A Journey of Resilience

The Beginning

Back in 2001, while still in high school, I had an internship at the state governor’s cabinet, which had a staff of around 300 people. I fixed computers and printers, installed Windows, set up networks, and so on. Then, at the beginning of 2003, the governor’s term ended, and my internship was ending as well. Everyone was fired, except for me. They asked me to stay for a while to help train the new employees. A few weeks later, everybody was properly trained and my internship finally came to an end, 2 years later. I said my goodbyes and went home, unemployed. Luckily, that unemployment lasted only a week. Actually, it was only 4 days, as I received a phone call that Friday inviting me to come back as a full-time employee!

Starting on Web Development

After another year of tech support, I asked to join the development team. I wanted to put what I’d learned at school into practice, as my technical high school focused on computer programming. The school was developing several government applications with ASP and SQL Server. My first job was to create a CMS to handle the access credentials to these different systems, according to each user’s permissions. Then, in 2005, Jesse James Garrett published the famous article: Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications. I studied it several times and began rewriting a program entirely in Javascript and Ajax. (If, one day I have the opportunity to go back in time and give myself advice, I would say, “keep working with JavaScript!)”

Open Source? I Don’t Know About That…

That was the beginning of my career as a web developer. The sad thing is that I was completely convinced that the Microsoft environment was the future. I couldn’t be bothered with Open Source. I had always considered Open Source utopian and unrealistic. After 5 years of working at the same institution, I was ready for a change. I left that job to work with my aunt on a website for her used bookstore. To build it, I learned about Perl, PHP and MySQL. Over 7 years later, her website still is the largest retailer of old and used books in Brazil.

Unrecognized Innovation

That job didn’t last much longer, because a few months later, I was invited to work at a printing services company. It was my dream job, as they had a different workplace philosophy. I was hired to work on an ERP software written in Visual Basic. After 2 months at that company, I was doing several things at the same time. I ended up developing new software that monitored printers remotely. It was implemented in Visual Basic on the client software, and in PHP and MySQL on the server end. After causing a revolution at that company, being nominated for employee of the year, saving the company untold amounts of money via automation, I asked for a raise. I was denied, so the only thing left for me to do was leave.

Joining the Startup World

After leaving that company in 2008, I was invited by two other friends to create a company to commercialize the software I had just created, which seemed very revolutionary. We formally opened a new company and got in touch with several other companies to be our beta testers. We applied to several government innovation programs, which provided funds without the need to pay them back. It appeared that we were about to conquer the world and become zillionaires. The fairy tale came crashing down 3 years later, after not being able to generate any revenue. I learned A TON in the process. It wasn’t an issue of the software not being good enough, it was an issue of trying to do too many things at once, which led to a lack of focus. Now I understand the term “MVP”!

WordPress to the Rescue

After being completely broke for 3 years, I quit the startup dream, feeling like I was cheated by my loved one. These two friends and partners watched me struggle and offered me help by doing some freelance work for their other company, a small web agency. They said, “Look, we need to create a website for this company and we want you to do it with this software called WordPress.” This was in 2010. I spent approximately 4 hours reading about WordPress online, started creating a theme and playing with The Loop concept. I was completely hooked. I remember having thought, “Oh my god, I’ll never need to manually write a Recordset again to retrieve data from the database!” I instantly felt that WordPress was the future.

The Agency World

After developing that website and (several others) for my friend’s agency, I was feeling confident enough to start working with WordPress full-time. I sent my resumé to several web agencies that were looking for WordPress developers. The second company I interviewed with hired me on the spot. They were not using WordPress, and, in fact, they had their own in-house built CMS (which was awful). I tried to convince every developer there to move to WordPress, but was unsuccessful. For my own luck, all the employees there tried a “coup” and left the company, leaving me alone to start all the new websites with WordPress. I was appointed Manager and was tasked with hiring a new team. After some interviews, the company was back on its own feet and we were a WordPress-only shop. I remember the launch of WordPress version 3.0 and its support for Custom Post Types, which allowed me to create a complete e-commerce system from the scratch.

Back to Freelancing

At some point, that company wasn’t enough for me anymore. I wanted to move forward, so I quit to create my own WordPress company. This lasted less than a year. It was now 2011 and I was rather concerned about this fact. The time that my startups lasted was getting smaller and smaller. In my head, I liked to think that I was evolving and was always reaching the limit of what I could learn at the company. That’s why I always had to find new companies with higher ceilings. So, I created my own WordPress shop, called it Rise, and worked for 2 years with several clients spread throughout Brazil.

WordCamps

In 2012, I applied to speak at WordCamp Curitiba. I wanted to share my experiences building an e-commerce from scratch, using WordPress’ native resources. I remember being constantly asked about WooCommerce during these talks. During the after party, I first met some of the members of the Brazilian WordPress community. A few months later, WordCamp São Paulo was supposed to happen and they invited to me speak there as well. I joined the organization email list to get a behind-the-scenes look at a WordCamp Organization. I ended up helping being in charge of the ticketing system (this was pre-Camptix) and the registrations on event day.

Organizing a WordCamp

Having enjoyed being a co-organizer of WordCamp São Paulo, I was feeling confident enough to organize a WordCamp in my own hometown, Porto Alegre. After witnessing lots of unfruitful debates (that led to nothing besides delays) and some hiccups on the committee of São Paulo, I decided to organize the entire WordCamp Porto Alegre alone, by myself. The approval from the foundation arrived a little late according to our schedule, leaving me only two months to organize everything. It was intense! I can only say that in these two months I couldn’t do any work for my company and was living only with the money I had in my account. Some sponsors delayed the payment as well, so I had to pay for several items with my own credit card and when they didn’t accepted any credit card, I had to borrow some checks from my mom. In the end it was fun, but very stressful at times. I won’t organize alone again, that’s for sure!

First trip outside Brazil

Exactly one week after WordCamp Porto Alegre ended, I did my first trip ever outside of Brazil. I went to WordCamp San Francisco 2013 with two other Brazilian friends. It was the first time I used my English skills, since I had never done any language courses. My English skills are self-taught, by forcefully reading sentences without knowing any word, just to familiarize myself with the words. Later on, by reading articles on the web about computers and watching TV series without subtitles. That trip was a blast! I met Matt and all the well known WordPress core and plugin developers. It was like being in Hollywood seeing all the greatest movie stars on a red carpet. But as soon as I was back home, something didn’t make any sense. Every WordCamp I’ve attended before was an investment, either in doing networking, finding out new friends and find new clients. But this one didn’t bring me any clients. And remember that I was without any job for the prior two months? Yeah, it was total chaos! It took me almost a year to get back from that impact on my finances. The trip itself was very expensive, plus I came home without any new clients.

MailPoet

A few months later, in November 2013, a friend that went with me to San Francisco, Gustavo Bordoni, saw a tweet from a new friend we both made at San Francisco: Juan Francisco Aldasoro, an Argentinian WordPress developer. After we came home from San Francisco, Juan continued his trip in the US and then went to Europe and ended up attending WordCamp Europe in Leiden. There, Juan met Kim and the other guys from MailPoet, a WordPress newsletter plugin. Juan started following MailPoet’s Twitter account. One day in November, Juan saw a tweet with a job offer from MailPoet and retweeted it. Gustavo saw Juan’s tweet and applied for the interview. I think I can speak for Gustavo when he too felt confident enough in his English skills after being in San Francisco to take this interview. After two interviews Gustavo was hired as a PHP developer and after a week he told me they published another job offering for a Support position. Feeling confident enough in my English, I applied too, and after a few interviews, I got hired as well. Now, after more than a year at MailPoet, I am the Support Manager working on a team of 13 awesome individuals from 8 different countries. In the end, WCSF was a good investment after all.

Final Words

I just want to stress out the fact that community involvement is “a must” for everyone that wants to work in the WordPress ecosystem. Going to the US was also an important step to acquire the confidence needed to do an interview in English. Learning English in Brazil is not very common, so every time I have to give a talk at a WordCamp or other events, the only advice I give is: “Learn English”.

 

Questions? Comments? Swing by WPChat and Rafael will be happy to answer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *