“The future of work is here.”
So says Joel Alexander Dean, a Jamaican software engineer at Automattic – the company behind WordPress.com.
Joel believes young, ambitious Jamaicans must have a “growth mindset” – especially if they want to get ahead in the tech field.
“Put yourself out there!” he advises. “Explore and experience.”
The Northern Caribbean University graduate has never been afraid to show what he is worth and to work hard to prove his abilities. In 2012 he won the Digital Jam 2.0 competition, a high-profile World Bank-funded initiative – “creating an app for detecting potholes!” he chuckles. This gave him the exposure and confidence he needed.
“I am at my best when I am giving back to the world. My way of giving back is through technology.”— Joel Dean, software engineer, WordPress.com
“I learned that a university degree does not guarantee you success in the workforce,” he said. He had a dream list of companies he wanted to work for after graduating in Computer Science.
“I always wanted to work for a really large tech company,” says the 26-year-old from Raymonds, Clarendon. But he started low-key, working as a software engineer on NCU’s learning management programme and then remotely for U.S. companies.
And along came Automattic.
” We are a team of engineers that’s maintaining 35 percent of the Internet!”— Joel Dean, software engineer, WordPress.com
“I am not the only Jamaican there. I am the third Jamaican!” laughs Joel. “There’s another software engineer and there’s a Happiness Engineer [user support].” Joel is currently on the mobile engineering team. He works on the Android app, which has 10 million users. He stresses: “The WordPress platform has 135 million websites – so we are a team of engineers that’s maintaining 35 percent of the Internet!” An awesome responsibility.
How has the WordPress experience been so far? Joel loves the company culture. It’s a family.
“Most importantly, it believes in free speech, for people to express themselves in a respectful manner…That is what drew me to Auttomatic – they represented the type of environment I wanted to be in.”
“Whatever field you are in, tech is going to disrupt that field. Only those who are truly equipped will benefit.”— Joel Dean
For Joel, working remotely is “an interesting experience…You don’t see your co-workers. You have to manage your time. Ensure you are communicating well. You are being judged by your performance.”
He describes his colleagues as “very open and respectful.” They use the messaging tool Slack, and Zoom for video calls. They have in-person meet ups – and once a year a “family reunion” – a grand company meet-up, taking over a whole hotel.
“You don’t see your co-workers. You have to manage your time.”— Joel Dean
How does Joel stay focused?
“Honestly I like to be productive…I am at my best when I am giving back to the world. My way of giving back is through technology.” He avoids distractions like social media, via an app.
Joel’s daily routine is simple…
Shower and breakfast
Jump into the home office. Check messages.
Go to task manager. Prioritize tasks.
Go out for lunch.
Spend time in a co-working space.
A gym workout.
Evenings… Just chill!
Outside of work, Joel is a member of the Global Shapers Kingston Hub, a group of young leaders under the umbrella of the World Economic Forum. He’s also involved with MEND, which mentors inner-city youth. He runs a Google Developer Group in Kingston.
Speaking of youth, Joel sounds an urgent note:
“Young people have to prepare themselves for this new way of work. Whatever field you are in, tech is going to disrupt that field. Only those who are truly equipped will benefit.”
Stay sharp. Keep learning, keep growing…
That’s the future of work.