Becoming a Happiness Engineer


It was just about a year ago when my world was completely rocked. In an ironic quirk of fate, I found my dream job in technology while crashing a website. How (not) cool is that?


For almost 20 years I worked from home as a freelance writer, specializing in children’s media. Then a friend who liked my work-from-home lifestyle encouraged me to learn Python and work for his company. That was great for a while, then the job ended.

What was I to do? As I contemplated re-entering the professional writing world, I began volunteering to help at the local ski resort where my family likes to play — Swain Resort. That turned into a full-time job, which I absolutely loved. I loved interacting with people in customer service, playing with the technology, and taking snowboarding breaks. I was able to work with friends, and my kids and husband worked there, too. Life was pretty good.

There were only a few things missing:

  • I really missed having the freedom to set my own schedule. It was particularly difficult when I wanted to visit my aging mother-in-law while keeping up with my kids at home.
  • I missed working with code.
  • I also hated commuting. The bitter-sweet part of working at a ski resort is the best days at the slopes are the worst on the roads. And I’m a really wussy driver, tbh. I admit it.

Then something really cool happened. I crashed the ski slope’s website. 


Not gonna lie, it didn’t seem cool at the time. I was in a complete panic as I called up a past consultant for help. He fixed it (I have since come to learn, thanks to some tips at a WordCamp, that I had an extra space in the PHP of a plugin I was editing, and that’s what crashed the site). The incident prompted me to immediately purchase VaultPress.

I hit the site a few times when in the purchasing process. An ad popped up asking if I wanted to be a Happiness Engineer. That title was completely intriguing to me. I thought it was something Disney, and since I’m all about Disney, I clicked it.

What I saw stopped me in my tracks.

I have an eclectic background. I have a degree in elementary education, I ran a licensed Head Start home daycare, I wrote, I coded, I performed unit and integration tests in Python for a business, I worked customer service in a ski resort, I volunteered at a local library–teaching people to use electronic devices… and these all wrapped up in one beautiful package that made me the perfect candidate for the Happiness Engineer position that Automattic was offering. It was better than Disney! I printed the job description to dream about.

I knew it was my dream job, but I felt hesitant to apply. What if I didn’t make it? What if I didn’t know enough about WordPress? Again, just like driving on snowy roads, the wuss side of me came out. I showed the paper to family and friends and said “This is my dream job!” But I didn’t apply…until I saw Darnell’s write-up about his experiences.

It’s okay to apply and fail. The company doesn’t give up on you. That’s what I learned. So it wouldn’t hurt to apply. It wasn’t a one-shot deal. A dream is worth working for, and this was my dream. So I applied at the end of April 2014.

And I didn’t hear back for weeks. I sent a follow-up note near the end of May. And still didn’t hear back. It was okay since I loved my ski resort job. And now I knew I could re-apply regularly. My plan was to keep active in the forums and try again.

In July, while I was working security at the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous in a remote part of PA (can you say limited Internet?) I was invited to an interview.

My Dreams Take Shape

After working security all night, I drove into a nearby town to conduct my interview using McDonald’s wi-fi. It went well, and after another interview and a project I began my trial.

That trial was really tough. And that’s an understatement. I only made it through thanks to the support of amazing family and friends. I knew the process of learning would be difficult, but I didn’t brace myself for the emotional impact of it all. The more I interacted with other Automattic workers, and the more I worked with people who wanted my help, the more I fell in love with the position. I was terrified I would be cut off. Even if I had a chance to start again.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in my trial was to pace myself and not over-work. The goal of being a good employee for Automattic is quality over quantity. Unlike the last coding job suggested to me (90 hrs a week), this work environment evaluated me on how I cared for myself and my family and friends while providing help for others at work. It’s all an important balance, and one I now value deeply.

I Made It!

The dream job. Now mine. Four months later, it’s still kind of a shock. Since my hiring I have been to Utah for a Grand Meetup of all Automattic employees (where I got to go sky-diving as a team bonding experience), I have been to Barcelona to meet my team, been to Saratoga Springs, NY and to Toronto for WordCamps, and I have gotten to meet amazing people from all around the world who are getting their voices heard through WordPress.

I am on the live chat team, so I get to interact with people every day! And I also get to test for bugs in our new app releases, and I get to work with people from all over the world. My office is in my home, and I can visit my mother-in-law whenever I want. Life is so amazingly good.

Automattic understands that happy workers provide quality service. My home is happy, and my work is solid. I look forward to getting up every day to meet more awesome people online and help them solve some issues.

If you love people, code, helping others, or just want to be part of the WordPress team, check out our job openings. We are hiring 🙂

27 responses to “Becoming a Happiness Engineer”

  1. I am so happy that you applied and that you are now sharing your story. And I am mostly glad that I can now call you co-worker and friend. Great read.

    • Thanks, Darnell. And thank you so much for writing the blog that inspired me so much. I love being your co-worker and friend.

    • Thanks, Pam! So many fun times already and many more to come. Love being on your team, too 🙂

  2. Hey Chrissie! Your story is awesome and inspiring just like Darnell’s! I’ve read your post and Darnell’s and it has inspired me to pursue the HE position also. I hope to call myself an Automattician one of these days!

    • That’s great to hear! It’s definitely a dream job. All best to you.

  3. Everyone has dream job out there somewhere. Some never find it. So glad you did. Working in ‘your zone’ makes work more like play. Thanks for commenting on my photo that pops.

  4. How wonderful for you that you found your niche! I’m so glad for you; I know as an Automattician’s mom what a fabulous employer Automattic is! Enjoy!

  5. Thanks for sharing about your journey! I am so looking forward to getting my application in to Automattic and see if this will be a good fit for me!

  6. This is just what I needed to read! I didn’t make it to trial when I applied, but I got an interview. I’m currently working on my WordPress skills and reapplying to Automattic before this years end. Thanks for posting!

    • That’s great you are working on it more. Definitely try again. My son applied and didn’t make it to interview, but he is doing the same as you. Brushing up on his work and trying again 🙂

  7. Hi Chrissie,
    This was inspiring to read, since I also just applied for Happiness Engineer! I truly hope that I get the chance to become part of your team – I come from a Hospitality/customer service background and I’m positive I can contribute…let’s see if it happens! I learned that when you really want something to happen, the Universe conspires to helping you achieve it!!

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