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Winstina Hughes – Co-Host of Women of WordPress NYC Meetup Shares her Involvement in the WordPress Community

Updated on September 9, 2022

6 Min Read
Winstina Hughes

Winstina is an active member of the WordPress Community. She has led several WordPress NYC meetups and presented at various WordCamps. In 2020, Winstina became a core contributor to the 5.6 WordPress Release team and is a co-host of Women of WordPress NYC with Meryl Randman.

We are pleased to have her and would love to hear her views on WordCamp and what motivated her to continue the journey.

Danish: Hi Winstina; thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us how you started your career with WordPress? Any insights you’d like to share about your professional career?

Winstina: Hi, Danish. First, thank you for inviting me to share my story with Cloudways. I started using WordPress for a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) assignment in college. My professor had us create a blog on WordPress.com and we were asked to add maps of public health data we analyzed. That’s where it all started. WordPress.com.

Danish: Since you have been in the WordPress industry for a long time, what motivated you to continue with WordPress?

Winstina: That’s a great question. Our New York City WordPress community! My early years attending WordPress NYC Meetups were a joy, and the first several Meetup events I held were wonderful experiences. I’ve made friends over the years who I hold close to my heart. Additionally, I love to learn, and WordPress core is ever evolving.

Danish: You mentioned that you are an active member of the WordPress community. What role has the WordPress community played in your success as a developer and agency owner?

Winstina: I am an active member. I own a consulting company, and I have considered establishing a business presence within the WordPress ecosystem. I began my business developing websites while in graduate school, and WordPress has inspired me to hold on to my company. Since earning my Master, however, my focus has been on my career as a transportation planner at Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) State Highway.

Danish: Why is the WordPress community so much bigger and better than the other communities in the tech industry? Any thoughts on that?

Winstina: There is so much to this question. WordPress software is a Content Management System that allows anyone to sell products and services, build an audience as an authority, and establish an online presence or brand. That’s an incredibly versatile product.

What’s more, there is a vibrant community of people doing all this, and they share their knowledge and skills at one-day events and weekend conferences (WordCamps) around the world. WordPress is bigger because of this.

I considered learning Python for data visualization before JavaScript or PHP. I have used software within my industry including AutoCAD, Sketchup, ArcGIS, OpenStreetMap, Salesforce, and AWS. I’ve explored some of those communities. But nothing has allowed me to express myself as WordPress CMS and moved me in the way the WordPress community does.

Danish: How important is the WordPress community for WordPress survival?

Winstina: You ask great questions Danish! I think the survival of WordPress CMS is interwoven with the survival of the WordPress community. I think we need each other. When WordPress core evolves, the WordPress community evolves. When we evolve, WordPress core evolves. Individuals who embrace WordPress enjoy dynamic environments, engaging work, and passionate people. These individuals make WordPress and make-up the WordPress community.

Danish: Can you name three community members who have inspired you?

Winstina: Steve Bruner. Steve’s Meetup was the first WordPress event I attended.

Cami Kaos. Cami was the first Automattician who made me feel like the WordPress community had a place for me. I stayed because of Cami. We met at WordCamp NYC 2016. It was the first WordCamp I co-organized,

Cory Miller. Cory welcomed me to the Post Status community. Cory has a kind and generous spirit. In welcoming me to Post Status, he introduced me to Adam Warner at State of the Word last year. Adam has a kind and generous spirit, too. Cory, and Post Status, Adam, and GoDaddy Pro, said yes when I asked for their financial support to start an initiative that will pay the travel expenses for underrepresented/minority WordCamp speakers.

Danish: How did you end up creating Support Inclusion in Tech? What was your inspiration? Can you share a brief story about that?

Winstina: My inspiration for Support Inclusion in Tech came earlier this year. WordCamp Europe faced backlash on Twitter about the lack of diverse representation on its 2022 organizing team. Things got heated. But if we are honest, the lack of diverse representation isn’t WordCamp Europe-specific.

My take on it is that the WordPress community, and its programming, mirror many societies that grapple with the full participation of all groups beyond the dominant group. Contributors forgo participation in community events due to income limitations.

While others miss the mark with full inclusion, I believe the WordPress community can rise to the occasion.

The WCEU conversation on diversity and inclusion moved from Twitter to Slack communities. A blog post was published on Make WordPress about ways to increase underrepresented group participation in community programming.

Something aligned in me during these conversations, and I wrote a call to action on my blog where I shared, “I think the WordPress mission to democratize publishing is quite possibly realizing something more. The philosophy behind WordPress, and its Four Freedoms, may be realizing a Fifth Freedom. The freedom to experience a thriving community truly open to everyone through sharing of information about The WordPress Open Source Project at community events.”

Support Inclusion in tech brings us steps closer to this realization because it removes the financial burden of travel expenses for underrepresented WordCamp speakers. My partners and I seek to assist those who want to participate in community event programming but can not or do not. I want underrepresented WordCamp speakers around the world to transcend the barriers that preclude our inclusion. I personally know how meaningful this support can be. Bluehost sponsored my entire trip as a WordCamp US speaker when I was a graduate student. Devin Sears and his team were warm and generous. I want to put that forward.

Danish: You were the speaker in how many WordCamp events? Are you planning to give a talk at the WordPress future events?

Winstina: I’ve spoken at WordCamp NYC, WordCamp US and WordCamp Austin a total of six times I believe. I am not planning to give a WordCamp talk this year. I intend to submit a talk to WordCamp Asia. They are wonderful for extending their 2023 application deadline.

Danish: Can you share why you started speaking and how to get started speaking at WordPress events?

Winstina: I was encouraged several times to submit a talk (a short proposal) to WordCamp NYC, but I hesitated. I attended Rutgers University for City and Regional Planning, not computer science. I couldn’t immediately draw a connection between my work, WordPress, and the tech community. In time I came to understand that I, too, have insight to contribute.

I encourage the person reading this to attend a WordCamp and a WordPress Meetup event to observe a presentation and to meet organizers. This will give you opportunities to ask questions that could help you clarify your topic. I also encourage visiting WordPress.tv to watch past presentations for ideas.

Danish: You are a community person (as you mentioned), and you love to organize events. How was your experience organizing meetups and WordCamps?

Winstina: It has been a joy. There are so many moving parts. When all of them come together, and a Meetup member or an attendee shares that they enjoyed the experience, it’s the best feeling.

Danish: What is your favorite part of a WordCamp?

Winstina: It changes depending on whether I am an organizer, speaker, or an attendee. As an organizer, my favorite part is the end of the first day. We got through registration! Sponsors and speakers are happy! Lunch went smoothly! Our team did it! As a speaker, my favorite part is immediately after my presentation. I can breathe normally. All that nervous energy is gone. As an attendee, my favorite part is the joy I feel with the first friend I see. We come together once a year, so there’s a lot of emotion in the WordCamp experience.

Danish: You’re on the programming team for WordCamp US this year, can you share some insight on this volunteer team and how people can actively volunteer for WordPress events?

Winstina: The WordCamp US programming team, and WordCamp Europe and WordCamp Asia I imagine as well, are the same as those of smaller WordCamps. It’s the same process of accepting applications, reviewing, selecting and confirming speakers. For all WordCamps, leadership has the final say. The difference with WordCamp US is the scale and the pace.

Most WordCamps cap at 200 attendees so WordCamp US is 3 or 4 times the size of most WordCamps. Pace wise, it takes two or more years to become a good organizer. The first year is mostly about being present and being ready, willing and able to help. You learn by observation. The second year, an organizer knows the framework and the pace and that allows them to increase their impact.

Danish: We’d love it if you could share an image of your workstation for our readers.

Winstina: If you insist! I work on a standing desk in a compact space.

Winstina workstation

Danish: Winstina, it was truly an honor to connect with you and get to know your insights. Thank you for sharing your views on the WordPress Community and WordCamps.

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Danish Naseer

Danish Naseer is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He is passionate about designing, developing, and engaging with people to help them. He also actively participates in the community to share his knowledge. Besides that, he loves to watch documentaries, traveling and spending time with family. You can contact him at [email protected]

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