It was at the end of July, after a meeting with Graph Paper Press about my role and my future with the company, that I knew it was time to take another leap into the abyss of the unknown. The last two years with the team were some of the most rewarding of both my professional and personal lives, but we mutually agreed that after WordCamp San Francisco 2011, where we met in person for the first time, I would leave.
Luck would have it that just a few weeks prior to my decision to leave Graph Paper Press an employee of Automattic was traveling through Hanoi and looking to meet other WordPress folks. We originally decided to meet for bún chả in the Old Quarter and talk WordPress; we still ate lunch but were too busy discussing life to dive into industry talk.
When I met Evan and Dustin in Hanoi the last thing on my mind was applying to Automattic; I was just happy to get together with other Americans here who know tech and enjoy travel. It actually wasn’t until WordCamp that I began to give it serious thought[1. Who I work with is the single most important factor that goes into any decision I make about project work or seeking full-time employment. After volunteering at the Happiness Bar and talking with so many good people, I felt positive that I should consider reaching out to the company.].
WordCamp left me utterly gobsmacked in a good way. Even after developing with WordPress for so many years I had never attended the event and I had no idea it would completely revitalize my enthusiasm for open source software. I felt overwhelmed and inspired being surrounded by so many talented people and knew that I wanted more of it in my life. That’s when I applied to Automattic again[2. I applied to Automattic for the position of Theme Czar in mid-2009 and was never interviewed. In hindsight, I am fortunate for being overlooked. My skill set at the time was nowhere near what it is today and I would have been a burden on and an embarrassment to the company, not an asset.].
I’ve reached a point where going it alone is a hindrance to my goal of becoming a top notch developer and my ability to give more of myself to the community. I’ve never been willing to compromise on where I physically work, but unless I’m willing to completely shed my misguided notions about how I work—solo, small team, or larger company—then my skill set as a WordPress developer will wither away and die with time.
Automattic is my silver bullet. It’s a company that encourages my working style and also gives me access to some of the brightest minds in the world. Moreover, it celebrates the sharing of knowledge. There is a culture of openness here that even the unseasoned rookie picks up on. It’s a culture that makes me want to be a better communicator.
My official—I use that word very loosely—job title at Automattic is Theme Wrangler[3. Automattic is hiring! You should send in an application.]. What this means is that I spend a great deal of time making, breaking, and fixing themes. It’s what I’ve been doing ever since I began blogging with WordPress in 2004 and I do not plan to stop any time soon. As long as I’m able to contribute to the company and as long as the company will have me, I plan to give my professional energy to it.
I’m both nervous and excited about this, nervous because I want to perform well for my team[4. One of my greatest personality flaws is at times a near-crippling insecurity about my abilities and the quality of work that I do, both professionally and personally. I want to be perfect and mistake-free—this is a fool’s pursuit, I know—and as a result stress myself out about whether or not I’m good enough. It’s always been this way, unfortunately.] and excited because I feel a new world of coworkers and future friends opening up to me.
The first projects I completed for Automattic as a trial Theme Wrangler were .org to .com conversions of the WordPress themes Nishita and Bold Life[5. I should make it painfully clear that most of the work done inside of the Theme Team is open to team collaboration; however, I was primarily tasked with these two themes and feel a very strange and emotional connection to them.]. The responses to them made me feel wonderful and I hope that a year from now I have many more theme conversions, as well as theme creations, under my belt at Automattic.