It’s been a few months since I’ve written on my blog. It’s not because I didn’t have anything to say. There were a lot of things I wanted to talk about but I wanted to address the elephant in the room before I addressed smaller issues.
Just over a year ago I took on the role of product manager for WooCommerce. That means that I make sure we’re building the best possible software for our customers. I don’t think up features willy nilly. I read the same blogs & books as our customers, I listen to the same podcasts as our customers, I go to the same conferences, I evaluate e-commerce platforms to see what they're doing and talking about, and I spend a lot of time talking to our customers.
I've successfully adopted the entrepreneur mindset which is great for my job. It means that I see an endless stream of opportunities. Every time I hear “It sucks that …”, “I wish that …”, or “Why does …” I know there’s space for a product or service and my mind starts turning about all of the ways to fill that gap. Could we build a piece of software to fix that? Could we create an e-course on this topic? Could we promote this service in some way?
This is a good thing. We've created a whole bunch of new features in WooCommerce based on these conversations and we've gotten more customers and made the existing customers happier. When WooThemes wasn't interested in pursuing something I would do it on my own time. I've created & sold my own products. I've learned how to promote my products through content and I've learned how hard it can be to build and maintain a newsletter. These experiences gave me practical e-commerce knowledge instead of theory.
And then in May things changed. WooThemes was acquired by Automattic and we had new policies.
Aside from the uncertainty which appears anytime your life situation changes there was only one hurdle I had to cross. And that was the Conflict of Interest (COI) policy. I won’t repeat the whole thing here but suffice it to say that you can do just about anything as long as you don’t make money off of it. That means that I can’t write any more books, and I can’t create any new courses or plugins. I also had to open source or sell my existing plugins.
This is where the mindset & attitude I developed over the last couple years becomes a bit of a problem. I had assets that were generating a ton of revenue that only required occasional fixes and they had to be sold off. It was like asking me to give up free money.
Sigh. It's just frustrating.
I'm not here to debate the policy. The policy is the policy and it's here to stay. The only thing I can do is choose to accept it or to go out on my own. And I'm still here.
I want to give this a chance. Automattic is the top of the WordPress industry. There is no going higher. I'm working with some of the best people in the industry they are people who have passion and purpose. If you've ever read the book Drive you'd know that that's all you really need.
I love small businesses and I love the idea that people can take care of themselves. That's part of the reason I love WooCommerce so much. It's technology that frees people from working for terrible companies. They can create their own product, work for themselves, and sell their creativity in any way they see fit.
I disagree with the policy. I think Automatticians know how to prioritize their job over their side projects and I think the benefits of side projects outweigh the negatives. But as much as I believe this; it doesn't matter. The policy is the policy and you need to accept it or move on.
I've decided to push through this uncomfortable period. Not working is challenging for me right now. I'm so used to putting in 110% that it's weird to have free time in the day. I'm going to take advantage of this free time. I'm going to get back into my hobbies, spend more time with friends, and spend more time with my partner. For better or worse this policy is forcing me to spend time taking care of myself which is maybe something I've left by the way side. Make no mistake this is very uncomfortable for me. But on occasion it's good to be uncomfortable. How else are you supposed to grow?
Hey Patrick, thanks for sharing. I have had the honor to know you from the Woo days and knew the strength and power you brought to the table there. As well as your book and other entrepreneurial successes.
And so appreciate you opening up on this post. I can only imagine the challenge and I would have felt the same way in my younger years. It sounds as if you made the right decision and I always wish you the best.
Sometimes it sucks having to be an adult 🙂
Nice post, Patrick! Thanks for the share. It’s a bummer about all your work and products, but I’m excited to see what comes out of the extra free time!
Just saw this post in my feed reader and had to read it! 🙂
And it was a sad read. I totally respect your decision but it sounds totally sad, needless to say I don’t agree with such policies. Maybe you should have moved on?
Who knows in one year from now or in five years from now?
Still sad. On a WordCamp on the last weekend I heard a similar story out of this “WooMattic” thing.
Those are the things of the WordPress ecosystem I guess I’ll never understand.
There are definitely some sad things about it but I was working too much. If it’s something that’s super important to me I can always go out on my own. For right now I’m enjoying this new challenge. 🙂
Glad that the net positive is you getting the opportunity to take care of yourself better. You really can’t place a number on that.
Like you (and plenty of others), this policy frustrates me. It’s the reason I’ve never considered employment with Automattic despite the really neat opportunity that could be.
Personally, I’m sad that you can’t continue with Lynda.com – from the outside looking in that looked like a great fit for your skill set, not to mention the personal satisfaction of helping others learn and the extra pocket change.
In the end, the great thing about this industry (and a flexible skill set like you have), is the ability to change course when the need suits. Choosing to stay and grow with Automattic now doesn’t negate your ability to do something different down the road.
You’ll be successful whatever you put your hand to.
It makes sense that they would have this policy, but it must have been hard to let go of your projects you had worked so hard on (not just for revenue, but that was certainly a benefit). Yay for deciding it’s worth it and embracing the other side of that (a life and free time). It does seem like Automattic would be a pretty cool place to work.