So what we’ve done over the past few years is actually offer the same compensation bands globally. So wherever you’re doing the work, you can have the opportunity to make the same amount. It’s not perfect, because we pay people in the local currency and sometimes currencies can move quite a bit and we have to adjust for that.

Matt Mullenweg, NY Times interview

This definitely wasn’t my experience. There is a lot of secrecy around compensation at Automattic, much more than “the same compensation bands globally” would imply. Any discussion of salaries was subtly (and not-so-subtly) discouraged under the banner of “you should be more motivated by impact than money” – as though you could only care about one or the other.

Prospective Automatticians, expect to spend weeks in the application process (and many, many hours of your time on interviews and trial projects) before you’ll be told the salary that’s on offer. And don’t expect to negotiate – you can take it or leave it.

If Automattic were truly a company with fair, equitable, and transparent compensation policies, is this the kind of behaviour you’d expect?

8 replies on “Compensation”

This is probably a good lesson to learn wherever you work, but don’t trust anything they promise you regarding pay.

Matt offered me 20% less than my previous job. When I expressed concern he reassured me by explicitly saying it was only a starting point and that there was “plenty of room to grow”.

After two years of inflation-matching raises, I showed him that exact text and his response was “I’m sorry if that’s what you understood”, as if it were my fault for misinterpreting “plenty of room to grow”.

And there is the issue.

Posts on HN will say “Get it in writing” but how do you do that in Slack or any other similar medium? Developer tools mean text can be altered.

Matt would say “I did not say that” and an unadulterated screenshot of the conversation would be deemed a fake.

Ask that HR email you with any terms / conditions / expectations.
Not perfect, but better than a Slack chat.

Remember – Matt’s interests are not your interests.

Just to be clear, all this discussion happened in one Slack DM channel. When I chatted with him two years later, I shared a quoted *link* to the Slack message he sent me on our “Matt chat”.

I’ve applied for JS Engineer role. Could anyone tell me the expected/average salary for this role? What can I do (if anything at all) to make sure that I get a similar salary? Any negotiation tips? Thanks!

@Jon no, nothing, and no.
– No, nobody can tell you what salary you’ll be offered. You have to wait until you are made an actual offer.
– There is nothing you can really do to affect what offer you are made, as it will be “take it or leave it”. There is no negotiation.

To anticipate your follow-up questions:
– Yes, this is really how it works.
– Yes, really.
– Yes, it is what some might charitably call an “unconventional” approach. (You might have other words for it.)
– No, I don’t know why they act like this.

As the previous commentor expressed, I’d also be surprised if there is much room for negotiation.

However, since Matt has said that Automattic tries to “pay everyone the same” regardless of their location and they have plenty of US employees, it should be very reasonable for you to ask for a US-level salary (not a Bay Area salary, but 100-120K for example). Depending on your location, this could be a good strategy.

Side tip: If they ask you how much you were making before, don’t answer the question.

It’s true that Matt keeps mentioning that they “pay everyone the same”. However, I’m a not in the US. So I don’t know what to expect. The other reply also mentions that the offer is “take it or leave it” and that they don’t negotiate. Both of which seem odd and unheard of, at least by a reputable and big organization such as Automattic.

Thanks for tip, though. If I ever make it to the final stage, I’ll update this thread with the compensation that I was offered. Maybe someone else will find it helpful. 🙂