Do you remember when I told you I was looking for a job?? Well, I found one! A great one!
Many of you know that I’ve been on the job search for over a year. When Mode Effect brought on a new partner in January of 2018, it wasn’t just because John Morrison is impressive (which he is), but it was also to provide a way out for me. It’s not that I didn’t love Mode Effect. I did and still do. I was not doing what I love. I love community and the cultivating of it, and I love event planning. These are just not in the wheelhouse of Mode Effect. And I was ready to stop doing what I didn’t like and start doing what I love.
So on the job search, I was since January of 2018. And over and over I was met with disappointment. Mostly it was for misfortunate reasons, reasons beyond my control. For instance, I had an opportunity with a well known hosting company to be on their events team and to work with some of my fave WP community members. But it would’ve required me to move to Austin. With three teenagers rooted and grounded here in Phoenix, this just wasn’t a possibility. So this did not pan out.
In total there were about five strong opportunities for me that never panned out. I was not feeling particularly good about myself. But I pressed on and kept myself very busy volunteering.
Cut-to-scene; it’s Friday of WordCamp Phoenix, and I’m fighting sickness, venue drama, and am very tired. During lunch, I laid down for about 20 minutes and then walked back to eat. I spotted one of my WP friends and thought, “There’s David. I know him well enough to be ‘off.’ I’ll go sit by him and just chill.” And this is where the magic happened. Very unmagically. Sitting next to David was the Elegant Themes Content Manager, Nathan, of whom I did not know. I was very uncharming. At least, that’s what I thought. I was stuffing my face with fry bread and probs talking with food in my mouth. 🤦🏻♀️ David started asking me how the job search was coming, and I let him know that it was not coming. He pointed to Nathan who then let me know that they were looking for an Event Coordinator for Divi and I was all like, “Alright. Whatevs.” He said he would email me and we’d further discuss the position.
Just me and a couple of mah beaver buddies. We’re still friends.
It might’ve been my ignorance with Elegant Themes/Divi, or it might’ve been the fact that Mode Effect has been team Beaver Builder for years, but I just didn’t think much of it. Maybe I was shaded (or perhaps I was just too sick). But thankfully, not entirely. After being AFK till Thursday after WCPHX because I was in bed recovering, I finally saw the email from Nathan. He sent it Saturday during WordCamp suggesting that we talk the following Thursday. It was Thursday when I read it. 🤦🏻♀️ Quickly I responded with a proposed new time, and we met. Then we met again. And then I started to see what a fantastic community Divi had surrounding it!
Right under my nose was this sub-community of WordPress that I had never noticed. I mean, I did see. Especially at the 2017 WordCamp OC when like a herd of horses in purple shirts was this group of highly excited individuals gungho about something. I noticed. I asked. But I did not file it away. So here I am during a formal interview being shown video of that WordCamp and how the Divi community used WCOC as an opportunity to meet up and the contagion got real. The community that surrounds Divi is legit and I was seriously intrigued. At that point, I knew I wanted to pursue this opportunity.
The following Thursday I received the offer of Event Coordinator for Elegant Themes and I accepted. I will be cultivating their online communities and will be leading the charge for the first DiviCon coming soon. What I’m most excited about is that I get to do precisely what I wanted to do. All the opportunities I had last year were for positions that required a ton of booth management for conferences/trade shows. It’s not that I’m against that, but I did not want that to be my main gig, and I kept thinking, “I want to plan events. Like the entire event, not just the booths.”
It’s like someone knew my biggest heart’s desire and gave it to me. I’m genuinely excited and humbled to receive this blessing.
The inaugural DotOrganize.
WordCamp Phoenix turned 10 and we went big with a reunion celebration!
At our WCPHX organizer kick-off dinner last August, I mustered up the courage to share my vision for our 10 year anniversary. This was to be my last year as lead org and I wanted it to be grand but I knew my vision was a bit campy (you’re not surprised if you know me). My vision was High School Reunion and, thankfully, it was met with acceptance for the most part. Storytelling is huge and it’s a big goal of mine to make sure that attendees, speakers, sponsors, et. al. know and feel the story we’re conveying. So when the team was on board, I was stoked and the planning began!
Patrick & Shayda
My team is awesome! No, like, ridiculous! High performers. Highly intelligent peeps who LOVE our community! And, it shows! From design, to sponsor wrangling, to marketing; they’re so good! I could not breathe without them. We do not call it in. We do not half-arse anything. We pour our hearts and effort into planning WordCamp Phoenix with the goal that attendees find extreme value & community and that sponsors are greatly appreciated and cared for as WordCamps could not happen without them.
So let me tell you what we did…
First things, first. Amirite? After just a couple of tweaks, we settled on our maroon&gold/academic/Hogwarts (😉) theme. We really felt this conveyed our reunion story best as the colors are that of our hometown university, Arizona State, and it had a bit more of a mature look. Almost collegiate, but not quite.
And did you see our Wapuu?? He plays football and is in the marching band! His hat even has a shako plume on it! I LOVE our Wapuues this year!
The WPMU Dev crew.
We had to raise a lot of money. Almost double of what we were asked to raise last year. And we did. In fact, we raised $5,000 more than our goal. How? Because of the smart efforts of Betsy, Kathy, and a really the whole team as we all helped to a level. Also, because I believe sponsors find value in our community and camp. But this is always a delicate balance when it comes to raising money for WordCamps because so much expectation is on our sponsors. Their ROI is extremely important to me. Of course, measuring their ROI is debatable, but our team will do what it takes for our sponsors to find more and more value. We get creative and think of new ways to help this. We keep open lines of communication and make them feel as appreciated as possible. Truly, nothing but love and thanks do I have for them. We could not have a conference without our sponsors!
We took the conference to the Phoenix Convention Center this year planning for 600+ attendees. The location is amazing and the building is nice, but I’m not sure we’ll ever go back. They’re pretty antiquated in their processes and we were met with headache after headache. More so during the actual event than leading up to it. I mean, we don’t regret using them but we’re not planning on returning for anymore local-based WordCamps.
Josh Strebel – Keynote
We had a ton to comb through before narrowing it down to 54 speakers. Our first round was to solicit help from the community for a blind review. Then the orgs go in finalize.
I was giddy with our speakers this year! We had some WCPHX alumn, as well as some newbs, speak. But all eyes were on our keynote speaker Josh Strebel, founder of Pagely. This well-known figure in the global WordPress community calls Arizona home and was one of the founding peeps of, not only our WP Phoenix community but the entire Phoenix startup/tech community. His talk had everyone engaged and locked in.
We straight shut a city street down in order to accommodate using our own catering company! Dennis and I had a meeting with the City of Phoenix, booked a barricade company, ordered trash receptacle, tables & chairs, signed on the dotted line and-voila!-Lunch logistics done!
Like last year, we were going to avoid food trucks (as they take too bloody long) so we used Conceptually Social again. Boy, they shot it out of the park! They built an outdoor kitchen and served amazing food, I mean, frybread?? Have you ever been to a WordCamp and received frybread for lunch?? Here’s a secret: it was gluten-free frybread. We only told those who desired a gluten-free meal. 😜
Snacks and coffee did not go so well. It sucked not being able to provide the usual snacks all day long as the convention center won’t allow outside food and would require an amount equivalent to a house downpayment to purchase snacks from their exclusive F&B vendor. We had to bite the bullet and pay for coffee and water. Next time you run into me, ask me about the coffee and water bill.
Everyone got P.E. shirts & drawstring backpacks! Anthony killed it on the design for those! And speakers got lettermen hoodies complete with varsity “W” letters! All were met with great feedback!
Our Org letterman hoodie
So we had a Homecoming dance. Srsly. Along with eats, a game-truck, and drinks, we hired a professional to come out and teach us bachata! About half the team was with me on this. One of my favorite parts about WordCamp Europe is their epic after-parties. I love it. I wanted to share some of that experience with our local camp if we could. It was a gamble. I thought, “Could we really get a group of techies and keyboard warriors to dance?” Yes! The answer was, “Yes!” I was blown away by the crowd that came out specifically for the lesson. It was so sweet. It was truly a special event. Something for everyone. Don’t worry. We still had quieter spaces for those who like to just talk.
I truly love organizing WordCamp Phoenix. It brings me incredible joy. I love events because they bring communities together AND further cultivate them. From Meetups to networking events, to conferences; my cup runneth over. But this is not a one-human job. It takes many humans. Shout out to all of our event volunteers! Your graciousness to our community does not go unnoticed. But my eternal love goes to my organizing team. Every year there seems to be some negative reoccurrence. Last year it was several speaker drops. This year it was organizer family tragedies. I have to say, I prefer the former. 😢 Several of our organizers really went through some hard times but found it in their kind hearts to continue helping. They are my favorites. Let me count the ways:
Anthony – Your design is incredible and your personality matches! Thank you for coming in blind and serving this community!
Betsy – You are a high performer and extremely intelligent. You are such an asset. I’ve loved getting to know you over the past few years!
Carol – Um, where do I begin? To say I couldn’t breathe without you is an understatement. You are such a rock for the team and for the community. And you slay wrangling sponsors! I love you and being able to serve this community alongside you!
Clancy – I’m so glad you stepped up to become an organizer (and now LEAD!). You killed it wrangling our volunteers this year even with all the difficulties we had there. You’re topnotch talent and someone I’m glad to share adventures with!
Cory – I LOVE HAVING YOU ON OUR TEAM!! Your role is so important and you’ve been a big help there! Your personality and kindness make my heart swell. I’m glad you joined our team!
David – Oh my gosh, I could not breathe without you!! Your abilities with PR and marketing are amazing! A true wordsmith. Not to mention how much you help in sooooo many other areas of planning WCPHX. You’re truly an asset. And I’m sorry Paul Blart tried to tackle you. 😜
Dennis – Dude, I’m grateful you joined the team this year! I really needed help with all things AV and you stepped up like a champ! As well, you helped me with other areas outside of AV and I’m forever grateful!
Jenn – Holy crap, girl! With no experience, you came in and contributed in such a great way! I’m so glad you did and can only hope that it set a spark in you to want more! Thank you and forgive me for throwing you in the deep end! 😅
Justin – Haha! I still think of being at George & Dragon’s talking to other confirmed orgs and then turning to you and asking, “You in?” 😳 And you were in. You wrangled that website like a beast. I’m glad you joined this team, Justin. Thank you.
Kathy – I’m so glad you blind emailed us last summer asking to get involved! You are exactly the person fit for this level of event planning! You go above and beyond and are a Wonder Woman in my eyes! Thank you for joining this team as you did and I hope it was as rewarding to you as it was to me!
Nathan – You’ve been so huge in wrangling our budget! I’m so glad this was off my plate! And I just admire the way you pursued getting involved at this level. You’re so intelligent and a true asset. Thank you, thank you!
Did I mention I was fighting the sick the whole time? Rarely do I even get sick but it got me. My voice was sooo bad! But I am a fighter and pushed through. Thursday through Sunday, I made it. And then was bedridden the following three days. 😷😅
This was my last year in the lead role for a while. I’ll still be on the team but this is good. Organizing WordCamp Phoenix for the past four years has been truly special. I learned a ton. I experienced a ton. I grew in so much knowledge. It even directly led me to my next career move! This is the magic of our community. I hope you join us and experience it for yourself.
We busted through some parchment paper!
For the second year, I got the privilege of organizing the Community Bazaar for WordCamp US and had a wonderful time!
WordCamp US 2019 had its last year in Nashville, Tennessee this past December. While I love traveling to new and old places, I think I’m fine with not coming back to TN for a good time now. Maybe I just didn’t get to visit the parts of Nashville that are my scene (I’ve heard that East Side is nice), but I’ve had my share of honky tonk bars to last a lifetime. *Disclaimer* I hate country music. 🤷🏻♀️😬
Muesli at Crema.
But I do my best to find joy in all places I get to visit so let me mention two places I loved! An amazing coffee shop with perfect espresso and dairy-free mocha sauce called Crema. I could work out of there all – day – erryday – day. And Pinewood Social (which serves Crema coffee 😉). The food and drinks are delicious but the vibes are all right! Just right. Like I like it.
This year I got to room with my WPAZ partner-in-volunteerism, Carol Stambaugh. We stayed at the official WCUS Hotel. This year it was at the Westin and was super close to the venue.
I quit enjoyed the colder weather this year. At times, there was a bit of snow which looked lovely from the rooftop bar at the Westin. Of course, this desert rat still does not like humidity and you could really feel it at times even
My AZ WordPress Queen.
though it was colder. Part of that was because I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off most of the time doing my Community Bazaar thangs.
I was sad to miss my good friend, Shayda. I think this was our first WordCamp US without each other. But I was super glad to see some peeps in the community that I rarely get to see!
We had another great community turnout for the Bazaar! About 13 communities participated IRL and 19 total were featured online!
Sé! One of my first WP friends!
It was really special to talk to other WP communities and hear all about them. How they differ. How they’re similar. I love that! Especially seeing everyone’s swag! I’m even more exited for the Community Bazaar at WCUS 2019 which is coming in hot as we finally pushed the dates back out of December. 😅
Will you be there? I hope so! Apply for your community to be featured! We’ll have a blast together!
Robby & Taco! My AWG Iceland crew.
WordPress AZ representin’ at WCMSP!
Last weekend I attended and spoke at WordCamp Minneapolis/St. Paul. This was my second trip to the midwestern city and I was glad to visit again!
My first talk ever AND at this camp!
One year ago, WCMSP gave me my first opportunity to speak at a conference. It was only fitting to return the following year and I’m so glad I did!
Tessa, me, and Patrick!
First off, I’d like to give a huge shout out to Tessa! She was the head ringleader for WCMSP this year and really did a great job. Thank you, Tessa, for all of your hard work you poured into planning WordCamp!
The venue was great! The McNamara Alumni Center was an absolute top notch spot.
I truly believe venues are a huge deal for conferences and I was glad WCMSP made this of the utmost importance.And with that, the hotel was amazing!! Oh em jee, I LOVED it! Graduate Hotels have their branding on point. Or maybe I’m just totes their target market, but I don’t care! Graduate Minneapolis had a collegiate/alum brand going on. Even their keycards were branded as student i.d. cards! Oh, it was adorbs! Apparently, there’s a Graduate Hotel in my hometown which I now have to make an excuse to stay at. 😜
I was super please with my talk! Timing worked well, my voice (as it often doesn’t cooperate) was on point, and I really felt engaged with the audience! Check out my slides.
My talks are always about Community. This is still the one message I preach.
I have goals. Long-term and short-term goals. One of my short-term goals is to travel to another country at least once per year. I have met this goal every year for four years now. Last week, 2018 was fulfilled with my trip to Iceland. Myself along with 19 other geeks met up in Reykjavik and journeyed inland to The Volcano Huts Thórsmörk.
Me totes not prepared.
As soon as we loaded that Icelandic bus, the adventures began. Having just landed that morning at 06:30, I thought I’d be sleeping on the bus. Alas, no sleep was had as this girl has too much FOMO. Much was to be taken in by my eyes and I didn’t want to miss any of it. Especially the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. We all piled out and ventured to and behind the waterfall. What a sight! But I was not dressed for that in my $10 Target leggings. If only I had read all the communications from Mendel. Then I might’ve been better dressed for the occasion. Next stop was the Gígjökull glacier where a sub-glacier volcano erupted pushing ridiculous amounts of ice and water up and over spewing into the valley below.
Anton & Maria
The journey continued and after crossing a few rivers in our beast of a bus, we arrived at the campgrounds where we were immediately greeted with lunch and a warm fire. Anton & Maria were our hosts for the week and we could not have asked for better hosts. They fit right in with our geekdom and their hospitality was over the top!
The watering hole?
After lunch, the group did not hesitate to settle in (eh, throw their baggage in) our designated rooms and start exploring the grounds. There was plenty to do on the grounds alone. Like relaxing in the natural warm-springs pool or the dry sauna. Cartwheeling on the open fields or swinging on the swingset. Playing guitar around the fire and roasting marshmallows. Of course, most wanted to get right to the trails and hike. And that’s what we did.
A welcoming sight!
In fact, that’s what we did every day. Hiked. Four-hour hikes, six-hour hikes. We did the hikes. And every meal was hot and waiting for us prepared from scratch by Maria. She even went out of her way to accommodate my obnoxious gluten-free, dairy-free, and legume-free diet needs. The evenings completed each day with fire and great company. Sometimes a bonfire, sometimes a small fire. Sometimes games and sometimes night photography. But always contentment.
If you ask me what my favorite part of the trip was, first I’d say, “No.” I’m rebellious. Then I’d say, “The people.” It was definitely the people. About half of us were WordPressers and the other half were from other tech communities. Even out of the WordPress crowd, I only knew Mendel (+ Sarah) and Robbie. I knew of Rarst & Taco. Everyone else I just met for the first time. But after the extended weekend and much breaking of bread together, I can say that I strengthened old relationships, took it to the next level with acquaintances, and kindled something new with those that were strangers. My heart is full.
Mendel, thank you for your vision for Geek Adventures for planning this Iceland trip.
Robby, thank you for your brotherly friendship & putting up with my constant The Wedding Singer quotes.
Sarah, thank you for your smiles and kid-like spirit. I’m so glad we startled Mendel & Jessa.
Rarst, thank you for your up-for-anything spirit & great photographic eye.
Taco, thank you for your fearless leadership on the trails and contagious smile.
Nichola, thank you for being an awesome roommate and your beautiful smile.
Alex, thank you for the nonstop laughs & entertainment!
Alison, thank you for your wonderful storytelling.
Christie, thank you for your nonstop smiles & for organizing your local WordCamp.
Crystal, thank you for your friendliness & wonderful henna-colored hair.
Hari, thank you for your contagious laugh.
Jackie & Akash, thank you for the great conversation & last night of hangs and drinks!
Jamie, thank you for your daily pink representation. You really make that color look good.
Joel, thank you for your immediate friendship and being the best stretching partner.
Kevin & Jessa, thank you for your kindness & entertainment.
Kim, thanks for your calming voice & for ordering two PB shakes. That made my night.
Maureen, thank you for your wonderful smiles & adventurous soul.
I love this.