Every so often, we sit down with an Automattician to help you get to know the people who work behind the scenes to build new features, keep Automattic’s wheels turning, and make WordPress.com the best it can be. In this installment, we’re delighted to introduce you to Happiness Engineer, photographer*, and beard enthusiast Steve Blythe — a.k.a. clickysteve. Thinking about applying to work at Automattic? We’re hiring.
* All photos below by Steve Blythe.
What’s your role at Automattic?
I’m a Happiness Engineer, currently part of the affectionately titled PUG team. We look after all of the issues that Paid, Unpaid, and Gravatar users have, and try to make sure WordPress.com is the place to be.
One of the cool things about working at Automattic is the chance to get to try out new things, so in February I’ll be doing a couple of weeks with the ToS team. They handle all of the Terms of Service issues — such as DMCA notices, and defamation complaints. I’ve got a Law degree, and my Masters is in Internet Law & Policy, so it’s awesome to get the chance to work alongside a team that is doing so many cool things to stand up for digital rights.
What were you doing before Automattic? How did you get here?
Before Automattic I was the Digital Marketing Manager for a large independent software company in Scotland. I had been there since I was 16 — straight from school. Over those nine-ish years, I’d gone from first-line technical support through to third, then on to eventually developing a digital strategy and implementing a slick new website before I left.
It was good fun, and it meant I got lots of exposure to different things that I would never have had the chance to elsewhere, but the corporate world was never one in which I fit very well. Tattoos, piercings, and often multi-coloured hair aside, my sleeping schedule means that I work best in the wee hours of the morning (1:00 a.m. — 3:00 a.m.), and so getting up to travel in to an office for 8:30 a.m. was always a bit of a struggle — no matter how many stimulants were consumed.
On top of that, there was a whole lot of different big changes happening in my life (not least of which involves the planning of a transatlantic marriage) which meant the time was ripe for something new — both in terms of fresh challenges, and also being somewhere that felt more closely aligned with who I am as a person. Luckily, I found Automattic.
What have you learned that you can share with WordPress.com users?
The web has brought about this amazing opportunity for people to express and share their thoughts on any topic imaginable, and then for those to be communicated to potentially millions of people. Major corporations and political powers are terrified of the effect the words of a single blogger can have — it’s a really exciting time.
You never know who is looking at what you write, and the effect that it might have. It can be tough sometimes to do what feels like speaking to an empty room, but what you have to say is valuable: get it out there.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I really feel like I’m amongst my people.
We can sit next to each other on our laptops and be comfortable, not have to speak a word aloud, share wine and donuts in a strange city, or (literally) be thousands of miles apart from each other, but we all have something intangible in common.
Nobody here cares what age you are, what hours you work, what you look like, or whatever else. People trust and respect you because you are passionate about the web, and are good at what you do; that’s it.
What advice would you offer to someone applying to work with us at Automattic?
I was one of the first of my generation to properly get into the web; spending all my free time reading up about network protocols, hanging about IRC servers, and chatting on coding forums. I felt at home on the internet, and was sure there must be more to that feeling than just being a bit socially weird.
Growing up in a wee town near Glasgow, Scotland, I would dream about one day being part of the exciting tech industry that was filled with people that got to work on shaping that online world that I loved so much. Despite feeling like I “got it,” and belonged there, I never had the courage to get the finger out and apply for things; I always thought I wasn’t quite ready.
When I read about Automattic, it sounded too much like my ideal job not to just have a bash, and I suddenly realized that the only thing stopping me from doing what I wanted to was myself. I sent off one email, and a couple of months later I’m sitting writing the responses to this interview from the headquarters of WordPress.com in San Francisco. How mental is that?
If you really feel at home on the web (and you’ll know if you do), and want to make it a better place, just go for it! Getting over your own initial mental insecurity is the hardest bit.
Everyone who joins Automattic makes a short intro video so team members across the globe can learn a little bit about you. We think you’ll get a kick out of Steve’s video.
You may also enjoy Five Minutes with . . .