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Featured Partner: A Family Well Loved
There are times when I hear a story from the WordPress community and I think "That's a HeroPress story", whether it has been or ever will actually be posted on the site. Some stories are just so great that you think "Wow, that's just really great". This week's essay is one of those stories, but it won't be told by the person it's about.
Kim Parsell has one of my absolute favorite HeroPress stories, but we lost her before HeroPress was even properly started. I've keenly felt the loss of the wisdom and joy she would have brought to HeroPress. I only met her in person once, at the last WordCamp San Francisco. She was so very much in her element, even I could see it, who barely knew her.
I've literally spent years now, trying to think of an appropriate way to share her story on HeroPress, and I think this year I found it. The WordPress community was Kim's family, and she was our mom. I'm going to let some of the people closest to her tell some of her story.
From Jeff Chandler
What did the WordPress community mean to Kim Parsell? Family.
In order to understand how highly valued the WordPress community was to Kim Parsell, you first have to realize her environment.
Kim was a middle-aged woman who lived off a dirt road, on top of a hill, in Southern rural Ohio. She was often by herself, taking care of the property with only a few neighbors up and down the road.
She received internet access from towers that broadcasted wireless signals, similar to cell phones but at lower speeds.
Through WordPress Weekly, Kim gained access to members of the WordPress community where she was able to talk to them on a weekly basis. The show and its after hours sessions provided Kim a chance to mingle with the who's who of WordPress at the time. It helped establish long-lasting relationships that would open up future opportunities.
In a location where not many around her used or even heard of WordPress, the community was an outlet for her to be around like-minded people. Kim had a blast interacting with people online and at WordCamp events. Many members of the WordPress community became her second family, a responsibility she took very seriously.
[caption id="attachment_2243" align="aligncenter" width="950"] My Backyard, Revisited - 10/25/2007 - Kim Parsell
Autumn's patchwork quilt has finally descended upon this area - the trees are in full fall color. This was taken yesterday morning. I tried to take this from just about the same vantage point as the previous one - I think I got pretty close!
Copyright © 2007 Kim Parsell. May not be reproduced without permission. If you'd like to license an image for usage, contact me at email@example.com for details.[/caption]
From Carrie Dils
When Topher asked me if I'd write a few words in remembrance of Kim, I couldn't say YES fast enough. I told him I remembered a whole lot more about how she made me feel versus how she felt about WordPress and the community. (I suppose the saying is true that people don't remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel).
I first remember meeting Kim on Twitter, so I went back and did a search to the earliest conversations of ours I could find. They dated back to January 2013, nearly two years to the date after she passed in January 2015. I will always remember Kim, along with Mika Epstein and Andrea Rennick, for their kindness to me when I was new to the community. They were the first "women of WordPress" to draw me in and make me feel at home simply by sharing themselves and their knowledge.
That's what community is, right? You share things that are personal, vulnerable even. You share your experiences. In doing that, you naturally invite others to reciprocate. That's the environment Kim created with hundreds of others, not just me. Affectionately called #wpmom, Kim was an investor. She invested countless hours into the WordPress project (she had "props" for 5 major releases of WP and also volunteered her time for the documentation team). She invested in women who wanted to break into tech. She invested in me.
I still well up with tears when I remember Kim. I'm proud that the WordPress Foundation now offers a scholarship in her memory. She loved this community and this community loved her right back. Her legacy lives on...
[caption id="attachment_2244" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Eastern Tiger - Posted on 09/30/2007 - Kim Parsell
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail perches on some tall ironweed that grows down near the pond. I shot this one when I slipped away from the festivities for a little while during my family reunion back in August. Couldn't pass up the opportunity!
Copyright © 2007 Kim Parsell. May not be reproduced without permission. If you'd like to license an image for usage, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.[/caption]
From Jayvie Arellano
Kim was a self-reliant person who had a nurturing spirit, and WordPress gave her a channel by which she can channel that energy. I believe that her participation in WordCamps and the docs team enriched her life; every WC she went to, there was always someone she's known online that she would connect with and check up on. She was concerned with everyone's well-being.
She wouldn't be a coder in our common understanding, but she understood coders. She understood the pitfalls of an isolated life and encouraged people to reach out and be concerned for one another. Her record of kindness and generosity have set an example for a lot of others to follow.
[caption id="attachment_2245" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Misty Morning - Posted on 08/19/2007 - Kim Parsell
Storms the night before gave way to dense fog in early morning. The sun finally began to burn through, creating beautiful pools of light and long morning shadows. Copyright © 2007 Kim Parsell. May not be reproduced without permission. If you'd like to license an image for usage, contact me at email@example.com for details.[/caption]
From Jan Dembowski
Kim Parsell was the sort of person who made me want to become a better human being. And the reciprocal of that is that I sought her approval for what I did, how I behaved and how I handled myself in the WordPress community and in life.
Just to be clear, she never said or did anything that indicated that her approval was needed. Or that it was a condition for her friendship. But she was #wpmom and that’s just how it was for me. Our online interactions were fun and collaborating with her in the WordPress community was a learning experience for me. I used that experience to become better at my job and it showed.
When I had to deal with a death in my family, she was one of the people I emailed. I needed that interaction and she was there for me with others in the community.
I met Kim in person at WordCamp SF 2014. She was amazed at how everyone was treating her. All these people she had contact with and everyone was thrilled to meet her. When the time came, she gave a video presentation on the docs team. She was nervous, had some laptop troubles and didn’t feel prepared. She did fine and I was there cheering her on from the sidelines.
After WCSF 2014 we stayed in touch and I would send her images of things my children did. When I got the news of her passing it was hard. But she left an amazing example. She taught me and others to take care of yourself, take care of those close to you and be a responsible person. How often do you meet someone like that? I’m so glad for having met her. Just by being herself she made me a better person.
[caption id="attachment_2249" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Fire at Night, Part II - Posted on 02/17/2007 - Kim Parsell
7/10/2005 - The colors become more brilliant as the sky darkens even more.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Parsell. May not be reproduced without permission. If you'd like to license an image for usage, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.[/caption]
From Drew Jaynes
Kim Parsell was driven. She knew the things she knew, and had a pretty good idea of how to find out the things she didn't.
You'd be amazed how far the simple quality of that "self starter" attitude can take you as a contributor.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not intentionally diminishing Kim to simply having the will to pull herself up by her proverbial boot straps. It's merely to demonstrate the point that Kim's temperament and poise in unfamiliar situations was unmatched, and that is one of the reasons why she was able to affect so much positive change in WordPress.
Kim's positive attitude and helping nature was infectious. She had the uncanny ability to walk into a room of complete strangers and walk out with a group of new friends – and newly-gleaned knowledge to go along with it.
When Kim visited WordCamp San Francisco (the precursor to WordCamp US) for the first time in 2014, it was hugs all around. Literally. Kim had been contributing to WordPress for years and largely never met many of the people she'd had an opportunity to collaborate with.
The community summit was being held in conjunction with WCSF that year and the only way she could afford to go was on a travel scholarship offered at the time by the foundation – the same scholarship that now justly bears her name.
It was an amazing thing to see, made all the more tragic when Kim left us just a few short months later. She was well on her way to realizing her goal of being able to contribute full time and get paid for her effort.
I'm sad to say Kim never got there, but her spirit lives on in the people she knew and inspired. Here's hoping that the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship will serve to further inspire those who follow in her footsteps.
[gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="2252,2253,2255,2256,2250,2257"]
Featured Partner: WordPress Research Behind The Scenes
When I moved from Bogota (Colombia) to Paris I did a degree in translation and found myself, years later, working for one of the most important publishers specializing in research. But my dream since I left Colombia was to study Psychology. After about two years, I quit my job and went back to college. It was not an easy decision, but it never is, is it?
My interest in starting this new career was to work in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology. However, as far as I continued with my degree, I was finding subjects that put in doubt what I really wanted to work in the future. Health and Occupational Psychology was one of them.
Finding a Purpose
At that time I was still living in Paris with my husband, Andrés Cifuentes, a chemical engineer who ended up doing a master's degree in web programming. Afterwards he became a WordPress enthusiast and nowadays he works within the WordPress ecosystem. Back then, while he spent his free time getting to know and learn more about WordPress (I didn’t know at that time that I was discovering WordPress too!) he listened to different podcasts and many of them addressed issues of the problems that remote workers had to face.
All of these people in the podcasts mentioned burnout as a result of their work and what they suffered for it. It was at that moment that I made the connection; I had found what I wanted to do.
The same day I started to investigate more about remote work and its impact on stress and burnout on the web (blogs, articles, essays).
Putting It Into Action
When time came to start my master I presented my project to my thesis director: I wanted to establish a relationship between remote work and burnout. Although he accepted my first subject of study, there was a long path waiting before establishing and defining my research area.
Getting into the first steps of the research, I started an arduous research work of the literature review on remote work, which turned out being quite frustrating, as I could not find any scientific paper for my study on the subject. The only helpful information I could find was the research that had been done on telework, which was the closest type to remote work although it was not good enough.
On the other hand, as a requirement for the master, I had to find an internship in a company, so I spent hours and hours writing cover letters and applying to boring internship offers which practically wanted the interns to make coffee. Nice!
Fortunately, my husband had the wonderful idea for me to apply to companies working with WordPress. Since those companies are mostly 100% remote, this would help with my research along with having personal experience on remote work myself.
Lucky me! I had the great opportunity to do my internship in Human Made.
My proposal was to do a psychosocial risk assessment in the company that would also serve for my study. They were very kind to me and welcomed me warmly. No doubt they are a great company, Tom Wilmot truly cares for the wellbeing of his Humans and among themselves they help each other a lot, which for me is the basis of the success of the company's growth. I really hope they have learned as much as I did.
For several months I delivered to my thesis director about 8 different projects that I had find interesting to work on the remote work (stress, social support, culture differences, coping strategies, communication, isolation, identity…) all of them without success. My director disapproved each one of them as remote work in general is too extensive and scattered for a master thesis and I had to focus on a smaller group.
As I was doing my internship at Human Made, I thought it was a good idea to focus my study on the same subject but only within the WordPress community.
It was perfect since there have been no studies in this field in the WordPress community! Since WordPress project volunteers are the driving force behind the project, it has become particularly important to focus more on their psychological well-being.
I sent the new thesis project about the role of motivation on burnout into the WordPress Community to my director and my research protocol was finally approved!
Studying The WordPress Community
WordPress is a community I've known for years thanks to my husband and I got closer to it with the time. My first contribution was to the Polyglots Team, he taught me how to start contributing and translating. He motivated me to give talks in WordCamps, something that I was very afraid of but I took it as an opportunity to share what I have learned about stress. I end up contributing with a couple of talks in WordCamp Sevilla and Barcelona about stress and remote work. Recently, I volunteered at past WordCamp Europe 2017.
I have met wonderful people from whom I have learned so much in the WordPress community, I never thought that I would ended up being part of this community myself!
So, in the end, for me it is more exciting to do my research on the WordPress community because I have a lot of affection for it. And there are so many more things to investigate!
My purpose is to contribute with this ecosystem improving its well-being.
For the moment, I am working on the survey data of my current research and I am looking forward to sharing the results with the WordPress community!
Featured Partner: Crafting the Life You Want
I grew up in a small country town in Poland, where life was pretty simple. People would know all the neighbors, they would pay each other visits every week to talk about what’s been going on in the community and to have a beer or two. It all seemed great until the moment when I got a bit older and went to Junior High School. My hair, unlike all other boys’, was long and I enjoyed listening to rock / metal music, the genre that was considered weird, unknown, maybe even evil.
Suddenly this friendly community started treating me like an alien, someone they refused to treat as one of their own or spend time with.
Almost every day I would get some beatings from school bullies, they would pull my hair, call me names, in short - my life became miserable. I had to find a way to survive, something to focus on.
That’s when I started spending even more time with my computer, playing Diablo (I even set up a Diablo fan club which became quite popular in Poland) and other multiplayer games that connected me with new people. All these interesting personalities living there, somewhere far away, (and the unforgettable sound of a dial-up modem) made me believe there was something good out there waiting for me.
Next, natural step was the analysis of how a game could be created. I spent months looking at the code and analyzing its components. There weren’t many tutorials back then, so sometimes it took a while to figure things out. But it all led to building my first website, which was full of tables and hundreds of colorful elements, everything was there! I was so proud of myself! :)
When I went to High School, I already knew a thing or two about coding and I wasn’t afraid to use it! I moved to a big city, got my first job as a graphic designer and started renting my own apartment.
I was very young, full of energy and determination to change my life.
After a while I got another job and another, and suddenly I realized that coding became an essential part of my life. Instead of learning chemistry and biology, I spent my nights learning new ways of improving my skills and finally was offered a pretty sweet job in a huge company, where I led a team of front-end developers. Yes, I was about 19, but I felt so mature. It’s so funny now, when I recall that feeling of accomplishing “everything”, but hey, I knew CSS ‘hacks’ on IE 6, I knew it all!
Of course, I had heard of WordPress, but none of the ‘true’ coders would use it, so why would I want to dig into that?
Well, I’m glad someone helped me change my mind. In 2010 my colleague invited me to join him on WordCamp. In Poland WordPress was still considered a cute little tool for creating internet blogs, so I thought going there would be a waste of time, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience. The opportunity to meet people from different countries, hear them talk about the growing possibilities of WordPress made me realize I was in the right place. The fact that a few people I met there are still my friends today only stresses the importance of that event.
It simply dawned on me that it’s not really about the CMS or other technical elements.
WordPress turned out to be a tool that led me to meeting a fantastic community of interesting and friendly people. And this was one of the reasons I wanted to delve further into WordPress.
Two years later I started cooperating with a company based in the United States. Their main tool to build sites on was WordPress, obviously. By the way, I’ve been with this company for over 5 years now and to be honest, I can’t imagine my life without those guys now, but I don’t want to keep you here too long, so let’s move on. I quit my safe, ‘nine to five’ job to the dismay of my parents and started working remotely. Everything was so new, so exciting, but at the same time physically and mentally exhausting. I was doing my master’s degree in e-business and I rarely slept through the night, mostly because my clients were from different time zones.
To make things more exciting, I applied for a grant from the European Union and registered my own little company in Poland. But hey, I still felt unsated. It took me around a year to decide to move my company to the United States and go there to manage it. Actually, part of this time was spent on convincing my wife to quit the job she didn’t like anyway, but again, no subplots.
To say that moving to the States was easy would be a monstrous lie.
Dealing with visas and all types of immigration documents is very time-consuming and caused us way too many sleepless nights, but eventually we got to California! I registered my company (again!), opened a bank account (you wouldn’t believe how difficult it was, so thank you, dear Russian lady for fighting with the system for over 2 hours!), and looked for a place to stay.
Almost 3 years have passed, I’ve been given a chance to work with amazing people whom I truly admire, and I work for and with a few startups that, I admit, are close to my heart. One of the projects my wife and I are working on is a platform (based on WordPress, of course) that will help freelancers find good, well paid projects. Again, right time, right place, no doubt about it.
“I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it.“ (Ray Bradbury)
Very often people ask me if it’s all worth it, if I’m a masochist and enjoy burning the midnight oil, but I don’t see it that way. If I have a goal, whether it’s one to create a new website, or learn how to prepare real pierogi (dumplings) for my wife, I’m ready to spend as much time as needed to accomplish it. Sure, if it’s not something I truly ‘feel’, I might not be able to devote 100 percent of my energy to make it happen, but I like to think it’s a matter of making the right choices.
I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and butterflies right now, I’m not a guy who spends his days surfing or drinking cocktails. To be honest I don’t think I’ll ever be that guy. I’m still working very hard and I rarely take days off, but at least when I go to bed I have a feeling that I’ve done all I could to help others and improve my skills as a front-ender, project manager and most of all, a human being.
Featured Partner: Your Skills Speak Louder Than Your Gender
I don’t usually talk or even think about gender in relation to my career. I’m a female developer but I’ve never really felt like that is anything too special and more importantly I have rarely felt like my gender mattered.
As a kid I thought I would become an artist or a dancer. It wasn’t until I had to choose the university to apply to that I decided to go with something more practical so I went with Computer Science. I hadn’t really done much with code before that, except for having a Lord of the Rings discussion board with my friends and making doing some HTML & CSS related to that. After the first year of school I was already making my first WordPress sites to paying customers.
After graduating I have been a full-time employee in a developer position as well as a freelancer. I’ve worked both in Finland and in the USA. During my career I have actually been surprised how easy it has been for me, a woman in the male-dominated industry, to find work, to get promoted and to get recognition. I have not faced much discrimination or prejudice related to my gender, and the great professionals I have got to work with have always been interested in my skills beyond anything else.
So how come there is such a huge gender gap in the industry? I’ve witnessed it myself many times - being the only woman in a WordPress meetup of thirty people, or not having to queue at all to women’s bathroom in a tech conference with over 1000 attendees. There is no doubt that women are as capable as men, so whatever the reason is I really hope the future women would see the fun, problem-solving profession of a programmer as a great career option.
A few tips for an aspiring developer
I want to encourage everyone considering a developer career to take action and go for it. The tech industry is full of very clever and inspiring people and I promise you will not be bored. More importantly it is a safe career choice: the job market is great and the companies and the different tech communities are generally very open and welcoming. If you want to be a woman person in tech, remember:
- Do not accept
One great thing about being a developer is the current status of the job market. There is a lot more demand than there is supply, so you can choose who you work with. Do not put up with discrimination, talk about it openly and stand against it. I’ve been lucky enough not to face much judgement based on my gender. I’ve worked both in Finland and in the US and the biggest challenges I’ve faced have been clients that have been surprised that a woman is the tech lead in their project. Usually after a few hours of working together the prejudice disappears - it has always been enough to just be professional and stay true to myself.
- Be active and give back
It is important to be active in your community and help other people out in their careers. Everyone benefits from a striving local community and also it is a great opportunity to make new connections and open new doors in your career.Being an organiser of WordCamp Finland & WordPress Helsinki meetup group for the last few years has really given me more than it has taken. I’ve learnt a lot and met many inspiring people, and it has opened up new career options for me too. The best thing tho has been just seeing the Finnish community grow so much and get more active by the day.
- It's skills that matter
This is really what it comes down to. Are you developing your skills constantly? Are you willing to keep up with the industry? You do not have to be the best developer, but you should be confident in your skills and be willing to always learn new ones. I believe that this is the only thing that matters in the end - not your gender.
Featured Partner: How I tried, applied, got involved. Realizing one of my childhood dreams.
When you’re born in an island, you usually grow up thinking about all the marvelous things awaiting for you on the other side of the sea. I was born in Sardinia, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and as a child I dreamt about becoming an air hostess.
I wanted to travel the world and speak tons of foreign languages, to be able to communicate with local people everywhere I’d go.
But people kept telling me that I wasn’t going to become tall enough for that job (genetics don’t lie!), and I eventually listened to them. I ended up choosing a different path in life, following the Italian mantra: “You have to study something that will guarantee a stable and secure job for life”.
Even if I wasn’t that much convinced about the perspective of having the same job for all my life, as my parents did, at the same time I didn’t want to get stuck in the island forever: the unemployment rate in Sardinia is unfortunately really high and I didn’t want to risk to be part of that percentage.
Crossing the borders of the island
So I chose the Faculty of Economics and did my best to cross the borders of my island as soon as I had the chance: this happened when I was 22 and I moved to Siena, Tuscany, to finish my studies. That is also the time when I opened my first personal blog on an Italian platform named Tiscali, which I later migrated to WordPress.com.
I’ve always loved writing, and since I was a little girl I used to spend hours in my room writing stories and poems. I was doing the same with the blog but with the advantage of reaching a much larger public, virtually meeting many people and getting inspired by their stories.
After 2 years in Tuscany I moved to Strasbourg, France. There I learnt French and did several little jobs, but I found my first important one in Milan, the big city shining with job opportunities for everyone —as Italians love to say.
There I was, fulfilling the dream of many young people of my age (and their families): I was 25, with an average-paid 40 hours/week office job in the marketing department of a big international company, and I was surrounded by ambitious colleagues and a boss constantly asking for extra —and free— working hours per day.
I was feeling like a parrot inside a golden cage.
It seemed to me I wasn’t going anywhere. I also gave up blogging because I wasn’t feeling inspired enough to write. People constantly repeated to me that I was super lucky to have a permanent contract and work in a marketing department; in their eyes I was all set for life, so —using some strange equation — I also had to be happy!
Of course I was luckier than many of my peers, but I kept asking myself if I really wanted to do that life forever.
Did I really want to keep on working 10 hours per day under the neon lights of an office, annihilate my dreams and live waiting for the free time of the weekend?
The most vivid memory I have of that period is the overwhelming feeling clenching my throat on Sunday afternoons, when I started to dread the moment of coming back to the office the day after.
Facing new challenges
So I left and faced the change. At the beginning I gave myself the opportunity to test different office jobs. But the results were always the same: I kept feeling unsatisfied with my life, and I understood I had to respect my little girl’s dream and fly away from my golden cage.
I opted for emigration and moved alone to Barcelona, Spain, in 2012.
My first move was plunging myself into a few months of intense Spanish learning at the University, then I found a job in an international Assisted Reproduction Clinic.
My job title was “Patient Coordinator” and I was assisting international patients coming to Barcelona for their treatments: I was their translator, interpreter and administrative consultant. Patients were from Italy, France, England, Morocco, Senegal…it was a Babylon of people with so many different backgrounds that I felt really inspired by some of their stories.
This inspiration led me to start writing again: I dusted off my WordPress blog and filled it up with stories about my new life in Barcelona and some of the women I was meeting at the Clinic. I was feeling stronger and more independent than ever.
The job at the Clinic lasted for 3 years. Even if it was really inspiring, it was also very stressful. Imagine being a 30-something woman speaking all day long about fertility problems with women struggling to have a baby.
I realized I was getting too involved and decided to look around to see what I could do next.
How can I find a job like this?
It was summer 2015 and I was at my desk, in my little tiny apartment in front of Barcelona’s beach. I was writing in my blog and I got stuck in a technical problem. While I was searching through the WordPress.com documentation, I saw a pop-up in the bottom right corner of my screen: an Automattician wrote me to ask if I needed help. I gladly accepted her offer, we chatted for a few minutes, the problem was solved and I could go back to my writing. But I also left the chat with one question: how could that person on chat find a support job with WordPress?
Curious as I am, I started looking for an answer and I stumbled upon the official WordPress job page: jobs.wordpress.net
There I found a job offer that caught my attention: WP Media, a French startup, was looking for a polyglot and remote customer service teammate for one of their plugins, WP Rocket. I read their requirements: fluency in English, French and possibly another language, great experience with WordPress, some coding skills.
That offer was calling me, I felt it.
I knew I didn't have all the requirements, but hey, I could speak 4 languages, and I had a WordPress blog…right? Of course, I didn’t know anything about PHP, I had always been a WordPress.com user until that moment and I didn’t really know how to manage a self-hosted website or use a cache plugin…but I felt I was ready to learn all that. And moreover, what did I have to lose?
I wrote my most inspired cover letter and sent my CV.
With my total surprise, they answered me the day after and we set up an interview by Skype. My main strengths were the fluency in 4 languages and my previous experience in customer service, so I was really confident about those skills; yet I wanted to be totally honest with them: yes, I had been using WordPress for a long time, and yes, I was digital savvy enough, but I knew very little on the technical side. I had always worked on the front end of websites, writing, blogging, learning by myself; I didn't know anything about the backend of WordPress sites.
Even so, they had faith in me and in a few days I had the confirmation: I was in! During the first days I felt so happy about this new major turning point in my life: not only had I found a job thanks to my primordial passion, speaking foreign languages, but for the first time in my life I could do that job from home or anywhere else I liked, instead of being caged in a formal office!
I got introduced to my remote teammates and I instantly felt welcomed.
Learning by doing
But, very soon, that initial enthusiasm started to struggle with another intense feeling: the fear of exposing my inexperience.
There were too many things I didn't know!
Working in a WordPress backend was so new to me that I started studying like crazy and reading everything I could about WordPress for beginners. I went through some really intense months of learning by doing, supported by my teammates. Like a baby who start crawling and then taking little steps, I was initially answering the easiest tickets from our customers. At the same my teammates were sending me useful material to read, setting up video-calls for 1to1 training, encouraging me every time they could.
After a few days I received the first happy comments by the customers I was helping in their mother tongue: until that moment the plugin’s support had been offered only in English and French, so it was the first time Spanish and Italian customers were being answered in their own language…and they appreciated that!
Even so, I can’t deny it, I was scared.
It was so scary admitting my ignorance, exposing it in a remote environment where I couldn’t see my teammates reactions live.
My first instinct was imagining the worst scenarios where they were secretly hating me for interrupting their work on Slack with my doubts.
But I had no other choice than to keep asking questions and learn from their answers. Not doing so would have been much worse: silencing my voice would have slowed down my learning process.
Why don’t you try to contribute to WordPress?
We were at WordCamp Paris 2016 when one of my teammates showed me how the WordPress community worked together and kept in contact through Slack.
“You speak multiple languages, why don’t you try to contribute to the polyglots team?” —he asked.
That thought never crossed my mind before, I knew very little about contributing to WordPress. I had been working for WP Media for 6 months and, while I was enjoying my new job a lot, I was just slowly starting to abandon that overwhelming feeling of insecurity I mentioned above.
I didn’t feel ready to dive into a new challenge and start also contributing to WordPress, I thought I didn’t have the ability to do that. I was wrong, obviously.
Curiosity won on me another time and I joined the two Slack channels Making WordPress (where all the WP global community meets) and Italia WP Community. I lurked the channels for a few months, until I went to WordCamp Milan and met some members of the Italian Polyglots team.
It was love at first string: Laura, one of the General Translation Editors (GTE) for Italy, taught me how to start contributing and translating following the polyglots guidelines. She also told me about the big effort the Italian community has been doing to work together, consistently, to boost WordPress related events in Italy and to grow up.
I wanted to be an active part of it and I started contributing.
Now I’m a Project Translator Editor for the Italian polyglots team and I mentor new contributors: I love it!
Following my teammates encouragement, I also started applying to WordCamps as a speaker, because I felt my story could be important for other people looking for new inspiration for their working and personal life. I gave my first talk in my adoptive city, Barcelona, in December 2016, then in Torino in April 2017 and I recently had the honor to tell my story also from the stage of WordCamp Europe 2017.
In a short glimpse of time I engaged in many activities related to WordPress which allowed me to meet very interesting and inspiring people from all over the world.
I’m (not) lucky.
People keep telling me that I’m lucky, and it’s true, I really am. But if I’m here, now, sharing my story (and thanks Topher for inviting me to write it!) is not because I live under a lucky star: I just used my previous skills and passions and adapted them to a new career and life path.
We all have some skills; and if we don’t know which they are exactly, we should take some time to make a list of the things we’re really good at. With that in mind, just try. Apply. Get involved. Don’t get stuck in the feeling of “I can’t do it because I don’t know enough”.
That is what I did: without even realizing it, I started putting into reality the dream of the little girl who was born in an island and wanted to travel and speak different languages.
WordPress made this possible: I’m part of a big community, and I am proud of it.
Featured Partner: Trust The Dots
I was born twice: first, as a baby boy in the sunny morning of Monday June 14, 1993 in Taiz, Yemen; and then again, in the fall of 2008. It was my first time to study at a public high school, grade 10, class 12. It was completely different than the private school I used to study at. It was big and crowded, with a minimum of 80 students in each class!
At that time, I was trying to improve my personality and explore new opportunities. I wanted to live my life fully, not as the teenager that I was. A way to organize my thoughts and connect with new people was needed. I did not have a clue what to do until the moment I got the chance to use the internet and began to read online blogs of many interesting bloggers. The idea of blogging was fascinating to me. “Why not starting one?” I thought to myself.
As days passed, I met four enthusiastic and ambitious schoolmates who became my friends till now. Mohammed, one of them, was a relatively quiet and open minded person. My mates and I got to know him through MSN Messenger, and, surprisingly, he was studying in the next class! He was very absorbed in Web Development and was working on a custom CMS platform and some other web applications for his father’s clinic. I asked him about blogging software he would recommend. He strongly recommended Joomla and also suggested Drupal, WordPress and others. I tried them all.
WordPress was so easy to use and out-of-the-box, although I had failed a few times while I was trying to install it locally. Once I had logged-in to the dashboard, honestly, I thrilled to pieces!
I used to receive some positive messages as the developer of the blog we started and appreciative replies to my answers for some questions in Arab WordPress community, a forum to share knowledge among Arab WordPress users. This encouraged me to start a small freelancing business with WordPress. It seemed a great idea to expand expertise, earn some money, and follow my passion!
Fitting It All In
Being a freelancer and a high-school student at the same time was not that easy as one would think! Sometimes I was working until 3:00 a.m. to finish a client project, and then woke up at 6:30 a.m. rushing to school. Most often, classes were so dry that led me to write PHP codes in every copy-book of mine! If you would like to try this at your school, remember to move yourself to the end of your class or be ready for any of your teachers’ mean reactions to keep you attentive! On several afternoons, I used to take naps to restore my energy and be ready to work at night.
Very rarely, I would have to stay out at internet cafés until 2:00 a.m. to upload/download things I needed because we had no Internet connection at home.
For sure, this made my parents quite angry and obviously worried. Most importantly, I had neither a cell phone because of some strict rules in my family nor a national ID card because of the legal age requirement in Yemen. I was attempting to use my school ID card to receive money transactions, and guess what? I was lucky enough to manage it twice. But then I was asked to present a national ID. “ When will I turn 18?” I just had to overcome that obstacle, asking trustworthy friends to help.
My clients were mostly from the Arab World, Europe, and USA. I had the chance to contact with many nice and outstanding people who not only boosted my experience but also showed me the way into some new opportunities and more success.
Support At Home
At the beginning, most of my family members thought I was playing, except my MOTHER. I remember the moment I told her about my fairly new business. She said, "Regardless of what it is, just do what you love and believe in!" However, I faced hard times trying to convince her I did not smoke as she smelled cigarette on my clothes whenever I got back home from those cafés! On the other hand, my father was the kind of man who stood backstage. He used to tell his friends how happy and proud he was of me. That was all what I needed from him.
On August 2012, I sent a message to Rasheed Bydousi, Arab WordPress community founder and translation editor of Arabic language, to suggest some ideas and ask to be a volunteer. He was very supportive and truly wise. We started discussing and working on some ideas for more than 4 months. In parallel with studying, working, and being a volunteer, I increased my efforts in translating, patching (helping in development), and reporting bugs for WordPress projects.
It was very important for me to give back to the community I had taken a lot from.
I felt the need of holding a WordPress meeting in my hometown, Taiz, because of the lack of specialized people who would like to collaborate and share knowledge. In 2013, I invited local developers to a small meeting in a local coffeeshop called “AL-Rassef”.
Afterward, I presented a lecture about WordPress at Taiz University, in the same lecture hall I used to be a student in by that time. It was a warm beginning but I couldn't continue due to my work and the deterioration of the political and security situation.
Since 2011, my country has been facing major political changes and instability. On April 2015, the Yemeni crisis has reached its climax and war started in my city, Taiz, and it is still going on! Some of my relatives had decided to move out of Taiz but my father chose to stay, hoping that war will stop quickly. We lived for months without public electricity or Internet. When the fight crawled to our area, we lived for weeks in the ground floor of our house, no way to go out, tanks firing from 300 meters away, airstrikes on nearby areas, and snipers shooting whoever dared to walk on streets. Many friends and innocent people were killed and some members of my family were hurt. We couldn't sleep for days, fearing that at any moment they will knock our house door.
I thought that was the end for me and all of my dreams. I was pretending to be cool and calm so my younger brother and two sisters feel better. I was telling jokes, reading books or watching movies when we got some power from my uncle generator. "Life of Pi" was one of the movies we had watched and everyone enjoyed it! I refused to hold a gun, "How could it help?! That's not my role in life!" I was thinking.
I was struggling to believe in tomorrow, no matter how it looked miserable and sad.
In one of the mornings, after a nearby airstrike, we got a chance to escape. I tried to hold every detail of our house, neighborhood and street. "Thank you for all great memories. I will definitely return," I told my house, feeling torn apart back then! I only took my laptop, tablet, and few clothes, they were all what I needed to start over.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
— Steve Jobs
After some time of catching my breath, I realized that I had to connect the dots, keep on following my dreams and aim higher. On May 2016, I moved to Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, leaving the pain and frustration behind. I got to know some enthusiastic developers and we decided to establish a community called Yemeni Developers Club for people who are interested in computer programming and have the passion for it. We hold a meeting on the first Saturday of every month to share ideas, answer questions, and help one another to innovate, learn, and grow. We are planning to have, in the near future, special meetings to discuss WordPress related topics and learn how to obtain the maximum benefit from it.
[caption id="attachment_1895" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Photos for Ta'izz and Sana'a cites, photographed by Mona Athubhani.[/caption]
Amazing Melting Pot
WordPress is such an amazing melting pot that contains people from everywhere, no matter how old they are, where they are from, or what languages they speak.
Become a Hero
Being a WordPress hero is not about programming skills or contributions size, it is all about the challenges we face and overcome. It is even more about supporting the new users to be the next heroes.
Thanks to all my friends who contributed to make this essay better. Many thanks to Topher DeRosia for inviting me to write here and SPECIAL THANKS to Mona Athubhani without whom I would not have completed this essay.