After eight years of self-employment, I started working for WebDevStudios (WDS) earlier this year. Officially, I started on April 1, 2019, which, if you’re in the United States (or other Western or European countries) or are familiar with our holidays, you know is dubbed as April Fool’s Day.
Given how much fun I have on Twitter with others who work with WordPress, including those who already work here, this seemed like an appropriate day to get started.
It’s been almost six months since I’ve been here at WDS, and during that time, I’ve had the opportunity to get acclimated to the team, work on a wide variety of projects, and do some really interesting things. But for as much as I love blogging and as much as WDS urges us to do so, I’ve not actually talked a lot about my time here.
Given that I had some time during our monthly 5FTF, I thought it’d be a good moment to share what it’s like moving from self-employment to working from WebDevStudios, and what to expect if you’re considering working here (because we are hiring!).
Working for WebDevStudios
The whole story leading up to my working at WDS actually begins with me, my self-employment, and the work I was doing within the WordPress economy on a smaller scale.
First, My Own Boss
Prior to 2019, I was self-employed for roughly eight years working almost exclusively with WordPress. During this time, I not only got to work with small businesses and individuals, but I had opportunities to spend time building things outside of themes and plugins, like web applications, on WordPress.
Furthermore, I was able to do a lot of speaking at local meetups, WordCamps, and I got the chance to meet a lot of people who have built their careers on WordPress.
Then, WDS Was Hiring
Had you asked me, in January 2019, if I’d planned to do anything except self-employment, I would’ve said no. But I stumbled across a job posting for a backend engineer that caught my attention. In short, WDS was looking to hire engineers to work on large-scale WordPress solutions.
Though I was happy with what I was doing, I’d felt like the next step in working with WordPress, at an engineering level, would be to work on large scale solutions. Right out of school, I was doing so with .NET, then I’d pulled back to smaller solutions with WordPress, and was now ready to focus more on enterprise-level projects but I wanted to make sure I was doing it with a solid team. And I knew a handful of the people who were working at WDS; so it seemed like a great opportunity.
I applied and spent a lot of time talking with Brad Williams, Lisa Sabin-Wilson, and Greg Rickaby about what it’d be like to work here (which, the fact that you have the opportunity to speak with the CEO, COO, and Director of Engineering before even starting is a signal of the quality of the culture).
What’s It Like, Really?
By far, the most common question I’m asked is, “What’s it like to work there?” The short answer is that I absolutely dig it (and anyone who’s asked me online or offline can vouch for my answer). I sincerely enjoy the things we’re doing and the people with whom I work on a day-to-day basis.
And if you’re thinking that I’m simply saying that because the honeymoon phase isn’t over, that’s not the case. I’ve been here long enough such that I’ve worked on enough projects, spent time with enough team members, and had a chance to really stretch myself in a number of ways to know what it’s like.
We’ve recently gone through a round of hiring. Now that I’ve seen the process come full circle, I thought I’d share a few things on what it’s like working at WebDevStudios.
If you’ve ever started a new job or aren’t sure what to expect when starting a new job, you know that you’re likely going to go through some type of orientation or onboarding process.
Regardless if you’re a frontend engineer or a backend engineer, your onboarding process will include working through a (paid!) trial project. During this time, you will be paired up with at least one other engineer who works at WDS, have a chance to chat with them each day in a Slack channel and/or via Zoom, and you’ll have the opportunity to see a bit of the workflow.
That is, you will see how we use tools such as Jira and Bitbucket to manage projects. This includes everything from outlining tasks, to committing code, from receiving feedback via code reviews, to presenting the final version of your project. You’ll get a sense of the type of work we do and how we work together to do it.
2. Remote Working
WDS is a completely remote company. On the upside, this means you can work wherever you have an connection to the internet. On the downside, this means you can work wherever you have a connection to the internet.
And I phrase it like that because as much as I love working remotely, you have to be careful with that kind of freedom.
I think that you have to have a certain personality type for it, or you have to make sure that you set up your house or work space so that it facilitates you getting work done during the day and not spending time on things that aren’t work.
That said, I’ve worked from home for the majority of my career and I really didn’t want to change that. So, the fact that we’re 100% remote is great. It does, however, have an implicit requirement that you’re good at communication—not just for partners, but for the team, too!
The workday extends beyond just working on projects. Sure, part of it is communicating with partners as well as with your colleagues, but part of it also knowing when to take breaks and to have fun sharing whatever random thing you’ve found online that morning.
As far as teammates go, building relationships in a fully remote company almost requires that you spend time getting to know one another and spend time talking about things other than just work. In other words, if you want to build relationships with your teammates, you’ve got to make sure that you’re spending a little bit of time chatting in Slack and attending internal meetings.
But that’s only part of it.
If you haven’t already seen it around the rest of the website, we absolutely love those with whom we get to partner. And, naturally, part of the work we do with others includes communication. Being able to communicate and have fun with your colleagues or even our partners is important, but it’s equally important to know how to communicate well through the various channels with which we work.
This means making sure that we’re keeping everyone up to date with our progress through daily stand-up meetings or weekly check-in meetings. It may mean knowing how to communicate through writing in email, via tickets in Jira, or in documentation stored in Confluence.
Regardless, communication is key when working for WebDevStudios. It doesn’t matter if it’s for work or for play.
4. Client Projects
When I talked about wanting to move forward by working with WordPress for enterprise, I didn’t really specify the types of work we do. We have the pleasure of partnering with some solid brands (many of which you likely know):
We’ve recently shared the tools that we use to get things done for our projects, but I can genuinely say that one of the nicest things about moving into this particular agency is not only having an entire department who manage our projects but who are also great at doing it.
The fact that I can focus strictly on engineering, writing code, helping fellow engineers (or being helped by fellow engineers), knowing what I need to work on, for whom I need to be doing the work, and to whom I can direct my questions makes the job that much more enjoyable.
But from an engineering perspective, what does this look like?
It includes anything and everything from understanding the core WordPress code-base and its various APIs (such as the REST API, the Options API, the Transients API, and more), as well as technologies such as React, GraphQL, and Gatsby. It also requires that you’re comfortable working with Git, continuous integration, coding standards, databases, migrations, performance (on all fronts), and more.
If there’s something you don’t know, odds are someone here does know so the opportunity for learning something new is almost constant. Thus, the opportunity for growth is great.
Generally speaking, few people talk about deadlines because they aren’t fun, right? It’s like this looming cloud over the horizon that’s eventually working its way toward you regardless of if you’re getting your work done.
And there’s some truth to that.
But a deadline doesn’t have to be this proverbial cloud out in the distance. When you’ve got a solid department for managing projects, solid communication, and great partners, you can focus on what you’re doing and solve problems creatively such that it becomes much more of a pleasure than a stressor to get your work done.
What if there’s a gap in knowledge in a department? Odds are, WDS will make sure we have whatever courses or material we need to get up to speed on the things on which we’re going to work. So, continuing education is a big part of the culture.
In 2014, there was an initiative for various agencies and those working with WordPress to urge them to donate 5% of their time to giving back to the WordPress economy. WDS still continues to do this and it’s something we look forward to every single month.
Furthermore, there are times in which we have on-site visits with our partners and we have our yearly retreat in which we all hang out for WDS Camp.
And it’s through all of the above that you can absolutely have a remote culture that does great work for great partners, contributes back to the WordPress economy, fosters personal growth, and also allows you to get to know who you’re working with regardless of where you are.
Don’t believe me?
- See what new marketing material Aubrey is working on with his favorite font.
- Ask Lisa what she’s currently baking.
- Find out what board game Jeremy is currently playing.
- Talk to Jodie about what her dogs are doing.
- Ask Brad about Michael Myers.
- Find out what Cristina‘s favorite 90’s movie is (you probably don’t have a clue).
- Or, ask to play the quiet game with Greg.
- And I could name more (but the rest of ’em paid me not to do it, except Justin. He gets a pass for being a good friend).
And this is after roughly half a year here.
Roll Credits (for now)
There’s a lot more I could share and I’m happy to do so, but there is other work to do so I’m going to stop here.
For now, at least.
Feel free to leave a comment and me or someone else from the team will definitely respond. And I’d regret it if I don’t remind you again that we’re hiring.
So, if you don’t want to leave a comment but you want to work with some smart people on fantastic projects, remember that we’re hiring.