WordPress is a diverse and inclusive community. So why do we have specialty Meetups? Do we need one? In this episode, Jason Tucker and Bridget Willard invite the founder of Women Who WP, Jen Miller to talk about this important subject.
Jen Miller – the WPblab unofficial show producer!
Started a specialty group called WomenWhoWP – geared toward women, but open to everyone! The setup is a little different than a traditional meetup because “woman dialogue differently”. Yvonne originally coined that phrase. They wanted to be able to share and grow and dialogue together regularly!
Why do you need a woman’s meetup? Men don’t see how much they dominate the conversation (and how much more they are represented in tech – Bridget was one of only a few woman at a recent Developer meetup).
The way women relate at meetups is far different than the way men do. Men also ask questions differently – women tend to include more social details and stories, and men tend to get straight to the point.
Friendship is when you say “oh my gosh – me too!” Women feel comfortable sharing when they feel others understand them or can relate. As their group has grown, more of those women have started attending the regular WP meetup as well!
Bridget has a mug on the show that happened because of WomenWhoWP – it came from a friend at WordCamp Mumbai – Meher is doing a WWWP group in Mumbai. WWWP is now worldwide – women are excited about it!
They saw in their own meetup, they & other women in the group didn’t get to spend much time talking together, so they decided they needed to set aside time to really relate with each other.
WWWP meetings happen over food at restaurants. They have discussions over dinner so by the time the presentation happens, everyone feels like they’ve bonded and created friendships.
How you are physically in a room and your body language matters – it makes a huge difference in how people relate to you.
They have made it a really big deal to encourage each other not to describe themselves as “just” anything… (just a blogger, just a designer, just a writer, etc…) They work hard to validate each other. Wherever you are in your journey – it matters! What you are doing matters.
Ages at their local WomenWhoWP meetup range in ages from 22 – 70! You can’t have mentorship if you only hang around the people who are your age. They’ve even had visiting 12-yr-olds!
It’s amazing what every individual who comes contributes to the group! They all have something unique to add. The group spends time each month also sharing the new things that each of them learned.
Amy Hall in the chat: “It’s the acceptance that makes it awesome” – it’s so true – that’s what make the WordPress community special. Women at the WWWP meetups get to really know when another – they know you when you walk in the room and they care if/when you show up.
There was one time where Bridget wasn’t going to attend one month (she was late, having a bad day, etc.) but then she went anyway and when she walked in everyone was excited to see her and made a big deal out of welcoming her into the group. They treated her like family and made her feel wanted/needed and made her day.
They have a general, business, design, developer and WWWP meetup in their area – all specialty meetups that all cater to certain people. As a community grows, and if it’s big enough and invested enough, it’s a great way to help grow and expand specific skill sets.
Make sure to get your meetup connected to the WordPress meetup Chapter Program so that people will be able to find it more easily.
Zeek Interactive sponsors the Women Who WP meetups by providing the location.
At WCUS, they have a special LGBTQ afterparty – sometimes it’s just great to connect with your tribe – the people you identify with.
The original meetup started by Zeek spawned a whole bunch of spin off meetups that followed a similar format. It’s important to have a format and a plan – when Jason visits other meetups, sometimes they can feel a little aimless. It’s such a big difference to attend one where there is a schedule and format. That’s what makes the meetups at Zeek Interactive and WWWP meetups so great!
As Jason’s meetup grows, he’s noticing there is a growing divide between those who are on a developer level and those who are just beginning and figuring their way around. It’s around this time in any meetup where it’s a good time to ask yourself – is it time to start a specialty meetup?
They encourage every Women Who WP chapter to have 3 organizers. That way if someone needs a month off, they are able to take the time without worrying about the group. That way they are able to keep continuity in the group and keep things flowing.
It helps to have a team and share the responsibilities (and the spotlight!) It helps balance the load and plays to each individual team members’ strengths.
Mentoring people and allowing them to grow into the position while they have you as a safety net is really important. The group should be able to continue and move on even when one of the team leaders isn’t available and has to move somewhere else. We should be like “sourdough starters”!
No one likes to say it but a lot of people like to ‘control’, but if you’re controlling, you’re not mentoring and your stifling the development of your community.
They aren’t telling people what to say or how to be a part of the group, they are modeling and mentoring and the group members are learning by example. Jen: “We’re not in this for us, we’re in this for them – for this community”. They’re doing to expand the audience so everyone can learn together.
There are starting to be some specialty WordCamps – maybe someday even a WomenWhoWP WordCamp?! It’s possible! WwWP had a booth at WCUS and because of that visibility, groups in other countries were started.
One of the things they do that’s really different is they invest in the community. When members write on the meetup community page (on Facebook or meetup.com) that they can’t go, the organizers make sure to ‘like’ the comment and reply to them to let them know they’ll be missed!
(sidebar: please put your face (an actual photo) on your Meetup profile so organizers recognize you! And everyone else!!)
We may be meeting once a month, but we’re keeping things going even outside of our meetups.
Intentionally, the organizers choose not to sit together. They’re there for the other people who attend the group, so they distribute themselves around the room. That way, everyone feels like they have access to the leaders. It can be a challenge in some rooms to sit apart but try to be intentional about it! It’s important to make sure you’re always talking to new people in the room.
If you want to be a meetup leader, you have to sometimes go out of your comfort zone – talk to people you wouldn’t normally – stretch yourself!
There’s a twitter thread started by Dwayne McDaniel today talking about “what’s your favorite part of speaking”… Bridget’s answer was: “I speak because I teach. My passion is that moment on someone’s face where they get it. When I speak and they feel empowered. When they come up and say, “That’s it?” And I’m like, yeah. You just tweeted.”
We try to hit all the topics so that everyone can learn something different. Even seasoned developers. A lot of times in WordPress, we learn what we need for the project, but not in depth.
One of the really interesting things that happened, is during the final project she was having trouble getting some of the code to work. She asked the lead developer to look at it and he sent a message back saying thanks and that “he learned a lot” from her problem because he had to go research it, which helped him to level up too! It raised his respect for her and her for him.
Jen would never have taken this on if WomenWhoWP had never happened. She’s doing it to show people that they don’t need to put themselves in a box – they can learn new skills. Just because they are great in one and feel set, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to enhance their skills or try for something they don’t think they can get. Jen didn’t think she has the relevant experience to be accepted, but she was! Take the risk – go after something your really want to learn!
Tools of the week:
Bridget – https://www.touchnote.com/us/ – it’s an app to send your photos as postcards, prints
Jason – https://www.decksetapp.com/ – a way to do presentations for Mac, makes slide decks really easily without having to do any design work. It is done entirely in Markdown format. Costs $29 – $116 for a team.
Jen – https://www.udacity.com/ – she loves their learning style and they do so many different subjects in their Nanodegree program | https://codepen.io/ – to store all of her code snippets (includes editor that allows previews too)
Show notes contributed by:
Cheryl LaPrade – @yaycheryl
Sherie LaPrade – @heysherie
Editor’s Note: Transcriptions of episodes are created with a mix of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain some grammatical errors or slight deviations from the audio.