Back In The Game

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was 'back in the game'; but didn't go into details.

On 22 March 2021, as England’s lockdown eased and kids – specifically, my kids – returned to school, I returned to the familiar world of consultancy and company directorship, with the formation of Tintou Ltd.

I left Automattic in May 2020. I didn’t have a plan for what came next. But I did have an opportunity to put my family first, like I always said I would, as the world suddenly shut down, and everything got weird.

Often, the best way to solve a problem is to focus on something completely different, and let your brain work it out the background. After a few months concentrating primarily on my home-schooling duties, a few conclusions emerged.

What I wanted most was to get back to making things. My time at Automattic had mostly been about creating opportunities for other people to make things; and don’t get me wrong, I look back on it with a degree of satisfaction. But deep down, I was jealous of those taking advantage of those very opportunities.

I had submitted a few – let’s call them ‘ambitious’ – job applications over the summer. I was curious to see if the success of the WordPress working model, and my own credentials in its ecosystem, would resonate beyond it.

The answer was: not so much. It led me to question precisely what I had to offer, and where its value lay. I concluded that my WordPress knowledge and experience was actually more valuable in the WordPress space itself than ever: and it would be crazy not to make use of it.

But I also realised there were a few things I wanted to do, which no full-time job description would ever include. Some connected to WordPress and open source, some not at all. Some arising from specific dates, events and circumstances which may not come around again. And to be blunt, I’m not getting any younger.

So I decided to return to WordPress consultancy: probably the most productive, most flexible and most enjoyable phase of my so-called career. Specifically, in Product Ownership: not a widely-used label the last time I was doing it, but probably the best description of what I do best. And crucially, acting as my own employer, trading the stability of a full-time job for the freedom to pursue those other things.

I’m pleased to announce that my first engagement is with XWP: one of the top-tier WordPress agencies globally for many years, but one which has reinvented itself in the last year or two, with a few notable people leaving, and a few equally notable people joining. It makes for an exciting mix of stability and startup energy. And with the company’s commitment to the open web, and its 100% remote nature, I felt instantly at home.

I knew almost immediately that I’d made the right choice. Into my second week, I found myself grappling with an exciting, but somewhat amorphous project description, working with Chris Lema at Liquid Web. Eventually I unlocked it: digesting some complex third-party data reports, digging around in the WordPress options table, collecting the information needed to produce a crude but indicative wireframe. Which one of my new design colleagues then turned into… something beautiful.

We all knew it immediately. Couldn’t wait to show it to Chris. Happily, he agreed.

I could literally feel it on my face: a certain kind of smile, that I hadn’t smiled in years.

I’m back in the game. Let’s play.