My WordPress Origin Story

I was a journalist when I started my first WordPress blog.

I didn’t want to start a blog but it was a condition for freelance contributors at OpenFile Montreal.

I knew about WordPress because I’d attended Montreal Girl Geek events where WordPress was mentioned. I attended my first WordCamp Montreal (WordPress conference) in 2011.

That blog still exists. I never turned it into anything in particular. It’s been a personal blog and a place where I’ve ranted about life experiences. When I lived in Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood, I wrote about Montreal happenings. I don’t post often. But it’s there as an outlet whenever I need it.

I used to be afraid of running a self-hosted site. I kept hearing about sites being hacked or problems with plugins and managing websites didn’t appeal to me at all. I knew HTML and CSS but I didn’t imagine I’d ever learn any PHP or JavaScript.

In 2017 I participated in a Les Pitonneux “unbootcamp” called Lab12 where I was challenged to build a web app in React JS and Firebase. Though that app never worked properly, I learned so much and that experience increased my confidence greatly. In 2018 I did nearly 300 hours of freeCodeCamp lessons, refreshing HTML and CSS skills.

When I walked away from community journalism in 2018, WordPress was on my mind. I wanted to take what I’d learned elsewhere and apply it to WordPress.

After attending and volunteering at a number of WordCamps, workshops and do_action hackathons, I wanted to know more about how WordPress works from a web development perspective. I’d been asked to help people with their WordPress sites and what I could do was limited to customizing themes and plugins. I wanted to do more and learn more. In 2019 I took a WordPress developer course at Skillcrush where I learned how to code a WordPress theme from scratch in PHP and use Advanced Custom Fields, move a website and we practised Git.

I’ve done WordPress courses on Udemy but most of my WordPress learning has been in the field.

WordPress has made it possible for me to work when life hands me proverbial lemons. I’ve faced illness, as has my partner. As our parents age, we are needed much more and having the flexibility to work in a nontraditional way means so much.

I volunteered for nonprofits at Catchafire, a site that matches nonprofits with professionals who offer their skills pro bono. I built websites using tools that were easy for clients to use – so I haven’t always been coding. Lately I’ve done more troubleshooting and maintenance than website building and I’ve gained clients from my volunteer experiences.

I’ve met interesting folks I call WordPress entrepreneurs. I’ve learned so much from attending online meetups or taking courses and tutorials or joining Facebook groups, reading newsletters on LinkedIn.

Some projects are harder than others. For instance, updating a very old PHP theme that is dear to a client is not easy but when I’m done I will feel grateful for the challenge. I am lucky to have clients who are willing to take a chance on me and who are patient.

I feel I am in a weird world where I’m still learning WordPress’s React approach to blocks, how to style blocks in theme.json but also how to work with the latest version of Advanced Custom Fields or write PHP so a theme works properly. GeneratePress and GenerateBlocks are changing constantly and I am devoting time to keep up with the latest updates. The work is varied and always interesting, sometimes challenging and definitely not boring at all. I can build a LearnDash site or fix a slider that after an update suddenly is no longer full width.

Most of all, I’ve met a community of people from every walk of life, people who devote their time to this incredible open source software. It’s lovely to meet others who aren’t necessarily cut from any traditional cloth. Talk to people who work with WordPress and you’ll find they come from all kinds of backgrounds. It’s amazing.

I don’t know where WordPress will take me but I am thankful for the ride.

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