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I'm Luca Sartoni, Growth Engineer at Automattic. Ask me anything!

Sep. 28, 2016

Good morning,
My name is Luca Sartoni. I spent the last 15 years helping companies to achieve success. I started as a developer back in the days, but I found my real potential when I explored the shared ground between marketing and software, implementing data-informed strategies.
I freelanced most of my adult life and two years ago I joined Automattic as a Growth Engineer.
I also actively contribute to the WordPress Community and I co-organise WordCamp Europe.

Ask me anything!

26 votes   Flag
Chantal Coolsma

What is your favorite sport?

Luca Sartoni

I practiced Aikido for many years, but I would not call it a sport.
I'm hardly attracted by any TV sport, however I'm intrigued by the napping power of F1. It must be the soothing sound of the engines, or something like that. I remember the Monaco GP as the best way to sleep thought my summer Sunday afternoon when I was younger.

Of the ones I like, I would choose Cricket as the most interesting to watch. I have no idea about the rules, but it's very fascinating nevertheless.

Nevena Tomovic

Hey Luca,

I have a few questions for you.

1.) As a freelancer for most of your life, what encouraged you to start working for Automattic?

2.) I attended your public speaking workshops, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Are you planning on creating part 2? For those of us who have attended the first ones.

3.) You write a lot about photography, and you did the 365 day photography challenge. Can you pick a favorite photograph, and why?



Luca Sartoni

1.) I was intrigued by Automattic since a friend of mine joined the company in 2010. Other friends joined and their experience was so positive that I was wondering if there was a chance for me too. At the end of 2013 the planets aligned because I left a company I contributed to start up in the previous two years and Automattic was looking for a Growth Engineer. So I successfully applied.

2.) The workshop you attended at WordCamp Split was just a 90-minute intro. The full training is 10+ hours. So, yes, there is a part 2, a part 3, and even a part 4!

3.) My favorite photograph is definitely my street portrait of Jeff Goldblum. It happened by chance to meet him in New York and I didn't miss the opportunity to get a good picture of him. luca.blog/2015/12/09/a-gracious-encounter/

Vladimir Prelovac

Fantastic photo!

Nemanja Aleksic

Thanks for being on our AMA!

1) You held a great public speaking workshop on WordCamp Belgrade that people referenced several times in the past few months. Could you break down the workshop exercise into a couple of bullet points?

2) What do you think the biggest threat to the WordPress ecosystem will be in 5 years?

3) Value proposition: a lot of WordPress devs don't know how to convey value to their clients, ending up overworked and underpaid. What's your advice to them? You can't say "be like Super Mario" :D

Luca Sartoni

1) Sure!

- Public Speaking is scary. Don't worry, it's scary for everyone. Experience will not remove the fear, it will just help manage it.

- Preparation is key. You need to do your homework before going on stage. Improvisation is not a strategy.

- Practice is fundamental. You can read all books about guitars, but you cannot play a song without practicing for months. Same is for public speaking. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

2) Walled gardens are a threat for WordPress and for the web as we know it. We need to work for an open web where ideas can flow freely across platforms and not be confined to the shiny new app, website, or service.

3) Sign up for a negotiation course. Learn how to define a UVP (unique value proposition), how to communicate your value, and mostly how to close a good deal.

Kobe Ben Itamar

Hi Luca - thanks for doing this AMA!

I'm very interested in what you defined as "implementing data-informed strategies" in marketing.
I was wondering if you'd mind elaborating further on the career shift you had made from a developer to a marketing strategist. Was there a specific event that made you realize that one trade is more magical for you than the other? Can you pinpoint one strategical marketing/growth process of which you are feeling proud?

Love your photos, BTW!

Luca Sartoni

Interconnecting data science with Marketing is one of the keystones of what is commonly called growth hacking. I'm a not a fan of growth hacking by itself though, because business is more complex than just hacking things.

When your decisions are solely based of data science you can call yourself data-driven, but there are tremendous blind-spots. Data looks neutral, but in reality it's not. The way you plan your data sources, you collect the data, and you process such data to get answers is not neutral and impacts on the final outcome, therefore the information you extract cannot be considered neutral. If you drive your decision-making process solely with that information, your think you are considering data, but in reality you are considering the whole not-neutral process.

For this reason you need to keep in mind more elements when it's time to make a decision, where data is one of them. There is vision, mission, experience, data, and other elements. When you mix them, giving data the right amount of value, you make a data-informed decision, which is usually better than data-driven, simply because it's more informed but the other elements.

I started as a developer and then I moved into the marketing ground because I was fascinated by how humans behave. It took several years, I would not be able to identify a single event that made me switch.

I'm proud of the "never stop learning" process that we have at Automattic. In the few years I have been working there, we used many different tools and many different processes to acchieve results. Every time we evolved our tools and processes to adapt to new inromation, to new challenges, and to new goals to reach. This constant improvement was possible because of the "never stop learning" attitute that we apply every day.

Francesco Mucio

> Interconnecting data science with Marketing

Hey Luca, do you have any reading (books, blogs, youtube videos) to recommend on this subject?

Thanks for this AMA, really worth reading :)

Marko Tanaskovic

Hi Luca,
I might have the most obvious questions, but here they come:

1) Can you tell me how would you recommend a 'classical' marketer to get more deeper into growth engineering/hacking philosophy?

2) Can you tell me what data visualization tools / software are you using?

3) Can you tell me from experience what are the pitfalls of growth engineering process?
In another words: "Ignore this shortcut - it leads to a rather large chasm!".

Luca Sartoni

1) Growth Hacking has exponential scalability as a core foundation. This scalability can be found only with software and marketing automation. I would recommend a deep dive into code and data analysis, as a first step for a classic marketer who wants to understand better how to unleash those potentials.

2) The most common tools are Optimizely, Kissmetrics, MixPanel, and the always present Google Analytics. However for our mission critical metrics we use internal tools that we developed around our needs. You can find great resources about data at Automattic on data.blog

3) The pitfalls are many. The worst one is the illusion of knowledge. We should not fear what we don't know, but what we think we know and we don't. Always make sure that you are not too sure about things. :)

David McCan

Hi Luca, Can you describe a successful project at Automattic that you were involved in and what you learned from it?

Luca Sartoni

When I joined Automattic at the beginning of 2014 I started working on Akismet. As you may know Akismet has been around for a while, being one of the first projects at Automattic. When I joined, in a matter of a few weeks we were able to redesign the offers, better communicating the different plans, refining the UVP. It was a successful project because it helped streamlining the acquisition and the activation of the product.

The big lesson there was that there is always a low hanging fruit somewhere. It's all a matter of looking at things from the right perspective, and prioritising the effort evaluating the possible outcome.

Matteo Balocco

Hi Luca,
do you make websites?
Just kidding... (Inside joke)

I'm interested in asking you which are the most valuable pros (and cons) of working remotely.
As you may know I work in a distributed company too, and I think it could be interesting to share some insights.
(Perhaps it's time for a dedicated conference too).

Luca Sartoni

I don't make websites, but I know somebody who does... (LOL)

There is a fundamental difference between remote work and distributed work. The former allows some people to be physically away from the rest of the company, but they need to keep in touch, attend video calls, and use tools that simulate the ordinary work environment. The latter is a complete different organisation of work where things are designed not to have a place and time to be restrained to. In a remote environment you try to replicate traditional processes with new technologies, in a distributed environment you design, implement, and refine new processes that can allow work to get done everywhere at every time.

The major pros of distributed work are:

- Mastering time and space. You don't need to measure work based on check-in/check-out time or where it actually happened.
- Clarity of communication. You cannot synchronize asynchronous work if you don't have a crystal clear communication process.
- Total Trust. You need to trust blindly your complete workforce because micro-management cannot be performed.

The cons are tightly related:

- You cannot measure work based on traditional metrics like effort or man/hours. You can only limit your measure to the final output and impact.
- You need to invest a lot of resources in education because untrained people will degrade the output very quickly.
- Hiring excellent workforce is very expensive.

Ahmad Awais

Hey, Luca :)

I have only one question.

— How does your average work day looks like (when do you work, how many hours, and anything) also if you can compare it to when you used to be a freelancer?

Luca Sartoni

When I'm in Vienna, my days look like this:
- 7:30 to 9:30 - workout
- 10:00 to 16:00 work with a quick lunch break
- 16:00 to 22:00 hobbies and chill
- 22:00 quick check if there are things to unlock before signing off for the night.

When I was a freelance I didn't have a standard day because it highly depended on my clients' needs. I confess that I have found a better balance working at Automattic, than before.

Ahmad Awais

Great! Thanks for your time.

Milan Ivanović

Hey Luca,
Thank you so much for doing this AMA.

1. Please tell me, what are the top three things you can't live without? :)
2. Now when you look at your life back, with all the experience gathered, what was the turning point in your life?
3. What is the best thing online these days? And what is the most annoying?

Thanks Luca!

Luca Sartoni

1.) Wifi, Clean water, Food.
In random order but all equally important.
2.) The turning point were three years I spent working in a club. I started cleaning the place, then working at the coat's room, then at the ticket counter. I was 25 and I had already been a freelence developer for a few years. Working a late-night job, gave me the unique opportunity to re-evaluate the life/work balance, the importance of honesty, and how to cut though fads, just to focus on what matters, professionally and personally.
When I found myself cleaning 20 toilets at the club on the beach, on a torrid August sunday afternoon, I realised one important thing: if I could do that, I cound do any job. True story!
3.) The best thing online today is the WordPress Community. The most annoying is click baiting. You would never imagine what is the second most annoying thing...

Federico Giacanelli

2 hours daily workout? Great!

How is your BMI now?

Luca Sartoni

My BMI can be expressed only with imaginary numbers.

Mohammed Kaludi

Hi Luca,

Thank you for being on AMA.

I have few questions.

1. What is the one thing that you think every startup should know, when it comes to growth.

2. How do you predict / set your growth targets, and how do you measure it.

Thank you once again Luca,
Take care.

Luca Sartoni

1. Growth happens by design.

2. Experience, Vision, Mission. Those three determine the growth targets.

Ahmed Kaludi

Hey Luca,

If you were to start again, what's the one thing that you would do differently?

Mohammed Kaludi

You said "Growth happens by design.", Can you please explain it a bit?

Thank you once again for doing AMA.