It’s Official – I’ve Been Hired By Automattic!

Boy, it was a long journey to get to this point, but I’ve made it. I am the newest employee of Automattic, Inc., the company behind, Akismet, VaultPress, Poll Daddy, and many other wonderful products. I could not be more excited about this incredible career opportunity. I can easily say that it is one of the greatest accomplishments of my young life and one of the greatest opportunities I have ever been privileged with.

Why am I am so excited?!!! Sorry for the lack of subtlety, but read the flippin’ work with us page, folks. Yeah, that doesn’t even explain the beginning of it. And we’re hiring 🙂

Ever since leaving InterVarsity as a campus minister, I have been searching for purpose in my career. I loved working with and for college students. College ministry was (is) life giving and gave me purpose. While only lasting a short while, Lacey and I both enjoyed working together and doing ministry together. However, having to fundraise an entire salary for two became too difficult of a task for us, and so we both left IV approximately four years ago. Since leaving IV full-time, I have had four jobs that all had their benefits and drawbacks. However, there was a void that I felt while in those various positions. I was fulfilling a job description, yet not getting much joy out of the actual work. I met quite a few amazing co-workers along the way, but the work that I did from day to day was not life giving to me. I also recognized that I wanted to start a family. I wanted to be able to provide for my family on a greater level while at the same time spend significantly more time with them. In my eyes, I was searching for a unicorn. Grasping at air. Something like that didn’t exist. Not for me, anyway. Never thought it would happen.

Wordpress Family!

WordPress Family!

Then came April 2013. While at church, my friend David Cole told me about a position he was applying for called a Happiness Engineer. He was about to begin his trial contract with the company and told me about how excited he was about the position. I of course knew of WordPress, but had never heard of Automattic. He told me they were hiring, so I decided to go home immediately and research the company. I built websites all through college and even built several websites using WordPress. You mean to tell me there is a job where I get to help users as they build theirs? With my  customer service and web design background, this was too good to be true.

I was so excited about the company that I applied immediately. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to be apart of a movement that I had admired for so long – for me to work for a company I respected and to do work that I would otherwise do for free. Unfortunately, in my haste, I did not put my best foot forward with my resume. I didn’t make it to the interview round. In hindsight, it actually was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.


David recommended me to spend time in the forums, so I went there to volunteer. What I found was a community of WordPress volunteers that were very passionate about the product and about serving people who used the product. I became addicted. I met other volunteers like Timethief who dedicated years to helping people out of the kindness of her heart. Over a 4 month period, I volunteered in the forums about 5-10 hours a week. I learned more about WordPress in those 4 months than I had known in the last 5 years.

After spending hundreds of hours in the forums and taking more time with creating a resume that highlighted my web design and customer service experience, I took the leap and applied again. Automattic contacted me, but unlike last time, they were interested in talking with me further. Now, even getting to this point was a miracle. See, Automattic’s hiring strategy is radically different than any that I have ever seen or heard of. The process for my position was as follows:

  • Application Submission
  • Interview #1 with a little bit of homework afterwards
  • Interview #2
  • Trial Contract Spanning 4-6 weeks 
  • Final Interview with Founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg

It’s not an easy process to get through. Not the basic 1-2 interviews and then you’re hired type of set up here. Automattic wants to see how you work before they commit to placing you on full-time. The process saves both parties  time and money because the employee and employer gets to make sure that it is a great culture fit for them. As a result, for the past ten years, turnover has been amazingly low. It is also why there are only 230 employees around the world that currently work for the company. Even more than having the skill to do the job, you have to really want to dedicate yourself to learning the position and immersing yourself into the culture. I made that a priority because I REALLY wanted this position. I worked 80 hours a week between my day job and the contract position. I got off of work and worked contract during nights and weekends. Granted, they didn’t expect me to commit to that many hours, but I wanted to show that I was serious about the job. I knew that it was a short term sacrifice for long term gain. Trust me, it was WAY worth it.

*Stats from as of 2.17.2014. Employee #230! Woot!

*Stats from as of 2.17.2014. Employee #230! Woot!

It took Jesus, encouragement from David, tough love from forum volunteers, support and prayer from my family and friends, and an unprecedented level of dedication on my part to get through this journey, but I am now on the other side! I couldn’t be happier. I get to work from home now, provide for AND spend more time with Lacey and Jordan, dictate my own schedule, and travel – all while being in an amazing career doing work I would’ve otherwise done for free. Like I have already said, it’s only the beginning. What’s the catch, Darnell? There isn’t one. I found my unicorn. 🙂

Things I learned:

  • I have sold myself short for a long time and no longer is that acceptable. I felt unworthy of a position of this magnitude, and so I never dreamed of applying for a job like this. But, one day I dared to dream. What if I applied and did not make it? Well…what if I did? My struggle with self-esteem will no longer hold me back from what God has in store for me.
  • When it comes to a vocation, I truly believe that everyone can end up doing something that is both life giving and financially freeing for them and their family. It’s cliche, but with a little hard work and dedication, there’s a lot you can do. My journey is indeed a testament to that.
  • God is awesome! He is a Provider and He is Sovereign. He knew the desires of my heart and met those desires at 110%. You’d be mind blown if I went into detail of the journey I’ve been on to get to this point. All I can say is that God is good and my faith in Him increased tremendously over the last year.

Thanks for those who supported me throughout this process. I would not have been able to get through this without anyone of you. Praise God for his provision and for the opportunity to embark on a new chapter!

49 thoughts on “It’s Official – I’ve Been Hired By Automattic!

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    • Hi there!

      I was ready to reapply when I felt I had something new on the table to offer the company. It was important for me to show Automattic that I was willing to work hard for the opportunity. I believe I was able to show that with the time I spent in the forums. As a result, I learned so much while volunteering and the knowledge that I acquired in the forums helped me greatly while on trial.

      • Thank you for your post and reply! I have an established career, Automattic principles are so attuned with what I’ve always hoped to find that it makes me giddy and scared at the same time. 🙂

  7. Great testimony about how God moved you to this position. It sounds like you know where your passion is and you are working in your passion. So few every understand that God has given them a passion and will give them a job that allows them to work that passion. I like to consider this very similar to the Curly Principle from the Billy Crystal movie “City Slickers”.

  8. Darnell,

    I have loved reading about your journey. I think I have read this blog 3 times already.

    I am curious how the Automattic feels about promoting within? I have been a IT Support Center Analyst for a few years now and I am HDI Certified and working on obtaining my A+ Certification and will be graduating with my IT Associates Degree with a emphasis on programming in Java in two weeks.

    Upon your recommendation I am going to see about volunteering in the forums to see if I can help and learn more.

    I look forward to your reply. Tina

    • Hey Tina!

      Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been on paternity leave since mid February and have not checked my blog since that time. 🙂

      We’re a relatively flat company, so we don’t see promotion in the traditional sense of the term. Being rewarded for your diligence and getting more opportunities as a result definitely occurs, but there is really nothing stopping anyone from learning more and contributing more outside of their respective role. I am not a developer, but if there are ways I can help with projects they are doing, I am more than welcome to.

      I would say that moving into different teams is fairly common and is a pretty fluid process at Automattic (switching teams occur more frequently with some positions than others). Whenever I am interested in joining another team, I can talk with my team lead about my desires and make the switch. The first team I joined was the Live Chat Team. After about 5 months, I expressed interest in being a Community Guardian within the Terms of Service Team and have been there ever since. Team Leads is a fluid role as well.

      I will always encourage aspiring Happiness Engineers to spend time in the forums, for you can glean from Happiness Engineers who answer questions in the forums as well as truly discover the heart behind engineering happiness for a WordPress user. Many current HEs were huge forum volunteers before being hired – I personally do see it as a great training ground for some of what we do.

      Hope this helps!

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  11. Darnell,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am in the process of beginning my journey with Automattic; through the prompting of one of their illustrious Happiness Engineers. Looking through the site I keep telling myself this job is too good to be true, but my dear friend keeps telling me that Automattic is every thing they say and more. I too am a minister and wondered if my work in ministry would be a hindrance or an asset; my friend assured me that it would definitively be an asset. Reading your story has definitely encouraged me to press on. Thanks again!

    • Hey Sandy!

      Good/Interesting question. In which ways do you mean? I’ve never shied away from being a follower of Jesus in front of my co-workers and so far it has not been an issue. Of course, it really depends on how you define “open”. Am I proselytizing to co-workers and openly disagreeing as a follower of Jesus with anything the company does or endorses that doesn’t align with my faith ? Not necessarily. However, if the spirit leads me to speak up on an issue, I feel Automattic has created a safe place for any and every employee to speak their minds on issues that affects us. God is sovereign in the sense that He has put me in several situations where I could love and serve the people around me, whether or not the believe in Jesus. God has called me to live out what it means to display the radical love of Jesus and as long as I do that, it’s hard for me to imagine getting in trouble for it – well, actually I could but if God calls me to “suffer” by living for him in a work context, I pray that I am a willing vessel to be utilized for His glory.

      From a political standpoint: Is this an ideal company for conservative, evangelical Christians? I don’t know. Some may see this as an opportunity to love and learn from people with different perspectives – others may find it difficult. I am definitely an evangelical Christian and I would guess I am probably more conservative than a good portion of my co-workers, but I LOVE them. They are some of the greatest people I have had the privilege to be around.

      In the end, I pray that it is evident that I am a follower of Jesus by the way I love my co-workers. The most important thing about who I am is the fact that Jesus is my Lord and savior. Living out Romans 12 is what I strive to do.

      Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions!

  12. Hello Darnell,
    Thank you for sharing your amazing journey! It was very inspiring to say the least. I stumbled upon the Happiness Engineer job description and just applied myself. I see that you gave a lot of emphasis on being a volunteer in the forums. If you don’t mind me asking, which forums exactly were you part of? For example, I just started sharing my knowledge in the Polyglots of WP translation forum. Do you mean the actual forums..?
    Thanking you for your precious time and I really hope I can write my own post of my journey to becoming part of Automattic one day..:-)

    • Hey AndonisR,

      Yes, I was referring to the forums. Since HEs primarily provide support for, having a good working knowledge of the product is important. I was more familiar with the .org side, so I spent time in the .com forums to learn and ultimately help others with the product.

      Good luck with your application!

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  15. Hello,
    I am on a journey of what seems frustrating trying to find a job at home with my infant and toddler. My question is a lot of these remote company’s have retreats, so like for instance Automattic, are you able to bring your family and if not are they required if no one is able to watch your children.

    • Hey Ashley! Yes, we have what we call meetups (2-4 a year, for about a week at a time), so if you decide to apply, expect to travel 3-4 weeks out of the year. Outside of a few exceptions, it is expected that you attend meetups. You can bring your family to meetups, but a big reason for them is to bond with co-workers. So, it is not encouraged to bring family to meetups and there is much time dedicated to work as well, so family would have to occupy their time away from you for those stretches.

  16. Hey Darnell!

    Thank you so much for this blog post. It may be 2.5 years old but it still provides insight on what being an Automattician and Happiness Engineer is. Just from reading all these posts & watching these videos of Happiness Engineers, it’s humbling and excites me to work hard on being a part of the team one day! Thanks for reassuring that the fear is real but giving yourself the confidence, passion, and faith that you can achieve what you put your mind! It’s great reassurance that it will be tough but the hard work WILL pay off!

    • Thanks, man! Yes, it is indeed hard work, but I assure you it is worth it in the end! Just keep volunteering in the forums as I’ve noticed you began doing 🙂 , learning more and more about our product, and pushing yourself – you’re right that it all pay off. Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions.

      • I’ll keep it all in mind as I push forward! Thank you so much! Is there a specific method you would prefer for me to contact you or does here work?

        As far as the questions, I only have 2.
        1. If you could start over again, what would you do differently?
        2. What would you say are the top 3 things to learn to prepare me to becoming a Happiness Engineer?

        Once again, I cannot thank you enough for your quick response. Words can’t express how grateful I am for your help and any help that will be provided. You guys are an inspiration in many forms (especially customer service) and I hope to exude the same feelings to others in the future!

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  19. Praise the LORD, Darnell! Yes He is faithful to provide and is sovereign in His grace and mercy. I am about to embark on this same journey. Please pray that God continues to have His hand on my family and I as I go through this process as well. I desire to work in a distributed team and strongly believe in the work and hiring process. Things are definitely trending this way and Automattic and their CEO, Matt, are trendsetters in this way.

    I’m going to pour myself into the WordPress open source community, as I believe this shows up-front to Automattic that you are already actively involved in serving the WordPress community. I’m deciding whether to give the JavaScript or Happiness Engineer a go…I love building websites but also love serving others. Would love to hear more about your typical day.


    • You should apply to both positions – it definitely doesn’t hurt. =)

      I’ve been meaning to create a post on what a typical day looks like for me, but in the meantime, there are plenty of Happiness Engineers who have created great posts on that very topic:

      Thanks for reaching out!

      • Thanks for replying, Darnell! So I applied for the Happiness Engineer position and got invited to go through the interview process! Please pray over the process and for God’s guidance, direction and blessing through this and that I surrender the entire process, laying it down at the foot of His throne.

  20. I’ve learned they’re hiring almost a couple of weeks back. I’ve been visiting their page several times each day, because I wanted to send my application. I already started crafting my resume last Friday, but couldn’t get to finish it. I have been praying everyday, asking God if this is part of His plan, because I am too afraid to fail.

    I’ve seen a lot of blog posts of people who are already working with them. And the more I learn about how it’s like to be inside, the more my desire gets stronger. I have already read a lot, but with your review, I couldn’t help not to comment. I really like the last thing you said. God bless you. 🙂

    • Thanks for reaching out and may God bless you on the journey you’re about to embark on ;). Trust God, keep Him first, and you’ll be just fine. Hope to talk to you soon! 🙂

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  22. Hi Darnell, thank you for your response/update on my ticket to update the support document.

    Reading your post here just reaffirms my commitment to try again with applying to Automattic.
    I had applied for the current Finance Wrangler position, which is where my recent career skills has led me, but I started out as a computer hardware support guy, and have always felt my roles were more about supporting clients than just building the bottom line.

    I noticed ‘Erick A’ had asked you the same questions that I would ask about how to join Automattic;
    1. If you could start over again, what would you do differently?
    2. What would you say are the top 3 things to learn to prepare me to becoming a Happiness Engineer?
    Would you be willing to give me some tips ?
    On your guidance, I have started reading the forums to build knowledge.

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  24. Hi Darnell,

    Reading this post 4 years later, the dedication and commitment I felt in your post really resonated with me. I’m about to do my 1st interview for the Happiness Engineer position on Monday, and I’m getting scared and questioning myself for the first time now.

    But after reading how much you wanted the position and how hard you worked to prove yourself, I’m going to make sure that I bust my butt in this interview and whatever comes next–just like you did! Even if I have to work 80 hours/week like you did, I think you’re right that it is a short-term cost for a much greater long-term gain!

    Thank you for this post!

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