Julian Alvarado

@JulianAlvarado

Sometimes things don't work as expected…

March 12th 2018

My 2 weeks experience as a Trial TAE at Automattic.

On January 2nd of this year, I was just starting my day at the company I was working at that moment and the unexpected but exciting email came in:

"Sincere apologies for the response delay. Are you still interested in the TAE role? Is so, perhaps we can have a chat."

My face reading the email

I was in shock and at the same time so happy about this news, at that moment at was at the second month of a new and really not that exciting job and until that point I didn't have any work assigned, I was bored as heck in the office and you are not allowed to use the laptop for any personal matter at any circumstance or you could be fired(That company is a real deal about security). So I reply on the spot with a huge YES, I'm interested(from my phone of course).

After some back and forward conversations through email on January 12th we jump into a zoom call for the firs interview. I was excited but at the same time with a question mark in my head, because Ive been working with WordPress since 2012 and Ive been reading about Automattic culture, distributed work and their creed since 2014–2015.

Automattic is the company behind almost the 35% of the internet with WordPress and other products

So the day came and I took the zoom call from my home office (over 2016 and 2017 I worked from home for a company in Texas) I already had all the set up and the tools for remote working. We talk for about 30 minutes about me and my experience and the hiring manager looks pretty interested in my profile, of course he is a very kind person and proper during the whole time.

After a couple of hours I get an email from the hiring manager inviting me to talk to a colleague for the second interview. Again after some back and forward conversations through email we coordinated to have another call on February 19th. The call was very smooth, the person I talk to was very straight forward but pretty nice, we talk for around 25 minutes; this time more focus on remote work, self starting or work delegation and other personal stuff.

Boom! Around 2 weeks later I get an email from the hiring manager about the second interview and inviting me to the trail:

"We would like to take you to the next stage of the hiring process which is the trial project."

I was eating lunch with some workmates and I was so happy about that email that my face express so much joy at the moment and the people sitting with me notice it and start asking me about what was the news.

When you get that email…trial? heck yeah!

We tried to coordinate the date to start the trial, but the hiring manager had some trips in between that we wait for over 3 weeks to decide the initial date. We coordinated the trial for February 26th.

The Trial Starts

A couple of days previous to the 26th we exchanged emails to jump into slack, security requirements and sign a contract as contractor for the 4 weeks of trials (as you may know at this point, Automatic do auditions as part of their hiring process, so after the interview rounds, you do a trial based on the role you are applying to with the participation of other team members and constant feedback)

So my project was something simple (I would not spoil about what a TAE Trial is) but for a project manager who know a little of Design Thinking and Six Sigma should be something pretty straight forward; a little of innovation, improvements and lot and lots of learning.

So the first day was introduction to the team, the trial brief, a quick call to kick off the trial and clarify questions. 30 minutes later that day I was ready to start.

Thinking about that brief on the first day

So I start to think about the brief, how I can add value, show that I can learn fast, start my own work and put my self into the culture of the company. So I start with sharing my ideas on the slack channel and by end of the first day I already created a proposal for a project

My hiring manager was an excellent coach, he provided a lot of guidance and it was a very straight forward person. So when I shared all my ideas on the first day, he told me to jump on a zoom call on the next day for a little guidance.

I end it up the first day doing over-engineering or maybe over-thinking, probably because I was trying to give my best and of course impress my team, but it was something way simple. So I decide to take a more Design thinking approach, LEARN-IDEATE-TEST.

So the next day I start to learn about the day to day, understanding problems, interactions and more; I spend around 4 days learning, reading, asking questions, proposing ideas and by the end of the first week I did a check with my hiring manager, everything was great, I understood the process in 3 days but spend a couple of more digging deep. The first feedback was positive, so I take that first weekend to think about it, work a little more based on the brief and get ready for the coming week.

The second week started and I focus my self on documenting the steps and doing actual work after a week of hard learning, I shared the documentation, ideas, improvement over the slack channel with the team(Everyday I open Slack, say hi and start working, and by the end of the day I provided a report with a progress of the day and a plan for the next day) and everybody was great at providing feedback and guidance. I took me around 2 days to came up with the specific deliverables the brief requested and I was just documenting and getting ready for the final presentation, that would conclude my first part of the trial.

I requested more feedback to sense if my work was aligned and everything seems to be great. By the Wednesday of the second week we agreed to a date for the presentation, we decide to do it on Friday and everything was working great; I had the presentation ready by Thursday, documentation was shared on Thursday and just ready to deliver the requirements.

On the presentation day the hiring manager invite other colleagues to evaluate the presentation and I was super happy to present. I get ready 30 minutes early with a fresh brewed coffee, took a cold water shower an hour before and the morning was shining over the window of my home office.

I opened the zoom conference, everybody start to join and 5 minute later we were ready for big moment. The hiring manager introduce my self to the team and we all say hi and show our hand in a greeting gesture.

Say Hi with your hand is a great practice specially for remote work

I just had 10 minutes, a quick intro about me, talk a little about the brief requirements and then about my deliverables and finalize with the method I used for the trial. Took me about 14 minutes because I talk to much, but at the end everybody was very nice and the hiring manager start with a couple of questions, nothing complex just wondering about how I came up with my deliverables, other colleague ask about specific process questions and the last one ask me about how I felt on the trial and what was my opinion on the day to day (not to mention the details about the brief that I will not spoil)

We end it up wit a 30 mins meeting and it was recorded for those who couldn't join. So right after the presentation meeting I appreciate everyone collaboration and wait for the hiring manager for feedback.

And guess what…

He ask me for the weekend to show the presentation to the others and deliberate about my delivery, So that weekend was pretty stressful but at the same time peaceful, I decide not to think about it just enjoy and wait.

At that weekend waiting to hear from the hiring manager

Monday morning I jump from the bed to check my slack but no activity on my channel, The hiring manager usually starts the conversations at 4:30 am CST(you know distributed company)

That day I went to train in the morning and have an Acai on the way back home. When I was arriving at my house I checked my phone to see if there was any news and…

…I was out of a couple of slack channels and a direct message from the hiring manager giving me compliments about the project and my performance, but ending with some bad news…

"Sorry we decide not to continue with your trial and continue with other candidates with another skill set."

You know at Automattic trials are pretty cool to know the company better and also explore if you can work remote and other details, but also are pretty cold on how they shut you down, so I was kind of ready for this however is always shocking when you have positive feedback but end it up with a negative result.

My face during the whole afternoon after the bad news

Right after I reply to the hiring manager slack; I ask him for some feedback(I did know that Automattic don't provide feedback to the people after the trial) but I got to give it a chance and understand what happen. The answer was:

"Let me get back from some trips and I will think about some feedback "

So my assumption was; there is no immediate feedback?…hmm and the last feedback was: "We are impress by your project management skills and that way you handle the project" I was coming out from the impression and I spend a whole day meditating about this.

I try to put my self on their shoes, I know what a TAE is a what they do, what could possible went wrong? When you evaluate something or someone for a job and you discuss with your colleagues if you find something to improve you notice it on the spot…So why no feedback? I got to wait to hear back from the hiring manager and learn about this experience, improve my self and keep moving.

The best part of this experience

For me one of the the most important things in life is to learn and learn from everything you do, your context, experiences, people you meet everyday and even the bad or good memories, etc and become a better version of you. I have fail so many times but Im not sad or worried about the future or the failure per se(Of course I was disappointed) but John Maxwell teaches in his book: No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity that people emotionally strong don't let the bad or good moments drive your life, so he takes 24 hours to celebrate success or failure. I spend 24 hours meditating about my decisions and the whole situation and now I couldn't be happier to had this opportunity to learn and now I can help others to avoid my mistakes and pursue their opportunities.

If Matt Mullenweg reviewed my resume and forward it to the hiring manager (Yes the CEO is the first screening of you resume when you apply to Automattic) was because he saw something that consider me capable to do the job, of course so many variables play in this process that you will never know until you get hired, but if you think about this; having just the opportunity to get a trial after 2 interviews and several emails with very smart people is almost the 50% of the process and I get to the 50% of the trial. Im glad I can tell the experience now(and have around the 60% of possibilities to compete with others for a role in a very smart company).

Im not a conformist I learned and I'm glad of my achievement but lets reload and go for the next challenge and win it!

Any way, was a great experience, Automattic is a great company and an example to be a 100% distributed company and been a leader in what they do, great values for the employees and an amazing philosophy.

Right now I'm moving ahead and looking forward for the next adventure, I know God has something amazing :D

PD: I already checked all the remote work boards and possible companies and the project management role is not very attractive now, got to refresh programming, design and possible jump into product management. So any suggestion would be highly appreciated.

If you have questions or just want to hear more about my experience previous to apply or start a trial; feel free to reach me through Twitter

Time to move forward

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