From birth, Mike Stott, a true entrepreneur, literally couldn’t wait to start tackling challenges. He joined Jetpack in a less-than-conventional way and now spends each day serving fellow entrepreneurs by developing the tools they need to succeed on WordPress.
See how he turned a passion into a career, the surprising reason he had to rebrand his most famous product, and just how little his family actually knows about his job.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Mike; I’m almost 38; and I live in Manchester, UK. I was born in Manchester — and always eager — 14 weeks premature weighing only 2lb. 2oz.
I live with my wife and one-year-old son, Zach. He’s been (mostly) a lockdown baby, so we’re hoping to see the end of this pandemic soon so we can start taking him swimming and other things that small children should be able to go and do (like see other small children).
You might be surprised, but I didn’t study computer science at university. I’m a qualified actuary and learned to code on the side. I left my job as a pensions actuary in 2016 to focus on my passion for WordPress.
I did geek out a bit at university, though. I did my masters thesis in electrical impedance tomography and adaptive meshing techniques — which used a significant amount of “Matlab” computer coding — so I did have some experience with forgetting to end computer coding lines with a ;
You said WordPress is your true passion, but do you have any others?
When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling. I’d say it’s my main other passion now (or at least when we can travel again). After meeting my wife, I took my first trip out to Southeast Asia and have been back many times (we have family in Hong Kong and Singapore).
In 2017, for our honeymoon, we initially planned to do the trans-siberian railway, but then couldn’t decide where to go once we ended in Beijing. So we extended our honeymoon and traveled all around the globe for ten months, all while working remotely.
I was a bit foolish when it came to travel (e.g. I always thought Russia would be like it was portrayed in Rocky IV). But traveling really meant we could experience the reality of other cultures and I’d recommend it to anyone.
What was your first experience with WordPress?
I started a side business to offer Microsoft Excel consulting services and training to small businesses. You’d be surprised by how many companies, while great at what they do, really struggle with using a spreadsheet.
A great example is an encounter I once had with a junior colleague at a previous job. They were using a calculator to sum up the cells in a spreadsheet and type the result in another cell. Yikes!
I needed a website for my business idea, and after spending a while writing straight HTML, I researched content management systems. I found WordPress and it was the easiest one to use.
After that, I had other entrepreneurial ventures with WordPress as a user. Sometimes, just adding a post or page wouldn’t quite cut it, so I taught myself how to code some plugins, then themes, and it just progressed from there.
In 2016 I co-founded a WordPress CRM plugin, since I needed an easy-to-use CRM for my online businesses. This slowly became my full-time work.
How does that influence what you do today?
It massively influences what I do today. I joined Automattic after our CRM product was acquired. Through the acquisition, we’ve been able to continue working on the product with the support of Automattic. It’s been great to see it grow in the years since we’ve joined.
What’s one of the more interesting stories from the acquisition?
One of the conditions of the acquisition was that we rebrand our product — it had a censored swear word in it. So, it made sense to rebrand and fit in with the Automattic family.
Of those, Jetpack made the most sense. It’s all about helping you get the most from WordPress, whether that’s security, performance, design, marketing, or something else. A CRM fits nicely into the mix. So we became Jetpack CRM in July 2020 and we operate under the Jetpack division.
What are your main responsibilities now?
My main big picture responsibilities are helping more people use a CRM for their business. With so many companies moving online and selling products online, a CRM is more important than ever.
Even if you’re just starting out and want to grow your visitors, capturing their emails is an obvious first step. What you do with that data is up to you. In the future, if you decide to start selling products or offer a premium version of your content, your CRM can already be loaded with a big list of people you can tell right away.
What does your day typically entail?
I did a WordCamp talk on my travels when I was in Nepal. And one of the first slides is probably still true — there’s a lot that I do day to day but the nearest single word would be “entrepreneur.” I spend my days building a product for other entrepreneurs which I personally needed on my own journey.
I help out with support for the CRM product. I fix bugs and develop new features. I also help with the promotion and awareness of Jetpack CRM both on-site (through SEO, etc.) and off-site (through outreach, promotions, and other avenues).
What is something you wish people knew about Jetpack CRM?
How easy it is to get started and that everyone should be using at least some element of a CRM, even if it’s just building up a list of email addresses that you can tag and filter. It might not seem important to begin with, but as your website or business grows, you’ll wish you had started from day one.
With Jetpack CRM, you can build up a contact list for free with no limits on the number of contacts you add.
What advice would you give to a Jetpack CRM newbie and a Jetpack CRM pro?
For someone new to Jetpack CRM, I’d highly recommend installing the free version and start building your list of contacts.
For people who have used Jetpack CRM for years, we’ve recently integrated with Jetpack Contact Form so you can quickly and easily get all your contact form submissions into Jetpack CRM.
What Jetpack CRM feature are you most excited about?
I’m the most excited about how people can use Jetpack CRM with their eCommerce setup. If you have a WooCommerce store and are selling products, then you really should have a CRM helping you manage your business.
It’s the equivalent of everyone who comes into your store letting you know their name and you actually remembering it the next time they return. Imagine how you’d feel if you went back to a random shop you visited in 2015 and the store owner greeted you by name and remembered exactly what you bought.
With Jetpack CRM, you can start building this kind of consumer insight just by having it active and connected to your store.
What’s it like working on Jetpack CRM?
I love working on Jetpack CRM every day. I particularly enjoy listening to customers and hearing what their business is about — how they’re using Jetpack CRM and the types of problems they’re trying to solve.
We’ve had some unique and wonderful conversations with customers along the way. There are some businesses doing very well with niche ideas that I would’ve never expected. It’s this part of working on Jetpack CRM I really enjoy.
Is there anything about your job that has seeped into your personal life?
I’ve lived and breathed CRM since we started building the product. Even though it’s been almost five years now, my wife still doesn’t know what I do or what “CRM” stands for (psst: it’s customer relationship management, or client relationship management).
I do try to keep a work-life balance, but I’m often thinking about what’s next. I genuinely love working on a product which I hope will become my life’s work.
What do you love about your job on a personal level?
I don’t really see what I do as a job; it’s something I did before joining Automattic and it still doesn’t feel like work. Everyone at Automattic is fantastic. And working in a distributed environment adds the flexibility I need to look after my little one in the middle of the day.
Sound good? Then Automattic is hiring.
I can say I’m genuinely passionate about more and more businesses being able to use Jetpack CRM and grow their business along the way.
Are you passing the WordPress torch to your kids?
My one-year-old is already dressed in WordPress babygro’s so I highly predict he’ll grow to know what WordPress is. Who knows where WordPress will be in ten years time, though. It’ll certainly be an interesting journey.