A day in the life of a Happiness Engineer (who is me)

I’ve written a bit about my life with Automattic before, so you can catch up here, here, here, and here.

Today I’m going to write about a really specific day that I had (yesterday).

I got up at 7:14 am, which is a little bit late. Summer is the busy season for Bob, so he’s typically up, dressed, and at work (he doesn’t work from home) by 7 am. I like to get up about when he does (or at least wake up when he leaves), so that I can get my day started before I have to wrestle two toddlers into their school clothes.

In an ideal world, I get my contacts in, shower, get dressed, organize tiny outfits (something that I could do the night before, but perennially forget to), and get the three of us downstairs for breakfast bars and sneakers and jackets. We’ve been practicing counting off when the kids line up by the door. They both want to say “one” so when I say “Count off!” I hear “One!” “One!” “No, Hemy, you’re two, I am one!” “I don’t waaaaaant to be two! I am one!” So probably it would be easier to just stop doing that. I didn’t manage to get a shower before the kids were up and discussing which show they wanted to watch before school (spoiler alert: they got to watch none shows. None.), so I just put in my contacts, brushed my teeth, and got the three of us dressed.

Anyway, the drive to daycare is pretty short. 5-10 minutes, depending on which bridge and which set of railroad tracks the kids want to go over. Since it isn’t that important for me to be anywhere (and whether I’ve showered or not) at any particular time in the morning, I like to indulge their special requests when driving to school.

Typically by 8:30 am, I’ve dropped them off, picked up coffee and a bagel, and am back at my desk. If I’m back before 8:30, I don’t sit at my desk yet. I get back in bed and catch up on what’s happening on Facebook or read while I eat my bagel and drink my coffee. If I do that, I typically stay there until I’ve eaten and finished my coffee. But yesterday I was running late, so I just sat at my desk when I got home, and started doing my morning reading.

Yes, it's messy. I understand where everything is, however.
Yes, it’s messy. I understand where everything is, however.

Starting around 8:30 am, I start my day by signing into Slack and reading the backscroll on any channel I am responsible for and skimming the backscroll on any other channel I think it’s important to follow. I am the lead of our Live Chat and Mobile support team, so I have a handful of channels I consider Very Important to be up-to-date on. Other channels have either funny jokes from the team members on the other side of the world (or night owls on this side), or interesting (user) errors that mean we should flesh out our documentation, or bugs that we need to be aware of.

After I finish the Slack backscroll, I hop over to email. I subscribe to our internal blogs (called P2s or O2s, almost interchangeably) and, again, depending on the subject, receive email notifications for new posts either instantly, daily, or weekly. If it looks like the post is something I want to reply to, or think about more, I open the post in a new tab and move on to the next email.

Once I have no new emails, I go to the tabs and reply to each post or do whatever research I wanted to do before replying. Once all those tabs are closed, it’s usually about 9 or 9:15 am. I’m always surprised this doesn’t take a lot longer, but I think I’ve just gotten better at mentally filing information away faster. (I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. – from the Automattic creed.)

Yesterday, I wrapped up my reading and headed into my team’s channel to chat with the team about any issues that cropped up for the people who signed on earlier (my team has people in Israel, Scotland, the US, Canada, and one person who is on rotation with another team who lives in the Philippines).

With 10 am fast approaching, I filed a bug report on the iPad mobile app that I found the evening before and tried to run it down with one of our iOS mobile devs between the P2 and Slack. We were able to find where it happened in my app error log, but weren’t able to reproduce it. He asked if I would mind checking my stats later that evening on my iPad around 8:30 pm (same time I had checked the previous day). I promised I would and set a notification (but ultimately did not remember to check).

At 10 am, I had a one-on-one (1:1) chat with someone on my team, Rachel. You can read about her day at the link 🙂 We chatted about her recent move from New Zealand to Scotland, and what sorts of things she wanted to work on. With those goals in mind, we agreed to chat each week about where she was on her journey to include those things in her day-to-day work, and where I could help her hit targets as they were defined. It was a good chat.

After that chat wrapped up, I checked in again with my team and helped troubleshoot a couple of issues that Happiness Engineers were working on with users on Live Chat.

It was close to noon, so I grabbed a quick shower (as I was running late that morning, I hadn’t gotten one yet), changed out of my yoga pants, took the dog out, and met my husband for lunch. We had sushi.

Then I hurried back home to host a Google Hangout with my team and one of our mobile devs, Sendhil, to discuss our mobile strategy (at a very high level), and how we as Happiness Engineers can best triage and handle support issues so that they (the developers) are focused on making the apps as awesome as possible.

After Sendhil signed off, the rest of the team chatted about some team stuff, but we also joked around for a few minutes. We do a weekly video hangout, so we can see each other, so a recurring bit we do (thanks to a team member who is actually shortly moving to another team, Adam) is show-and-tell. It’s basically us showing the rest of the team random things on our desks. It is usually hilarious. We are trying to spend a little more time interacting with each other, on my team, because Live Chat can be pretty intense, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of not interacting with the rest of the team. We’ve found that spending just a couple of minutes a week joking and seeing each other makes a lot of difference in how we feel about our jobs.

On this particular day, Pam showed us her broken headphones (which she continues to use) plus the new ones in the box that she’s afraid to take out of the box. Adam showed us a pencil holder his now-fiancee got for him. Dan showed us his green tea. I showed the team my son’s tiny sunglasses. Chrissie was visiting at her mother-in-laws, so we didn’t pressure her for a show-and-tell item 🙂

Some of our team members weren’t on the hangout, for various reasons. Simon is both at a conference and currently rotating with our spam prevention team (Akismet). Andrew is currently rotating with our Globalization team (they are working on the massive project of getting translations into place – with a huge team of volunteers – for WordPress.com). Jordan was out sick (but feeling better now!) Jason was afk (away from keyboard) to take care of a personal matter that came up. Which means that their next show-and-tell item will have to be a show-stopper! 😉

After the hangout wrapped up, it was about 2 pm. That gave me a chance to tie up loose ends with tracking stats, making some adjustments to the way we send out feedback with mobile support, alert the team to some posts I wanted to be sure they saw, and check in on the Theme Team (Theam!) members who are spending their annual support rotation in Live Chat. Side note: I’m really impressed by our Theamers who have jumped right into doing live chat for their rotation (all Automattic teams spend a week every year doing support); they’ve been not only doing an excellent job, they’ve been excited and eager every day engineer happiness with each and every user they chat with. It’s been neat to watch.

I made a point around 2:45 to publish a post from my phone (I’ve been dedicated to using the mobile app everyday to publish a post) so I wouldn’t forget to do it later.

By now, it was after 3:15 pm, and it was time for me to go pick up my kids from daycare. We really like our daycare, but we try to spend as much of the afternoon with the kids as we can. We try to get them by 4 pm every day, but sometimes it’s a little after that.

Yesterday after I got the kids home, I made an impromptu tent in Henry’s toddler bed with a blanket and some clamps. While the kids played in there, I helped a Happiness Gardener, Ricky, by clicking a link and describing what I saw. (Happiness Gardeners are sort of like tech support for Happiness Engineers; they help us with dev-type issues that users bring to us and build tools so we can do our jobs the best way possible). This was feedback on a tool the Gardeners have been building us.

Around 5 pm, Bob got home, and we packed up the kids and headed to the mall to get pizza and cruise around.

We headed home after a rousing half hour at the arcade, getting back around 7:30 pm. Bob does baths every night while I do stories and tuck in. After baths, we pile the kids onto our bed and get jammies on. Then we head down to the nursery. At the mall each kid picked out a new book, so we read those, plus a few old favorites (One Duck Stuck and Not a Box are both current favorites). Then I tucked them in and got some tears from Henry that his bed was no longer a tent and a detailed plea on how much he would prefer to sleep in a tent than a bed.

Eventually they were both sleepy and calm, so I checked Slack and the app (I do a lot of work post 4 pm from my phone or iPad – well, a lot of the work that I do after 4 pm, I do from my phone). I hopped on my computer to check a few of the P2 posts that were just a bit too unwieldy to read on the phone, and finally satisfied everything was humming along nicely, turned everything off.

Around 9 pm Bob got back from his run (once the kids are in their jammies and settled on my lap for stories, he kisses them goodnight and goes on a run) and we sat down to watch Can’t Hardly Wait (90’s teen movie week at the Ring house!)

By 11 pm, it was time to sleep (which is actually kind of hard to do, as the dog still has a cone, and he likes to patrol at night).

Around 1:30 am, Henry was up and asking to get in the big bed. Then it was really lights out, until 6:45 am this morning, when it all started again.

Some things to note: my day is unique to me. Some folks have a similar day, some folks have incredibly different days. My Thursday is not very much like my Wednesday at all. Some days I spend a lot more time interacting directly with users, some days I spend a lot of time interacting with my team, and some days I spend more time interacting with other Happiness leads. What’s important, however, is that I set my schedule to be the schedule that works best for me. I work a standard work week (because my kids and husband are on that schedule), but I am able to shift the hours around within each day so that I can spend a lot of time with my family, which it turn makes me a happy and productive worker.

We are, as ever, hiring. Come join us!

3 responses to “A day in the life of a Happiness Engineer (who is me)”

  1. “So probably it would be easier to just stop doing that.”As a mom of two wee ones, I can totally relate! Thanks for sharing – very nice to have a window into this job. 🙂


  2. “What’s important, however, is that I set my schedule to be the schedule that works best for me.” I thoroughly appreciate that sentiment as I have it as a directive for myself. Otherwise, undue interference patterns get magnetized in, and there are plenty enough of those on any given “normal” day. Kudos to you. Thanks for sharing the breadth and depth of makes up a busy and productive day.


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