Josh Betz

Engineer, Automattician, Wisconsin Badger

5 Years

This week is five years since I started working at Automattic. In some ways, it doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long. We’re growing fast — over 80% of the company started after me. At the same time, my job has changed a lot and when I think of everything I’ve worked on, I don’t know how it all fits into five years.

500 Automatticians at the 2017 Grand Meetup

In a few weeks I leave for a three month, paid sabbatical — a perk everyone is eligible for after five years. I’ve been getting advice from colleagues. Unplug. Take time for yourself. Travel. I’m excited for the opportunity.

People are often surprised to hear that I’ve worked at the same company for this long. Apparently five years is a long time in tech. Or maybe it’s because I’m a millennial. Regardless, they usually want to know why I’ve stayed for so long. The sabbatical is a big, exciting thing to talk about, but the day-to-day flexibility is the real reason. We have an open vacation policy, I get to set my own hours, and I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. The list goes on. This can be an adjustment for most people — especially not having a central office to work in, but after you’re used to it, the alternative sounds worse.

Lots of people tell me they’ve tried working “remote” and they don’t understand how I do it — or how we run a company of over 700 people this way. I’ve learned this usually means they’ve had an opportunity to work from home a few days a week. It sounds like the same thing, but it’s fundamentally different from what Automattic does. The main difference is communication. If you work in an office, you’re naturally worried about missing out on what’s happening in the office. As a fully distributed company, communication is all online and there are no office meetings that you never hear about. We have a saying, “P2 or it didn’t happen”, which means if you don’t post notes to an internal blog, you can’t expect anybody to know about it. And everyone does because it’s the primary way we communicate.

I’m excited to take a break and unplug, but I’m equally excited to come back this fall because things are moving fast around here and there are some exciting changes ahead.

If you’re interested, we’re hiring at Automattic and on VIP 🙂

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

As grown-ups, dare we admit to ourselves that we, too, have a collective immaturity of view? Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Apparently not. Yet evidence abounds. Part the curtains of society’s racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

2017 Resolutions

Happy New Year! I’ve spent the last week reflecting on 2016 and thinking about what I’d like to change in the coming year. You can probably see there’s an accidental theme. There are no professional goals, which wasn’t on purpose, but I think even one or two of these would positively impact my focus during the day.

Meditate regularly

I’m going to use Headspace at least once a week. The idea is to meditate every day before work, but I know I will miss some days and that’s fine.

Run a half marathon

And also train for it. I have this terrible habit of signing up for races with the idea that it will force me to run more and then just running the race out of shape.

The half marathon isn’t really in question. I guess the real resolution is to train for it.

Read more books and less news

I find books — especially paperbacks — to be more relaxing and calming. Right now I’m reading Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. He writes in the same voice he performs and it’s pretty hilarious. I’m very late to the game on this one, but highly recommend it if you liked his Netflix special.

For news, I’d like an app that sends notifications about actual, important, breaking news. I had high hopes for the Apple News app, but they let publishers decide what justifies a push notification.

I’ve started to use the news as a crutch, like Facebook or Twitter, when I’m bored. The fact is that most of it isn’t important enough, also like Facebook and Twitter, that I need to know it in the next 24 hours — or ever.

Play more music

I tried to be specific for most of these, but the music thing is hard. Realistically, I have a couple months of Saturdays left until I’d rather be on a bike ride than playing guitar. I learned a few new songs over the holiday break and generally find it’s a good way to clear my mind when it’s too cold to go for a run.

Choosing Wrong

Last week’s episode of This American Life is about people making the wrong choices even when they know they are wrong. The first segment, from Malcom Gladwell’s new podcast, Revisionist History, is especially interesting. He talks to Rick Barry about Wilt Chamberlain and perfectionism.

MCA

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