Episode 302: Certification in the WordPress Space

Show Summary

Rob Cairns talks to Talisha Lewallen and Sophia DeRosia abut certification in the WordPress space. 

Show Highlights:

  1. Why Certifications in the WordPress space.
  2. Different levels of certifications.
  3. The people behind the certification process.
  4. Why the US government cares about certifications.

Show Notes

Hey everybody, Rob Cairns here and in today’s podcast I’ve got my good friends Talisha and Sophia with me and we’re gonna talk about credentials and certifications in the WordPress space. How are both of you?

We’re great.

Pretty good, how are you?

Doing well Sophia. So I thought we’d jump in and start and I always like to ask people what the WordPress origin story is. So I’m going to pick on the younger one in the group first. Sophia and how’d you get into WordPress?

Well, I was in some form born into it. I technically was born before WordPress, but just barely. My dad was always involved in the tech space when I was a kid, and so once he started to go to different word camps and various different WordPress related conferences, I was all like oh I want to go. They have cool T-shirts. And it kind of jumpstarted me into getting involved in the community and getting to know people. And it kind of gave me a baseline for where I could build a career off of and then the older I got. And the more that I needed money I was like, oh, hey, I know how to do this and I know a ton of. People here, so that’s where I am.

Yeah, and that’s a that’s not uncommon. I need. I need something. So I go after it, right so? That’s all good and Talisha how’d you get into work?

Well, mine started, I think with probably quite a few people with COVID and my husband and I own a farm and so I was going to start selling our beef and kind of like online and just letting people know about it. And I needed a website, so I contacted the one person I know that messes around with websites I guess and I called. Oh, good old Corey Miller and was like, hey, I know that you work in WordPress. This is what I’m trying to do and so that was the birth of my first ever website I created and then he and I started a kind of another venture. And then I got brought in up post status for a while. And now I’m over here at my own company with, you know, WP certify and WP connects or certified WP and WP connects, but that’s kind of COVID kind of was the snowball for me.

And which is not uncommon for a lot of people. A lot of people jumped in the web game when COVID. Nid and realized. E-commerce was the way to sell and needed to go that route. So, and what I would say to people is that landscape has been shifting for a long time anyway, I mean. I don’t know about you, but my mom maintains I must own shares in Amazon for the amount of stuff. I buy online. And you know, and and they do it really right. And a lot of a lot of other big retailers have gotten in that game, so Snow’s surprised that other people are jumping in so well.

Right, I think it just gives everybody a good space.

Yeah, and by the way, just to touch on if you’re not a post status member, join post status. Cory runs a really good organization and it’s a great way for WordPress professionals to get together and talk and chat and share like minded and meet some amazing connections so. Feel free to do that. So where did certified WP come from and why this whole discussion about certification?

So whenever I first came into, you know WordPress as a new user new person, I really started looking around for you know, what could I take to learn how to build a website and then as luck would have it, while I was at post status, Cory and I met this pretty cool gentleman named Hector and. That’s where WP connects was born from. We trained military personnel, active duty and separating in WordPress. And then we help them find jobs within the WordPress space. So whenever I started, WP connects back in June of 2022, maybe even may. I really started talking about we have to have a credential, you know, we just really need a base level of education to be able to train these military personnel on. And one of the ways we train our active duty personnel is the credentialing assistance program. And with that, you have to have a credential to train them that’s approved through the DoD. So that’s kind of where certified WP came from is. I just saw a need and I talked to Michelle Frichette and quite a few other people and I got a little. Should have I don’t know. You know, credentials and certifications have always kind of been a a no, we’re not going to do it. And then I got resounding yeses from so many people saying that we need it and they can see the need and so now we are the certified WP Foundation and on our way to become a full-fledged nonprofit. And yeah, so that. I mean, that’s really kind of how certified WP just turned around as we saw a need for. You know, WP connects and our military members, but also just the community as a whole.

And that’s so exciting that we’re. I think it’s something that’s been well needed in our community for a long, long time. I mean, you get somebody out on the street and they start looking at WordPress professionals. And it’s like how do they know a from B from C If there’s not a baseline somewhere?

Right, and that’s what we’re hearing from a lot of hiring managers even at post status, when we would ask people what they needed, they said their company. He needs you know people to hire, but it’s not just people to hire, they need qualified people. And where does that come from? What’s that baseline of education? You know, if somebody comes to a job and says I’m a WordPress developer? Nobody exactly knows what that entails and what skill set set set in, and that’s where those certifications and credentials really help.

You know, and I would actually suggest that maybe we need a couple credentials, not one, so maybe we need one as a baseline, like a WordPress one and then one we need. Maybe maybe a woo commerce one and I would go so far as to say we probably need need a security one just because. A lot of people that are good designers and developers don’t understand the locking down the website games, so you know there’s there’s three right there. What do you think about that, Sophie?

Right well.

Oh, I actually we are in the process of creating those am I. Am I correct talicia?

Yes, so we have. We’re currently building 2 separate credentials. We have a front end credential that we’re building now and there’s going to be 3 tiers. So every credential that we’re building is. Basic level intermediate expert knowledge so you have to pass all three to hold that credential credentialing license. So we’re doing front end. Then we’re doing back end and there has been talk about doing some form of a security or, you know, just really what that looks like. But these first basic 2 front end and back end. Are the main focus right now? But yeah, we did. I think that there can be a lot of different credentials popping out of this.

Is there any building in any ongoing education in those credentials to keep them? You lose it if you don’t take some updated training or something like that. Or is that discussion for the future?

No, that so the that kind of plays into the difference between a credential and a certification. So when you take a certification you just took, you took a class and you might have had to take a test. You might have not, but you’re able to show that you have this piece of paper and it says I have taken this and now I am a WordPress, you know, expert, whatever but. A lot of certifications do not have ongoing. Learning, it’s that you could say 10 years later that yes, I am certified in WordPress and you saw this credential and you’ve never taken ongoing education. You’ve never learned anything new about WordPress, so with credentials there is an education component that is continuing. The board has decided that it’s every three years you have to recertify and then with that there you could take continue to take the education. Or you could just take the. But you do have to recertify and with WordPress, in my opinion, that’s the only way to go is to do a credential where you have to recertify that knowledge. There’s you know there’s little things that changes, but then there’s also major changes, so the board has a plan for those major changes that. Might might occur between taking those credentialing exams, but that really is the main part of a credential is having that ongoing education, and not just saying, hey, I took it 10 years ago and I can still do it. It’s keeping it updated and pretty much every. Profession I guess you have teaching certifications you have. You know the people who fix your cars. All of them are credentialed and so they have to keep up their education as well. So it it really just gives it that extra kind of like of backing in my opinion.

Yeah, I think that’s that’s actually really good. Brian Gardner, who many of us in the community know who works over at WP engine as a developer advocate? Has said many times on Friday billmon calls that entrepreneurs and designers need to take 5 to 10% of their time and invest it back in their learning skills. So this is another way of investing time back in yourself. And I, you know, I kind of applaud this type of program, Sophia. I’ve got believe it or not, I’ve got sixteen sets of letters after my name. If I choose to put them there, so. I’m I’m like one of those lifetime learners and then I implement what I’ve learned. So I think that’s really important, especially for somebody like. You who hasn’t been around the space as much as some of us, right?

Well, yes and no. I have this is where the the concept of a. A credential. It it it shows its impact I guess I don’t know it. It shows significance. I have a ton of Community experience and I know a lot of people and I know a lot of things and I could start like I. I know I have all the bases to start anything I wanted, but I have no clue how to actually learn any of those things. And even if I like, I’ve gone to multiple different people and said, hey. You’re really like you’re really well known in this space. Can you teach me how to do this? And they’re like, yes, but they’ve made it up as they go. And so, like I’ve, I’ve thought many times, like, oh, I could just go and do this thing, but I can’t just go and do this thing because if I then go to to an. Employer it’s not going to. Hold anything necessarily, or it might in this specific community in this specific space, but if I decide it’s not like a a college degree where you go anywhere and they’re like. You at least this at least shows that you put in the time and effort to learn this thing, regardless of whether the it’s actually applicable.

And what I’ll tell you what I’ll tell you, is what we also got to make sure of is these programs. Are they actually teach the right things? So I’ll give you. I’ll give you an example of that. I spent 21 years in the tech space before I started an agency and many, many years ago at Women’s College Hospital. We in Toronto we had a A consultant who came to us and he had what was called the. Novell CN at the time, which is a Novell certified network engineer, and. My colleague and I actually, who both were not certified at the time. We both were after the fact actually taught him stuff because the novel program was very much a textbook type of program and as a result, yeah, he passed his exam, but. Even though he had letters after his name, he still couldn’t do the job. If you know what it means. So we so I think we’ve got to be really careful that these credentials are like practical.

Yeah, exactly.

So that’s a good example, talisha. Why does DoD matter with these credentials? And he could you explain all about that as well?

Yeah, yeah, so I know we’ve been getting a little bit of questions when people have been seeing that the DoD is going to be. I guess involved in a way so for WP connects to use this credential to train our active duty military personnel. It has to go through the DoD army coal system so they have to approve the credential to make sure that it fits for the military personnel. So getting it approved through the DoD, there are certain qualifications that have to be met. So one is the community endorsement letters? Or it could be accredited. So that’s where you might see out on Twitter and hear. Hopefully word of mouth that we’re needing these endorsement. Orders and it’s not because this is just a credential for the military. I’m using it to help us train the military in our other training platforms with WP connects. So the DoD just gives it. It gives it more of a backing and a power that our credential is recognized by the DoD. It’s like it’s kind of like having it accredited, but. There’s just a lot of checks and balances that go into it that I personally feel is also a really good thing for our credential to have, so it’s not just somebody and I’ll just put it this way. It’s not just somebody sitting in a back room being like this is what I think should be in the exam and this is what I think people should learn in this credential. We have an Advisory Board. Of community members. And we also have a board of directors, with certified WP being a non profit. So there are it is truly a community built and maintained credential. And so there is all this education and experience that is going into what even should go into this credential. And then it will, all of it will get sent to the DoD with the letters and then they. Will either agree or disagree that it should be? It’s to the standard of being trained. In the military. So that’s really. Where that’s coming from, it’s still a credential for the whole community and for everybody, but I’m just using it also as another Ave. for our training with WP connects in our military members.

No, that’s very good. Now does the. DoD regular check these credentials like on a yearly basis or a BI yearly basis to see if they still meet criteria or how does that come about.

You know, that’s a very interesting question. I am not 100% sure. I know that they do have. Like I said, they do have checks and balances. I don’t know if they fully look at each credential every year, but we have to turn in how many people took the credential, how many people took the exam and then have like the pass to fail ratio. There, but that is for, like the military side too for them to make sure that their funding is going to the appropriate places. If the credential is not meeting standards over there, then the funding for the military will cease to exist on. Side so yeah, I mean it. They do look at it, but they look at it. For a different purpose.

Yeah, thanks for clarifying Sophia. Has anybody contacted automatic or any of the contacts up at automatic to get them involved in this? Or are you trying to stay arms length from the parent organization?

I know.

What Talisha has contacted automatic, that was all handled before I was brought on to the company. I’m actually only about two months into working with them.

Yes, so we and I would say me because I throw Michelle Frichette into everything. Bless her. She’s amazing human.

As Matt Monolingually Calder at state of the word, the busiest woman in WordPress.

Seriously, I. I really don’t know how she does everything, but she saves our life on a constant basis. Like I, I know that sounds so dramatic, but I have crafts aside at least once we’ve had other, I mean, and I just call her and she immediately gets on or she reviews.

99 cute

Like I mean anything and everything. She’s just like, yeah, give me tonight and I’ll do it and I’m like you were doing so much. Please tell me. No, if I’m ever like asking too much, I don’t, you know, I don’t want to do that, but like she’s been a life saver so she jumped into the meeting with Josefa and myself and we have been in e-mail communication and we had an actual. Sit down, you know, like the zoom meeting and we talked about the credential. What we’re doing, where we’re seeing it go, and. From that meeting, which was probably about a month ago now they they just want to see kind of where they fit in. You know, are they going to back it? Are they just gonna let us do our own thing or you know really what that looks like? So we’re still in conversations with them. But overall, in my opinion it’s been very positive.

I think in this case it would serve automatic well to back it, whether because it would go hand in hand, it would make sense personally, but I mean time will tell, right so?

Exactly and you know, I I was asked one day like why should certified WP be the one to? Create this credential. You know why not automatic? Why not the hosting companies? Why not you know like I don’t know somebody else and my thing is why not us? We are a strictly third party completely objective group. You know we’re hosting it’s we can. It won’t turn into a gatekeeping situation. It won’t turn, you know, and it’s well financially. You know credentials are expensive, well with it being a nonprofit, we’re able to sponsor people, so there’s a lot of benefits to it being a third party company that is doing this because we can 100% make sure that it’s completely objective. And that we are benefiting the whole community as a whole. And I think we do that with our Advisory Board. And if any, like I said, if anybody has questions, they’re they contact me and we meet and I explain what we’re doing and I would love for that to continue. If anybody does have. Questions or concerns?

That’s awesome, now let’s talk about the hosting side of it, and that that’s a really interesting discussion. But you do have Members from hosting companies on your board, and so do you. Want to talk about a little? Bit about so people understand the cross section of who’s on your board. Can you talk about that a bit?

Yeah, and I’m going to preface it with saying sorry if I forget anybody between the the Board, the Advisory Board helping make the credentials, and the Board of Directors.

I understand.

I might get half of everybody thrown out. But we do have. Like I’ve said, Michelle Frechette is on both the board of Directors and our Advisory Board. We’re trying to keep. Them separate, but there is going to be a little bit of. Crossover just because of who all is involved. So we have Michelle. We also have Jessica Frick with I believe she’s with pressable.

Yes she is. She’s appreciable what a what a great lady to have on your board full of energy.

Oh my gosh, yes yes and amazingly helpful when I always go back to the WordPress community.

Love her love her yeah.

I’ve never met anybody in the community that is not. Is ridiculously helpful and totally supportive and willing to give feedback. So let’s see. We have Jess and then we also have Robbie Adeer with OS training, which is a huge asset.

No Robbie.

Huge asset just because of all of her training experience she’s able to give a really good perspective. And then we have Nicole Bolt. I always mispronounce her name. She’s going to yell at me one day, Ballmer. With the liquid web brand she is on our Advisory Board as well. Then we have Gabriel Cohen with PMC. Another really interesting perspective. They’re doing some really cool things over at PMC. And then we have Courtney Robertson with GoDaddy and every I mean whatever.


Courtney is also one of those very busy women who is doing a lot. So we have her and. I feel like I am missing somebody who runs.

The Zach, correct?

Yes, yes.

I don’t remember which one.

Who’s that?

Hold on, let me click over here I was clicking around on our snap or our slack channel trying to figure it out. We did bring on. Oh my gosh stepic. Sorry Zach, if you’re listening. Zach Stepik has. Been brought on to one help us on the front end credential but we really needed that back end credential person you know experts so when we were all talking about the two when we decided we were going to do a front end and a back end. It was one of those fun moments where we all looked at each other and was. Like so who who can do that? And and it was decided that we needed to really bring in another person. So we do if we. Realize that we have a lack in the Advisory Board for knowledge on an area we talk about it and then we go out and start trying to find the. People to fill that need. So Zach luckily was a great person to talk to and he stepped on and then we have Hans. He’s on our board of Directors Super. Pumped to talk about him on that and then Rob Howard is also on. Our Board of directors.

What what? An amazing makeup of people in the community and each one of them should be commended for stepping up. And each one of them should be commended for their involvement, and they’re all people. When I look at that list, traditionally that have given more than their business into this. I mean they so I think their board’s pretty well served and the concerns about the hosting companies not doing this. I would think that’s out the window because you got representatives from free hosting companies like the web that you’ve got. Couple from liquid web because Michelle actually worked for stellar with WP, which is the liquid web brand. Then you’ve got Courtney over at GoDaddy and you’ve got Jessica over at Pressable. I mean from a hosting company perspective, I think you’re well served, so I don’t think that concern is out there as far as I’m concerned.

Right, yeah, and I think it’s just one of those that. You know, and it it is I, I hope that wasn’t taken that I was speaking badly about the hosting companies and how they shouldn’t do it.

Value of our.

But you know, it’s one of those that I just think having being able to involve so many people of different areas of WordPress of different experiences of different skill set really in to determine what should be here and. And then to keep everything fair right across the board. That’s one of the DoD standards is it has to. You there can not be any favoritism, or I mean anything. It can’t be. You have to use one of our certified people or you can’t host with us. Or, you know, I don’t know, not even that that would happen, but there is No Fear of that happening because it is a complete third part. Excuse me a complete third party. And has the hosting companies present in the board which I like. I said I love every single person that has joined this crazy ride with me and did not just tell me to sit down and. Be quiet and.

That that’s.

Was really jumped on board and was. Like, yes, let’s do. This this is. Crazy, so we’re figuring out a lot as we go on, but we have an amazing team that’s helping.

Yeah, I was going to. Say Sophia, you know it’s amazing. I’ve been working with Courtney on this LinkedIn group for over a year, and as you both know, Courtney was one of the training leads till she stepped down on on learned.wordpress.org and so she’s got a good perspective on that. And we we’ve been talking. For a year, how this? There’s a need for this, so I mean. Yeah, all of us. Who are entrenched in this stuff? See it so I think I think you guys are doing the right thing.

Awesome, we definitely appreciate that we love any type of encouragement. Like anything new there are, you know, bumps in the road. So we love the encouragement. It helps us get through the bumps.

Is there anything else you want to add Sophia that about the project or where you’re going, or timelines or anything like that?

Well, I know, gosh, we’re about to finish phase one of our credential, is that correct, Alicia?

Mm-hmm Yep, we have level one complete and we are almost done with Level 2 and the board just has to review it and pass it on and then and and we’re starting Level 3 and these are both of the front end developer credential so we’re going to go through front end. And get all. Three of those. And then we’ll start working on. That back end, but hopefully. They should be. Up in an LMS system and ready to rock’n’roll by the end of next month.

Good and this sorry go. Ahead, go ahead.

Oh, I was just. We’re also building in. We have a couple different projects coming. And that that. Should come up in the next couple of months. To kind of. Boost the community engagement and kind of highlight the need for. The credential in like the in. The community of new people coming into WordPress and wanting to get involved and also just kind of talking about some of these like long term bigger issues and differences and things that make people go. Ohhh, when we bring up the the concept of a credential to just kind of discuss some of the bigger things about it.

No terisha have you have you thought about with work kept US around the corner in Maryland this year? Maybe thinking that would be a great opportunity to get a speaker spot and. Talk about this.

Yes, you know what’s interesting is, uhm, I had a conversation with. Matt Perry at WordPress VIP and they are thinking about possibly doing some level of a certification for and kind of like going above and beyond ours. From our expert to being able to serve those like Mega core you know and stuff like that. So through that conversation and talking to him about. That credential and how we’re running ours and all of this fun stuff I was. Like you know we. Really should just be speakers at word, camp US and let’s get a speaker spot. So I’m hopeful that he and I can do that and really team up to have this conversation about. Well, what we’re both doing credentials, why they’re needed, how they’re important. Blah blah blah blah blah. Do a Q&A and if not then I will definitely put throw my name in the hat there and just do a speaker spot for myself. If I am granted a spot I would really love to. I think it’s just a great way to get the knowledge. And really, ask those questions and you know answer them the best way we can.

No, I think that’s really important. Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on today?

Just if you have time and you you feel the calling, we do need the Community endorsement letters. It will just help our process with the DoD go so much smoother. You could do it as a person, or if it’s a company and it’s just endorsing that you see a need in the community for a credential. Or having just that baseline of education. On the website we have two different ways you could do it. You could either upload your own letter or you can just fill out, click some buttons and it will generate the letter for you.

No, that’s awesome and the website is.


And if anybody wants to get a hold of either one of you with questions, help, endorsement concerns, how’s the best way?

For me it’s either on our Twitter page or you can e-mail me directly at talish@wpconnects.com or slack. If you’re in post out of Slack. I’m in there as well. And so yeah, there’s either any and all ways. Just feel free to reach out and contact me.

And Sophia has the best way to get in touch with you.

I’m the same. I have been quite active on both of the excuse me. Both of the Twitter accounts for certified WP and WP connects, so I should notice any sort of engagement over there. You can also e-mail me at sophia@wpconnects.com. Or@gmail.com

Thank you. Thank you very much ladies. All the best of luck with the credential and we’ll talk soon. I am sure. Thank you.

Thank you.


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