The road so far

The road so far

And here I am. Two weeks into the Developer Apprentice Program and I haven’t gone crazy. YET! 🤣

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Developer Apprentice program is a career path program at Automattic to help people who want to move to a software engineering role. You can rotate into a developer position (or, like we like to call it, a Code Wrangler position) for 12 months. At the end of the rotation, you can either move permanently to be a SE or go back to your previous role. There are several factors that will contribute to the final outcome.

The past two weeks have been filled with a lot of reading, learning and, also, a lot of Zoom calls. Weirdly enough, it did not feel completely overwhelming. As these first two weeks passed by, I kind of felt the opposite, like I wasn’t doing enough.

Let’s be honest. Switching to a new role is super exciting but also a bit dazing. It’s a new team, new people, new dynamics. If what you are doing is something you are not super familiar with, it gets even more complicated. There’s the jargon and acronyms, there are other teams that work together not to mention the work itself and all that is new. It can be exhausting no matter what you do or where you work.

As a fully distributed technology company, we are used to the neverending flow of information and to constant changes. The amount of information you need to absorb during the onboarding period is absolutely nuts, but as you get settled you realize that what looks like complete chaos is actually a really well maintained and interconnected web of information and it’s alive. It changes every minute. All you need to do is understand how this little monster behaves, find out what works best for you when it comes to keeping on top of things and you will be fine.

So, more often than not, people feel overwhelmed when they move to a new role, and I guess the more technical it gets the harder it is. But I didn’t feel that way and the first thought that came to my mind was: I am clearly doing something wrong.

I’m 100% sure the overwhelmingness (is that a word?) will get here sooner rather than later, but it got me thinking about the reason why.

Back in April 2021, I started a Developer Mentorship where I would meet once a week with a senior software engineer and we would discuss my path, what I should focus on, blockers, go over some code together, etc. This alone was absolutely awesome, but I’m not gonna lie, some days, after a day of work, studying and working on code was a bit exhausting.

But I kept going. Around the end of July, I had a really nice surprise when my team lead and my mentor said the company was working on a new program and they would like to try it with me. The idea was to have 20% of my working hours dedicated to developer work/study. I would work embedded in one of the engineering teams for 6 months once a week.

That was absolutely amazing and it made a huge difference, not only on getting accepted into the Developer Apprentice Program but also (and I hadn’t realized how much until I was done with the first week of the program) on adapting to the new role.

On my first week in the program, I did not have to go through all the trouble of setting up a new dev environment, which can be messy (and it was) because I had done that back in July. I already knew part of the team, had already gone through paired programming sessions, the process of submitting a PR and all the Git drama (I’m still terrified I will break something every time a commit goes “wrong”). I was a little bit familiar with the codebase I’m now working on full-time, so all that contributed a whole lot to a smoother transition.

That said, not everything is a bed of roses. if on the technical side things were not super difficult (and again, I’m referring to just the beginning. I know it’s gonna get to a point I will be banging my head against a wall pretty soon), on the other side, things got a bit more complicated.

Transitioning from a Happiness Engineer role to a Software Engineer role means a lot of changes in your routine as well. Like Matt Mullenweg says in this Wall Street Journal, we can pretty much work whatever hours we want and from wherever we want, most of the work is asynchronous, but as an HE, even though we make our own schedule, once you commit to it (you can change it every two weeks) you need to be online during your scheduled hours because the people behind the scenes work really hard to make sure we have enough people working on chat and ticket support every hour of the day across the globe, so our users can get the best support.

We also have very clear metrics as an HE. It’s very easy to measure what you have done throughout the day. Not so much when you are a code wrangler.

Another thing that I am trying to keep in mind (and this is super hard) is that I don’t need to go super deep and fall into every rabbit hole that I find right now, otherwise, I would go crazy. It’s very easy to start reading about something and have 50 open tabs in less than 10 minutes. So, right now, I’m focusing on trying to identify, amongst the things I’m reading, what needs a deeper dive and what is just info I need to know is there, but for now, I can keep it in a separate box in my brain and get back to it when makes more sense.

Right now, reading all the onboarding documents feels a little bit like dinner at my sister’s house. We talk a bit in English, a bit in Portuguese and I understand 100% of both languages, but at some point, my nieces and my brother in law start speaking in Norwegian (my nieces speak only Portuguese with my sister and only Norwegian with my bil) and suddenly I only understand bits of it. Especially because they talk in 3 different dialects, so even things I kind of know, when they are talking to each other it’s even harder to understand.

But it has been two absolutely amazing weeks. The huge support I am getting from my new team and everyone involved in the program is amazing. I’m very excited about what’s coming next.

Have a great week!


If you are interested in knowing more about the Happiness Engineer role at Automattic you can check out this blog: Happiness Everywhere

For our current open positions throughout the company please check our site here: Work With Us

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