For anyone who is involved in WordPress – be it running a business, contributing to plugins or to core, blogging about it or generally doing something really cool with the application – is bound to receive the following question:
How do I become an expert in WordPress?
Isn’t that a hard question to answer? Maybe not for some, but I always end up having to think through where to start the conversation.
- Do you want to get into design? If so, then perhaps themes are for you.
- Do you want to get into extending the core program? Then maybe plugins are for you.
- Maybe you should try both to see where your interest lies most and then follow that trail.
If a person has a background in software development, then that leads to an entirely different conversation than if the person hasn’t really written a lot of – or any – code up to this point.
Sure, there are some great resources out there and there are places in which we can refer people but I think it all depends on where they want to go and/or what they want to do based on their level of experience.
But if you’re looking for something that will lead a person from the ground up into WordPress development, then I recommend checking out the WordPress Developers Club.
WordPress Developers Club
I stumbled across this after being introduced via Gary Jones to Tonya, the club’s founder, and was immediately impressed with what it was aiming to accomplish.
In a sense, I see it as a way of bringing software engineering concepts to WordPress.
Enough with my own perspective on this whole thing. I thought it would be worth sharing what the club is all about so if you’re interested in getting started in WordPress or if you end up receiving some of the same types of questions or emails, you’ve got a place to refer someone.
Before I go any further though, I’ll share the following two points:
- Membership to the club is free and there’s a Slack channel with a variety of rooms in which people can hang out, chat, and also ask questions about some of the content covered later in this article.
- There are also discounts provided for other WordPress services and software for members of the club.
And it all sounds good, but what is this thing all about, anyway? If you’re interested, there’s a lot of really good stuff to cover.
But First, The Elevator Pitch…
The purpose of the club (or the WPDC) aims to “actively teach, advocate, and promote excellence in WordPress Software Development. It aims to help members master the discipline and craft of the profession.”
Straight from Tonya, the club’s founder:
WPDC infuses computer science and software engineering into WordPress software development, and it provides WordPress centric educational opportunities for everyone seeking to master this profession.
Kinda cool, isn’t it?
The Challenge of WordPress Experts
In a previous post, I’ve talked about the various ways in which we label ourselves as it relates to WordPress.
I think people toss around the word “developer” and “expert” far too much and we need to refine what it is we’re calling ourselves so others understand what it is we do within the context of the WordPress economy. This way, we can market ourselves in the best way possible for growing ourselves as well as our businesses (or hobbies or however you employ WordPress)
If a person considers and/or labels themselves a developer or an expert but then hits a snag first time they encounter a discussion about, say, hooks or design patterns that make this possible, then it’s going to make for a difficult time building something from the ground up.
And that’s part of what what WPDC aims to address.
WordPress And The Development Community
Another thing to consider is how people view WordPress’ in the larger software development community. It doesn’t have the most stellar reputation (then again, I’ve yet to see a project with a repository where members aren’t bickering about something, but I digress).
Anyway, regarding WordPress and the larger community:
WordPress is shunned in the software community and for valid reasons. Our eco-system is largely comprised of untrained implementers, who do not fully understand computer science, software principles, the languages, or even the elementaries.
And there’s a lot of truth in that. Read any thread on, say, Hacker News or any of the larger software development blogs – or even some of those blogs of those who are in WordPress – and you’ll see many to the same sentiments.
Bummer, isn’t it? It’s not beyond addressing and trying to improve.
That is, the WordPress Developer’s Club offers educational opportunities to help bring those who are part of the group up to the level of software developers or even software engineers.
The key, though, is understanding the fundamentals – starting at the ground-level, so to speak – and then moving upward. Once you have those things in place, then it’s a little easier to transition from language-language or framework-to-framework.
Ask anyone who’s done this before and you’re likely to hear the same answer. Of course, this raises the question as to how this is done.
Podcasts and Tutorials
Each week, the club offers an episode of the Know The Code show.
The Weekly Live Podcast that teaches bite-size code morsels, centered around code challenges.
In addition to following along with the show and the podcast, there are also code samples and challenges in which you can actively participate such that you’re putting into action what you’re learning.
It’s hard to fall behind, too – you can catch up on previous episodes on the show’s homepage.
For those who are familiar with Bob Martin – or Uncle Bob – then you know what a proponent of craftsmanship and how much he’s an advocate for things like apprenticeships.
Similarly, the WPDC aims to offer the same thing. In the Apprenticeship program:
WPDC offers this same educational model for students who want to learn under the guidance of a mentor while actively building two fully-functional business-centric websites.
One of the things I love most about this approach is it allows a person to be paired with someone else who has a deep background in software development and who is able to work with and train someone else using the experience they’ve gained throughout their career.
The idea of a WordPress certification program has come up a number of different times (including on sites like WP Tavern). The WordPress Developer’s Club is aiming to provide exactly that throughout its process of educating its members.
WP DevSchool is the educational flagship where students learn not only WordPress code, but computer science, logical thought and problem solving, languages of WordPress, testing, software principles, project planning and management, and more.
DevSchool’s educational model is a balance of university computer science + hands-on practical experience + cross-training. This training is very deep and thorough.
Ultimately, the certification process works like anything other program with which you’re familiar: After a level of education has been completed, then students can take a test to demonstrate what they’ve learned throughout their time in learning via the WPDC.
And, like any other certification process, what if the test isn’t passed on the first time? No big deal. Study the content covered throughout the program and then look into taking it once again.
The WPDC isn’t a one man show, though.
There’s an entire team of volunteers working behind the scenes to help make sure that anything from the fundamentals to the structure of the educational path is organized in a way that sets everyone up for success.
Comprised of Software Engineers who currently work in WordPress and possess broad technical experience in other software environments, the WPDC Advisory Team serves to provide guidance and expertise for WPDC’s educational mission. Each advisor is passionate about education, software quality, WordPress, and Computer Science.
This means there are a variety of perspectives brought to the table to make sure those who are members of the WPDC are receiving the best path possible through their time in learning about software development within the context of WordPress.
Everyone involved care deeply about software and educating others who are just as passionate about getting into the field.
Starting at The Ground-Level of Development
There are a lot of ways to learn how to do things with WordPress – anything from tutorials, one off blog posts, questions on Stack Exchange, to Twitter. And they’re all great depending on what your specific needs are.
But if you’re looking to start at the ground-level and work up to the skill level many software developers and engineers have or work towards throughout their career, then the WPDC is something I’d highly recommend checking out.
If nothing else, this is yet another resource we have available to give to those who ask us how to get started in WordPress. And if they say they are looking for how to get started in software development within this context, then the WPDC is a really great place to start.
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