Becoming an Automattic Code Wrangler : Beginning to End

Looking back, I remember how anxious I was throughout the whole process of applying, interviewing, and going through trial at Automattic… I also remember that while there are many stories of the process for Happiness Engineers, there were very few for Code Wranglers.

Because of this, I’d like to share my experience from applying to accepting the job offer.

Applying to Automattic

Applying to Automattic is a pretty straight forward process. Go to Automattic’s Work With Us page, find your job, then send an email that follows the instructions at the bottom of the page.

After that, sit back and relax. It took a little over 6 weeks to get a response back to my application.

Interviewing and Code Test

If you make it past the application stage, then the next step is interviewing, which will likely be with a Code Wrangler.

While the content of the interview was similar to other tech interviews that I’ve had, the format was different … The interview was a text chat interview.

Why, you ask?

Well, since Automattic is a completely distributed company, meaning that people work all over the world, much of the communication takes place in the form of text chat. Thus, it makes sense to conduct interviews in the same format that most communication takes place.

As a matter of fact, you can probably expect to communicate solely through text chat throughout the entire hiring process!

If you make it past the interview, then you’ll be given a small coding problem to work on and a due date … This is the code test.

Trial for Code Wranglers

If you successfully make it past the code test, then the next step is the trial.

For my trial, I built a message and error logging API called WP Logger.

The thing that stands out the most about my trial is that there weren’t any hard requirements. My trial lead, Demitrious Kelly, told me to build a logging API, provided a bit of guidance, and set me loose. From there, I iterated quickly and gave him updates throughout the week to get feedback and guidance.

Realizing that this was an audition of sorts, I made it a point to try to answer as many questions as possible by myself. This meant looking at documentation, reading core WordPress code, and more… All before asking a question.

At points, Demitrious provided suggestions that completely changed the direction the project went in. Example: Where I provided a global instantiation of the WP_Logger class that developers could use to log messages… Demitrious suggested to use the WordPress hooks API, which made the code much simpler.

In the end, my trial lasted about 4-5 weeks. After which I was told to get in touch with Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic, via Skype.

The Matt Talk for Code Wranglers

The Matt Talk is the last step in the hiring process for Automattic. But, be forewarned, Matt is not an easy person to get in touch with. It took about 10 days before Matt responded to my initial Skype message.

The talk lasted about 3.5 hours, the end of which was spent on setting a range on salary. Matt welcomed me aboard and I received my offer letter the next day.


A lot has happened over the span of about 10 weeks, so there’s a good chance that I might have missed a few interesting details. So, if there’s something you’re curious about, leave a comment below, and I’ll attempt to answer your question.

24 thoughts on “Becoming an Automattic Code Wrangler : Beginning to End”

  1. Not sure if you’re allowed to divulge, but how is salary set and raises determined at Auttomatic? I’ve read on Scott Berkun’s blog that there are no formal performance reviews, so I’m just wondering if you had anything you can share on this?

  2. Eric, great post, thank you for sharing your experience! You mentioned that your trial lasted about 4-5 weeks. How many hours per week was that? Were you also working a full-time job at the same time? If so, how did you balance the two?

    1. Hey Ryan,

      Looking back through my invoices that I sent to Automattic during the trial, it looks like I averaged somwhere between 15 and 20 hours per week. Note that there wasn’t a hard number of hours that I was supposed to work.

      I was working at another job at the time as a developer, but I cut back to about 30-35 hours to help give a bit more time for the trial.

      Ultimately, each trial is a new project and the hours that you need to commit will be up to you and your trial lead.

      Hopefully that helps!

  3. Hi Eric, thank you for the post, it is very helpful!

    Seems like your mindset on problem solving, and your ability to adapt to changes during the trial period was more important than your previous experience or background, right?

  4. Congrats on your position at Automattic! I love the set-up of the company and am thinking about applying myself. How many hours of work do you average a week? I know that the whole point is not to have shifts and to have autonomy… but as you are working with a group of people, how do you know if you are pulling your weight in the company? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hey there Zabrina,

      In all honesty, I have no idea how many hours a week I work. I haven’t kept track of it since I started. If I were to guess, I would say that it’s ranged anywhere from 30-60 depending very much on how far I wanted to push myself as well what needed to get done that week.

      As to your second question of how do employees at Automattic stay accountable to each other, that’s a bit more difficult.

      On my team, the team lead (Beau Lebens) has weekly 1-on-1s with each member to talk about anything. Up until recently, I have always been sure to ask how he thought I was performing because I was worried that I wasn’t keeping up.

      After a while, I’ve stopped worrying about it and started just focusing on what needs to get done.

      Further, while I don’t know of any tracking of employee hours, there are ways that we can, and possibly do use, to measure an employee’s performance:

      • Number of commits in a given time
      • Number of internal posts or comments
      • Number of times that an employee likes a post (this can signify that a user has read post)
      • Number of messages in our chat tools
      • etc.

      Hopefully this somewhat answers your questions. Working at Automattic is unlike any other place I’ve worked at 🙂

      1. Thank you so much for your response! Automattic is extraordinary in description… until now I didn’t believe that a company could innovative so effectively in order to motivate employees. I hope your position continues to inspire you and maybe I’ll get to chat with you on O2 someday soon. 🙂

  5. Hi Eric, how long does it take to get the code test’s assessment result?
    I mean, after you submitted your code test, how long does it take for Automattic to get back to and decide for the trials?

    Awesome post. Awesome answers.

  6. Great detailed description!!
    Thanks for it.

    How much time does it take to get a reply for the application. Do they reply to all the applications : Rejection or further procedure or if we don’t get a reply that means we are rejected?

    1. My understanding is that all applications are replied to. As far as time frame, I am not certain what the average is. Mine seemed to take about 4 weeks to hear back.

  7. Thank you for the article. Very inspiring!! I have started to think about applying myself. But the biggest question for me is “Am I ready?” or What set of skills do I need as Everyone have their strong and weak points.

    The description on Automattics page is rather vague.

    1. The Code Wrangler position is a bit vague to be honest, but I think that might be because there’s so much that Code Wranglers do.

      I would suggest that you go ahead and apply. Worst case scenario is that you are told “not now”, which I’ve always understood to be more of an invitation to try again later.

    1. I’m not sure what a typical code test looks since I have only ever seen my code test.

      That being said, mine was taking a WordPress plugin with several issues, and fixing it so that it worked and adhered to the WordPress coding standards.

  8. Hey Eric,

    Thanks so much for writing this blog post! Like many of the other commenters I too have been considering applying for a position as a Code Wrangler for Automattic, but until now hadn’t found much information about the job description and hiring process. I also appreciate the fact that you’re obviously engaged with your readers in the comments, especially the question and answer regarding time tracking.

    My question for you is related to the Automattic GitHub repo. Which projects do you feel would be best to play with, dig around in, and contribute to when considering a Code Wrangler position? I understand the answer could be “any and all” due to the broad and vague nature of the job, but am curious what you think since you have an inside view.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey Brandon!

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

      If I had to pick, I would say that the following may be the best Automattic open-source projects to look at and contribute to:

      Jetpack and Calypso because these are both getting a lot of development attention within the company. AMP because it’s a recent product that we launched.

      That being said, there are a lot of other open-source projects that we use that would probably be good to look at as well. You can find a list of these in the Calypso repo:

      1. Hey Eric,

        Thanks for the fast response! I actually started playing around with Calypso about a week ago to get a feel and check out the architecture. I’ll definitely be looking into Jetpack and AMP now, too.

        Thanks again!

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