On Work, Life, and Leaving Automattic

Thank you note to Automattic, the best place to work.

I’m fortunate to have spent most of my adult life at Automattic. You see, it was my top choice for a company to work for back in 2007, and in retrospect I’m so proud that I ended up here.

Automattic is a very real representation of my life, the way I’ve lived, loved, and gone about my days. A way of living that, in some regards, I started in middle school.

A little background: up until high school I attended a Montessori school. Like all schools, they have to teach a predefined curriculum, but this doesn’t stipulate how teach it. For us it meant a lot of “free project time” where we’d work on any subject we wanted from a grand list.

We could either work on a project or goof around.

While I’d struggle to get started, I took great pleasure in seeing these projects come together. Some of our finished papers were ledgers, detailing how the Roman empire worked or gave an overview of all the religions currently present on earth.

Every time I’m doing spring cleaning I come across these masterpieces and I can’t bear myself to throw them away. Many even had spiffy title pages!

Work, Life

Being able to manage your own time and work on projects you actually care about are for me the fundamentals in a healthy work-life relationship. It gives you the power to lead a life that’s true to you.

In a world where 1’s and 0’s are just shuffled around, there’s no need to commute to work. Any screen around you is now a computer. The time you save working from wherever you are instead of wherever you’re supposed to be is time saved to pursue your passions and lead a more healthy and productive life — both professionally and personally. This means more time for family, friends, pet-projects, but also time to do excellent professional work of better quality.

Humans are not great at dealing with stress in the workplace. If you’re able to prioritize your work yourself, in an open environment like your home, it means that the time you save is your time. You decide what to do in your own time. Maybe you go make a delicious cup of tea, or you spend another hour reviewing and perfecting the code you just wrote.

Here’s the kicker: However you spend your extra time, both your life and your work will benefit.

Tea reinvigorates the soul and makes you less stressed or more alert. Perfecting your craft makes you more confident and instigates pride. Whatever you do with your own time, make it worthwhile and true to you.

Leaving Automattic

Imagine having time to “Always Be Charging”.

I spent 7 years working for Automattic. It’s a testament to how great of a workplace it really is.

I’ve managed my own time.

I’ve been able to pursue projects I like.

I’ve been able to switch roles within the company multiple times.

I’ve travelled the world*, met coworkers and people from the larger WordPress community.

I’ve been able to practice speaking in front of audiences at conferences and company meetups.

I’ve not had to stress about time or money.

I’ve learned valuable communication and leadership skills.

I’ve had time for friends and family when I needed them or they needed me.

I’ve been happy.

I’m leaving Automattic for personal reasons. While I love it here, after 7 years and most of my 20’s I want to do something different. Maybe work some place where they don’t have it all figured out, and help them get there. Maybe I’ll pursue creative projects that inherently don’t have any monetary return. I want to travel and learn more about other ways of living your life.

I also wouldn’t mind going to Mars. Just saying.

I’d like to thank Matt Mullenweg and Toni Schneider who believed in me and helped me grow as a person through all these years. I’ll always be grateful to you, and I only wish the very best for you and Automattic.

To all my fellow Automatticians** that I’ve grown so fond of over the years: thank you for making my everyday life at Automattic fun, inspiring, creative, and life-changing. You are some of the most talented people I’ll ever meet, and I know that you’re on the right path. Keep making the world better.

Thank you.
– Isaac


* Some random pictures, because why not

** Slang for a person that works at Automattic, also commonly referred to as A12n or A13s in addreviated singular and plural forms, respectively.

PPS. Automattic is hiring.

6 Years With Automattic

Photo of a customized Macbook Pro, 2012 edition, with the WordPress logo

September 20, 2008 signified a big milestone in my life: I achieved one of my life goals, to have co-founded a successful startup, and as a result I started working at Automattic.

For the next two years we continued working on IntenseDebate as we now had the resources and the expertise to really push the envelope. We made great strides towards a more cohesive and stable commenting system, and when it became time to let the project rest for a while it was in a really good place. It was something to be proud of.

Since then I’ve realized just how much I actually learned from creating IntenseDebate. It may have always been a bit rough around the edges, but the lessons I’ve learned from it are priceless. And many of the techniques we explored back then I still use every day now as a designer.

After a short stint working as a general designer I joined the newly formed Mobile Team as a team lead and designer. This was a brand new type of challenge for me, and I had no idea what to expect. I remember I asked Matt “Why me?”. Perhaps not the best thing to ask on your first day but I was genuinely curious. He just smiled and replied “Because you have all the right stuff.”

It may seem silly now, but at the time I was overwhelmed. Excited but cautious. Freaking out but trying to act the part.

The first few years I asked a lot of questions as soon as I had the chance. I watched other team leads to see what they did and more importantly how they did it. I tried to have a keen eye on my team: I wanted to create routines. I wanted to help provide an overview. I wanted to remove everything that stood in the way of getting real work done, even petty details. Above all I was trying to be someone you could depend on to have your back and help make things run smoother day by day.

After three and a half years with the Mobile Team it was time for me to do something different. I was worn out. A lot of things had changed in the mobile space and it became ever more important to Automattic as a whole. We grew the team from four to fourteen people while I was team lead, and shortly after I left we refocused on mobile across all product teams.

Now I’m a product designer on the Data Team. It gives me a bit of room to breathe and allows me to rediscover my passion for front-end design and creating good user experiences. The fact that I could switch jobs like this, and that many others like me are doing the same around Automattic regularly, is a testament to how great of a workplace Automattic is. There’s trust and there’s always room to learn new things.

6 years really just flew by.

Web Browser Market Shares

I found this awesome site that compares market shares globally between browsers. As of 2008-10-01, these are the biggest browsers in the world:

46% – Microsoft Internet Explorer 7
25% – Microsoft Internet Explorer 6
19% – Mozilla Firefox, any version
7% – Safari, any version (most likely including other browsers built on WebKit, such as Camino)
3% – Other browsers (Google Chrome, Opera, Netscape, etc)

Notable is also that Safari versions below 3.0 are at less than 0,02% of total market share.

Click here to go to marketshare.hitslink.com to read more.

At least in my job, knowing what browser your customers use to browse the web is crucial. Yet, you hear many different numbers from many sources, and you end up just making up your own numbers that seem somewhat correct. Different sites can be browsed by completely different browser users. For websites aimed at very tech-savvy people (think digg.com) generally Firefox has a much larger market share, whereas a site like myspace.com probably has less Firefox users than even the overall average market share of the browser.

When making a web service, it’s very important to recognize your limitations – but also your possibilites. Modern browsers support features older browsers don’t, and if you know that 75% of your audience uses a modern browser (such as Internet Explorer 7+, Firefox 2+, Safari 2+), it’s sometimes acceptable to design a feature aimed at these people, and doing a light version for the others. For me as a designer, a classic example is PNG-24 images, semi-transparent wonders that makes IE6 totally crap out. Therefore I do a less pretty version of the semi-transparent images for that browser, and most people that actually cares are happy in the end.

It’s an interesting and forever evolving topic, that’s for sure.