This year, WordPress turns 20. To celebrate, the folks in the Marketing Team are running a 20 Days to Celebrate 20 Years of WordPress, From Blogs to Blocks campaign. For day 1, one of the prompts is:
What is your WordPress origin story?
My journey to WordPress was tied to my journey of learning web development. At 23, after working in various retail positions for 5 years, I studied for a programming diploma at a local college and learned Visual Basic, Delphi, and Java. After I finished my diploma, my first programming job was using Visual FoxPro, and during my time at that company, I was introduced to PHP and MySQL. This led me to my first attempt at striking out on my own as a freelance web developer, and my attempts at an online web presence.
In 2006 I registered 2 domains. psykro.za.net was to be used as my personal site, and psykrotek.co.za would be my business site, promoting my PHP development services. (I still own both domains, but today I mostly use them for staging site purposes, having dropped the use of the psykro online nickname, which now only exists as my WordPress profile name.)
Apparently, I had already tried blogging three different times by September 2008, which is when I first installed WordPress on the psykro.za.net domain I used as my personal site.
I don’t really know why, but at the time most of the local web development folks I was in contact with did not speak highly of WordPress for building sites, so I had gone the route of building my own CMS to power psykrotek.co.za. I only tried WordPress on psykro.za.net because someone else suggested it, and I wanted to try it out.
First serious attempt at blogging…using Drupal!
This attempt to blog didn’t last long, but in around 2008, I registered a new domain, php-developer.co.za. This was the start of my first serious attempts at blogging, and the sharing of knowledge around web development. For whatever reason, I chose Drupal to power that blog.
I didn’t use Drupal for long, as I found it cumbersome to use, and I soon moved the blog over to WordPress. I even shared the migration script I’d used to migrate from Drupal to WordPress. If only I’d known to turn that into a plugin!
For a number of years, I randomly blogged about PHP and other assorted tech-related things on that primary WordPress blog. I was not a prolific blogger and my posts were mostly just a way to document things I might need to come back to later. During this time I’d gotten married, left my full-time career as a software developer to work with my wife in her family business, and worked in either a freelance or part-time basis with a handful of local South African start-ups and smaller agencies. Mostly I did back-end development work using frameworks like CakePHP, CodeIgniter, Yii, and a few bespoke solutions.
This all changed in 2015.
WordCamp Cape Town 2015
At the start of 2015 the company I was contracting with at the time needed a WordPress developer to assist their marketing team with a few smaller projects they were built using WordPress and Divi. As the only person in the company at that time who knew anything about WordPress, I became the go-to guy for WordPress questions. Mostly it was just learning how Divi did things, and I spent a lot of my time Googling to find answers.
Seeing as the company was doing more WordPress work, I suggested to the CEO that the folks using WordPress should attend the upcoming WordCamp. I’d known about WordCamp from the previous year but never attended. The CEO agreed, and I attended along with the marketing manager and one of the front-end developers.
As clichéd as it may sound, that WordCamp changed my life. I met so many folks who I still consider friends today, Hugh Lashbrooke, Jenny Wong, Drew Jaynes, and Jeffrey Pearce, to name but a few. I discovered this wonderful community of people, who were not only passionate about their open-source project, but were a friendly, helpful, and caring bunch of people. I walked away from that WordCamp and decided I would pivot my career and focus on WordPress development.
I’ve not looked back since, and it’s honestly been the best career decision I ever made. So thank you WordPress, for helping me find my path and my people!