Ageism and Automattic

Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).
Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).
Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-worker Jen Hooks at our company’s Grand Meetup at Whistler).

About a week ago I read an article on age and the workplace that was a bit chilling. It linked to a study, which shows that in the tech industry

43% of employees worry about losing their job due to their age

The thought was sobering. Downright sad. And scary.

What really gets me about all this is the fact that this is the tech industry we are talking about. While I know computers “became a thing” over a century ago, the people who really got the momentum going for the techie-world we work and thrive in now are now are still alive. This is not a history lesson from some old moldy book. We have the pioneers living right in our midst. Why in the world would we not want to tap into this knowledge?

It reminded me once again of how fortunate I am to be working at Automattic, Inc where we constantly strive to maintain and cultivate an inclusive environment. Inclusivity refers not only to race and gender but also to many other facets of one’s being. This includes age, geographic location, disabilities, etc.

Our company currently has a bit over 600 employees, and over 80 of us are over 40-years-old. I was 42 when I was hired.

Not only do I not fear for my age being a factor in my job, I often feel that my age is considered an asset. Yes, we do have/have had young people working in the company. Brilliant, energetic individuals who might not have experienced their first legal alcoholic drink yet. But we also have people decades older than my current 45 years. We all have something unique to bring to the table, and overall, it helps us provide a better product for our customers and relate in different ways as we offer customer support.

I wish other companies would realize that.

The report suggests ways for companies to become more inclusive in regard to age. Our company not only implemented those suggestions long before my hiring, but it is constantly re-evaluating to make sure all our needs are met.

For example, as a mid-forty-year-old woman, I’m now in the sandwich generation. The company allows me to set my own schedule so I can take time to be with my kids when they are home from college or visiting, and I can also arrange my work days so I have the flexibility to take my mother-in-law to doctor appointments and on errands.

I, myself, have some of the fun health issues that come with age and life-experiences. My arthritic fingers balk at typing and mouse-use at times. The company provides me with the keyboards and special mouse options I need to relieve that pain.

What does the company get in return? Well, for one thing, I’m so grateful for flexibility in schedule that I will happily work overtime if it’s necessary (and sometimes even when it’s not because this job is so wonderful, it’s addicting). I offer life-lessons I have learned from things that have worked or not worked in past experiences. Also, as stated in the study linked above:

Research by David Galenson of the University of Chicago showed that approaches to problem-solving differ between generations, and Galenson found that older people tend to do better at solving thorny, complicated problems due to the deeper levels of understanding they have acquired over the course of their careers.

Good stuff, that. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it’s been in my thoughts this week. And I’m really thankful for my job.

BTW, if you are into tech and/or customer support, we’re hiring (and age won’t be a factor against you 😉 ).

Another Son Heads to Utah

img_0472Aaaaah, the call of the mountains.

CJ and Lauren raved about life out west so much that Zeb decided to give it a try. On Wednesday he headed out to work at Deer Valley (where CJ is a ski instructor, and Lauren works with housing).

I’m proud of his willingness to venture away from the safe zone of home. And I’m super proud of his mad travel skills. That backpack carries all he felt he needed through at least April!

I think I would have been a bit sad about his leaving, but I knew I’d be seeing him soon. We’re headed to visit the young adults and hit some slopes this week! Wahoo!

And from the pics he texted, I’m thinking he’s all right with the move 😉

(Images shared with permission from Zeb)

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?

Background

snowboardingFor 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. 

Changes

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!

DCIM202GOPROThe 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 🙂