The Assignment And The Rejection

Background: I sent in a job application for Happiness Engineer at Automattic on 12th July 2018. So this post is about the assignment I was required to complete and submit in order to be considered for the next stage of the whole hiring process, i.e. the first interview.

I received an email from the hiring team on 16th July 2018 with some instructions on a small assignment that to be completed and submitted to them. There’s no deadline for the submission but I got to admit that I was rushing to send it in within the same day. You can tell how desperate I am to join Automattic. I still am.

The assignment consists of a few small tasks to be completed which include migrating a site’s content to, setting up DNS and email hosting. I’m not going into details of that but I suspect that the assignment could be given according to the level of proficiency on WordPress. If I remember well, I selected “I’ve set up my own WordPress site” in the dropdown list.

The instruction in the email is very brief, usually only one to three sentences letting you know what you should do. This is the tricky part and it requires you to try to understand the gist of it.

Setting up DNS and email hosting is new to me. Thanks to the introductory article by a current Happiness Engineer on How Domains & DNS Work and by Google search, I think I considered myself completed the task. Even though it looked complex and confusing at first, after a few trial and error, I finished the setup in an hour.

The site migration overkilled me due to my underestimation on the intention of the instruction. Before I submitted the assignment, I thought HTML/CSS skills are not required. I have basic HTML knowledge but not CSS. So I tried my best luck to try to design the migrated site on in such a way that the design matches with the original site as close as possible. I can say that I did it using some dirty tricks but I guess it’s not what they wanted.

So on 18th July 2018 at midnight, I received an email from the hiring team that they will not proceed with the interview after carefully reviewing everything. I was stunned. I re-read the email for at least five times to make sure the rejection email is real. But shortly after that, I realized my mistakes on the assignment so I quickly re-check everything on the site that I set up and the original site, comparing almost each of the elements and tried to figure out what went wrong.

In the rejection email, they didn’t provide any feedback on my application due to their huge volume of applications to be processed. This is totally understandable. And they encouraged me to check out the forums (e.g. support forum) to learn more on Automattic family of products and to gain more experience in support by involving in the support forum. Let’s say I’m interested to reapply, I’ll need to let them know my own support philosophy, my thoughts on the goals of a great support and what’s changed for me in the interim.

Although the email is sad and disappointing, to me it’s a guideline for me to improve myself and to equip myself with better skills to be suited to become a Happiness Engineer for Automattic and it’s a lot more things to learn which is fun! The best thing is that it’s not the end of my journey as I always welcomed to reapply! Also, I’m not alone as I found out that some of the first time rejected applicants managed to join Automattic in their second application. I hope I will be one of them.

At this point of writing, I’m working on a checklist to prepare myself better for the next application. So far I have:

  • Volunteer and learn in (and other Automattic products) support forum. [Started since five days ago]
  • Familiarize with features in
  • Build e-commerce website using WooCommerce on self-hosted WordPress.
  • Brush up HTML and learn CSS on Udemy. [On going now]
  • Read more books on customer support. Starting with Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.
  • Complete the Contact Form 7 Lesson Plan. [This is not really related to the job application but I volunteered to help the community in preparing the lesson plan for trainers to download and use for training.]
  • and so on.

I’ve decided to use this blog as a tracker on my progress to achieve my dream of becoming a Happiness Engineer. If I ever succeeded, the blog posts will be a reminder of one of the most amazing journey of my life.

Blog posts that motivated me to reapply:

4 thoughts on “The Assignment And The Rejection

  1. 🙂 Have you ever thought about applying for Akismet? They are part of the Automattic family.

    Now, I do not know what are the requirements to join Akismet. But, I doubt that understanding the concept of spam and combating it could be that hard.

    I do hope that you get through with being a Happy Engineer the second time around.

    1. Hi Renard, thank you for your comment and wishes! Actually, the Happiness Engineer job at Automattic is not solely about WordPress. Since Akismet, WooCommerce, Jetpack, etc are in-house plugins of WordPress, I guess it’s still important to have certain knowledge on it. Anyway, I’ll explore the products of Automattic to learn more about the company as well. Cheers!

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