Last week I boarded a plane in Florida and left my family behind for the first time in 4 years. I’m writing this post from a hotel room in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I’ve just spent 5 days at the offices of SiteLock.com, my new employer.
My job title is WordPress Evangelist and it’s one that explains not only my core values and my personality, but also my role in contributing to the WordPress project as a whole.
A Summary of the Past 4 Years
…or why I would start working for someone else when I’ve been running a successful WordPress-focused business from home.
In January of 2012 I learned that the company I had been with for 4 years was closing their local office. This was a decision made by the parent company, based in Sweden with additional locations in Kansas and Canada.
I was proud of the work I did there, transforming a 20 page static HTML website into a WordPress Multisite install and differentiating the brand and it’s offerings into 8 separate sites focusing on Residential and Commercial markets as well as creating and managing a Digital Asset Management system.
It also included Intranet portals for Marketing and Sales Reps, custom developed tools for both of these teams and adding Internet Marketing and Social Channels options for each.
All the while, slowly growing a small free and premium plugin business on the side.
Feeding my passion.
I had a decision to make. Both for my future career goals and most importantly, my family.
I took the entrepreneurial leap and left the company one month before our first son was born. My focus became FooPlugins.com, full time.
I accepted a severance package, cashed out my 401k and borrowed startup money from family.
Make or break time.
Growing my own WordPress-focused software business.
Starting a WordPress-based business when you’re not a hardcore developer or designer is possible. I’m living proof.
The key is finding the right business partner which I talk about at length here.
I feel like I did a lot of things right from the start. I was already a known person in the community. I had spoken at several WordCamps and launched our official plugin business in a way that received a lot of visibility immediately.
But I also did a lot of things wrong.
Scheduling and staying productive:
One thing I didn’t anticipate is just how chaotic it can be to work from home while raising (now two) toddlers.
Working from home comes with unique challenges and for me, scheduling, getting enough sleep and making sure to take care of my physical (and emotional) health were the three that I struggled with most.
Following the tips in those two links above, and becoming very strict with scheduling everything on a calendar, I was able to wrangle in the chaos and alleviate my stress. This in turn improved my daily productivity immensely.
Those of us with entrepreneurial spirits tend to want to have a hand in everything.
We’re typically lifelong learners and have an innate desire to know every single detail of any process we use or every feature of any of the various tools and services we utilize to build our brand and revenue.
This caused me to lose focus and get distracted because I’d find myself going down the rabbit hole of minutia instead of concentrating on the big picture – continued growth.
Why I’m making a change.
After spending the past 4 years in my home office I started to feel increasingly disconnected from the WordPress Community. It may sound strange because I was still immersed through dedicated WordPress Facebook groups, Slack channels, Twitter, Blab.im sessions and more.
But I was missing the intimate and personal interactions I feel when attending WordCamps. Those hallway conversations you have, the business and partnership opportunities you find (or create), and more simply, the friends you make.
Both of our boys are now in preschool and the time was right to start looking for opportunities outside my home office but still with a focus on companies doing great things within and for the WordPress Community and for the WordPress project as a whole.
I was specifically looking for a WordPress Evangelist position. More on that title and what it means below.
I’ve found that with SiteLock and I’ll be publishing more details of what that means in future posts.
What is a WordPress Evangelist?
If you’ve been paying attention to the WordPress Community for the past couple of years, you’ve probably seen companies starting to utilize this job title or some form of it.
(the stale version)
A WordPress Evangelist researches the needs of WordPress users within the community and formulates business strategies to ensure the company’s branding, products and services meet those needs.
Although the title itself is relatively new, it’s really a mixture of more traditional professions like customer service, marketing, brand management, business development and more.
What Being a WordPress Evangelist Really Means
Where a WordPress Evangelist role sharply diverges from the above is that it’s about serving the WordPress Community first, and very specifically.
You may be thinking I’m trying to slide in some marketing hype, but I can assure you I’m not.
As I said at the beginning of this post, WordPress and evangelizing the project, the software, and the community is who I am. It’s what I’ve been doing since I discovered it in 2005.
It just didn’t have a title until recently.
Finding the perfect fit (SiteLock)
I turned down two offers from other companies before accepting my current position.
Note: I know how fortunate I was to be able to turn down anything, especially a WordPress Evangelist position.
I do feel availability of these positions is definitely on the rise and I suspect we’ll see many more in the coming months and years.
The reason for not jumping at the first two offers was not financial. It was philosophical.
I got the sense that the people I talked with didn’t place the same importance on the spirit of Open Source and respect for the community as I do.
I don’t mean to sound too altruistic, but those things matter to me. A lot.
What also matters is helping to ensure that people across the world using WordPress to make their voices heard, are able to do so on a more secure Internet.
Who is SiteLock?
They are the global leaders in website security. Period.
I’ll be writing more about the company and their products in the near future but he’s the bullet items of why I accepted their WordPress Evangelist role.
- Their security service and systems are amazing.
- They get it. I’m convinced they’re wholly committed to making a difference to individual users as well as businesses.
- I’m also convinced that they understand why they should, and are committed to, contributing to WordPress in a meaningful way that will impact millions of users.
- They secure more than 8 million websites of all technologies, not just WordPress. They’ve been at this since 2008.
- I spent time sitting with their security research team and saw what they do in person. I was in awe of the incredible knowledge and systems surrounding me.
- The entire company seems to be comprised of people with passion. A passion for always doing what’s best for the end user.
Lest you think I’ve had the wool pulled over me, I’m also acutely aware of some differing opinions. I addressed those directly in my initial talks and again during my week at office in Arizona and I’m confident they’re doing things right.
I see only great things for WordPress, the community, and for SiteLock in the future.
You Might Be Wondering…
What does this mean for the future of FooPlugins?
Nothing is changing with the Foo, except that some of my daily responsibilities are transitioning to other people on our team.
FooPlugins has solid premium plugins and many more exciting things happening in the coming months and years. “You know who, it’s the Foo!”