At Jetpack, our Happiness Engineers are usually busy supporting our customers to ensure that they have everything they need for a successful website — but we interrupted one of them for an inside look at Jetpack and some valuable tips and tricks.
Meet Joen, a Jetpack Happiness Engineer who grew up in Viking territory but now works remotely under the sunshine and blue skies of southern Spain.
Q. You’re originally from the Faroe Islands and now you live in Málaga, Spain. How did you end up there?
The Faroe Islands is a tiny, semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Since it’s located in the middle of the North Atlantic, it used to serve as a Viking pit stop on the way to Iceland.
Now I live in the Costa del Sol, which has about 320 days of sun a year — the complete opposite of how I grew up. If there’s bad weather here, just wait a week and it’ll go away! I first came here to visit friends and complete some temporary work assignments for another company, but what was supposed to last a month turned into seven years.
Q. How did you start working with WordPress?
I hand-coded my first HTML pages in 1998. And when I created my first blog, it seemed like almost no one was online. It felt private, like a different kind of web — small, almost.
In 2005, WordPress sucked me in with the famous “five-minute install,” which was a way to get a blog and website up and running in no time back when everything else took much longer.
Q. What do you remember most from when you first started?
I remember that I accidentally nuked my blog during an update. That was a big part of the learning process. Back then it was like, “A real man doesn’t make backups; he just cries when he loses everything.”
Q. How did you get into technology in the first place?
I was tech-minded and often tinkered with WordPress, which turned into doing little projects, and ultimately working as a developer and freelancer. I consider myself to be good at explaining things to people and bridging the gap between business and technical.
I always say that, among the techies, I’m the least technical one and, among the non-techies, I’m the most technical. I walk that fine line and translate between those two worlds. I moved into customer support because I really like helping people.
Q. So how did you end up helping people as a Happiness Engineer?
Three years ago, I was working on a WordPress project when I came across Automattic’s site. I realized it was a remote company, and the idea of combining my love of WordPress with working from home sounded great — so I applied.
I was assigned to work on Jetpack, which is one of the more technical things we work on, so I was thrown right into that.
Q. How do you explain to people what Jetpack is?
I came in with no preconceived notions about Jetpack and used to create my own custom solutions to common problems. Then, I realized that Jetpack solves a lot of those issues in one plugin — from brute force protection to backups. It’s a great first plugin to install because it takes care of everything from speeding up to protecting your site.
The Support Page is an excellent way to learn about everything that Jetpack has to offer.
Q. We hear you have a special analogy to explain Jetpack.
I use the analogy of Jetpack being a smart home system. Imagine that WordPress is a house that needs to be built on a foundation — that foundation is your hosting provider.
A house also has rooms that need to be decorated with paint and furniture — those are themes. Then you can add things that extend outside the home, like a solar panel on the roof or a shed in the backyard — those are plugins.
A smart home system makes sure everything runs optimally, conducts surveillance to make sure no one breaks in, and serves as a bridge to the cloud to get the latest updates and features to improve the home’s environment — that’s Jetpack.
Q. What’s the most common question you get when people contact you for help?
It’s almost always, “Why is my site not working?” which typically has nothing to do with Jetpack. But we help everyone and provide professional service even if it’s “not our problem,” so to speak.
We’re usually the first point of contact when someone needs help and we use tools to figure out what’s wrong. If it’s an external problem, we provide the user with next steps. The issue is often a server error, so we give customers the information they need to get in touch with their host.
Q. What’s the best part of your job?
It’s helping people. At the end of the day, people don’t really want a website; they want to solve a problem, build a business, or sell products. They don’t usually care about the technical underpinnings of their websites. Running a site is stressful, and the less time you have to pay attention to it, the more time you have to do what you love. I really like cases where we help people get back to doing what they love.
Q. What’s it like being a Happiness Engineer?
Support at Automattic is not like support elsewhere. At Automattic, everyone has a high level of technical proficiency but also a high level of humanity. It’s easy to forget that behind every email there is a real person with a real problem, and we can help them find the solution.
Q. What do you do in your free time?
Since my work requires a lot of time behind a screen, I think it’s important to balance that with time outside in the sunshine. So, I use my flexible schedule to build in lots of time for physical things like running, swimming, and biking.
I’ve been in IT my whole professional life and it’s a lot of sitting. It’s really important to get away from the computer, let your eyes recover, and move your body.
People like Joen are who many Jetpack users count on for guidance and technical troubleshooting. In addition to a wide selection of support documentation, all paid Jetpack plans include priority support.
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