Automattic Switch

Earlier this year, I changed team at work1.

Sankey diagram showing team Alpha splitting into Fire and Fuel; later Desire forms from parts of Fire and Fuel; later still Experiments forks from Fire and the remainder of Fire eventually become part of Desire. Team Masamune appears part-way along the timeline and runs parallel and independent to it. Dan's trajectory starts in Alpha, becomes part of Fire, and is eventually in the portion that merges into Desire.
This simplified diagram shows my journey so-far (dotted white line) through Automattic.

When I started at Automattic in 2019 I was assigned to Team Alpha, the engineering team responsible for In 2020 the team later forked into teams Fire and Fuel, and I landed on the Fire side of the split2.

This winter, though, Fire became underpopulated. We lost a few folks to a newly-formed Experiments team, and several individual team members moved to other parts of the company. Once we got small enough it wasn’t worthwhile being a team in our own right. Our focus areas got split between Desire and Masume, and those of us who were left got absorbed into Team Desire. That’s where you’ll now find me.

Intranet identity card for Dan Q (he/him/his), Code Magician on Desire.
I miss being “on Fire”, because it sounded cool. Maybe I should suggest a patch for our intranet to allow teams to choose the preposition used when referring to their members, e.g. from “on”, “in”, “of” etc. Then I could be the “Code Magician of Desire”, which is a cool job title once again.

I was initially a bit bummed about the dissolution of my old team3 and struggled to find my place in my new team. The work is similar and the codebases overlap, but even sibling teams can have different rituals and approaches to problems that provide a learning barrier4.

I think I’ve begun to find my feet now, and next week I’m excited to meet many of my new team in-person for the first time at a Desire-wide meetup in Amsterdam5.


1 Strangely, this isn’t directly related to Automattic’s recent re-organisation, which I’ve written about previously, but is a result of more-local changes within my division coupled with the natural flow of Automatticians around the company. But it does make it feel from my perspective like a lot of things are getting jiggled about simultaneously!

2 When Alpha were first discussing the upcoming split, I suggested that we might like to give our new teams a “pair” of names that linked to one another, and threw out a few ideas to get the ball rolling. One of those ideas was “Fuel and Fire”; I jokingly added that “it was like the Metallica song, which also gave us ‘Desire’ as a possible third team name should the need arise”. This wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously, but apparently it was taken seriously enough because my suggestion was the winner and I soon ended up “on Fire”.

3 Many of my old teammates and I did at least manage to get together for one final (virtual) social event, culminating in a symbolic “extinguishing of fire” as a candle that had been left burning through the meeting was put out at the end.

4 A team’s rituals aren’t just about the way they hold their meetings or run their retros; for example my new team are very disciplined about announcing their appearance on a morning with a friendly greeting in our social channel, which are for some reason generally responded-to with a barrage of “waving Pikachu” slackmoji. I don’t know why Pikachu is the mascot of our mornings, but I’ve joined in because it’s a fun gesture of the team’s distinct collective personality. Also it’s a cute GIF: it’s nice to get waved-at by Pikachu on a morning.

5 Doubly-awesome, the destination’s proximity means that I get to travel by Eurostar rather than having to fly.

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  1. Tulip Tulip says:

    What did you use to create this chart btw? Is there some off-the-shelf/open-source tooling, or did you just build it from scratch?

    We’re about to go through a big re-org at work, after a number of other re-orgs, and I’m quite curious to make my own version of the same.

    The feelings are very familiar though, this new re-org might be leaving me in a whole new group of people, but doing work more focused on the stuff I enjoy. I’m nervous to meet them and learn their ways of working and such, but yeah.

    1. Dan Q Dan Q says:

      I used (free) to get the overall shape, then coloured and labelled it using Inkscape (free and open source).

      Inkscape screenshot showing Dan's process for making the diagram.

  2. Dan Q Dan Q says:

    …in England and Wales From 1696 until 1851 a “window tax” was imposed in England and Wales. Sort-of a precursor to property taxes like council tax today, it used an estimate of the value of a property as an indicator of the wealth of its occupants: counting the number of windows provided the mech

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