At Jetpack, our team members are usually busy tinkering under the hood to make sure everything is humming along and our customers are satisfied — but we interrupted one of them for an inside look at Jetpack and some valuable tips and tricks.
Meet Filipe, a Design Engineer from Lisbon, Portugal. As a child, Filipe loved opening up electronics to see how they worked; he now applies that same curiosity to the internet.
Q. Tell us how you started working with Automattic and Jetpack.
Although I used WordPress.com for a long time, it wasn’t until I met a friend who worked at Automattic that I realized there were actual people behind the scenes. He encouraged me to apply for a job, so I did. When I wasn’t selected, I created a calendar reminder to try again exactly one year later.
Q. So how did you end up getting the job the second time around?
When I applied for the first time, I had a job at a digital marketing agency putting out work that wasn’t rewarding or fulfilling. I was doing it all — videos, websites, mock-ups, billboards. It was speed over quality, which I’m not fond of. After my first interview with Automattic, I realized I needed to make a job change to make my experience a better fit for Automattic’s needs. So, I got a more technical, specialized position where I was able to develop UX and research skills, and interact directly with users and developers. Learning these skills made all the difference.
Q. What does a Design Engineer do?
A Design Engineer bridges the gap between product design and technical development. They’re comfortable with research and code alike, understand how strategy and branding work, and can lead projects by connecting the two. A designer at Automattic needs the flexibility to adapt to a variety of scenarios and projects.
For example, we’ve recently worked on projects where designers had to do market and product research in order to define what we’d be building along with teams of developers.
We then start defining and iterating on what the product behaves and feels like in very short sprints.
And it’s not uncommon that we all have some degree of overlap during a project. Designers often lend a hand to developers with simple code experiments, animations, or functional prototypes. Similarly, we get lots of great ideas, suggestions, and feedback from developers on a regular basis.
That’s only the beginning though — the entire product lifecycle (and thereafter) is a tight collaboration between real-world customers, Happiness Engineers, developers, marketers, data scientists, and designers.
Q. So you’re using both sides of your brain?
Sometimes I feel like I’m using both sides and then some.
Q. Were you always interested in technology and design?
I always liked to mess around with computers and try to figure stuff out, opening electronics and seeing what each part does. The web is just like that. It’s a pretty complicated thing, but once you break it down, you can see how individual pieces work together.
Q. Do you have a design philosophy?
Design becomes your norm. It’s not something you have to think about.
As you go through a career, you acquire certain skills that allow you to design intuitively. I don’t know if designers can ever turn that off.
But when I’m creating something, there is one thing I do — I think of my mother. Her name is Margarida but everyone calls her “Guida.”
I use her as an example of how someone should design an interface, because my mother doesn’t know how to use any interface. I can spend two days working on something and then on the third day I sit down and look at it from my mother’s perspective. This helps me reduce things down to their simplest form.
Q. What’s your typical day like?
I wake up and spend time with my wife and our two daughters — they’re four years old and eight months old. I start work around 9:00 AM and end around 6:00 PM.
I’m usually assigned to a project, so there’s plenty to do from writing copy to building out prototypes, working on marketing assets, or coordinating and updating tasks on a project board. There’s no usual day — each one comes with a new challenge.
After work, I spend time with the family; walk my French Bulldog, Akira; or ride my bike in the woods near my house. There’s not much time for cinema or TV these days.
Q. What Jetpack project are you most proud of?
Jetpack Activity, which was a pretty complex project. It’s a very powerful feature presented in a simple way. The activity log records actions taken on your site and allows you to go back in time and investigate why something happened so you can diagnose problems.
If you need to restore your site, it’s really useful to have that context so you know exactly what you’re restoring and what you’re forfeiting. Typically, backups are ZIP files with absolutely no context, but Jetpack Activity cleverly presents information and makes it easy to filter. It removes the complexity of figuring out what your backup contains.
Q. What do you wish people knew about Jetpack?
Jetpack makes your site a lot more secure by providing easy, affordable backups and real-time monitoring. If your site goes down, you instantly get an email, which I don’t think many people realize.
Also, the plugin auto-updates feature is very helpful.
Q. What is the most common question you’re asked about Jetpack?
Unfortunately, the most common question is, “What is Jetpack?” Because it can do so many things, people have different perspectives on how to use it. It’s not easy to come up with a single line that doesn’t sound cliché or forced. But if I had to, I would say, “Jetpack provides a better WordPress experience.”
Q. What advice would you give a new Jetpack user?
I would say that Jetpack most likely includes the functionality that you need. We often see people install Jetpack for a single feature, then add ten other plugins that collectively accomplish what could be done with Jetpack alone. They may not know that you can use it to build contact forms, push out content to social media, get site stats, or help with SEO.
It’s hard to mention all the features because there are just so many. So my best advice would be to explore what Jetpack has to offer — the support page is a great place to start. You can discover great tips and articles and use the search bar to find exactly what you need.
Q. What’s it like working at Jetpack?
It’s quite amazing. It’s pretty cool to see so many different backgrounds and languages come together. I work with people from Bulgaria, Italy, Slovenia, Poland, the US, the UK, and Australia.
Automattic never sleeps. I end my day at the same time my teammate, Chris, who lives in Hawaii, starts work. We’re all circling around each other and, somehow, it all works.
Q. What are you working on right now?
We’re launching Jetpack Search, which offers an instant search feature. Before that, I was working on a security feature that automatically monitors for malware and other malicious code that could hurt your site.
Q. What Jetpack feature are you most excited about?
Jetpack Backup, which is pretty powerful and works really well. If your site goes down, you can still access your files and restore a backup. We’re offering a powerful tool at an affordable price, which essentially democratizes site security.
Q. What do you love about your job on a personal level?
I love how much of an impact we have on other people’s lives. I know it’s cliché to say that, but it’s true. All kinds of people use our products — bloggers and store owners as well as enterprise-level businesses. They’re all so different and use Jetpack to solve unique challenges. I think this really speaks to the depth and flexibility of our product.
Read Filipe’s posts at https://automattic.design/author/keoshi/
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