Something pretty amazing happened yesterday. All the women of Automattic had dinner together to talk about something incredibly important to us: getting more qualified women to apply at our company.
We are lucky. Automattic makes sure that an open position goes to the right person, regardless of gender. A lot of companies work hard at this, and many are getting it right (at least most of the time).
We have noticed, however, that in our case, fewer women apply in the first place. Anyone in a technology or traditionally male-dominated field obviously knows this already. One of the things we discussed was how each of us ended up applying to Automattic – interestingly, many of us believed – no, assumed – we wouldn’t be qualified enough, and ultimately needed a nudge.
We, as women, can read a job description and see one item that we may be weak on or not have much or any experience with, and immediately invalidate all the other ways we are completely qualified. Further, many of us tend to underestimate our own skill level and skill set.
From my own experience, it is very easy to look at the various profiles of Automatticians and think that these people are on a higher plane than I am; that they are smarter, cleverer. And while that is true in many ways, I also have certain skills that I bring to Automattic that are unique to me and me alone. Our diversity makes us strong and we pull each other up as we go.
This week we are all together at what we call our Grand Meetup to work on projects and spend time together. We are a distributed company and don’t work physically together most of the year. This year, due to a ton of internal interest, we are not only working on projects (building something with code that will result in some kind of benefit for our users) but we are also teaching each other mini courses. I am learning PHP this week alongside two of my colleagues, from another of my colleagues. That’s kind of huge. We have the resources to improve ourselves and each other. And by “resources” I mean fiercely intelligent and almost pathologically kind and generous people.
Somehow, despite most of us not seeing any other Automattician for most of the year, when we meet, we meet as friends – everyone fits. Our hiring process results repeatedly in the right person in the right role. We are growing very rapidly, and have room for even more of the right people, and are very interested in seeing more women show up at the door so we can begin that conversation.
At our dinner last night, one of the things we discussed for engaging more women applicants was sharing our stories. As I mentioned, many of us needed a nudge (sometimes a shove) in order to force back our own insecurities and say “I am worthy.” Maybe this, and my story, could be that nudge to someone.
I have a strong interest in typography, which eventually evolved to include how typography was and is used on the web. This has changed quite radically in the recent-ish past. Whereas once a web site had to rely on 8 “web safe” fonts (because they were standard on computers), now you can use any font you can think of (there are probably exceptions). I followed certain people on Twitter and haunted certain forums about typography and pretty quickly found out about and began to use Typekit on my WordPress.com blog.
One day I saw a Tweet from Typekit that they were hiring for a community manager role, and my heart skipped a beat. I talked myself into and out of it a few times before I told myself I’d rather apply and never hear back than apply and regret it when someone else is hired.
So I applied.
And I heard back.
I ended up having a long talk with founder Jeff Veen. While I ultimately was not hired, his incredible generosity with his time and his assumption that I belonged in that conversation changed my own assumptions about myself. I remain forever grateful for those couple of hours. I am pleased to say that when someone else was hired, I had no regrets.
Sometime after that, I was on my aforementioned WordPress.com blog and on the global dashboard was a badge that said “Are you an Automattician?” and a link to the Work With Us page. Because of my new view of myself, I didn’t think “No, I’m probably not,” or worse I didn’t not even see the badge (letting my brain blind myself to things that “aren’t relevant”), I thought instead “Well, maybe!”
That was the start for me.
I applied and had a really great conversation with Andrew Spittle, my boss now. He very kindly told me “not right now” a few days later. Fortunately, my previous experience of not being hired had taught me that being told no doesn’t affect my worth. It is a chance to try again.
I was humbled to have had the chance to talk with Andrew and be considered for such a smart and amazing company, and I told him so. He suggested I get more experience by working in the WordPress.com forums and then reapply. So that’s what I did, and here I am today.
I am not some kind of super human. I am flawed and not nearly as smart as I can lead you to believe. But I am smart, and I am really great at the things I work at. This is true for a ton of people. We have to be persistent at not letting speed bumps in our path become roadblocks, however. For me, this was something I had to work at, and I still do. A lot. It is work to have confidence. But confidence can be learned.
If you have an interest in working with us, please apply. You may surprise yourself. You might be told no, but you might not be. Let yourself be the best in the world at what you want to do. Don’t give yourself an artificial constraint based on insecurities that don’t exist outside your own mind.