Giving Back – Professionally

I get asked all the time, “Why do you mentor with Canada Learning Code, and why do you present at WordCamps? Why do you want to instruct CLC workshops? Aren’t you busy enough?”

Yes, I’m busy. However, I strongly believe in digital literacy, and the importance of coding. No, people don’t need to make a career shift. However, understanding the technology behind what you see on the internet, will allow for people, no matter what their chosen job is, to become more fully rounded.

I’ve mentored with CLC’s Ottawa chapter for the past three years and will begin instructing in 2019. I chose CLC, because they target groups who are unrepresented in tech – which is amazing.

Additionally, since 2017, I have moderated panels and spoken at WordCamps across North America. Again, I chose to speak at WordCamps, because they are inclusive to all, and it’s a strong tightknit community.

I’m generally self-taught, and didn’t have that many mentors in development when I was a junior programmer. Now, as a lead developer, I’m in a position (and frankly, have a responsibility) that I can share the knowledge and experience I’ve amassed, and help those just starting out. Whether it’s via moderating a panel at a WordCamp, or mentoring and/or teaching with CLC – the intent is the same. I may not have had these opportunities early in my career, but I want to see others have them.

Plus, giving back is important and heartwarming. There’s nothing better than seeing a learner’s eyes light up when they get a concept, or having a hour-long conversation after a WordCamp panel.

Joy, happiness, and knowledge building. I do it as a karate sensei, and now I can do it professionally. Is there nothing better?

WordCamp Montreal 2018 (#WCMTL): Not local…but close enough

This year, I decided early on that I would attend WordCamp Montreal no matter what. It’s only a two hour train ride, I’m friends with a lot of the Montreal WordPress community, and it was their 10th anniversary. Of course, I applied to speak – and I was honoured that I was selected for the second year in a row!

The fun began before I even got to my hotel room. As some readers might know, Via Rail is celebrating their 40th anniversary. To my surprise, it seems that they have an anniversary car – that you may or may not randomly end up on if you travel economy. I ended up on said car, where they literally had a red carpet for us. We also got candy, a luggage tag, a free sandwich, and $40 travel voucher! Not a bad way to start the weekend.

I had a fantastic time at the speaker dinner that evening, reconnecting with old friends, and making new ones. I received my speaker gift – a reusable water bottle that definitely came in handy throughout the weekend.

On Saturday, I was in the second slot of the day, downstairs in the basement (same room that I spoke in for my lightning talk last year!). My talk was a new one for me, “The Importance of Community and Getting Involved”. My goal was, through my own personal journey from being just a WordCamp attendee, to a speaker, organizer, and heavily involved member of the WordPress community – to encourage others to get involved in some shape or fashion.

At first, I wasn’t sure how well it went, while nobody interrupted me, I only had one question at the end. However, throughout the weekend, other attendees came up to me, saying they appreciated my passion for community (and that it really showed), and also that they were surprised that there were so many opportunities to get involved! That feedback alone made me realize that I made an impact on at least one person, so it was so worth it.

I also attended sessions! On day one, I didn’t get to sessions until after lunch – but I’m glad I did. The first two I attended were both about workflows. Ann’s session was great to affirm the decisions I plan on implementing over the next few months – and Vincent’s presentation on Gulp made me realize how much I can automate things – shoutout to Vincent for doing a LIVE demo, on his first time speaking!

Later that day, I attended Meghan’s talk on bridging the gap between design and development, and Elana’s talk on web design trends. Both were very interesting, and I look forward to re-watching them on wordpress.tv once they are published.

The day was capped off with a delicious vegan meal with friends at The Green Panther, and a fantastic afterparty.

Day two (today) was more relaxed. I attended more dev-oriented talks. First up was Josh’s talk on advanced block development – and of course, my mind was blown. I love listening to Josh’s presentations, even if it takes multiple watches and code attempts to understand the material. Etienne then presented about headless WordPress, and GraphQL and React. The headless WordPress concept really intrigued me, and I’m looking forward to taking some time to understand it better, and see if I can implement it within my own workflow.

The last session that I attended was about how shipping with WP-CLI was awesome, by Dwayne. Like Josh, I love listening to his presentations, and I definitely got a few nuggets from it, as I’m just starting to experiment with WP-CLI.

So, as I sit here on my train ride home, I say KUDOS to all involved with WordCamp Montreal. To the organizers and volunteers – you put together a smoothly run camp, and the green initiative this year was well received. To my fellow speakers, thank you for sharing your passions and nuggets of knowledge. And to all the attendees – you are awesome for taking a weekend to get some learning and community building on.

Stay tuned, I hope that I’ll be announcing my next WordCamp soon!

WordCamp Miami (#wcmia) – Inspired in the heat

photo credit WCMIA twitter

I'm in my AirBNB, on my last day in Southern Florida, and I can't help but reflect on this past weekend. I was lucky enough to be one of the 70 speakers at WordCamp Miami, which I'm told is the 3rd largest WordCamp, only behind US and Europe. Over 1000 people attended this three-day conference.

Arriving on Thursday night, I snagged a room at an AirBNB that was only a 10 minute walk from the airport. I was very lucky to still have been in Canada when the FIU bridge collapse occurred. What a horrible tragedy – I'm still looking for any campaigns/funds to help the victims' families. The next morning, Laura (one of the organizers) and her husband Oliver, were kind enough to pick me up close by, and drive me to the FIU campus. I attended the developer, Gutenberg-focused, workshop. WOW, did I learn a lot. The most beneficial was Brian Richard's introduction to coding the Gutenberg blocks. Josh Pollack's was also fantastic, but a bit over my current code level (considering my lack of ES6 and React!).

Moving to the #HallwayTrack for the latter part of the afternoon, I chatted with some new and old friends, enjoyed the sunshine, and met up with Tara, with whom I was splitting an AirBNB with for the duration of the conference. We dashed to the home, showered, and headed off to the speaker dinner, where again I had some great conversations with some new and old friends. The most WordCamps I attend, the more people I meet, and the more friends I gain.

Day two brought a morning in the developer track (I'll summarize my sessions attended later, once I go through my notes), a BIG lunch of chicken and ribs, and then I popped into the community track. Two talks inspired me the most – both by friends. First was by Raquel, a fellow dancer, talking about building community and relations IRL. I believe very strongly in making connections off the internet (as well as on), so it was nice to have my thoughts affirmed. Secondly, my friend Carole, whom I met in Seattle, spoke about her journey in the WordPress community. It was so awesome to hear her personal story, and how the involvement in the community helped her grow as a person. Ladies, thank you both for what I considered the best talks of the day!

Following Carole's talk was MY talk. Or panel, really. I was fortunate to moderate the Women in WordPress panel, with four fantastic women who inspire me. Nakeesha, Tessa, Natalia, and Birgit, thank you. We only had 30 minutes…and we finished in 28. How I wish we had more time! You can watch the video of the session here.

Wrapping up the day was a wonderful Q&A with the special guest, Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of Auttomatic and WordPress. Lots of great stuff from that informal interview, but my favourite was this quote:

You can't go to a WordCamp and NOT come out inspired.

Matt Mullenweg

What a way to end day two! More networking occurred at the afterparty. I was drained, so got dropped off at the AirBNB.

The last day of the conference was a easier day for me. I was done presenting, so it was all about the learning. I jumped into the Learning JS Deeply track, and learn I did. Many thanks to Bobby and Kevin for their insight. My brain was overloaded, in a good way. I spent some time hallway-tracking it, and then, jumped in a Lyft and headed off to my last AirBNB on Miami Beach, for some vacation.

So, I learned a lot, was inspired greatly, and connected with friends, new and old. That's what WordCamps are all about. Now, to head back home, and jump in on organizing WordCamp Ottawa. We're still in the early phases, so stay tuned. I'm speaker wrangler this year, so quite a lot of responsibility on my plate there.

The other big question is…which WordCamp should I attend next? I had been accepted to WordCamp London next month, but unfortunately could no longer afford the travel and had to decline. Due to dance and karate commitments I'm unable to travel until July – but come September…another sunny destination? Rumour has it that WordCamp US is the weekend of my 35th birthday. Perhaps that should be my next big one!

#wcnyc in my rearview mirror – #wcnyc straight ahead: A recap of WordCamp NYC 2017

As you may have read before, this is the year of me “spreading my wings”, in terms of increasing my participation and visibility in the WordPress community. Having had such empowering and pleasant experiences this year speaking at both WordCamp Ottawa, and WordCamp Montreal, I went out on a whim, and applied to four other WordCamps. Well, I was accepted to three of them (I was not accepted to US, the biggest WordCamp in North America).

First up, was WordCamp NYC, the weekend of October 21-22.

I flew down on the 20th, as there was a VIP party that evening. Sadly, due to flight delays, I was a bit late (and missed the pizza!), but I still managed to chat and network with other speakers and sponsors. I got to meet two of my panelists, re-introduce myself to a third, and generally unwind after a full day of flying.

The conference started the next day, and I was there bright and early. Walking down Broadway Avenue at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday…I couldn’t believe how quiet it was! The venue was right by Times Square, so of course, I had to take a selfie on the way.

Day one was filled with lots of great sessions. Lunch was catered by the venue, and, being the pickle fanatic I was, probably stacked my plate half with pickles, and half with salad.

My session, the Women in WordPress panel, was scheduled for the last slot of the day. I was nervous, as it was my first time moderating, rather than just participating and answering questions. Well, I had no need to be nervous. All the panelists were articulate and gave amazing answers to the questions I posed. When we opened it up to the audience for questions…we ran out of time, we had such great interactions! What a great way to wrap up day one.

What was even more amazing, is that the next day, people came up to me the WHOLE DAY, thanking me for holding that session, and how much it meant to them. Well, that just made my month!

There was no afterparty on Saturday, so I ended up finding a burger joint with a attendee from Vermont and his son, who was at the KidsCamp. Black Iron Burger on West 38th. GO. I am still dreaming of that burger two weeks later.

The next day was just as amazing for learning. I have to admit, the session highlight for me was the first one of the day, Pam Aungst’s Intermediate SEO Strategies (and Pam happened to be one of the panelists). She went into depth with optimization techniques, showing sites and tools I had not heard of before. It was probably the session with the most takeaway I was able to bring back to my daily work life.

I ended my fantastic weekend in New York with a Broadway show, Waitress (and a fantastic slide of New York pizza right before). Oh my goodness, so amazing. One of my students at the dojo raved about the show to me, and I can see why she did.

Overall, WordCamp NYC was outstanding. David Parsons and his organizing team put together a fantastic camp, with amazing speakers at a fantastic venue. I am certainly returning next year if my schedule permits me to.

Now, continuing on with the WordCamp goodness, I’ve composed this post on the way to WordCamp Seattle. I’m currently somewhere over western Saskatchewan as I type these exact words – and the post will be going up from the Vancouver Airport.

Did we meet at WordCamp NYC? Or are you attending WordCamp Seattle? If the former, let’s stay in touch – feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@mirigoldman). If the latter, let’s chat this weekend! I’ll be easy to spot – look for the short Canadian in the blue JavaScript dress, and red Converse. The dress is my lucky dress – I’ve worn it to speak at three camps so far…and will continue to do so!

Now…to just stop dreaming of the burger and pizza from New York, and start thinking of the fantastic sushi I’m going to get in Seattle. Because, why not be a foodie tourist alongside of a WordCamp speaker circuit?

WordCamp Rochester – Coming in hot!

No doubt, as you have read, it’s been an exciting year for me and WordCamps. A spur of the moment idea for a Women in WordPress panel, and an excellent reception of the panel this past July at WordCamp Ottawa, has lead to newfound confidence, and applications to different WordCamps.

While doing a Happiness Bar shift at WordCamp Montreal, I was speaking with the organizer of WordCamp Rochester, and she invited me to apply this year to their WordCamp. Well, I’m pleased to say that I was accepted, and I’ll be moderating the Women in WordPress panel.

Women in WordPress (Panel Discussion)

What I like about this approach is that each time I moderate, or participate in this panel, we get different perspectives. Learn from different people.

I’m excited to travel to Rochester for the first time this November – we’ve got a small but strong Canadian contingent going down. I hope to see you there, and if not, please tune into WordPress.tv to watch the panel once it’s published, post camp.

That WordCamp life

So, as you may have read previously here, I have gone down the rabbit hole with WordCamps this year. I was one of the organizers, and a speaker at WordCamp Ottawa. I spoke at WordCamp Montreal as well.

The panel I was on, Contributing to WordPress, has been published to WordPress.tv.

Building on that momentum, and with the full support of my current boss and colleagues, I applied to additional WordCamps.

I’m pleased to say that I was accepted to WordCamp NYC from October 21-22, and WordCamp Seattle from November 4-5. Both WordCamps I will be moderating my popular Women in WordPress panel.

I am excited to speak for the first time outside of my relative geographical area, and to a larger audience as well. Hopefully, I’ll soon have some more exciting WordCamp news to share, so stay tuned!

Debrief – WordCamp Montreal 2017

It was a great experience this weekend speaking at WordCamp Montreal. While it was not my first time coming to Montreal for a WordCamp, it was my first experience as a speaker.

I spoke twice. My first talk was a solo lightning talk, on “Plugins and You: Finding that perfect plugin”. It was my personal guide to navigating through the slog of plugins that are available. This was a beginner, high level talk that is perfect for an open discussion. My slides are available here.

My next time up on stage was as part of a panel on contributing to WordPress. While I have not, from a developer perspective, contributed to the core, I am involved from a community perspective. Not only am I part of the Ottawa WordCamp organizing team – I am a leader in the local WordPress community, managing the @wpottawa Twitter account, and attending (and speaking) at our local meetups when possible. We had a great variety of perspectives, and I believe the panel had something for everyone. Not only did we discuss contributing to the core, we discussed joining the Slack channel, and getting involved in the community. The main takeway was to not be scared.

I believe both talks were recorded, and I will share the links once uploaded.

Some of the other talks I attended were, on Saturday – Serverless WordPress, Little Things Make a Big Difference, Design Trends for 2017, and Passwords, Attacks, and Security – Oh My!. On Sunday, I attended Death of the Media Query, and Oooh Shiny – New CSS Toys. Unfortunately, I had to miss the afternoon on Sunday, so I could catch my train back to Ottawa.

Other highlights included #WCKaraoke (I am proud of starting the Bon Jovi movement for the night!), the speaker dinner (such good food), and the after party. Of course, the new friends and connections I made.

So what’s next? I’m waiting to see if my panel (Women in WordPress) gets accepted to WordCamp Seattle, and WordCamp US. I’ll be re-energized coming home, and jumping back into our monthly meetups, live tweeting as appropriate.

Were you at WordCamp Montreal? What was your personal highlight? Did you hear me speak? Have any feedback? Let me know!

Debrief – WordCamp Ottawa 2017

Last month, was my first time as part of the organizing team for WordCamp Ottawa, and while it was a very tiring, and sometimes crazy, experience – it was definitely worth it.

I spent most of the camp either monitoring the social media feed, in my role as the Ottawa WordPress social media manager (self-appointed, of course), or assisting at the registration desk. Unfortunately I was not able to attend any sessions personally.

Women in WordPress Panel.
Photo Credit: Shanta Nathwani

I also was privileged to be able to speak on two panels. The first one was one that I organized, and was entitled “Women in WordPress”. I gathered four other women, and a female moderator, and we had a great discussion about challenges we face in our respective fields, and what we can do to encourage other women to get involved. It was very well received, and I plan on pitching it to other WordCamps over the next year.

Next, I was asked to join a panel discussion that was bridging the gap between designers and developers. We talked about what the other “side” excelled at, what they could improve on, and what we see the future of our roles were. Again, lots of good participation from the audience, and well received.

wp-admin and the firewall protect the drink tickets at the afterparty.
Photo Credit: Shanta Nathwani

My main takeaway? If you want to speak at a WordCamp, but are either scared, or unsure of how to come up with a full presentation, consider putting together, or joining a panel. It’s really just a discussion with an audience – and you get to gain insights at the end. No slide presentation necessary! You’ll be surprised at how fast the hour goes.

Were you at WordCamp Ottawa this year? What were the highlights for you? Any suggestions for improvement? Let me know, and I’ll pass on the feedback to the rest of the organizing team!