Sacrificial artifice

We get to where we are because of how hard we work and the skills we cultivate, and not necessarily because of the things we sacrifice.

I’m taking part in a leadership development course at work, and the core exercise is to participate in an inquiry council. Every person brings one problem or challenge to discuss with the group (all leads at Automattic), and through a process of open and honest questioning, the person who brought the topic gains greater understanding of how to move forward productively. I have not yet brought my topic (next week!) but I have already gained a lot of insight, just from seeing how my colleagues approach asking questions, seeing the things that they prioritize, seeing the things they struggle with and how they resolve those struggles.

One thing that has slowly taken shape for me over the last couple of months is the idea of unnecessary sacrifice. I think many of us may be unconsciously superstitious. We have earned a seat at the table through hard work and the impact we’ve had on the organization. In order to effect that impact, we may have put extraordinary stress on ourselves, which we assume is necessary in order to get the effect we want. Like a baseball player never washing their socks, we begin to believe in the stress as a necessary element in success.

Now, that’s not to say that responding appropriately to urgency is a bad thing, or something we should not do. And it’s also not to say that some roles are not inherently higher stakes than others. However, I think it’s worth re-examining where stress is actually coming from, and seeing where you can control the stress. My experience is showing that one effective way to reduce the stress I put on myself is through candid communication. “I don’t know how to do that, can you show me?” “I’m feeling anxious about kid school stuff today.” “Is this something we need to do now, or next week?” “I can help you with that in an hour, but not right now.” When others on my team, or my peers, are aware of my viewpoint, we can more effectively prioritize and support one another. I also think it’s particularly important for leads to model this sort of behavior (managing stress, communicating clearly), and to support the people on our teams who follow suit as they learn how to do the same.

Working at Automattic

We are hiring.

Let’s not bury the lede here: we’re hiring a lot of roles, and would love to see you apply! We’re looking for great communicators, folks with a growth mindset, and of course, relevant experience (which varies depending on the role). We’re working on improving our hiring diversity, trying out different job boards and services in an effort to expand our culture and improve the parts of the web that we build by representing more of the real world.

I work for the Happiness division, as the director of Happiness Experience. I lead the folks who do the hiring for Happiness as well as the folks who are working to improve the entire experience of Happiness Engineers, soup to nuts, from the first day of applying, through the last day with Happiness. That includes growth opportunities, leadership development, and performance expectations that are clear and consistent for everyone. We are hiring Happiness Engineers, so if a strong customer-centric ethos and genuine WordPress curiosity sounds like you, please apply!

In an effort to demystify our hiring process (which is fairly unique), we’ve added some guidance to our site about what to expect during a trial. In Happiness, our process is fairly straightforward: we review applications, and only advance or decline folks after two reviews (neither reviewer sees the other review). For the folks we advance, we offer a pre-interview challenge. It’s a fun little project for candidates to get a feel for the type of work that they might be expected to do, and give them a chance to evaluate their comfort level with that work. The results give us another data point on their overall skillset, and we will either advance to decline at this point as well. Next is an interview. We do all our interviews in Happiness via Slack; we don’t ask people to dress up, clean up their room, find a quiet environment, get a sitter for their kids, or deal with the stress of speaking to someone on the spot. We conduct our interviews as a typed conversation; you can think of it as a text exchange with a friend (though perhaps somewhat more professional, depending on your friend group 🙂). After the interview, we either advance or decline again. For the folks we advance, we ask them to complete some questions in a “take home test” as if they are already a Happiness Engineer. Yet another data point, and gives us another chance to evaluate their written communication (communication is truly a top skill that we screen for; it must be excellent). From that point, folks are advanced to a trial. Happiness trials run for 4-5 weeks, during which time the candidate gets training, a buddy, a trial lead, and a chance to work alongside our full-time Happiness Engineers. They get a true taste of the role, and can determine if the work is something they’re comfortable doing. Our buddies give near-daily feedback, and trial leads give weekly feedback; we keep the feedback loop very tight so everyone is on the same page the entire time. Assuming the trial is successful (most are, because our application process is rigorous), we send the trial to HR to discuss a full-time offer.

Are you an Automattician? Find out.

Raising feminists

RBG died last night. I don’t know where to begin. I first saw it in my girls’ group chat. The cry went up. But I couldn’t believe it, even though it is so believable. More, I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t even turn to tell Bob, because I went blank. Or, I went rigid. He told me moments later instead. I could hear his panic.

We watched live coverage on MSNBC as the anchor fumbled through the change in the evening lineup and spoke about RBG. The anchor and I, and all women, made eye contact last night and we’re all scared and we’re all ready to fight, and we’re all ready to crumble and we’re all a mess, and we’re all being strong for our friends and families, and we’re breaking and we’re broken and we’re not ready and we’ve been ready and things just got a lot harder and we’re tired.

I’m scared.

Roe is probably going to get overturned. I hope it doesn’t, but I think it will. I have been worried about it for years, but RBG held up the dam, refusing to cower before these people who genuinely believe that women are better if they’re legislated, that they can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. It’s masked as concern for babies, but these are the same people who want to cut funding to programs like welfare and WIC, so they also demonstrate their hate for babies (who, I am told, grow up into adults) continually. As a country, we have very clearly outlined, documented, and executed a true hatred and contempt for women, especially poor women, and especially especially women of color, and especially especially especially LGBTQ women. Imagine being all of the above. Would you trade places with such a person for a year? A week? A day? I think you would choose not.

I don’t know what to do next (that’s not true, I do, but I am emotionally at a loss and need time and space to process it). Women have been working through our grief and our exhaustion and our fear forever. We don’t have a choice. So even though I am tired and scared and fragile, I’ll keep trudging forward. I will do that for me, for my daughter, and for my sons. And for all the babies and kids out there who have no one to trudge for them. We all work for them.

My kids are privileged white kids. They have game systems and cool kid clothes and sneakers that fit. They have full bellies every day (unless I, like, forget to feed them), and sleep in warm, comfortable beds every night. They’re pretty clean, and they’re healthy. They have everything.

Henry, Eleanor, and I talk openly about racism and misogyny. They see signs around town that are pro-choice or anti-woman or say Black Lives Matter, and ask about them. They see protestors and ask about them. So I tell them. I don’t want to scare them, and in many ways I can protect them, because I don’t have to tell them how to protect themselves from the police, but I want them to understand the seriousness of the state of our world. And I want them to know their role in it.

It’s incredibly important that Henry and Grant grow up understanding that women matter, that as white men they have an obligation to make space and find ways for all people to have equal access to opportunity.

This past week, Henry almost started crying when we were talking about racism in America. He’s (unbeknownst to him) an intersectional feminist. He rails against racism and segues seamlessly into railing against misogyny. He gets so mad that people think that women can’t make decisions about their bodies just because they’re women. He says “It’s not FAIR that women can’t choose what to do with their bodies. They didn’t get to decide to be born girls! It’s not Eleanor’s fault, and no one should be able to tell her or you what you can do, if I get to do whatever I want with my own body just because I was born a boy.” He says “racism is so mean, why would anyone not like someone just because they look different or come from a different place? It’s so dumb and I hate it.” He’s learning. I can see how he empathizes with being in a place of not holding power, and he’s dumbfounded that anyone agrees with the imbalance, even though he is set to inherit that power.

Kids have a finely tuned sense of fairness… as it relates to themselves. They will scream and cry over perceived injustices to themselves. They have to learn to be upset over injustices to others. The little boy gang in our neighborhood sticks up for each other but also demand fairness for each member. They didn’t think it through, but I see it. If one of them acts badly to another, they don’t let it stand. They talk about it (and usually talk to the moms) and make sure they’ve all said sorry and accepted apologies so they can move on. This is a good start.

There was a study years ago about chimpanzees (I think), where a troop had a very aggressive set of males in power. The theory went that removing the aggressive males from the troop would improve matters only temporarily, because the next chimps that filled the leader role would themselves become very aggressive, since that’s what they’d seen. When the aggressive chimps were removed, new chimps did take over leadership. They never became aggressive. The troop lived peacefully from then on.

We can make change, and we’re going to have to continue to make change, by voting, campaigning, and donating, but we also have to prepare our next generation and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Inktober prep

It’s not October yet, but she is coming up fast. I’m preparing for Inktober this year, by practicing more with inks of all types, and thinking about what the theme I’d like to carry through the month will be.

I know it’ll be especially difficult to deliver a drawing every day of October, so I want to be limber. October is going to be a very busy month at work, and it’s also the lead in to the twins’ birthday, and Bob’s birthday is in the middle of the month. So there will be plenty to occupy my mind, and having prep done now will pay off later.

I am tinkering with different themes, and here’s a sneak peak of a possibility.

Graphix Aqua Ink applied with a Kingart dagger brush. Pen is a Copic brush pen.