Equity and the Power of Community

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I have been thinking about white supremacy, the injustice that Black women and men are standing up against across the world, and all the injustices I can’t know, and don’t see. 

The WordPress mission is to democratize publishing, and to me, that has always meant more than the freedom to express yourself. Democratizing publishing means giving voices to the voiceless and amplifying those speaking out against injustice. It means learning things that we otherwise wouldn’t. To me, it means that every voice has the ability to be heard, regardless of race, wealth, power, and opportunity. WordPress is a portal to commerce; it is a canvas for identity, and a catalyst for change.

While WordPress as an open source project may not be capable of refactoring unjust judicial systems or overwriting structural inequality, this does not mean that we, the WordPress community, are powerless. WordPress can’t dismantle white supremacy, but the WordPress community can invest in underrepresented groups (whose experiences cannot be substituted for) and hire them equitably. WordPress can’t eradicate prejudice, but the WordPress community can hold space for marginalized voices in our community.

There is a lot of racial, societal, and systemic injustice to fight. At times, change may seem impossible, and certainly, it’s been too slow. But I know in my heart that the WordPress community is capable of changing the world. 

If you would like to learn more about how to make a difference in your own community, here are a few resources I’ve gathered from WordPressers just like you.

People of WordPress: Mario Peshev

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. Enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress has changed people’s lives for the better. In this monthly series, we share some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Computer science in the nineties

Mario Peshev

Mario has been hooked on computers ever since he got his first one in 1996. He started with digging into MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 first and learned tons by trial and error. Following that adventure, Mario built his first HTML site in 1999. He found development so exciting that he spent day and night learning QBasic and started working at the local PC game club. Mario got involved with several other things related to website administration (translating security bulletins, setting up simple sites, etc) and soon found the technology field was full of activities he really enjoyed.

The Corporate Lifestyle

Mario started studying programming including an intensive high-level course for C#, Java development, and software engineering, and eventually got a job in a corporate environment. He soon became a team lead there, managing all the planning and paperwork for their projects.

But he continued freelancing on the side. He grew his own network of technical experts through attending, volunteering at, and organizing conferences. He also ran a technical forum and regularly spoke at universities and enterprise companies.

Remote Working and Business Opportunity

The combination of a high workload and a daily three-hour-long commute made Mario’s life difficult. Many of his friends were still studying, traveling or unemployed. The blissful and calm lives they lived seemed like a fairy tale to him. And even while both his managers and his clients were abroad, he was unable to obtain permission to work remotely. 

So Mario decided to leave his job and start freelancing full time. But he found he faced a massive challenge. 

He discovered Java projects were pretty large and required an established team of people working together in an office. All job opportunities were on-site, and some even required relocation abroad. Certified Java programmers weren’t being hired on a remote basis. 

As Mario had some PHP experience from previous jobs, he used this to start his freelance career. For his projects, he used both plain PHP and PHP frameworks like CakePHP and CodeIgniter. 

For a while, Mario accepted work using commonly known platforms including Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress. In addition, he worked on PHP, Java, Python and some C# projects for a couple of years, after which he decided to switch to WordPress completely.

Building products

One of his projects involved a technically challenging charity backed by several international organizations. Unexpected shortages in the team put him in the technical lead position. As a result, Mario found himself planning the next phases, meeting with the client regularly, and renegotiating the terms. The team completed the project successfully, and after the launch, a TV campaign led millions of visitors to the website.

As a result of the successful launch, this client invited Mario to participate in more WordPress projects, including building a custom framework.

“I wasn’t that acquainted with WordPress back then. For me, a conventional person trained in architectural design patterns and best practices, WordPress seemed like an eccentric young hipster somewhere on the line between insane and genius at the same time. I had to spend a couple of months learning WordPress from the inside out.”

Mario Peshev

As his interest in WordPress grew, Mario stopped delivering other custom platforms, and converted clients to WordPress. 

European Community

Mario presenting to an audience
Mario presenting at a WordCamp

For Mario, one of the key selling points of WordPress was the international openness. He had previously been involved with other open source communities, some of which were US-focused. He felt they were more reliant on meeting people in person. With events only taking place in the US, this made building relationships much harder for people living in other countries.

While the WordPress project started out in the US, the WordPress community quickly globalized. Dozens of WordCamps and hundreds of Meetup events take place around the globe every year.  All of these events bring a wide variety of people sharing their enthusiasm for WordPress together.

For Mario, the birth of WordCamp Europe was something magical. The fact that hundreds, and later on thousands, of people from all over the world gathered around the topic of WordPress speaks for itself. Mario has been involved with organizing WordCamp Europe twice (in 2014 and 2015). 

“There’s nothing like meeting WordPress enthusiasts and professionals from more than 50 countries brainstorming and working together at a WordCamp. You simply have to be there to understand how powerful it all is.”

Mario Peshev

Growing businesses and teams

A key WordPress benefit is its popularity – an ever growing project currently powering more than 35% of the Internet [2020]. It’s popular enough to be a de facto standard for websites, platforms, e-commerce and blogs. 

WordPress has a low barrier to entry. You can achieve a lot without being an expert, meaning most people can start gaining experience without having to spend years learning how to code. That also makes it easier to build businesses and teams.

“Being able to use a tool that is user-friendly, not overly complicated and easily extensible makes introducing it to team members faster and easier. It requires less time for adjustment, and as a result makes a team stronger and faster. The fact that this tool is cost-effective also allows more startups to enter the market. It requires  less time and investments to launch an MVP. This boosts the entire ecosystem.”

Mario Peshev

Helping Others

Mario also introduced WordPress to children and young people. He taught them how to use WordPress as a tool for homework and class assignments. By using WordPress, they were able to learn the basics of designing themes, developing plugins, marketing statistics, social media, copywriting, and so much more. This approachable introduction to the software meant technical skills were not needed.

He was also part of a team of volunteers who helped a group of young people living at a foster home struggling to provide for themselves. The team taught the basic digital literacy skills necessary in the modern workplace and potentially pay for their rent and basic needs. This included working with Microsoft Word, Excel and WordPress, as well as some basic design and marketing skills. 

“When you look at that from another perspective, a platform that could save lives – literally – and change the world for better is worth contributing to, in any possible manner.”

Mario Peshev

Contributing to the WordPress community

From the core team to supporting and organizing WordCamps, Mario has long been an active contributor to the global WordPress project. He is passionate about the connections fostered by people who are involved in building both the WordPress software and the community around it.

“The WordPress community consists of people of all race and color, living all around the world, working as teachers, developers, bloggers, designers, business owners. Let’s work together to help each other. Let’s stick together and show  the world WordPress can help make it a better place.”

Mario Peshev

Contributors

Thanks to Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune) and Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe). Thank you to Mario Peshev (@nofearinc) for sharing his #ContributorStory.

HeroPress logo

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Mary Job

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories. 

How it all began

Mary Job at WordCamp Kampala 2020
Mary Job at WordCamp Kampala 2020

Mary remembers when cybercafés started trending in Nigeria. She had just finished high school and was awaiting her results for admission to university. She spent all of her time (10 hours a day) and all of her pocket money buying bulk time online at cafes. All the way through university that was true, until in 2008 she graduated with a degree in philosophy and bought her own computer and modem.

She started blogging in 2009. Initially, she tried out Blogger, Hubpages, and WordPress—but found WordPress too complicated. 

Growing up as a timid but curious cat

Mary is one of four kids, and the only girl among her siblings. Throughout her childhood she felt shy, even though others didn’t always see her that way.

When she first started her personal blog, it was mostly an opportunity for her to speak her mind where she was comfortable. Blogging gave her a medium to express her thoughts and with every new post she became a better writer.

Rediscovering WordPress

After completing a postgraduate diploma in mass communication, Mary started a Masters degree in Information Management. This required a three month internship. She decided to volunteer in Ghana in 2015 at the headquarters of the Salesians of Don Bosco in West Africa (SDBAFW) where her uncle was based.

While she was there, her uncle asked Mary why she was not blogging on WordPress, which also happened to be the software the organisation used. She explained how difficult and complicated it was so he shared a group of beginner-level tutorial videos with her.

After two weeks of watching those videos, she started to realize she could have a full-time career doing this. So she immediately joined a number of online training groups so she could learn everything.

I saw a lot of people earning an income from things I knew and did for the fun of it. I found myself asking why I had not turned my passion into a business.

Mary Job

Not long after that, she was contacted by a website editor who was impressed by her blog. With the information available online for WordPress, she was able to learn everything she needed to improve and redesign a site for what turned into her first client.

Mary’s home office in 2016

I visited the WordPress.org showcase and was wowed with all the good things I could do with WordPress.

Mary Job

In 2016 after a year of deep WordPress learning, she had fallen in love with the CMS and wanted to give back to the WordPress open source project

She volunteered to help the Community team. And when she moved to Lagos later that year, she discovered there was an active WordPress Meetup community. This started her journey toward becoming a WordPress Meetup Co-organizer and a Global Community Team Deputy.

Today the Nigerian WordPress community continues to grow, as has the Lagos WordPress Meetup group. The first Nigerian WordCamp took place in Lagos in 2018 and a 2020 event is being planned. A local WordPress community also developed in Mary’s hometown in Ijebu.

I have made great friends and met co-organizers in the community who are dedicated to building and sharing their WordPress knowledge with the community like I am.

Mary Job

What did Mary gain from using and contributing to WordPress?

  • She overcame her stage fright by getting up in front of an audience at her local Meetup to introduce speakers and to talk about the WordPress community. 
  • She attended her first of many African WordCamps in Cape Town, South Africa. Coincidentally this was also her first time outside West Africa. Before that, she had not been in an aircraft for more than one hour.
  • She earned money from WordPress web design projects to sustain her during her learning period. Mary continues to use WordPress in her work and says she is still learning every day!
  • She got to jump off Signal Hill in Cape Town when visiting a WordCamp! 
Mary moderating a panel at WordCamp Lagos in 2019

Essentially, the community has taught me to be a better communicator, and a better person. I’ve made friends across the world that have become like a family to me.

Mary Job

She now runs a village hub in Ijebu,  where she teaches girls digital skills and WordPress as a way of giving back to her town.

Since she started on this journey, Mary has gotten a fulltime job supporting a WordPress plugin. She’s also become a Community Team Rep and continues to build and foster communities.

Mary’s advice to others

Always seek to understand the basics of whatever knowledge you seek. Never jump in too fast, wanting to spiral to the top while ignoring the learning curve. You will likely crash down effortlessly if you do so, and would have learned nothing.

Mary Job

Contributors

Thanks to Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe). Thank you to Mary Job (@maryojob) for sharing her #ContributorStory.

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Kori Ashton

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

The beginning

Kori Ashton

In 1998, Kori created her very first HTML website. Her dad was creating websites for a living at the time. She needed a website for her band because she wanted to be a rockstar. Under his training, and with a little bit of self-teaching, she learned how to build a website.

She had been aware of WordPress since 2005, and, in 2008 a client specifically hired her as a freelancer to develop a WordPress website. Kori went straight to Google and taught herself how to build a WordPress website over a single weekend. She really enjoyed the experience of working with WordPress.

My mind was absolutely blown when I saw the drag and drop options inside of menus to create dropdowns and a form builder. 

Kori Ashton

She suggested to her dad that WordPress could be a solution for their customers who wanted to be able to access their own websites. Previously, they had found this was not as easy for clients unless they had specific software and knew how to code. So, Kori and her dad worked to learn WordPress over the next few years. 

Then in 2012, Kori and her parents launched their new business, WebTegrity, in San Antonio, Texas, US. It started out small: just Kori and her parents. Soon, they started subcontracting design work and quickly continued to grow their team.

Going big time

Even though the business was in a saturated industry in San Antonio — over 700 freelancers and agencies were providing similar services — Kori and her parents were able to sell their company five years later, with a multi-million dollar valuation. There were a few choices they made early on that led to that success.

1. They picked a niche: WordPress specialists 

At the time, there were no WordPress-specific agencies in San Antonio. They emphasized the fact that WordPress was the only CMS their company would use. Prospective clients looking for a different type of CMS solution were not the right fit for their business. They also offered on-site, WordPress training and weekend workshops that were open to anyone (including other agencies) as one of their revenue streams. They soon were established as a city-wide WordPress authority.

2. They cultivated a culture

Kori wanted a great culture and environment in her company and to make that happen, she needed to hire the right people. She believes you must be careful about who you bring into the culture of your business, but particularly when hiring leaders into that community. You can’t teach passion so you’ve got to find people that are excited about what you do. You also need to look for integrity, creativity, a love for solving problems, and an eagerness to keep getting better. 

You can teach code all day long, but be sure to find people with the right hearts to join your community and then train them up the right way. This way you will grow your culture in a healthy way.

Kori Ashton
Kori and her two sons

3. They learned how to build sustainable revenue streams

Like many other web development agencies, WebTegrity started out with the “one-time fee and you’re done” business model. This business model is known for unpredictable revenue streams. Hearing about recurring revenue business models at WordCamp Austin was a lightbulb moment for Kori. She started drafting a more sustainable business model on the way back home. 

Support packages were key to their new business plan. Clients needed ongoing support. They decided to include at least 12 months of post-launch support into their web development projects. This doubled their revenue in one year and allowed them to even out their revenue streams.

4. They knew the importance of reputation

Kori believes that every client, whether they have a $5,000 or a $50,000 budget, should get the same type of boutique-style, white glove, concierge relationship.

Every single project results in the absolute best solution for a client’s needs. In addition to that, offering training helped boost their reputation. Explaining the lingo of the web development and SEO fields and showing the processes used, added transparency. It helped set and meet expectations and it built trust. 

5. They proactively gave back to the community

Tori heard Matt Mullenweg speak about Five For The Future at WordCamp US. He encouraged people in the audience who make a living using WordPress, to find ways to give back 5% of their time to building the WordPress software and community. Matt talked about how firms and individuals could give back to the community. He suggested, for instance to:

  • start a WordPress Meetup group
  • present at a Meetup event 
  • facilitate a Meetup group where maybe you’re just the organizer and you never have to speak because you’re not a fan of speaking
  • help organize a WordCamp
  • volunteer at a WordCamp
  • write a tutorial and tell people how to do WordPress related things 
  • run a workshop
  • make a video
If you’re making an income using WordPress, consider giving 5% of your time back to building the software and/or the community.

This gave Kori another light bulb moment. She could make videos to give back. So her way to give back to the WordPress community is her YouTube channel.

Every Wednesday, she published a video on how to improve your online marketing. This made a huge impact, both inside the WordPress community, but also in her own business.

Understanding

So, in summary, how did Kori and her family turn their business into a multi-million dollar buyout in just five years? 

Ultimately, it was about understanding that you have to build value. About keeping an exit strategy in mind while building your business. For instance when naming your company. Will it stand alone? Could it turn into a brand that you could sell as an independent entity?

  • Think about revenue streams and watch sales margins.
  • Be sure to include healthy margins. 
  • Don’t hire until you have no further option.
  • Make sure to structure your offerings in such a way that you’re actually recouping your value. 
  • Understand entrepreneurship, watch Shark Tank, read more tutorials, watch more videos.
  • Get involved in the WordPress community. Get to know its core leaders, the speakers that travel around to all the WordCamps. Start following them on Twitter and try to understand what they’re sharing. 

In the end, the fact that Kori was so active in the San Antonio community helped enable the sale.

We just kept hammering on the fact that we were the go-to place here in San Antonio for WordPress. We kept training, we kept doing free opportunities, going out and speaking at different events, and people kept seeing us. We kept showing up, kept giving back and kept establishing ourselves as the authority.

Kori Ashton

Contributors

Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat),  Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe).

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Robert Cheleuka

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Robert Cheleuka

Robert is a self-taught graphic and motion designer turned web designer (and aspiring web developer) from Malawi, Africa. Over the years, he has grown fond of WordPress and has become a loyal user. Still, the journey is rough.

Robert Cheleuka
Robert Cheleuka

Malawi

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. A tiny landlocked country with a population of 17 million, it’s largely rural and still considered a developing country. The average entry-level monthly pay for most skilled jobs is about $110. If you’re employed full-time in the creative industry and if you’re very lucky, you might be able to earn more than that. Employees earning more than $300 a month are rare to non-existent.

Robert has been a freelance graphic designer since about 2011. He started by doing gigs from his dorm in college and from home. Earnings from his freelance jobs increased his interest in entrepreneurship and he started to consider starting his own creative agency.

How Robert was introduced to WordPress

Robert first came into contact with WordPress in 2014 when he and a friend started a local tech blog. Before that, all he knew was basic, outdated HTML from high school and some knowledge of Adobe Dreamweaver. They decided to use WordPress, and their new blog looked like it came from the future. They used a theme from the repo and got such positive feedback from the blog they decided to open a content and media publishing agency.

While they got a few web redesign jobs thanks to the exposure the blog brought, they lacked the administrative and business skills needed and ended up going their separate ways. Then in his first real job after college Robert finally took it upon himself to learn the ins and outs of WordPress. He learned how to install WordPress on a server and did some research on customizing themes. 

With that knowledge alone he got his first web design clients and started earning nearly as much as he did at his job. Robert soon realized that free WordPress themes would only take him so far, especially with his limited code skills.

Because in Malawi only people who travel abroad have access to credit cards, paying for premium themes was impossible. Like many WordPress designers in developing countries, Robert turned to using pirated themes instead. He knew that was both unsafe and unethical, and decided to learn how to code. Knowing how to build themes from scratch would surely help him rise above the competition. 

The WordPress community from Robert’s perspective

Robert doesn’t have a lot of interaction with the WordPress community. Although he would search for solutions from blogs about WordPress he had never actually talked to or asked anyone from the community for a solution. 

Robert believes that this isolation is the result of a glass ceiling — the WordPress community is partially online and partially in-person, but there isn’t a local group in Malawi. And because Malawi, like many other developing nations, lacks a way to pay online many can’t access premium support, online learning, or most other types of professional development. No matter how welcoming the people of WordPress might be, it can still feel like it mostly belongs to those with enough privilege to conduct business on the internet.

WordPress & inclusion

As most freelancers know, it’s really hard to learn while you also still need to earn. Add pitching to clients and shipping graphic design projects… there are only so many hours in a day.

Robert didn’t have a programming background and had always been more of a creative person. In order to grow as a web designer/developer, he needed to learn PHP. Again, without access to a credit card, that was complicated. Also, free coding training wasn’t as widely available as it is now.

Robert wishes that more developers would consider alternative ways for users who cannot pay for courses, themes, or plugins (whether that’s because of available infrastructure or otherwise). He wishes that WordPress tutors and developers would open up ways to accommodate aspiring learners in developing countries who cannot access plugins, courses, and themes, to be able to give back and to participate at another level.

WordPress has allowed him to build an income he would have no other way of earning and it makes a huge difference. He believes sharing stories like his will hopefully make WordPress products and services become more universally available. In addition, he hopes that more aspiring, self-taught developers will find courage in reaching out to connect with others out there.

Contributors

Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Siobhan Cunningham (@siobhanseija), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe)

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!


WordPress Leaders Nominated for CMX Awards

Two members of the WordPress leadership team were nominated for excellent work in their field in the first ever Community Industry Awards. Andrea Middleton is nominated for Executive Leader of a Community Team and Josepha Haden Chomphosy is nominated for Community Professional of the Year.

CMX is one of the largest professional organizations dedicated to community builders. The awards were open to public nomination, and finalists were chosen by panels of their peers in the CMX community.

Andrea has been a vital community strategist for the WordPress project since 2011. Her work to build and support a vibrant community has played a part in the success around the popular open source CMS. Her work is sponsored by Automattic, where she leads a team that focuses on educational efforts, funding, and in-person community-driven events that serve a global base.

Josepha has been the Executive Director of the WordPress project since 2019. Her work to coordinate and guide volunteer efforts spans 20 teams and involves thousands of volunteers. Her work is also sponsored by Automattic, where she leads the open source division that focuses on all aspects of open source contribution including design, development, volunteer engagement, and the health of the overall WordPress ecosystem.

Votes are Open

Final recipients are chosen with open voting — if you feel like either Andrea or Josepha have had an impact on your careers, your trajectory in the WordPress project, or the health of WordPress as a whole, there are three ways you can show your support:

  • Stop by and vote for them (Andrea here, Josepha here)!
  • Share this post with your own communities!
  • Tweet some inspirational thoughts about your time/experience/learnings with WordPress (using #WordPress, naturally)!

Thank You Notes

A lot of care and passion goes into making the WordPress Project as fantastic as it is. I think these awards are a reflection of how wonderful the community and ecosystem are, and I appreciate everyone’s continued trust in my stewardship!

Josepha Haden Chomphosy

WordPress community organizers are some of the most generous and creative people in the world — working with them is exciting and interesting every day. I’m humbled by this nomination; thank you!

Andrea Middleton

People of WordPress: Jill Binder

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Jill Binder

Jill Binder never meant to become an activist. She insists it was an accident.

Despite that, Jill has led the Diversity Outreach Speaker Training working group in the WordPress Community team since 2017. This group is dedicated to increasing the number of women and other underrepresented groups who are stepping up to become speakers at WordPress Meetups, WordCamps, and events. 

Jill’s back story

Internship

Jill’s WordPress story begins in 2011, in Vancouver, Canada. Jill secured an internship for her college program, working on a higher education website that was built in WordPress. As a thank you, her practicum advisor bought Jill a ticket to WordCamp Vancouver 2011: Developer’s Edition. After that Jill began freelancing  with WordPress as a Solopreneur. 

First steps in the WordPress community

The following year her internship advisor, who had become a client, was creating the first ever BuddyCamp for BuddyPress. He asked Jill to be on his organizing team. At that event she also moderated a panel with Matt Mullenweg. Then, Jill was invited to be on the core organizing team for WordCamp Vancouver.

Part of this role meant reviewing and selecting speakers. From 40 speaker applications the team had to pick only 14 to speak.

The diversity challenge when selecting speakers

For anyone who has organized a conference, you know that speaker selection is hard. Of the 40 applications, 7 were from women, and the lead organizer selected 6 of those to be included in the speaker line up.

At this point Jill wasn’t aware that very few women apply to speak at tech conferences and suggested selection should be made on the best fit for the conference. The team shared that not only did they feel the pitches were good and fit the conference, but they also needed to be accepted or the Organizers would be criticized for a lack of diversity.

Selecting women for fear of criticism is embarrassing to admit, but that’s how people felt in 2013.

By the time the event happened, though, the number of women speakers dropped to 4. And with an additional track being added, the number of speakers overall was up to 28. Only 1 speaker in 7 was a woman (or 14%) and attendees did ask questions and even blogged about the lack of representation.

What keeps women from applying?

Later that year at  WordCamp San Francisco—the biggest WordCamp at the time (before there was a WordCamp US)—Jill took the opportunity to chat with other organizers about her experience. She found out that many organizers had trouble getting enough women to present.

Surprisingly Vancouver had a high number of women applicants in comparison to others, and the consensus was more would be accepted  if only more would apply.

Jill decided that she  needed to know why this was happening? Why weren’t there more women applying? She started researching, reading, and talking to people.

Though this issue is complex, two things came up over and over:

  • “What would I talk about?”
  • “I’m not an expert on anything. I don’t know enough about anything to give a talk on it.”

A first workshop with encouraging results

Then Jill had an idea. She brought up the issue at an event and someone suggested that they should get women together in a room and brainstorm speaker topics.

So Jill became the lead of a small group creating a workshop in Vancouver. In one of the exercises, participants were invited to brainstorm ideas—this proved that they had literally a hundred topic ideas and the biggest problem then became picking just one!

In the first discussion, Jill focussed on:

  • Why it matters that women (added later: diverse groups) are in the front of the room
  • The myths of what it takes to be the speaker at the front of the room (aka beating impostor syndrome)
  • Different presentation formats, especially story-telling
  • Finding and refining a topic
  • Tips to become a better speaker
  • Leveling up by speaking in front of the group throughout the afternoon
women gathering to discussion presentation topics
Vancouver Workshop 2014

Leading to workshops across North America and then the world

Other cities across North America heard about the workshop and started hosting them, adding their own material.

Many women who initially joined her workshop wanted help getting even better at public speaking. So Jill’s team added in some material created from the other cities and a bit more of their own. Such as:

  • Coming up with a great title
  • Writing a pitch that is more likely to get accepted
  • Writing a bio
  • Creating an outline

At WordCamp Vancouver 2014—only one year since Jill started—there were 50% women speakers and 3 times the number of women applicants! Not only that, but this WordCamp was a Developer’s Edition, where it’s more challenging to find women developers in general, let alone those who will step up to speak.

More work is needed!

Impressive as those results were, the reason Jill is so passionate about this work is because of what happened next:

  • Some of the women who attended the workshop stepped up to be leaders in the community and created new content for other women.
  • A handful of others became WordCamp organizers. One year Vancouver had an almost all-female organizing team – 5 out of 6!
  • It also influenced local businesses. One local business owner loved what one of the women speakers said so much that he hired her immediately. She was the first woman developer on the team, and soon after she became the Senior Developer.

Diversity touches on many levels

Jill has seen time and again what happens when different people speak at the front of the room. More people feel welcome in the community. The speakers and the new community members bring new ideas and new passions that help to make the technology we are creating more inclusive. And together we generate new ideas that benefit everyone.

This workshop was so successful, with typical results of 40-60% women speakers at WordCamps, that the WordPress Global Community Team asked Jill to promote it and train it for women and all diverse groups around the world. In late 2017, Jill started leading the Diverse Speaker Training group (#wpdiversity).

Dozens of community members across the world have now been trained to lead the workshop. With now dozens of workshops worldwide, for WordPress and other open source software projects as well, there is an increase in speaker diversity. 

Diverse Speaker Training group
WordCamp US 2019

As a result of the success, Jill is now sponsored to continue the program. She’s proud of how the diversity represented on the stage adds value not only to the brand but also in the long-term will lead to the creation of a better product. She’s inspired by seeing the communities change as a result of the new voices and new ideas at the WordPress events.

Jill’s leadership in the development and growth of the Diversity Outreach Speaker Training initiative has had a positive, measurable impact on WordPress community events worldwide. When WordPress events are more diverse, the WordPress project gets more diverse — which makes WordPress better for more people.”

Andrea Middleton, Community organizer on the WordPress open source project

Resources:

Contributors

Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe)

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Kim Parsell

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Kim Parsell

We’d like to introduce you to Kim Parsell. Kim was an active and well-loved member of the WordPress community. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2015. Lovingly referred to as #wpmom, she leaves behind a legacy of service. 

Kim Parsell

How Kim became #wpmom

In order to understand how highly valued the WordPress community was to Kim Parsell, you have to know a bit about her environment.

Kim was a middle-aged woman who lived off a dirt road, on top of a hill, in Southern rural Ohio. She was often by herself, taking care of the property with only a few neighbors up and down the road.

She received internet access from towers that broadcast wireless signals, similar to cell phones but at lower speeds.

Connecting through attending live podcast recordings

By listening to the regular podcast, WordPress Weekly, Kim met members of the WordPress community and was able to talk to them on a weekly basis. The show and its after-hours sessions provided Kim a chance to mingle with the who’s who of WordPress at the time. It helped establish long-lasting relationships that would open up future opportunities for her.

Since she lived in a location where few around her used or had even heard of WordPress, the community was an opportunity for her to be with like-minded people. Kim enjoyed interacting with the community, both online and at WordCamp events, and many community members became her second family, a responsibility she took very seriously.

“Many members of the WordPress community became her second family, a responsibility she took very seriously.”

Jeff Chandler

One of the first women of WordPress

Kim is regarded as one of the first “women of WordPress,” investing a lot of her time in women who wanted to break into tech. She worked hard to create a safe environment sharing herself and her knowledge and was affectionately called #wpmom.

She contributed countless hours of volunteer time, receiving “props” for 5 major releases of WordPress, and was active on the documentation team. 

“Affectionately called #wpmom, Kim was an investor. She invested countless hours into the WordPress project and in women who wanted to break into tech.”

Carrie Dils
Kim at WordCamp San Francisco

Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship

In 2014, she received a travel stipend offered by the WordPress Foundation that enabled her to attend the WordPress community summit, held in conjunction with WordCamp San Francisco. She shared with anyone who would listen, that this was a life-changing event for her. 

The WordPress Foundation now offers that scholarship in her memory. The Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship provides funding annually for a woman who contributes to WordPress to attend WordCamp US, a flagship event for the WordPress community.

This scholarship truly is a fitting memorial. Her contributions have been vital to the project. Moreover, the way she treated and encouraged the people around her has been an inspiration to many.  

Her spirit lives on in the people she knew and inspired. Here’s hoping that the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship will serve to further inspire those who follow in her footsteps.

Drew Jaynes

Kim is missed, but her spirit continues to live on

Sadly Kim died just a few short months later. But her spirit lives on in the people she knew and inspired within her communities. The Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship will serve to further inspire those who follow in her footsteps.

Contributors

@wpfiddlybits, @yvettesonneveld, @josephahaden, Topher Derosia, Jeff Chandler, Carrie Dils, Jayvee Arrellano, Jan Dembowski, Drew Jaynes

2019 Annual Survey

It’s time for our annual user and developer survey! If you’re a WordPress user or professional, we want your feedback.

It only takes a few minutes to fill out the survey, which will provide an overview of how people use WordPress. We’re excited to announce that this year, for the first time, the survey is also available in 5 additional languages: French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Many thanks to the community volunteers who helped with the translation effort!

The survey will be open for 4 weeks, and results will be published on this blog. All data will be anonymized: no email addresses or IP addresses will be associated with published results. To learn more about WordPress.org’s privacy practices, check out the privacy policy.

Empowering Generations of Digital Natives

Technology is changing faster each year. Digital literacy can vary between ages but there are lots of ways different generations can work together and empower each as digital citizens.

No matter whether you’re a parent or caregiver, teacher or mentor, it’s hard to know the best way to teach younger generations the skills needed to be an excellent digital citizen. If you’re not confident about your own tech skills, you may wonder how you can help younger generations become savvy digital citizens. But using technology responsibly is about more than just technical skills. By collaborating across generations, you can also strengthen all your family members’ skills, and offer a shared understanding of what the internet can provide and how to use it to help your neighborhoods and wider society. 

Taking Gen Z Beyond Digital Savvy

Open up the dialogue

Even if you’re not fully confident in your own tech skills, you can help develop digital citizenship skills in others. If you feel comfortable during everyday conversation, you could describe a tech situation you have come across and ask family members if they have ever experienced something similar. You can give them a chance to share how they handled it or how it made them feel. This can help encourage them to think critically and to react with empathy. And being asked for advice can make them feel appreciated and empowered. But opening up the conversation can also be as simple as asking if they’ve seen anything online lately that they found interesting or wanted to talk about.

Share access to free and affordable training

Open source content management systems have made online publishing accessible to a more diverse group of people. Dozens of content platforms offer hands-on training at no or low cost. WordPress.tv, LinkedIn Learning, and others have low-cost video libraries with thousands of recorded talks and workshops and the WordPress Training team have excellent downloadable lesson plans and materials. These platforms not only feature content that helps develop tech and content creation skills but also content around ethics, diversity and community building.  

Find a sense of community and belonging

One of the disadvantages of increased digitalization is that younger generations and us all may spend less time hanging out in-person. Digital time spent with others is no replacement for in-person interactions. The awareness and mutual understanding which comes from back and forth interaction is needed for positive interpersonal skills. This is hard to replace in digital communities and those skills can only be learned with lots of hands-on practice. 

Learn the many benefits of volunteering 

There are WordPress events across the world that provide a great place to learn new skills to share with your families and friends. Some work with schools and colleges to offer special events which are open to all ages. There are also plenty of small ways to volunteer with the WordPress project that can be done at home to practice new skills.

In addition to attending events where you can learn skills and hang out with others with similar interests, the WordPress ecosystem offers countless opportunities to be actively involved. Professionals, hobbyists, and learners all make a difference by contributing to the ongoing creation of the WordPress platform. Together these people, who are known as contributors, form the WordPress open source community. 

WordPress is created by volunteer contributors

Not only are these contributors creating an amazingly flexible platform for all to use, it is an environment where you can continue to improve your skills, both technical and interpersonal. Open-source software projects can introduce you to people you would otherwise not get the chance to meet, locally and internationally. If you have a zest for learning, and for finding others to connect with, WordPress has many ways to meet contributors in person!

WordPress events are organized by volunteers

WordPress community events are volunteer-run. This can be a great way to give back to the project and practice all sorts of skills. Talk to your local event about how you could get involved and if you would like to bring older teenagers and young adults with you. You will not need any pre-existing tech skills to attend these events but they are a great way to discover areas you might want to learn more about. 

Contributor days offer a great opportunity to get involved

These events are specially designed to help you get involved in building the open-source WordPress platform. You can collaborate with other members of its community and find areas that are right for you to use and grow your skills. All of the tasks you will discover at an event can be continued at home and some are easy to get other family members involved in learning and adding in ideas. 

Contributors come from all sorts of backgrounds and locations, some may live near you and others thousands of miles away. Working alongside lots of different cultures and countries can open up new ideas for young people letting them learn new ways of doing things and discover different perspectives. All those different perspectives can cause misunderstandings. But being involved in a global learning community is a great way to practice communicating across cultural boundaries. 

Getting involved can be rewarding in many (unexpected) ways

The most rewarding part of actively taking part in WordPress events is making budding friendships. New connections often turn into long-lasting friendships that are likely to continue for years to come, both online and offline. With a global community, these friendships can potentially lead to lots of international adventures too!

Make our digital world safer and more inclusive

Befriending people from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds can be an enriching experience in itself. It can also help you make us make more informed decisions. The more we interact with a diverse range of people, the more empathic we become. Some of the most valuable learning that can be offered to Gen Z (and probably to all of us at times) is that what we come across in fast-moving digital communities isn’t always the entire view. 

All things considered….

Anyone who is a digital native may not need encouragement to obtain tech skills. But they may not be aware that digital communities are still communities and we need to use the same sorts of people skills for both offline and online locations. Opening up conversations about situations they may experience online that may require them to (re)act responsibly, can encourage them to think critically and act with empathy. Compared to previous generations, digital natives spend substantially more time by themselves while using devices, so encouraging them to join real-life communities, such as WordPress, could be the first step to learning what it means to be a good digital citizen!