Today, we are talking with Michelle Schulp. Based in Chicago, she is running a web design and development agency, Marktime Media. Michelle has a wide experience on the design side. She speaks at many events and conferences. Plus, She never hesitates to dedicate herself to code and development. (A hard life to live, I must say!) Currently, she is educating herself about hardcore PHP, so she can get even better at coding.
In this interview, we have discussed about her life, business, and interests. She shared the details about her projects and useful plugins in her opinion. Enjoy reading!
Cloudways: You have the experience of working with design agencies. What made you to move towards development and how long did it take for you to become handy with coding?
Michelle Schulp: My formal education is in graphic design and it is still what I’d consider the majority of my work. However, I’ve never been afraid of getting my hands on the code side. I took some classes in HTML (back when frames were still a thing) and messed around with BASIC programming to learn some simple logic when I was a kid. Between that and the fact that there are so many resources to learn WordPress-specific development, I’ve become pretty comfortable in theme building for my clients.
I’m also taking a few introductory PHP classes, so I better understand the syntax. I wouldn’t call myself a developer though! I think it’s a different approach to problem solving than the one a designer takes—and you need both to be successful.
Cloudways: You took time in choosing WordPress. Obviously, there were many other options with open source content management systems. What clicked your mind that you decided to go with WordPress?
Michelle Schulp: I actually decided to pursue WordPress professionally at the CMS Expo in Chicago. I had some experience with Joomla from the agency I had been previously employed at and didn’t particularly care for it, so I was exploring Drupal as an alternative. At the end of the day, I decided to jump into WordPress theming track and for some reason, it felt really exciting and natural. (Plus, they had multicolored logo pins as swag—and that’s pretty important!)
Cloudways: How was your experience with the first WordCamp at Chicago. Do you think these WordPress events are creating good impact on the community?
Michelle Schulp: My first WordCamp in 2011 was overwhelming, but in a good way. I didn’t really interact with a lot of people, just sat back and absorbed knowledge and felt like there was no way I’d ever be as good as the people on stage. I didn’t know anything about “the community” or how much of an impact it was going to have on my life.
I just knew I wanted to get to know more of these smart people, so I decided to volunteer for the next one. Initially, it was really scary and intimidating to be surrounded by all these people that know way more than me.
Of course, so many of those people are now good friends and peers and we all share the same stage at WordCamps around the country. (Honestly speaking, I still think they’re smarter than me!)
Cloudways: What is the story behind Marktime Media? How was this agency established and what are your plans for it? Where do you plan to take this project in the next five years?
Michelle Schulp: Marktime Media was originally founded as a partnership to do multimedia projects (like, design and video). Sadly, that partnership no longer exists. (It was a friendly dissolution, though!) However, I am still pursuing Marktime Media as the commercial name for my design services.
To be honest, I am still developing a path for myself, but I know that I am happy either working as a designer with another developer, or a very small team on a larger project, or helping smaller clients myself and doing all design, strategy, and theme development for them. I also do presentations and infographics for mid-to-large corporate clients, which is really a fun contrast to web design.
Cloudways: Name three plugins that you must have with each of your WordPress installations. Why they are your favorite ones and what made them necessary for you?
Michelle Schulp: At the moment, pretty much all of my projects involve Gravity Forms, Advanced Custom Fields, and Backup Buddy. These have allowed me to build and deploy much more complex projects than I otherwise would have been able to, with my technical know-how.
Don’t get me wrong, you still have to have a basic understanding of development and theming to work with these plugins, but you can do all these cool interactions without having to write all of the logic behind it from scratch. That being said, there are several other plugins I go to for amazing performance of specific functionality, like The Events Calendar, WooCommerce, etc.
Cloudways: We all have a life and family other than work.What are your activities in spare time? Do you listen music? Anything you do that is unique and you would like to share?
Michelle Schulp: I have a history as a band geek. I played the flute and piccolo through childhood, high school, and college and I was in the marching band. It gave me the opportunity to play at a lot of amazing venues, including Carnegie Hall and the Great Wall of China. I’ve played in community bands as well and though I’m currently not actively playing, I’d love to do it again.
Cloudways: There are several forums available on internet to get help with WordPress related issues. What are your views about them? Do people really like these forums or is it easier for them to get help on communities available on Facebook and Google+?
Michelle Schulp: Usually when I have WordPress questions I turn first to my friends (like our Skype/Slack chat named “The WPEagles”, a casual virtual watercooler for us remote workers to hang out in for help and camaraderie). If something remains unsolved from them, then I go Google. It is basically the place from where I get information from the Codex, Stack Exchange, and many of the great tutorials put out by community members.
I am also a member of a few WordPress Facebook groups and help out where I can. I think it’s great that there are so many avenues to get help from where people can find what really works for them.
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Cloudways: You have attended different conferences, mostly WordPress related events. Have you organized any such event that has been beneficial for the design, development, and WordPress community?
Michelle Schulp: I was on the WordCamp Chicago 2012 organizing committee where I was helping to co-organize WordCamp Chicago 2013 with Aaron Holbrook. I was responsible for much of the general logistics as well as the design and identity. I became the lead organizer in 2014 where I put a lot of work into getting a great selection of speakers and sponsors for our community.
I also helped out with many of the Chicago area meetups. I’m in Minneapolis now, so I’m hoping to get involved with their WordCamp. (They have a really strong and vibrant WordPress community here. If any your readers are in the area, consider coming for WordCamp this Spring!) I love logistics and organizing things, so I consider this—and my speaking stints— as a way of giving back to the community. 🙂
You can follow Michelle Schulp on Twitter.
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Waseem Abbas was WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves to help people with their WordPress worries. He is a self-proclaimed "food explorer".