Automattic Women: Monika Burman

Welcome to Automattic Women—conversations with some of the remarkable women working all over the world to design and develop Automattic software and make the web a better place. Today’s interviewee is Monika Burman of the Designer Experience team. 

Who are you, and what do you do? 

Selfie on a boat in Venice.

I’m Monika, I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I’m part of the Designer Experience team at Automattic. My job is to support designers and help them do their best work. This takes lots of forms, from running programs like our Design Mentoring program, or our Design Speaker Series, to acting as Editor of our design blog, and creating and sharing content on our social media channels. You can read about what the Designer Experience team does in this blog post.

The Design Mentoring program pairs designers together for a one-on-one learning experience that translates directly into project work. It’s a great way to share important knowledge and skills through the team, and allows for deep connections to form between designers. The Design Speaker Series is my favorite part of my job. I get to host (mostly) virtual events with incredibly talented designers, artists, authors, leaders, and visionary people. I’ve had the pleasure of hosting people like Debbie Millman, Aaron Draplin, Dan Cederholm, Dr. Dori Tunstall, Veronica Fuerte, Lou Down, Meg Lewis, and Shantell Martin. In fact, I hosted our event with Meg Lewis live and in-person at our Noho office in New York City in May. 

Although we’re a distributed company, we have this beautiful gathering space in Noho, that I recently wrote about on our design blog. When I’m not writing for the blog, I have the pleasure of working with authors to craft blog posts, videos and other content that we share there, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads. Some of the videos I’ve worked on are now on our new Team page. Check them out!

What’s a typical day like for you?

Sunflowers coming up in the park were a pleasant feature of my morning walk today.”

I typically start my day grabbing a coffee at my local, and then taking a walk. I’m lucky to live close to a beautiful park where I can quietly appreciate the trees, plants, flowers, and say hello to all the neighborhood dogs.

Then, when at my desk, I start with Slack. I check all my messages, and respond to anything urgent, and then move on to my tasks. I usually have a list of things I want to accomplish every week, so I start there.

Recently, I started setting aside Monday as a ‘deep work’ day. I don’t have any meetings on that day, and I silence all notifications so I can fully focus on moving my projects and tasks forward. This has been great for progress and productivity. Plus, I get to start my week feeling accomplished and then it’s easy to take that momentum through the rest of the week.

At the end of each day I usually spend a little time on administrative tasks, requests, and other upkeep for the design team.

What drew you to Automattic and what keeps you here?

An etching by Monika.

I was very fortunately referred to Automattic by one of my previous managers at just the right time in my life. I was ready to move into a new sector of software development after having spent my career in the world of 3D graphics. Automattic was fresh air! I was particularly struck by the level of trust and autonomy given to employees, and the flexibility to fit work into my lifestyle instead of working my whole life around my job.

What keeps me here is the opportunity to follow curiosity because folks at Automattic really believe that good ideas can come from anywhere. Experimentation is encouraged, and the Automattic Design team is continuously looking to improve itself. For instance, I recently changed the design mentoring program from cohort based to an on-demand service and I restructured an old idea into a new manifestation with our current onboarding buddy process. It’s fun to be a part of that constant change. The best part is that there are so many curious, creative, and kind people that I get to work with.  

What’s your favorite non-work activity?

Detail from a painting by Monika.

I grew up with a grandfather, father, and an uncle who are all exceptional artists, so that environment of creativity and making things is one I’m always trying to recreate in my life now. I love making art, and I love seeing and experiencing what others make. I paint, and I do some printmaking. I like experimenting in different mediums and tinkering my way through the process.

Connect with Monika on LinkedIn.

That’s it for this edition of Automattic Women. Follow Developer Resources and Automattic Design to meet more great women of Automattic. And if you’d like to do more than just read about these great people, consider working with us! Join our team of diverse, global perspectives building a better web, and connect your career to the power of Open Source.

By L. Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek. Author, Designer, Founder. Employer Brand at Automattic. Publisher, & Ava’s dad. Pete’s brother (RIP).