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One Year At WebDevStudios

Russell Aaron Speaking at WordCamp San Diego

It’s officially been one year since I started at (WDS) & If you’ve been following my Role Model series, you know WDS was the missing piece to the puzzle. It’s funny how you can take a journey down a path you didn’t even know existed. When I started working at WDS, I assumed I would be doing very basic maintenance and support. The kind of things you would see at a WordPress Meetup. Little did I know I was diving into more than I could chew.

Before I started working at WDS I was pretty proficient with WordPress. I could do all of the common stuff and I knew how to update DNS settings, etc. I have used GitHub a few times and felt like I had a pretty good grasp on things. That all changed when I started connecting my computer to the WDS platform.

My first day at WDS consisted of learning how the flow works. I was reviewing tickets, spreadsheets, client information and work-related policies. I shadowed one of the senior support technicians to get a better grasp of the daily rituals and routines. I rolled up my sleeves and dive in head-first.

The funny thing about WordPress support is coming across something new every day. As I mentioned earlier I felt comfortable with my WordPress skills. The first ticket that came in had to do with pushing updates. I logged into the client’s site and ran the WordPress updates as I normally did. Only to find out an hour later that I updated the client’s plugins in the wrong manner. This site was hooked up to a git repository and needed to be updated locally first and then push my changes to staging and development.

I knew at that exact moment I needed to get better with understanding workflows and routines.

Lerning Curves

The funny thing about WordPress is every WordPress site is 100% unique. Even though we are all using Wordpress to essentially do the same thing there are many different ways to go about accomplishing the task at hand. One of the hardest things to do includes figuring out how a client’s website is set up.

Sure they might be using a familiar plugin that you are proficient with but there might be additional settings you need to seek out in order to fully understand what is going on. One of the biggest struggles I currently have with WordPress involves hooks. Better known as actions and filters. A WordPress site could be using a standard WordPress plugin to do something very simple like adding social media sharing buttons to the bottom of every post.

Most of our clients have additional plugins that use actions and filters to manipulate the data and do something else. It’s one of those situations where you need to be fully comfortable with the client site before you can actually do any work.

To say the least, even the most advanced WordPress developer still needs that small discovery time with each WordPress site in order to get familiar. That’s one lesson I have learned in my one year of working at WebDevStudios.

Previous Working Relationships

I’ve worked for companies that have a yearly retreat. Most companies require that an employee works for a specific period of time before they are invited to these retreats. With WDS that was not the case. WDS makes you feel like you have been working for the company since their Inception. It’s almost as if I have been working here my entire life. They have very high standards and expect you to meet those standards on a daily basis.

At the same time, you can be a complete newbie to working in a corporate WordPress environment and it is okay if you do not know how to do something. The staff is full of talented Developers who are willing to teach you everything you need to know in order to do your job.

I come from a world of corporate sales. When you are in the sales industry you are kind of a lone wolf. If you are brand new nobody is going to teach you how to do your job. You have to figure out everything on your own. That is how you stay on top of the sales leader board. If you discover a new method and you are the highest earner for the quarter you do not share your secret blend of herbs and spices.

That is totally not the case with WDS. There have been many situations where I have needed to learn how to do a specific task. I reached out to my senior developers and they scheduled out some time to specifically teach me everything I need to know. Maybe that is just the open source community working at its finest.

I truly think WDS is a company that promotes teaching from within. As long as you have the core fundamentals in place you can obtain new information to be successful. There are some things in the WordPress ecosystem that you cannot keep. Do you have to roll up your sleeve and start building your own website. Once you figure out the core fundamentals of WordPress learning becomes so much easier. With WDS learning how to WordPress becomes more of a game instead of a chore.

We’ll leave the light on for you

I mentioned earlier that WebDevStudios makes you feel like you have been working there for a long time. The best part about working at WDS is the human resources department. It is made up completely of one person. Her name is April Williams. She is the best. Whenever I need to do something like update my direct deposit or change my insurance policy April has all of the answers. If she does not have the answers she will find them and get back to you by the end of the day.

The best example I can give of her devotion to human resources comes from a recent discovery that we are going to have a child. We found out on April 3rd 2017 that we are going to be proud parents. I immediately began to panic. I didn’t know the first thing to do other than think of a name for the baby.

The good news is most of the WDS staff are parents. We have an entire slack channel devoted to WDS parents. I jumped in the channel and started asking questions. Luckily for me Brad and April Williams recently had a child of their own and they have been through all of this already. April was more than willing to help me add my girlfriend to my insurance. She was added to my insurance in under 24 hours.

I don’t know if you have ever had insurance through a company, but usually, that task can take up to 30 days. I’m not saying that my situation will be the same for every employee, but I’m willing to say that it will be very similar.

You have a voice, use it

One of the best parts about working at WDS is taking all of the information that you have learned and creating your own products. I come up with new plugin ideas all the time. When I come up with a theory or some kind of proof of concept I can literally paste my GitHub link into a slack Channel and have the entire company review my work. Immediately you’ll get congratulations and comments on how you can improve your code. If you are concept fits into one of their plugins, they will roll your code into theirs and you immediately become a contributor to that plugin.

Our company recently created a plugin four WordPress maintenance. They already had this plugin and we kind of revamped it to meet the demands of WordPress support. However, I did have an idea to include a feature where you could leave notes about a specific plugin. This way anybody who has administrative privileges to the WordPress website will know not to update a plug-in or to check some settings out upon updating this plugin.

I had the idea and I talked to one of the senior Developers and within 48 Hours he had a working concept. We demonstrated the working concept to the company and we immediately decided that it should be rolled into the new WordPress maintenance plugin.

This is just proof that WDS listens to all of their employees and are willing to put the time and effort into making all of their products better. Most corporate companies have a structure in place where a number of higher-ups have to approve before change can happen. At WDS one person needs to review your code and your dream can become a reality.

I’m very proud to say that I work at WDS and my first year has been Simply Amazing. I look forward to many years to come.

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