In this episode, Josepha Haden Chomphosy speaks to her role as the Executive Director of WordPress. Learn about the day-to-day of her role and how it supports the mission of WordPress.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to the WordPress briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of some of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project and the community around it, as well as get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go!
I’ve been asked many times what the day-to-day work looks like for the Executive Director of the WordPress project. I don’t really think I’ve done a great job of answering that question. My default answer is either too broad, and I say, “I helped turn the WordPress vision into reality by supporting the community of contributors,” or way too narrow, and I start telling people what’s on my calendar. Probably no one cares about each entry on my calendar, and almost every contributor is covered by “I get things done by helping people.” So today, I invite you to join me in exploring the type of work required and the balance it takes to keep WordPress working.
First, some context on the weekly activity I see in WordPress, on average, 1,800 to 2,000 contributors a week, participate in conversations and tickets across the entire WordPress project in our entire ecosystem. There are about 20 volunteer teams that are each led by two to three team reps. Each of those teams actually has smaller groups that work on specific things; all told, it’s probably about 50 distinct teams. And probably quite a few more if you are very generous in your counting about what makes up a team for us.
Among those teams, a minimum of about 35 meetings a week are held, plus more for working groups. That doesn’t take into account the things most people are aware of externally. It doesn’t take into account the big quarterly or annual activity things like WordPress software releases or any of our events. When those sorts of things do happen, there’s a bit of an increase in our activity.
I work 40 to 60 hours a week on WordPress, depending on what’s going on, to make sure that I know what’s happening now; so that I have insight into what the next three to five years will bring. All of that is in support of the WordPress community, which I define as anyone who has ever interacted with WordPress ever, regardless of whether they know it or not. In case you’re feeling a bit lost right now, we can shorthand that entire context as this is really big and really complex.
Given that giant scope, it makes sense that people wonder what the work looks like. So I’ll talk about it in three big chunks: what I focus my time on, what I focus my attention on, and what helps me balance my decisions.
So first, what I focus my time on. I spend about a quarter of my time in meetings, mostly with current contributors, project leadership, and community members. I spend another quarter of my time in WordPress community outreach, checking in with current folks, reaching out to future WordPressers, and checking in with people that I haven’t heard from in a long time to make sure that I know what they need and if there’s anything that I can do to help. After that, I spend a bit under 15% of my time each on writing/communications work or ad hoc project work. I then spend 10% of my time reviewing proposals, editing, communication drafts for others, and determining my stances on discussions that we’re having in tickets and elsewhere. I spend all of my remaining time planning for various goals, projects, initiatives and personally working to remove blockers for our volunteer contributors. So the bulk of my time, about 50% or more, is spent in calls with people, which makes sense if you’ve ever worked with me; personal connections with the community have been the best part of my job for a long time. Since the community is what makes WordPress so great, it’s only natural that I want to stay connected.
The second big chunk is what I focus my attention on. I pay attention to four big pillars of work in the project. The first one is the WordPress CMS itself. So that’s the core team, accessibility, design, and many, many others. The second one is the WordPress community. And that’s the training team, everybody who is working on the Learn initiative, and the actual community team as well.
The third big pillar that I focus on is the WordPress contributor experience, which is mostly the meta team but includes all of the teams they work with: plugins, themes, polyglots, etc. The fourth big pillar that I turn my attention to is our communication; what I am saying about the WordPress project to people outside of it and what I am helping our team reps to say about the work that we’re accomplishing for the WordPress project inside the project. In general, we have to make sure that we coordinate a big group of contributors around a common idea or a common practice as we move forward.
Now, the way I focus both my time and attention probably isn’t quite right if you’re focused on a single feature or team. And it’s definitely not right if you aren’t spending 40 hours a week in the project; what that probably looks like for you is more like an hour in a team meeting, 30 minutes or so on clarifying conversations, and any remaining time that you are able to contribute focused on the feature that you’re actually contributing to. And so, there you have it all my time and attention. That is WordPress in a nutshell.
This brings us to the third chunk, the balance part. You might be wondering, how do I make sure I am fair and balanced in decisions that I have to make. That is something that I think about all the time, and I take very seriously. It’s hard to make decisions that might affect 2,000 people. It’s even harder when those decisions might affect 40% of the web. I know that I don’t have all the answers. And I’m fortunate enough to have 50 or 60 people in the community who offer me advice and guidance every single week. I’m in constant contact with the project lead, of course, but I also prioritize messages and concerns raised from team reps. And I always strive to understand before I try to problem solve. I don’t always get it right, but I do always work to get better. And that is the day-to-day work of a WordPress executive director.
That brings us to our community highlight. I tweeted out into the community asking for excellent examples of Freelancer success stories, and today I’m going to share a story from Arūnas Liuiza. Their story goes like this:
“For almost a decade, freelance WordPress gigs allowed me to support myself and my family and keep my full-time teaching position at the local college, which was paying peanuts but was an awesome, meaningful, and fulfilling. I am sincerely grateful for that.”
That brings us to our final segment of this brief podcast. The small list of big things to keep an eye out for in the next two weeks in WordPress. I only have two things this week. The first one is daylight saving time. It is that time of year where daylight saving time starts or stops at various parts in the globe. If you are a team rep here at WordPress, don’t forget to talk to your teams in your meetings in the next few weeks to decide what you’re going to do. You can move your team meeting if you want, and you can keep it where it is and see what new voices show up when it moves around for various people. Either way, make sure that you chat it out with your team and make sure that everybody understands what is and isn’t moving on your calendar. That will also be relevant to any of our brand new work-from-home folks in the middle of this global pandemic.
The second thing to share is that there is a major release of WordPress coming up that’s going to happen on March 9th. It’s WordPress 5.7; it’s going to be a good release. We’ve been working on it since December or maybe a little bit earlier. So keep an eye out for announcements about that here on wordpress.org/news, or if you want to follow more about the developer details and the process details you can head on over to wordpress.org/core. That, my friends, is your small list of big things. Thank you for tuning in today for the WordPress briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks!