TL;DR: The rest of this stuff is just a short list of other things I would tell my previous self (or maybe someone else just entering the industry) if I were just getting started.
At the beginning of the month, I started writing a few articles rooted in the idea of if I knew then what I knew now as a software developer working in WordPress. And in the first post, I wrote:
So in the next set of posts, I’m going to talk about a few different things that I’d tell my past-self – or The New Class of WordPress Developers – on what to expect or how to process things when working in this industry.WordPress Then, WordPress Now
If you’ve not read any of the other posts, you can find them all here:
- WordPress Then, WordPress Now
- Where to Start With WordPress Development?
- You Should Write About Your Work
- Play By The Rules and Be Careful What You Write
- Know Your Strength, Hire Your Weakness
And this will be the last post I write in this series (and if you’ve been subscribing to the podcast, then it’s going to be the last episode for this ‘season’ of episodes).
What I Know Now
Note that writing this series has been good and I hope it’s helped but I’m ready to get back into writing about other things. I’ve already got a backlog of notes of things I want to talk about all mostly programming related.
With that, here’s a smattering (is that a proper term for this?) of other things I’d tell my younger self. Most of them are a sentence or two. No elaborating beyond what’s here.
Time will either prove them to be right, to be wrong, or to make no sense at all. Here we go.
🛑 You Can’t Keep Up with All Of It
It’s almost impossible to keep up with everything that’s going on in WordPress. Find a few sites and newsletters that cover material most relevant to what you’re doing and focus on those.
For a cursory glance of what’s going on throughout the entire economy, follow The WP Minute, Post Status, and WP Tavern.
🪧 Know Who You’re Working For
Regardless of what you release, you’re going to have critics. I don’t recommend ignoring all criticism because some of it can be constructive, but a lot of it will not be. If you’re building something for a specific group and know there’s utility in it, then remember your market.
🗣 Attend a Conference
If there’s a WordCamp near you, try to attend one. You’ll meet a lot of people and you’ll get the break the ice with people you’ve likely seen – or spoken with – on Twitter.
Even if you don’t attend a talk (though I highly recommend trying to find at least three to attend), make time to talk to others. This is what’s generally known as the hallway track.
📢 Apply to Speak at a Conference
If you’re comfortable in what you’re doing or have something to share, apply to speak at a conference. Regardless of if someone is covering something similar, regardless if a similar talk has been given, regardless of if a blog post or podcast has covered the topic, talk about what you know from your experience.
Rarely are two experiences going to be exactly alike. Different perspectives on the same topic can reach a broad audience.
💪🏻 Strengthen What You Know
If you’ve found an area of the platform on which you enjoy working, focus hard on that area. That is, if you enjoy working with React and front-end technologies, then stay educated and working in that area.
Don’t necessarily ignore that the rest of the economy is doing because it’s all connected in one way or another, but focus on what you know and stay of aware of what you don’t.
💡 Stay Aware Of What You Don’t
As mentioned above, one of the keys to staying relevant in WordPress is not only knowing what you do, but knowing what you don’t.
For example, I’m not the person to hire or to build your solution when you need someone to take care of a block or a React-based component. I could do template work, but I’m most capable working in the back-end of a system.
But to work effectively with a team, I need to know how they work and what they work with, too. To that end, I still read and follow people, newsletters, and articles who discuss front-end topics.
I don’t have to build a car to know how to change the oil; I don’t have to build a component to know how the data gets into the database.
🤷🏻♂️ There’s Always Something
For better or worse, people are going to be talking about something. And for as often as they do, sometimes you’re going to be the target of it.
This is not an excuse to do whatever you want (that’d be ridiculous), but if you’re conducting yourself like any reasonable and responsible person would and someone is unhappy, there’s a strong chance they may discuss it publicly on Twitter. And then there’s a chance it snowballs onto a blog or into a newsletter. This seems to be the way the “WordPress community” stuff works.
Because of that, something new will always coming along. It’s the whole “today’s news is tomorrow’s history” or whatever.
Do the best you can and don’t sweat the small stuff.
🗒 A Classic Listicle
The rest are just small phrases I either share with others or remind myself from time to time. They lack context but maybe they’ll help.
- Not everything is urgent. If it’s truly urgent, don’t panic. Focus.
- It’s okay to use ‘Do Not Disturb’ your machine, in Slack, in email, etc.
- Email is not instant message or texting. Respond when you can.
- Inbox 0 isn’t necessarily a goal. You can sacrifice time doing other things if you aim for this daily.
- Filter your emails (that is, do not let them all come into your inbox. Newsletters, for example).
- You can fire customers.
- If you can’t purchase a product or subscription to a friend’s business, support them by buying them a coffee or writing a blog post, or serving as a tester and providing feedback (if they let you do the latter!).
- It’s okay to make mistakes and apologize regardless of what the comments say.
- The nice thing about software is that it’s easy to change (that’s why it’s soft).
- If you can think of edge cases in your code, odds are your users will hit them. Don’t ignore them. Don’t write code for the “happy path” only.
- Religious arguments over which coding standards are best are silly. Pick one and have you and your team adhere to it.
- Some people know more than you; you know more than some people.
- Uninterrupted focus is underutilized. Used to, we’d have to worry about interruptions at work. Now, especially if we work at home, we allow more interruptions than necessary. Get some good headphones and good music and turn off all but urgent notifications.
- Twitter is what you make it. Don’t make it serious.
- Don’t read the comments.
And that’s it for now.
Thanks for taking time to read all of the posts as well as listen to the podcast related to said posts, if you’ve done so.
I’m looking to get back to my regularly scheduled content as soon as possible.