved spending the weekend with my twin sister and her dog. She teaches literature at my alma mater, and stays at a housing facility for faculty, so I would regularly spend a night or two with her, and we’d drive around the campus and eat street food, walk the dog, and read paperback fiction while sitting on the university library stairs until after sunset.

Now that I can’t go out as much, I’ve been sampling hobbies and interests and just seeing what holds my interest the longest. To my neighbor’s dismay, I’ve also started learning to play the violin again, working my way through a first-grade book.

That’s it for this edition of Automattic Women. Follow Developer Resources and Automattic Design to meet more great women of Automattic. And if you’d like to do more than just read about these great people, consider working with us!

Automattic Women: Rebecca Williams

Welcome to Automattic Women—conversations with some of the remarkable women working all over the world to design and develop Automattic software and make the web a better place. Today’s interviewee, Rebecca Williams, talks to us from her home on the Wild Atlantic Way coastline of Ireland’s Louisburgh, County Mayo.

Who are you, and what do you do? 

I’m an Engineer Development Wrangler, and I work within Engineer Development in the Developer Experience (DevEx) part of Automattic’s Talent division. Our team supports Automattic engineering teams in the areas of growth, onboarding, and leadership. 

Rebecca Williams in her home office.

My role oversees engineer onboarding and engagement. This involves working with over 150 new starters each year, as well as building and maintaining relationships with leads and other engineers. I am definitely kept busy, but I enjoy every minute of it!

Our process begins at the intersection of hiring and the start date, and we provide support to both our new starters and our leads to ensure that everyone is correctly prepared for the start date. 

As well as individual check-ins, we also hold monthly onboarding calls. These calls are a great opportunity to touch base with our new starters, and to find out what has been working well for them and what we can help with.

Any feedback that we receive during these calls, or via the surveys, is followed-up and acted upon whenever possible to improve the process for future new starters. 

The ultimate goal is to ensure that all of our engineers land smoothly in their teams—that they know what to expect and what is expected of them, and are well placed to begin contributing and feeling productive at the earliest point. We want everyone to feel like they are reaching their full potential, and to consider what else they could achieve within Automattic.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Freedom to choose where we work is one of the great things about jobs at Automattic. Working from home is great, but I also really enjoy working from a coworking space, too. That way I can support small businesses in my local community, and enjoy a change of scenery.

I drop my daughter off at school, then pop into my favorite coffee shop for a caffeine hit. I make my way to the coworking space, or to my home office, depending on where I decide to work that day.

I start my day by checking emails and Slack pings, as well as reading up on any news that happened while I was offline. I try to keep myself organized with productivity tools like Todoist, which I use with Slack integration, enabling me to mark things for attention later.

I start my day by getting all of my operational and process-driven tasks completed, and then I gravitate towards more focused work. At lunch time, I make an effort to take a walk—often to the beach. I find that this is a great way to reset myself and perhaps untangle anything I have been concentrating on in the morning. 

By the time I return to my desk, I am usually ready to go again. I might have some calls, or I might be ready to switch my focus on some other tasks. 

I find time-boxing whatever task I choose to do to be a great way to provide focus for myself. I am definitely a morning person, so by splitting my afternoon, I give myself specific time-frames to work in, which works really well for me. By 3:30, I am ready to pick up my daughter from school. 

When we’re home from school, I log back on and pick things up where I left off until 5:30-6pm. I usually end up feeling pretty productive by the end of the day!

What drew you to Automattic and what keeps you here?

I discovered Automattic at a local remote-workers’ meet-up run by Grow Remote. Afterwards, I read as many blogs by Automatticians as I could find, and one in particular really spoke to me. Having previously worked in a great team, I decided that this emotional connection with others was a really important factor for me, wherever I landed.

The entire Creed resonated with me, but particularly “I will never pass up the opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.” This is still incredibly important to me, and something that I see for myself being demonstrated on a daily basis. In many ways, onboarding embodies this statement perfectly!

Snapshot from one of Rebecca’s favorite walks. “It was a magical evening when I took that shot; everything was just right!

Another thing that was really important to me was finding an organization that was family-friendly. Being able to do the school run, and be present for my daughter is crucial. Additionally, being able to move my working day around to accommodate dental, physiotherapy appointments, and school visits means that I can spend my annual leave with my family, and really get the benefit from that offline time.

This role provides me the best of everything: a great and supportive team, awesome colleagues, work that keeps me interested and curious—and being able to do all of this from my home. What’s not to love?!

What’s your favorite non-work activity?

Two things really recharge me: spending time in nature, and focusing on a project. When the weather is kind, I will take a long walk—there’s no shortage of interesting routes to take and I have some favourites! 

When the weather is not great, I love to cross-stitch: I immerse myself in really complex projects that are intricate and time consuming. My last stitching project was Cinderella’s Castle, and that took four years to complete (with a Master’s degree in the middle of that!). My current project is An Evening in Venice. It’s taken two years so far, and I’m not even halfway through!

That’s it for this edition of Automattic Women. Follow Developer Resources and Automattic Design to meet more great women of Automattic. And if you’d like to do more than just read about these great people, consider working with us!