Hallway Chats introduces the unique designers, developers, marketing consultants, content creators, project managers, and more who make our community the flourishing environment we love. This endeavor will share the mic with the unsung women and men in our community who struggle, and succeed, in life every day – or at least on most days. Tara and Liam aim to share advice, tips, and camaraderie that ultimately lead to a greater sense of inclusion and belonging. The shared stories, challenges and successes will empower listeners to understand that their own challenges and hurdles are shared by a wider community.
Episode 160 – A Chat With Grzegorz Ziółkowski
This episode of Hallway Chats is a little different from previous episodes. Recently Cate and Topher had the opportunity to go to WordCamp Europe in Porto, Portugal, where we had some literal hallway chats. This 4one is with Grzegorz Ziółkowski.
Piccia’s Site: https://gziolo.pl/
Twitter | @gziolo
Topher: All right. So tell me your name.
Greg: My name is Greg Ziolkowski. But I go by Greg because it’s just easier for everyone.
Topher: Yes. Yeah. All right. And now what do you do?
Greg: So I work at Automattic and I also do work full time on WordPress Core, and in particular Gutenberg Project. And it’s been five years since I started contributing to Gutenberg.
Topher: Oh, very beginning.
Greg: I mean, not start. Like a few months after that. Exactly, you know, five years ago at WordCamp Europe was that first probably demonstration of that. So like three months after that I joined the team. I was working internally at Automattic with the whole community on-
Topher: So were hired to work on Gutenberg or you moved to Gutenberg?
Greg: No. I asked to be moved to Gutenberg.
Topher: Oh, you moved. You asked.
Greg: Yeah. I mean, I just like, asked, “How can I be part of the project?”
Topher: That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about Automattic.
Greg: I also did some contribution to other products. And it worked, and here I am.
Topher: Great. And you’re still happy with it?
Greg: Yes, I am. It took a lot of time to realize the vision. We are slowly getting to the point where it’s something that was like planned. It’s so great to see all the talks showing, all the power of the paradigm of logs, how it works, you know, seeing the excitement about new development over block patterns, block themes.
Topher: That’s really cool. Is there a particular part that you worked on?
Greg: Oh, so you know, it’s been five years, so it’s been different things that are-
Topher: What are you working on now?
Greg: Right now, also the last two months I spent as a co-lead for editor test for WordPress 6.0 release. It’s always like more about making sure that everything gets properly moved from the Gutenberg plugin to WordPress Core. But, you know, it changes. I work a lot with the ways how people can build blocks. And that applies to API’s that are exposed to both the core but also to all extenders they’re plugging out, you know, team out also. And also have to develop tools that make it easier. You know, like the transition from PHP to Java it’s quite a journey.
Topher: It is.
Greg: So we are trying to make it more straightforward so that people can-
Greg: That’s great.
Topher: …start, like plays that and end slowly, learn how to tackle double. Any sort of like what you had in the past with PHP, like when people started, they didn’t know PHP.
Greg: But also you could play, tweak things in PHP back then. I’m also PHP developer. My first job was in PHP.
Episode 159 – A Chat With Piccia Neri
This episode of Hallway Chats is a little different from previous episodes. Recently Cate and Topher had the opportunity to go to WordCamp Europe in Porto, Portugal, where we had some literal hallway chats. This one is with Piccia Neri.
Piccia’s Site: https://designforconversions.com/
Twitter | @Piccia
Topher: So I have heard your name pronounced seven different ways today. So first order of business, state your name.
Piccia: Like peach with an A at the end. And it’s quite interesting. Like for you and me, English Italian, is quite innocuous but you know… I was printing out again the pass today because I couldn’t print it yesterday for some reason, and there was one of the guys behind the desk that was just really, really chuckling. And I was like, “You’re from Slovakia?” He’s like, “Yeah.”
And then in Spain, it means the opposite of what it does in Slovakia. And now I now live in Spain. But the way you pronounce this, the way it’s spelled because I’m Italian, it’s not a name in Italy either. I mean, you know, we could go on. But in Spain, they read it Pik-cia. So I tell them Picsy and then… yeah. Anyway, so Pi-cha. Like peach with an A at the end.
Topher: Cool. I like it. What does it mean?
Piccia: It doesn’t really mean anything. But if it does mean anything, it’s small, tiny.
Topher: Make sense. Cool. So I was asked to pick some people to interview, and I deliberately picked people I did not know except for you because I only know you a little bit. And I found that interesting. And I would like to know more about you. So what do you do with WordPress?
Piccia: I am a designer. I don’t actually build that many sites anymore, but my mission is to get everyone in WordPress to be design-led and an accessible design-led as well.
Piccia: That’s become my mission. Because what I find very interesting is that, what do we do with WordPress? We build products, we build experiences, we build websites. There’s very little talk about design and there’s very few designers even in a WordPress environment, if you think about it. So it should be entirely design-led but isn’t it.
And that’s really interesting to me. I think that’s a limitation, I think it should definitely be a design-led because I think ever since I started doing this or I started… because I started using WordPress in… I think my first blog was 2009. It was called One Sketch a Day. I would post a drawing a day.
Topher: I remember those.
Piccia: Because it was pre-Instagram. And then when Instagram happened I just didn’t do it. I don’t know why, but anyway… So that’s when I first started playing with it but I wasn’t very involved in community.
And then when I really saw the gap, I was like, “No one’s talking about design, this needs to be done.” Because sometimes you would see talks about CSS, and it’s like, Yeah, but that’s not a design, that’s a tool. It doesn’t matter. I mean,
Episode 158 – A Chat With Sofie Couwenbergh
This episode of Hallway Chats is a little different from previous episodes. Recently Cate and Topher had the opportunity to go to WordCamp Europe in Porto, Portugal, where we had some literal hallway chats. This one is with Sofie Couwenbergh.
Sofie’s Site: https://letmewritethatdownforyou.com/
Twitter | @SCouwenbergh
Topher: So what is your name?
Sofie: I’m Sofie Couwenbergh.
Topher: Where do you live?
Sofie: I live in Lisbon. I’m from Belgium originally, but I moved to Lisbon two years ago.
Topher: So you didn’t have to come very far?
Sofie: I did not have to come very far. I had to take a three-hour train ride.
Topher: Okay, I was gonna ask you about the train.
Topher: Are the trains nice?
Sofie: There’s different kinds that you can take. One from Lisbon to Porto. You can take one of like the first ones, and that’s quite comfortable.
Sofie: Although it advertises Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t really work. So it’s always a little bit when you think there’s gonna be Wi-Fi and it’s there for two minutes, and then it falls out. That’s worse than when there isn’t anyway, right?
Sofie: You just keep trying.
Topher: You keep trying. That’s terrible. So I have a few questions. What do you do? But also what brings you here?
Sofie: So I do two things. I mainly at the moment do content strategy and writing for businesses in digital marketing. So I work with companies such as Meet Edgar, which is a social media scheduling tool, Paperbell, who has accounting software for coaches, but also with agencies like email marketing agencies, SEO agencies. So for them, I do blog strategy and the actual writing as well as optimization.
Topher: You do this freelance?
Sofie: I do this freelance, yeah. I have my own company and I have a few freelance assistants working for me.
Topher: Oh, nice.
Sofie: So self-employed I would say. That’s my main gig. But I also run a travel authority site on WordPress. I’ve been doing that for 10 years.
Topher: What is travel authority?
Sofie: Well, like a big travel blog, let’s say. Not just an affiliate site, but a proper travel blog. So I used to do a lot of marketing campaigns for tourism boards, for travel brands, etc. And I guess that’s where my journey with WordPress started. Because the first version way back in 2012, I had to figure everything out myself, and I did like to design myself the most basic coding, you know, like changing the color of boxes and things. But now I have a developer who helps with those kinds of things, and I have a custom site.
Topher: Excellent. Do you still travel a lot for that?
Sofie: Well, the pandemic kind of put a stop to that. So the story is that I kind of… “grew sick” is a bit big word, but grew out of travel blogging, I’d say, or I wanted to do something different or mid-2019. But it was also the most successful time for the travel blog, I would say. So it just seemed crazy for me to drop that or to start something else while it was doing ...
Episode 157 – A Chat With Aurooba Ahmed
Aurooba Ahmed is a freelance WordPress developer and contributor.
Aurooba’s Blog: https://aurooba.com/
Twitter | @aurooba
Topher: Hey everyone, my name is Topher.
Cate: And I’m Cate.
Topher: And this is Hallway Chats. Before we get going, I want to thank our sponsors at Nexcess, a Liquid Web brand. They have some new tools for eCommerce that really make them stand out from other options. WooCommerce automated testing, Sales Performance Monitor, and Plugin Performance Monitor give you data you need to stay powerful and profitable. And they’re free with every Nexcess plan.
Okay, our guest today is Aurooba Ahmed. Welcome.
Cate: Hey, Aurooba.
Aurooba: Hi. Thanks for having me. Hey, Cate.
Topher: Did I get the… not accent… the emphasis, right, on your last name? Is it Ahmed?
Aurooba: Yeah, that works. I would say that it’s more about the emphasis on the first name where it’s Aurooba, not Aruba. It’s A-U.
Topher: Ah right. It is an A-U.
Aurooba: It is.
Topher: I’m looking at the spelling. For those of you that are just listening, it’s A-U-R-O-O-B-A.
Aurooba: It’s pretty common.
Topher: So no relation to the island.
Aurooba: No relation at all. And yet I have heard that song many, many, many times.
Topher: I don’t know the song.
Aurooba: Aruba, Jamaica, oh I wa-
Topher: Oh, the Beach Boys. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aurooba: My gym teacher, the first time he read my name off of the attendance list was like… He didn’t read my name. He just sang the song.
Cate: That’s got to be exciting.
Aurooba: It gets old after a while but I love it.
Cate: I mean, it is a positive association. I mean, I would happily be associated with a Caribbean island where people go on vacation and have a good time. So I mean, there are worse facilities, yeah.
Aurooba: 100%. Very true.
Cate: And do you live in Aruba? Like are you in Caribbean island?
Aurooba: Oh, I would love to go there one day, but I’m in Calgary by the Rockies in Canada.
Topher: That’s cool.
Cate: And is it warm and tropical there?
Aurooba: Only in my mind.
Topher: We realize the Rockies are close to Calgary.
Aurooba: Oh, it’s like less than an hour away from my house. I can see the mountains from my bedroom window.
Cate: Nice. Awesome.
Aurooba: Mm-hmm. But it is not tropical here. It is very cold right now.
Topher: One of the first things we’re going to ask is who you are and where you live and stuff like that. So now we know you’re in Calgary.
Cate: And we know she is Aurooba.
Aurooba: That’s true.
Topher: Have you always lived in Calgary? Are you a Calgarian?
Aurooba: Oh, no, I am not a Calgarian, although I met a Calgarian yesterday. They are a rare breed. I was born in Pakistan, but I never lived there. I spent my childhood in Saudi Arabia in a small port town called Yanbu by the Red Sea. And then we moved to Toronto, Canada, when I was 10.
Topher: You even say it like Torono.
Aurooba: Oh, I did live there. We moved there when I was 10. And then my dad got a job with an oil company in Alberta in a small town called Fort McMurray, where the oil sands are. And we moved there when I was 15. And then I went to university in Edmonton. Then my parents moved to Calgary partway through my university career. And eventually I also ended up here because I want to be close to them.
Cate: Yeah, that sometimes happens. It must have been fun moving from Toronto to Alberta when you were 15...
Episode 156 – A Chat With Tammie Lister
Tammie Lister is a web designer at XWP and a WordPress core contributor.
Tammie’s Blog: https://tammielister.com/
Twitter | @karmatosed
Topher: Hey everyone! My name is Topher.
Cate: And I’m Cate.
Topher: And this is Hallway Chats. Before we get going, we want to thank our sponsors at Nexcess, a Liquid Web brand. They have some new tools for eCommerce that really make them stand out from other options. WooCommerce automated testing, Sales Performance Monitor, and Plugin Performance Monitor give you data you need to stay powerful and profitable. And they’re free with every Nexcess plan, which is really cool.
All right, our guest today is Tammie Lister. Welcome.
Cate: Hi Tammie.
Topher: Thanks for being here.
Tammie: Thank you for inviting me.
Topher: We know who you are because you’re a cool friend. But we can’t assume that everybody else does. Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live?
Tammie: So if you are trying to come in the middle of England, you’ll probably find me. I currently live in a village that has no road names. That’s where I live. So I live super rural, but I really enjoy doing that. So that is where I live.
Cate: That’s really wonderful.
Topher: I know you moved recently. Were you super rural before as well? Have you been there very long?
Tammie: I was. I’ve been pretty rural for a number of years now. Before that, I was living down south, but I have lived kind of in Midlands, pretty rural, for a number of years now.
Topher: Do you have things like chickens, etc.?
Tammie: I do not. But I have a new puppy. So I have a-
Cate: Not so many eggs but lots of snuggles.
Tammie: Lots of snuggles, lots of nips because it’s a working colleague, the puppy. So he is just 19, 20 weeks now.
Cate: Wow. Nice.
Topher: Is he going to be big?
Tammie: I don’t know. He’s got big paws. Everyone keeps telling me yes, but I’m hoping no. So that’s always a bad sign if you don’t want him to grow.
Topher: Yeah. Well, you can’t stop it.
Tammie: You can’t. You just gotta go with it. He’s very strong and very bouncy.
Cate: Well, that’s good for exercise.
Tammie: Yeah, he likes to bounce.
Cate: So I hear he’s part Tigger. This is what you’re saying?
Tammie: He is basically part Tigger. He really is. He does the backflips and bounces. He keeps me on my toes. But you have to live in the countryside with a dog like that.
Cate: Oh, yeah. Topher and I grew up in the middle of nowhere too. So we have a good understanding of what that’s like.
Topher: My sister used to say it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.
Tammie: I think the end of the world might be a couple of fields from where I live now.
Topher: So what do you do with WordPress?
Tammie: So I’m a designer with WordPress. I’ve had a bit of a journey, but I’m currently working at XWP as a senior product designer.
Cate: Oh, that’s really cool. So tell us a little bit about your journey, or as much as you want to.
Tammie: Thank you. I do think it’s been quite long. I started out basically torturing my own CMS back in the day. Back in the day it was like this thing of like everybody has to know their own CMS. It was like a badge of honor. And it was back in the day when you thought you had to know programming. And there was thing I’ve been able to do on the web design. I was just hurting the CMS, like I said.
Episode 154 – A Chat With Jen Swisher About WordCamp US
Jen Swisher is a Happiness Engineer on the Jetpack plugin at Automattic and is organizing WordCamp US 2021 online.
Event Date: October 1
Event Website: https://us.wordcamp.org/2021/
Twitter | @JenSwish
Topher: Hey everyone! My name is Topher.
Cate: And my name is Cate.
Topher: And this is Hallway Chats. We’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsor Nexcess, a Liquid Web brand. Be sure to check out their new product WP Quickstart. WP Quickstart is a fast and affordable way to build membership sites on WordPress with packages beginning at just $49. Visit Nexcess.net to get started.
Our guest today is Jen Swisher. Welcome.
Cate: Hi, Jen.
Jen: It’s great to be here.
Cate: So Jen, we’re really glad to have you here. We’re excited to hear a little bit more about you. We want to talk about what keeps you volunteering in the WordPress space and to tell us a little bit more about being a part of the lead organizing team for WordCamp US and the upcoming WordCamp US 2021 which is right around the corner, October 1.
Jen: Yeah, it’s sneaking up closer and closer every day.
Cate: I know it’s crazy. I’m like, “I am not ready for October yet.” But October is coming whether I like it or not.
Jen: Yeah, barreling towards us.
Topher: Tell us about where you’re from and how you got into WordPress.
Jen: I’m from a teeny tiny little town in Michigan—it’s actually not too far from y’all—called Sunfield. So I lived there, went to school there… was basically born there. I left there when I was 19. I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, which is where I live now. I came here for college. They gave me a very, very generous scholarship. And it’s the only reason I have a degree honestly.
So I graduated in 2012 with a degree in Interactive Media and Web Design. But my WordPress story actually starts about halfway through my time there where I started working for a website company. They asked me, “Do you think you could use this WordPress thing to build websites for us?” I literally never heard of it before in my entire life. I was like, “Sure, why not? Let’s do this thing.”
I started, you know, just kind of trying to dig into everything I could possibly find about the software. And the Codecs, as it was called at the time, it’s big. It was very, very big and very hard to understand if you’re just starting to get your feet wet.
So I started looking for other online resources and found out about these meetups that they were doing in our area. So I started going to the meetup started meeting other WordPress people and asking questions and learning things like… I think one of the first things I learned was how to build child themes. And that’s basically what I did the rest of the time I worked there was I used… I think it was either 2010 or 2011 at the time to build child themes for local businesses and nonprofits that the company I was working for had contracts with. So that was where I got started with WordPress really.
Cate: That’s really cool.
Jen: Yeah. And then it would have been 2014 for WordCamp San Francisco. So during WordCamp San Francisco that year, that was the last one before it actually flipped to WordCamp US. That one, there was a fire drill in the middle of one of the sessions in the morning.
Topher: I was there. I remember it.
Jen: My community-
Topher: I could not do it.
Jen: Right. No. Apparently, it was some sort of scheduled thing and they just didn’t tell anyone.
Best virtual hallway ever
Tara and Liam are the most gracious and amazing podcast hosts. They are welcoming and get some great conversations going with their guests. It’s always fun to play the next episode, hear who their guest is, and the fun and interesting chats they have. Grateful for their contribution to the WordPress community.
A gift to the community
There aren’t many podcasts that are willing to take a chance and be a guest’s first podcast interview. This show is all about that. What a gift to have this show uplift others and help us meet people in the WordPress community who haven’t taken center stage (yet). Thank you Tara and Liam.
Interesting and Down to Earth
Tara and Liam bring a down-to-earth approach with guests of all skill levels, lifestyles and business models. Their approach is REAL and it comes through in their discussions. I look forward to listening to Hallway Chats each week.