To me, as well as many others, WordPress is more than a technical choice, it’s a lifestyle choice. I didn’t see it as such right away. Looking at the last 4 years of my life, I can fully appreciate its impact.
Aspiring to a life full of adventures and whimsy; I never really fit the mold. American TV series and movies that taught me my dreams could be achieved if I worked hard enough. Armed with that knowledge (and without a fancy diploma to my name), I worked bank, police, IT, supply chain jobs until I discovered the joy of making websites.
My newfound passion (and many sleepless nights of work) helped me become a webdesigner. At the time, Joomla!, Spip and Typo 3 were the big names out there (in France). After achieving the role of Artistic Director as a freelancer; it took me a few years to open my own web agency. That moment changed my thinking: it was no longer ME but WE. And when a client asked us to use WordPress, we got to experience the CMS and its community.
Focusing on WordPress
Our team quickly realized that WordPress could do much more than “just blogs”. In France, the CMS kept having a reputation as a blog only platform. Complex websites were not made in WordPress. Our agency decided to convince clients otherwise. To achieve our mission and hone our skills, we decided to get closer to the WordPress community. I naively offered my help in evangelization efforts to the Paris WordCamp organizers. Except that there was one clear hurdle in our path: we had never contributed anything to the community before! This meant that we were relatively unknown. Needless to say that the feedback we received wasn’t what we expected.
Contributions: It’s About Helping Others
Contributing meant one thing: bring something to the WordPress ecosystem to help improve it. The WordCamp association’s president asked us to answer questions on the French forum as a token of our goodwill, to show our commitment.
I started to answer questions right away but felt like an imposter. All the questions on the forum seemed so technical. I didn’t know how to contribute since I wasn’t a developer. It wasn’t like I was going to create a theme or plugin anytime soon. I kept obsessing over ways I could provide value to the community. I thought about my skills but couldn’t come up with something that would make a real difference.
Sure I could speak English, but translating documents was not something I felt comfortable doing.
So I turned to the previous WordCamp Paris conference and took a closer look at the participants. There, I found my first clue: a marketing expert! I reached out to him to see if I could interview him. As Marketing Director of a press group, he had lead a big WordPress project for his company. Interviewing him brought me two things: an article for our blog discussing what could be done with WordPress and a solid understanding of how the inner workings of the French WordPress community. He gave me an idea of the path one would take to end up giving a conference at the WordCamp. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by picking a name on a conference program, I would meet one of the key players in my WordPress story: Benjamin.
Meanwhile, I continued to write articles about projects made with WordPress, sometimes ours, sometimes the competition’s. Good WordPress knows no bounds so it was necessary for me to showcase all the amazing websites made with this CMS. It’s also how I discovered my main competitors (before meeting them in the flesh later at various events).
A white paper detailing the success of WordPress as a CMS got my name out. This allowed me to gain the courage to pitch my first conference. Providing feedback on projects allowed me to find my place in the WordPress community. Focusing on my experience and helping others didn’t require developer skills. My contribution was in writing and not in coding.
My First WordPress Conference As A Speaker
My first conference topic was on how to create a multilingual, multi-site project with WordPress in 3 months. Needless to say that I was nervous. I mean, speaking in front of 300 people is not something I had done while working at a bank, or in the police force or in any other job really. Adventure: here I come!
The WordPress community was very kind to me and my first conference experience was a memorable one.
During this conference, I wanted to highlight the plugins we used for this project. I mentioned a French startup that had launched a premium plugin as its first product. I found their approach interesting, so I thought I would give them a little visibility. Showcasing good WordPress websites, themes and plugins was already a habit of mine by then. The French team were happy to be mentioned and happened to be present at the event. They came to talk to me after my conference. Turns out, we had a lot to talk about. The company’s name: WP Media. They would open a new chapter of my WordPress story.
During the closing night, I also met a lot of people. Some of them, just like Benjamin were going to have a big impact on my life. Many became great friends as well as mentors like Jenny Beaumont.
Once I got started, there was no stopping me! I continued to speak at events (WordCamp Lyon, WP Tech Nantes), attended meetups, continued writing articles to highlight WordPress projects.
The following year, I joined the organizing team of WordCamp Paris.
Meanwhile, I go to my first WordCamp Europe which was a major new turn.
WordCamp Europe 2014 Changed My Life
Going to the WordCamp Europe changed my life. It’s an experience I highly recommend. If you can, go to the next WordCamp Europe!
The organizers managed to pack so many international speakers that my head was spinning. Speakers were coming from all over the world. The quality of the talks (and speakers) along with the breadth of subjects covered open so many possibilities. You could end up changing your approach to WordPress or finding a new method of working with your peers.
I attended a conference by Noel Tock named Beyond the code where he explained how he managed his life working in remote while traveling at the same time. He also gave insights as to how to monitor your time and how to optimize it.
Realizing that such a life was possible; that you could achieve this time of freedom by reclaiming your time was a massive discovery.
The second eye-opening conference for me was Simon’s lecture on Running an open source. He explained that that undertaking Open Source also meant contributing and collaborating with a community, including your competitors. Simon showed us for 30 minutes that working with competitors was not only beneficial for us agencies, but also for the customer, and for the WordPress community as a whole.
Becoming a strong voice in the professionalisation of WordPress in France and encouraging web agencies to contribute and to exchange more had become priority subjects.
I have launched a WP Next association for professionals
- To ensure the promotion of WordPress, mainly with professionals, managers of information system, internet director, new media, … and more generally all IT decision makers.
- To enhance the skills of WordPress professionals with decision-makers,
- Promote French know-how around the WordPress CMS, associated technologies and services
I also launched with Deborah Donnier a documentary project Think WP to make known WordPress and its community.
A new turn
With these activities I gradually moved away from the creation of websites. Having so many opportunities tied to WordPress available to me, I decided to take a new turn. During the Wordcamps across Europe, I took great pleasure in exchanging with WP Media. We had kept contact since our first meeting. My profile and experience seemed to like a great fit for a new role in the WP Media adventure. I took a leap and became COO of the startup about a year ago. I manage my agency in parallel.
I now work 100% remotely and so does a great portion of my agency. As for WP Media, everyone works remotely. Being a remote worker frees me from constraints that are inherent when you live in the Paris region (it’s a city and province in France). Time spent on commuting is used for other activities.
My experience as a remote worker lets me have greater foresight which in turn allows me to carry out so many activities.
Today, I can proudly say that I attended the US WordCamp last year and am helping organize this year’s WordCamp Europe with Jenny and Benjamin.I feel like I belong in a global community that thrives thanks to its members and their desire to improve WordPress.
WordPress helped me along the path to a life full of adventures and long lasting friendships. It offers so many opportunities to forge beautiful projects, stories and more.
I hope that my story will inspire someone else to get started and find the courage to persevere on the way to a life full of adventures (with or without WordPress). Give yourself time and open yourself to other points of view to help build the life you aspire to.
Thank you for reading my story and see you at WordCamp Europe 2017!