Being globally distributed: a constant reminder to have an open mind and more

Automatticians work in 79 countries — each from their preferred workspace and during their preferred working hours. I asked colleagues from New Zealand, the US, Spain, and Sri Lanka what they like most about working this way.

Chris O’Brien

Chris, you joined us early this year. What do you like about working in a globally distributed company so far?

There are two things that I love about working in Data for a globally distributed company: the flexibility to work in a manner that best fits my life and how it has made me more conscious of how I communicate ideas and issues.

For me, eight hours in an office was a mixture of the work I needed to do, browsing the internet for various hobby-related shenanigans, or wandering around the office annoying my colleagues to go for coffee. Not always dedicated precisely to the cause. 

Now, I can do dedicated bursts of work separated by dedicated time completely separate from the environment of work. If I need to take a little longer in the morning to get ready, I work a little later in the evening. Work fits around my life and not the other way around!

I have also found that remote working, especially in a company as dedicated to written information like Automattic, has made me more conscious of how I communicate with others. The most significant change for me has been dropping the use of “this” and “that” from my communication, replacing them with the exact thing they are referencing. Data, especially analytics, is about the communication of ideas and anything that improves my clarity is for the better!

I look forward to the other ways that working for a globally distributed company changes my life!

Anna Magdalena Kedzierska

Anna, what is your favourite aspect of working remotely and in a global company?

Personally, I’ve always travelled and worked across the globe. Now that my life has changed and I’ve largely settled down with my family on the Spanish coast, working for a company that is global in nature allows me to maintain the same mindset of world presence even if the view from the window is constant. 

I get to exchange opinions and have conversations not only about work, but virtually anything between code and life. I truly appreciate the friendships I’ve made over the years. Due to the pandemic meetups are on hold, but when they are on, meetups are a unique and enlivening element to the work routine, and a great excuse for a trip to the other side of the globe.

Work-wise, being globally distributed means round-the-clock feedback and a multitude of perspectives on projects. It is a constant reminder to have an open mind and be considerate in your written and online interactions — mindful of cultures, preferences, schedules, communication styles. I personally find it very engaging to interact with a global crowd and learn from them. 

Jeff Golenski

Jeff, what do you as a designer like most about working in a globally distributed company?

As a product / UX designer, there are two factors that I really love about working with a globally distributed team.

The first is the diversity, culture, and behavior I’ve had the opportunity to learn about. Different parts of the world use technology differently — folks react to color in different ways, and tone can play a massive role in the usage of our products. A product that has an 85% sign up conversion rate in the USA or EU may have a dramatically lower one in Japan or India. I’ve really learned to dig into quantitative data to find these types of usage differences on a global scale. Then, I use qualitative research to determine why the differences occur. I’ve learned quite a bit in my tenure here, things that I never would have learned working in a company that operates strictly in North America. 

Secondly, It’s incredible to work with colleagues in different time zones. I use this to my advantage when it comes to project collaboration. If I ship designs in the evening at 7 p.m., I generally wake up to actionable feedback when I start my next work day, thanks to friends located elsewhere in the world.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

Raúl, what are the aspects of remote work in the Automattic way that you like most?

Flexibility, an amazing communication model, and being surrounded by global talent.

You start with time and space flexibility: you can work from anywhere and at any time you feel more productive and comfortable. The obvious result is work-life conciliation. But other corollaries are equally powerful: asynchrony, horizontality, and transparency. Three magic words that spark participation and enable people to contribute at their best. Flexibility sparks my creativity and makes me happy and productive: a win-win.

Asynchronous horizontal transparent communication requires text by default, and fosters a new paradigm of improvement by iteration, collaboration, and transparency where anything is documented. This allows mentioning people to see their take in a discussion. It allows new people to chime in and add value because discussions are open and transparent. This communication paradigm allows capitalization, linkability, reusability… of discussions, not just of results: that’s brilliant! Divergent voices are not silenced, but remain present and can offer valuable input. I enjoy having access to this chaos of voices every single day. (Remember chaos doesn’t mean lack of order but a truly complex, interesting and colorful order!) 

With global distribution comes global talent. And the best perk you can possibly have is being surrounded by friendly brilliant colleagues. Chris, Anna, Jeff, and Mahangu… are good examples of this! 🙂

Mahangu Weerasinghe

Mahangu, what do you like about Automattic being globally distributed, and how has that impacted you?

Talent and intelligence are equally distributed around the world, but opportunity is not.

A well-known mantra at Automattic that comes straight from our CEO Matt, this is also the North Star of the Talent Operations division and is the reason I come in to work every day on the Talent Analytics team. Talent Analytics creates and maintains hiring data pipelines, metrics, and reporting for our hiring teams. Our mission is to help them make data-informed decisions and support them in creating the best candidate experience possible!

I live on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, and if Automattic was not globally distributed, I could not be a part of it. I always think about how many talented folks there are among the billion plus people that inhabit the Indian subcontinent I live in, and this is what led me to join a hiring team at Automattic that focused at the time on recruiting from South Asia.

Eventually, my interest in hiring led me to see how we could use hiring pipeline data to achieve our hiring goals. This is how I ended up on the Talent Analytics team. What I love most about working for a globally distributed company is that every day, I get to go to work and help build the workplace of the future. The fact that I get to do that alongside the most talented and amazing people I have ever had the privilege of working with, is definitely the icing on the cake!

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