So you want to work at Automattic?

Today, it’s been precisely 6 months since I joined Automattic as JavaScript wrangler.聽All you’ve heard about how awesome this company is in fact an understatement!

It is out of this world!

IMG_0951

Working from聽out of this world.

One of the things you have to know about me is, that I fit right in with the whole `Tim Ferriss fanclub` type of crowd. It is not religious in any way, I just like the content he exposes me to and I enjoy tips, tricks and `weird shit from the world of esoteric he digs up`, as he himself puts it so eloquently. Some of my friends don’t share this enthusiasm, but it’s beside the point 馃檪

Tim Ferriss in the 4-hour workweek introduced me to this idea of “Geo-arbitrage”. Basically, he says: for Americans it is extremely easy to travel, because the money they make in US can go a long way in other, cheaper spots on the map, so it would be a good idea to become a remote employee, travel the world, all while living a聽good life abroad.

Awesome! Work that allows you to travel AND save compared to your usual expenses? Where do I sign up?
Except, there’s one problem with that: I live in Poland. The only place that our salaries let you live on a decent level is Romania. And cheaper parts of Poland.

Nevertheless, I tried to make this happen. With one of my friends I started an e-marketing agency (Netivo) which I helped run while studying in Sweden. Turns out it’s pretty hard to travel, run a business and make enough money in Poland to live decently in Sweden (that plan is an example of reverse geoarbitrage and is generally a challenge stupid idea). But in that line of business I had to work A LOT with WordPress and became quite fascinated with it to be honest. I decided to become kind of an “WordPress” expert since.

Then the crash of 2008 made everything more difficult. I switched to JavaScript and found a career in safer, bigger companies as a JavaScript engineer.

I was quite happy, but in 2015 I started to crave greater things in life. I felt that world is moving forward, all these startups are sprouting all over and people get to change the world. In Silicon Valley, or even in Western Europe people could be proud of the stuff they build, all while working with the newest technologies or programming paradygms. In Poland, it felt like an “IT Callcenter”. We are good, reliable and cheap, but we were not on the bleeding edge of the innovation razor.

Then, I stumbled upon Automattic job offer.
They were hiring in JAVASCRIPT!
Not only in PHP, but also in JavaScript – the technology I became pretty decent in. On top of that, it turned out, that working in Automattic would let me:

  • Work with React, Redux, NPM, node and all the ‘fresh and hip’ JavaScript technologies;
  • Work with amazing engineers from all over the world and be a part of Silicon Valley;
  • Instead of reading articles about what ‘cool kids’ do, I could have an opportunity to join them!
  • I could travel quite a bit, or even live wherever I wanted! Automattic is a distributed company (or, as we put it: location-agnostic) which lets you see the world without taking a day of vacation (which you have unlimited amount);
  • Because of the whole remoteness, I could be in Poland whenever I wanted to, without skipping work. This is important to me, because I have very old grandparents and sometimes they really need help;
  • I was very excited with the product – I loved WordPress!
  • Tim Ferriss’s site is hosted with this company! (along with Time.com, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the Guardian, but I find Ferriss more influential 馃檪 ),
  • It was never about money, but geo-arbitrage is finally working in my favor;
  • Overall, this really looked like my “Dream Job”. I became determined to get it and to do it right.

Getting there

Well, you probably got pretty annoyed by the long lead-in. But this is my blog, my rules and I can write here whatever I want :).
But here comes the meaty part:

Reading

I was determined to do it right, so I dug up everything I could on Automattic and their hiring process:

IMG_1446

All I’ve read about Automattic hiring process

Polishing the resume

At this point I knew they must be getting a lot of resumes, so I decided to make mine one-page and make every word count. I reviewed it over and over, asked friends to review it and obsessed about it a lot.
Since I did my reading right, I threw in some “nice touches” about my core competence constituting off-the-charts-sandwich making ability and one of my hobbies being barbecue. All true. Putting that in a resume felt good.

The wait.

G0073526-ANIMATION

After sending that resume I waited. And waited. And waited some more, all while questioning myself.

  • Did they get it?
  • Did they read it?
  • Did they reject me?
  • WHO PUTS SANDWICHES AS A COMPETENCE?! Why did I do that?!

Moar wait.

After 1,5 months I needed to do something constructive. So I booked a ticket to “WordCamp Europe” in Seville, where I was sure I’ll find an Automattician. That was the extent of my plan.
I actually met a bunch of them and they turned out to be very cool people. I even “pinged” them to get my resume reviewed and got back home.

Moar wait

Just after WordCamp Europe, a lot of Automatticians went to React Europe where they ran a coding competition for the attendees. They made a mistake of tweeting the URL, so I promptly joined in.
As you can see, I came in second, after “Moarhaus”, who (despite me trying really hard) had a huge advantage over me.
I have no idea who he is. I only have a vague notion as to where his soul may reside.

reurope.png

Actual Hiring Process

Artur, can you please get to the point? This story is becoming longer and more convoluted that “Pirates of the Caribbean IV” plot and we didn’t get to the hiring process description yet!
I hear ya, but to be honest, Pirates of the Caribbean IV plot is just /dev/random…

1. Chat

First, I was invited to a text-based Skype chat. It lasted about an hour and was quite fun. It was way less technical than I expected.

2. ‘Simple’ coding challenge

After the chat I got a coding challenge to solve. It was not in JavaScript.
The instructions were very open – ended, without any deadline and only with vague description of problems to solve. I assume my drive and ability to self-direct my work were also tested.

I later learned that it was designed to take 6-8 hours of my time.
I devoted about 35 to that project making sure it was perfect.
I may have taken it too far.

3. Chat + Challenge feedback

It took 40 minutes.
I am in for a trial! Wohoo!

4. Trial

What can be a best way to make sure you fit in a company? Ask you questions about JavaScript context execution, new ES6 syntax and what would `”potato” + {} ` evaluate to? Brain teasers about roundness of sewage covers?
Turns out, that the best way to see how an employee would perform is to well, employ them.
This is how trial works. I was working on my trial project, communicating with other coworkers just how I would If I was already working there.
You can do trial “after hours”, keeping your previous job. I decided to throw everything at it and take no chances. For me, it felt more risky to approach this opportunity tired, after hours of my usual work than to quit my safe spot at a huge company. I quit my previous position at Samsung and decided to do the trial full time.
I got paid 25$/hr, which was way more than I was actually making before.
The project was similarly open-ended as the previous one, just much, much bigger. I had to research proper technologies, communicate my progress and design my tasks.

The trial took me ~1,5 months.

5. Matt chat

The final stage of the process is a chat with CEO, Matt Mullenweg. It is a unusual opportunity, as he is a “celebrity” in IT world and frequents the聽Forbes and other such magazines.
The chat itself also isn’t a mere formality – mine lasted 4-5 hours and I felt that Matt wanted to know me at a personal level. He seems to take this hiring thing very seriously. It is great!
Because of his schedule, sometimes you have to wait quite a bit until he finds time. He caught me in a movie theater, but fortunately I had a good excuse to postpone the chat.
I was watching “The Martian”. It was pretty neat.

I started my job 2 days after that. It was my 30th birthday.
Most awesome gift ever!

Grand Meetup

IMG_0150

GM is a yearly event where all employes meet in person. Because our company is completely distributed, we don’t see each other face-to-face. During this one week a year, we get to shake hands, do some awesome activities, party, geek out, eat together, hug, have a meal, have a walk, eat together, try Polish vodka I brought from home and eat some more.

Naturally, being a relentless badger as I am, during my trial I tracked down other Polish Automatticians and pumped them for information when the Grand Meetup may be.
Knowing the date, I tried to expedite my hiring process so I can “make it” to this years GM. 9 days after my “Matt chat” I was on a plane to Salt Lake City to meet the rest of my new coworkers.

It was a whirlwind!

My team is bunch of the coolest, funniest, most awesome people around!

Automattic Benefits

IMG_1864

Working very hard for those benefits from a Whiskey distillery in Bushmills, Northern Ireland

  • You get to work with really awesome people,
  • The product you work on has 100 000 000 (yep, that’s MILIONZ!) users. The stuff you do matters,
  • You work from wherever you want. Seriously,
  • You want WHENever you feel like it. If you have flow, you can work 12 hours, and the next day – you don’t have to do much. It’s up to you (at the beginning, it was hard to me to understand it),
  • No distractions, meetings and corporate b***t to slow you down,
  • You can spend time with your kid when you need to, walk your dog, set you laundry,
  • You get unlimited vacation,
  • They fly you to awesome places to meet your cool coworkers,
  • Friends all over the globe,
  • A lot of other stuff, listed on benefits page 馃檪

And that’s me, Cognitive Engineer, Artur Piszek. One of the cool kids.
Who would have thought.

And yes, we’re hiring.

PS: Working in Silicon Valley company was my Bucketlist #26

#180 See a space launch

This is my bucketlist item #180

I have always dreamt of seeing a space launch.

When I was just a small kid, my dad bought me a model of a Space Shuttle and we glued it together and later hanged it over my bed.

I was falling asleep staring at it and dreaming of endless possibilities and adventures aboard a Space Shuttle.

Sadly, the Space Shuttle program is cancelled. But my space dream still lives on, and during my visit to Florida, I was able to attend a launch.

Sadly, it was too late to buy bleacher tickets, but it turned out, that Playlinda Beach is the closest you can get to the launchpad.

And very early in the morning, I saw launch of Atlas V rocket.

 

 

#142 Swim with Manatees

This is my bucketlist item #142
I found a charming city of Crystal River, florida where you can legally swim with Manatees (they are an endangered species).
I call them Sea Pugs. They are called Se Cows, bit I truly think Sea Pugs is more fitting

 

Crystal River has about 70 springs with warm water. During winter season, Manatees come here to enjoy swimming in warmer waters.

If you have snorkeling gear, here is a pretty good spot to have a swim with those benevolent beasts

These creatures are truly gentle and impressive:

 

While I was swimming there, Dolphins decided to show up!

 

 

View this post on Instagram

#Hello #Manatee ! #Howyoudoin ?

A post shared by Artur Piszek (@_artpi) on

LearnMinder – Teaching kids how to code

LearnMinder is聽a SmartPhone app that blocks internet access until a homework / coding challenge is solved.

It is intended to be installed on a child’s smartphone. Parent can set up a topic that the child needs to practice. Every time the child wants to play or browse the Internet, she/he has to first solve a challenge custom tailored to current skill level. When the challenge is solved – child can use the Internet again.

The whole challenge is presented in a narrative that “the Internet is broken” and child needs to fix a bug in the software to use it. In the process, it learns, that all services it enjoys using are created by someone, maintained constantly and it is not magical black box.

Day by day, challenge by challenge the child gets more comfortable in thinking how the websites / services /聽games are designed and that sometimes it’s actually more fun to create these products than to use them.

Future integrations include

  • Coding lessons
  • Duolingo – foreign language lessons
  • Fintess tracker – training workouts

Current state

This application will be integrated with code.org and released under Open Source license.

I decided to re-write it in React Native to iron out some kinks.

How this app came to be – EUhackathon

In 2015 I had a pleasure to participate in EUhackathon. It was a splendid 2-day hackathon held in Brussels with a theme

Tools to help teach kids digital skills

During this event I created “Interfixer“, which I’m now rebranding as “LearnMinder

During presentations, along with a fully functioning demo, I presented:

And I won!

This was a huge surprise for me, but the Jury decided that my application was best, and as a single participants, I won the 2015 edition of EU Hackathon 馃檪 (You can read more here)

I met some AMAZING people (this was such a whirlwind!)

euhackathon252520435

Me with European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip

IMG_4438

Me with Esther W贸jcicki, Sergey Brinn’s mother-in-law

Evernote: Using Online Notes for Performing Qualitative Research

In June issue of Qualitative Sociology Review (Issue here) you can find mine and Krzysztof Stachura’s paper about using Evernote platform in the course of academic research. Please, keep in mind that paper is in Polish.

Abstract

The paper is a presentation of potential ways to use Evernote as a simple and cheap alternative to professional CAQDA (Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis) software packages, along with pointing specific limitations of the tool.
The main functions useful in research and for analytic purposes are depicted, as well as techniques that enable the application of grounded theory methodology using Evernote are. Moreover, similarities and differences between Evernote and NVivo 10 are presented, and the analytical perspectives for the near future concerning the evolution of Evernote are drawn.

Keywords:聽Evernote, CAQDA, qualitative research, organizing data, NVivo

Download

Warning: The paper is in Polish

You can download paper from QualitativeSociologyReview.org聽[PDF]

Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten on the cheap

 

I revisited Norway in 2018. I have to say,聽 places are a little bit more crowded now and paths to Trolletunga / Preikestolen / Kjeragbolten are much more organized.

Also, if you are taking a car – parking under Trolletunga is 500 NOK, under Preikestolem – 200 NOK and under Kjeragbolten 200 NOK as well.聽 I credit this post here with making it all so popular.

Version of the post from 2012:

 

My friends!

If you have not heard about neither Preikestolen nor Kjeragbolten, then you are living poor lives indeed. These places are frequently covered in “10 places you have to visit in your lifetime”, “20 places where you can find a lot of Poles”, and so on. It’s VERY beautiful!

But since you’re reading this post, I will assume you knaw the place I’m talking about :). Your focus is rather on “How to?” then on “What”. So I will share my experiences.

This is item #6 on My Bucketlist

Preparations

Continue reading