018: Global Leadership with Tess Coughlan-Allen

In episode 18 of Women in WP, we talk to Tess Coughlan-Allen about her journey not only into WordPress, but into the world of organizing and leading at WordCamp Europe.


About Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Tess is a writer who is passionate about communicating ideas in creative ways. Day to day, Tess works as Marketing Manager for Mind Doodle, helping people all over the world Make Ideas Happen with creative thinking and visual task management.

Active in the WordPress community, Tess is one of the Global Leads for WordCamp Europe 2020 and co-organised the first do_action hackathon to take place in Europe.

During her free time, you’ll find Tess writing, making music, staying active (in any way, from yoga to flipping tyres!), attending music festivals with friends, kayaking with her partner or exploring the countryside with their two dogs.

Find Tess Coughlan-Allen: Mind Doodle | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
018: Global Leadership with Tess Coughlan-Allen
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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Women in WP. A bi-monthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop and more in the WordPress community.

Angela Bowman:

Welcome to episode 18 of Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Amy Masson:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Tracy Apps:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Tess Coughlan-Allen. Tess is super active in the WordPress community. She’s organized the first do_action hackathon to take place in Europe, and is one of the global leads for WordCamp Europe, 2020. In her day job, she works as marketing manager for Mind Doodle. Welcome, Tess.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Angela Bowman:

We like to start off each of our episodes by asking our guests to tell us about their journey into WordPress. How did you get started?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah, sure. So I worked, a few years ago, for an organization that had like two sister brands within it. And one half was like a MedTech Network, which did lots of events and had a bunch of different websites, that were WordPress sites that needed managing. So I was like content creator, marketer, communication specialist for them.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then on the sister brand, we all worked in the same lovely open plan office, so back and forth all the time. But the sister brand was a design and communications agency, and they started off specializing in print and then gradually moved to specializing in WordPress. Which actually is probably quite common I suppose. And so, I was a copywriter for them.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So I was kind of doing two things. On one side, I was the classic WordPress user as like a content manager who wasn’t particularly technical. And then on the other side, I was involved in the development process in a sense, because I was creating content for clients as well. So I got to see it from two different perspectives and I absolutely loved WordPress. It’s just so easy for someone like me who, the reason I want to use it is to share content. So it was brilliant to use.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then I moved city in 2016. So I’d been using WordPress for like two and a half years or something. And I moved city, then moved job. And my new job was with my team at Mind Doodle, who I work with now. And I was talking to them when I just started and they were going on about the WordPress community. And I was thinking, what are you talking about? I’ve been using WordPress for a couple of years, but I’ve certainly never heard of this sort of community.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And they were like, “Yeah, yeah. We actually go all over the world going to WordCamps. And we’ve just heard there’s going to be a WordCamp in our local area.” So in Bristol, in the UK. “So we are going to go and chat to the organizers and get more involved with our local community.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So I went along, fresh into the job, and was totally blown away by what happens and how it’s completely community led. And I offered my help with stuff I found easy, which was social media and content writing. So I did that for the inaugural WordCamp Bristol. And then from there, I just got more and more involved naturally.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So I got asked to get involved with the local meetup, so the monthly meetup, and I started organizing that. I did that for a year. Like you said, I co-organized the first do_action day to take place in Europe, which was really gratifying. So it was to put a different spin on what we were doing and why. And we can talk a bit more about that later, I suppose.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then took the jump to start helping out with WordCamp Europe. So I started that in 2018, in the PR team, which is a little sub-team within the wider organizing team. Then 2019, I was team lead for communications. And now for 2020, I’m one of three global leads. So it’s been a really nice sort of journey to go on. And all thanks to WordPress.

Amy Masson:

So what does a global lead do?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Well, that’s an interesting question because it’s kind of changing for 2020. So, if you know of a local WordCamp, there’s always a lead organizer who’s ultimately responsible. And in WordCamp Europe, it’s been no different. There’s always been a global lead, who’s the person who makes the final decisions. I mean, we’ve got mentors as well, and people we can ask and talk to if we’re concerned about anything.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But the global lead manages the number of team leads, like communications, which I was part of, or sponsors, or whatever. And then there’s a local lead, because WordCamp Europe happens in a different city every year, a different European city. Much like WordCamp US, but WordCamp US is every two years in a different city, in the US. So there’s a local lead, who brings the local knowledge about where we are going.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And that’s been the way it’s been working as the event has grown. And now it’s got to the point where, it’s quite so big that one person being the ultimate point of responsibility is firstly, a lot of pressure and a lonely job. But secondly, I mean, what happens if they get unwell? What if they, for some reason, they can’t do their duties. And so this year we chatted to, actually some of the other people who organize WordCamps. Including people from WordCamp US, and found out what worked about them having multiple global leads.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And so this year… This year being next year. I’m already thinking about 2020. Next year, we’ve got three global leads so that we can split some of the responsibility. Both in terms of, sharing the load, because it’s a big weight to carry. But also because we’ve got different skills.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So for example, Bernard, who is another of the global leads. He’s going to probably be focusing on logistics. And then Jonas, the other global lead, will be thinking about the budget, and he’s organizing all the finances. And then my role is totally communications.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So we see those as the three kind of pillars of what it takes to run WordCamp Europe. There’s a few other sub-teams that we haven’t quite figured out where they’d fit yet. Really important ones as well, so we’ve got some work to do. But I mean, any one of us could probably have been global lead, but we can do it so much better together. So that’s the idea for 2020.

Tracy Apps:

That makes a lot of sense.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Just to think of that, because that is the largest WordCamp. Like, that is.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah. It’s a lot of responsibility on one pair of shoulders.

Tracy Apps:

Huge. Yeah.

Amy Masson:

There’s a saying in the running world. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And I think that really applies here.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

I like it. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

That’s a good one.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah. Also, I mean, this is so irrelevant really. But I am a twin, and I’ve got two older brothers. And we’ve always been a four, or I’ve been in a two. And I haven’t had to have that many sort of experiences totally on my own, I’ve always been in teams.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And actually the idea of being, at this stage of my career, the person who’s solely responsible for making sure all the rest of the teams are working well. And everyone’s happy, and all the attendees are happy, and the sponsors and everything. That is a lot of pressure. So I personally feel much more comfortable working in a team instead of being that point at the top of the pyramid. Which I think is a bit unhealthy, especially in a community led event, like WordCamp Europe.

Tracy Apps:

I agree completely. So you’re focusing on the communication stuff. So how do you curate that? Because that’s a huge message. It’s a lot of people. What kind of strategy do you have with running the communications and leading that part, of such a big conference? And [inaudible 00:07:56] conference of that?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

One of the best things we implemented for 2019, from a communications’ perspective was, we prepared a roadmap and made that public. So all of the teams that we have, and we split with, I think, 10 teams. So like I said, sponsors, communications, content, which is like speakers and workshops, things like that. Attendee services, things like that.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So for each of those teams, as communications team for 2019, I said, “You’ve got to give me the dates, the big dates in the calendar, so we can not only plan our communication strategy, but also we can make people aware of when stuff’s coming.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Because often there’s quite a small window. For example, with Call for Speakers, people could easily miss that. If they’re busy, if they’re taking some time away from social media or they’re traveling. We don’t want people to miss out on the opportunity just because we haven’t made people aware of when the call opens and closes.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So, for 2019, we set out a roadmap. We didn’t include every single date we could have included, we added to it as more dates and deadlines became set in stone. But we didn’t deviate from most of it, whatsoever. I think maybe one or two we changed, by one or two days. I can’t remember the specifics, perhaps it was like a print deadline or something, for t-shirts, that sort of thing.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But that, like I say, that sort of organization at the very beginning, made it so much easier to start planning a strategy for the communications. And then also with the communications team, I gave everyone in my team, other teams to bridge with. Because we ultimately, are involved with everything. So they would be encouraged to, if they wanted to, sit in on a meeting.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But more importantly, follow what’s going on, on Slack. Don’t be afraid to reach out and say, “Look, I’m your bridge from the comms team. You need to tell me exactly what’s going on, so that I can make sure we amplify the messages at the right time.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And also the purpose of that was to protect other teams as well. So the comms team, we rely on the design team, so that we’ve got social media images ready, blah, blah, blah. And I don’t want people getting asked too much at the end of the evening. You know, “We’ve got this to go out tomorrow morning…”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And I’m trying to, in some ways, protect every member of all of the teams so that we don’t burn out. Because that’s the biggest risk in a community led event like this, where people sometimes just give their all. And that’s amazing, but if you don’t put some things in place, some structure in place… Yeah. That passion and enthusiasm will lead to someone going over the top and needing to take some time out.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Which I definitely can relate to, so that’s why I put structures in place. So yeah, in terms of strategy, I suppose we started off with a calendar of some sorts. And then there can be some deviation from that, because you’ve kind of made room for that deviation.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, I really appreciated that. I saw that timeline and I was like, “This is such a great idea because I’m…” And also it was all laid out there, visual, so I could plan ahead. And that was so great. And I thought I saw WordCamp US also did that this year, or something. I saw it somewhere else. And I was like, “This is such a great idea. I hope more follow suit.”

Tracy Apps:

Because there’s always that like, “Okay, well I submitted my talk. But now I can’t find anywhere on the website where it says when those are going to be decided.” Because they’ll be in separate posts and you have to search through the site, instead of just have been one long place, one place for that. I think that’s such a great idea.

Tracy Apps:

And I really thought, especially… So I had kind of, I was a terrible volunteer, but I volunteered for a hot second, with the photography. But I hadn’t heard back from the photography team in time for me to be able to pack all of my camera gear. And it turns out that I did get an email, but it got stuck in my spam filter.

Tracy Apps:

So it was one of those things where I was like, if I would’ve actually paid attention to that timeline, I could have printed it out, and actually had that, and checked back and been like, “Hey, I haven’t heard back.”

Tracy Apps:

But I did, for the little bit that I was volunteering, with not a camera, but just my iPhone and some lenses. They were such a well oiled team. I got to add a little bit and then I was like, “Y’all have this down.” It was a well oiled machine.

Tracy Apps:

And working with the comms team I thought was just so great. Because everything was like, “All right, go get some photos. There’s people there.” Then putting that up on social media. While the speaker’s talking, we have a photo of the person talking just minutes ago. That was so beautiful to see that.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

This was an experiment as well. And actually I should mention, although big flagship events like WordCamp Europe, we might seem like we’re coming up with all this innovative stuff. And sometimes that’s the truth, but sometimes we are taking from the community, from local WordCamps, great ideas, and we’re putting them on a big stage.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So I’ll give you two examples. Firstly, the roadmap, I can’t remember which WordCamp it came from, but it was one of the Serbian WordCamps. We were like, “Look, this has worked really well. Let’s see if we can do this to a bigger audience, and see if we can do it properly, and everything.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then also the local WordCamp, again Bristol, the local WordCamp to me. I saw them getting such high quality, beautiful photos from their photographers, for speakers. And publishing them, I think just after the talks had finished. And I was like, “Oh, isn’t that great. I really want to see if we can experiment and make that happen.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Because I mean, I for one, I love taking photos. But my equipment’s not that good. And I was thinking of all the other people in the comms team who might have… I mean, I have a work phone and a personal phone. The personal phone’s really blurry, and the work phone has some sort of oil spot on the camera. And I was like, “I can’t ask people to take amazing, high quality photos on their phones, if I can’t.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So I wanted to experiment and see if we could get high quality, professional shots from the photography team out, within the time that the talk was going on. And do that for six concurrent streams.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So it took a bit of really, some kind of group brainstorming to see how we could do it. And there was a few different strategies we came up with. And finally, the one that we, when we’d all talked about it and shared our opinions, that the one that we all agreed on worked so well, I’m so proud. But it’s a good example of how local ideas can be shown on a global stage.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, it was really great. It was basically, you had someone in the… We should probably explain because if someone else wants to steal this idea, borrow it, use it as well. There was someone live tweeting in the rooms and they had a card reader.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tracy Apps:

Simple.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then the photographer from the photography team would hand over their SD card. They’d probably identify the best photo, or a couple of photos, to choose from. And then that photo would go up live during…

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And that would always happen, probably within about 20 minutes. And often, quite early on. Which was just… It was just awesome to watch. Because also, I was there, I wasn’t in the talks, I was in the comms room on my laptop, like “This is going so well!” Watching from afar.

Angela Bowman:

So I imagine, I mean, this requires tools to manage. So what are your favorite project management tools? What applications, software… What do you find that you use to communicate with each other, other than Slack?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

For WordCamp Europe?

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So for WordCamp Europe, honestly, during the event, we just relied on Slack, a couple of Google docs, and Google Drive and then Twitter. And tried to keep it as simple as possible during the live event, because the more distractions the higher the chance that people aren’t going to manage to deliver.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But to plan the tweets, or to schedule out the tweets before the live event, we used TweetDeck as well. Although it’s a bit buggy, it’s a free sort of Twitter scheduler. So we used that as well.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But if I was going to be like… Like, for my own personal stuff, I’d always use Mind Doodle, because there’s this mixture of like creative project management and agile task management. So for me, it just works. And obviously I know exactly how to use it because it’s a brand I work for.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So in day-to-day stuff, not WordCamp Europe stuff, I would definitely use that. But then WordCamp Europe, as well. I think they…

Angela Bowman:

In terms of scheduling and planning, like all that advanced planning…

Tracy Apps:

The photography team also used WhatsApp a bit and I was like, “I have to download this. I don’t understand this.” But yeah, that worked out pretty well for like, “Hey, we’re in this room, or in that room.” The, as it goes.

Tracy Apps:

Since it’s a good segue of Mind Doodle, what you do. Tell us a little bit about what that all has and entails.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So, Mind Doodle is a product and it’s like a creative productivity tool, essentially. So it starts off with creative thinking techniques like mind mapping. And then you delve into each of the ideas in that mind map to add notes, and media, and tasks. And then, connected with the mind map is a task management board. So you can work through the stages of progress and set like, the amount of time you think it’s going to take. You can assign it to someone in your team. And then you can discuss the progress as well.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So it’s kind of this sort of, seamless workspace, for creativity and productivity. But then the exciting thing is, we’ve also just released our first plugin for WordPress. So we use some of the key benefits of Mind Doodle and turn them into WordPress specific tools. So the visual element of mind mapping is transformed into visual site maps. So you can see the structure of your site. You can interact with it and change the hierarchy of pages, or build a new site using it.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And it’s not just a graphical tool, everything you do. If you change the hierarchy, the page hierarchy, it will actually work. So it’s kind of this really interesting, visual time saving site map tool.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then built into that again, is task management. So it follows agile methodology, but you could take it how you want it. And you can add tasks to every page within WordPress. So you can do all of that in WordPress.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then if you work with a client who you’d prefer to be away from the back end, for whatever reason. They can use MindDoodle.com and you can work simultaneously on both. It’s totally collaborative. So it’s got a number of different sort of benefits for WordPress development.

Tracy Apps:

I love it. As a visual person, that’s so great.

Angela Bowman:

The second we get off this interview, I’m going to be checking that out.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, maybe [crosstalk 00:19:59].

Angela Bowman:

That’s so awesome. So leading up to the WordCamp Europe as a global lead, I guess maybe that was part of my question is like, what tools do you use with all these groups? And all these teams and everything, just to keep on top of your deadlines and your task list. Is every team picking their own tools, or do you have a tool across the board that you’re all kind of tuning into?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So every team is free to introduce some more tools. But commonly used are like Trello, Slack, Google Drive. In fact, I think Google Drive is the most useful from my perspective, when it comes to the writing, collaborative writing features. Because we do a lot of, in the comms team… And I think other teams like PR, there’ll be a lot of feedback and suggested edits. And it’s just really easy to track those.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

We use Zoom. So every team that does video calls would use Zoom. And then some of those sub-teams like volunteers, would use other specific tools for assigning volunteer roles. So I think… I can’t remember what it’s called, but there’s this tool for… Find my shift, or something like that.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then again, the other teams will delve into different tools. There’s a data tables tool, which I can’t remember the name of either. I can’t remember! I know they wanted to use…

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, I’m not-

Angela Bowman:

I know, it’s… it’s just so fun. I’m going to put these all in the show notes. And it’s just so fun to have a list of things from experienced event organizers, who maybe haven’t considered specific tools for how they’re managing some things. So if you do think of that name, we’ll-

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah. Do you know what, after this, we’ve got a bunch of handbooks, so I’ll look through them. And we’ve all got tool lists in every team, so I will find them and share them with you.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, yeah. We’d love to share all those resources with people. This is so awesome. You mentioned, when you wrote to us, about how… I thought this was so interesting. Where you said that it took you a while to see how your skills were valuable and you were not disliked for being a marketer. And in the open-source world, it’s different than other industries. And that WordPress was much kinder and not all cutthroat. That you still know some drama in the community, but you’re still a human.

Angela Bowman:

So talk to me about that. What’s that experience been like for you? And why do… Yeah.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah. So honestly, it sounds really weird, but I thought when I was going to my first couple of meetups, I was thinking, “they’re not going to want me here.” Because I’m marketing communications. They probably all know how to code, apart from me. And they’re going to think I’m selling them something when I’m not trying to.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that was my fear. And then I also just pictured, because I’m part of other tech and digital groups. And in the right circumstances, the recruiters are welcomed in. But if they try and sell too much, they’re pushed away. And I thought, “Oh no, I’m going to be seen as the recruiter of my meetup.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So it just took me a little while to feel like, “Okay. They don’t mind what I do. They’re welcoming me in for who I am. They just want a friendly, smiley face to be part of their group. And that’s the most important thing.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then I actually, I did compare it, going to WordCamps and things, to other tech events I’d been to. There was one tech event I went to where, I think there was about a hundred people there, and there was just one other woman. And I just didn’t even think about it, unconsciously gravitated towards her and went and sat by her. And she burst out laughing and was like, “I just told this bloke that you’d come sit by me.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Because she was like, that’s just what happens. People gravitate towards where they sort of feel like similar or safe. And actually she ran a Women In Tech group in my local area. So that’s how I got involved with that, because I’d had that personal experience.

Tracy Apps:

That’s exactly what happened with me and Angela. We were at a conference and then we just gravitated. We sat down between sessions and we just started chatting. And we had this idea, but then it wasn’t until Amy…

Amy Masson:

Until I recreated it as my own. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. And we were like, “That’s cool. We will follow you.”

Amy Masson:

So why do you think it is that open source, and WordPress in particular, has a softer and kinder environment than other tech fields?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

I think partly because people are willing to do stuff like contribute in certain ways, and not necessarily be paid for it. It shows there’s a different long term commitment. There’s other of reasons why you might want to make this community stronger, and the technology’s better, and put on WordCamps and things to make the connections stronger.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

You probably have some other reasons for being involved than, if it’s not open source, where usually it’s just money, or someone’s boss is telling them they need to be involved in a certain way. So I think that’s the key difference in my perspective.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But it also poses some challenges I suppose, if you’re thinking about marketing in the open source arena. Because often people… Well, it’s like anyone who sells a WordPress website that they’ve created. I think there’s some sort of duty to wanting to say thank you for the tools that we are given. And so that’s one of the reasons that people get involved, contributing in different ways.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Whether it’s to make WordPress Teams, or setting up a podcast where people from the community can chat together. So yeah, I think there’s a bunch of different reasons why open source is a different environment, but kinder is a big one. And it’s really odd because you’d never think you’d talk about a professional circle, or a set of circles as kind and think it mattered, but it matters a lot actually.

Tracy Apps:

So you bring up an interesting… So the challenge of being open source and everything. But also I feel like WordCamp Europe has also a special challenge of that, Europe is very diverse. There’s lots of different countries there, lots of different cultures and lots of different backgrounds. Especially all that are in attendance.

Tracy Apps:

What kind of extra considerations do you have to do with communication around this? When you have so many different cultures, different languages, different customs, all coming together in one.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah. It is a real challenge actually, but it’s not one that we mostly struggle too much with. Because we try and make sure that the organizing team, it’s a really big organizing team, so you’re going to have so many of the countries represented.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Not all of them obviously, that’s ridiculous. But there’s going to be a really wide range of people from… And different areas. Even if you’re not getting all of the countries, you’re getting different areas. So you can quite honestly chat to people within the organizing team and say, “Can you review this? Does this make sense in these terms?”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And one of the worries I had for 2019 about the comms team is, I was trying to get as many native English speakers as I could, without all being from the same place. So we ended up with, if we talk about where people were born, because most of them live in Europe now. But the US, two different places in the us. Someone from New Zealand. Someone who was born in the UK, but lives in Spain. And then two people from the UK, but from different parts of the UK. And then where they live now ranges, but including someone who lives in Berlin.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So the idea there was, make it easy for us in terms of having native English speakers, but try not to corner ourselves into being single-minded in our approach. But yeah, there is definitely a consideration you need for communicating messages to different cultures.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And I think actually the year before in Belgrade, because I was in the PR team that year for WordCamp Europe. We did take extra measures to make sure that the sort of, translation of questions, from media to speaker, or sponsor, or organizer made sense in terms of the cultural reference for everyone.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And that’s because cultures can be very different and we wanted to make sure that we protected everyone involved. So being transparent to both sides, both the interviewer and the interviewee. To say, “Look, if there’s anything that you are uncomfortable with, we’ll stop the interview. We’ll check, everyone’s on the right track and we’ll start again.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And they probably did the same thing this year, but I was busy this year with other things. But, yeah. So in terms of things like working with the media, we put effort in to make sure that cultural differences didn’t in any way impact negatively, on what we were trying to achieve.

Amy Masson:

Wow. That’s really a lot of work. And it’s so, just daunting, the emotional aspect of trying to make sure you’re covering all your bases for every situation. What about in terms of planning and organizing for an event that’s happening in another country than you live in? What are the difficulties involved in that?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Well, we’re lucky with WordCamp Europe that we always have a strong local team, so we rely on them to work out logistics. But also in terms of the comms team, we’ll be asking them either to prepare us some bullet points, if they want to prepare a article, or review our work.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So we’re double and triple checking that what we are saying, if we’re not from that country, is correct, or that city, is correct. So sometimes you’ll be doing research about somewhere you’ve never been, and then you’re going to try and cross reference it to make sure everyone’s on the right track.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But what we did for WordCamp Europe 2019 is, we brought… Actually, we found out who the host city was for 2020, which is Porto in Portugal. And we very quietly brought in the local team for 2020 and integrated them into different teams for 2019.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So there was people in the PR team, the comms team, the sponsors team, the community team. So that they’d all get to grips with what happens in WordCamp Europe, if they hadn’t organized WordCamp Europe before. Because it is different from a local WordCamp, it’s always going to be. Because of some of the things you just mentioned. There’s so many other considerations and you have to put in a lot of extra effort to make sure everyone feels welcome.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And you’re never going to get it all right. But as long as you learn, and are transparent, and honest if you do make mistakes, then I think you’re on the right track.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But, yes. So hopefully we’ll benefit now from having our lovely local team for 2020, having been integrated into the organizing team towards the end of 2019.

Angela Bowman:

I’m so impressed by everything that happens with the WordCamp Europe, and of course your involvement with it. And I want to bring the conversation back around to you, because I want to hear about you.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Okay.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I was reading about how you won the GoDaddy Pro Women In Tech award. What are some things that you’re really proud of in your, I guess career evolution, in things that you feel like you’ve personally accomplished? And grown into, aside from being this global lead for WC.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that, what you just mentioned, the GoDaddy Pro Women In Tech award. It was in partnership with Campaign Magazine, which is like a… I don’t know if it’s global, it might be, but certainly in the UK it’s a popular sort of advertising and media magazine that’s really successful. But online these days as well, mostly.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that was like a competition where you have to write a piece. I think you wrote two pieces. And you wrote about yourself and why it would be important for you to win this kind of scholarship. And the prize, apart from stuff that I find really fun, like blogging for the GoDaddy site. Was an all expenses trip paid to Cannes Lions, which is the global creativity festival.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And honestly, I couldn’t believe it. So obviously it was a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. But it was also like mind blowing that I was getting to go as a sort of, a fairly young professional, to this hugely C-level event. Where people were paying like thousands, and thousands and thousands of pounds just to attend. That was crazy.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But also, it was lovely to meet some of the other winners. So I won the GoDaddy Pro scholarship, but there was other GoDaddy sponsored winners as well. And I can’t remember the specifics, but there was a range of us. So they were other sort of, ambitious women in tech. So that was awesome to sort of rub shoulders with them. Get to know them, inspire one another. And also keep up to date with what they’d been getting up to in the couple of years since.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then, in terms of other things that’s made me proud. Before actually getting into the WordPress community, I was editor for a couple of tech magazines. Which I kind of feel like I stumbled into as an opportunity, but it’s not one that I’ve taken lightly. I’m so proud. So I’ve got a stack of magazines, stood away that are beautifully designed.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

I should mention that I’m Welsh. So I live in the UK, but I live in England now and I’m Welsh. And the tech magazine was about innovation in Wales. So it meant that I would be on the phone talking to people from all over Wales. Like leading innovations, world leading innovations, coming out of this small, but proud country. So that’s something that I’ll always look back on and feel super proud about.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But again, I sort of said I’m a young professional. I’m proud that I’ve taken all the opportunities I’ve been given. Partly because I’m kind of a now or never person, so I want to do it now. I’m not going to wait for it to come back around, I’ll probably get distracted with something else.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But I think I’m pleased that I’ve managed to do so much at a fairly young age, because that’s kind of what my character is. So I think I’m proud to have stopped being scared that my skills weren’t appreciated, and everything we spoke about earlier.

Tracy Apps:

So, is this something that you imagined what you would do when you grew up? Or how does that compare?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Oh, that’s really interesting. So when I was at high school… You have this show in the US as well. One of my teachers told me I’d be on The Apprentice. I was like, “Will I?”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But I’m actually not as fussed about sort of the idea of starting my own business. I much prefer to be using the skills I know I have, to help in a wider team. I talked about teams earlier, I really like being in a team.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So there was some subtle hints when I was a bit younger, that people thought I was going to do great. And actually I’m the type of person that, if I hear those I’m thinking, “Okay. Right. I’ll sort that. I’ll sort that out, that’s fine.” So it’s giving me a fuel to work forward and achieve more.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

One thing I always thought I would do when I was young, which I’m struggling with now but doing, is public speaking. So, I always liked being on the stage and things as a youngster, but it is terrifying trying to do it now. So this is something that gradually, slowly, step by step I’m improving. Yeah, public speaking.

Angela Bowman:

I really empathize with that. Last year, I did the keynote for WordCamp Denver, and it just took it all out of me. I just had to go back to my hotel and cry. I mean, even though I got good feedback, it was still, it’s just like so much.

Angela Bowman:

And then this year I thought, “Well, I’m less off the hook, I’m just doing regular talk. But I’m doing an hour long at the beginning of the day.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t think that’s any less pressure.” At least it’s not labeled keynote, you know?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah. I’ve done a couple of workshops which are longer, but you have more breaks and there’s less pressure. It’s not being filmed. And then I’ve done a couple of lightning talks, which are stressful for totally other reasons. Because you’re looking at the time thinking, “Am I going to make it? I need to get it all out.” So you’re speaking way faster than you usually would.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And then when getting announced for global lead for WordCamp Europe 2020, I had to get on the stage and I was given a mic. I had to say… Well, I was offered to say something. So I was like, “Right, I’ve got my one sentence I’m going to say. That’s all I can manage right now because there’s so many people in the audience.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

For me, it takes a lot of emotional energy. So it’s funny what you just said Angela, about going back to your hotel room and… It’s true that if you are nervous about it, and probably people who aren’t even that nervous. There’s such a buildup of nervous energy and you kind of, you need that adrenaline to deliver. But at the same time, what goes up must come down. So there’s a period after where…

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So for me, I’m sort of wandering around really happy, but not really sure what’s happening. And it definitely takes a little bit of time for me to come back down to earth and feel like… I don’t know, back in the zone.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

But I love the feeling when I’m giving a talk or something, because I like, like I say, I like that feeling of being on stage and delivering some information about something that someone could learn from. That’s super cool. It’s just the hour, or day before, where I forget why I’m doing it. And I’m biting my nails and so nervous.

Amy Masson:

Well, I totally relate to that. I have done one talk. I mean, I’ve been on a couple of panels, but one actually of my own talk. And I was very stressful and I got good feedback, but it was very stressful. I decided it wasn’t worth it to do it for me anymore, I’d rather just go and volunteer.

Amy Masson:

But it’s funny, because I used to be a teacher before this career, and I would talk in front of rooms fulls of kids all day long and it never bothered me. But being in front of my peers is so different, that it just stressed me out so much, I just can’t do it.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

That’s so interesting. I actually thought that… I was sort of envious of all the ex-teachers. But it’s kind of nice to know that it still comes with its challenges.

Amy Masson:

Well, it’s different because you know, when you’re talking to kids… Probably you know more than them, and they’re not going to be walking around talking about you later, because you’re old and they don’t care. But when you’re giving a talk at something like this and you know, I’m always just afraid there’s somebody in the back saying, “Man, she’s so stupid. She doesn’t know anything.” And so, it was very stressful emotionally, for me to do. But yet, [crosstalk 00:39:33].

Tracy Apps:

Imposter syndrome for sure.

Angela Bowman:

And I teach classes, WordPress classes, and I’m not nearly as nervous teaching my classes. I’m actually very confident and cool teacher. I mean, after I got my thing down. It took me a little while, I was nervous for the first couple years, but then that kind of eased up.

Angela Bowman:

But yeah, I agree Amy, the public speaking part where you are on stage, you’re having to entertain, and inform. It’s a whole different expectation than delivering a lesson, which kind of… It’s different. And it’s much harder.

Amy Masson:

Well, and I think that I would do better doing talks for people that are not in this industry. I have looked into giving talks to different industries about their website presence, and about growing that. Versus talking to people that also are doing the same thing I do, I find very nerve wracking. But I think I would be better off talking to people that don’t do what I do.

Angela Bowman:

I think that’s probably true. Tess, have you done any other public speaking? Have you spoken at any WordCamps?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Yeah, I’ve done a couple of WordCamps. I also got to do something fun at WordCamp London in 2019. Which was, Josepha Haden gave a fireside chat, and I was asked to be the sort of host, of the fireside chat. So that was really nice because like you say, I wasn’t having to memorize my slides, or even prepare anything, really. I just had to be there asking a few questions and leading the conversation along.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that was really nice because it was a different setup. And I wasn’t so nervous for that, but I can’t quite trust whether I was just relaxed that day, who knows? Actually, the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done was not for a WordCamp, but in my spare time I do something creative.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that ranges from writing a short piece of flash fiction, or a short story, to trying to delve into writing a longer script, which never really gets finished. To creating a song and recording, to my best ability, some music. So I find I’m kind of kept sane and energized by creativity, being active and being social.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that fulfills my creative thing. Even though I’m being creative at work, I need to do it when no one’s paying me, no one’s asking me and no one’s necessarily going to see it, as well. So the most nerve wracking thing I ever did was, read a piece of flash fiction I wrote. So that means it’s about 1000 words or less. It’s a really short piece.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And it got included in a charity anthology, which was by a group of writers here in the UK, in the Southwest of England. And all the money raised was to go to child refugees, to give them safe passage across to the UK, or wherever was safer than where they were. So I was at a literary festival and got the opportunity to read that out.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

And apparently again, I delivered it great. And everyone said it was really great, but inside I was thinking, “This is the worst thing in the world, because I’ve written these words. This isn’t just me teaching someone something. This is like part of me down on the piece of paper.”

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

So that was so nerve wracking. I’m not sure I’ll be ready to do that again anytime soon, but so, so proud. That’s probably actually one of my proudest moments. And that doesn’t feel like something to be proud of in terms of career, because like I say, the creative stuff sometimes is just a hobby for me. But the fact that I got to share it where I usually don’t, was nerve wracking but really gratifying.

Amy Masson:

Wow. That’s like putting your heart out there, just waiting for someone to stomp on it. But, wow. That’s so amazing that you did it.

Amy Masson:

So it has been so amazing to talk to you today. And I want to thank you for joining us. And before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Oh sure. So on Twitter, I’m @Tessc_a. On Instagram, I’m @TessClare, Clare is spelt C-L-A-R-E. The company I work for, you can find them on Twitter at @MindDoodleCom or MindDoodle.com if you want to go to their website. And I have a personal blog as well, which is TessClare.wordpress.com.

Angela Bowman:

It’s so fun to talk to you.

Tess Coughlan-Allen:

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I could have stayed chatting to you all evening.

Amy Masson:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Likewise.

Speaker 6:

Thanks for listening. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter or join our Facebook group. We would be honored if you subscribe to the show. You can find us on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play and iTunes. Finally, if you want to be on the show or know someone who would, visit our website at WomenInWP.com. Until next time.

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