Sh*t my brain says and forgets about

Author: Aaron Douglas Page 1 of 30

Figma is freaking great

I’ve been meaning to write up what’s been going on since I left Shopify last year. ADHD brain makes me want to come up with a long well-written post with a storyline and quippy section titles. Well, then ADHD brain aborts the process because I get decision paralysis and never write anything.

I got laid off on May 4th, 2023. I was very upset by the whole situation, rage sold my SHOP equity, and then got rid of everything with the Shopify logo on it. Shopify was such a good fit for me and I was learning a lot. Losing that HURT. That catharsis helped me focus on how I wanted to spend my time being unemployed. I decided to start looking for a new job right away instead of taking a few weeks to decompress. I’m not entirely sure I’d do that again, but I wouldn’t have found Figma if I had done that.

I stopped keeping count of the number of applications that I filed – easily in the 150 range for ones that weren’t just clicking an apply button on LinkedIn. I also grasped onto the extra time in the day to go for longer runs, poke around the yard, and hang out with my doggos. I had a couple of great companies in the pipeline after a few months, one of them being Figma and the other 1Password.

I ended up moving forward with Figma because it was a combo of things I really enjoyed doing – leading a smaller but mighty team, and being the engineering lead of an entire product, the Figma Desktop app. I also loved using Figma on a regular basis at Shopify and Automattic, with FigJam being the culmination of the love for how it brought people together. There’s something magical about working for a company that uses the product it makes to in fact make their product. 🤩

That’s the update for now!

Life after a Layoff

Finding a new job takes a lot of effort. I’ve been recently laid off from Shopify (along with 20% of my friends) and have been spending the past three weeks applying for jobs, connecting with friends, and searching for that next thing. It’s exhausting work. This is my first layoff (and probably not my last) and the approaches I’ve used in the past to find a new job don’t really apply right now.

I’ve made a few observations that I felt were worth sharing, especially for the folks in the same predicament as me:

  1. Cold applications tend to go unanswered – try to get referrals from friends or previous coworkers.
  2. Silence, rejection e-mails, and bad recruiter experiences all contribute to making yourself feel like a fraud. Don’t base your self-worth on this job search. Recruiters are overwhelmed (and also getting laid off), companies are cutting costs and implementing crap AI for job-matching.
  3. Spend time to rewrite your resume listing accomplishments and any outcomes you contributed to. Put them in order of most impactful first, least being last.
  4. Cover letters. I have no idea if they’re worth the effort or not.
  5. You’ll dream about having a terrible job, or being back at a previous terrible job.
  6. Don’t be ashamed of getting laid off. You did nothing wrong.

There are way more, but those are the top of mind for me.

Reminders, ADHD, and Siri

I heavily rely upon Siri (and Google Home sometimes) to set reminders for myself. I have ADHD. I have hundreds of thoughts flying through my brain throughout the day, all at the same priority and speed. Once in a while, I catch onto something that I need to remember. ADHD brain says “oh hey, it’s important, there’s no way you’ll forget it!” – where my mindful brain says “lol, you’ve already forgotten it, jerkface!”.

HomePods with Siri have improved my life greatly. Any time I think of something that I must recall – even if it is something I’ll need to do or write down in ten minutes – I can yell into the air to have Siri remind me.

Siri, however, needs to listen better.

Yesterday I remember setting a reminder for something in the morning. This morning, I get the notification … and I have no freaking idea what it is for.

The first one is legible! What are filters filter?

It looks like Siri understood me about the delivery box needing to go out. But, what the hell are filters filter? The best part is, I think I remember Siri reading it back to me and I lied to myself saying “Oh, I’ll remember what that means!”.

Nope. Fail.

Hobbies, Accessories, and Unrealized Potential

Courtesy of

I was having a semi-philosophical discussion with a friend about hobbies, which inspired this post.

In my mind, I have a long list of things I want to learn. Technical things for work, technical things for personal projects, fun stuff, hobbies, etc. The ADHD brain in me makes it difficult to prioritize what I spend my time on. My friend mentioned that they’ve been spending so much more personal time lately on doing things unrelated to programming. That resonated with me as well!

We started riffing on hobbies. My dad filled his house with woodworking tools, metalworking equipment, cameras and studio lighting, electrical components, and beyond. I grew up witnessing how my dad experienced hobbies and find myself as an adult somewhat mirroring that. When I get into a hobby, I have to fight the urge to buy all the accessories. How can you possibly do hobby X without all of the tools possible?

Here’s the thing – the absolute truth about most hobbies is you never really need much to start. Woodworking? A hand saw and a chisel is all you really need to create neat things. Photography? A disposable film camera is all you need. Cycling? A used bike is all you need. Running? Shoes and maybe non-chaffing underwear is all you need.

I hate having caches of tools for hobbies that sit there idle, unused, unrealized of their potential. It’s the same feeling I get having a bookshelf full of books I haven’t read yet. If I feel I need more accessories to want to do the hobby, it’s an indicator I’m more into collecting those accessories than doing the hobby. Otherwise, I’ll get overwhelmed with where to start with that hobby.

How do you like to manage your hobbies?

Hello, Shopify!

Well, I took some time to figure things out, but it didn’t take too long to make the final decision. I’m now working at Shopify (and we’re Shopifolk, lol) as a senior development manager for the Point of Sale retail channel and apps.

I’m still in my onboarding time here, but my role and responsibilities will become clearer over the next few weeks. Shopify has a seriously well-organized program to onboard all new employees. I am super impressed. You can read about some of the recently released cool things from the team I will be working on.

Shopify uses React Native for most of their mobile apps which is one huge departure for my previous experience! I can’t wait to learn more about it and put that knowledge into practice leading teams. The tech stack is rather impressive and I can’t wait to learn all the things. 😁

Shopify is hiring and we’re 100% remote!

Farewell, Automattic!

On April 3, 2013, I was sitting in the #devmke Freenode IRC channel talking to other developers in the Milwaukee (Wisconsin, USA) area. I saw a conversation about one of the people working from home and thought, what an incredible place this must be to work! For some reason, I had heard the name Automattic before – and after landing on the homepage, I realized why! It was because of WordPress and specifically signing up for to get an Akismet API key to prevent comment spam. When I saw a Mobile Wrangler job posting, I immediately applied. I got the offer in May and started near the end of July 2013.

Without really exaggerating, working remotely at Automattic has literally saved my life. I’ve learned more about how my mind works, how I approach work, what relationships mean to me, and what value I can bring to an interaction. I’ve learned how to lead like Aaron, embracing my own unique style of seeing the universe and helping inspire others to connect and create outcomes.

Every year (pre-pandemic), every Automattician would get together in one location for a week – called the Grand Meetup. My heart is sad that I won’t be at the next Grand Meetup. That annual event has created some of the fondest memories of my entire life. I’ve become friends with people that I still have yet to actually work with directly. That’s the power of the system there – we value our connections over the work. With those connections, we overlay the work after. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned those lunchtime conversations at the GM into conduits to get things done later. Meetups are critical to Automattic’s success.

DJing @ the 2016 GM – photo by clickysteve

Some of the highlights of my time at Automattic was with helping organize several of the Automattic Grand Meetup closing parties. In 2015 it was with the first Automattic band performance and the Jane Doze DJing, 2016 with a coworker and me DJing, and 2017 with MICK DJing. This all came from me plugging my phone into the PA system of the dinner tent in 2014, playing some of my favorite songs. Our favorite Chief of Staff, Rose, noticed everyone enjoying themselves and pinged me to help out in the following years. Little did I know that I would be negotiating performance contracts and coordinating an audio and lighting production crew in the next months. What a rush. Seeing the look on Matt’s (the CEO) face walking into the ballroom before we opened the doors in 2015 was the best payoff ever.

Trying out the photo booth before the 2015 GM

For the last four and a half years I’ve been leading the Woo Mobile product teams, and it has been a joy. I started the team with just one other person and grew it into the group of 30+ people it is today. Mentoring & coaching four leads made me see how I could be a better engineering lead. I also got a chance to develop product management skills, wearing multiple hats. I’m so proud of everyone on the team (and everyone else we’ve worked with!) for getting the product to where it is today. I feel like I am leaving at a high point in my career there. Nine years will have been the longest I’ve ever been at a place before.

Automattic has been a great home for me and has helped me through a lot of bad times and given me a lot of good times. It wasn’t my intention to find a different place to work. I started looking at other companies for inspiration on defining my role better and for seeing where I should aim my career at. The side effect of that research was a little spark of excitement forming to try something different. Life is too short to not take some risks once in a while.

My last day at Automattic was Friday, June 3. I spent the last couple of weeks passing the baton off to a teammate and getting as much as I could out of my head for others. I had 1:1s with my boss, my team leads, and other Automattic employees wanting to say goodbye.

Those two weeks were tremendous in helping me process my exit. I posted my farewell notice, told the team, turned in my hardware, filled out the exit survey, had a final 1:1 with my HR rep, DJed one final Friday jam session, and then attended a farewell Zoom I planned. My team put together a very thoughtful farewell video and organized a couple gifts for me which were amazing. I definitely felt the warm fuzzies and the sense of loss we all were feeling. What a great group of humans! 🥰

I didn’t stick around for my access to get cut in Slack – it was already an emotional day and waiting for that felt unnecessary. I walked away from my last day feeling a bit lonely which is certainly an artifact of not being in an office with other humans.

The departure process at Automattic felt anticlimactic. I’m not sure what else I had expected to happen, honestly. They celebrate new hires, new houses, new partners, and new babies, but don’t really celebrate someone leaving at a company level. My farewell post had a LOT of heartfelt goodbyes and the process of reading and replying to them was cathartic. It helped me recognize my true impact on the company by hearing the stories of how I’ve helped shape the culture there and affected so many lives. That was priceless.

On the exit survey, Automattic asks “would you consider ever coming back to work at Automattic?”. I answered truthfully:


What’s next? More details to come. 🤫

Love the light and endure the darkness

I saw this quote on a friend’s wall as I was leaving their house. I found the original and decided to share it here.

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.

Og Mandino

The Radio Effect

I listen to a lot of electronic and trance music to keep a part of my mind occupied while I focus on my work. What I’ve noticed over the years is using a playlist or a service like Pandora doesn’t quite do it for me. I could never put my finger on it until it clicked one day. Having the ability to skip a song makes the experience of listening more in the foreground where I have yet another choice to occupy my mind. Do I like this song? Should I go to the next one?

I grew up listening to broadcast radio. The DJ was the one making all the choices for me. I merely had to pick a station, turn up the volume, and go about my day. I’d hear songs that were interesting, some terrible, others meh. Commercials were also a mindful break for me to step away. Taking away the decisions about what song to play next was freeing. It also felt like the DJ was in my room with me – you even developed weird relationships based solely on their voice and style of DJing. You knew others were listening to the same exact thing you were at that moment in time. It was a way of building a community.

You knew others were listening to the same exact thing you were at that moment in time.

Photograph of a Pioneer DJ deck against the backdrop of my front yard through my office window

That’s why to this day I will still subscribe to services like Digitally Imported and SiriusXM. It’s also why I love DJing music for other people. I like being part of that subconcious community enjoying that music at the same time, on the same planet.

It reminds me I’m not alone.

Sometimes it’s the little things…

I haven’t seen a majority of my coworkers off-camera for 559 days as of today. The mobile teams at Automattic got together in Chicago at the beginning of March 2020, right before the pandemic hit the USA. We continue to do things to help connect people together to accommodate that lack of in-person meetups. It’s not the same, but it helps.

Then yesterday, I got this in the mail.

Photograph of a card and envelope I got with a canceled stamp. The card reads "We're thinking of you. Thanks for being a part of Automattic!". There's a smiley face on it as well.

It’s funny how sometimes the small gestures can have the biggest impact. I know I’m not alone. Getting this small physical item does help ground my mind a bit to realize I work with other humans, not just Zoom participants. 🙃

A short analogy on Feedback & Unit Tests

Unit tests are something that engineers write to test the work they’ve done in smaller pieces. Code that is tested tends to perform closer to expectations. Future changes to old code protect the way things work by causing unit tests to fail if something is changed unexpectedly. Passing tests are green checks ✅. Failing unit tests are red Xs ❌.

Default behavior is to write your unit tests after you’re done writing the solution. When an engineer sees all ✅, they call it a day and ship it. The funny thing with unit tests are … they are also subject to being full of problematic logic or buggy code. How does the engineer know their tests are correct or cover all the scenarios if you’ve never seen a failure?

There is a concept from test-driven design (TDD) that helps mitigate this. Write your tests first before writing the actual solution. Your tests will all start with ❌ and you’ll slowly turn those to ✅ as you write the solution.


I was chatting with a coworker today and gave this analogy of unit tests being like feedback. How so?

If you receive feedback from a lead and always get positive remarks ( ✅ ), how do you know if the lead is actually seeing your work enough to find any areas of improvement ( ❌ )? I’ve found that feedback feels less impactful unless once in a while you get something constructive or critical to work on.

I figured the analogy was kind of neat and figured it might illustrate the importance of feedback being a system of trust. You can’t trust your unit tests until you’ve seen other than just successes. And likewise, receiving only praise can make someone feel uneasy and possibly not trust they’re getting the whole picture.

Page 1 of 30

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén