As a distributed company, communication is our oxygen.
It’s in our creed: “I will communicate as much as possible.” This starts with using our own team blogs, powered by P2, the WordPress theme for group collaboration. Fast, flexible, and fun, P2s make it easy to keep up with the company and our many teams in more than 75 countries around the world. Contributing to projects starts with P2s, too. We have a saying: “P2 or it never happened.”
Developers track about 70% of our projects on P2s, 25% in private chat rooms, and the rest on Slack. Only about 1% of communication is done through email, and that’s mostly to external sources.
Because of the geographic variance, we’re active 24/7 and are continuously working on our communication styles in all formats, including in person. There are many times when we cross continents and timezones to work together, most notably in our annual Grand Meetups, when the entire company gets together in a different location for seven days. Our Grand Meetups have previously been held in San Francisco; Budapest, Hungary; Park City, Utah; and Whistler, Canada just to name a few. 😉 We also have smaller team meetups (around 5–7 days long) where the focus is on experimenting and shipping products together.
Open Source Contributor
We believe open source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.
Automattic’s roots are open source. Several of our engineering teams actively contribute to open source and view it as part of our four freedoms. As our CEO Matt Mullenweg puts it, “Good ideas aren’t the sole province of groups of people behind high walls, and software shouldn’t be either.”
Of course, WordPress.org is the base of the software used to power WordPress.com. And WordPress.com is synced nearly daily with the WordPress trunk. An Automattic team works full-time on the open source publishing platform WordPress, and we make public our discussions about our work.
We contribute to a number of projects (also including WP for iOS, WP for Android, P2 Theme, BuddyPress, bbPress, WP Job Manager, and WordCamp US) making most of our work available via the GPL.
However, we also understand (thanks to our engineering team’s recent user study on tech hiring) that our open source commitment can be a double-edged sword for some candidates and employees. We recognize the time commitment and open source culture isn’t for everyone and, as Cate Huston, lead of the Developer Experience team wrote, “We’re considering how to improve our messaging on this important value for our company.”
Committed to Personal Growth
The first line of our creed: “I’ll never stop learning.”
We’re also proud of Automattic TV, which is full of video series such as Code Like Gold (programming presentations and demos), The People Lab (a speaker series featuring Diversity & Inclusion and HR topics), Flash Talks (short talks we give at Grand Meetups on a range of topics), our regular Town Halls, and more. Automatticians have access to a professional coach and up to 10 coaching sessions per calendar year (16 for team leads).
Learning at Automattic starts with a hiring process that hopefully removes stress and bias, and helps candidates become familiar with how we work, so you can hit the ground running. Onboarding starts with a friendly welcome and self-introduction to the entire distributed team. You'll then embark on a two-week support rotation to learn about our users and our incredible customer support system, Happiness.
We embrace a two-sided process. Our distributed team and culture need to fit your goals, lifestyle, and values just as much as you fit ours.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Set up remotely in a way that works for you — and take the time off you need.
While we embrace the home office and give you ample tools to set up one that works for you, we also recognize that working at home can leave some feeling isolated or in need of social interactions. (Or sometimes those who live with you need a break. 😉) That’s why we support multiple ways of working remote, including reimbursing coworking fees and covering the currency of working in cafes (go ahead and expense your favorite latte).
You can also break up your day however you like. Want to go to the gym at 10 a.m.? Go for it. Whether you prefer to work early mornings or evenings, we’re flexible.
As a distributed team, we constantly assess and share what we learn with each other about our routines and managing time zones. We summarize our outcomes in biweekly P2 updates and talk about our non-work goals and how we balance it all. If you can’t get enough on the future of work, and how we’re living it, check out Matt’s podcast at Distributed.Blog.
Oh, btw, we also believe in taking a break. Haven’t been AFK (Away from Keyboard) for a while? Please go now. Been here 5 years? Take a sabbatical!
Below are photos from our team members working all over the world. From left to right, top to bottom, we have South Africa, Peru, Greece, Mexico, France, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, and Portugal!
High Employee Retention
Automattic employees tend to stay at Automattic: Our retention rate for Code Wranglers and JS Engineers is 86% over the last 5 years.
By the end of your (typically) six-month program, you’ll know the details, from travel tips and internal tools to how we communicate in our distributed setup. More importantly, you’ll have a friend outside of your team and an understanding of what most teams do at Automattic.
Your work isn’t fully reflected in your assigned responsibilities or documented in whichever task tracker your team might use. We give you autonomy so you can make an impact beyond your role. And we believe in bringing something above and beyond your role to your team and our company.
When it’s time for a change, Automatticians are encouraged to consider switching teams. For example, our Happiness Engineers (technical support) do 3-month rotations working on new products and have transitioned to Code Wranglers, QA Engineers, and Technical Account Managers. Meanwhile, developers regularly switch teams to work on other products within Automattic. This type of change gives you a fresh perspective as you dive into different projects the company is working on and live up to our Creed: “I will never stop learning.”
Heavily Team Oriented
Teams are how we organize: Our work. Our communication. Our meetups. Our Impact.
When our founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg talks about the Future of Work (as he does in his podcast, Distributed, and in a recently published TED talk) he shares his belief that distributed teams are a big part of that future. And we know, from years of hiring and from our recent user research study on hiring, that talented and diverse candidates might be just as interested in pursuing a role with a specific team, versus simply pursuing a specific role.
We go to great lengths to help each team in our company continuously iterate, share feedback, and meet goals. All full-time Automatticians are members of a certain team, and work as closely with their teammates as possible on all tasks. All teams have areas of responsibility, but can choose to go outside them. Teams have names that aren’t descriptive, because teams aren’t limited in the ways they can influence any part of the company.
Automattic teams also have their own unique rituals, from how they hold standups in Slack with geekbot or take turns writing biweekly updates for other teams, or how they kick off projects and celebrate successes.
Teams are so central to how we work that our Team Leads are less managers, and more leaders. They help employees cultivate opportunities for impact and growth, while staying on top of the vision and goals for their team and all of Automattic. Developer Team Leads spend time with extra coaching sessions, biweekly leads roundtables, and get-togethers at relevant lead dev events.
In fact, we’re so constantly iterating on the tools that help our teams perform well together that in 2019 we launched Happy Tools, a suite of products for handling scheduling, customer support, and other things that help distributed teams navigate the future of work.
Engages with Community
We are more motivated by impact than money.
Given our strong ties to WordPress, participating and making an impact in the web community has always been at the forefront of working at Automattic. One community-building staple: WordCamp, informal conferences organized locally by people in the WordPress community. Automatticians regularly attend, speak, or volunteer to help organize WordCamp, and if there isn’t a WordCamp within 60 miles/100 kilometers, we cover expenses for attending.
Automatticians getting involved in local or global communities, for software developers and beyond, including Head of Mobile Eli Budelli speaking at try! Swift, and JS Engineer Lena Morita, serving as a Director of the Tokyo chapter of Woman Who Code.
Giving back to the developer community — on WordPress and beyond — is a greater priority today than ever before in our company’s history. Understanding and improving diversity of all types in our hiring and team composition has taken center stage. We’re proud to share our recent study of how technical women can best navigate their careers, but the work in diversity is just beginning. We’re working on it each day, whether it’s participating in Mindset Month (a 6-module video series) with our partners at the CoachDiversity Institute, or constantly iterating our approach to diversity and inclusion.
First and foremost, we are an engineering company. Engineers are the ambassadors of our company and community.
Engineers at Automattic drive our culture, and drive a variety of codebases and processes devoted to making the web a better place. WordPress websites power 34% of the websites on the internet and see over 162M unique visitors per month in the US alone; that’s a lot of opportunity to make an impact.
Distributed around the world and with varied backgrounds, interests, and expertise, our engineers are ambassadors of our company and community. They collaborate with the other roles at Automattic to define, implement, and improve the experience for our passionate and loyal customers.
As founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg discussed in a Techcrunch interview upon our announcement of raising $300M from a new partner in Salesforce Ventures, we don’t plan to change the roadmap of launching and constantly iterating our products.