Interview with Dave Martin: Automattician

Black and white close up of Dave Martin.Dave Martin is the Creative Director and Growth Lead at Automattic. In his own words he is…

A husband and a father. Those titles mean more to me than anything else. I live in North Carolina with my wife and 3 kids. I have a lot of passions, most of them related to the web. I’m a designer, a developer, and I love startups.

Describe your role in Automattic. What have you done there in the past?

I currently hold two titles, both Creative Director & Growth lead. That may come off sounding fancy but when it comes down to it, they are both really just support roles. My job is to make sure that our 30+ designers and growth explorers are happy, and that they have everything they need to do great work.

I started off at Automattic 5 years ago as a UI designer. In the 5 years that I’ve been there I’ve jumped around to six different roles. Prior to Automattic, I had a habit of jumping around to new companies every 2 years or so – I can thank my A.D.D. for that habit. Fortunately, Automattic has been supportive of me swapping teams whenever I get antsy.

I recently wrote about how the hiring process at Automattic works for WP Tavern.

What is an example of something you’re currently working on as an Automattician?

One of our goals for the year has been to focus on the experience that new users have with our service. We call it New User Experience, or NUX. People use WordPress.com for loads of different things. It’s been fun trying to sort out how to provide the best experience for each individual person.

How does Automattic relate to WordPress?

One of the co-founders of the WordPress open source software (which can be found at http://wordpress.org) went on to found a for profit company called Automattic. Automattic owns WordPress.com, a hosted & free version of WordPress that anyone can use without needing to pay for hosting. WordPress.org (a non-profit organization) is a separate entity from Automattic. That said, both of their missions are the same, to democratize publishing.

Have you been to any WordPress camps? If so, what is your favorite part? Have you been a speaker there?

Yep, I’ve been to quite a few. The last one that I spoke at was WordCamp San Francisco 2014. My talk was on the benefits of prototyping, and how it leads to better product design. You can find my talk hosted on WordCamp TV.

I did another one at Automattic Camp, a gathering of Automatticians, using creative communication techniques to remind everyone that’s it’s ok to have fun while working.

Dave Martin, dancing like the character from the Napoleon Dynamite movie.

Will you give us an example of what a day in the life of Dave Martin is?

One of my kids typically wakes me up around 6:30am. On weekdays I’ll try and let my wife sleep in. I’ll head downstairs with my kids to make breakfast. Sometimes I grab a hand full of Kix cereal for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll just skip it. While my kids eat, I’ll hop online and try to clear through some email and Slack messages. This helps me get a better feel for what my day will look like.

My wife has the kids out the door by 9:00am to get my daughter off to school. About that time I’ll take a shower and get dressed. My work day officially starts around 9:30am or 10:00am. I’ve got a small office in my backyard which is nice because I can work from home, while not actually being in the home.

I’ll typically work for 2 hours, then take an hour for lunch. When I get back from lunch I’ll typically put in another 3 hours. At 3:00pm I’ll usually hit a wall where I find it hard to get a lot done. Rather than try and force myself to work, I’ll often go read a book, go for a run, or take a quick nap.

I almost always wrap up by 5:00pm. I’ll go inside and help make dinner. I’ll hang with my family for a couple hours, and help put my kids to bed. After the kids are in bed, I may hop online for another hour in the evening, or I may just relax with my wife.

I’ll head to bed around 11:00pm most nights, then wake up and do it all again.

What is your home office like? Is it where you do most of your work?

A couple of years ago I had a small office built in my backyard. It’s just a single 12×12′ room. It’s got electricity, a small A/C unit and heater, and the wifi from the home reaches it just fine. This is where I do most of my work. At Automattic, we have the option of going to a co-working location. I’ve tried that, but find that I like working from home more. I’m a total introvert.

Do you have a WordPress site? What do you use it for?

I do… You can visit it. I use it to write about stuff that interests me. I mostly write about design, growth, and startups.

Why do you like working for Automattic.

6 people standing infront of a table participating in a hot dog eating competition.
Dave participating in a hot dog eating contest at an Automattic Camp.

There is so much to like. The mission to democratize publishing is something that I find admirable. I get treated extremely well. I work with brilliant people on software used by millions. Automattic is 100% distributed, which means that each employee works from wherever they live. I get to work from a small town in North Carolina. There’s a huge amount of trust, and I appreciate that from an employer. It frees me to do my best work.

What is your best advice for up and coming designers in the web world?

Don’t get overwhelmed. There’s a lot to learn. It can seem like a new technology is added to the list weekly. Don’t stress. Start from wherever you are, and just keep making progress daily. Don’t try to learn too many things at once. Pick one thing, and focus on getting better at that one thing. Then pick another, and never stop learning!

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