Developing Leadership Skills as a Happiness Engineer

In a previous job, I spent time as a restaurant manager. It was an eye opening experience for sure (and it confirmed for me that being “hangry” is a real thing). However, what especially stood out to me was how much I liked the “people” side of that role. I liked being responsible for taking care of our staff and in turn making sure that we all worked together to take care of our customers. The aspects of leadership from mentoring to coaching, to supporting, to motivating… it all really fit my personality.

Let’s fast forward a bit. After I had spent some time as a Happiness Engineer, a new program was developed called the Leadership Cultivation Program. It was a way for HEs who were interested in leadership to learn what went into becoming a solid Happiness team lead. I made it clear that I was interested in participating. There was a wait for me to be able to get started, due to levels of interest and prioritizing time zones where leads were most needed. But a number of months later, it was my time to get started!

The course is broken up into modules in a system called Basecamp, which feels similar to a forum, or the P2 theme we rely on heavily for communication at Automattic. In a series of back and forth interactions, I was able to communicate with an experienced lead as he and I used Basecamp to facilitate our conversations. The program was broken down into a few distinct phases.

  1. Team: This is where we reviewed concepts like navigating ambiguous situations, being empathetic, giving feedback and setting expectations.
  2. Division: Here, we discussed setting division-wide goals, ownership and initiative, and how to explain the “why” of certain decisions. 
  3. Self: This phase helped me to zero in on managing my time, communicating well in my writing, and being an example when it comes to customer support work.

It helped me to gather a number of takeaways:

  1. Leadership has plenty of gray areas and requires some tough decision making.
  2. There’s much to balance at a division level, between actively participating in projects and contributing directly to the success of Automattic as a business.
  3. Leads are looked to as examples. It’s important to emulate the qualities that you expect from others.

All in all, the program was engaging, more challenging than I expected, and it helped me to develop my skills further. And since completing the program, I’ve been able to put these skills into practice as a full time team lead, which I really enjoy.

It’s an example of just one of the great opportunities that are available here at Automattic. We’d be excited to have you join us on the adventure as well!

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