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Automattic

Compensation

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?

15 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. 🙂

Maybe he meant employees, but I’m sure contractors from countries without subsidiaries didn’t get paid the same as employees, we would get paid less in general. What I remember is that salaries would vary according to local averages.

It never bothered me because it was a good salary for my country standards. It did when they started bulk hiring less experienced HEs (by that I mean, as an example, specifically one that had never run an XML import in their life, If I remember it well my trial project included importing some content into a new WP install) and these same HEs would earn more than I whom had been in the company for three years. That seemed to me quite unfair.

Not an Automattic employee, I consider applying for a technical role (js engineer). Could someone kindly tell how many hours per week you work on average?

If I remember correctly, I heard somewhere that there is not set hours per week, that you are measured by results etc.

I’m particularly worried, I saw saw a post on Quora of someone who used to work as a data engineer, saying he’s been working 9-10 per day on average. Which does sound a little insane too me. Unless he’s been working 4 days in a week or counting breaks as work time.

In short, if I’m someone who wants to do quality 40h of work (tracked on a timer – not including breaks etc.) – should I bother applying? Or should I look somewhere else?

Thanks!

It probably depends on the specific team you’re on, but I think individual developers are the last/only group of employees that enjoy the flexibility advertised by Automattic. Happiness engineers are tied to very strict schedules and managers have tons of meetings in unpredictable time zones.

As a developer, I was either passionate and worked overtime trying to push projects through all the resistance, or I was demotivated and delivered exactly what’s asked of me, which I could do with 20-30 hours a week.

May I have a question? I have heard that Automattic disallows to have any kind of commercial side projects. Is this also enforced if you are hired as a contractor – e.g. by signing some kind of agreement?
Thanks!

Yes, there is a non-competition clause in your contract. It’s not disallowed per se, but you’ll have to ask for permission if you are selling anything else on the side. If you are selling kitchenware on Etsy, that will most likely get an “OK”. Anything that ventures into territory where you could potentially be a competition to Automattic won’t be allowed though. Examples are: WP plugins, theme development, website development, online marketing services. Then there are some gray areas where you might get away with delivering the service if you donate the money you get from it, e.g. remote workforce training.
There is an internal process for you to submit your project so it can be reviewed by HR. Turnaround for this is pretty quick.

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