“A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.”
― Pittacus Lore, I Am Number Four
This quote is a large part of the space WordPress holds within me.
Coming from a career in Civil Engineering and a background of Industrial Technology WordPress as a software drew me as a tool. It was a means to an end. I wasn’t blogging, I wasn’t looking to create an online voice, I was looking to build something and I needed a tool.
I was good at learning software, had used over a dozen very complicated systems by that point in my life, so I found WordPress and started learning it too.
A very melodramatic discovery story of WordPress for a HeroPress piece, I know.
The truth is I probably wouldn’t have stuck around were it not for the people. The story has evolved for me over the years but that’s the beginning. The beginnings are usually far less romantic than the endings in any story.
So why was I looking for a tool? Well, that’s a bit better of a story.
Looking For A Tool
I’ll prep you with the fact that I was driven, opinionated, blunt, and defensive. I had spent my college years and first years in my chosen career in a male-dominated industry. I learned how to navigate and thrive and took a job at a very large Engineering firm. About a year in I was granted a fantastic opportunity to work on a small startup team that was doing amazing work in 3D scanning.
Being a startup team demanded that we produce more and more work to determine the viability of the investment the firm was making in my boss’s plans. As we worked on landing deals that required overnight travel and training that required days away it brought to the surface a reality that wasn’t so good for me. As the only woman on the team, I doubled the travel budget. They needed two of everything for me since I couldn’t bunk up with my male coworkers.
The next months were a perfect storm of events. I made an opinionated comment to a division supervisor that was above my pay grade which enhanced my visibility as a problem. Then I got pregnant.
You can’t walk around 3D scanning a PVC manufacturing facility while with child. They also don’t make maternity coveralls.
I was officially dead weight. I lost the pregnancy and became depressed, anxious. It was easy for them to let me go then, I had stopped being productive. I found out a couple weeks after losing my job I was pregnant again. Talk about a whirlwind.
My husband was in the process of changing careers from Retail to Healthcare and maternity leave is not something you like to bring up on an interview, so I decided to find something to do from home. I started a local family newsletter and decided to create an online marketplace for moms who craft out of their homes, like a local Etsy. This is where my search for a tool began.
A few months later, with no WordPress experience other than what I managed to rake together while I was learning and building, I got a job at WPMUDEV doing product support. I needed the extra cash so my other projects took a backseat and I was soon completely engulfed. Through that job, I came to learn about the ecosystem that was WordPress. I had no idea that there was a place that existed outside of the corporate universe that could exist without sexist politics, hierarchy, and status quo. It was mind-blowing.
I was so hungry for people to interact with after being in such a team-oriented environment for so long. I loved working with others and I felt very alone until I found this great group of people. And oh what joy when I found it! I was a new mom at home with a baby trying to learn how to handle that new space in my life. My husband had completed a successful career change and we had moved. I had another baby. I met my friend Mason and we started a business together. I lost another pregnancy.
In the space of two short years, my life had completely turned upside down and landed me in the place that would help me survive it all.
You see, without the people, I wouldn’t have made it. I wouldn’t have been able to navigate the overwhelming waters that surrounded me outside of my day to day work. The people who befriended me, who were kind to me, who made jokes with me, who valued my contribution and intelligence without ever having set eyes on me, those were the people who kept me sane. They let me see I didn’t need to be defensive, that I didn’t have to be sorry about being opinionated, that I was different and that I should lean into that.
When I left product support to work with Mason at, what was formerly called, WP Valet it was yet another major shift in my life. The product space was so different than the agency space and I quickly adapted to the new pace. There was a rush of excitement while learning new things and applying skills that had laid dormant for some time. My father was a Navy man and an entrepreneur and shaped so much of how I applied myself, now I was in a place to push myself even further and define my own path. I was spoiled by my first interactions at WP Valet with developers like Zé Fontainhas and Mario Peshev. The whole thing was thrilling!
And Then I Went To WordCamp
My first WordCamp was WordCamp Miami 2013. It was probably the first time I’d traveled alone in some time and I was meeting my work family for the first time. On top of that, I was in MIAMI, so it was bound to be a great trip. I got to meet David Bisset and Lisa Sabin Wilson that year, and so many other wonderful people. I was on cloud 9, each and every personality was inspiring to me, all so different than what my former colleagues and field specialists were like. To top it off I walked into my first talk at a WordCamp, Pippin Wilson was talking about how developers should share code. I was beside myself, sharing your code and supporting each other? Not cutthroat over projects and billable hours?! I was swooning over the idea of ‘community’ and what I had stumbled into.
Needless to say, I left 100% hooked on my path. WordPress was my life from that time on.
We as people have long-tailed stories that weave and zigzag and turn back on themselves. We are products of ALL the things going on in our lives at any given moment. Without the personal struggles and the professional push, I would not have been able to value the community as much as I do. The overlapping of personal and professional trials and successes are what gives depth to our experiences. Their overlapping is what colors the story of our lives.
Fast forward a few years through a cross-state move, speaking selections, the birth of another child, a company expansion, another pregnancy loss, a company rebranding, a company restructuring, a return to school for Yoga training, and all the other things life throws in your path with family and work and here I sit typing my story at my counter while my middle child hums ‘Mamma Mia’ next to me. I am forever grateful for the life that I’ve been able to live through a whole new career in WordPress.
You Make The Difference
I am grateful for every soul I have met. I had the privilege to work with and become friendly with some of the nicest and most genuine people I will ever meet online and face to face. The ecosystem of WP has changed a lot over the years as most ecosystems do, but it still attracts the same types of people. Those who are brave, who are kind, who are looking to the future. My world is so much bigger because of all you. Thank You :)