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.
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.
I have to admit it’s very weird being back at Pfizer. It’s all so very familiar and yet so much has changed. There are some old friends and colleagues still around (or just returning) but, for the most part, the people I did most of my work with and for are no longer there. I walk around the Groton and New London offices and keep expecting to see people I know and only seeing strangers. I’ve only been gone a year and change and yet it’s all very different.
The work, however, has not changed. Granted, when I was there last I was working more on the portfolio/PMO side and now I am back to being a Project Manager but the processes have not changed significantly. I slipped right into the work like a comfortable shoe and am plugging away on what needs to be done. Yet, when I walk around I feel like a stranger in an incredibly familiar land. Imagine if they took everyone where you worked and replaced them with strangers and then think how weird it would be to walk around the office. That’s what it feels like. I guess when you’ve been somewhere for so long in the past, the feeling of being new is terribly at odds with the familiarity of the place and the work itself. It feels like one of those TV shows that changes more than half the cast between seasons when you thought it was over in the first place and while it’s the same show, it’s completely different and it’s weird watching it.