Beyond Imagination

Sometimes, what seems like a bad situation turns out to be the best thing that could happen to you…

I was working in a retail management position. After graduating from college with a business degree, this seemed like a good place. I went through the corporate training program and got my own store to manage. I am moving up in the company!

Then, one fall day, the district manager came to visit with some bad news. I had gotten fired from this job that I had spent the last two and a half years climbing up in. I have to admit, it hit me hard when it first happened. Getting fired is a blow to your self esteem and at the time, I wasn’t sure what the next step was going to be. This was especially tumultuous, because it was at the time when I was planning a wedding and getting ready to start a family.

What now?

I could have decided to go a number of ways when this happened. I started looking at other similar jobs, but deep down I knew that retail sales was not where my heart was. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I knew my sales numbers were dwindling and my heart was not in the job. I had long hours and worked every weekend and many nights. I was not passionate about my work, unhappy, and it started wearing on me.

I took inventory of what I was passionate about. Getting fired from a job was just the kick I needed to realize what I should be doing. I knew that I had always loved the web. I had been into web design and development as a hobby since the late 90s. With my mother as a teacher, I was one of the first kids in my rural hometown in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to have internet access. Being the geek I am, I wanted to figure out how these web page things worked.

In my early years of the web, I taught myself some basic HTML and ended up taking one class while at a community college, but by that time had already learned 90% of the subject matter on my own. Over the next couple years, I created some pretty awesome table-based layouts and sites with frames while doing hobby work of my own and a few small projects for local businesses, mostly for people that I knew. I continued on in college pursuing a business degree. In one of my classes, we were tasked with helping a local small business with their marketing. One part of this, which I led, was creating a new website. This was 2005, and I decided to use this relatively new tool I had just heard of called WordPress. This was my first WordPress site and was running on version 1.5. Even after this, I never thought that this hobby could actually be something I do for a living.

After getting fired, I decided to look into something I had recently come across on my Twitter feed. There were these things happening in the Milwaukee area, where I was living, called meetups and a lot of them were on some pretty interesting topics in web design and development. I now had some extra free time and didn’t have to work nights, so I went to learn more.

The community

The first meetup I attended was a PHP meetup. I had used tools built with PHP and dabbled in it a bit, but the first topic was well over my head at the time. My eyes glossed over watching the presentation, but I was enthralled and knew I was doing the right thing. Shortly after, I found the WordPress meetup. I had felt very welcome at all of the groups, but the WordPress group ended up outshining them all. Not long after first attending, I was asked to fill part of the meetup in a presentation on installing WordPress. I figured I could give it a shot. This is where things really started to happen.

Fast forward a short time and I ended up becoming a co-organizer of this WordPress meetup. I had taken on some roles helping with other local meetups and even started Milwaukee’s first JavaScript meetup. I also took it upon myself to join the organizing committee for the first ever WordCamp Milwaukee. This was my first ever WordCamp and I jumped in head first organizing, speaking, and soaking in all the knowledge I could get.

As much knowledge as I took in through these community events, the most important thing I have found was the people I have met. Over the years, I have had discussions and collaborated with some of the most amazing people. This has opened so many doors for me to learn and grow both professionally and personally.

Beyond imagination

If you were to tell me during those days working retail, over the years making hobby websites, or even when my eyes glazed over at that first meetup if I ever thought I would be doing some of the things I am today, I wouldn’t believe you.

I am now able to say that I have found my passion in web development. I have had the opportunity to work on websites for large brands that are considered household names. I have been able to contribute to the core of an open source project that powers one in four websites. I have organized conferences with hundreds of attendees and given presentations and training on web development to people across the Midwest. I have been able to challenge myself with solving some very complex issues using an amazing open source tool.

WordPress changed my life

When the story first started and I was fired from the retail position, I had a lot of pressure with a wedding coming up and looking to start a family. I am now happily married with two children. I am happy to say that WordPress allows me to provide a good life for my family. I can truly say WordPress has made our life better.

WordPress has also allowed us to pursue another dream of ours. My wife and I both grew up in the small rural town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We always dreamed of moving back to where all of our family was. We initially thought this would never be possible, as good jobs in the area have dwindled since the heyday of mining and logging. This past year, because of the possibility of remote work developing with WordPress, we were able to make the move. We love it because it allows us and our children to spend much more time with their grandparents and all of us time to take in some of the outdoor activities we love like skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking.

Along with the benefits to my family, I now have many amazing friends within the WordPress community that I talk with on a daily basis and have helped me get through both personal and professional issues. I able to do work that I am passionate about and provides me with new challenges and I am able to participate in conferences and meetups hopefully helping someone else find the opportunities I have found.

Make the most out of a bad situation

When I was fired, I was in a bad situation in my life. I felt awful. I was unsure of the future. At times it felt hopeless. I realized the only way I could get out of the bad situation was to make the most of my situation. I used the extra time that I had to explore the opportunities out there and I found WordPress.

I think back to if I wouldn’t have gotten fired that day. Would I still be unhappily working in retail just because it was a job? Would I be working nights and weekends with little flexibility to do the activities that I love doing with my family? Would I be making the living I am now that allows me to provide a good life to my family?

That day, it felt like getting fired was the worst thing that could happen. As it turns out, it was just what I needed and ended up possibly being the best thing that ever happened to me.

If you find yourself in a bad situation, use it to your advantage and make it the best thing that could ever happen to you too!


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