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What I learned about WordPress at WordCamp Jackson, 2017

This weekend has been the inaugural WordCamp Jackson. WordCamps are casual conferences put on by a local team of professionals who work with WordPress, in some capacity. They’re great opportunities to learn more about WordPress itself, but also about website development, marketing, business management, and SEO. Some of the build/create team are here, catching up with some of our fellow members in the WordPress community. Here are some of my top takeaways from WordCamp Jackson, including things I learned and reasons I would recommend others to attend.

You’re better than you think you are.

Our lead designer, Ian, co-presented with Mike Hale of Rainmaker Digital to discuss Impostor Syndrome, otherwise known as that nagging voice in your head trying to convince you that you’re a failure. I was fortunate to first hear about Impostor Syndrome early in my career. The advice I had at the time helped adjust my mindset about my work.

In their joint presentation, Ian and Mike covered some of those top anxieties and offered some advice on how to challenge your doubts. Some of their best advice? Find a mentor to help push you to be better in your career field, but who can also encourage you and help you believe in your successes. Also, take time to mentor someone else. There’s nothing like helping someone else to make you realize how far you’ve come.

Learn new things.

In many professions, but the tech industry in particular, keeping on top of the latest developments is a challenge. Every time Google updates their algorithm, or someone invents a new plugin, or a new design trend changes the way users interact with a website, you need to learn about it so that you can continue to provide the best service to your users. Some of that learning comes from following the news, checking in with top industry publications or blogs, and keeping an eye out for emerging trends.

But a lot of these are also covered at local conferences, where some of the industry leaders not only share their insight, but are happy to answer questions afterward. So if you’re the kind of person who enjoys learning by listening, or who needs to ask questions in order to process information, WordCamps can give you the chance to ask to your heart’s content.

Meet the people behind your website.

At build/create, we develop websites with WordPress exclusively. This allows us to know the platform we’re on inside and out, including all the various plugin and hosting options available to us when we build a site. If we built on other platforms, our knowledge base would be diluted by having to keep up on every option for every CMS we supported. Knowing what the right hosting and plugin options are for your business helps us give you a competitive edge. Fortunately, WordCamp is a place we can come to meet the people behind those services.

Many WordCamps are sponsored by the companies behind the industry’s leading support services. These include representatives from some of the plugins we use on almost every one of our sites. Getting a chance to talk to these people, learn a bit more about their services, and establish a personal connection helps us make sure we’re making the right decisions for ourselves and our clients.

Never launch on Friday.

Work-life balance is a huge topic among almost any group of people. One of the questions I talked about with some of the conference attendees had to do with the best launch date for a new website. Many clients want to launch on Friday or over the weekend. This is because they believe it will be easier to fix any potential bugs when the site is less busy.

Unfortunately, this tends to be not the case. On weekends, support teams are spread out, key individuals are hard to reach. Everyone’s personal life gets thrown into a mess as person A scrambles to get ahold of person C because person B isn’t answering their cell phone. It’s far better to launch on a Monday or a Tuesday, when both your staff and that of your developer can have all hands on deck, ready to smooth out any bumps in the road.

Build connections.

Conferences in general are a wonderful opportunity to meet professionals in your field. You have a chance to trade some of your latest work stories with folk who have been in the same place and dealt with similar situations. You learn some new tricks of the trade, hear about what others are doing, and share your own knowledge in return. This is also a great opportunity to build your local business network.

WordCamp provides all these opportunities, but it also gives you a chance to form valuable business connections. Some attendees come looking for work, and others come looking for people to work with. Either way, a conversation with someone at a conference is much more likely to give you a good idea of who that person is and whether they’re someone you can work with than an interview.

When I first began attending WordCamps, I spent almost my entire time in sessions, listening and learning. But the more I attend, the greater value I’ve found on the conference floor, talking to other attendees and asking questions about their work. I’ve also been able to volunteer at a couple WordCamps, which not only gives back to the community but grants a sneak peak into how a conference is run and organized from the inside.

Interested in joining your WordPress community?

Many areas have a local Meetup that gets together on a monthly basis. Both Ann Arbor and Jackson have them, and they’re a great opportunity to learn more about WordPress and meet developers. If you missed WordCamp Jackson, then you should definitely put WordCamp Ann Arbor on your calendar. It will be October 13­–14th this year, and tickets are on sale. Members of the build/create team will definitely be in attendance, and we look forward to meeting you there!

Published 05/06/17 by Laura Lynch