My last day at Automattic

It started with a tweet. WooThemes, a company whose products I’d purchased & used many times before and brand I’d followed for years, were hiring. I’d never really worked for any one company before. I’d never even considered it, having never even looked for a job. But that tweet stood out to me and moments later I fired off an email saying I was interested.

A few weeks went by and after a few interviews, I was in. I still remember that moment when I got the offer and it wasn’t until right then that I realised how much I wanted it.

For years I’d just built my own things, worked in the shadows and gotten by. But in that moment I was given the chance to learn from and work with people I’d admired from afar for years – to become friends with them, to travel with them, to know them – and while I didn’t know it at the time, I needed more than anything.

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I look back at that first year at WooThemes and think about what we as a team accomplished and it blows my mind that it was just that – a year. During those 12 months I was fortunate enough to be moved into a full-time developer role, something I’d never imagined I would be paid to do. I got to travel internationally for work several times, help out on countless open-source and paid products, and improve the user experience for our 100,000’s of users.

I remember many years ago while I was learning to code, I saw a tweet from WooThemes about their site redesign. I replied congratulating them but asking why it wasn’t responsive on mobile. They said it was coming soon but wasn’t a priority at the time. Years later, I ended up working on the project to make the site responsive.

The experience I gained over that year at WooThemes was invaluable and only comparable to the year that followed. The year at Automattic.

I remember the night we got the news quite well. My girlfriend and I were travelling around Korea and staying the night in the small historical town of Gyeongju. We’d spent the day walking around the city and I remember a conversation we had about my future of WooThemes. What would I be working on for the rest of the year? What role could I move into next? Where would we meet for the company trip later in the year?

All those questions were answered by the time we got back to the hotel and had internet again. I checked my email before going to bed and froze. We were getting acquired by Automattic. I’d never even considered it as a possibility. I didn’t even believe it at the time – thinking maybe it was some trick they were playing on us or a delayed April Fools joke. But I soon realised it was real, it was happening, and it was a good thing – a very good thing.

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A week later I was in Chicago with my team, digesting the news together over beers and thinking about our future at Automattic. We were going from 50 people to over 400. What would change? Would we move teams? I suppose you could compare the feeling to that of moving schools. Things were comfortable and predictable before and now everything’s changing. But were they changing for the good?

A month after that I was in Seville, Spain, giving a talk at WordCamp Europe to a 1000 people, many of whom I’d respected and admired for years. And while I’d never given a talk to that many people before, I was far more nervous to meet some of my future Automattic colleagues that were also there for the conference. But there was no need to be nervous. It was love at first sight and I knew the future was bright. The people I would be working with were kind, welcoming and fun. I officially started at Automattic a few days later from an Airbnb in Malaysia.

The last year has been a rollercoaster with far more ups then downs. I somehow managed to meet close to 50% of the company. I got to work with my previous Woo team and several talented newcomers. I think I travelled internationally every month for the past 12 months, flying something like 350,000km. I was fortunate to be given the chance to speak and represent Automattic at several events, especially WooConf where I gave my favourite talk ever.

I look around me and am so grateful to Automattic because almost everything I have is because of them. All the experiences, all the comfort, all the knowledge – directly because of Automattic, WooCommerce and the hundreds of amazing people I got the chance to work with over the last couple years. There’s so many people (100+) I could thank and acknowledge here but I’m confident you all know who you are.

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Tomorrow is my last day at Automattic. A few weeks ago I put in my notice and started saying my goodbyes. While it has been a difficult decision to make, it’s the right one for me and I’m grateful to everyone I work with for being so supportive of me even though from the outside I look crazy leaving one of the best companies in the world.

What’s next? I’m going to try build my own product; my own company. It’s going to be challenging and scary but I can’t put into words how excited I am to get started. I want to keep things as a surprise but I will say that it’s an old idea I’ve had for a while and WooCommerce (ecommerce) related. I plan on getting started next week and hope to have a beta/something to share as soon as possible – no matter how many sleepless nights and sore fingers it takes!

If you want to know more, follow me on Twitter and/or sign up to the weekly newsletter I’ve been sending for the past few months, Pivoting.

And to everyone at Automattic and in the WordPress/startup space – thank you.

 

Thoughts on No Man’s Sky

Maybe you were living under a rock the past week and didn’t hear about No Man’s Sky. Or maybe you don’t care. Either way it’s okay. But now that you’re reading this, let me tell you a bit about it and why I think it’s one of the most brilliant games I’ve ever played.

It’s a game set in space. You play alone, flying across galaxies going planet to planet, collecting resources and items while discovering new plants, species and universes.

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Besides the fact that the game is visually stunning, it’s receiving a lot of attention because of how big it is. There are 18 quintillion planets. I don’t even know how many 0’s that is. The creators – the tiny game studio Hello Games – has stated that to visit each and every planet for just 1 second, it would take you over 5 billion years.

There are a lot of conversations currently taking place around the game. Some people love it, some don’t. That’s to be expected. But one common argument I’ve seen the non-lovers use is that while the game is beautiful (it really is), exciting and unique, it lacks focus.

No one can argue that. You play alone, there’s not really a story and probably the scariest part of it all is that the game is so vast; so infinite (like our own universe) that you can never even hope to ever complete the game. To me, this is not a flaw.

As a species we expect everything to have a start and an end. There’s a goal to everything, whether it’s your day, month, year. There’s a time during everything that you can define as the moment of success; of completion. We expect things to be this way because it’s comforting and makes life feel like it has more purpose then it really does.

No Man’s Sky challenges all of this. It takes our expectations and says “fuck that – that’s not real”. It places us in a reality not so different from our own and provides a unique and captivating experience that lets you trade one reality for another.

The most surprising realisation is that with all the games we’ve grown to love, from Call of Duty to Pokemon Go to Grand Theft Auto, the realest game of all to me is No Man’s Sky. It’s both the truest and scariest reflection of the world we live in and a constant reminder that the universe is whole lot bigger than any single one of us.

PS. If you’ve already fallen in love with the art of No Man’s Sky, here’s a bit more of it.