The Self-Development Potentialities of WordPress • Yoast

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Francesca Marano

Francesca is the lead WordPress core team, where she can work full-time on the open source project with some of the brightest minds in the industry. She is an accomplished educator, community leader, and speaker.

WordPress is a huge self-growth opportunity for the people who use and contribute to it. Many developers in the ecosystem will tell you they chose this career path after tinkering with the WordPress files to learn how the software is made. For the past thirteen years, WordPress has helped me grow professionally and personally beyond anything I could have imagined. And it can help you grow too!

It’s no secret: we love WordPress and its open source community! To get the word out, we launched the Why we love WordPress blog post series. In this new addition to the series, Francesca explains how working as a WordPress contributor has helped her grow and develop.

I started building websites in 1999 and continued to do so through 2017. Over the years, website building has changed dramatically. From simple static HTML pages to modern web development consisting of different languages, several libraries and lots of tools. WordPress has made it possible for a whole generation of web designers to create beautiful websites using the skills they acquired in the early days of the web plus some PHP hacking.

But the opportunities for self-growth don’t stop with technical knowledge: they extend to skills like project management, leadership, mentoring, and more. Additionally, WordPress has helped countless people get jobs in the industry and build long-term relationships. Here are some examples of how you can use the power of the community to grow and, in turn, make the project grow.

Learn to code with WordPress

Disclaimer: With the introduction of full site editing in WordPress, things are going to change, but right now there are some hacky, inexpensive ways to watch your code 😉

Suppose you’ve used an HTML and CSS class and want to see it in action. Big! Go to your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance> Theme Editor

The warning you receive is a good starting point for your learning path

Screenshot of the warning message that appears when you go to the theme editor area of ​​your WordPress website

This pop-up is packed with information. It warns you of the consequences if you get it wrong, but it also advises you to get it right. You can learn to create a child theme – and why – and you can learn to use the file manager. The word “version” might make you curious and you might end up learning about version control. So much only in the warning message!

You will see a similar popup when you go to Plugins> Plugin Editor. You can choose the plugin you’d like to learn more about and you’ll see the files that make up it. Go to readme.md or readme.txt first so you can learn more about the plugin, who creates or maintains it, and in some cases, how you can contribute.

Screenshot of the readme text of the Gutenberg pluginGutenberg

Screenshot of the readme text of the Yoast SEO pluginYoast SEO

If you click “I understand,” you can see the files that make up your theme or plugins. As you read the code, you will likely find things that confuse you. So, you can head over to the WordPress developer resources website to learn more about it.

If you want to dig deeper and prefer a teacher, these are the resources I suggest:

At some point, you may want to contribute to WordPress itself. My colleague Taco wrote a handy guide to include you in the community. And if you want to build something for it, you can check out the plugin or the theme developer guides.

Learn to manage projects with WordPress

WordPress is an open source project, and while open source has a bazaar feel by nature, you’ll have to manage your own contribution to it. Whether you have an hour a month or forty hours a week, you cannot do everything, be everywhere and do everything by yourself.

When I started contributing, I took on too many tasks: the result was that I promised too much and delivered too little. Nobody challenged me or blamed me. But it was a wake-up call. It was an excellent opportunity to improve my task, time and project management skills. Not to mention interpersonal communication.

Some teams have Trello boards, others use Trac or GitHub. Others like shared documents and spreadsheets. The tool doesn’t matter, what matters is that you learn to work asynchronously with others, set priorities and communicate, and then use these skills for your job.

Learn English with WordPress

If English is not your first language, don’t worry. In fact, most of the WordPress websites aren’t in English!

If you want to contribute but think your English is not good enough, don’t let this get in the way. The WordPress community is a global community. Nobody cares about etonic English. In some cases, you may not even need to speak a lot of English: for example, if you decide to organize an event in your country.

By participating in chats, asking questions, reading other people’s messages, and raising your hand when a slang or slang phrase is used to get an explanation, your English is likely to improve too. My colleague Laura didn’t speak much English when she started contributing to WordPress in Italy. She has been part of the WordCamp Europe organization team for years. Not to mention that she got a job at Yoast 😉

Make friends with WordPress

Last but not least, WordPress made it possible for me to meet people from all over the world and forge strong bonds. When in-person events were a big part of my schedule, I knew that wherever I went, I would meet like-minded people who shared a passion for WordPress.

I shared a home with Naoko from Japan at WordCamp Europe after meeting her a few months earlier at WordCamp US. When I organized the first WordCamp Torino, I invited Omar and Taco to my home. I met my life partner through WordPress. Other contributors share pictures of their children and pets with me. Recipes and book recommendations are exchanged.

I love WordPress

Learning to use WordPress to build websites and contribute to the project completely changed my life. I’ve never looked back since May 2015 when I translated my first string into Italian. WordPress is my job, but also my family. It couldn’t be better!

Would you like to get involved? Learn more at WordPress.org!

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