Five minutes with Kathryn Presner

Every couple weeks, we’re sitting down with an Automattician to help you get to know the people who work behind the scenes to build new features, keep Automattic running, and make WordPress.com the best it can be. This week, we’re very pleased to introduce you to Ms. Kathryn Presner. Everybody, say hey to Kathryn!

What’s your role at Automattic?

Ms. Kathryn Presner

Ms. Kathryn Presner

As a Happiness Engineer, I help WordPress.com users solve every kind of issue imaginable: from setting up custom menus to custom DNS records.

I love troubleshooting users’ problems and finding solutions — it’s incredibly satisfying seeing someone go from frustrated and confused to delighted and enlightened. I especially enjoy “seeing the lightbulb go off” when explaining WordPress basics to beginners.

The best part of my day is when a user tells me I’ve totally lived up to my Happiness Engineer designation, which — let’s be honest — has to be one of the best titles in the world!

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on recently.

To introduce myself to my Automattic colleagues from around the world at our company meetup last fall, I prepared a presentation called Foods From Québec You May or May Not Have Heard Of… and why you need to try them at least once. It explored everything from tire sur la neige — hot maple syrup taffy poured over snow and twirled around popsicle sticks — to our most well-known export, poutine: a heart-stopping combination of fries, gravy, and cheese curds. I even brought a giant batch of homemade sucre à la crème* (decadent brown sugar fudge) to give people a real taste of Québec.

What have you learned that you can share with WordPress.com users?

Did you know that many cities around the world hold regular get-togethers where you can meet other WordPress enthusiasts in person? I’ve met some of my closest friends and collaborators that way. Try an online search for your-city-or-town WordPress meetup and see what comes up! Some of these groups also run annual events called WordCamps, where you can spend a jam-packed day or two soaking up WordPress goodness and blogging inspiration among folks who love WordPress as much as you do!

What do you love most about working at Automattic?

Every day I feel utterly lucky to be surrounded — virtually — by the most awesome colleagues in the world: funny, kind, smart, and as passionate as I am about helping people with WordPress.

What do you love to do in your spare time?

Top ten things I’m likely to be doing when I’m not on my computer:

  1. Cooking or baking delicious food from around the world, from
    Moroccan bread to Ethiopian chicken.
  2. Cavorting with my three crazy cats.
  3. Trying not to buy more vintage Pyrex mixing bowls at flea markets
    and church bazaars (and, who are we kidding, probably failing).
  4. Exploring obscure mom-and-pop restaurants of every stripe.
  5. Playing badminton or doing pilates.
  6. In summer, thinking up new ideas to foil the vegetable-loving
    squirrels in my backyard garden.
  7. In winter, wondering who ever thought colonizing in a city covered in snow five months of the year was a good idea.
  8. Attending a weekly movie night with friends — we’ve reached #440.
  9. Watching a play or show put on by Montréal’s small English-language theatre community.
  10. Traveling to interesting places both close to home and across the world.

*Sucre à la crème is now known around Automattic as the French fudge of the gods. Kathryn is a confectioner par excellence.

Did you know that Automattic is hiring? We want people who are willing to work hard, share their ideas, learn from their colleagues, take initiative to get things done without being told, and those who aren’t afraid to ask questions. Think you fit the bill? Work with us.


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48 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Honie Briggs

    This is a great series. It’s nice to discover automatticians have interests beyond HTML. Real people helping real people in the awesome blogosphere. Very nice post.

  2. Townmouse

    I don’t know that Kathryn has ever personally solved a technical problem for me but I do know she and the team do an excellent job. I sit in a small rural village in the north of England doing my blog/s (not often enough, I’m afraid) and I just think it’s amazing that I can get a personal response from someone with the technical know-how to get me up-and-running when I hit a wall. It’s a great service.

  3. PiedType

    Hi Kathryn. Thanks for all you do for us! We bloggers love those “lightbulb” moments as much as you do.

  4. Carolyn Thomas

    A big ‘merci bien’ to Kathryn for this intro. I like this idea of this insider’s look at the real people who toil behind the scenes on our behalf at WordPress. Thanks again!
    regards,
    Carolyn Thomas
    http://www.myheartsisters.org

  5. melanielegault

    A woman on my hockey team brings sucre á la crème to our games and I’m convinced it makes us play better. Thanks for sharing your story Kathryn. What a wonderful job title!

    • Kathryn

      Ha! Sucre à la crème as hockey-player fuel – love it. I bet it does make you move faster, with all that sugar in you. ;-)

  6. teeceecounsel

    I so much love the concept of a Happiness Engineer! I’ve never heard of that before. I’m glad to know that wordpress has got people thinking about their users and working towards their happiness! :)

  7. John (Jean C ) Blais

    On a diet of poutine with maple syrup or sucre a la creme for dessert, you definitely need pilates on a regular basis. All based on experience. Nice to make your acquaintance Kathryn.

    • Kathryn

      Hi John – I was careful to warn folks that most traditional Québec foods are only meant to be eaten as a special treat, since they’re so rich and decadent!

  8. ericabuteau

    I think “Happiness Engineer” tops the list of the world’s coolest job titles! I have a feeling it can be stressful sometimes, though, when you have an unhappy blogger until you turn them into a happy one!

    • Kathryn

      That can definitely be a challenging aspect of being a Happiness Engineer – we do try our best. :-)

  9. unpackedwriter

    Love the human, behind the scenes that shows up in these introductions! Pleased to meet you Kathryn! Love what you do in your spare time!

  10. laytownjimmcd

    Kathryn, wonderful to meet the person behind the machine. You are a great driver. Keep on trucking!!!

  11. Trina Schilling

    Thank you for sharing insights about yourself and your job at Automattic. I have submitted my resume for a Happiness Engineer position and I hope to get the opportunity to meet you in person one day and try your French fudge :)

  12. timethief

    Hi Kathryn,
    You are a member of a superb support team that I admire. It’s a pleasure getting to know you in the support forums and I enjoyed reading some personal details in this brief interview. I have sugar maples and I cheat a bit when I make fleur de sel carameles by substituting maple syrup for sugar. Though my hubby has traveled to Quebec City I haven’t yet and it’s remains on my to-do list. I do hope to meet you in person one day. Au revoir, until then.

    • Kathryn

      Thanks for your kind comments about the team – we all appreciate everything you do in the forums to help make them hum along. :-)

      Your maple fleur de sel caramels sound divine! I hope to meet you too – that would be a blast. Ever thought about coming to WordCamp Montreal? :-) http://wcmtl.org/

  13. Margaret

    It really is nice to get good help. We really do appreciate it. Thank you for caring.

  14. Wakfwen

    Exquisite job! C’est bon! Thank you Kathy! You are doing an amiable work.

  15. Kyle Johnson

    Kathryn, thank you for being so authentic here. I can easily tell that ‘who you truly are’ translates into a caring, dedicated Happiness Engineer — awesome!

  16. jenlefeverwood

    I love Sucre a la creme!! What a great mention!! This will be my next sweet treat for my husband! And a big thanks for all you do and WordPress, thank you to all involved! WordPress and the blogging world has me writing again regularly and my inspiration is at a peak! I have met some wonderful people and look forward to each day writing on my site and reading and connecting with others. Big thanks! ~ Jen

    • Kathryn

      Hi Jen – I’m so glad to hear you’re on a roll with your blogging and that it’s led you to connect with interesting folks. Good on you!

  17. DyingNote

    You make me sigh at what may have been a missed opportunity. I saw the data analyst (did you call it the data wrangler) position advertised last year a little too late (not that I would’ve made it necessarily) – we were travelling in Turkey then. WP/Automattic sounds like a good place to be in. Ah, well! I went ahead and did somethings as much fun – a design shop with a friend, starting with t-shirts (data and design can co-exist)

    • Kathryn

      Glad you found other interesting opportunities! Positions sometimes get re-posted, so you might continue to check back… you never know. :-)

  18. alsgram

    Hi Kathryn: Enjoyed the biography. I worked as a tour director for 20+ years and Montreal was always one of my favorite destinations, especially the old city. Have a beautiful signed but untitled oil painting I bought there in 1989 by artist Martin Lemieux. I’m 76 but your interests and mine are somewhat parallel. I have a set of vintage Pyrex bowls in perfect condition! Also love to cook different foods from around the world. Especially love Greek food and make stuffed grape leaves fairly often. I have two dogs and two big , black, long-haired cats who are brothers and mirror images of each other. Will also copy this reply to my granddaughter, Alexandria Claar, a freshman at Boise State University. She’s an art major, currently working at Office Depot and have a feeling she’d do well at a job with Automattic. Friendly, great at customer service, has a supervisor recommendation, computer savvy and definitely trainable. Just In case there are any openings in this area. Wanna trade recipes? I’m 76 and was raised by my Swiss grandmother (b.1884). Have some of her recipes including a rather dense Germanchocolate-type cake made with bread flour which I believe was from her grandmother who emigrated from Switzerland in 1850’s. She called it the picnic cake because you can take it to a summer picnic and the frosting (a sugary, vanilla fudge one) made with lots of butter, sugar, and heavy cream won’t melt. I’d love to have the sucre ala creme recipe ~ sounds delish and maybe a little like our southern pralines. Also have a number of other family ones too including my mom’s peanut butter fudge, a cooked one which does not contain any chocolate.. Did you know the folks in Vermont do something similar with maple syrup? They boil down the syrup until it thickens, then drizzle it over snow. They call it “Sugar On Snow”. Never heard of them wrapping it on sticks though. There’s a great maple-orchard/farm in Montpelier we used to visit with the tou in the fall. By the way, excellent culinary arts school there with great food. Pat Harris Boise IdahoDate:

    • Kathryn

      Hi Pat – thank you for sharing some of your life with me!

      I’m not surprised to hear Vermont also puts hot maple syrup on snow – it’s so close to Québec, it makes sense that we share some of the same maple-syrup traditions.

      The sucre à la crème fudge recipe was given to me by my friend’s mom, who made me swear it to secrecy. It took me many years to get it out of her. ;-) The closest thing I can find to it online is this one:
      http://www.justbestrecipes.com/seasonings-spices/quebec-fudge-sucre-a-la-creme.html

      Hints:
      – the icing sugar is the equivalent to 2 cups.
      – you can use light or dark brown sugar, and it’s not packed
      – the evaporated milk is 2%
      – the butter is salted
      – I don’t put nuts

      Enjoy!

  19. sneakpeek2013

    Nice to know you Kathryn! Any movie recommendations for us for our weekly movie night ? :)
    Also, one thing I would like to recommend you is going to Langkawi, Malaysia during your next vacations, it’s worth visiting…I have written about my travel too :)

    • Kathryn

      We watched a great horror-comedy movie recently called “Cockneys vs Zombies” – you can probably guess the premise!

  20. Happylovejoy

    Happiness engineer..nice title! Love the things you do during your spare time..sounds cool..=)

  21. Toni Webb

    Kathryn, please be so kind as to share your Quebec fudge recipe with us.
    Thank you! Toni

  22. kitchentablemonthly

    Hello Kathryn, Thank you for all that you do and thank you for introducing us all to the coolest of job titles.

  23. itsbillsmith

    Thank you Kathryn. We are just entering the blogging scene as an active participants. A great way to reach out, and with your help and example we will have the results we are looking for.

  24. Debbie

    I’m SO making Sucre a la creme for my sweetie for Valentine’s Day this year! What a treat to meet such a lovely engineer. I almost wish I wash having a problem with my site to need Kathryn’s services. :-)

  25. mohsinrasool

    Good to know about great peoples behind a great company, Automattic.

  26. zorro42

    Salut Kathryn
    C’est très gentil de votre part de vouloir aider les gens. J’aime bien WordPress ,bien que j’ai déjà publié de remarquables sujets sur la santé et le bien-être.

  27. Loli Pretorius

    From South-Africa: This is great, I have dealt with Kathryn many times, and she always solves or directs my queries. I feel like a kid, discovering hidden fudge!!! Great to see a face, to a person, who I secretly wondered, even existed?!!!!
    Spare time? Where do you get that?? ;)
    Thank YOU

  28. margaret21

    Thanks Kathryn. You and your team do a great job in explaining things in a way that ‘non-techies’ like me can understand. And so soon after the query has been posted too! I haven’t yet had you trouble-shooting for me, but it can only be a matter of time ;)

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