On Work, Life, and Leaving Automattic

Thank you note to Automattic, the best place to work.

I’m fortunate to have spent most of my adult life at Automattic. You see, it was my top choice for a company to work for back in 2007, and in retrospect I’m so proud that I ended up here.

Automattic is a very real representation of my life, the way I’ve lived, loved, and gone about my days. A way of living that, in some regards, I started in middle school.

A little background: up until high school I attended a Montessori school. Like all schools, they have to teach a predefined curriculum, but this doesn’t stipulate how teach it. For us it meant a lot of “free project time” where we’d work on any subject we wanted from a grand list.

We could either work on a project or goof around.

While I’d struggle to get started, I took great pleasure in seeing these projects come together. Some of our finished papers were ledgers, detailing how the Roman empire worked or gave an overview of all the religions currently present on earth.

Every time I’m doing spring cleaning I come across these masterpieces and I can’t bear myself to throw them away. Many even had spiffy title pages!

Work, Life

Being able to manage your own time and work on projects you actually care about are for me the fundamentals in a healthy work-life relationship. It gives you the power to lead a life that’s true to you.

In a world where 1’s and 0’s are just shuffled around, there’s no need to commute to work. Any screen around you is now a computer. The time you save working from wherever you are instead of wherever you’re supposed to be is time saved to pursue your passions and lead a more healthy and productive life — both professionally and personally. This means more time for family, friends, pet-projects, but also time to do excellent professional work of better quality.

Humans are not great at dealing with stress in the workplace. If you’re able to prioritize your work yourself, in an open environment like your home, it means that the time you save is your time. You decide what to do in your own time. Maybe you go make a delicious cup of tea, or you spend another hour reviewing and perfecting the code you just wrote.

Here’s the kicker: However you spend your extra time, both your life and your work will benefit.

Tea reinvigorates the soul and makes you less stressed or more alert. Perfecting your craft makes you more confident and instigates pride. Whatever you do with your own time, make it worthwhile and true to you.

Leaving Automattic

Imagine having time to “Always Be Charging”.

I spent 7 years working for Automattic. It’s a testament to how great of a workplace it really is.

I’ve managed my own time.

I’ve been able to pursue projects I like.

I’ve been able to switch roles within the company multiple times.

I’ve travelled the world*, met coworkers and people from the larger WordPress community.

I’ve been able to practice speaking in front of audiences at conferences and company meetups.

I’ve not had to stress about time or money.

I’ve learned valuable communication and leadership skills.

I’ve had time for friends and family when I needed them or they needed me.

I’ve been happy.

I’m leaving Automattic for personal reasons. While I love it here, after 7 years and most of my 20’s I want to do something different. Maybe work some place where they don’t have it all figured out, and help them get there. Maybe I’ll pursue creative projects that inherently don’t have any monetary return. I want to travel and learn more about other ways of living your life.

I also wouldn’t mind going to Mars. Just saying.

I’d like to thank Matt Mullenweg and Toni Schneider who believed in me and helped me grow as a person through all these years. I’ll always be grateful to you, and I only wish the very best for you and Automattic.

To all my fellow Automatticians** that I’ve grown so fond of over the years: thank you for making my everyday life at Automattic fun, inspiring, creative, and life-changing. You are some of the most talented people I’ll ever meet, and I know that you’re on the right path. Keep making the world better.

Thank you.
– Isaac

PS.

* Some random pictures, because why not

** Slang for a person that works at Automattic, also commonly referred to as A12n or A13s in addreviated singular and plural forms, respectively.

PPS. Automattic is hiring.

6 Years With Automattic

Photo of a customized Macbook Pro, 2012 edition, with the WordPress logo

September 20, 2008 signified a big milestone in my life: I achieved one of my life goals, to have co-founded a successful startup, and as a result I started working at Automattic.

For the next two years we continued working on IntenseDebate as we now had the resources and the expertise to really push the envelope. We made great strides towards a more cohesive and stable commenting system, and when it became time to let the project rest for a while it was in a really good place. It was something to be proud of.

Since then I’ve realized just how much I actually learned from creating IntenseDebate. It may have always been a bit rough around the edges, but the lessons I’ve learned from it are priceless. And many of the techniques we explored back then I still use every day now as a designer.

After a short stint working as a general designer I joined the newly formed Mobile Team as a team lead and designer. This was a brand new type of challenge for me, and I had no idea what to expect. I remember I asked Matt “Why me?”. Perhaps not the best thing to ask on your first day but I was genuinely curious. He just smiled and replied “Because you have all the right stuff.”

It may seem silly now, but at the time I was overwhelmed. Excited but cautious. Freaking out but trying to act the part.

The first few years I asked a lot of questions as soon as I had the chance. I watched other team leads to see what they did and more importantly how they did it. I tried to have a keen eye on my team: I wanted to create routines. I wanted to help provide an overview. I wanted to remove everything that stood in the way of getting real work done, even petty details. Above all I was trying to be someone you could depend on to have your back and help make things run smoother day by day.

After three and a half years with the Mobile Team it was time for me to do something different. I was worn out. A lot of things had changed in the mobile space and it became ever more important to Automattic as a whole. We grew the team from four to fourteen people while I was team lead, and shortly after I left we refocused on mobile across all product teams.

Now I’m a product designer on the Data Team. It gives me a bit of room to breathe and allows me to rediscover my passion for front-end design and creating good user experiences. The fact that I could switch jobs like this, and that many others like me are doing the same around Automattic regularly, is a testament to how great of a workplace Automattic is. There’s trust and there’s always room to learn new things.

6 years really just flew by.

I’m a Product Designer

Mural in Copenhagen, DenmarkSince 2010 I’ve been the Team Lead and part time designer for the Mobile Team at Automattic. My role changed a bit over time and while I learned a lot, after three years it was time for a change.

A week ago I took on the role as designer on the Data team. The Data team is working on things like the Stats panel, Notifications, and sharing options. For me, this means thinking about ways to make publishers and readers alike happier whenever they come back to WordPress.com.

My passion for creating thought-through experiences through pixel perfect design was the reason I got into the web design business in the first place. First with a small web studio, then as the co-founder of IntenseDebate. After TechStars and getting acquired by Automattic in 2008, I spent another two years focusing on the design aspects of IntenseDebate and other services around WordPress.com.

Working with the Mobile folks at Automattic is one of the most challenging and fun experiences I’ve ever had. They’re all great guys, and very good at what they do. I found myself spending all my time thinking about ways we could improve on the mobile WordPress experience as well as how to make the team function the best it could.

I realized not long ago that I was so caught up in the mobile side of WordPress that I stopped having ideas and streaks of inspiration for other sides of what Automattic does, and where the industry is heading at large. Sure, I’ve been opinionated and very vocal about things like front-end editing, having a great onboarding experience, or about the need to figure out how to to give readers better content — just to name a few. But it’s about staying ahead of the curve. Very rarely did I have a “Heureka!” moment.

Maybe I should soak in the tub more often.

The last few days I hung out with the lead of the Data team, Martin Remy, in Copenhagen, Denmark. We ended up walking around the city and hanging out in cafes while talking about the state of things. Both within the team and WordPress.com at large. Being the “new” guy I was glad I was able to provide some perspective on past decisions and brainstorm about the future.

I can’t wait to get to work on some of the things we discussed.

Heart statue in a shady district in Copenhagen, Denmark

I’ve been with Automattic for 5 ½ years now, and I’m still growing as a person. I’m still challenged and allowed to try new things. It’s a great place to be.

If you think you have what it takes, we want you to join us.

Get Notified about Keyword Mentions in Skype Group Chats

Here’s a little trick that might come in handy for those that use Skype as a group messaging tool: set up the chat to only notify you about specific keyword mentions and mark other messages as read immediately.

This guide is for Skype 6.1+ on Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (untested on other platforms but might work).

How to change Notification Settings in Skype

  1. skype-group-chat-notification-settings-sidebarOpen Skype and find the group chat you want to change Notifications for in the sidebar.
  2. Right-click on the conversation and choose “Notification Settings…”.
  3. A dialogue lets you set your Notification Settings.
    • Notify me: default, get notified about every new message.
    • Do not notify me: turn off notifications altogether – you’ll see new messages only if you go directly to the group chat.
    • Notify me only if these words are mentioned: allows you to specify specific keywords for which you want to be notified about, separated by spaces.
    • Mark unread messages as read immediately will clear the badge count on the app icon.

    skype-group-chat-notification-settings-dialogue

Props Joen Asmussen for the post idea.

WordPress Advice for Beginners

Smashing Magazine published an article titled “The WordPress Community Offers Advice To Beginners” a few days ago. Written by WP community rockstar Siobhan McKeown it’s a comprehensive guide to WordPress for the newcomer. So comprehensive, in fact, that I’ve yet to read the whole thing!

I was lucky to be a part of the article with one small quote on how to get started with… Well, anything:

“Just jump in. If you have an idea for a great blog or website, set something basic up quickly (there are good free or cheap WordPress hosts out there) and start writing. As you go, you’ll learn more about what works and what doesn’t, as well as what your readers like the most. There really is no time like now, and too many great ideas never see the light of day because their inventor didn’t take that first step.”

I’m glad that I’m finally following my own advice.

Read the full article on Smashing Magazine.

iPhone 5 PSD Template

iPhone 5 Device PSD Template

The iPhone 5 is an amazing, well-designed, and versatile device. However, as usual, it’s extremely hard to find good lossless pictures of the device for use in promotions, blog posts, and on websites. The press graphics provided by Apple itself have very strict licensing and only scale so far since they’re already rendered and you don’t get access to the source files.

Given that most of this iPhone’s design will most likely stick around for at least 2 years to come, I thought it made sense to spend some time on making a fully vector based replica of it to save time for designers working on apps and websites for the iPhone 5.

This illustration was made in Photoshop to ensure pixel perfection but is composed entirely of vector based or scalable elements. You can literally use Image Resize to scale this image up to be as tall as yourself at 300dpi with the same level of detail and no pixelation. For convenience the template is fitted at Retina resolution, so you can easily drop in iPhone 5 screenshots of apps/websites into the template without having to resize the device itself to fit.

Download PSD Template

Download iPhone 5 PSD Template (zipped .psd, ~54MB)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Couldn’t find any better license than this. You’re free to use the artwork and modify it however you want for both personal and commercial use.

Information

These instructions are also embedded in the PSD template itself.

  • Right-click on the Smart Object the PSD opens to in the Layer palette and choose Replace Contents to fit your screenshot snugly in the frame.
  • The guides in the PSD are fitted to be exactly 640x1136px.
  • There are three pre-set slices in the PSD, two for exporting the entire device with padding and one for exporting the screen only.
  • A sample status bar exists in the “Screenshots” folder, use it to apply a custom carrier, time, and battery life.
  • There are two device shadows included: one that indicates a device balancing on it’s edge and one for when it’s laying flat on a surface.
  • Three backgrounds are bundled, disable all to get a transparent backdrop.
  • A device reflection is also included. Use in moderation!

Enjoy and happy shoppin’.

I’m speaking at WordCamp San Francisco!

Boom, done. Finally submitted the title and description of my State of the Mobile Word talk for WordCamp San Francisco ’12. It feels good to have it over with. Oh wait, the presentation itself is still only drafted and I need to practice lots more. Dang.

In all seriousness it’s going to be awesome to attend the grand daddy of all WordCamps again. Last time I was on the attendees list was back in 2010 and I thoroughly missed participating last year. But no hard feelings! I know you still love me, SF. I’m going to rock your trolley.

Preparing for my trip I should probably do something about this blog. As in actually posting more often, maybe posting about stuff that actually matters (this would be great), perhaps even a refresh or dare I say a new theme? While edgy and innovative, this blog’s design is, to put it bluntly, undigestible and rather ugly. The notion that line breaks are evil and uncool definitely didn’t help.

Yes, it is time for something new.