Kyle Maurer, the director of operations at Sandhills Development, is a well-known WordPress enthusiast who organizes WordPress meetups and WordCamps. He is highly respected for his contribution to WordPress training and the community. He has worked on major open-source projects that include Client Dash and Easy Digital Downloads.
In this interview, Kyle talks about how his career transformed from a marketing guy to a full-time coder. If you’re a developer, designer, or a blogger who is passionate about WordPress, you can follow him on Twitter.
Cloudways: Hello Kyle, thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? When did you decide to switch from marketing to operations? And, has your marketing knowledge helped in your operations role?
Kyle: I’ve basically been in a marketing role for 80% of my career so far. Changing to something different was not the plan but when the opportunity came, it made a lot of sense. For the past couple of years, I’ve been handling some extra administrative duties in addition to my marketing responsibilities, mostly because we’re a small team and everyone wears several hats. But at some point, it was determined that those side projects and tasks I was handling were going fairly well, needed more time, and happened to be my favorite parts of my job. This lead to me getting an offer to transition to an exclusively operations-focused role late this summer. I’m loving it so far.
My marketing background has been helpful in one sense: I’m very data-oriented. A good marketer is always data-driven and that is a practice I’ve carried on. I lean heavily on spreadsheets and calculations for everything.
Cloudways: When did you first discover WordPress and what inspired you to pursue a career as a WordPress developer?
Kyle: There was a period of a couple of years where I did find myself writing most of the code for the projects my agency was working on at the time. For a long time, I stubbornly resisted the call to get more deeply invested in web programming. But there was a key turning point when my business partner called me out by showing me how cool my code creations were and how adept I was. That inspired me to change my mindset and embrace this part of my job. Subsequently, my skillset increased much faster and I began to find joy in my role as a programmer.
Cloudways: We’ve seen your love to contribute to open source communities and you are a contributor to several Make WordPress teams. What are your suggestions to those who want to become contributors to WordPress?
Kyle: The best news for those interested in contributing is that virtually every skill set can be applied in a way that benefits the project and the community. Though there is an abundance of tasks in need of coders, those with other talents have plenty to contribute as well. I’ve helped out by making simple code contributions to several of the project websites, moderating video submissions on WordPress.tv, answering questions on the support forums, organizing WordPress events, contributing design input, writing documentation, and probably a few other ways I’ve forgotten at this point. Go to the Make WordPress site to learn more.
Cloudways: Kyle, when did you design your first plugin? What difficulties did you face during development? Do you have any favorite plugins?
Kyle: I didn’t want to be a coder. For a long time, I avoided making any plugins because I thought it would be hard and I didn’t identify as a developer. When I finally did create one for the first time in 2012 I kicked myself because it was way easier than I’d imagined.
In terms of my favorite plugins, I’ve always loved Project Panorama, LearnDash, Query Monitor, CPT-Onomies, Plugin Toggle, and Son of Clippy.
Cloudways: What tools do you use in your project workflows? What are the must-have tools for operations?
Kyle: Internally, our team uses Basecamp for project management with some Trello boards and Google Docs here and there. I manage a ton of my own work within Google Sheets.
Cloudways: You have organized many WordPress meetups and WordCamps. Can you please tell our readers, how such meetups benefit the WordPress communities?
Kyle: WordPress is not the only software that I use to do what I do. Not even close. But it is the only software I use with an enormous, collaborative, active, friendly community that I can easily engage with in-person regularly. In-person events are a key ingredient in the recipe for success for open source projects, and the WordPress community has excelled at them.
Cloudways: I saw your video on YouTube “What I Learned From Interviewing 200+ People in WordPress”. Can you please summarize it here? 🙂
Kyle: For the past five and a half years, I’ve been interviewing individuals in the WordPress space every week. In this time, I learned a lot about myself, the people who make up this community, and how the WordPress ecosystem works. This presentation is a collection of my reflections and takeaways from those interviews.
Cloudways: Being a digital marketer, operations director, and an active member of the community, what are your life hacks for managing all this?
Kyle: I’m no stranger to having big scary piles of work that seem endless. For years I’ve been trying to get things done, inevitably falling short of my expectations, and then telling myself “I’ll have to work harder next week”. This is crap. Throw that garbage out and be real with yourself. Life is too short to wreck yourself over your own unrealistic expectations. If you’re not getting everything done that you need to, working harder is probably not the solution. Change your expectations to be more realistic or offload some responsibilities or change jobs altogether. Don’t just keep on telling yourself that it was your fault you missed the mark.
Cloudways: We know it is hard to take out time from work, but we all need to relax once in a while :). What do you like to do in your free time?
Kyle: I’ve been playing in a band for a few years now. We perform a mix of original music and some folky/rock tunes at local coffee shops and breweries monthly.
I also have a two-year-old daughter who’s way more fun than I thought kids could be.
Cloudways: Discussing everything in a short interview isn’t possible. If we’ve missed out on anything, feel free to discuss it here. 🙂
Kyle: I’d love for more people to take a look at our new Sandhills website and keep your eyes open for new job postings there because our team is incredible and growing. I also co-host a satirical WordPress advice podcast weekly with a friend so you can check it out if that’s your thing. But mostly, take care of yourself and don’t buy into the hustle culture that’s so popular these days. It’s garbage and you deserve better.
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Cloudways: What are your views on managed cloud hosting providers like Cloudways? Do you think non-techies can leverage the speed and management advantages to compete with bigger players?
Kyle: I have tremendous respect for the team at Cloudways and am inspired by how seriously they take the challenge of hosting WordPress sites in 2019 and beyond. It’s a complicated task and the competition is fierce but managed hosts like Cloudways are seriously reimagining web hosting and that’s a win for all of us.
Just to acknowledge our readers, can you please send us an image, What does your desk or workspace look like? 🙂
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Mustaasam is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. Where he actively works and loves sharing his knowledge with the WordPress Community. When he is not working, you can find him playing squash with his friends, or defending in Football, and listening to music.