My Journey to Become a Happiness Engineer

I’m Victoria, a Happiness Engineer based in the North East of England in the UK. I’ve been working for Automattic since August 2020.

Victoria working in a coffee shop using a laptop and internet connection.
Victoria at work! A laptop and a solid internet connection allow Happiness Engineers to work from anywhere.

When I first spotted the Happiness Engineer role, it was not open to applications, and it was to be a year until it finally did reopen… I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do, so I spent quite a bit of that year preparing for it. I volunteered in the WordPress.com forums (and got the hang of different kinds of support queries). Since I speak French fluently, I was lucky enough to freelance for Automattic as a contractor in the French language team, supporting WordPress.com and Tumblr. This was a superb experience that really helped with my application. If you are bilingual, keep an eye out for that opportunity if it comes around again! Or look for other remote customer support opportunities to hone your skills. Being interested in the philosophy, skills and techniques of good support is a vital aspect of a good Happiness Engineer.

The interview is entirely over chat (Slack). For me as an autistic applicant (and fast touch typist!) this was great – no worries about eye contact or interview etiquette. It was a friendly and personal conversation, and a great experience.

When my application was accepted, I was freelancing in web design and digital training, so I was able to dial down my workload and cancel commitments in order to devote myself to the 5 week trial full time. I advocate doing this if you possibly can – if you’re employed, can you take leave (even unpaid or for only some of the time)? It’s possible to work a part-time trial alongside a full time job, and there’s no disadvantage from the hiring team’s point of view, but for your well being and to optimise your mental focus, I’d highly recommend it.

As a trial, you work alongside full time Happiness Engineers in WordPress.com for four to five weeks, which means that not only can Automattic find out whether you’re a good fit, but you can test the job – will you enjoy it? Can you keep up with the pace? Are you comfortable navigating the often chaotic world of information at your fingertips? Because, if you’re hired, it pretty much continues in very much the same way! Another advantage of a full time trial (if you can) is that you quickly find out whether you can handle several hours of chat shifts per day.

I had never done live chat support before, and was nervous, but I was surprised how quickly I became comfortable. By mid way through my trial, to my astonishment, I was handling three chats at once, across the whole range of topics. I still love chat and the immediate rapport you can build with the users on the other side of the screen, ‘meeting’ people from all countries and all walks of life who you can immediately reach and help with their websites. It’s a very rewarding feeling.

I wasn’t always a web and digital trainer – in fact my professional background before I dived into digital was as an academic art historian and public librarian. This varied experience didn’t disadvantage me in the Happiness Engineer trial – on the contrary; having a broad skill set is a good thing. The overriding characteristics that carry me through are that I love to help people, and I love to learn. I have unending supplies of both these qualities and I need them every day!

I was pretty shocked, upon the good news that I was being hired, to be told that I’d be going into a WooCommerce team (I had no idea at all before the news was announced!) I’d naturally assumed that I’d be going into WordPress.com where my trial had taken place, and where all my experience up to then had been. It’s also possible to be placed in JPOP (the division that looks after Jetpack, among other products). I knew WooCommerce and had built a few sites using it, but very much on the surface level. Honestly, it was a scary moment. I wasn’t confident that I could get up to speed fast enough to support customers in chat, and the sheer number of extensions we support in WooCommerce is mind blowing.

Onboarding in WooCommerce was a massive challenge and continues to really test my technical ability. But it’s clear, 3 months in, that ‘I will never stop learning’ from the Automattic creed is not just a phrase but a reality every single day. You need to be the kind of person who isn’t fazed by a customer needing help with a problem or even a whole extension you’ve never seen before (this happens all the time). And there’s adrenaline every day when you are juggling three chats at the same time that are all on different topics. But remember that the main skill of the Happiness Engineer, in fact, isn’t really the technical knowledge in itself, but the ability to find information (which means that librarian training served me very well!).

My job is really intense, and keeps me on my toes every day. But I’m at home, in the daylight and silence of my home, in my snuggly hoodie and warm socks, and without the million little difficulties that make a day in a busy workplace tough for an autistic person. Working entirely from home every day means that I can bring my best self to my work and contribute my skills in a rewarding way.

Also, the company is very positive about inclusion and welcomes diversity of all kinds as something that makes the company better. I’m a member of a newly formed Employee Resource Group where we’re actively working to advocate and support neurodiverse colleagues and there is a place for everyone here. 

As a distributed community you’re part of a worldwide team, and despite the virtual nature of our interactions, we build real relationships. I find it a wonderful way to broaden my horizons in a personal sense and I love participating in the social aspects such as social chats, postcards, and the non-work communities within the company, whether that’s related to music, parenting, food, fitness, you name it!

I’m extremely happy working for Automattic and the hard work I put in before, during, and after my Trial is all paying off now. I’m settling into my role and helping hundreds of people, all over the world, every single day, and to me, there’s nothing more rewarding.

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