Leading Teams and Delighting Customers

Year: 2014 (Page 1 of 11)

The Importance of Self-Learning and 5 Key Steps to Put Into Practice

Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.

― Immanuel Kant

We’re born as self-learners. As children, we rely heavily on our ability to learn from our surroundings and the actions of others. As adults, however, it’s easier to pass the buck onto others and ask for help rather than to spend the frustrating hours, days, or weeks learning ourselves. Our innate ability to learn and adapt becomes dull.

When I posted my “Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer” post, I had quite a few friends reach out asking how they could score the same type of job. Many of these individuals came from a completely non-technical background so landing a job in the tech industry seemed like a long shot. They didn’t have experience in tech, and it didn’t seem like something you could just “pick up.”

That, of course, isn’t true.

Regardless of your background, it’s completely possible to learn a new career field. Hell, it’s possible to learn anything. Perhaps more importantly, it’s possible without going back to school. Heading back to formal education is a knee-jerk reaction and isn’t necessary unless your intended career field has some sort of required credentials.

If formal education isn’t necessary, what exactly is the secret sauce to self-learning? Here are five keys I’ve put into practice myself.

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned From One Year at Automattic

As of a few days ago, I’ve now been working for Automattic, makers of WordPress.com, for just over a year. It’s hard to believe that just a short time ago, I was ending my trial and starting full-time on a product that I both love and believe in.

I’ve written quite a bit about the trial process and what a day in the life of a Happiness Engineer looks like. But, I haven’t written much about insights working for a distributed company or how I now view customer support. In other words, what I’ve learned over the past year working at Automattic. In no particular order, here are the top five items.

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Where to Find Ideas

Lately, I’ve been on an idea tear with more ideas hitting my head than I could ever put into action. Admittedly, not all of these ideas are great, but I hit a bit of a slump over the last few months so I’m just happy to have the idea machine going again.

Ideas have been coming from anywhere and everywhere, but I’ve found a few specific places that I look frequently. I thought I’d share the outlets where I’ve had the most success. I’d love to hear suggestions from you though, particularly on podcasts and book recommendations.

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Mental Pictures

It’s been just over a month since my wife and I stepped onto the altar in Chicago, Illinois for a day that we’ll remember forever. Well, at least I hope we can remember all of the amazing details forever.

I proposed to Charlotte on February 17, 2013 amidst a slew of cacti on the top of a mountain in Golden, CO. We wanted to wait until fall so we could celebrate the cool weather, changing leaves, and great seasonal beer. Since we didn’t want to throw together a wedding in just a few months, we decided to push the event until the fall of 2014.

At that point in time, it seemed like the date would never come, but as with all eagerly anticipated events, it did indeed come. And, then it flew by.

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Yes, I Work in Customer Support

I often have a hard time communicating exactly what I do on a daily basis when someone inevitably asks. It might be that they’re not familiar with WordPress.com (although that’s becoming rarer!), or they’re just not very interested in tech at all. In the beginning, there was also a bigger issue that I hated to admit. The role of customer support also just felt, oh I don’t know, a little embarrassing.

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In fact, the NFL’s claim of 100 percent proceeds from auction and 100 percent proceeds from retail has translated to an average of just $1.1 million every year since they partnered with ACS six years ago. That’s less than .01 percent of the approximately $10 billion the league made in revenue last year.

Really interesting/eye-opening article on Vice about the NFL pink campaign meant to raise awareness for breast cancer.

(H/T Next Draft which I discovered through Matt)

Cat’s Cradle

Cats CradleAuthor: Kurt Vonnegut
Title: Cat’s Cradle
Published: Sep. 8, 1998

After hearing Tim Ferriss recommend Cat’s Cradle multiple times on his podcast, I had to give this a try. I’m a big believer in reading fiction every once in awhile although my natural tendency is to read nonfiction. Vonnegut’s writing style is completely unorthodox and at times, a bit unusual. The satirical writing and hilarious character set will leave you laughing. If you’re looking to take a break from nonfiction, I’d recommend giving this a shot.

A Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer

This week, many of us at Automattic are documenting our day to give everyone an idea of what it’s like to work for an entirely distributed company. If you’re interested in reading more you can follow the tag #a8cday at WordPress.com and on Twitter. Here’s my day as a Happiness Engineer.

Whenever I tell someone I’m a Happiness Engineer, I normally get a blank stare followed by one of two reactions:

  1. The person pretends like they know what that means and no further questions are asked.
  2. A short chuckle ensues with the follow-up question, “So, what does that mean?”

I definitely understand. Before working at Automattic, I had no real idea what a Happiness Engineer might do.

So, what does a Happiness Engineer actually do on a daily basis? The short answer: we do whatever it takes to make the user experience as great as possible at WordPress.com. For those that want more, here’s my complete schedule from October 6th, 2014 to give you an idea of what it’s like to work for a company that is 100% distributed.

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