This week, I started the next chapter of my great adventure — joining the team at Human Made.
Over the last roughly two and a half years, I’ve worked at WebDevStudios — one of the top WordPress-focused development agencies. When I joined, I was plopped in the middle of a project for the United States National Park Service with no development lead at the time and over the course of the next year, I was able to wrangle that and a subsequent project for NPS together, ultimately earning myself a promotion to developer lead largely as a result of my work on NPS.
You know that imposter syndrome stuff? You can’t have that lingering around when you’re working projects for the US Government or Microsoft or MotorTrend, and I had to shed that pretty quickly and adapt to agency development for brands that I not only recognized, but who are ubiquitous, like Campbell’s.
However, as I transitioned more into my role as a lead, I ended up being more deeply involved in things that didn’t bring me joy and excitement — namely, management stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my team and I enjoy being a leader and a resource, but the day-to-day administrative tasks of being a lead outweighed actual development and I learned (fairly quickly) that the thing I enjoy most is coding. Leading projects and architecting development, sure, but also actually writing the code for those projects and things that I’ve architected.
Much of the time I spent as a lead, I was pretty unhappy. I was stressed, I took work home after I signed off for the day, I had very little to look forward to the next day because every day was just a series of calls interspersed with pings and reviewing and updating tasks. The only time I ever got to write any code was on our #FiveForTheFuture days, and if the workload was too busy, those days occasionally were cancelled. I can be pretty good at whatever I put my mind to, but my heart wasn’t in it when my day-to-day tasks involved reviewing other people’s work and being present on anywhere between 2 and 6 calls a day.
I don’t want this to sound like WDS is a bad place or a bad employer. They are actively working to get their leads more involved in development. Hopefully things are heading in the right direction now. But I also know that different people enjoy different things and have different skill sets, and, for me, I can do all those administrative and managerial things, but I don’t enjoy doing those things. I kept coming back to a thing I had heard about Automattic’s structure where there is no pay increase associated with being a “lead” — you just are. And if you no longer want to be a lead, you aren’t. There’s no promotion/demotion involved, it’s just a hat you put on. And if you find that the hat doesn’t fit, you take it off. I felt trapped by being a lead and it was affecting my mental health and my life at home.
There are a lot of really cool companies out there for remote workers interested in building things for WordPress. Among those really cool companies, many of them offer amazing benefits that include flexible/unlimited vacation days. Since we like to go camping, and since doing that leaves me recharged and energized and able to take on work again when I come back, I knew that some place that had a generous policy for vacation was going to matter a lot. And most of those companies take a really honest view of employee well-being and all of these things that I’d been struggling with for the past year. So I tossed my resume into the ether, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.
And it was Tom who finally reached out.
That list of “really cool companies for remote workers interested in building things for WordPress”? Human Made is consistently at or near the top of that list. They are truly global, with “offices” in London and Australia and tend to attract the best of the best. So, I was bouncing in my seat a little as we arranged for a chat time on Slack and as I went through the interview process. I was offered a trial, worked with a team of Aussies and got to know the team and their processes.
The thing that was, has been, and still is most exciting to me, though, is actually writing code again. And the opportunity to learn. HM does things differently than WDS — they have different coding standards, build different types of applications, and try hard to be on the bleeding edge of what is happening in enterprise WordPress development. I could see right away that I have so much to learn and it excited me and made me realize that I had been feeling stagnant for a long time.
I enjoyed my time at WebDev and I learned a ton while I was there. Now I’m thrilled to be joining a team of people who unironically refer to each other as “humans”, who encourage and foster growth and actively take care of, and advocate for their team members.