Women who WP Presentation: How to Rock WordPress

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at Women who WP, which is this wonderful meet up that gets together some amazing women and we have dinner and talk about WordPress, our stories, and what we’re learning.

These awesome ladies asked me to speak a bit about who Automattic is and what it’s like to work there in a presentation called How to Rock WordPress. I specifically geared it towards people who are starting out with WordPress, I’ll be going over some great resources and how to get started.

Embed from Getty Images

Background / My Story

I’m Tish and I work with Automattic. Automattic is the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, and JetPack. Our CEO Matt Mullenweg is one of the cofounders of WordPress.

I’ve been using WordPress for 6.5 yrs, back then I was working as a receptionist at a Granite countertop company, and the owner opened up a Gourmet food truck- so I started doing their social media and their website was built using WordPress. I remember being asked to make some edits to the site. I really had no idea what I was doing, but was able to Google my way into figuring it out. This was my first interaction with WordPress.

When the recession hit, I went back to college and decided to major in marketing and website design. I was shocked when I realized no one was teaching WordPress, so then I started on the road of learning from YouTube videos.

I built my own website, and then everyone who would let me. Soon I was freelancing. I decided to take a break from school a little bit after I got hired by a great company called Talent Evolution. I became their project manager and oversaw all of their website development, using WordPress.

Eventually I applied to Automattic, they’re a completely remote company. All 480 employees work remotely, so I never had an interview face to face, over video, or even audio. All of my interviews were text-based instant messenger like chats. Then I was invited for a paid-Trial. Where I got to do the work of a Happiness Engineer. About 6 weeks into my Trial I was offered a full time position, and I’ve been at Automattic for over a year now. Majority of our communication is via P2, which are internal blog sites. You can trace all major company decisions via p2- and see the discussions go back. It’s amazing and really transparent.

I work on a team that focuses on the WordPress.com live chat. I get to help our users every day and I have a blast. I make my own schedule and on a typical day I work around 5hrs in live chat and then spend several hours answering emails to users, training new Happiness Engineers, writing bug reports, and catching up on our P2 posts.

The WordPresses and Automattic. How it all works

There are two WordPresses. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, whose software is available for free at WordPress.org.

WordPress is an open-sourced software which mean no one owns it and everyone can contribute code to make it work, The Foundation owns rights to the trademarks. The Foundation is a non profit and is founded by Matt Mullenweg. You can download that software at WordPress.org, and can then install it onto your hosting.

Matt then went on to found a company called Automattic. Automattic owns WordPress.com. There is no need to purchase hosting, we use the WordPress software to create your site.

Automattic does contribute some resources to the WordPress.org project. They are two separate companies. Automattic and it’s employees do not control or “own” the WordPress project.

Which WordPress Home is best for you?

The best way to think about The WordPresses and their differences is….

WordPress.com is similar to living in an apartment complex- the amenities are built in and are great for people who don’t want to deal with the headaches of home ownership. You don’t want to worry about landscape maintenance or what to do if the plumbing breaks at 1am, you call your landlord and they take care of all of that for you. This also means that you can’t tear down walls or make an addition to your apartment. Similarly for your WordPress.com sites, we take care of all the maintenance of backing up , securing, and updating your site for you. All of your amenities are built in, this means you will not be able to install plugins and themes. The features behind plugins and theme are built in (Contact forms, social media sharing, etc.) I also think there are a lot more amenities built in then people realize. I kinda liken this to, we have a great pool- it’s a nice feature. But if you really want to build your own custom pool and have it look and shaped a certain way…. then the next option may be a better fit for you.

WordPress.org or self-hosted WordPress, is like buying a piece of land and owning the home on it. You’re in charge of maintaining your site, including updates, and if something breaks, like the plumbing at 1am you’re in charge of getting that fixed, either doing it yourself or hiring a contractor. Like with all home ownership, there are pros- since you own the land on which the house is built you can tear down walls and make an addition to your house. You can build your own custom pool that you like. Similarly, you can install any plugin or theme with your WordPress.org site.

Yes you can switch between the two WordPresses, if you feel you are on the wrong one. There are several guides on how to do that.

There are pros and cons to each WordPress, it really is a matter of preference and what you need for each site. I personally have sites on both. I’ve found WordPress.com to be great for projects that don’t need custom development and I know that the user doesn’t plan on updating/maintaining their site ever. It’s also great for people who are starting out and need some extra support to learn how to use WordPress.

Something to keep in mind when talking with others about WordPress or reading articles/watching YouTube videos is that generally when someone says “WordPress” they’re referring to self-hosted WordPress.org, so Youtube videos and support articles that say “WordPress” refer to WordPress.org. When someone mentions WordPress.com is when they’re referring to WordPress.com sites and features.

So now that we’re clear on the two WordPresses… let’s talk about the different resources available for both so that you can receive support and also how to learn WordPress

WordPress.com Support & Resources

Support for WordPress.com:

  • Support Documents (free and everyone has access)
  • Forums (free and everyone has access)
  • Live Chat Support or Email Support (available if you have a paid upgrade)
  • WordPress App (free and everyone has access)
  • Themes all have documentation (at the bottom of your site in the foot credits, click on your theme’s name to access the documentation for your theme)

Resources for Learning:


WordPress.org Support & Resources

Support for WordPress.org:

  • Forums & documentation
  • Community (meet ups, Facebook groups)
  • Theme documentation / support. Wherever you buy your theme from, the author should have documentation on how to setup your site and also offer some form of support.

Resources for Learning:

  • Youtube / blog posts
  • Community (meet ups and Facebook groups)
  • WordCamps find one near you and attend (or WordPress.tv)
  • Courses of Lynda

How to Rock WordPress

The main way is to just jump in and get involved.

Our open-sourced software and this community was built on the cornerstone of giving. That’s what makes us special. That’s what keeps us thriving.

Be willing to attend meet ups, volunteer at WordCamps, and jump in and fiddle with your site.

Also when hitting a roadblock… first off be kind to yourself.

No one came out of the womb knowing WordPress. Everyone has had to learn and everyone has been where you are now, hitting the same roadblocks you’re now hitting.

Even if someone else knows more then you, you know more then someone else. So give back what you know. And once you’ve learned how to get past whatever your roadblock is… give back. Help write documentation that will help the next person get past the road block or help them directly by answering questions on the forums. If you’re a developer, why don’t you try contributing code to WordPress core?

In my experience, you can never give more then you receive in this community.

So go out and Rock WordPress!

Also, a huge thanks to Automattic for sending us some awesome swag (flash tattoos, notebooks, stickers, and buttons) a few happy tears were shed by our very excited attendees ❤