Finding My Way

I can trace my start with WordPress back to 7th Grade when I was 12. That year at school, I learned a bit about Wikispaces and Wix and I saw something I would want to do and have as a hobby: build websites. As I dabbled with website building more and more, I eventually found I saw a really cool platform and I really enjoyed the interface and the options I had to build a blog/website. Flash forward to 8th grade, I got hosting setup and decided I want to do something in the web industry and decided to start a business. Kind of an odd step for someone in middle school, but I envisioned an opportunity to do a lot of cool things with my new found hobby.

It was the Spring of my 8th Grade year where I discovered that WordPress had a huge community full of developers, designers and people who were just passionate about building websites. I wanted to get involved, so I did some research and eventually stumbled upon WordCamp Central, where I saw that there was a WordCamp coming near me. That WordCamp was WordCamp Minneapolis 2013. That WordCamp was what really pushed me and inspired me to become more involved in the community. (Shout out to Kiko Doran who I met at WCMPLS and who would become my mentor that summer and who really helped me decide that I wanted to be a developer). It was a bumpy start and I wasn’t really brave enough to start writing plugins or themes, but I saw an opportunity. An opportunity to share my work, to join a community of open source, and to really start building some awesome themes or plugins. I wanted to take WordPress far beyond the basic install, and I saw development as the way to accomplish this.

At the start of 9th Grade, I was able to get my first contribution into WordPress. It was quite a sudden thing when a friend of mine showed me the Inline Docs initiative in 2013. I was already developing quite a bit and was getting familiar with WordPress core, so I jumped in and made a few patches for WordPress core. It was a major leap for me, as it introduced me into the open source world a little bit better. Fast-forward to WordCamp MPLS 2014. This was another amazing WordCamp and was the first time I ever spoke at a WordCamp! At the time, I wanted to build themes, but with every theme idea, there was a certain feeling of dissatisfaction. So I closed down the recently opened to focus on back-end development. It was my first experience with a big skill shift as I moved on from HTML, CSS, and PHP to more complex PHP and Javascript. Then, in late July of last year I had the the opportunity to work as an intern with the iThemes team. The experience was amazing and it was what really helped me make my decision to do full-time back-end development.

After that, 10th grade started and I was back to building stuff and keeping it to myself. It was around December where I decided to get into releasing plugins, free and premium. And now we land to the year 2015, where we currently are. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at 3 WordCamps and have had 2 internships. One at The Pods Foundation where I was the “Niktern” working on different parts of the Pods project, and I admit, that did push my developer skills a bit farther and started to push me out of my comfort zone. Recently that Internship concluded and now I’m an intern at Rocketgenius Inc. where I help out with Gravity Forms-related stuff. It’s nice to get up every day and be part of such an amazing community and I hope to keep contributing and building plugins. That’s the kind of attitude I believe YOU should have when working in the WordPress world every day.

Jumping into the WordPress community is not a scary thing to do. In my opinion, if you’re interested to share your knowledge at a local meetup or at a WordCamp, I say go for it. Blog about your knowledge of WordPress or join the WordPress slack channel and get contributing. The WordPress community isn’t a close space and most people are very approachable. Joining the WordPress community can open a lot of doors into becoming a better developer and even an opportunity to find a new career.

One important lesson in my experience was learning from my mistakes. Building themes is what I believe I was set to do for a long-time, but it changed quite soon after I started. I find it important to dabble around after learning languages like PHP or Javascript. Getting started in the community as a developer was not easy. As I started my curriculum on Codeacademy and, I felt discouraged by the constant thought that I would not be as good as the many developers and there was no space for my work. Even for non-developers, it may seem like a scary task to start a WordPress based business or get hired in a WordPress company. But with practice and determination, I was able to move on past the discouragement in my head and move onto bigger, better things and you should be confident you can as well. The start can be rough and the journey can be filled with plenty of ups and downs, but in the end, it’s a great experience and I think you’ll be happy with what you can accomplish after learning and taking a chance to join the community. With the right determination and passion, we can all make really awesome things for the web, no matter what age we are.

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