My experience on Trial at Automattic

Last week, I finished my Trial at Automattic. While I wasn’t successful in my bid to work for a company that I hugely admire, I appreciate the experience and insight that I was able to gain from my few weeks working with them.

How it all began

I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up engineering as my career and moving into web development full-time, as I’m enjoying it a lot more.

My plan had been to do freelancing full-time, but to give up a steady professional salary and benefits for the uncertainty of freelancing is daunting. If someone could pay my salary for 6 months while I build up my workload and client list, I could easily earn well in excess of what I make as a professional engineer. However, I haven’t had any applications for someone willing to do that for me.

So when I read that my friend Dustin Hartzler had recently landed himself a job at Automattic, it turned on a light bulb in my head. I started considering whether I wanted to work for Automattic, and the more I read, the more I wanted to jump right in (I’ll explore the benefits of working for Automattic later). Continue reading My experience on Trial at Automattic

My long road to becoming a licensed Professional Engineer

I studied Civil Engineering at the University of Brighton, having been born and bred in Brighton. As is standard in the UK, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in three years.

While I was at university, I met and fell in love with an American, who lived in Florida (her name is Marti by the way). Since I was a little more easy-going than her, I made the trek to the US rather than the other way around, so I now found myself, recently graduated, living in the States.

Work permit and green card issues aside, I finally got a job working as a Civil Engineer with Black & Veatch. It wasn’t long before I started investigating what needed to be done to become a professional engineer in Florida. After all, it’s kind of a necessary step to get anywhere in your career (as is becoming Chartered in the UK).

As I have a foreign degree, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers makes you get your education evaluated, which as I recall, cost about $250. It required getting my university, and even my A-level exam boards, to send transcripts of all my results directly to the evaluator (they cannot come through you). Several weeks later, I got a letter from them describing all the courses I had taken and how they compare to an ABET degree, which requires 32 credit hours in higher mathematics and basic sciences, 48 credit hours in engineering science and engineering design, and 16 hours in humanities and social sciences. Continue reading My long road to becoming a licensed Professional Engineer

Saying no to good job opportunities

I was recently presented with a job opportunity that was hard to pass up. It would have meant venturing into my preferred career (WordPress) full-time, taking an increase in pay, working from home and more. But I had to turn it down.

During the interview with the owner of the company, we started discussing the logistics of a trial which we both wanted to move ahead with. The looming arrival of Jack caused me to note that at any given time, I would be away from my desk for two weeks and I unapologetically would not be checking email or working as I enjoyed my paternity leave with my family.

That commitment to my core values acted as an excellent guide when considering this job offer. All along the way, everything lined up with what meant the most to me and it was only for that reason that I continued to pursue it.

The man that owned the company was very pleasant and I was looking forward to working with him and his team, and on the work that they had in mind for me. Ultimately it transpired that their team makes a point of working 45-50 hours per week as standard. That might be fine for some people but not for me. I work to live: I don’t live to work. My job is principally a way to fund me and my family’s lifestyle so that I can enjoy that lifestyle with them once my 40 hours are done. So the idea of working another 1-2 hours a day and being away from my family for that much more every day just wasn’t going to cut it for me.

Saying no to a good opportunity is hard, especially when you want out of your current job, you have a passion for something else, you’d be earning more money and any number of other benefits, but ultimately if it causes you to go against your core values, you have to say no.

When I said no, it was quite bizarre. Despite having gotten excited about this new opportunity, there were no hard feelings or sadness on my part. It was an acknowledgement that I had done the right thing for me and my family and that there’s just something better waiting in the offing.

Why $15/hr for fast food workers just doesn’t make sense

I haven’t paid attention to this “news story” where fast food workers in the US are demanding $15/hr for the work they do, but an opinion piece from Matt Walsh (Fast Food Workers: You Don’t Deserve $15 an Hour to Flip Burgers, and That’s OK) caught my eye on Facebook and I proceeded to read through his thought process.

Matt’s thoughtfully crafted article is an excellent rebuttal to the orders of fast food workers. Jobs are paid commensurate with their implicit value and as Matt elegantly puts it:

So, real talk: Your job isn’t worth 15 bucks an hour. Sure, as a human being, you’re priceless. As a child of God, you’re precious, a work of art, a freaking miracle. But your job wrapping hamburgers in foil and putting them in paper bags — that has a price tag, and the price tag ain’t anywhere close to the one our economy and society puts on teachers and mechanics.

Continue reading Why $15/hr for fast food workers just doesn’t make sense

The importance of a contingency

My wife loves her some HGTV. Home & Garden TV makes home makeovers, renovations and purchasing look easier than putting up a shelf in the garage.

As an engineer, I’m used to putting cost opinions for large construction projects together. It would be considered foolish to not include a contingency in your cost opinion: you may start off with a 30-40% contingency during preliminary design and reduce it to 10-15% when design is complete.

The contingency accounts for the unknowns. It’s not a safety net if something goes wrong; it’s a fund to cover the things that will come up that aren’t specifically accounted for in the design. Continue reading The importance of a contingency

No more face washing

For the past 3 months, following on from a trial that my wife did, I have stopped washing my face with soap and a washcloth.

Before you start freaking out, this does not mean that I have thrown personal hygeine to the wind: I am instead opting to wipe my face with a wetted konjac sponge and no cleanser.

Dew Puff is the brand of konjac sponge that I use and I’m very happy with them. They last about 3 months and they’re made from the root of the konjac plant: a material which, when wetted, becomes very smooth and sponge-like. Continue reading No more face washing

The burden of debt

It all started when I went to university. During Freshers’ Week, several events are put on to acclimatise you to life at your university and student life in general and some of the many vendors at the events included banks and credit card companies trying to sell you on student bank accounts and student credit cards.

It’s a little too tempting. A credit card / loan designed just for me and my needs as a student? It can’t hurt to sign up. I’ll just pay off the balance every month.

It really is a slippery slope. When I went to university my fees were paid for because my family had a low income so I only needed money to live. Given that I was living at home and had a job, I didn’t really need the student loan that was available to me, but again, everyone else was doing it and who would turn down a loan that doesn’t accrue interest until you leave university, has an interest rate equivalent to the inflation rate (a few percent) and only gets paid back once you’re earning a moderate wage? Continue reading The burden of debt

Early retirement

What does early retirement mean to you? Retiring at 60?

55?

40?

Retiring at 40 (or earlier) really isn’t all that impossible, especially if you set your sights on it early on in life.

I was prompted to write this little piece by a piece I read on BBC Capital about retiring early. With some diligence, tough decisions and very intentional frugal living, those with a decent job could save a good amount of money. Continue reading Early retirement

How to spell a name

I certainly don’t think of myself as old-fashioned, but when I see names spelled incorrectly, I’m sure I come off that way.

This became especially noticeable to me when I moved to America. Evidently, there is a cultural trend here of giving your child a unique name for the sake of them having a name that no one else does but also it seems as something of a status symbol, that you were free or daring enough to spell it differently.

To me, alternative spellings not only look weird and ugly, but they just cause confusion in life.

And what is your name, ma’am?

Michaela. With an A, not an I, a K, not a CH, and a Y not an E.

It’s also just a progression of the bastardisation of language that people feel that they should just spell things how they sound or how they want in the name of expression. It’s the kind of attitude that is seeing through spelled as thru all too regularly and even in professional contexts.

Call me what you will, but to me, Rebekkah will always be Rebecca, Jacklynn will always be Jacqueline and Mikeal will always be Michael.

Further reading: Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life?