Coming into WordPress: I Found My People
After reflecting on WordCamp Phoenix and their experience repping Kadence as a sponsor together, Kathy asks Michelle how she’s so good at making everyone in the WordPress space feel like they belong. Michelle shares her experience coming into WordPress as a new community member. We talk about the importance of community and welcoming everyone as a part of the WordPress mission of giving everyone a voice. In many communities, longstanding members can often forget how daunting it is to be new. But the new voices in WordPress are the ones that bring fresh perspectives, new ideas, and opportunities for growth.
Speaker 0 00:00:00 Start your week smiling with your friends, Kathy’s aunt and Michelle Ette. It’s time to get ready for some weekly motivation with WP Motivate.
Speaker 2 00:00:13 Happy Friday, Kathy.
Speaker 1 00:00:15 Happy Friday, Michelle. It’s a little bit different this time, isn’t it?
Speaker 2 00:00:19 I know you’re not sitting right next to me in the warm, beautiful desert with the windows open. No, it’s, there’s snow on the ground in Rochester today. .
Speaker 1 00:00:29 Is there. Really? Oh my gosh. Yeah. It was a nice trip, wasn’t it? I watched our, our episode from last week and I was just like feeling sad that it happened so fast.
Speaker 2 00:00:39 I know it was over so quickly, but it was so good to see you and like not to see you. Like I see you on my computer screen, but like, see you, see you hug, you enjoy a meal together, all of that. It was so good.
Speaker 1 00:00:52 Laugh. Have fun. Meet new people. Yeah. Can I just tell you? Yeah. I have an idea for our topic today because ooh, you know, I did write a blog post after the Sunday morning after I got home. I was just like, you know, very much in the, in the vibe of like, my experience. So I wanted to write a blog post and a big session of that blog post is about you
Speaker 2 00:01:13 , because
Speaker 1 00:01:15 I’ve been to a lot of word camps. Um, I have been behind a lot of tables and worked a lot of booths and been in a lot of rooms. We’re speaking, has occurred, sat at a lot of dinners, gone to a lot of after parties.
Speaker 2 00:01:29 . Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:01:30 And there’s something special about you, Michelle. Can I just, like, I’m not stroking your ego, but I am gonna a little bit because you, you make everybody, and maybe you can like, share some of your magic with me, but you make everybody feel like super comfortable. Like they belong there. Like you’ve, like, you’ve known them forever. There’s no like, oh, let’s get to like, how do you use WordPress? It’s like, no, you’re already like best friends with everybody like . There’s no like, trick to it. You just do it.
Speaker 2 00:02:02 I just like people and my, I remember what it was like going to my first word camp, like when I went to my first meetup. Okay. So my very first meetup ever, I like when it was run by a bunch of guys here in Rochester. One of them was the husband of one of my best friends and she wasn’t really a WordPress, but he was, and he started a blog for us, some whatever. Anyway, this, that’s another story. But he says, Hey, we having this meetup, why don’t you come? So I go to this meetup, it was upstairs, no elevator. And luckily back then I could actually take the stairs slowly, but take the stairs. So I get there and like the room is already dim because they’ve got this projector that they’re gonna use. There’s like 10 guys sitting around, not a single woman in the room.
Speaker 2 00:02:51 And then there’s me and they launch into this topic. Like they don’t go around the room and introduce themselves and have any of that like that we usually do, right? They launch right into the topic. And it was on, um, it was on like aw w s and it was on c s s. And for somebody who were like, I have a blog, somebody built for me. I could like feel the wind over my head is all these topics whooshed by me, , um, messing up my hair there going so fast. And I thought I’m in the wrong place. And I sat there and I, I didn’t say a word cuz I literally didn’t know anything about c s s. I didn’t know how to inspect element, like all the things of course that I know how to do now. But as a brand new person, a WordPress, I knew one person in the room.
Speaker 2 00:03:40 They were in charge of the room. So they couldn’t sit by me and like, give me any indication of what’s happening or, Hey, don’t worry about it. This is really intense for us. Usual. Usually we’re not this, like any of that conversation. I literally just sat there feeling like if I could make myself small enough to like slide under the door and leave, I would have. And it’s not to say they weren’t friendly, they just, it wa they weren’t purposely leaving me out. It’s just the way that kind of went. It was probably two years before I went back to another beat up. Wow. And, and so I started going a little more cuz yeah, they weren’t all that bad . And, and then they were like, we, you know, other people would talk or the eat or whatever. And then they said, does anybody wanna like take over running this group?
Speaker 2 00:04:25 Well, they were doing it such as they’d be like, Hey, we haven’t had a meetup in a while, everybody free next Tuesday. And I’m like, I, my brain and my schedule can’t handle that kind of spontaneity. It’s Friday, let’s have a meetup on Tuesday. So, um, I said, yeah, I’d be happy to coordinate this first Monday of every month, six 30 to eight 30. We’re gonna have a year’s worth of topics in advance. And went a little crazy that way. But I never wanted anybody else who comes into the WordPress bubble, the WordPress community to feel like they don’t belong. Like, I felt like I didn’t belong that first time. Yeah, yeah. And so I presume competence about people, but also give them the benefit of the doubt. So instead of saying, um, oh, I know you, I’m sure you know all about this. And then, or just assuming they know all about this, I will turn to somebody if it had been like that room where I didn’t know anything, I would turn to them and say is, you know, I, do you know how to do this stuff?
Speaker 2 00:05:27 And if they’re like, no, and like the deer in the headlights, I’d be like, me neither. But next week, next month is gonna be about like marketing or whatever, whatever it takes to make somebody feel like they’re not alone. If they’re the deer in the headlights that day, you know? Um, and I just always want people to feel like I’ve found my people, like they walk into the room, whether it’s a meetup or a word camp or whatever it is, I want them to be able to approach. I wanna give that smile that says to somebody, you can be part of, of our group. And I want people to leave their feeling like I, I’m part of something amazing and something big and people included me and they liked me. And so if I can help bridge that gap so that people feel included, then I want them to, I want, I want people to come into our fold and have the experiences that I’ve had.
Speaker 2 00:06:17 I have been tremendously blessed by this community. Has it been all roses? No. Do I have arch enemies? Yes I do. But uh, they, they probably see me that way. I just live my life and move on. Um, but I, I don’t want other people to kind of like come and then leave because they didn’t feel like they belonged where they found if, if they feel like they didn’t belong, it’s because of something internal to them. Not because they weren’t embraced and invited in. So I sit at tables with people, I don’t know. I sit at a table that’s empty and invite people to join me. I call people across while I’m sit. If I’m repping a table like we were, um, and I see somebody walk by, I’ll just say, Hey, welcome. You know, do you have any questions? Whatever it is, this is your first, you can tell a first timer, is this your first swimmer camp? And they’re the ones going, do I wear my name tag around my neck? Or you know, kind of thing. So I just always, always, always what to be the person that says, everybody here has value and everybody here has something to share. And everybody here can learn something from everybody else. And if you’re the person in the room that is so elite, you can’t talk to the newbie or thinks you don’t have something to learn that you don’t belong in our group anymore because you have elite yourself right out of it.
Speaker 1 00:07:39 Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:07:39 We gotta ye the elite. I just made that ye . Um, or take a look at yourself in the mirror, humble yourself and remember what it was like when you first joined a, a group of people. I don’t care if you’re the c e o of a company, I don’t care if you are the janitor of a company. Everybody has a place. I’ve been both right. , I was, I was a freelancer and I was the c e o of my own little one person company. But I also started my life, my very first job ever was janitor of my church. And so no matter who you are, you contribute to society, you contribute to the community, you contribute to your place of employment and everybody should be trained with equal respect. So I just got on my soapbox again, didn’t I?
Speaker 1 00:08:23 You did. But I like your soapbox a lot. I do. Because some of the best experiences that I’ve had have been, and I’m, I feel like I’m, I some of the best experiences that I’ve had sitting next to somebody who’s brand new and they’ve got the schedule printed out in their hand or on their phone or something and they’re not sure which to go to. And I ask them, what, well what do you do? What are you doing with WordPress? And then say, oh well this person’s, you know, knowing the, knowing the topics and then being able to like help somebody match that up up. That has always been like, okay, I’ve, I’ve done, I’ve been of service. I’m helping somebody get on their way. I don’t know if I’m out of practice on doing it, but, or maybe just I, it took a lot of effort for me. I was tired the entire time I was there. .
Speaker 2 00:09:10 It was like, which was exhausting.
Speaker 1 00:09:11 Yeah. But just like the whole, like getting everything ready at home, getting everything ready to go, not feeling like I rehearsed my talk at all. And so getting up at 4:00 AM and rehearsing, I was so tired, but I just didn’t have it in me. And I’m watching you and I’m like, how does she do it? How does she do it? Because you’re just like, and I, but I, but honestly I think because this is sort of like your purpose, your life purpose, and when you’re on purpose, you’re, you get energized by that experience. Mm-hmm. of, of welcoming someone and connecting with someone new. And That’s true. I just, you are just so, I feel like this is your purpose of just like helping new people feel like they belong, helping, you know, there’s a lot of people who’ve been in the community for a really long time that are very introverted and mm-hmm , but you make everybody feel so welcome and people want to celebrate that. And I also love that you won the Godad prize . So it’s just like how per and how perfect that you’re gonna use this for this shirt. Cuz we’d all got these speaker shirts and Michelle had everybody sign it and so you’re gonna use that. I
Speaker 2 00:10:21 Ordered it, it’s supposed to, the, the, the display case arrives on Monday. So I’m excited about that.
Speaker 1 00:10:27 I just felt like that was just like a serendipitous miracle. Like it just highlighted almost like, you know, the divine way of the universe is like, yeah, let’s just show Michelle’s doing. This is what Michelle does, this is what she does well and we’re gonna play along too. . It’s just like, I was just so amazed with what you do at an event. It’s,
Speaker 2 00:10:49 You should have seen some of the people’s faces that I didn’t even know and that might have been their first word camp. And I’m like, oh you signed my shirt. They’re like me. I’m like, yes, sign my shirt. And that that was in itself, I was like, I should bring your shirt to every word camp cuz that made people feel included and involved too. That was so fun. Oh my gosh, it was so
Speaker 1 00:11:07 Fun. Yes. Well they are included and involved. They were part of the, because an event comes together very, you know, the people who show up make the event what it is, it’s not mm-hmm obviously the speakers are great, the organizers are great, the volunteers are great, the sponsors are all great, all of those things. But the people who show up and interact with all of that are make the event so everyone who shows up brings a piece of themselves into it. So I love that you’re doing that. I think all word camps should do something like that. Like something that represents like, okay, if you were at Word, word Camp Phoenix 2019, there’s something physical representative of the fact that you were a part of this.
Speaker 2 00:11:46 Yeah. That’s neat. Speaking of Word Camp Phoenix 2019, uh, or tw it was 2020 wasn’t it? There They still still had . They still had the um, the, the Lost and found and they still had a pair of eyeglasses that somebody had left at work camp in 2020. And I just about time and I was like, wait, what did they just say? They’re like, yep, still three years. If you don’t claim ’em this time we’re getting rid of ’em. .
Speaker 1 00:12:10 Oh my gosh, that’s so funny. That organizing committee is just, just amazing. They
Speaker 2 00:12:17 Were phenomenal. Phenomenal. And it was a truly accessible event for disabled folks like me. Um, everything, they had little lift in there, everything was accessible. Um, it was, it was really, really, really well done. So I, yeah,
Speaker 1 00:12:31 We, you know,
Speaker 2 00:12:32 It was so close. We got to walk, um, I mean roll, I rolled, you walked from our hotel right over to the venue so we didn’t even have to Uber or anything, which is super awesome.
Speaker 1 00:12:41 I I was, uh, I was, I felt like I was holding you back cuz I was walking so slow. But you could just like so fast in that thing.
Speaker 2 00:12:51 So the funny thing about this mo mobility scooters is there’s is a dial that will limit how fast you go, right? So Yeah, but it doesn’t say like minus to plus or slow to fast. It’s literally got a picture of a turtle at one end and, and a rabbit at the other and it’s like, oh baby, I have that on the rabbit all the time. .
Speaker 1 00:13:10 Yeah. Well that is so funny. You know, it did actually change, like, because where we live right now, we live in a very rural area. I mean my backyard backs up to Army Corps land. There’s all kinds of animals out there and then there’s a lake over there. So like if I kept walking that way, it would be like 10 miles. Well I’d hit a lake, but it’s like nobody back there. Right. We’re like we’re, we’re in D F W but we’re kind of on the edge of nowhere, which I kind of like, but for my husband, like his wheelchair is, I can’t get that in the, I’ve got an suv, but there’s no way. And even some of the Lyft drivers, even if they were there, I don’t think the two of us could do it. . So he’s like super limited of like his mobility.
Speaker 1 00:13:50 It’s like this part of the house and that’s about it. We could go for walks, but he doesn’t want to. But like watching you like tooling around in downtown Phoenix, I’m like, this is more what we need now. We need to be in a more like city center, very accessible kind of place where I could say, all right, let’s go. You’re coming to the grocery store with me, no center around this house anymore. It would be so much better for him. Just watching how like easily everything was for you really inspired me to think about what can I do for him. Mm-hmm. . So thank you.
Speaker 2 00:14:21 Oh yeah. Hey, I hope you can get a scooter then and let’s hope it’s something he could, he could manage because it really does feel like freedom. I nicknamed my scooter freedom.
Speaker 1 00:14:30 Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:14:31 Because I get to do things like I wouldn’t, I have traveled alone without, before I had a scooter and I have to use wheelchair service in airports and wheelchair service is great. The people there are great, but you still lose some of your freedom to just decide you’re gonna turn around and go look at something else. I wanna go to the bathroom, I wanna go grab a snack or whatever. Because you feel like you’re beholden to this person who’s pushing you all over the place. And a lot of those are retired people and I’m not a skinny person. I once had an 80 year old guy pushing me across a hair and I swear to God, he said to me that a year and a half before that he’d had a heart attack. And I’m like, oh dear God, don’t let the baby be the second heart attack cuz he is pushing my bads answers
Speaker 1 00:15:12 , the airport . So,
Speaker 2 00:15:16 So having my scooter, um, come up between, uh, flights and everything, it really does give me the opportunity to just kinda like be where I wanna go and, and do what I wanna do. Yeah. And I still get to board the plane first. I go down all the way down to the jet bridge on that thing, pull out my cane and walk onto the plane. Um, slowly, but I walk onto the plane. Yeah. And it’s, yeah. And I’ve had really good experiences.
Speaker 1 00:15:39 That’s great. Yeah. That’s great. It’s, I love that you name it freedom because that’s, um, it’s what this is all about. That’s what WordPress is all about though too. It’s like giving people freedom to express their voice, giving people freedom to connect and Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:15:58 Democrat Isaac publishing
Speaker 1 00:15:58 For you. I
Speaker 2 00:15:59 Oh likewise. I think you’re the best. I will be yours. I was like, I think I put this on, I don’t remember where I put this one of your things that you wrote somewhere. I was like, I’ll be your sidekick any day. Like I like let’s let’s take the Kathy and Michelle show on the road. Cuz I had so much fun.
Speaker 1 00:16:14 . Yeah, totally. Yep. That’s why before we started I was like, Hey, have you seen this event? Hey
Speaker 2 00:16:21 , let’s do it. That was, it was really, really awesome. And honestly, uh, the people who were there just like we were right next to the Beaver Builder guys, they were so fun. We’re so fun. And right on the other side of them was Chad from rocket.net and he is just everybody. And if I like looked at them even just to say hi, they’re like, did you need something c could I get you something? Like they were just so amazingly like cute into everything, you know? And then, yeah. Uh, and then, yeah, I can’t believe I won. Uh, you know, the Godad gift gift card. I was like, well that’s gonna buy the thing for my my,
Speaker 1 00:16:59 Yeah,
Speaker 2 00:17:00 My my jersey.
Speaker 1 00:17:01 And that was just so perfect.
Speaker 2 00:17:02 It was a good event. It was really, really, I needed it really, my, my soul needed it. It was a good event.
Speaker 1 00:17:08 Yeah. Really good. So the name of this episode I decided, well you were talking is Oh yeah, I found my, I found my people.
Speaker 2 00:17:16 Oh yeah, I like that. I like that a lot. Yeah. Because it
Speaker 1 00:17:20 Fits for me too,
Speaker 2 00:17:21 . It does. As you know, as soon as I really did come into, I would say my first word camp, which was Word Camp Buffalo 2015 I think. Yeah. I, like a friend invited me to go and I didn’t really know anybody there and as soon as he walked in I was like, there’s somebody I know. And I like literally like puppy dogged after him all day. Cuz I was like, I don’t know these people. And then after a while, like he was going to dev talks and I was not going to dev talks, so I was sitting like, I was sitting in a room, Chris Lama gave a presentation, I listened to my demo, gave a present. I didn’t even know who they were. Like I was so new to the scene and I like literally on the drive home was like, when is the next word camp? What city is it in and how fast can I get there? Because it was just like, yeah, it was amazing. So awesome. This is how people are. Yeah. I love it. It is so, so awesome. So yeah. So yeah, I think we could go on the road cuz we’re both pretty accommodating people and you know, made a little bit of night on an, an evening here or there to just cocoon in my hotel room and recharge my batteries. But other than that, it’s a lot of fun.
Speaker 1 00:18:30 Yeah, yeah, definitely a lot of fun. So yeah, we’ll have to, we have to do it again sometime. Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m really excited. I’m really kudos to the Phoenix organizers for, you know, because this is one of the first in-person events and it was just kind of like the perfect size for people to get comfortable again. Mm-hmm. . Um, I, I just think it was, I, I think we’re back. I think as a community it’s okay to, to start up again and mm-hmm. , let’s, let’s do this. So if you’re listening and you’re an organizer, hey, let us know how we can help you service your community, serve your community and the WordPress space wherever you are, because I, I think it’s really important. It’s important to, it’s not just important for WordPress and for all those of us who like earn a living in the WordPress space, but it’s also important for your community to make sure that voices end up freely on the web.
Speaker 1 00:19:27 You know, the whole promise of democratization of our voices. Mm-hmm. is so important to our communities no matter where you live, no matter what kind of political situations you’re in or activism that needs to happen, or, you know, just like dog pictures and kitty cats, and like all of the fun things too. Like there’s something really important about owning your own platform and building, building your voice and your brand on something that you own rather than on other social media platforms. I mean, leverage them, but send them back to WordPress in your site. Yeah. Um, yeah, we’re, we’re here for it. So, and we’re here for you.
Speaker 2 00:20:04 Absolutely. Let us know how we can help you. You can dm either one of us on Twitter, you can hit up the contact Yeah. Page on wp motivate.com or you can DM the WP Motivate, uh, Twitter account as well. We are paying attention to all those things and we do, we wanna be a resource for you because we’ve been where you are and for some of you we hope to get where you are , so we’re somewhere in the middle anyway. Yeah. So yes, Kathy, I will be your people if you’ll be by people all day every day.
Speaker 1 00:20:36 , anytime. Thank you.
Speaker 2 00:20:39 You’re welcome. Thank you. All right, well we don’t know what the next week’s gonna bring us, but we will absolutely be back and we look forward to talking to y’all again soon. Thanks for being here.
Speaker 3 00:20:50 Bye. This has been WP Motivate with Kathy’s aunt and Michelle Fette. To learn more or to sponsor us, go to wp motivate.com.