With over 25 years of experience as a web developer, Topher DeRosia is the main mind behind HeroPress – a site focused on the WordPress community’s success stories.
He has been affiliated with WordPress for more than 11 years and specializes in backend development and creating easy solutions. We are pleased to have him share his story with us. So, let’s begin.
Danish: Hi Topher, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start with your initial journey. How did you start your career with WordPress? Any insights you’d like to share about your professional career?
Topher: I had been a web developer for 15 years before I seriously tried WordPress. In 2010, 3.0 came out with custom post types, and everything changed for me. I dove in head first and never looked back. I say this to my detriment, and I now believe I should have ALSO worked on some other platforms to help keep my perspective clearer.
Danish: You are a web developer with more than 25 years of experience and have been in the WordPress industry for 12 years. What motivates you to continue with WordPress?
Topher: First, the community; I love the people of WordPress. I’m an extremely social person and love interacting with people. I love teaching and mentoring, and WordPress is a wonderful place for that.
Additionally, I do love how WordPress functions. I love the plugin system; I’m learning to love the new theme system and everything about it.
Danish: Being a web developer, what projects do you usually like to work on, and how do you manage them?
Topher: I really love working with custom post types. The options there are unlimited, and it’s really fun to get creative.
As for management, I often work as part of an existing team and use whatever project management system they use. This has helped me get used to various options like Jira, Trello, GitHub, Bitbucket, etc.
Danish: You are an active member of the WordPress community. What role has the WordPress community played in your success?
Topher: The WordPress community loves good community members and delights in their success. So referrals come often and easily. The key is being a good community member. If you’re greedy or selfish, don’t give back, or treat people poorly, the community will be a poor asset indeed.
Danish: Why is the WordPress community so much bigger and better than the other communities in the tech industry? Any thoughts on that?
Topher: Size is easy. WordPress is an excellent tool and widely available, so people use it. As for quality, some of it is a deliberate choice. Community members have chosen to be vocal against racism, sexism, violence, etc. Another is the global aspect. The diversity of voice creates a great deal of power and subtlety.
Danish: Tell us something about HeroPress. What inspired you to start it? Our readers would love to know the story behind HeroPress.
Topher: HeroPress started because one of my employers thought maybe I could come up with a good idea and gave me the push and resources to try it.
I found that I wanted to give voice to underrepresented people in WordPress. WordPress tends to get much attention in the US, Europe, and Australia. And I felt we needed to hear the stories of people in the rest of the world.
It was going to be a video, like TedX, where we would travel the world and record people. We did a Kickstarter campaign, but it failed, and HeroPress died. Enough people emailed me asking me to keep it going.
I realized if we made it text-based, like a blog, costs would go way down, the output would go way up, and it would be more accessible to those with low bandwidth. So I reached out to Rarst, who had agreed to do a video and said he would do it in text. His essay was the first publication on HeroPress.
Danish: You are also part of Howard Development and Consulting and WP Wallet. What are your responsibilities here? And how do you manage to multitask?
Topher: WP Wallet is quite a new product, and we’re working through what it needs to do, what it could do, and learning what our customers need. Please give it a try and let me know what you think!
As for multitasking, a portion of my time at HDC is spent on HeroPress, so I’m simply cautious about marking time in our time tracker.
Danish: How big is your team, and what is your primary role in the team?
Topher: It depends on what team you mean. A total of 15 people work on HDC. Three or four of us are working on WP Wallet.
Initially, I worked alone on HeroPress for many years. For the last year or so, my wife has helped quite a bit, and we’re just starting to bring on some help to take care of ongoing tasks.
Danish: You have attended more than 80 WordCamps. How many WordCamp events have you hosted as a speaker? Could you please share some of the topics? Also, are you planning to give a talk at the WordPress future events?
I’ve talked about caching and site speed, image optimization, community work, HeroPress, and other things.
Danish: You’re on the Contributors Team for WordCamp US this year. Will you share some insight on this volunteer team and how can people actively volunteer for such events?
Topher: One of the things I love about the contributor teams is the wide variety of options available. You don’t have to be a coder, designer, marketer, or anything. The options are so diverse you’d be hard-pressed to not find something interesting, even if it’s simply taking pictures with your phone. There’s ALWAYS something interesting to participate in and improve people’s lives.
Danish: What is your favorite part of WordCamp?
Topher: Talking to people by far. Talking in the halls, in the sponsor area, at the various parties and meetings, all of it. I want to meet everyone, get to know them, and hear their stories. It fulfills my soul.
Danish: You have published hundreds of training videos. What was the idea behind them? Are these videos available online, and how do they benefit people?
Topher: My first real job was in support, and after I got asked the same question 4 or 5 times, I realized I should simply write it down and point people to it. This was long before video on the internet was easy, but I switched to video as quickly as possible.
I really enjoy helping people learn and seeing their lives improve through that learning. I love seeing the look on their faces when they suddenly GET it.
I’ve made them for a variety of reasons. Some people have paid me, like the videos for WinningWP. Some I did simply because people kept asking me, and I wanted someplace to point them. Topher.how is a place where I’ve tried to aggregate everything.
Danish: Any tips for beginner web developers looking for a career in WordPress development?
Topher: Become a part of the community. It’s an extremely helpful place; the more people you know, the better the chances that someone will help show you the way.
Danish: How important is the WordPress community for the survival of WordPress?
Topher: WordPress is in a time of great transition. Many decisions are being made that people either don’t like or don’t understand. Still, the community has (for the most part) chosen to have faith in the decision-makers and trust that these decisions are best for the project. Without that confidence, people would stop using it, and it would fail.
Additionally, people learn about WordPress from other users. The larger the community, the larger the pool of knowledge around it, and the faster and more powerful it is.
Danish: Would you name three community members who have inspired you?
Topher: Brian Richards was building a new kind of theme when I got started, and it helped a lot. He lives near me, and we talked a lot when I was getting started, which helped tremendously.
Tom McFarlin is my favorite as someone classically trained in software development who chooses to help WordPress be more professional and do things properly. He takes time to teach, lead, and help people understand, all while leveraging that professionalism in his own code.
I’ve been watching the career of Josepha for many years now. She started in the family business, moved out into the larger world, and has grown into the Executive Director of WordPress, a position she holds with style and class. She’s worked hard and done a wonderful job.
Danish: We’d love it if you could share an image of your workstation for our readers.
Topher: Check out this interactive edition.
Danish: Thank you, Topher, for sharing your journey with our audience. It has been great interacting with you and getting to know your views on the WordPress community. We wish you the absolute best of luck for your future and hope to connect with you again soon.
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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]