Hari Shanker R


Howdy! I’m Hari Shanker R! 

Nice to meet you! Happy to see that you’ve visited my humble abode in the interwebs. If you want to stay around for a while, I’d like to share a few things about myself. Buckle up!

So, I’m just another human being, like the seven billion of us residing in Planet Earth.  I currently live in a city called Kochi (also known as Cochin), in the beautiful state of  Kerala, in India, with my lovely wife and our two kittens.

I am a multifaceted person, who has interests in virtually everything under the sun! But to sum up, I’m highly passionate about Books, Music, Movies, Writing, Blogging, and perhaps above all – WordPress. 🙂

I hail from a city called Thiruvananthapuram (alias Trivandrum) – again located in Kerala – where I did my schooling at Loyola School, Trivandrum, and attended college at Government Engineering College,  Trivandrum.

School was one of the best things that happened to me! I was lucky enough to be in the company of some of the best people in the world (all of whom are still my close friends); not to mention the privilege of being taught by some of the BEST teachers in the world! For a person who was born and brought up in a conservative Hindu family, as an only child,  Loyola broadened my horizons. I was introduced to new schools of thought. It was here that I learned to push myself to go an extra mile, and to chase my dreams… I would never be where I am today, had it not been for Loyola. Loyolite for life!

College, well, was not half as smooth. I’d rather not talk about the bad things – but I’ll just say that it was my first brush with the big, bad, world. It was college that taught me the art of surviving life’s worst adversities. It gave me the strength to think out-of-the-box. I learned more through life experiences that college gave me, than from what was taught in the four walls of the college classroom.

That being said, college introduced me to one of the BEST things in the world – WordPress!

I was always passionate about computers, and programming.  While kids of my age used to play Roadrash and Need For Speed in their pre-teens, I used to write my own little programs, and create web pages… A few school friends and I got bitten by the startup bug, which was in its nascent stage in those days (mid-2000’s). We got together to set up our own ‘Technology startup’, while we were in college. It wasn’t anything big – we were essentially an informal web services collective – that set up websites for small clients, on payment basis. One evening, one of my friends introduced me to this software called ‘WordPress’. It was a revelation by its own right! I didn’t have to spend hours tweaking HTML/CSS to create a fully functional website – all it took was the ‘famous five minute install’, a great theme, and a few plugins… Aaaaand, BINGO!

The collective fell through (due to reasons I’d rather not touch upon here), but my love for WordPress, survived, and grew strong with each passing day. While my batch-mates from college were busy learning the theory of topics in computer science (like Database Management, and Web Technologies), I was actually tinkering with live WordPress powered websites, for clients, as well as my own blogs (which I had now started monetizing through Google Adsense). I fell in love with FOSS, the Open Source movement, and above all… WordPress!

Discovering Automattic (a pioneer in the WordPress world) is a natural consequence for any WordPress lover… My path to A8C (as we Automatticians fondly call our company) is quite interesting. I knew Matt, as the co-founder of WordPress. However, I stumbled upon the WordPress story, as well as the advent of Automattic, while researching for a quiz question based on him, for an intercollegiate quiz that I hosted, in 2009, as I was in my final year. While the question on Matt went unanswered for the quiz, I fell in love with Automattic, its culture, and its distributed nature of work. I dug deeper, and got to know how this maverick of a company was now powering a major chunk of the internet with its products! I had made up my mind to apply to Automattic, as soon as college was over…

Little did I know that I’d have to wait for six more years to take that plunge!

A lot happened in the meantime. I started a side-hustle as a Freelance Journalist with the national newspaper – The Hindu, which was a high note for my career. The nightmare called college was done, and dusted (leaving me with a few scars nonetheless – some of which still hurt). Unlike a lion’s share of my classmates, I did not opt for a desk job in the software engineering field, immediately. I decided to wait. While the rest of the world (including my own parents) constantly bombarded me with questions on the future; Automattic was my guiding light; like the northern star beckoned a marooned sailor… I sailed in that direction, battling the waves, strengthening my skills, slowly… but surely.

I took up a job with NT Global Solutions – a middle east/east africa based company, as a WordPress Project Manager, quite soon. It proved to be an invaluable experience working under a boss who gave me the freedom to implement my decisions. I learned a lot, and perfected my WordPress skills, while working in this organization. However, in no time, I had to pass on from NT Global, quite unwillingly, due to several reasons. Eventually, I had to bow down to the pressure from my parents, who wanted me to take up a ‘steady’ job with a ‘government’ organization. I ended up working in customer facing roles at two public sector banks – a short term in Syndicate Bank, and a longer term at State Bank of Travancore.

While I was not particularly fond of these jobs, my time at State Bank of Travancore (which was merged into its parent – State Bank of India, recently) was a lot bearable, in comparison. These stints with public sector banks also taught me some vital lessons on banking, financial management, and above all – enabling customer success. My newly-earned skills in facilitating customer success, would be the cornerstone in my career at Automattic! Yes, even adversities come with silver linings! 😊

It was at this time that the best thing in my life happened – meeting Archana – the love of my life! ❤️ Meeting her was a magical quirk of fate. Within no time, we got close, and bonded together… Both of us had gone through a lot of hardships in life, and could empathize, and understand each other. As they say in all those movies and books, you know when you meet the one. I knew, almost instantly. She did too… Thankfully enough, our parents agreed, as well. (Quoting  a famous Indian Author – Marriages in India, are not between individuals, but between families!) We got engaged, and soon, we were man and wife!

Married life is bliss – and I was lucky enough to cherish this quite early-on, in life. Marriage added colours to my monotonous life. I am fortunate to get a partner who stands by me through thick and thin. Life changed, for the good… Our dreams were coming true. Not all was a bed of roses for us though (mostly due to external interferences). Yet, we fought, and we came out clean! We moved out to our own little apartment, and both of us decided to listen to our hearts, and follow our passions…

The love, and support from Archana was all what I needed to ‘make the plunge’. After some trepidation (and a lot of preparation), I decided to apply to my dream job, at my dream company. After waiting for over six years, my dream came true…

Today, I’m an Automattician!

I would say that it’s the best job in the world! Automattic is a completely distributed company. This means that all 500+ colleagues and I, work from our own little nests, or beaches, or coffee shops, or even forests! We get to travel to exotic destinations in the world to meet each other a few times a year (company-sponsored, of course)… We follow our passions, and all of us are united by our common love – WordPress!

As for my job, I’m currently a Community Manager for the WordPress Open-source project (WordPress.org). I work with a global team of volunteers, as part of the Community Team, to plan, organize, and hold WordPress events (online and offline) all across the world. This currently spans 3,000 volunteers, 800 Meetup groups, and 140 conferences (and counting!). Automattic sponsors my work for WordPress.org as part of the Five for the Future program. Before working as a community manager, I used to be a part of the support team for WooCommerce – the most popular eCommerce platform on the web, that powers 30%+ of all eCommerce stores.

Last year, we added more colour to our lives, as our family expanded – as two little furballs – our kittens Ikru and Boo, joined our clan. In 2021, we got another cat called Kiku, whom we lost due to a deadly disease. We also lost Boo to the same disease, but later, we adopted another cat whom we also named Boo (due to his likeness with the cat who passed away), along with a lovely persian feline called Auro. Today, the five of us (Archana and I, along with Ikru, Boo, and Auro) live a happy, content, and blissful life in our tiny apartment in the lovely city of Kochi.

That’s all about me, for today. Wanna know more? Talk to me! You may also want to check out harishanker.net, which is another place in the interwebs (WordPress-powered, of course!), where I share my thoughts.

Update (as on July 2022)

I wrote a HeroPress essay that goes into more detail about my life. Check it out:

Psst! Wanna work with us? We are always hiring!