Amy Masson (00:01):
Welcome to Women in WP, a bi-monthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community.
Amy Masson (00:10):
Welcome to the show. I am Amy Masson.
Tracy Apps (00:13):
And I’m Tracy Apps
Amy Masson (00:14):
And our guest today is Afshana Diya, who is digital strategist and COO of WP developer.net, and the only female co-organizer of the WordPress Dhaka meetup.
Afshana Diya (00:25):
Hi, thanks for having me.
Amy Masson (00:27):
We’re so happy to have you today. What we’d like to do when we start our show is ask our guests to tell us how they got started in WordPress. So how did you find WordPress?
Afshana Diya (00:36):
It was back in 2010 when I was barely 17. I think I was just starting my high school. So I tried to start the blogging and then my brother introduced WordPress. And that’s the starting. And when I started my high school and university, throughout the whole time I created content for different platforms and, all of those website was built with WordPress. So I got pretty comfortable with the platform. But if you asked me about the WordPress community, I got introduced in 2017 I think. Yes.
Amy Masson (01:35):
So when you were in high school, you started a blog. What were you blogging about?
Afshana Diya (01:41):
I was actually writing about the movies I was watching and series I was watching and also some book reviews and games I was playing. I was trying to review all of those things.
Amy Masson (01:59):
That’s awesome. And so when you’re 17 and you start doing movie reviews and book reviews, do you have a goal in mind or did you just want to put your thoughts out there?
Afshana Diya (02:08):
Actually I didn’t have too much goal, but I wanted to improve my writing probably. I am not pretty comfortable with writing on paper. So online was the good place to get started.
Amy Masson (02:28):
I’m terrible at writing on paper too.
Tracy Apps (02:30):
Amy Masson (02:30):
My hand doesn’t work that way anymore.
Amy Masson (02:32):
I can’t even write a check. It’s like, how does this work? I don’t understand this pen. It doesn’t fit in my hand.
Tracy Apps (02:38):
You know, I do, I, because I have an Apple pen and then I have the iPad and then I use the software that I use to write on. I can undo by tapping with two fingers. So now I do that on sticky notes too. And I was like, Oh, Nope, Nope, Nope. That doesn’t work. So now you have pretty much, you know, your career is around within WordPress. What I always wonder though is what if, if WordPress wasn’t around, what do you think you would be doing?
Afshana Diya (03:14):
Actually when I finished my undergrad I had majored in marketing and business. So my full time job was in a discount marketing agency. And I think if WordPress would not be in here, I will be working on discount marketing stuff focusly. But after working for a while in discount marketing agency in Bangladesh I realized the scope of work is very limited since in Bangladesh, discount marketing agency and discount marketing it’s all about social media marketing mainly. So I thought I don’t want to keep myself within this limit. I want to go out of the horizon. So at that time I decided to move out from the discount marketing agency. And suddenly just when I was deciding I got invited to join a WordPress product company back in Bangladesh. And that’s the time when I got fully involved with WordPress professionally and personally, and with all my heart, I think.
Tracy Apps (04:41):
I love that. We were talking to you and to figure out that and do those changes so young. I know so many people like, “I’m stuck in this for, this is, this was, this is what I is.” And you’re just like, Nope, I’m gonna.
Afshana Diya (04:58):
No, actually I realized within the sixth month of my first job.
Tracy Apps (05:03):
That’s great. That’s awesome. So what is the community like around in your area?
Afshana Diya (05:12):
In Bangladesh we had the Worpdress community from 2011 when I was not involved at all. We had an unofficial WordPress community with 22,000 people right now.
Amy Masson (05:31):
Afshana Diya (05:33):
Tracy Apps (05:33):
Afshana Diya (05:36):
How do you have a meetup with 22,000 people?
Afshana Diya (05:38):
Yeah no. We have a meetup with like 200, 300 people. Which is almost like a WordCamp for many persons.
Tracy Apps (05:50):
That’s yeah, that’s impressive.
Afshana Diya (05:53):
So that was from 2011 when I got pretty active in WordPress community. I would say in 2017, I joined the WordCamp in Singapore and WordCamp Jakarta in Indonesia. In WordCamp Jakarta I met Rocio, Rocio from a community team. So I was talking with her and we had a situation in Dhaka. We had the unofficial group and we had the official group, but main organizers and the oldest one who were more experienced in WordPress they were in the unofficial group. So me and Rocio was talking about how we can combine two group and finally organize all Wordcamp Dhaka because that group was six, seven years long. In different time, different organizers tried to make a WordCamp, but it never happened. So after that WordCamp, Rocio invited me to join in the official WordPress group. The WordPress Dhaka group. And then I got active. I started organizing WordCamp along with the other organizers. And after two years of 15 WordCamp meetup, we finally organized our fast WordPress, our official Wordcamp in Dhaka back into 2019 which was pretty interesting because in our past WordCamp it was very expected and people were very crazy and excited about this. So when we declared that we will be opening the tickets for Wordcamp Take. Tickets got sold out in 14 minutes.
Tracy Apps (08:07):
Wow. Wow. It’s like a concert. That’s awesome.
Afshana Diya (08:15):
So then we finally we had our WordCamp for 800 people almost. And there was crazy alot of people who didn’t get the ticket who were very frustrated about not getting the tickets. So yes.
Tracy Apps (08:37):
That is, that is impressive. Wow. And you said you were the only female organizer on that team?
Afshana Diya (08:46):
Tracy Apps (08:49):
How were the speakers as well. Were there, were there more women speakers or was it mostly male dominated as well?
Afshana Diya (08:56):
We actually had almost no female speaker. Then we had one, we had one female speaker. She’s very good at content. So she is also from Bangladesh. But we didn’t have any other. Actually when we had the whole, like, I had organized the WordCamp for 17 and 18 and at the end of 19, we had the WordCamp. So in all those meetups, in most of them, not only I was the only organizer, but I was only attendee as well in most of the meetup.
Tracy Apps (09:40):
Amy Masson (09:44):
How intimidating is that to be the only woman?
Afshana Diya (09:47):
At the starting, it was pretty… What should I say? It was pretty awkward. I feel hesitant. But then I realized if I keep thinking about this I cannot actually move because in some way our communities, not just WordPress in general, our community is main focus. So if I cannot move forward, so I will be stuck. And also other people who might be interested by seeing me, they will also get stuck. So later I feel comfortable and I don’t care. Okay. What whatever you can think, it doesn’t matter.
Tracy Apps (10:44):
That’s pretty wise. That is really, that’s really awesome. And to have you spearheading that, that’s, that’s really, really cool. Cause it is true. That’s one of the things that I remember, my first tech meetup, it wasn’t a WordPress thing. It was just web developer kind of people. And because there was one other woman there, I was like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s felt comforting.” But it’s amazing that you’re spearheading that that’s really cool.
Amy Masson (11:19):
And have you been working with the other organizers to try to find ways to get more women involved?
Afshana Diya (11:25):
Actually we did. Since we are not getting any attendee female, so there was no point of getting an organizer because first you go out to the meetup and you get used to it, the community, and then it’s about organizer. But what happened in WordCamp Dhaka 2019 at that time we had many female attendee for the very first time and it felt so good. So now, after that WordCamp I tried to personally talk to every female who attends a bootcamp and we make another group for women in WordPress Bangladesh just to make them feel comfort and come to the meetups. So now we have around 20 female who are involved in WordPress and in that group. So probably in next time, when we are going to organize new WordCamp, we will get a female, more female speaker, organizer. Maybe.
Amy Masson (12:46):
That’s really awesome. And I love that you branched out and you said we’re gonna, you know, create this group specifically for the women to try and make them feel more comfortable. And I think that’s what….
Tracy Apps (12:56):
That sounds familiar. This is why we’re here. Same concept.
Afshana Diya (13:08):
Yeah, because for Bangladesh, I mean the organized session I was working, all of this organization is WordPress focused. So all of the employees, they are working on WordPress. I had female colleagues as well who were almost afraid to me, but I pushed them to come to the meetup for a long time. But I was not lucky enough, I would say. That’s truly because people when they are thinking about going to the meetup where like there will be 70, 80 male and like two female. So that idea even make the girls uncomfortable, I think.
Amy Masson (14:05):
Yeah, I would, I would feel uncomfortable, I think so. I can see. Do you feel like there is a lot more women using WordPress in Bangladesh than are showing up to your meetings?
Afshana Diya (14:19):
Yes, yes. Yes. There are a lot of female developer, designer. But they don’t, I would say feel comfortable or motivated enough to join the meetup, but things are changing after WordCamp. So hopefully in last two, three meetup, we see a lot of female. I also organize beside WordPress meetup, [inaudible] meetup and Product Hunt meetup in Dhaka. So in those meetup, we actually see female, even the people I was not personally connected with. So they came by there on willingness. So yeah.
Tracy Apps (15:13):
I get that. I was developing and doing things with WordPress for years before I even really realized that there was a community and, or, you know, had the guts to do anything or go to attend things. So but it sounds like it’s really cool. It’s things are starting to really change there. That’s really amazing. So for your, for your career now, what, like what is your, what is your day? What does your work look like now?
Afshana Diya (15:42):
After that company, I joined WP developer back in 2018. So it’s also WordPress production company. So I joined here and currently I’m running the marketing and business development here. Since, well, before this, at the, when I joined the first WordPress company back in 2017. So that company was already doing good without the marketing team. They were saving what was lagging and they were doing pretty good, but without marketing team. So one problem, I figured out that all of the things that Bangladeshi people, developer, who are making amazing WordPress product, but they are trying to sell it in a way that developer can understand not the end user. For the record, I don’t know any coding, so I know how the aunties are react. So what I tried to do in that company, and also in my current company, I tried to make the product in a way that an user understand it very easily with proper documentation, with proper guidelines, proper landing pages that can actually, easy to understand for users or WP developer. When I joined we had like 50,000 user in WordPress Dhaka. So within two years, it’s not been two years, we reached 700,000 users.
Tracy Apps (17:50):
Wow. That’s awesome. I mean, it’s so true. Like I do user experience design, and if you have to know how to sell the product, like as a user, I don’t, you know, what is this going to do for me? And having someone like you to translate that and be like, “Oh, to connect something that I will actually really enjoy and really like.” But I wouldn’t know if I, you know, it was not written for me. Do you ever get any pushback or do people with these companies where people see like no and kind of follow through, or what is the struggle? Any things that you have uphill battles on those?
Afshana Diya (18:29):
I did, but I would say even both of these companies, I got pretty freedom to explore a lot of things which is I would say I was very lucky. So I got to explore a lot of different channels and which work best for this WordPress ecosystem and which not. I got to test a lot of AB testing and figure out things that works for this specific, because as I was working in this discount marketing agency, which was, at that time I had a client get from telecom industry, and from the music app and different kind of, so all of these companies has different kind of signals targeting, but these WordPress ecosystem that works pretty differently than even if you consider it with the SASS industry, WordPress is pretty different. So understanding the community and how these people like to get things that’s important, I would say
Tracy Apps (19:55):
That’s so true. And the WordPress community is such a wide range. Do you find that once you started, getting more and more involved in the community activities and organizing that really helped your, your job with the marketing side of things?
Afshana Diya (20:13):
Yeah, of course, because how much I get connected with the community. I actually understand the whole concept of mindset, how it works in this community. Talking about that, before the WordCamp in Jakarta, I talked to Rocio why I never tried to get connected with the community because it always felt like the community is for developer, community is for developer. So when I talked with Rocio and I realized, no, because at WordCamp Jakarta there were a lot of people who were just a designer, or content creator, or marketer, which I never saw in Bangladesh. So all of the organizer are developers, or goal to be developers so, yes. So yes at that WordPress community I realize so yes, you can get involved in the community without even doing any coding.
Amy Masson (21:25):
Yeah. We’ve definitely seen that through our guests on the show, in all walks of life, in all different ways, even people that are just using WordPress to blog for their own enjoyment are also involved in the community even if they’re not creating or developing websites, that there’s still a place for everybody.
Amy Masson (23:15):
So I wanted to ask you, I know you mentioned when you were at university, you studied e-marketing and I graduated from college 20 years ago, so e-marketing was not a thing. So I wondered if you could tell me a little bit about what studying e-marketing is like
Afshana Diya (23:34):
Not e-marketing. I have dual major in marketing and e-business
Amy Masson (23:37):
Oh, e-business okay. So how, e-business tell me about what that entails.
Afshana Diya (23:46):
E-business was focused on the e-commerce and how you built website using WooCommerce, Magento, and all, and how do you configure stuff. So that was actually practical courses, I’d say, because in other courses you get more of that theoretical learning, but e-business was focused on the practical and about wave content creations, even about landing pages and all. So it was actually good in terms of what other courses we took, because those are the things exactly I can use in my current professions.
Amy Masson (24:45):
So you were using WordPress in university and building sites with WooCommerce.
Afshana Diya (24:50):
Yes. We actually had a assignment and project on those.
Amy Masson (24:59):
You had an assignment and a project with WooCommerce.
Afshana Diya (25:02):
Amy Masson (25:03):
And what can I, I just, now I need to really know what your project was about.
Afshana Diya (25:07):
The project was about creating an e-commerce site, using, choosing the platform so since WordPress and WooCommerce was pretty easy to use. So my faculty chose WooCommerce and I for my project, I built a book website using WooCommerce where you can link books inside the university, students and all, because that was one of the problem we are facing at that time.
Tracy Apps (25:49):
I love it. I need that for puzzles. Cause now I just need to, you know, puzzle exchange like that. You know, it’s one of the things when I think we would first started talking and we hear this a lot. Like anytime we interview someone that’s younger, there it’s this, I know a lot of people like struggle even my age with this much experience, whatever, have this struggle of like, “Oh, well I just, you know, I don’t, I don’t do that. I’m I’m, you know, not like, Oh, I’m young, I don’t have this.” But honestly from like the experience you had in college, like I didn’t learn that I had to self-teach myself. So I would say you’re probably better versed in that than I am. And I’ve been working on this stuff for 20 years. So like, I think that’s really a testament to see and how you’ve just taken that and run with it and created your career, it’s really impressive. It’s really great.
Afshana Diya (26:47):
Thank you. I would say I was lucky
Amy Masson (26:52):
Now I want to go back to college and take these classes.
Afshana Diya (26:58):
It was actually good decision because when I took e-commerce, that was the very first year of that my university was offering that major. So all of my classmates were doing major in accounting, finance, marketing, human resource, and all, and I was decided that I will do major in e-commerce and everyone was laughing at it, but then I figured out that was actually good decision.
Tracy Apps (27:29):
It was a very good decision.
Amy Masson (27:29):
Who’s laughing now?
Tracy Apps (27:29):
Yeah exactly. Especially now you think, cause, you know, we talk about, I, me and my friends talking about this, like what is the future look like with, you know, the aftermath that once this, the pandemic, you know, every sort of big historical moment like this changes how we do things. And one thing I’ve been noticing this is I get everything online now. And so the crucial and seeing businesses in my city closing up, if they didn’t have some way of, you know, buying something online or being delivered or be able to pick it up on curbside. And it’s that really it’s this it’s a crucial now it’s like, it’s not just like, “Oh, a website. I need to add a website. That’s the core I’ve seen from this pandemic.
Afshana Diya (28:29):
Yeah, true. Because things are moving too fast and too slow at the same time.
Tracy Apps (28:40):
Amy Masson (28:44):
So when you’re traveling to these other WordCamps, so you went to Singapore, and where was the other one?
Afshana Diya (28:54):
Amy Masson (28:57):
Were those before the one that you had in Dhaka?
Afshana Diya (29:01):
Yes. Yes. That was back in 2017. After that I joined the WordPress meetup group in Dhaka.
Amy Masson (29:12):
How was the experience at these other Wordcamps versus the one that you helped organize? How, how did that influence the conference for you?
Afshana Diya (29:21):
One thing was common that after if we working, for me and I see a lot of other people, we got super motivated to contribute to the community. And since we already had many years of experience with this unofficial WordPress community, so we needed official one, our WordCamp, to take it for further. For example, before WordCamp Dhaka, I was seeing very few or limited people who are actually traveling in different country, like Singapore, Jakarta, India, Thailand, to attend WordCamp, but after WordCamp Dhaka happened, that was back in September, 2019. In 2020, there was a WordCamp. I mean the WordCamp Asia was supposed to happen in February, so we had like hundred plus people who were, who had the ticket to join, WordCamp Asia? So that happened after WordCamp Dhaka happened.
Amy Masson (30:46):
Oh, were you planning to go?
Afshana Diya (30:48):
Yeah. I mean, we all have the tickets and all, and then the pandemic happened.
Tracy Apps (30:57):
Yeah. That’s really sad. Especially like that’s, that’s some good kind of, as you say, is this motivating and now you’re kind of cut off at the knees.
Afshana Diya (31:09):
Yeah. Actually at that February, the outbreak was not that, that big. So a lot of people actually went and joined the unofficial meetup of Bangkok, Bangkok meetup groups. I was supposed to join the panel. The first panel I was supposed to join at WordCamp.
Amy Masson (31:38):
I think we’ve all had a lot of WordCamp disappointments for 2020. I just off topic a little bit. I’m just curious, what is the pandemic situation where you are? Is it bad? Is it under control?
Afshana Diya (31:53):
It was pretty good until last month, but right now it’s going bad. Right now we have like 70,000 plus infected people and it’s increasing every day. For myself, I am like in home for last 90 days. Oh man.
Tracy Apps (32:17):
Yeah. So how how’s that for you?
Afshana Diya (32:21):
Oh, that’s crazy. Actually the first I was supposed to join WordCamp Asia and since I love to travel, so I had planned to go to Thailand and to Laos together. I had five tickets and then it got canceled and then I got invited to speak at WordCamp DC in the USand also in WordCamp Pennsylvania. So I also got the ticket for USA and that also got canceled.
Tracy Apps (33:01):
Yeah. Yeah. Are you thinking about, did you think about everything about applying or attending any of the virtual WordCamps?
Afshana Diya (33:09):
I was actually waiting to see if things get normal in short time, but it doesn’t feel like it was going to happen. So I will probably start. What about you guys? Will you attend WordCamp Europe?
Tracy Apps (33:29):
We were going to be there.
Amy Masson (33:30):
We were supposed to be there. Yeah.
Tracy Apps (33:31):
I was going to be traveling around there as well, but now I’ve been seeing a lot more, I think, Minnesota, they’re doing fully virtual. And I’ve been applying to speak at some of these as well. We’ll see how it goes. Like I don’t know how a live stream talk would go.
Afshana Diya (33:55):
You can also record.
Tracy Apps (33:57):
Yeah, exactly. But one thing I think I, reason why I love speaking at WordCamps is because I love that audience, it’s so diverse it’s so, you know, so, I get the challenge of creating a talk that is all different levels. It’s gonna be, you know, people are going to be able to relate to, but it’s also such a supportive community and I never feel like I’m like judged, you know? So I think for doing an online conference, I’d rather do it at a WordCamp is that’s, it’s a nice welcoming environment.
Afshana Diya (34:36):
And did you guys join the WordCamp Europe online.
Tracy Apps (34:41):
I have not. I did an, I ended up, I actually, my business, like I have not, my work has not slowed down at all. And actually kind of picked up. So all of these, like “I learned how to make bread.” I’m like I slept four hours. So that was good. I’ve been trying to fit some of these in, but it’s hard.
Amy Masson (35:04):
I am struggling with the idea of attending virtually just because I, you know, my day job is sitting here at my computer all day long. And do I really want to do, go to a conference on a weekend during my time off and sit in front of my computer?
Tracy Apps (35:22):
It’s so, you know what my idea is, I found like if you can stream to a TV and sit on the couch and it sounds, it feels different.
Amy Masson (35:32):
That is a good point. That is excellent.
Afshana Diya (35:38):
Before joining what WordCamp Europe online I also had the same idea. I mean, it should not feel like the physical one, but at some point there was a breaking room, coffee room during the WordCamp. And people were randomly talking because the idea of in WordCamp you see a very low, a very low number of session, but you actually talk with the people. So I was thinking what will happen in online WordCamp, but then I saw that in break rooms, there was people talking and yeah, I see some, a sponsor also organize the who is online and all. So all of the people like really try to make it more likely as much as as possible, but definitely we all missed WordCamp basically.
Tracy Apps (36:47):
Oh yeah. The hallway track was always my favorite. It was the most beneficial of just meeting people in the hallway and talking and laughing and all that stuff. It’s really forced us to be creative, which I find exciting as a creative
Amy Masson (37:04):
I’m really, I’m going to miss WordCamp US this year. That’s always been my favorite, you know, my once a year where I get to meet up with all of my nerd friends and just be nerdy and geek out. And you know, I just don’t know if I can bring myself to do it online. I guess we’ll see once, you know, October rolls around. Were you thinking about doing WordCamp US ever?
Afshana Diya (37:27):
Yeah. I actually had the plan to join WordCamp US this year since I was already planning for WordCamp DC. So there will be less. I already have the visa, so there will be less hassle. I actually try for the first time and this happened.
Tracy Apps (37:54):
I hope they can extend that. I mean, these are extreme circumstances.
Afshana Diya (38:00):
Maybe next year.
Tracy Apps (38:02):
Yeah, right? Like my rewards points. They’re like, they would expire, but I’m like, I can’t fly. I’m not flying anywhere.
Amy Masson (38:12):
No, I’m not ready to get on a plane anywhere. For sure. I keep seeing low cost, I get emails with the low cost airfare and I’m like, “Oh, look Tokyo for $500,” but I just can’t do it. But you know, it’s, I guess that’s where we are right now in a weird something we all have to figure out how to, you know, just continue on and make it through.
Afshana Diya (38:39):
Yeah, yeah, because all of us who were working online, especially the software industry, I think most of the people got even a lot more pressure doing this remote work than the usual thing. So one of the thing is like we got more work load. And another thing is like, since you don’t have to commit time, so you get at least some time to work on online. I knew developing yourself or something like I recently joined a WordPress community team as deputy. So that’s one thing that I want to contribute some time which I was not doing in last few years probably. So I can actually focus on those things and also some other courses and materials that can improve myself that how I can help others. But that’s a good thing about this pandemic.
Amy Masson (39:56):
Well, it’s been really great to have you on today before we go. Can you tell everybody where they can find you online?
Afshana Diya (40:04):
I’m in Twitter and Instagram. Instagram is my favorite place.
Amy Masson (40:11):
I actually was creeping, creeping on you a little bit on Instagram and looking at your beautiful photos from, I assume when you were, when you get still travel,
Amy Masson (40:23):
Are you laughing at me because I’m creepy?
Tracy Apps (40:26):
Yup. No, it’s fine. That’s awesome.
Speaker 3 (40:30):
No, there’s a lot of beautiful photos. Check out Afshana’s Instagram.
Afshana Diya (40:38):
Yeah. Afshana Diya.
Tracy Apps (40:39):
Amy Masson (40:41):
Well, thanks for being with us today.
Afshana Diya (40:44):
Thanks for having me.
Tracy Apps (40:46):
Yeah it was wonderful chatting.
Amy Masson (40:47):
Thank you for listening. Interested in being on the show? Sign up on our website, Women in WP.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and join our Facebook group to have conversations with other women in WordPress.