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Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This. As a reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @wpdavidv, and you can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode I’m going to be speaking to someone who also supports the community through her role at WP Engine and she’s going to be talking to us about how women can thrive with WordPress and technology. Joining us for this conversation. I would like to welcome Sam Munoz. Sam, Welcome.
Sam Munoz: Hello thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to talk about women and WordPress and tech and all of those things.
DV: Excellent, excellent. So for those listening I’m here with Sam, Sam works at WP Engine. She’s also the host of her own popular podcast called Making Website Magic. And what Sam is going to share today are her thoughts on what the history of women’s roles and technology can teach us the opportunity of web development for women seeking careers and technology and the role of WordPress in supporting that journey. So really excited to have this conversation with you here, Sam. And we’ll go ahead and kick it off with the same question I asked every guest Did you briefly tell me your WordPress origin story?
SM: Yeah, so back in 2014 I think is when I really got into WordPress I think I kind of dabbled in it every now and then before that but I started a blog with my cousin’s about crafting and we decided to do it on WordPress and learned all of the things you know hosting setup, how to set up a theme and all of those kinds of things. And it was interesting because I really really really enjoyed the blogging part of it and the you know, how do we make our site look and all of that very much less the crafting. And so, later after that, I started another blog about children’s books and then I started another thing and it just like, What would turned out to be the through line of all of that was, oh, I actually just really liked building websites in WordPress. And so I was working as a software developer at a bioinformatics company and I found out that my job was kind of precarious. And probably going to be lost soon. And I decided to take matters into my own hands if you will, and started a freelance WordPress business. And that was in January of 2018. And I just kept going for almost five years and yeah, that’s that was WordPress, right. So I started really just in the blogging space and very much decided it was about the websites that I really enjoyed the tech stuff, the plugins, the themes, the development part of it that I enjoyed most.
DV: Well, that’s fantastic. You know, we’ve had a few guests over the years with similar origin stories, you know, being in technology, but not necessarily in quote, web development, getting into blogging and your sounds really unique. I think the most important question I have for you I think this whole interview was, did you call the crafting blog like the cousin cousin crafting corner?
SM: It was DIY Just Cuz. I was kind of proud of that
DM: Oh you did get the cousin in there! Yeah. Oh, awesome. Awesome. That’s clever. So okay, so you’re getting it in 2014. You have the software development background. You start making these blogs and realize you really enjoy the kind of crafting of the site. Part and decide to ultimately make a career. So help me understand what you’re doing and WP Engine like what do you do there? Yeah, so
SM: I’m the community manager for the developer relations team. And this is a brand new position within the company and also new for me too, so I’m kind of crafting it as I go. But the developer relations team really is about connecting with people who use the tools and advocating and having conversations you know, supplying support and answering questions and really just cultivating a community around WordPress, which is exciting because that’s something that is really natural for me anyway, it’s something that I’ve been doing specifically centering women in the podcasts that you mentioned. And so I’m really excited about kind of sinking my teeth into the WordPress community more at large and having a you know, broader impact there through WP Engine.
DV: Excellent. That’s great to hear you know, when I joined WP Engine, I was part of the WordPress community. I was running a WordPress agency prior to that, but not really like dug in and really contributed in big ways and it’s been a really amplifier for me in that area. I hope it is as well for you. You mentioned your podcast that’s making website magic. Could you briefly tell us a little bit about that?
SM: Yeah, so the podcast I co host it with my awesome co founder of making website magic her name’s Karen and we talk about more of like the business and sales side of running a web design and development freelance business specifically, again centering women web designers, and developers. So you know, we have a community of people that we pull a lot of content from and we’re talking about things like you know, feeling like a people pleaser, being too pushy, raising your prices, things that a lot of people can connect to and relate to, but we’re really really taking it from the perspective of being a woman in a more male dominated space. And it’s it’s been fun to have conversations with people who listen to the podcast and hear them say, oh my gosh, I applied this tactic and all of a sudden, you know, I’m booking more calls with people, I’m booking more projects. I’m feeling more confident in my work and that kind of stuff makes me feel so excited. So yeah, that’s what the podcast is about.
DV: That sounds so fantastic. I didn’t get a chance to fully listen to episodes yet, but it’s on my list. You bet. Yes. So let’s kind of go more into the topic. We kind of wanted to focus around here today, which is how women can thrive with WordPress. But I’m kind of curious, like what what you feel the history of women in technology might be able to teach us about how we should support women in technology in the future.
SM: Yeah, so this is really exciting. When I went to college I went to a really small STEM school called Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California in our class was like the first class that had more women than men. I think we’re like 50%. And I attended this event, like Grace Hopper Celebration of women and computing, I think is what it’s called. And learned about so many women in the space and you know, there’s like at a Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Anita Borg, and another one that’s really inspirational to me is Katherine Johnson. She’s more on like the NASA side, but women have been a part of technology from the beginning. And so it makes sense to continue to perpetuate that in modern society, if you will. And I just think that the more we can remember that the roots also included women, the more we can pull that in, you know, on in the in the daily, that makes sense.
DV: So you feel like the significant contributions of women and technology in the past is a lesson to learn about the future. And the more it seems like the more women’s brains we have working at these interesting problems, the more contribution we have to solving them. Whenever you think about the challenges of the past, though, what should that teach us about the future?
SM: Yeah, I mean to your point, I think that it’s really important to remember that it’s not only just about different genders, but in general, having diverse viewpoints. On solving problems is powerful because everyone brings in a different perspective. And because of that, we will solve problems more efficiently. We’ll see blind spots more regularly. And I think that that’s really important. I think that this is really hard, because when it comes to women in web design and development or in tech, it feels like it’s hard to crack in or there’s a perception that it’s hard to crack in and get your first you know, your first footing. And so I just feel like that’s the it’s not so much gatekeeping if you will, but it’s more just like lowering the barrier to entry to allow more women in this space. I think would be beneficial in general.
DV: So like, I guess there’s the obvious, right, sexual discrimination and like, being kind of overtly bringing women down as a lesson to not do for the future, certainly. But then you’re kind of also pointing out that like there’s entrance paths are important. And as we think of the past, there’s perceived difficulty in getting in but then there’s real difficulty in getting in. And so, it sounds like you might be implying that a lesson for the future is to provide more of those paths and to provide support for those individuals. Making a leap into an area they might not feel comfortable.
SM: Totally. And I think that that can happen both from like the hiring process and then also the retention right, so getting women in the door is amazing and then also making them feel safe to share their opinions and you know, have internal things that are lifting them up so that they actually stay.
DV: I want to talk a little bit later about the how organizations can focus in those areas. But you kind of brought up an interesting point around making women and people of all genders feel welcome. And, you know, technology. Communities can kind of ebb and flow and how good they are that WordPress included. And so I want to kind of talk to you about that side of it for a minute. We’re going to take our first break, and we’ll be right back.
DV: Everyone welcome back to press this the WordPress community podcast on wMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl. I’m talking with Sam Munoz, about how women can thrive with WordPress cm right before the break you were talking a little bit about some of the elements of how the history of women in technology can teach us about the future. The notion of the kind of amplifying effect of having lots of different viewpoints, solving problems, the contributions of women in the past and then also some of the challenges and one of the key challenges you talked about was this entry pass which we’re gonna get to here in a bit. And I want to get to get back to the feeling welcome part. Do you think you know, what are there a lot of digital and in person communities and WordPress? What could those communities or technology communities at large do to make women feel welcomed and supportive?
SM: I think that it’s both creating a space where they feel seen, but then also having women and again, diverse voices in general leading conversations. I think that that there’s there are times when I like you know, see a conference, for example, and you see like the speaker’s list and it feels very one sided, if you will one perspective, just you know, perception wise, and so having more women actually in leadership in speaking positions in hosting positions for different things, I think, is another way to make them feel welcome beyond just saying like, hey, there’s a bunch of women here. Does that make sense?
DV: It does it’s that notion of representation. And it makes acute sense to me because I interviewed Mike Liddell and Anita Carter, and Sandy Jackson, about the contributions and challenges of black community and WordPress. And that was something they brought up as well. And it was this notion that if you did not see someone that you felt you identified with in a more material way, that it almost created this feeling of not feeling welcomed for you, even if the people in attendance, you know, didn’t have that intent. And I don’t know if that’s that’s similar to what you’re saying, but it did resonate with me from that prior interview.
SM: Yeah. Can I say something else about that, actually, please. So I think that what’s really, really important and this is a personal personal viewpoint, is I never want to be hired because I’m a woman, right? I don’t want to be hired for perception or for some quota. I want to be hired because I’m awesome. I want to be, you know, invited into a company because I’m great at what I do. I want to be, you know, booked by a client because they respect my expertise. And I also happen to be a woman. And so it’s really about like, casting like a wide enough net. So that you actually have diverse people applying for things and then you can still, you know, hire based off the best talent but then you have a diverse range of people to choose from.
DV: And you’re queuing in on a really important point here, which is that as words consider how to have more diverse representation that tokenization is something that they should consider avoiding, and rather to cast the wide net of candidates. Are you pulling from the right or from a diverse set of pools of speakers? Are you broadcasting and promoting to diverse audiences to attract new speakers? These are the kinds of things you mean by casting a wide net. I don’t know if that’s true, or if you have other ideas, but what do you think on that scene?
SM: That’s absolutely what I’m saying reach more people so that more people have the opportunity to sit to raise their hand. Because if we continue to just you know, target one specific group, then that’s that’s all that will come. And again, this this applies across the board speakers, hiring, running your own business. And I think yeah, the more we can allow just to spread our arms wide and the right people will come and it’ll be great because then we’ll have all sorts of people in our will represent the world at large.
DV: I can attest to that strategy, being very successful at delivering good content and work and kind of upgrade success casting the wider net. Now, I think when you cast the wider net, you know, there’s also that kind of aspect of like, okay, well how do we how do we get more women involved and contributing and technology and I’m just curious, as we think about you kind of talked about providing those avenues by providing support. Do you think that web design and development represent a unique opportunity for women, women wanting to learn technology and if so, do you think WordPress helps in some unique way?
SM: I think it does. I think it does contribute to women, being able to again, kind of just like get that entry point because it feels very accessible in the sense that like, you can go online and learn how to do this right? You can go take free classes. There are so many opportunities. There’s so many mentors, that especially women mentors, emerging in tech, which is awesome, too, because nothing feels better than I’ve been feeling like this person like I can, they can grab my hand and help me through in the learning process. And then when it comes to WordPress in particular, the especially the way WordPress is moving, there are so many ways to to learn and what I mean by the way WordPress is moving is things like block editor, full site editing, etc. That makes it again feel a little bit more accessible to get your feet wet. And then if you want to get into the deeper code stuff, if you want to do you know plugin development, if you want to do theme development, all of that and really dig into the code you can but it gives you an entry point. And then you can go deeper from there and I just I love that. And again, that applies across the board, not just women in particular, anyone that wants to get into the web design and development space. I actually think that WordPress isn’t such a fabulous way to just get started.
DV: You know, Sam, this is the 245 episode of this podcast I’ve done took it over from Yoast a number of years ago. And I’ve heard so many origin stories over the years. And you’re right about that entry point even thinking about your own story and how you said that you were in software development you were in technology. But blogging is what got you interested. Well of course someone with a non technology background can also get into these types of activities in WordPress and you really kind of painted that journey well that folks take which is I’m doing something for fun or interest or whatever it was. And then I realized I like doing that thing. Just the message I was trying to get out. And then fundamentally turning that into your career. I mean, it definitely resonates for me, is that something you discover a lot with folks you speak with on your podcast or otherwise?
SM: Yes, absolutely. And it’s very much that I think that the biggest thing that I hear is I solve problems for people in my life. And because of that, I realized hey, I’m actually really good at this thing. And so I decided to make it into business. Like everybody comes from me when or comes to me when they need help with X thing. And therefore, I’ve turned it into a business so it’s both like from a passion place, but then also from like, this is just what I naturally gravitate towards. This is a strength. And I’m gonna go with the flow, if you will.
DV: Yeah, I really liked how you also called out that mentorship part earlier and I’m glad to see it getting stronger. I have certainly friends who’ve benefited from that over the years, including someone named Ray Hoffman, who was really that no technology job at all was in a very difficult spot in your life. She’s talked about this publicly. So I’m not like revealing new stuff. But she found some forums, people who were building it optimizing sites and she got learning and was able to make a very successful career out of it. And so I’m not sure if she used WordPress for that in the very beginning, but she was very, very technical. And so it does feel like it provides a unique path. Do you feel like that mentorship side is maybe a little stronger in WordPress, I’ve hung out in various technology communities over the years and I do feel like WordPress is really good about that side.
SM: Well, I do think that it’s like in the nature of WordPress. Being open source and just the way that it is it fosters community, right? We’re building something together. And so there is a natural relationship building that happens. And I think mentorship is just one component of that. That makes it feel very like anybody’s welcome here at WordPress.
DV: So you know, sometimes though, in these communities and there was even some tweets about this the day before our recording about and some people being less than friendly to women in some Facebook groups. What how should community managers think about that when it occurs? And then we’ll go into our next break.
SM: That is such a good question. I was also saying similar things out there. And I think that it’s really just like a matter of reminding people that what we’re doing is something that everybody has access to. There is no one group that owns WordPress, we all do.
DV: That’s an excellent way of thinking about it and so true, and you look at all the various people that contribute and WordPress events and I think WordPress has made great strides in supporting gender diversity and in diversity writ large, and I think there’s still more work to do and so I want to kind of bridge now into like the work to do part and maybe it’s community organizers, but I’m thinking maybe more folks running companies or teams and thinking generally about gender diversity and how you might think about approaching that, but we’re gonna take our last break and we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on WMR. We’re interviewing Sam Munoz about how women can thrive with WordPress Sam right before the break, we were talking a little bit about how web design and development WordPress in particular can be a very meaningful start for women in learning technology and starting technology careers. We kind of talked a little bit about the strength of the community but I kind of want to now shift back to what organizations can do. And so specifically, how should organizations think about their strategy for either attracting more women engineers to their teams, but also developing that talent from within? What what can folks be doing to drive towards these outcomes?
SM: I love this question. Because this really is at the heart of one of my like personal missions, which is seeing women not only enter but stay in the space. That’s the that’s the keys stay in this space and grow. And I think that it’s things like seeing women and noticing their skills and their talents. And for thinking let’s take it from two perspectives. So we’re thinking about pulling people in again, we mentioned this earlier on the podcast casting a wide enough net where you have talent across the board, paying women well, whether it be you know as a company, hiring people, or if you are a client hiring a woman Freelancer paying her well, because if we can’t sustain ourselves financially, we can’t stay in this space period. And then when it comes to retention, creating internal spaces where women can be themselves and also, I want you you said essentially like educating from within. I think like, again, seeing if anyone in an organization has an interest in developing skills and noticing those strengths and then allowing them to cultivate them. I don’t even think that that’s like a gender specific thing. I think just like managers seeing like, wow, this person not only is like great at their core job, but they actually have all these other strengths. How can we build more into that and allowing them to, you know, raise themselves in the ranks, if you will? I think that that’s really valuable. And I think that that’s something that just could be helpful in general is having people who have people under them just noticing noticing where they’re thriving and where they’re doing well and then also listening for you know, the areas where they’re like, Hey, I’m nervous. I’m scared I’m fearful in these spaces.
DV: Yeah, that seeing noticing isn’t the same sentence but you’re later said and listening, I think really stand out to me and then even thinking about my own professional development, gauging engagements with women I’ve had on my team in the past that listening part is so critical, and I definitely identify technical talent just by asking the question, it’s such an important part of it. Obviously, hitting on the casting a wide net again, super important there. And then I like to you kind of underpinned the kind of paying women well and pay equity part. I think that’s a part. A lot of folks don’t really think about too much. And, you know, we often are hiring managers missing. It’s worked at WP Engine, we have a very balanced and fair pay structure, but oftentimes what will happen is folks will say like, Well, what did you earn in your last job and then make it a little bit better? For the new offer? And you can even be inheriting pay equity issues from prior employers like that. So it’s very important thing to keep an eye on is that around the area, what you were suggesting there?
SM: Absolutely. And I do want to say also in terms of like taking personal accountability for advocating for ourselves. So if you’re a woman, web designer, developer listening to this, it’s really you know, how can I make sure that I know my strengths, feel confident in my own skills so that when I go into, you know, the opportunity to have a new position, or if I’m talking to a potential client, I know the value that I provide, and I can make sure that I’m being paid accordingly. There is a level of you know, self advocacy that has to be involved in that too. And again, like spaces can make that can make that feel more safe to do and we can also grow in our own confidence to go in there and say, yep, I am worth this. And I won’t take anything less than that.
DV: That’s very sound advice. I think the most rampid business problem in freelancing is undercharging definitely can see where if you were kind of getting overconfidence. issues. That would be more acute. I really appreciate you kind of sharing that perspective on that. This has been incredibly, incredibly illuminating for me. And I think also our listeners. Yeah, this was awesome. Thank you.
SM: Thank you so much for having me. I so appreciate it. It was a wonderful conversation.
DV: Of course, of course we’ll have to have you back and good luck on your new job and helping to drive WordPress forward. And if you’d like to learn more about what Sam is up to, you can visit makingwebsitemagic.com to check out her podcast. And of course you can check her out on Twitter at HelloSamMunoz . Thanks everyone for listening to press this the WordPress community podcast on WMR. Again, this has been your host David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.