It’s no secret that English dominates the tech sector. From communicating with coworkers to launching software, English usually comes first. Even the most well-meaning companies can struggle to reach non-English-speaking users and provide a localized experience in their native language. And no surprise there, either — it’s really tough to do well.
As a small part of my job, I do what I can to help make WordPress.com better for users around the world. (And I’m certainly not alone. There are a lot of rockstar translators contributing to WordPress.com, along with a well-established group of polyglots working on the open-source WordPress project.)
I’m not a developer, so much of what I do is connecting people with resources. I help volunteer translators get oriented so they can help translate WordPress.com into their own language. I teach our internationalization team about the tools and methods used by professional translators. I find or report bugs that cause translation issues so the code can be improved. And I help educate all of my colleagues about how translation works. For a lot of people, just thinking about using WordPress.com in another language is … well, entirely foreign to them.
But every time someone stops to think about how a product works in another language, it makes a difference for users around the world. That’s why I was so impressed when I saw that Mark Zuckerberg held a Q&A session entirely in Chinese:
Sure, it wasn’t flawless Chinese, and I wouldn’t bet on Facebook’s developers switching from English to Chinese any time soon — but this Q&A session is a gesture. It’s recognition of a user base outside of the English-speaking world, a clear message from the CEO of a major tech company that he cares about speakers of other languages.
As a linguaphile I find it incredibly heartening to see what Zuckerberg did in this session, although I don’t expect every CEO to start speaking other languages. It takes a lot of time and dedication to learn a new language, and Zuckerberg has personal motivation — his wife’s family speaks Chinese. (I understand that motivation!)
What matters are the resources, attention, and energy that are invested in making the web a better place — for everyone.
The Automattic Creed starts with this:
I will never stop learning.
I don’t generally need much encouragement to start learning new things, but it’s awesome that learning is part of my job, every single day. Lately, I’ve focused most of my learning on data analysis.
Back in April, I worked with a group of colleagues on doing some basic data analysis related to our team’s work. I didn’t do the number crunching myself (hat tip to Kevin for doing that) but I was involved in framing our questions and coming up with hypotheses, along with helping brainstorm what to do with our findings. It sparked my interest in delving into the data more.
Last month, at our company meetup, I participated in a workshop (taught by a brilliant colleague and data engineer) on doing data analysis with Python and R. Most of my previous work was with qualitative data, so beyond basic statistics things tend to get fuzzy for me. But this workshop helped me find my legs and realize just where I needed to learn more.
So what am I up to now? I started reading Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, on the recommendation of some members of our data team. I’m also committing myself to a couple online classes. This week I started the course Measuring Causal Effects in the Social Sciences, and next month I’ll start Foundations of Data Analysis. We’ll see how I do with those, and I’ll do my best to share some of what I learn here. 🙂
Growing up, I had two very different examples for how to approach work. My dad worked as a software engineer for the same company for his entire career. My mom, on the other hand, had a more eclectic career: she was a social worker, a computer programmer, a teen counselor, and a researcher and is now a full-time volunteer.
Well, I inherited my dad’s eyes and my mom’s need for new challenges. 😉
Continue reading “How I Arrived at Automattic: Story of a Happiness Engineer”
I am a huge fan of the RSA Animate series, which combines audio from RSA events with animation by Cognitive Media to produce stunning videos that share big ideas. This video is from a talk by Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft. What stood out to me was this description of his talk:
Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.
What’s interesting to me about that description is this: As I watched the video, I kept thinking to myself that it was describing my everyday life. It didn’t feel like a talk about possibilities — it felt like a talk about my reality.
Open communication and sharing about what we’re working on? Thinking creatively and innovating? Working from the best places and at the best times for us to accomplish our goals? That’s what it’s like to work at Automattic.
It isn’t easy, of course. We’re trusted to do the best work we possibly can, and we’re responsible for what comes of that. We push ourselves to continually learn and improve ourselves. We search for the ways, throughout the company, that we can make the best use of our skills and interests. It takes a bit more gumption than a 9-to-5 where you can skate along with whatever your manager directs you to do — and that’s probably what makes me love it.
Does that sound like the kind of place you’d like to work? We’re hiring.