My path to WordPress is, like so many stories, a twisty road lined with both struggle and good fortune. And yet, when I reflect on what led me here, it simply comes down to the common threads that bind us together as a community: the desire to make meaningful connections, the ability to do amazing things together, and the very human comfort that comes with knowing that I belong here.
It starts here
Just before I made my way into this world, my parents immigrated from Taipei, Taiwan to San Diego, USA. Growing up, I held a level of pride in being first generation which warred against a long list of discomforts that, as a kid, I couldn’t fully comprehend. That unlike my school mates, I rarely saw my extended family. That my English didn’t sound like that of my Californian friends, nor did my Mandarin mirror my Taiwanese cousins’. That cultural norms at friends’ homes were diametric experiences from my home.
I realize that this sounds like I had a challenging, confusing childhood, but I assure you that I had a good time growing up. My folks are loving and made sure I had opportunities whenever possible. I always have had wonderful friends who generously share their lives and love my quirks. And, I have a brother who, despite being far smarter than I will ever be, still puts up with my big sister act.
My point is that, it was painfully clear to me where I couldn’t fit in. Like many third culture kids, my perplexing cultural foundation had a profound impact on my values, and created importance around the concept of belonging, something I still hold to this day, and which pushed me along my way to WordPress.
The twisty road
I was terrible at college. I had no sense of what I wanted to do with my life, and drifted from major to major until I found myself entirely broke and rudderless. It was 2010, and with minimal job experience and 45 credits short of a degree, I desperately applied for jobs, taking the first that offered me a full time position.
It was a pivotal moment in my life. The job gave me purpose, and I actually felt like I was good at something for a change. I worked closely with my boss and mentor, a highly regarded commercial real estate advisor with a warm heart and penchant for dad jokes. What set him apart was his belief in community values: the importance of education, humility, empathy, good stewardship, qualities that made him a respected leader in many circles. Over the ensuing years, I would finish my degree. But the lessons that meant the most were learned by following my mentor’s example, and would later translate well to open source leadership.
Meanwhile, I began volunteering with renewed passion: sorting clothes at homeless shelters, working on literacy programs, teaching English at the library, serving meals, maintaining trails, building homes. I fund raised and coordinated volunteer events. Eventually, I joined advisory boards and committees of a few nonprofits, and became enamored of the strategic, thoughtful work that came with these roles.
Ideas around positive change and impact through community initiatives blossomed in my mind. Driven by strongly held values, I continued to help and was welcomed at every turn. I learned that it was people who could create spaces in which anyone, everyone could belong and add value by virtue of being a unique, enthusiastic human being. I wanted to create these spaces.
Now, it is a true story that I also found my way to WordPress through my partner, and that WordPress brought us together. We met through a mutual friend, and when I realized that he could build me a website, I asked him to do so for work. Arguably, one of my first experiences with WordPress could be described either as sharing what my site required with my developer, or innocently flirting with my future partner. The joke I like to tease him with is that I needed someone to maintain the site, so I married him.
The other truth was that, after eight years of volunteering and lessons in leadership, my passion had turned to community building. I wanted a career in creating sustainable communities where people were openly welcomed, and members tangibly feel that they belong and experience joy in their participation.
Simultaneously, working with my WordPress site also reinforced my sense of belonging to something bigger. Despite not having any technical background (y’all, my degree is in English), I was able to not just publish with WordPress, but have a functional site that worked incredibly well for my purposes. I saw WordPress as a way for anyone to have a voice online, and as a result, I was also drawn to the idea of creating these tools that non-developers, like myself, could use in an increasingly online world.
By that point, my WordPress developer had become my fiancé, and he once again suggested a WordPress-based solution, this time for my career needs. Just before we married, he forwarded a job opportunity with Automattic as a sponsored community organizer within the WordPress open source project. It was a perfect match.
And that is how, in 2018, after going through the standard Automattic interview process (another story that I’m happy to share with anyone interested) I found myself a community organizer for the WordPress Project.
Where do we go now?
I’ve only been in my current role for two and a half years, but during this time, my belief in the power of resilient communities has only grown, fortified by supporting meetup and WordCamp organizers, bolstered by working on diversity initiatives, and humbled by opportunities to serve teams as their lead, mentor, or member. I’ve met and worked with so many phenomenal community members, full of passion and creativity, and have loved every minute of what we do together.
More than anything, what excites me the most is that we still have so much more we can achieve together. Personally, I also still have much to learn, about community growth, about WordPress, and about every individual who seeks to add WordPress to their story.
In seeking out where I belong, I found WordPress, and I discovered that the way forward was to create spaces for others – I invite you to do that with me.