You belong here.
As a coder, as a blogger, as an employee, as an entrepreneur, – you belong here.
October of 2012. I *slinked* into my first WordCamp. I was terrified I would be immediately recognized as a fraud and called out, shunned. After all, I have a degree in Psychology, a background in food service, and the only class I have ever failed, with an F, is programming.
I had also been building websites on WordPress fulltime for four years and had around 100 active clients.
Imposter syndrome is funny like that.
So let’s start there. Here’s how to beat Imposter Syndrome: Don’t fake it. You can’t get caught & called out if you’re honest and authentic.
Just this morning I was talking to AJ from Liquidweb. We were having a really nice conversation until he started talking about GT Metrix, NERD SPEAK, and blah blah blah… The words were English. The grammar held together. But the meaning was totally lost on me. At that moment I had a choice. I could clam up, pull my turtle head back into it’s shell, smile, nod, and pretent I knew what was going on.
But that! That’s when Imposter Syndrome grabs a fist full of your guts, and twists.
Instead, I smirked, let him finish, and then said “I have no idea what most of that just meant.”
Recognize that there will always, *always*, be people who know more than you. And people who know less than you. Be honest about what you know. Learn from those above you. Teach those below you.
Of course, that’s like saying “Go to the gym. Run 3-5 miles every morning. Fitness Solved! It takes practice. Daily, every-situation practice. Progress, not perfection.
I left my first WordCamp on top of the world. A little cocky if we’re honest. From slinking in with my tail between my legs, I leapt all the way up to “I am WELL above average! Half the people here don’t even have business cards!” I felt empowered. Over-powered.
I had met the WordPress Community and they embraced me.
But I’m not special. The Community hugs everybody. And that’s the best part.
Nobody doubts that the coders and “hardcore nerds” belong here. And of course, they do. Coders, you belong here. Too often though, I think, that’s who we think WordCamps are about and who WordPress is for.
The rest of us feel like hangers-on, barnacles on the big ship of code. Sure, without the coders we’d have no platform to empower us. But that goes the other way too. Without entrepreneurs, employees, bloggers, hobbiests, and enthusiasts, the coders wouldn’t have anyone using their platform.
Coders are engines. We are the ship they power. And one third of the internet is on board as passengers.
Designers, some coders may call your work “fluffy”, but I’ve seen graphics and layouts made by coders. Your work is critical. The WordPress theme structure empowers you to bring your design to life. Custom themes, Child themes, Commercial themes. You design them, WordPress displays them.
And design isn’t confined to the front-end. I built my first WordPress website in 2008 on version 2.3.1. A lot of UI/UX design has gone into the admin panel since then. A LOT.
Designers, you belong here.
As an entrepreneur, WordPress has empowered me to create a lucrative, sustainable business. I’m not re-selling WordPress with a markup. Heck I’m not even *selling* WordPress as a concept. The technology is entirely secondary to the service and value I provide my clients. However, it’d be an awful lot harder to deliver without WordPress.
Even within entrepreneurship you can choose your own adventure: Building websites for clients is the most obvious. As a freelancer or agency owner, you belong here. There is also a thriving premium plugin market – businesses developing their own product, value, and code base *on top* of WordPress. As a plugin developer, you belong here.
If plugins are businesses on top of WordPress, Hosting companies are the underpinnings beneath each WordPress install. You allow us to focus on our part while you do yours. Hosts, you belong here.
If you’re lucky enough to not have the entrepreneurship curse, you can be an employee empowered by WordPress. Agencies need talented staff – and more than just coders and designers. Operations Directors, Marketing Managers, and staff of all hats get “the website” added to their list of resopnsibilities. Fluency in WordPress, even as “merely” a power user, makes you more valuable even in a “non-technical” position. Employees, power-users, Project Managers, you belong here.
I met Kevin McKernan at WordCamp 2013. My second WordCamp. I volunteered and handed out every single t-shirt at check-in. Kevin was a wet-behind the ears kid. A recent graduate working at a small shop. He struck me as talented. I lamented that I couldn’t hire him. Kevin now commands an impressive salary, and has his pick of which good-size agency he wants to work for. In the five years I’ve known him he has changed jobs three or four times. Kevin is an employee with a career empowered by WordPress.
But WordPress isn’t all work. It’s a blogging platform, remember? All the way deep down to its core, WordPress was born from blogging. Matt Mullenweg, *all hail our fearless leader*, was just a kid who liked to snap pictures. He wanted to blog about it. He landed on a software called “B2”. When the project developer wandered off, Matt and his buddy Mike reached out and got the nod to take over the project.
Voila, WordPress was born.
It’s easy to think of Matt as a rockstar. Sure, he’s a 34 year old billionaire whose company powers a third of the internet. But he’s also the same kid who just wanted a photo blog. He had the passion, coding skills, drive, and commitment enough to stick with it. He also had support from a growing community. The WordPress Community.
Bloggers, passion projects, we were born from you. You belong here.
I remember the first time I really *saw* this line. I saw that image of “two lanes” that could morph and change and take you anywhere… WordPress is like that.
With WordPress you don’t have to pick one path and be stuck with it. Patrick Rauland started at a local agency in Green Bay. He wrote a blog about the things he tackled, how he solved them, what he struggled with. He wrote pull requests for WooThemes plugins. Then he got a job at WooThemes; first as a Support Ninja, then a Developer, then Product Manager for WooCommerce. He continued to blog. His blog landed him a book deal. He wrote “WooCommerce Explained” and “The WooCommerce Cookbook”. With Woo’s acquisition, Patrick became an Automattician. Along the way he wrote a couple extensions for Ninja Forms. He creates WooCommerce courses for Lynda.com. And as glamorous as all that sounds, even added together, Patrick’s not “set for life”. He’s working just like the rest of us. Two years ago he decided to jump off the entrepreneurial cliff and freelance. He’s basically weaving lanes on the WordPress highway like a drunk after a 4th of July party – except he’s not drunk. He’s following his interests and passions, empowered by WordPress.
WordPress is sneaking into Enterprise. As a not-so-stuffy corporate type, you belong here. As a smarter-than-the-average-suit, you’ve been looking out for what’s next. This little upstart platform is suddenly pervasive; but can it handle the stresses of enterprise deployment? Yup. The likes of Disney, Lexus, National Geographic, Campbell’s Soup, CNN, The White House, Bloomberg, Microsoft, and Mercedes Benz all have sites built on WordPress. And there’s still 70% of the web left to go. Corporate Enterprise folks, you belong here.
We are an inclusive Community, democratizing publishing, worldwide.
Women are notoriously underrepresented in tech. From kids getting involved with Girls Who Code to Heather Brunner, the CEO of WP Engine, women, you belong here. Men, you belong here. If you don’t subscribe to a binary gender system, you still belong here.
Polyglots, the speakers of multiple languages. You belong here. WordPress is at least partially translated into 180 languages, so far. And they all need upkeep.
All of this…
All of this is founded on freedom.
The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
The freedom to redistribute.
The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.
This is the WordPress Bill of Rights.
I was slow to join the Community. My Imposter Syndrome kept me hiding in my hole, afraid to come out and see the light. Now I’m more like the Irish. Not afraid of the light, but still timid to openly bask in the full brightness of the Sun. I still struggle to accept and internalize that, while jerks exist everywhere, the WordPress Community is like “base”. It’s a safe place. If someone tags you while you’re on base, that’s *their* failing, and it’s a rarity in my experience.
In 2015 I applied to speak at WordCamp Denver. This was a big step for me. I was really putting myself out there.
My talk got rejected.
But the Organizers reached out and asked me to emcee the main room. I jumped at the opportunity. I got to introduce each speaker, welcome them to our local community, and then step back out of the spotlight.
At the end of the day, Drew, our Lead Organizer invited me to the Organizers’ Dinner. I was flattered and mostly just sat quietly and took it all in.
In 2016 I officially joined the Organizing team. I was in charge of swag and got to host the main room again.
At the end of Camp in ’16, Drew pulled me aside and suggested I take over as Lead Organizer the following year. SWEET!
Then he casually said something about coordinating with WordCamp Central.
My excitement recoiled like it had been dropped on a hot stove. No WAY was I going to expose myself to WordCamp Central! They’re the real deal. They’ll *definitely* see that I’ve been faking it this whole time.
Mind you, at this point I had been running my own business for 5 years, had as many as 5 staff, beautiful offices downtown, some pretty cool clients across the country, and *still* Imposter Syndrome was kicking my ass.
Then Drew saved the day – and he probably didn’t even know it. He said, “Hey, Cami from Central is actually here. I’ll introduce you.”
I relaxed a little, but my confidence was still about 1/3 it’s natural size.
Cami and I sat on the floor in the lobby and talked through my taking over the Lead Organizer role.
Cami put my mind at ease. Here was an official representative of the Community welcoming me without skepticism or an entry exam. She was encouraging, bolstered my confidence, and assured me that she, personally, would be my contact at Central.
I was, indeed, Lead Organizer of WordCamp Denver last year and last weekend. Though, to be fair, I’m not the *Actual* Organizer. I Lead. Leah Organizes.
Interacting with Cami through two years of Organizing has deepened my sense of Community and faith that positive support seems to be lurking around every corner in WordPressLand.
You don’t have to get a WordPress tattoo on your chest to belong here. You already belong here. Just by walking through the doors with an open mind, you belong here.
You get to choose where you go. WordPress can help take you there. The Community will support you if you engage – *when* you engage.
Go forth and do great things.
Y’all are Empowered by WordPress.
My name is Gordon Seirup. My companies are Copper Leaf Creative and Press Managed. You can find me on twitter @coppergordon.
Now the Wiggle Booth from WordCamp Denver 2018.