A Day in the life of a Happiness Engineer

All the cool kids are doing it, so I guess I should too! These past few days, a few Happiness Engineers have been writing about what we do on a daily basis at Automattic. If you’re interested in reading more you can follow the tag #a8cday.

Although I don’t really have a typical day, here is a small preview of what I do at work.

I am a Happiness Engineer and lead of the Aurora team at Automattic. We’re in contact with people using Jetpack, Gravatar, IntenseDebate, and with folks who need help moving away from WordPress.com to their own self-hosted WordPress site. Our job: make them happy!

I also spend some of my time hiring new Happiness Engineers, because we always need more talented people!

We’re a distributed company, but all my teammates happen to live in the US or in Canada. That means 2 things:

  1. Mornings can feel a bit lonely sometimes.
  2. I can get a lot done in the morning before everyone else wakes up :)

My day usually starts around 7:30AM, with a large glass of orange juice and a Túró Rudi. I am then ready to go walk the dog and play a bit of Ingress.

I’m back at my desk around 8:30AM, and put on my headphones. Let’s get started!

My desk

I usually listen to calm music, either electronic or instrumental. I’m a fan of movie and TV shows Soundtracks like Lord Of The Rings or Battlestar Galactica. This week, I listened to Odesza a lot, especially the set below.


First order of business: I look at what happened in Jetpack’s GitHub repo during the night. I review all commits, test what seems interesting or potentially dangerous, and check out new branches my colleagues have been working on. I then review all new issues, triage them, comment when necessary, and submit Pull Requests for bugs I can fix quickly.

Jetpack's GitHub repository

I like to start the day with this because I find myself a lot more efficient looking at code in the morning rather than when I’m tired in the evening.

Once this is all taken care of, I move on to my emails. I don’t have much there, as we don’t use email much at Automattic. Most of my email interactions are with people outside Automattic, like potential Happiness Engineers sending us their resume.

Today, I reviewed the work of one of our trials and prepared some feedback to help them improve, and took some notes to get ready for a quick chat with some of my team members.

I then review my calendar for any chats or interviews that may be planned for the day. If I have to get ready with something, better do it now!

Once I’m all set with my emails and the important projects, I take a quick look at the state of the French translations for WordPress.com and Jetpack: as a validator, I review new strings that may have been suggested by WordPress.com users, and approve or reject them. You can find out more about how translations work at Automattic here.

Once I’m done with all this, it’s time to greet my coworkers! I log in to Slack and IRC, and start by catching up with scroll-back from the night. Karen had a few questions for me, my fellow Aurorians shared quite a few nice gifs during the night, and a fellow Happiness Engineer was looking for a French speaker for a French user who needed help.

I also open Tweetdeck and see if anyone asked questions to @jetpack during the night.

I then turn on Adium to check what happened on our internal blogs during the night. You can subscribe to any WordPress.com or Jetpack site using Jabber by following the instructions here, and you’ll then receive updates for each new post and comment. If a post or a comment sounds interesting, I’ll open it in a new browser tab. Once I’ve reviewed all the updates that came during the night, I go back to my browser. A Like here, a comment there, a funny gif, an email, a new item on my to-do list, … I act on each one of the tabs that I opened.

By the time I’m done with this, my daughter Lili is usually up and comes pulling on my headphones’ cable. Time for breakfast!

After breakfast, I start digging into the support requests we’ve received during the night. I quickly scan through the emails we received as well as the new threads in the Jetpack support forums. If I notice anything that looks like a trend, I’ll dig in deeper to make sure that’s not a bug that needs fixing urgently.

Support forums

I then look at the threads I participated in yesterday, and reply when site owners replied asking for more information. Once I’m done, I reply to all the new unanswered threads in the forums, going from the oldest to the newest.

By the time I’m done, it’s usually time for lunch!

After lunch, and if the weather is good, we take out the stroller and go for a walk. We sometimes don’t go much further than the playground in front of the house, since there is enough there to keep Lili laughing for hours! :)

When I get back to my desk, things start getting a little busier “in the office”. My teammates get up, log in, I start receiving pings in Slack and IRC. I do my best to answer the questions that come in, help my teammates with any questions they may have about Jetpack, and ping a few people myself for quick one-on-one chats.

As the afternoon goes by, I might also have to log in to Skype for scheduled interviews with potential Happiness Engineers. After each interview, I review my notes and share my opinions with my colleagues in the Happiness Hiring team.

When I have a bit of free time, I look at Jetpack support forums again, and reply to a few other threads.

I also check my to-do list. I use nvALT and nvremind to keep track of things and synchronize everything with my other devices thanks to Simplenote. It helps me plan and keep track of long-term projects, and these projects usually keep me busy for the rest of the afternoon.

After a last quick look at the Jetpack support forums, I log out, and go spend some time with my daughter until dinner and bath time. I am usually worn out, and a bit of play is the best way to disconnect my brain.

I usually don’t do much in the evening. Once Lili is sleeping, my wife and I enjoy a break and watch one or 2 episodes of one of the TV series we follow.

That’s it. Another day in the life of a Happiness Engineer! Does that sound interesting? You should apply!