I am an Automattician. That is to say that today is my first day working at Automattic. It’s been a long road getting here and I’m thrilled it’s finally arrived.
Automattic is the company behind WordPress. WordPress itself is an open source project but there are a lot of services behind it and that’s where Automattic comes in. My role, specifically, is Technical Account Engineer on the Special Projects team. It’s like a Project Manager but more. If you follow the link just above, you will see that theywe work on some pretty amazing sites for some pretty amazing people. (And if you know what sites I’ve managed the last four years you will know how desperately I need to work on positive sites like these!)
I have known about Automattic for years as I have worked with WordPress in one form or another for over a decade now. They were always on my radar as a place I would love to work. And when I was laid off from my last job in October, I took a look at it again. And got encouragement from someone I met at a WordPress Meetup here in Rhode Island who works there. And the rest is history.
Today I train for my first two weeks working as part of the support team as a “Happiness Engineer” and then, two weeks from today, I begin my new role.
These last four months have been rough. Job searching is never fun and doing it around the holidays is a terrible time of year as no one really hires then. But my family has been fantastically supportive and we got through it and I have not only landed on my feet, but I feel like I landed with style.
I have a new obsession: French Press Coffee at Brewed Awakenings. Brewed is a chain in Rhode Island that has fantastic food, pleasant interiors, and, honest to Gods, the best damn coffee I have ever had. Their regular stuff is pretty good but on a whim I ordered the French Press one morning. I figured they’d make it fresh for me and I’d take it and go. But, it turns out, you are given a french press pot, and all the other supplies you need and after a few moments, you pour yourself an amazing cup of coffee. Along with my favorite breakfast sandwich, I now go there after I drop my son off at school and spend about an hour working into my day. It’s the perfect time to have breakfast, sip my coffee, and review my schedule and to do list. When I get to my home office, I am ready to start my day and the coffee is an amazing sustainer. More than any other coffee I have ever had, I feel like it just keeps me going.
I’m doing a lot of reading and research on modern parental attitudes towards their kids and social media. I’m writing about this on my other blog, Navigating the Waters (and am overdue to post something but I want to finish at least one of these books first). One thing that I am finding over and over is the fact that so much of parental attitudes towards their kids (both from Free Range Kids and from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens) is due to the echo chamber of the media.
Noam Chomsky famously put forth the idea that news is often biased by what sells. One example (from an article by him I read in grad school and cannot for the life of me find online to cite here) is how in the 80’s, the New York Times reporting on the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua was overwhelmingly anti-Sandinista, something that did not reflect the reality on the ground. He contends that the reason the paper did not print more than a tiny handful of pro-Sandinista op-eds is because the common belief was that they were horrible people and that saying otherwise would hurt newspaper sales. Essentially, news is a business and they have to print what people accept. If they don’t, people won’t buy the paper.
Regarding teens, the dominant meme in the media is that they are in constant danger and social media is a horrible thing that is making their lives hell, making them dumber, hurting their future, and all kinds of things like that. I will speak about this in greater detail in a forthcoming article in Navigating the Waters. But I find it a fascinating subject. And I see the media trying to combat it but they are doing it in a ham-fisted way with the false equivelency. Now they will present one side of the story and in an effort to be fair, they will present something or someone on the other side, regardless of how ridiculous it might be. This is why, despite the vast majority of scientists accepting global climate change, we always have to hear from the one who does not agree as if this dissenting view is equal to the other. Same with giving equal time to intelligent design/creationists despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for any of that and there is overwhelming evidence on the other side. This is why any time someone comes out and says that social media is actually a good thing in the lives of many teens, we have to hear from so-called parenting experts who have done no research and only have their unfounded opinions to share tell us how wrong the researchers are.
This brings me back to my morning french press. Brewed has a policy of always having Fox News on at least one of their tvs. Much has been written and researched about their complete lack of objectivity and the many subtle things they do to influence opinions. And they are hardly the only ones who do it, they’re just the most blatant.
I just find a nice seat where I don’t have to watch it (spoiler: It’s Obama’s fault, whatever it is) and I’m happy. Every so often, MSNBC is on for some inexplicable reason and I watch other regulars get worked up about it. “Can you turn off that propoganda and put Fox back on?” I am amused.
But I think about media that caters to specific groups. People get what they want to hear. Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. I try to get my news from multiple sources to get a more complete picture. This includes the New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, and so forth. But I have a liberal arts degree from Dartmouth College and if any one thing was drummed into my head it was to always find as many sources as possible.
Despite all that, I love my morning french press. Much as Colin Firth’s saddest time of the day is driving Aurelia home in Love, Actually, mine is realizing I am near the bottom of my morning coffee. But the swirl of dark brown at the bottom of my cup promises one last blast of flavor before the end. Reminds me of camp coffee when we’d camp with my son’s troop. There were always grounds in the coffee. I loved it. I called it the crunchy surprise at the center.
There is one upside to looking for a new job, you get to speak to a lot of friends and colleagues you haven’t spoken to for some time. I try to stay in touch with people and there’s quite a few I do manage to speak to regularly (and one I keep finding jobs for and owes me more than a few *cough* *cough*) but there are those few that I have not been in touch with for some time. So, today I sent out an email to a large number of people looking for ideas/leads/encouragement/whatever and I’m getting all these great emails back from people and getting caught up on their lives. So, silver lining.
The flipside, of course, is that I am, in fact, looking for new work. I’ve had a wonderful 3 years leading the development team at Ozmott but by April 1, I need a new job. I’ve learned a great deal these past few years that I can bring to my new employers and am looking forward to learning new things there as well. So, there it is. Resume available on request, just drop me an email at Andy at the domain of this website (really not that hard an email to figure out…)
Oh, and if you did not get an email from me (and you think you should have) then I humbly apologize and invite you to chastise me in an email (where I will blame an out of date email address for the problem.)
Since we returned to New England in late 2005 I’ve been working as an IT Project Manager in Big Pharma. Three years at Pfizer, one at Merck, and then one more back at Pfizer again. I’ve learned a great deal and made many great connections and more than a few good friends in the process and I could happily continue on this path were it not for an old friend from college.
My current contract at Pfizer is a quick three month stint up in Cambridge, MA, my old stomping grounds from grad school. I don’t actually mind the commute, I’d recently become an Audible.com addict and I’ve “read” a great many books thanks to the drive. And I also got to see many old friends (and hopefully will see a few more before my last day next Friday). But because the contract is only 3 months, I started looking for my next contract almost immediately. I’ve learned in this line of work that you always keep looking for new work and that you make every effort to have the next gig lined up when the current one ends so you have no unpaid downtime. Last year it didn’t work out that well and I ended up having to leave Merck sooner than I’d wanted to start a high profile project at Pfizer.
Early into this process my cell phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and was floored. It was Joe, a buddy of mine from college I hadn’t spoken to in something like 17 years (no, I am not counting that initial, “Dood! How you been?!” message that is mandatory for all Facebook reconnects). I answered and everything changed.
Long story short, I am joining Joe on a four month sprint to get a new service to market that is web-based as well as iPhone- and Android-based. I jokingly tell friends, “I’m going to write an app with a friend from college and get rich!” But the truth of the matter is that Joe has a killer idea and the months to follow are going to be intense and exciting.
So I am sad to be leaving Pfizer (again) and if this venture fails I may yet return a third time. But, I’m filled with optimism and I feel more alive now than I have in some time: I’m taking a risk with a large potential payoff and even though it is scary, it is also exhilarating and something I have desperately needed for some time now.
I never do New Year’s resolutions but I was inspired to do so this year. Ann and I have been pushing hard the last year or so to improve our lives. She’s started taking classes at RISD, I’ve returned to the theater, our son has crossed over from Cub Scouts to a Boy Scout troop, we’re renovating the house Ann grew up in, and other smaller projects as well. The one major area we had not touched was my career. I felt that I needed to push myself so I resolved to change things up, take some risks, and finally move forward instead of playing it safe as I had been. It only took a few weeks into the new year before the opportunity presented itself!
I don’t know what the future holds but I am excited to be taking an active part in it again for myself and for my family.
What’s really fun is figuring out what tools I need to manage a project working entirely on a Mac. At Pfizer and Merck everything was Windows and Sharepoint and Microsoft Project and Outlook. Those tools are all fine but now it’s MacOS X and Dropbox and OmniPlan and Mail.app and BusyCal. I’m playing with Basecamp, Campfire, and Backpack, I’m investigating Flow, and considering a number of other tools (especially ones that interop well with an iPad and iPhone). We’re experimenting with FaceTime, iChat video chat, Skype video chat, and even Xbox Kinect video chat (though that one is a non-starter for many reasons).
And, of course, my days are spent wrapping up my work at Pfizer and preparing the transition plans because, of course, once we were well down the road to making this a reality, they extended my contract. Between days working for Pfizer and nights planning the new venture and taking my son to Karate classes, Troop meetings and campouts, working crew for the latest Swamp Meadow Community Theatre show (Footloose), and helping back at the Pack as an Assistant Den Leader for the Bears I am pretty busy. But it’s a good busy and am having a great time.
So, that should explain why I’ve been so quiet on this site for a bit. And why I almost certainly will continue being quiet for the next while.