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!

Recipe – Turkey Meatloaf

It’s no secret that I like to cook. And sometimes, I share my creations to social media. This one got a lot of “give me the recipe!” comments – so ask, and you shall receive.

Before going in the oven….

You’ll need:

  • One package of ground turkey
  • Breadcrumbs, or in my case, matzo meal (I’m a Jewish gal, what can I say?)
  • Soya sauce
  • Mustard (I used honey dijon from Loblaws)
  • One zucchini, a small sweet potato, and a carrot
  • A grater
  • A meatloaf tray (I have these mini silocone ones from Epicure)

What you’ll end up doing:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375ÂșC
  2. Grate your veggies. I used a box grater.
  3. In a bowl, mix the ground turkey with the veggies and breadcrumbs
  4. Add in a bit of the soya sauce, and mustard
  5. Fold/mix until the sauce and mustard is evenly distributed
  6. Place the mixture into your meatloaf trays, and put in the oven. I cooked my mini meatloafs for 35 minutes, I believe for a full-sized one you are looking at around 75 minutes. This all depends on your oven.
  7. Let sit for about 5 minutes, and drain any juice in the pan. Believe me, it’s easier for cleanup.
…and after!

And that’s it! You can mix and match ingredients, but these are the basic ones I used. I would have this any day over regular meatloaf, but that’s mainly because I love cooking with ground turkey. Enjoy!

So, why web development?

People have asked me many times WHY I chose web development as a career, or why I went into tech in general. Below is my story.

I have always been interested in computers. My father got me playing on them at an earlier age. There’s a picture kicking around at my dad’s place, of me playing on an old Commodore 64 as a toddler, sitting on my father’s lap. I now joke that was my gateway into my career choice.

However, the truth lies in a conversation with a former manager from the grocery store I worked at in college. At the time, I was studying sociology, and was wrapping up my 2nd year. Not knowing what direction I was going to take, I started fretting, and getting emotional. My manager and I had lunch one day, and she suggested that I look into computers, “because of all the websites I’ve been building”. Yes, I had started out on Geocities about 5 years earlier, building out Sailor Moon and Star Trek fan sites. At my whit’s end, I spoke to my dad about it, and we came to an agreement. I would pursue a web development diploma, and attempt to get a job. If I found I didn’t or couldn’t handle the workload, or couldn’t get a job – I would return to the university and finish my sociology degree.

Well, I handled the workload, and I got a co-op position about six weeks after finishing my course. That lead into a six month contract as a junior developer. This was July 2005. Flash forward to August 2017, and I’m still in the industry – working as the sole developer for a boutique digital marketing firm. The longest ‘spell’ of unemployment I have had, was a two month space between jobs. Since then, if I have switched jobs, the timeframe usually was 2-4 weeks (my job search advice posts are here). I love what I do, and the constant mental workout I get when I have to debug, or create a new solution.

With my job, I have been exposed to many different technology platforms, with a heavy emphasis over the past five years on WordPress. In 2013, my boss at the time suggested that I attend my local WordCamp, and pick up some new tricks. I loved the WordCamp, and attended the Ottawa one the following year, and travelled to Montreal in 2015, in the absence of a local one.

2016 rolls around, and the digital team of the company I was working for had a retreat. The senior level managers encouraged the two developers (myself and another guy) to get more involved with the community, and consider speaking. So, I took that to heart, and applied to, and was accepted to speak at WordCamp Ottawa 2016. That was certainly an experience, as I hadn’t done public speaking since I was a 12 year old in a grade six public speaking contest. Consumed by what I now realize is imposter syndrome, I vowed to never speak again, and decided to just help organize the following year.

…that didn’t hold up. Kathryn Presner, whom I’ve been on two panels with now, spoke with me at the after-party, encouraging me to not give up. Shawn Hooper, who was speaker wrangler that year, sent me my feedback, with a note that I didn’t do as bad as I thought, and to reconsider my decision. Also, that fall, I was asked to re-present my talk from the WordCamp at our local WordPress meet-up. Now, of course, I had some technical difficulties with my laptop at the time, so did my whole presentation from memory and no visuals. Well, lo and behold the night went splendidly. That probably was the catalyst.

So, ignoring my 2016 self, I put forth a panel for WordCamp Ottawa 2017. Women in WordPress – I wanted to chat with other women in our community, and hopefully encourage young women, or women new to WordPress, that things aren’t that scary. My friend and co-organizer Christie asked me to be on her panel – one that discussed bridging the gap between developers and designers. Both panels went amazing – especially the Women in WordPress one. The tweets and personal comments I got afterward made my weekend. I also did a quick lightning talk at WordCamp Montreal 2017, which was a beginner’s guide to navigating the plugin repository, and what to look for when installing new ones. It’s hard to gauge reactions to a 15-20 minute talk, but I didn’t see any negative tweets, or received any negative comments after. I felt good, and inspired. The feeling of being able to share my knowledge, and help others – was addicting.

So, I decided to pursue this more. I’ve applied to four other WordCamps with the panel that I did in Ottawa (with different panelists of course), and that’s just for 2017. 2018 I plan on hitting up Western Canada, and applying to Calgary and Winnipeg – fitting in some vacation time to see family, of course. It’s an exciting venture that is forcing me to step out of my comfort zone – and I’ve never been happier with that decision.

I’ve also signed up to be an Outspoken Woman. I’m jumping into the leadership team, and I hope to encourage fellow introverts that public speaking isn’t a scary beast to hide from. There are ways to improve and learn, and while I’m still a relative newbie at it myself, there are others who might be encouraged by my journey…and that alone is worth being a mentor, isn’t it?

She Keeps Going and Going and Going….

My friend Dawn asked me how I got my energy, and motivation to try new things, and take on new projects. That’s a simple, but complicated answer.

First and foremost: SLEEP. I always, always, unless I’m out of town at a conference, get at least 7 hours of sleep. I aim for 9 hours on average. This involves no food or drink (except for water) after a certain time (usually 8pm), and I try to get off my electronics about 30 minutes before I plan on climbing into bed. If I can get a few chapters into a book, that’s a bonus.

Second: nutrition. Yes, I like my beer and wine – but I try to limit it to one drink, and with that, on weekends only (for the most part!). Yes, occasionally I will have a drink mid-week, or more than one – but it’s certainly not the norm. Tied into this is cooking. I LOVE to cook. There’s something so relaxing about it. I tend to limit my carbs, and up the veggies. Red meat and pork is a rarity for me…so mostly if I’m eating meat, it’s ground turkey, chicken, or some sort of fish. Me and salmon are besties. I also avoid fried foods, and load up on my veggies. I’d be happy to post some of my recipes if anyone is interested.

Another aspect of my nutrition is my Isagenix shakes. Now, Isagenix has it’s detractors, but for me, it works. The convienience of having that shake in the morning (with a bit of matcha tea thrown in), and the Isalean protein bars for when I’m on the go – oh, amazing. Tasty too! I’m not going to go into super detail here, but reach out to me if you are curious.

Finally, it’s doing what I love as a form of stress relief. For me, that’s exercise in the form of martial arts and dancing. Between my dance lessons and karate classes, I am active 5 days a week, and usually end up going to my apartment pool for a swim on the sixth. The endorphins from the exericse calm me down, and help me sleep. More sleep equals more energy – and the cycle goes on.

As for motivation? It’s a bit of restlessness. I believe in life long learning, and trying anything that is not harmful at least once. So, that’s how I got into dance and karate, and the WordCamp speaking circuit.

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!

WordCamps and an evolution of self

Taking a break from my advice, I want to talk about a pet passion of mine. WordCamps.

I was first introduced to WordCamp in 2013, by my boss at the time. He sent me a link over our Slack channel, and encouraged me and the other developer in the company (we were the two sole developers in a large national PR firm) to attend. It was the first one held in Ottawa – a day long event at the University of Ottawa. Best thing, the company was going to pay for my ticket! How could I say no?

I was instantly hooked. It was information overload, in a good way. It’s also where I started to make connections to others in the WordPress community.

I went back in 2014. 2015, we sadly did not have a WordCamp in Ottawa – so I went to Montreal. Each time, I came out with more insights. 2015 is also the year I met some of my good friends in the community, like Meagan and Shawn.

Last year, I was encouraged by my boss, and our office general manager, to speak. That was an experience (more on that later), but it was good to do public speaking for the first time since a school contest in grade six (1995-96 school year). At the time, I vowed not to speak again, but I wanted to help out.

Fast forward one year. I am on the organizing team for WordCamp Ottawa 2017 (you should come!), and I’ve submitted a panel for both Montreal, and WordCamp US. It’s exciting times.

So, tl:dr – why WordCamps? They are a great way to learn about how to contribute to a great community, gain new insights, and also – to make friends!

Check out the WordCamp Central website for upcoming WordCamps near you!

Preparing for that interview (or interviews!)

Disclaimer: I am not a human resources professional, or have any certifications relating to job searching or hiring processes. I speak from personal experience only. This is from a perspective in the high tech sector.

So, you’ve written a killer CV, and sent it off to different companies. Something has peaked a hiring manager’s interest, and they contact you for an interview. How exciting! But…you have no clue what to do.

Here are the steps that I have taken, and have proven successful for me personally.

1. Research the company. You’ll want to know who the CEO is, and what they do, as a minimum.

2. Review the job posting, and all the skills that they are requiring. In my field as a software developer, I often get asked in interviews direct questions regarding a particular technology, and my previous experience with it.

3. Dress for the part! I, despite being in high tech, always wear a suit when I go to interviews. It’s better to overdress than underdress. If you get the job, then you can adjust your personal dress code.

4. If you are starting out, or are super nervous, I’d recommend recruiting a friend to help you conduct a mock interview. Give them your CV, and the job posting, and you can get a sense of some questions that might get asked.

5. Most of all, RELAX! Yes, there is a lot of preparation work going into an interview, but you need to know – you’ve made it further than most applicants. Now is your time to shine personally.

Do you have any other interview tips you’d like to share? Comment below! I always love to hear other people’s perspectives.

The Power of Networking

You know that saying, it’s not what you know, but who you know? While I don’t believe this is 100% accurate, it does hold some merit of truth. I’d like to talk about the power of networking.

Networking is a great way to find those hidden opportunities – whether you are a sole contractor, or a member of a agency business development team. Just by putting yourself out there, chatting with a variety of different people, and simply being in the right place in the right time – you may come across that dream job or contract.

Not sure where to start? First, get yourself some business cards with your contact information. Despite us being in a digital age, a lot of people still like having that small, physical reminder of who they spoke with. You don’t even need to have the best creative design skills out there – Vistaprint is a great source with pre-existing templates!

Then, if you are like me, and are in the IT/Software field, check out Meetup. Often, there are monthly meetups in your specialization – these are both great learning opportunities, and networking. Two in one – bonus! If you attend regularly, it will make it easier to make the connections.

Another suggestion – Google. Search for events, organizations, etc. While this might not hold true for EVERY profession, a lot of them out there have either monthly, or quarterly events – often even low cost.

Finally, if you are involved in other communities, such as a dance or martial arts like I am, don’t be afraid to casually chat with others there. True story – I got a casual position in the government back in 2008, simply because of my training partners at karate knew I was looking for a job, and had someone who was looking for a developer. You never know who others know.

This may be hard for those introverted people (like myself), but believe me, it’s totally worth it. At the very least, you get to meet some interesting people, and engage in meaningful conversation.

So get out there…you may be surprised!

(DISCLAIMER: This is solely my opinion and experience. I am not a professional in this sense, but I’ve had excellent results – so I thought I would share)

So you need a new job…

We’ve all been there. You find yourself needing a new job. Perhaps you quit without anything lined up, or you were subject to a mass reorg or layoff. Here is my advice as to how to approach the job search. Keep in mind that it is my view only, and can differ for you, and the field you work in.

First, take some time to deal with any emotions. You need to be in a clear frame of mind as you approach the search. I’d recommend at least 24 hours – take more if you need to.

Once your mind is clear, and your determination is in place – update that CV. You may have let it lapse while you were gainfully employed. Fix that up. Also, update your LinkedIn profile. If it’s applicable to your field, try to get some recommendations.

I’d also suggest posting that you are searching for a job, and what your qualifications are and your background is, on your social media. Make it publicly shareable. You’ll be surprised with how many of your friends are willing to help out by sharing it, and you never know what their network is like. Make a post on your blog too, if that’s your thing.

Next, if you have a smartphone, get the job search apps. Indeed and LinkedIn Jobs are two great ones I’ve used in the past. Configure a search, and get notifications and alerts. Monster.ca is also great for this.

Finally, do some Googling. You’d be surprised at how many hidden job postings there are out there. Search for your location, title keyword, and level.

It goes without saying, but apply for anything you think you are qualified for, even if it’s not 100%. Often, companies will help train the right person in the skills they may not have at a particular strength. And it doesn’t hurt – the worst thing that can happen is your email never gets replied to. No skin off your back!

That’s just my advice to approaching the job search. Do you have any recommendations for people out there? Leave me a comment, and stay tuned for my interview prep advice.