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Getting into organising WordCamps – #PressPause mini podcast series – #003

PressPause WordCamp podcast brought to you by Big Orange Heart
PressPause WordCamp podcast brought to you by Big Orange Heart


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Podcast Guest: Tess Coughlan-Allen

This is the third episode of the PressPause podcast brought to you with Big Orange Heart and WPMU Dev.

Today we hear a WordCamp story from Tess from Mind Doodle, where she’s a marketing manager.

She is now heavily involved in WordPress and more specifically WordCamps. She’s been helping out as a content writer for WordCamp Bristol, as well as a regular at local meetups. She’s now a member of the WordCamp Europe, leading the communications team.

This year she was a lightening speaker at WordCamp London, giving a talk on a do_action hackathon.

She speaks about how she’s becoming more and more involved with WordCamps and how it’s creating real connections and friendships. She also talks about the fact that it’s not important what skill you bring to the table, WordCamp has a place for all. Even if you think that your skills are not as ‘valuable’ as others, there are so many ways that you can get involved.

We hope you enjoy the show, please do subscribe on iTunes or Spotify. We’re always looking for feedback, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do reach out.

And remember… Together we can #PressForward 

Podcast Details

Micah: 00:02 Hey, press forward podcast listeners. Welcome to day three of press pause, a collaborative mini series brought to you by WP and UP and WPMU Dev. My name is Micah Dailey and in each episode of this series, Nathan Wrigley and I interview WordCamp goers from around the world to hear the uplifting, fun, or interesting stories that have stuck with them past the camps that they attended. It’s a show that gives you a moment to pause and remember that at its heart, WordPress is made up of real people.

Micah: 00:35 Now, if you’re asking yourself, wait a second, where’s Nathan? Don’t worry. I promise he’s not going anywhere. We’re just working together on this project and hopefully others in the future. If you’d like to hear more about the collaboration between Nathan and I or Wpm, Dev and WP and UP, go back and listen to the first episode of press pause in it. Nathan and I also share our favorite word, camp memories. All right, on with the show.

Micah: 01:10 This edition of press pause is brought to you by WPMU Dev, your all in one WordPress platform with tools like the hub for site management, fully managed hosting, 24 seven support for anything WordPress Smush, the award winning image optimizer defender, the hacker blocking luchador and many more. WPMU Dev is the one membership you’ll need for managing, optimizing, securing and branding your WordPress sites. Visit WPMU Dev.com today to start your 30 day free trial today. I’m chatting with tests. I first met tests in November of 2018 at WordCamp us and we quickly connected over obviously WordPress music and being some of the only 20 somethings in our little group. Can you do like a little introduction of who you are, who you work for and kind of what you do in the, in the WordPress world?

Tess: 02:14 Yeah, sure. So my name’s Tess. I’m marketing manager for Mind Doodle and we’re um, we’re a startup in Bristol in the UK and Mind Doodle is a product, it’s a collaborative tool for creative project management. Um, so you can generate ideas with your team at using visual thinking techniques like mind mapping. And then you can develop those ideas, uh, set tasks to make them happen. And we’ve just raised a really interesting point because you’ve just released off this plugin for WordPress so you can make visual site maps and manage tasks from within WordPress, which is super exciting. And then also, I suppose in terms of the WordPress world, I was using WordPress, um, actually for a WordPress agency as like a copywriter a few years ago before I knew there was a community. And then when I started working for mine student, I got introduced to this sort of community of people, like minded people and in some cases very differently minded people, but in a, in the most positive sense.

Tess: 03:14 Uh, so I, I basically got involved, um, by helping would come still the inaugural event with their social media, um, and content writing because that, that was easy and natural for me to do, you know, as a way to contribute my time. And then I’d start doing to local meetups. I started helping out with some local meetups. I did that for a year. Um, and then I joined last year. I joined the WordCamp, you’re organizing team as a member of that PR team. And I didn’t know huge amount about PR. I was just, you know, some of the, some of the skills I had, you know, made it easy, but I wasn’t a PR professional. Um, so, but that was a really fun experience. And then this year they asked me to be at team lead for communications, so I’m, yeah. Yeah. So that’s been amazing. Um, and there’s a few weeks left, so hopefully we’ll get all the messaging me.

Micah: 04:13 Awesome. Well, so you’re kind of moving up and getting even more and more involved with this year.

Tess: 04:18 Yeah, exactly. And that’s been really nice actually because I’m the type of person that I really like that movement and being dynamic with, with how I contribute. I’m not sure why, but I’m quite young still as well. So maybe that’s just, it’s an inherent thing to do with you.

Micah: 04:34 Did you help with WordCamp London this year too?

Tess: 04:37 Um, I didn’t, but I went along as a speaker. Oh cool. So yeah, so that was the first time I was a, a lightning speaker onstage. At I WordCamp. What did you speak on? So I spoke on, um, I do action hackathon, which is like a community organized event where volunteers from the WordPress community creates websites for nonprofits and charities in the local area. So I actually co organize the first one to take place in Europe last year.

Micah: 05:10 Yeah. That’s so cool. I want to be more like you. You Do, you do a lot of really cool stuff.

Tess: 05:16 So you saying you say that, but actually I, I’ve got a new, a new motto, which is just do one thing at a time.

Micah: 05:26 Also gleaned from that, cause I always feel like I’m doing a million different things. Yeah.

Tess: 05:31 And then it gets the point where your downtime is like, oh, I’ll just create something that no one’s asked me to do. Okay. Go away from your computer for a bit.

Micah: 05:44 Um, okay. So back to where we were. So what’s kind of one story or one moment, one thing that you’ll always remember from all the WordCamp’s that you’ve been involved in?

Tess: 05:55 So I’ve got a really, really simple, um, basically I used to go to loads of conferences and interest year events. Um, but, but usually we’re industry relate. Uh, they were tech industry or a med tech to be more specific and that doesn’t seem that far away from WordPress. Um, and even now, sometimes they go to digital events that aren’t WordPress related. Yeah. But, um, basically I’d find it, you know, I wasn’t enjoying myself really. I was going there to do my duty, to represent my company who have, that was at the time and network and it all felt very inauthentic and not very fun. It didn’t feel very relaxed. I used to bite my nails loads. I still do that sometimes, but not because of an event. Um, and uh, when I went to the first, the first week I went to, his word kept London, I think it was 2017, and it was really nice.

Tess: 06:51 I met a bunch of people and you know, it was like sort of meeting people in passing and, and so it was quite relaxed. And those two people, I knew that from the Bristol WordPress community. So I felt like, okay, I’ve got them to go and find if I’m sort of lost of things to do. Yeah. But at one stage it was the afternoon and I was a bit tired out from listening to talks and, and everything. And I just sat down on a sofa and you might have had my lots of power, I don’t know. Uh, but essentially someone basically just sort of made eye contact with me and came and sat down and chatted to me. And it felt like that moment where it’s like, Oh, if I’d known you forever, I’ve just got an instant connection with you. And then someone else came and joins the conversation and it was like, okay, I feel like I’ve known a lot of you people forever.

Tess: 07:37 And then someone else came over who I actually had known from the Bristol WordPress community and, and said, Oh, you met my new friends. And essentially it was like everyone seems to have been making these connections, which were really authentic, genuine connections and friendships without even trying. And it was totally alien to me if I compared it to any experience I’ve had at a conference before where everyone was there with an agenda or people didn’t want to talk to you. Especially I found, especially being a young woman, if I went to events where everyone was in suits and most of the men had gray hair and it was just, I was too alien to them. I suppose I was being othered to them. Sure. And in a WordCamp, it’s not like that at all. Everyone, everyone is welcome. Everyone is included. And you can actually go sit down and chill out and someone will make an effort with you. Yeah. It’s really special.

Micah: 08:28 Yeah. It’s so true. I, I, I think about the WordCamp experiences that I’ve had, and it’s just, there’s so many different types of people, different ages, different backgrounds. Um, but, but somehow you, you make these connections. Um, and I think it’s probably because we’re all there for, you know, for the same reason we’re all there to learn about WordPress. Yeah. But, um, if you were to kind of give a pitch to, you know, to somebody who’s about engaging more in the community, what, what’s your pitch? And then also kind of what’s your advice, you know, what’s the first steps that people can take to, to engage in the community?

Tess: 09:07 Well, it’s a really good question. Um, so I, when I first got involved in the community and I’ve had this feeling, uh, other, uh, events beforehand, I felt a bit like I was an impostor, not because of the, the classic impostor syndrome where you probably really talented and don’t think you’re talented. Uh, it was actually a little bit different. It was more of a sense of, right, I’m a, I’m a marketing and communications professional. I’ve got skills, but then not the skills that I feel everyone else has. I assume everyone else is, is a developer and uh, can you can code anything. Um, and, and that makes me feel different. So I initially I expected that and probably because I had experienced similar things at other tech events. Um, so I guess my pitch that when soon as you realized that whatever skill you have is really, really valuable and welcome and you can contemplate using that skill, um, you, you realize how many ways there are to contribute.

Tess: 10:06 So, you know, organizing a charity hackathon to, um, or, uh, contributing your time to contribute today, uh, where you, maybe you have an expertise or maybe you, you can do something really, really basic, that’s just super important. So the expertise could be you’re an accessibility expert, but you, if you don’t have those skills, but you do have the skills of typing up at someone’s talk so you could have subtitles. You don’t need any specific expertise there. You just have to have a skill at typing what people can say. Right? So really there’s so many ways that you could get involved if you want to. So it’s really special in that sense because as soon as you find out that that really simple thing of any skill I have, I can use to do good, um, it’s, it’s just like a magical, you know, door opening. And then you’ve got all these avenues that you can explore.

Micah: 11:03 There’s something that hit me as quite profound and tests as response to that last question. She started by pointing out how our differences can often be the most intimidating aspect of entering or participating in a community. But then she ended by reminding us that those differences are often the things that make our communities stronger, fuller, and significantly more beautiful. And that’s part of what makes WordCamps so special. I actually experienced to some of the same feelings of doubt that test just mentioned a minute ago at my first WordCamp, but they were quickly eased by the people who took the time to share their differences with me. And believe it or not test was actually one of those people. Um, I wanted to thank you because I, I always remember the, um, conversations are the moments that you and, and rich kind of, um, hung out with, with me at WordCamp us. And it made, it really made me feel a lot more comfortable and invited. I, I tend to feel anxious in those big, you know, the big crowds in those settings. And I’ll always remember that first, the first day when at lunch you came and sat with me and uh, and then, uh, at the after party the last day, you, you, you kind of sat at the table with me and, and, and we talked a lot, you know, so that, that really meant a lot to me. So I want to thank you for that.

Tess: 12:31 Nice. So awesome. Do you know what, it’s so funny how you can, it’s really difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes because if I know exactly what you’re talking about, I know the feeling from your perspective, but I never would have expected you to feel those feelings as well where it’s the other way round.

Micah: 13:10 The press forward podcast is a production of WP and UP. This mini series is a collaborative effort between WPMU Dev and WP and UP. Nathan Wrigley and me. Micah Dailey produced this episode and I created the original score. A special thanks to tests for chatting with me today. Thank you all so much for listening and remember that together we can press forward,

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