Rob Cairns talks to James Giroux about TeamWP_.
- Trends in the WordPress Space.
- What is TeampWP_
- Why does culture matter?
- The WordPress ecosystem.
And so much more.
Hey, everybody, Rob Cairns
And today I’m here with my. Guest James Giroux, how are you today?
James, I’m doing great. How? Hey, rob.
Doing good. It’s always good to get a fellow Canadian on this show. We need to dominate the world like you’re like. Two hours away from me, give or take 2 1/2 and to find out that Kingston ON aren’t you.
Yeah, the the biggest joke with Kingston used to be it was all students and jailbirds at one time, because those who don’t know Kingston, there’s several prisons and. Putting the famous one down on the waterfront, which is now closed for a number of years. Right, I mean.
That’s right, it’s a museum.
Now, yeah, yeah. I’ve actually been in it. I was in it before COVID in and it’s it’s quite the place to do a tour of. So it’s quite interesting and so much part of Kingston’s history. So. So we were going to talk a little bit about Team WP. Some projects you’re working on, all kinds of wonderful. But before we get to that, how did you? Get into WordPress and why?
WordPress, that word you know I it’s I mean it’s such a part of who I am that it’s hard to even. Remember the the first few projects, but I I guess probably I was. Working in for those of you who don’t know, Ontario is a big province in Canada, so it’s about 1820 hours to drive from one side to the other. So I was working in Thunder Bay ON Canada, so if you think I’m on the the east side now, it’s or far West.
You want. You want us.
And and yeah, it was. I was building a website for a youth group or a church. I was working at, and I needed something to. To just make it easy because I had done the whole HTML CSS thing. I was like. Ain’t nobody got time for that, right? Like I got I got lots of stuff to do and I don’t want to be worrying about this, so I built my first website and I mean that’s really I think everyone’s journey is I needed something quick. Need something easy. I needed something. Cheap to get. And WordPress at the time had this really cool thing. It was this free theme directory, so you could actually go. And not just use the default theme, but you could actually go and you could find design. So rather than having it look like A blog you could get like a new looking site or a magazine layout for your website and that was how I got hooked into it. And from there I just kept using it in all of my things. I ended up going to school for design. And came out came out of that and and and had WordPress as as like that foundational piece in my toolkit. When full time in 2012 was a freelancer built that into an agency, started working for page lines, which was a drag and drop builder at the time one of. The first. In the space and then from there ended up at Invado from Novato. I jumped to rocket genius, the makers of gravity forms, and my last stint before what I’m doing now was at Stellar WP, part of the liquid web family of brands.
They’ve kind of been all.
Over the place, yeah.
I’ve been all over. I I like to. I’ve, you know, sort of think of like the the four bases of WordPress. You know, I’ve done the the theme and plug and shop. I’ve done the marketplace. I’ve done the hosting company. The only one left is automatic.
Yeah, it’s like.
And it’ll have to get the home run.
And it’s funny you mentioned Thunder Bay. We were talking before we went to record about a a friend of mine who was a teacher. Where she’s from Thunder Bay ON. So there you go. I’ve been up there. It’s beautiful up there. It’s wonderful place to visit. I mean if. You ever up there? You gotta go see, like the sleeping giant. It’s like, you know, one of those wonders of the north. And people don’t realize this province is like, it’s like 16. That’s a 16 hour. Ride from drama believe. Yeah, it’s huge. So yeah, that’s interesting. Sorry and yeah, and they and they’re so hot going on in this space, like you’ve been at places like in vato and there’s changes going on there. I I was reading an article yesterday, the day before, that Aveda, who’s the number one theme selling in theme force, which is part of that marketplace, right? They have now pulled out and they’re selling through their own website, interestingly enough so. And they are the only. Theme ever to sell over $1,000,000? Yep. So there’s there’s all kinds of changes going on even in that space. So it’s just really interesting to see how some of this has come full circle. I mean, you know, gravity forms when gravity forms came out, they were the only really good forms product and now there’s a multiple real good ones. And I’m not. I’m not criticizing gravity. Yeah, I I think I told you I’m a WS forms user to know when, but you know, but that’s that’s choice and there’s a lot of good solutions out there right now. And the the mark voice has matured, wouldn’t you say?
Absolutely, it’s much different today than it was when we all first got going 15 years ago, that’s for sure.
That’s about my timing. It was about 16 years ago or so. So it’s about the same. It’s interesting. So you’ve created this. Company called Team WP. What are you doing with it and do you want to? Tell us a. Little bit about what’s going on there and the action. Going on.
Yeah, I mean, oh, team WP. It’s it’s weird to say I’ve started a company because, you know, as a freelancer, as an agency, the company has always been there. It’s just a new new outlet. You know, I have been as, as you say, around the the ecosystem. I’ve I’ve worked in small teams. I’ve worked in large teams. I’ve been a one man shop. I’ve had a team of five working for me. I’ve, you know, worked with hundreds of people across multiple teams and. I have seen the good. I like to say I’ve seen the good, the great and the not so great when it comes to how teams work together, how leadership happens and. I I’ve I’ve always had this passion for, like leadership and culture and team haven’t always been able to articulate it the way that I’ve wanted to. I’ve been a student. Of leadership for as long as I can remember. Even in middle. School I was in. This is going to sound funny, but I was in. Like a pilot program. Where they actually taught an entire course on leadership as part of the the middle school curriculum and. That’s really where I first. Got this view of leadership that it was a something that could be learned, right? And it’s something you studied, right? This art of leadership and and 2nd that it was something that was not necessarily even if you were a natural leader, it was something you had to practice. It was something you had to to work through and hone. And all of that and all of my time and WordPress and and seeing as I said the good, the great and not. So great has. Led me to perspectives, experiences, and perspectives on what I think works in in leadership. What I think works in in team and people and culture and. I started writing about it last year, bit more proactively after war Camp Europe in. Where was it last year? Where were we last year, Rob drivers?
What’s up? What’s that portal?
Yes, in Porto, exactly.
Our mutual friend John moved to portal.
Yes, is the love.
It was a it was a conversation with. Rich Tabor there. Where I had been, you know, like I’ve been. I’ve been trying to figure out for many years like I I’m not a developer necessarily right? Like I’m not going to be that guy or that person that goes out. And creates A plug-in feature from scratch to do something that’s just not my wheelhouse, but I wanted to contribute something to WordPress. I wanted to be part of moving it forward, whatever that looked like. As I started to reflect on some of the challenges that I was having in, you know, seeing, you know in the these roles and in these cultures and some of the the the commonalities of challenge that I was seeing as I was going from place to place. It it got me thinking, I wonder if there is like an opportunity here for me to now bring my experience, bring the the education that I’ve had and the and the the. The learnings? Into the WordPress ecosystem in a different way. Because the reality is we just don’t have teams very much or or or, you know, a lot of team. Is that have the capacity to have a dedicated, you know team and and people OPS kind of person or or a team and culture person? And so, yeah, so so Team WP came out of that, it was blogging that was getting some traction. People were resonating with what I was saying. So I said, well, why don’t I see if there’s something here that I can turn into something? So my original thought back when I when I kicked this off, I was on a holiday in Mexico first holiday. We’ve had some comments.
On the beach. On the beach?
On the beach in Mexico, drinking my mojito. And I said to my wife, I said. I want to I. Want to build something like this? I want to take these ideas these these. Leanings and promptings around. Team and culture and I want to, I want to turn into something that I can give back to WordPress. Is there something here that I can open source? Is there something here that I can do open so I I that’s that’s really where Team WP came from and the idea of the Team Experience index are. Industry Benchmark survey came from and so I yeah, December came up with the idea and spent some weekends working it out. And then I. Launched the beta, the Pre beta really because I had nothing but a web page and and a concept that I launched at work Camp Asia. And then I came back from where Camp Asia and found out my role was being made redundant and now I had all this free time to to do things. So I was like, alright, well, I’ll keep hunting for that, that future role. But what if I can create the role of my dreams out of Team WP as well? So you can’t. You can’t be, you know, filling in job applications 8 hours a day. So this is what I do in my in my downtime.
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting. You you said something give back to WordPress and I think our community is the culture where many of us and I don’t care who it is, whether they work for automatic or don’t. We’re all trying to give something back, whether it’s giving back from a leadership perspective. Running in a case where I do I help Co manage large LinkedIn group to get back to the. That’s how I do it to get back to the community or to get involved in those million one discussions about where we should go because we we all care and this Community is is like no other community. I mean, I’ve heard Rich Tabor say it. I’ve heard Brian Gardner say it. I’ve heard Michelle Frichette say it amongst many other people. It’s no like no other community out there. It’s kind of special. The way we manage our community isn’t.
The fact that you can say those names, and I know exactly who you’re talking about. I mean that says something right there. Right, like our community is just so great at supporting each other, helping each other out.
And not and not only that, these people like the people like the brians and the riches who I look up to and say as developers you guys have done it all. I mean Brian was the founder of Studio Press as many people. Go back in the day and now his big project, besides being on the WP engine team, is frost for example. And I can go to a guy like Brian and say, hey, Brian, can I get 20 minutes of your time? Can we do an interview? Can we have a chat? Can I? Get some help, I’m stuck and. What Brian will do is he’ll fire you back, your calendar link and say hey, find some time. I’d love to help you. Which papers are saying Diego’s the saying? I mean we have a we and and these are. Three, I was on a call with Marcus Burnett, who you know well over a GoDaddy another day, and Marcus and I were were talking about some WooCommerce stuff. I have a client who was looking at The Wanted to GoDaddy Woo commerce solutions by the way which they’ve gone to and and Marcus is like if you need 20 minutes. You’ll find it and by. The way if you need help, skip the support line and contact right like. Isn’t this community special?
Now that’s. Yeah, I mean, that’s it, I. I mean, I’ve been blown away even. Just putting this all out there like when I when I first launched my. My business a number of years ago, like even in the page lines ecosystem launching some themes and plugins there. It was like always this like uncertainty and and and, you know, putting it out there will people buy it? Will people do things you know. Like will it resonate and fighting for any little bit of traction I could get in that little ecosystem before WordPress was really organized now launched like this is the first real thing I’ve launched in the WordPress that I’m putting my own name and reputation behind and to see. To see the community. Like, come out of the woodwork to support it, to and to support me and and but, but not just me, but like the idea, right. What we’re about, what I’m trying to do. It’s it’s. It’s something that can only happen in WordPress.
Yeah, but that also James is because of who you are too. And I mean that like I. I kind of looked at and say, you know, I’ve been doing this. Casting and when I started it I started 3 1/2 years ago because I was tired of bogging. I really was myself. I do it for clients and and by the way, chat CPT does them for clients, but we won’t we. Won’t go there and I I got tired. Of writing for myself and I said, you know what I know. Guys in the blogging space, guys like Bob Dunn, guys like Nathan Wrigley, guys like Matt Medeiros, all big podcasters, guys like Danny Brown. I’ve gone Danny for years. And I said I need to jump in this space. And I had. A lot of conversations and when the when the persons had conversations is who’s not really in the WordPress space, but in the marketing space. It’s a tech journalist can can there by name of Amber MacArthur if you know Amber. And we had some conversations. And Amber said to me, and you should do. It you should try it. I did 10 episodes. I did 20. I did 30, I did 100. I did 2. 100 as the time was recorded, I’ve published 329 episodes. As is this morning, so you kind of had it and I don’t wanted that. You see community support behind it. I mean I can go to many people up at automatic and say hey. Do you have time to jump on a 20 minute call? I’ve had one of my favorite guests up at automatic. It’s a ******** dev. The Gutenberg alley with his furniture. My friend Matthias son several times and.
Yeah, he’s wonderful. But you need to speak a little them speak.
I he came out to an event I was hosting last year at where Camp Europe and. He is so thoughtful and how he approaches you is. Like, I mean like. I was sitting across from him. Yeah, and. You wouldn’t know. He’s like the Gutenberg lead, right?
Because he doesn’t. He doesn’t have any air to him. That of of anything. He’s just this really humble guy, but really, really smart. Really, really good at just asking those probing questions and providing that next level of insight. For you that you. Ah, I wish I thought of that, or that’s a really great way to to phrase that, or to to to look at that.
No, it’s OK. I’m glad you’re going there because I was going to add the first time I interviewed with this. It was funny. I had him and Berg at Polly Hack on and Gutenberg times, and we all know Bergen in this community and. I had just moved to Gutenberg in the box from a traditional page builder, so we did like a coffee style chat where we broke down what I did and how I did and what I would suggest that people did and what people should. Wouldn’t you the one? That people shouldn’t do is don’t do it on a live site. It’s really. Painful process. You know, and and it’s just and and it was just said it was along that line. So it was just this amazing chat that I got off of. And I thought after we were on for over an hour and I thought, wow. Like, where did that go? And and we are lucky in this community like, you know, it’s it’s truly what keeps me doing what I do and probably what keeps you doing what you do it.
Definitely, definitely it is.
So where do you think? Team WP’s going to go, where would you?
Like to go. Well, like every good entrepreneur, my goal is to take over the world. That’s that’s what entrepreneurs do.
But really so like I’ve been thinking about this a lot because people are starting to ask and it’s the question of what is team. WP is always a question they. Ask how are you going? To make money out. Of this like. What? What is this thing? So I want to paint a picture for you because I think that that’s really helpful maybe for all. Of us just take. A quick look. At the landscape WordPress, what makes WordPress so amazing is that anyone, regardless of their background, regardless of what they they have or or have done. Can look at a problem and through code try to solve that in WordPress. They can distribute that freely. They can even sell it and make a living off of it.
And if they don’t like it?
Those that are.
And they can fork it.
Too, and fork it right. So you’ve got you’ve got this distributed landscape or this, this, this distributed world where people are able to do that. And so you have these ones and twos that turn into fives and 10s and 30s and. Whatever, all over the world. And because of that. You don’t have these these concentrations of of people to be able to think through things like culture and team and what it what it takes to run a. Company, we’re really. Good at building products. We’re so great at building companies. And that’s that’s not a knock on WordPress, that’s just a function of reality we. You’ve got developers, brilliant designers, brilliant product people that have just solved the the right problem at the right time. They’ve ended up with five support team, you know, five people on their support team, 10 people in the development team, three in their marketing team. And then like two or three OPS plus their senior leadership like like they just explodes like that. But what what often happens is, is those teen cultures get centered around doing the work. Right. And it becomes about what you do, not how you do it. So we’ve got limited focus on team development. We don’t have capacity like it’s hard for any team of 1520 thirty to justify a full time or a dedicated, you know, like people and culture person or team. On top of that, we don’t understand career progression and professional development in WordPress like oftentimes in WordPress, you land in a role and and and and what you’re just expect. The to do that role forever, right?
It’s so true because we don’t have.
And I just want to.
We don’t have any way of helping people move forward. I mean those are just some things, right? We’re in, we’re we’ve got. Team misalignment, ineffective collaboration. We get mad at each other easily. We don’t know how to talk to each other. We have a hard time attracting and retaining top talent because of the word press penalty, right, like. The the the. Compensation cost we’re or we’re 25 to 30%. And underpaid compared to colleagues in other parts of the of the ecosystem of the tech landscape. So how do we how do we actually compete there? Why do people choose WordPress? They choose WordPress because the culture because of community, because of what we offer in that way.
So we’re not actively, proactively taking steps to make that better.
Then we’re going to. Lose that talent. We’re going to lose those those great people that we all know and love to other places and spaces. So that’s why I think Team WP is important and where we’re. Going with it. We want to help like I was telling you earlier. I had this aha moment that. What team WP really like? Like ultimately I think it it it is, it’s about I mean the the mission, the vision is about creating open people first workplaces and WordPress, which is great marketing whereas and I’ve got lots of of thinking behind it but. I mean, it’s just about giving leaders. Chin to be the leaders they’ve always. Wanted to be.
Yeah, I agree. There’s a couple of things you touched on in there and we wanted to get to you were talking about professional development and I think the biggest problem with people in our ecosystem, their freelancers and agency owners, they’re always chasing the next best thing instead of hunting their skills and making them better. And you know, from listening to Brian a lot, Gardner again, he says what people need to do is take 10 to 15% of their time invested back in themselves, which I agree. I mean, I’m an avid reader. I’m an avid Tinker. Where you’ve heard me say, I think I’ve said to you, but it certainly said on this show I read a book a week. That’s a professional book, so that’s either our marketing or a WordPress centric book to try and keep my skills up. It’s something I do regularly. That’s the first thing. The other thing we need to do. And I think is our biggest problem is the culture of WordPress is amazing, but we need to stop selling WordPress as the. Solution and I really believe that so where I’m kind of going is what we should be selling is a content management system that’s easy for a client to update on their own, that kind of stuff. The only place I think where press should be sold as a solution is if you’re in a business like I am where I do security services. Obviously that’s WordPress centric, so you can’t get around it. But for clients sell the clients what they’re getting, you’re getting a website that’s easier to update. You can make update your text updates yourself, you don’t need to go eat, go to ADA. Of it’s good for SEO. It’s good to drive traffic which will drive sales. Those are the things clients care about. The average client doesn’t care that it’s WordPress under the hood. What are your thoughts?
Well, I don’t disagree. As a marketer, I can tell you, you know, you sell the outcome, you don’t sell the. Process so you know WordPress is the process by which most companies get to the outcome thereafter, whether that’s more client, more customers, right or more leads or whatever. You know more more donations. I mean, in the end, it usually comes down to money, right? More money. When we sell the outcome and WordPress is the process, but for those of us that are in that process piece that’s, that’s where I think there’s opportunity because even when you look at an agency or you look at who’s who’s selling that, they have to not just sell. The outcome they have to sell the team that’s going to deliver the outcome. And when you are a single freelancer, that’s a safe bet. Chances are you’re going to be there from the beginning to the end of the project when you’re an agency that’s growing, you’ve got five 10/15/20 people and you’ve got multiple projects and you’ve always got new start dates and new stop dates and new things going on. You’ve got that pressure. That intensity of work can be something that can either support your team, or it can detract from your team and and and burn them out right. And one of the things that you’ll see. Whether that’s through, you know, the team experience index results that that I’ve been working on or even just other surveys is that 25 to 30% is your average turnover per year in any agency, right? Because the pressure is there, Can you imagine? I just. I just want to throw. This out there if you’re. If you’re a client. You’re working on a project. And you’re told that 1/3 or 1/4 of the people that are assigned to work on your project aren’t going to be there by the time it finishes. And at some point in that process or multiple times in that process, you’re going to have to get everyone around the table. You’re going to have to remind them what the project scope is, retrain or wait for them to be brought up to speed. Right. All those delays, all those risks, all those. You know lost times or whatever like that all adds up and that becomes a risk factor for a client, right? Especially a larger client with larger projects with multiple touch points trying to decide on which kind of agency they’re going to go for, right? And if we don’t have teams that are pro actively investing that 10 to 15% like you mentioned back into themselves, back into their team and culture, right, and and you’ve got to make a choice, you’re going to pick the team that’s clearly focused on making sure their team is well served because a well served team is. Going to deliver better.
No, I I agree with that. I as you were saying that I was thinking back way back to about 1990 and I haven’t shared this with you, but I started my venture into the tech space as an old style cobalt programmer. There’s a word you don’t hear very much anymore.
And I was. And I was working for Allstate Life Insurance of Canada, so they they were subsidiary of Allstate US at the time. And that we’re working on a project to bring the life insurance system that drove all the sales, all the CRM, everything for the Canadian to break it away from the US giant in Chicago. And we had a team that had a turnover rate. Of 300% in a year and a half. It was there, yeah. And that focused, I hate to say it back to the Big L word called leadership. And you know, we we were talking about this before we went to record you and I. But how leadership is so important and how it’s just a skill that’s not just acquired, it’s. Earned and the percentage was at high and part of the problem on that project. Was nobody was investing time back in Toronto careers. They were just like code monkeys and they were just pounding away and they had an old school manager who didn’t believe in investing. And you know, that’s and that’s the way it went and and to be honest. People involved in projects need to learn something. They need to be challenged and they need to get time to invest back into themselves because those are the best employees, not the ones that you turn around and say, go do this project for 10 hours. That doesn’t work right.
I couldn’t ask for a better segue to one of the first things that we’ve done at Team WP, which is actually try to create a framework for leadership. I never thought I would be that person to go out and go. Here are my, you know, eight steps to being a leader, you know, like John John Maxwell has his five levels of leadership and then you’ve got. And sort of the the COG that Jim Collins produced and all these other people, I was like, no, you know, I have enough experience now and enough understanding of the WordPress ecosystem. Do it. I used to have what I call a radical tacos and radical tacos was the tacos, was an acronym, obviously, for a transparency account, accountable accountability, no transparency, authenticity, candor, ownership and signals that those were like my 5 leadership principles that I had for myself personally. And you, you know, you talk about about that. I it’s, it’s morphed into what I call the Open Team framework and it’s 8 principles. But one of the eight is continuous learning and it’s exactly what you talked about there, which is that and and it’s two sided right because it’s not just about professional development. It’s about an attitude we take to the work that we do. So you think about about how we approach problem solving, how we approach project delivery, especially like you think of marketing in particular, which is a very results driven area of any. If you run a campaign and that campaign does not achieve the results that you are expecting, what’s the first thing you feel most of the time, right? Let down fear is usually a second thing, because what happens if you’ve had a campaign that you’ve put time, money, effort into that doesn’t deliver the results, right? You’ve got to hold the bag on that right? That that sense of fear that you’re going to be held responsible or be accountable for it and lose your job. Right. So this idea of.
You might. You might even feel worthless inside sometimes.
Like I can’t do this. Like, why? Why didn’t it work? Continuous learning. It’s it’s part of that. Is that professional development of always reading always getting better, but it’s that that curiosity in the way we approach projects, the way we approach campaigns, the way we approach our work as well to say. Hey, failure is only failure if we fail. To learn right?
So rather than doing that, let’s let’s actually take this thing that didn’t give us the results that we were expecting. Let’s unpack that. Let’s see what can we learn from that? Oh, you know, when we started the campaign on a Thursday, when normally we start them on a Tuesday. So the momentum that we would normally. That from the week we lost cause we had a. Weekend in the middle. OK, there’s. A key learning let’s not do that, no. Time, right? And then we could.
We should run it for two weeks instead of one week to give the campaign and time. Maybe the the the year was better, or maybe the events going in the on in the world the impacted our campaign, right, that happens.
Think about how different your culture becomes. Your team environment becomes when you’re bringing learning to the table as opposed to bringing defeat or fear, right? Or, you know, accusations about who did what and who didn’t do this right. Like ohh. Goodness, it totally. I mean, building trust, building rapport, building new opportunities and and a willingness to take risks and be innovative in ways that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do anyway. Sorry I you you got me on a tangent talking about.
It’s OK because I’m gonna.
That kind of stuff.
Go on. I’m gonna go on this tangent one more cause I’m not done here. This is a a great conversation, so don’t be sorry and This is why the problem I have with today’s society. So here goes my tension is we can’t have.
OK, here we go.
We can’t have a cancel History Society, because if we cancel everything in the past. How do we learn to move forward into the future? How do we do that? We can’t, we. Have to recognize what we’ve done wrong in the past and make it better. And then we can move forward.
I think one of the things we have to be careful of in that I’m not and and I hear your point, but I want to just reflect a little bit back as well is that part of the challenge that we have is that what is history maybe for us is still raw real and present for others. Yes, and the lived experience that we have is very different and if we are celebrating somebody or venerating somebody creating statues for people and ways of working that we think because of our lived experience, our history, but are still the present and they’re very real experience of. Others. I don’t think that that’s right either. And finding that balance of learning right I think is important. So I I totally agree. We have to learn from our past what’s our past is still somebody’s present.
Yeah, I. And we have to. And we have to be a little bit more open minded and more accepting of other people’s viewpoints.
And so let’s.
And that’s so that’s my. That’s one of my biggest we were talking before we went to record my biggest pet peeves these days in businesses. You gotta you have to watch what you say so much. And why not just accept people and say he’s from a different culture? I understand my my partner’s Italian. OK, let’s tell you that. And you hear things about how people back in the old country because her parents grew up in Italy. And how they react differently because of what they learned. My mother’s family come from old Yugoslavia and my grandfather came over to Canada when Yugoslavia was still a communist country and before it was broken up into Serbia and Croatia. And you know all of that. And you can. And you got to understand the. Culture is so much a part of what people feel and how they react in WordPress or other things, and that’s what most people don’t get is culture is a big part of the solution.
I mean, we all bring our our lived experiences into every situation and we filter everything through that that lens and it can be really challenging as leaders as individual contributors as as company leaders. Unfilter yeah. Right or to put on somebody else’s filter, right. And try to jump into their shoes and see things through the lens that they’ve, they’ve got more we can do that. The better we’ll get, we have to be willing to accept that our lived experience is not the only experience out there. It’s another one of our principles in the Open Team framework.
It’s an inclusive culture.
And we, yeah. And we have to and we have to accept that. And I kind of said to you beforehand, I’ve got friends from all kinds of culture, all kinds of races. I’m lucky that way and you have to accept why their viewpoints are where they are, because a lot of cultural viewpoints is where have you come from? What happened in your past, what happened in your family past? Why did this happen? And that’s such a big impact.
No, what a segue. What else? Say you’re working on up for Team WP?
Well, TWP. You know like so. So that, I mean, you’ve heard a little bit of the passion and the enthusiasm for leadership, for team, for culture. So practically what does that look like? Over the last couple of months I’ve been running something called the Team Experience Index, which is or like super simply, it’s an employee engagement survey. The whole idea is to create a tool that any team, any employee from any team can participate in and contribute to this. The global view of what it’s like to work in WordPress, we don’t have that right. There are no companies that. Are targeting WordPress or the WordPress ecosystem specifically for any kind of data on the employee experience and we need it. We’re big enough now. It’s time for us to start having that data set and and and so that’s where the team experience index came out of. I’ve got a. Version of it that I call culture compass, which is like a a tailored version. So if you’re a company that doesn’t want to do the full team experience index, but you wanna do your own version with maybe your own questions or just pick and choose some, you can do. Got what’s really great though. Now we’ve actually got the team experience index data as a benchmark, so I’m working with one. I’m working with one plug-in company right now where they’ve just they’ve just completed it. They they actually got 100% of their team to fill this in, which is so crazy we can actually benchmark and see how their.
Teams results compare to the General WordPress ecosystem and it’s just it’s fantastic because it gives new insights to a team and new. And a better understanding maybe of where they should be focusing effort and energy. So we’ve got that. The other really cool thing that I’m I’m I’m trying to get off the ground is this idea of certification. We don’t have any kind of certification in the WordPress ecosystem that would let. A candidate who’s looking for a job or somebody who’s looking for a job in WordPress to know whether companies are are good culture places to go or or, you know, invested in team and. And so if we can actually create a certification process that. Enables that. Then you know, I think that would be really great for the ecosystem as a whole for you know, HR recruiters that are in these companies trying to find the best talent. If you have to pick between. You have to pick between you know, company A and Company B. The salary is the same. The work is the same, but the difference is that one team has an emphasis and a focus on on you know team and culture and one does. And like that’s going to be the deciding factor. And in fact, you could probably end up with a lower pay, same role. But because of that, team and culture thing, not that I’m advocating that by the way. But, you know, reality is that’s that’s often what what wins for people is that team and culture look. So yeah, open Team certification is is what it’s called and trying to. Invite teams to to be willing to participate in, and especially and just really start this conversation around leadership and the language of leadership and how we do. But I got lots of ideas of different ways to support teams. You can bring me in if you want. It’s a fractional team of people. Guy happy to do that. It’s sort of the whole team WP landscape right now.
The certification is such a cool one, there’s a couple other initiatives in this space going on.
There’s the folks over at the VP connects which works with the military. Alicia and her group. I know there’s. I know there’s been discussion with people like Courtney Robertson. They’re involved in some of that certification stuff behind the scenes. I think the Community has kind of deemed do we need it now or yesterday and?
Yeah, it has.
To be done the right way and the reason I say that is. I think back. To my days of writing Microsoft Certs and I think back to the days of. We had a a guy in house when I worked at Women’s College Hospital and he was a novel, so there’s a name from the past certified network engineer and my colleague and I, my colleague Dave, who I consider smarter than me and I don’t consider myself a dummy by any means. Praying this guy who was a novel, see and how to do his job. I actually wrote my novel exam on training this guy. Believe it or not, so so the point I’m trying to make is we gotta make sure these certifications are practical, not just paper certs. We we all know the joke about the lawyer who writes the bar exam. He knows more today, writes the bar exam and then forgets 90% of it. 5 minutes later, right. And we gotta make sure our certifications mean something, not just to write the exam, not just for resume, but long term. And that’s always my concern with the whole certification stuff. And that’s coming from the guy who’s. But two professional dipol 2 diplomas. I don’t have a degree, but I have 15 certifications after my name. If I choose to put them there and I’m saying that so.
Well, that’s the thing, right? Like we can certify individuals, but you know, there are organizations out there that certify companies and that’s where where that’s the space I’m. What I’m looking? At is how do you how do you help? A company. Take that, that that pivot right or that that one degree shift to to add some emphasis on to their their team and culture and make choices and and decisions that actually impact people for better. Here’s the really cool thing. Because in WordPress it’s all connected right? Even though we all work in in individual teams with individual, you know, revenue lines and and all of that kind of stuff. We’re all connected by the fact that we’re building in and around this WordPress platform. And so we get together and we talk, we hang out, right, we call that community. And when we develop these practices around how to talk to each other, how to be a better team, how to be better leaders, how to coordinate? How to build? And collaborate better. When we are doing that in our in our little sort of isolated teams and then we come together for the WordPress project, those practices, those best practices, those ways of working, those healthy systems become the default for how we interact with each other in the Community. Imagine what that does to a release cycle when the whole release team is implementing these things from a place of shared language or shared understanding or shared knowledge. Ohh man like I I just I I can’t imagine how different the tone would be in our interactions on Twitter. If rather than jumping on somebody for something they’ve said right without any contacts or understanding and with only 240 characters to work from and said, hey, I hear what you’re saying, I don’t understand where you’re coming from. Help me understand it so that I. Can support or or whatever, right? Or or. Provide a comment on this. I mean it just changes the way we talk to each other. I’d love to see.
Communication is one of the biggest problems out there, whether it’s the WordPress ecosystem or any others. People haven’t learned a how to. Actively listen to people. That’s a big one. But you can’t. Excuse me? You can’t communicate if you don’t. And I was having a discussion one day with Anne McCarthy, and I don’t know. And so like, one of the project leaders up with automatic, she’s been involved in the release team for a number of years. And I know Anderson on Twitter and I kind of understand why sometimes with all the crap that goes on.
And and I’ll tell you, I will say this every time and is one of the most approachable people. I put on a Mac. If you want to know something, if you wanna know what’s going on with the rules, are you gonna just reach out and sucking ends got all the time in the world of us. The problem is she’s chosen, I think, and I could be wrong. So you know, I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but she’s chosen to stay away from Twitter. And I think some of it’s just abandoned it. And sometimes instead of trying to be constructive, it turns into be a complaint session all day. And that and. That doesn’t get the community anywhere that doesn’t get you anywhere or me anywhere. Anybody else?
We’re we’re all passionate and we’re yes. We’re, you know. And and and consider, you know, like we have to consider both sides. I get it right. The release leads have things that they’ve got to accomplish they’ve got. All these differing perspectives and views that they have to balance and manage, and then they have to think about what’s best for the project and and what the sort of laid out direction is of where they want to go. But you’ve also got to consider the the perspective of all of those business owners who are trying to earn a living not just for themselves, but for other people. They feel the pressure of delivering for those people right and making sure that, you know, payroll is going to get met next next week and we’ve got runway for more than. Month, right. Like all of those, those pressures that. The business owners live under that reduces their. Their ability to slow down reduces their ability to to stop a little bit right because of they’ve got very serious things to me and that can often drive the motion I used to have this when I worked out in bottom all the time, you know, like we’ve got to recognize that while as an organization that anvato we are able to go slower. We are able to take our time because we know we’ve got a paycheck coming at the end of the next couple of weeks. We know we’ve got revenue coming in and we’ve got that runway mapped. But for all of the the business owners that are using the platform, they don’t have that visibility. They don’t have that same degree of certainty. And every decision we make impacts them differently and it lands differently.
And it’s one of the things, one of the reasons why I have so much compassion and empathy for Josefa and Matt Mullenweg and and senior leaders in WordPress. After my experience at at Invada. Get it right. I get the the balance, the tension. Right. You have to just live with it. Be OK with it.
I do too. So I want. To jump into something else, you just had the pleasure of speaking at Word Camp, Buffalo.
A couple weeks ago and congratulations for doing that, it’s a big step for anybody stepping into that speaking realm. It takes a lot of work. Most of us know I always joke that in our talk I did one in February that an hour talk podcamp Toronto and that took me like hours to prepare. By the time I got over the sides and done all the work and put all the research in and did. What I wanted, how was the? And would you do it again?
Oh, I will be my own worst critic because I will. Talk about how I read more than I looked at people, how I was too long in some of my sections, right, all those kinds of little things that that I will nitpick I. I mean, it was so nice to talk to a live audience like the week before. I I did a talk presentation for the web Agency summit, which is virtual. You’re literally looking into a camera. You you don’t. You don’t have any audience feedback. There’s no little chat screen that’s, you know, like. On TikTok. Where you can have that live sort of connection to people. Nothing, right. So it is just you and your jokes and whether they land or not, you don’t know because it’s all. All dead. So like the switch to to being in Buffalo and to being able to look people in the eye and watch people. Nod was kind of cool. Like it was. It was good. One person after came up and told me that they had like it was so meaty for them as far as the content that they live tweeted the whole thing and we’re like, you know, randomly quoting. I was like.
Ohh that’s great.
Because I completely forgot that I had wanted to have all my own live tweets pre scheduled and like little quotes like you talked about. The work that you put into these things, Rich Tabor, is my idol when it comes to work here talking because he just nails it every time.
Ohh no question question.
But the amount of effort it takes and to do all that plus all the other things. It’s intense, but I enjoyed it. I I love the conversations like I got to meet some some folks down there, great people I met some. The folks from PMP, Jason Coleman and Chris Badgett, so that was cool from Lyft LMS, lovely, lovely folks.
I met Cesar from the project management team at at automatic, who’s based in London ON so. That was kind of cool, a little Canadian connection and then. Malcolm penalty from Kingston was there as well, so he was, I mean he was great. He just was like.
So excited, his wife came down and the talk. She loved it because she’s doing a lot of culture and teamwork in her role, which is outside of the WordPress ecosystem. So yeah, no. It’s just it’s like all these things. It’s it’s fun and you know, it was my first time. It was my first time speaking at a work camp. I don’t know if people realize that even though I’ve been in this ecosystem and. Worked for these major. Companies, when I was working at Ivato, Vito’s Band from participating and WordPress events because of their stance on the GPU, which is totally fine. But it meant when I went there, I couldn’t. I couldn’t present, couldn’t speak, and then the pandemic hit and there. Were no events. So I couldn’t go to anything right and and do anything. And then last year I chose I was between roles when. When the call for speakers sort of ended so I didn’t get any pitches. And then this year, funnily enough, I I pitched for work camp Europe and I pitched for work Camp Buffalo and work camp. Europe was the first the first work camp that I was ever approved to speak at, so I got that and was like having my own personal heart attack. What they don’t tell you the. Secret is, they tell. You you can’t tell anyone, Can you imagine? Being told that you’re speaking at work camp here and then not being able to tell anyone it was like, oh, it was.
If you want to tell everybody. And and you.
You wanna tell everyone?
Should the crowd.
Yeah, it’s. And then and then like? Literally a few days later I got. The approval for. Where Camp Buffalo, which happened earlier so I. I don’t know. I’m excited. It was. It was great. It was. It’s a good way to sort of break the ice of speaking at where camps was to do where camp Buffalo. And now I’m ready. I think. I hope fingers crossed for work camp Europe.
Yeah, congratulations. Well done. And Malcolm was sitting in the front row, wasn’t he? And he’s seen.
It was, yeah.
Yeah, I and he was tweeting about it, and he seemed to really enjoy your. Your talk.
I’ll what I’ll tell you is I’m like that when I speak, I find I am hard on myself as somebody I can remember. For the first time in my life, my partner decided to go to my talk at Podcamp and she said your talk was amazing. I said yeah, but I can find 10 things. That shouldn’t have happened. And she’s like. Say those 10 things and I said yeah, you. Were given the talk, yeah.
Exactly, you know.
And and we all roll.
That way, and it’s just. Just like so, you gotta you gotta kind of. I think we’re our own worst critics, honestly. And what I would do is anybody who wants to do a talk like get out there, get.
Get to a.
Smaller work camp get to a fight. Ship work. Camp because I really think we need some new blood with some of these speakers. We don’t need the same old speaker every year. All year. Yeah, there’s some big players in this space. I get it. But we need new blood in some of these stocks and that helps our community grow.
I’m excited. It’s it’s weird to consider to, to think of myself as new blood. Considering how long I’ve been in the ecosystem, but I guess for the circuit if you will, it’s new blood.
I haven’t done. It’s interesting because I’ve been in the worst camp space. I think I’ve done more word camp talk. Most of my talks have been either. At Pod Camp or industry? Marketing conventions or stuff like that, it’s it’s really interesting.
So even though I’m known.
In this space, I haven’t done that many. Talk and frankly. The flight ship work camps don’t seem to align with my vacation schedule in it. You know, it’s an old work life balance problem, right?
Work life balance. That’s it.
James, this has been an absolute awesome chat this morning. Thank you. And if somebody wants to get a hold of you to talk about total WP speaking or anything else, where’s the best place to find you?
And you can hang out teamw-p.co or find me on Twitter. It’s just at James Giroux. That’s my handle pretty well everywhere. And I am very open to conversations.
Thanks, James. Have a wonderful and amazing day, my friend.