A day in the life of a Happiness Engineer: Tuesday

Originally published on Butterfly Mind, October 2014.

Rainy day by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind
Rainy Tuesday at home office

I wasn’t sure if I’d be writing a whole series this week on my life as an Automattician, but today was so different from yesterday, I felt compelled.

My Monday Day in the Life was very, well, Monday, with scheduling and time slots and laundry and my first attempt at training new hires.

And today? Today I’m listening to the rain and wind outside my “office”* window. I’m wearing slippers and a sweatshirt from our daughter’s swim team, and though it seems strange to say it when the only sounds I hear any day are the tapping of my fingers on my keyboard and the gentle chime notifying me when people are logging onto chat, today was much quieter than yesterday. Yesterday was action. Today was contemplation.

I started my day at 6:00 am, just as I’ve done for the past two years before I landed this job. I love the quiet of morning, and I used to get up at 6:00 am to write and drink my coffee before the household wakes up. After a long writing-related conversation with a coworker yesterday, I pulled out my pen and composition book while my coffee brewed this morning, and I wrote again for the first time in weeks.

Thanks for that Wendy.

After writing, I sat on the couch with my feet up on the coffee table and read some of Wendy’s fiction, along with the Day in the Life posts of other coworkers, while I relaxed into the day. Tuesdays are one of my early days – early to start and early to end – when my husband is on deck for lunchboxes and bus stop. On Tuesdays and Fridays I start work early so that I can finish up the day in time to squeeze in an afternoon walk or swim. Along with writing, exercise has lost its place in my new-life-with-a-full-time-job, and we are iterating on our family schedule to build it back in.

I moved down to my desk around 7:15 when the kids woke up, and I started working through some of my followups from yesterday – notifying a user about a bug that wasn’t actually a bug, notifying a user about a bug that was actually a bug, giving feedback to the training core team on how my training session went – and lots of reading on the internal P2s. When I transitioned to full time, the hiring squad set me up with a mentor, Caroline. I told her recently, “I’ve spent the past couple of days reading relevant P2 posts, there’s no ‘product’ at the end of that – no ticket or chat closed – so it feels like I’m slacking off, you know?”

She knew.

I am guilty of thinking I’m ‘not working’ when I’m reading P2s,” she said, “But that’s a huge part of our jobs! It’s all the talks and meetings we’d have if we were working in a traditional office. So it’s still important, and counts.

Thank you for that Caroline.

So today I thought, and I wrote, and I read, and I chatted. Live chat got a little crazy for a bit this morning when I was trying to help one user set up a complicated theme, help another user troubleshoot a domain issue, follow up on a ticket, answer a VIP plugin chat, and respond to a ping from a Happiness Engineer trial regarding plans and upgrades.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague. – from the Automattic creed.

Part of a Happiness Engineer’s job is to engineer happiness for everyone – users and coworkers alike – and while I put the ticket on hold and tackled other issues, HEs on the Store and VIP teams helped me with the domain and plugin issues while I helped with the theme and upgrade issues. It is chaos, but it’s a refined chaos that works, with everyone working together to help each other find not just solutions, but a rewarding, human experience.

During lunch I lined up the resources I need to enroll in the company 401K plan, took care of a couple more followups, and then I set up a lunch date for Friday. I love the solitude of working from home, but there is a definite danger of becoming a hermit, so I scheduled time to get out into the world on Friday and have lunch with my husband. We’ll get food we can never convince the kids to eat, like Indian or Thai. Or maybe Mexican.

In the afternoon I fielded more live chats and updated the support document for the Stay theme. Several users in chat have had trouble setting up the Slider, so with some help from the Theme team I was able to get the instructions in a little bit better shape.

Since I started early today, I was able to wrap up my day just as my son was walking in the door from school. I considered staying online and working more, but I know I need to write and exercise to keep myself me. Posts from other Automatticians in this series have shown me it’s not only okay to sign off at the end of the day, or to take breaks for walks or to watch a baseball game in the middle of the day, but that it’s good to do that.

I did productive work today, but I also thought a lot and recharged. And thanks to that thinking and recharging, I know, as Hemingway always advised writers to know at the end of the day, where I will begin tomorrow.

*My office is a desk in our basement rec room.

In an effort to get to know each other’s work days better, and to share publicly what it is like to work for a distributed company where most of us work from home, some of us at Automattic will be publishing “A Day in the Life” posts on our personal blogs throughout this week. The posts will be tagged #a8cday if you’d like to follow along.

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