My grandparents used to have a photograph that showed me as a child, just old enough to start walking; and in it I was trying to climb onto this little cement horse sculpture they had in their yard.
For as long as I can recall I’ve always had an interest in horses, and it was always believed that my primary career path in life would somehow revolve around riding or training horses.
I had the first chance to work around horses when I was nine, my parents wouldn’t pay for riding lessons but I was given the green light to volunteer at a handicapped riding facility near our home. So I would go there a few times each week to lead the horses around and assist the riders. I was in heaven.
After some months of this my parents finally conceded to riding lessons, then buying a horse and things seemed to be on course for a career in horses for me.
When I was 14 years old, we had moved to our own little property where we could keep our own horses. I would have been entering the 9th grade that fall, but instead I proposed to my parents that I should drop out of school and start a horse business instead; and surprisingly they agreed.
For the next 6 years, I would spend a significant amount of time learning how to build, maintain and improve my own website for that business; it started with a basic WYSIWYG website builder but I quickly learned I needed to dig directly into the code to achieve what I wanted. I broke things and learned how to fix by poking at them with a stick, possibly the most ineffectual method of learning but this was before Google contained all the answers to all the questions..
What about *WordPress*?
Bear with me, I’m getting to that point! It’s now 2005 and I’m packing up my truck and horse trailer with a reasonable amount of belongings and one of my horses to drive 2000 miles from southern Wisconsin to the Seattle, Washington area. The next step in my journey will be as working-student for a year, which is just a fancy way of saying I’ll be doing hard physical labor for gruelingly long hours in exchange for a few hours of one-on-one instruction when the trainer has time.
I wanted to learn more about Classical Dressage, and with few options in my immediate location, began looking outside the Midwest until I found a small facility in the Pacific NorthWest that was teaching what I wanted to learn.
So where does WordPress fit in here? From the time I started working at the farm, I had to maintain an online blog and post to it daily. I chose WordPress as my blogging platform, possibly it was a choice of complete chance. But **that was my introduction to WordPress**, the requirement to maintain a simple online blog every day.
Every day, I blogged, and slowly I decided I wanted to do more with my blog. So I began exploring plugins and themes, and then how I could break and fix them to suit my own needs.
People I knew in the horse community would hire me from time to time to work on their site or build them one, and I was doing this in HTML and CSS until I got started with WordPress; and soon I was converting everyone I could to a WordPress site.
There were a lot of other things going on in my life at this time unrelated to WordPress and websites as I continued to search for what I really wanted to do with my life.
I returned from Washington and began giving riding lessons in my area. I wrote and published a book about working with horses, “Centered Self, Centered Horse.” Despite the outward successes I was having, my career path with training horses was really just reaching its peak before fizzling out.
I began practicing Therapeutic Massage to help bring in additional income, sadly my arms would only hold out for a few years before severe chronic tendonitis forced me to quit altogether.
The economy in the gutter and I felt this might be a good time for me to pursue higher education, so I went to college for my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
School was a welcome distraction as my involvement with the horse community became less satisfying. I felt more at odds every day with the common methods used to train and ride horses until I decided I needed a full break from all-things-horses.
Even through all of this, I was still plugging away with WordPress, freelancing and slowly gaining more and more clients.
The Big (little) Change
In 2013, a freelance client I had just started working with wanted to use a very specific WordPress theme – Marketer’s Delight.
It’s funny when you think back to something small that can completely change the course you’re on. But it was this tiny thing that I believe began a full-stop to the path I was travelling at that time and helped re-route me to where I am today.
Marketer’s Delight, at that time, was a skin for the Thesis framework. So as I was working with it I would pop into the forum support to ask a few questions about whether certain functionality was supported out of the box, and Alex was looking to hire someone to help with forum support.
On a lark, I sent him an email. I loved working with Marketer’s Delight and felt I’d enjoy helping others in the forum as they navigated their way through customizing the theme for their own site.
And that was it, I joined Kolakube and worked in the support forum for about 3 months.
After that opportunity I realized some very important things. 1) I love figuring things out and finding out what the cause of a problem is, and 2) I really love helping people.
Taking a chance at a random opportunity
I had continued to freelance while working in the support forum, but after that time I really wanted to work with another support team again.
I wasn’t yet actively looking at job openings or submitting resumes to any companies; but opened up Twitter and one of the few people I was following at the time had retweeted a link to a job opening for OptinMonster.
I worked with creating “optins” with OptinMonster on a few of my clients’ sites so was already somewhat familiar with the product and and really enjoyed using it.
Of course there was some immediate self-doubt about whether I was really qualified for the position because customer support wasn’t a field I had been pursuing for a long time or had a long history of experience in.
“Ah, the worst that can happen is they actually respond with a ‘no’.”
So I got to work putting together a resume to submit that I felt would convey both my personality and highlight my motivation.
I actually listed the following as a skill-set in my resume:
“Owner of unicorns,
slayer of dragons,
rider of lightning”
Long story short, I got the job!
Time flies when you love what you do
It’s been a year and a half now that I’ve been working not only with OptinMonster, but also with Soliloquy and Envira Gallery plugins which are part of the same company (AwesomeMotive).
I work with the really great, diverse team of people, who feel more like family.
In the short time I’ve worked at AwesomeMotive, I’ve learned so much and grown a lot with respect to my knowledge and skills in development even. I gained confidence to begin writing my own plugins and have some published now in the WordPress Plugin Repository.
This last fall I was promoted to Head of Customer Happiness and have the honor to oversee support for thousands of customers.
Sometimes it’s difficult to look ahead and see clearly where your destination will be.
If you had asked me 10 years ago what I would be doing today, customer support or a career largely built on WordPress would not have been part of my answer.
But in all the little paths I’ve travelled that eventually got me here, what I’ve always been looking for was a place where I fit.
Since I first began writing a little daily blog in WordPress, to today working every day with this amazing team of incredibly skilled individuals, has been this comforting feeling that the world is right and my place in it correct.
The incredible thing about WordPress is the diversity of what you can pursue. WordPress is more than a blog, more than a website or online store.
WordPress is people coming together, sharing their own unique sets of skills and personalities to make something greater than could be achieved by any one person alone.
WordPress allows me to learn and grow as a person every day. It challenges me to think about problems from completely different perspectives as I work with individuals from around the world who share with me their experience and thoughts.
I doubt I would have a similar opportunity without WordPress; and really without each and every person who is using, extending and contributing to it. My gratitude for WordPress is really my gratitude for you, the person reading this story about my journey, because we are all helping support each others journey through WordPress.