046: Jodie Riccelli’s Journey from Music to Technology


About Jodie Riccelli:

Jodie Riccelli sits as the Director of Business Development at WebDevStudios. Since starting with the company in 2016, she has been responsible for creating unique web strategies and solutions for clients including Viacom, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, and The Society of Women Engineers. Jodie brings twenty years of sales and marketing experience to WebDevStudios. Her marketing expertise and ability to restructure and to systematize businesses has been recognized by business leaders in many fields including media, consumer product goods, and nonprofits.

She was on the organizing team for WordCamp US in Philadelphia and can be found speaking at WordCamps across the country. She is on the advisory board for PHL Diversity (a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau), Blackboard Labs board, is a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of The Recording Academy, and volunteers at PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society).

In her downtime, she shares life experiences about screwing up on Izzabeth.com and has been known to get lost in old bookstores avoiding the fact that there is no more shelf space at home. Jodie lives in Philadelphia with her pups, Sir Frankie and Arya Bark.

Find Jodie Riccelli: WebDevStudios | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


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Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
046: Jodie Riccelli's Journey from Music to Technology
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Show Notes

All the things we talked about in this episode:

Quotes:

I have been very fortunate that the people whom I have worked for or encountered within the WordPress community the majority have been powerful and successful women who have really just reached out their hand and like pulled me through.

Recognizing what you are really good at and maybe what is not one of your strengths is a luxury of age. You start to figure out what you are really good at and what you shouldn’t be doing.

I certainly miss being able to go visit people in person. That’s been a challenge of my job this year how to engage clients, doing video chats or figuring out different things. So I’ve resorted to sending cheese steaks to clients.  Because being Philadelphia, that’s one thing we get asked about all the time. So that’s my new thing: Sending cheese steaks to you and your family that you can enjoy.”

If you’re going to try an authentic Philly cheese steak, you’ve got to use Cheeze Whiz.

I’ve found so many people in the WordPress community have music backgrounds. So many people have musical ability or musical talent. I attributed that to the way you process music is the same way you process writing code. To me writing code is an art form like playing music. There really i an art and a skill associated with it.

Everyone is so talented in the WordPress community. They’re either into art of some kind or doing crafts like knitting or crocheting or they’re musicians. Everybody has these really amazing skills. And what I think is really cool about it is that everybody will take about them and share.

Yes, I do WordPress or yes I might code or design or whatever, but look at this whole other life I have. We kind of embrace one other through those similarities which has been really fascinating to see.

Philadelphia is one of the most artistic, inviting, historic, and inclusive cities that exists. I think it is so cool that you can walk down  cobblestone streets that Benjamin Franklin walked on and turn the corner and see a mural that was done by The Roots. To me that is one of the coolest things.

About Philadelphia: We are a melting pot. We want everyone here. We are the city of brotherly love.

The only way to understand any location you ever visit is to meet the people, like taste the food. It’s a very tangible experience you need to have.

Right after college, I got to travel for a year. I traveled the country on planes and buses. And I got to stay with hosts families in these individuals cities. I was integrated into these communities in a really strong way. I got an education I could never have paid for. I learned so much.

Even doing something as simple as volunteering in your community will expose you to so many different kinds of people within your own neighborhood that in and of itself could be so eye opening and a learning experience. And the plus side of that is that you are giving back.

The number one secret of indoor plant care: Put your finger in the pot one inch. If it comes out with dirt on it, don’t water it. If it comes out clear, water it.

Future vision for next WordCamp when we can meet in person:
Battle of the Bands!

Transcript

Announcer:

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

Angela Bowman:

Hi, welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Amy Masson:

I’m Amy Masson.

Tracy Apps:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Jodie Riccelli. Jodie works for WebDevStudios, creating business opportunities for the agency. She was also on the organizing team for the first two WordCamp US events in Philadelphia. Welcome, Jodie.

Jodie Riccelli:

Thank you. I’m very excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Angela Bowman:

If you’ve listened to the show, you will know that we like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Jodie Riccelli:

It’s a very funny story. My background is actually in music. That’s the world that I came from. I studied music for about 20 years and played various instruments, sang, really loved it, but realized that I didn’t necessarily want to follow that path as my career. One day I was bored and I decided that I was going to sing again, so I got in touch with this record agency out here near Philadelphia and they needed some backup work done on some tracks. I thought, “This is cool. I’ll go do that.”

Jodie Riccelli:

I went to the studio and met the manager of the studio. Fast forward like 15 years later, we dated, married, and got divorced, but when we were working together at that studio, I was talking to all of these artists that were coming in and out and they were so dependent on Myspace as their form of marketing and management for their online presence. I just kept thinking, “Someday Myspace is going to go away.” This was in the heat of Myspace, like when it was the biggest thing for artists and musicians.

Jodie Riccelli:

I had said to my then partner, “We should think of a way to create websites for these artists.” He said, “That’s a great idea,” and we started doing research. I woke up one day and I came downstairs, all of these online tutorials for WordPress were downloaded onto my computer. He had downloaded a copy of GIMP for me to learn how to do design and I spent two days learning about WordPress and how to make graphics. We started the first website for our artists that way and that was my introduction into WordPress. That was 2005, so-

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Jodie Riccelli:

… that was a very long time ago. Yeah, it was crazy.

Angela Bowman:

I love GIMP. That takes me way back.

Jodie Riccelli:

Well, I [inaudible 00:03:35] to say, I am not a designer and I am not a developer and I would never put myself in one of those categories. I have since looked back on a lot of the flyers and graphics that I created and I literally went through every effect on every font and used it. Just like, “Drop shadow, stroke, like make it as big as possible.” They’re terrible. They’re really bad,

Tracy Apps:

I got an art degree. I was in graphic design and when I got like Photoshop 4.5 or whatever it was, I don’t know, I was like, “Oh, look, bevel,” like-

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

… we’ve all gone through that.

Amy Masson:

Oh, the drop shadow, that was my favorite. Everything had a drop shadow.

Jodie Riccelli:

Needed to have a drop shadow. How else would it stand out from the-

Tracy Apps:

Exactly [crosstalk 00:04:23]-

Jodie Riccelli:

… background on fire that I was creating?

Tracy Apps:

Especially when the animated like Earth as website and the animated background… It was a tiled animated background, so you needed some [crosstalk 00:04:33]-

Amy Masson:

Or the blink tag. That was my kind of favorite thing back in HTML days was blink.

Jodie Riccelli:

I learned HTML and CSS by trying to edit my Myspace page. That’s really where I got my introduction to all of that. I met my partner on Myspace, I got my career in WordPress in Myspace, I learned my first coding on Myspace, which is crazy, right?

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Jodie Riccelli:

Now, it’s evolved into a career for me that I truly love, so I feel very lucky, but that’s how it started. It was just kind of like a fluke thing.

Tracy Apps:

That’s so funny because I remember you could hack WordPress.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

Or, I mean, not WordPress. You could hack the Myspace to like make a design, you know? Oh gosh, yeah. How [crosstalk 00:05:20] many… I wonder how many people learned from that? That really was, that was the big thing because then it was like, “Oh.” It was like a badge of honor [crosstalk 00:05:33] like, “Did you see [crosstalk 00:05:33] mine?”

Jodie Riccelli:

People were making careers out of creating pieces of code that you could add to your Myspace page to alter it, to get things floating down or scrolling marquees or whatever it is that you wanted at that point. You’re probably right because I think back to when I was freshman in college, I’m totally dating myself right now, but for the purposes of this conversation it’s important. When I was a freshman in college, I remember walking into one of my communication classes, freshman year, the professor saying to us, “Have you all heard about this thing called the worldwide web?” We all said, “No.” We said, “Isn’t that like what the military uses to move files from like one place to another?” We had no idea what it was. I think about that all of the time.

Jodie Riccelli:

When I was in college, this career path that I chose did not exist. When I was using Myspace, I was being introduced to what would become my livelihood and I really didn’t know it at the time. I think we’re part of this generation that was in between this really big shift in career paths that we could potentially take. What we learned in college, all of those skills that we learned in school, in high school, in grade school, we’re learning to apply to this new trajectory of career paths, but it certainly wasn’t an option. I took typing classes on a typewriter. We did not have a computer and here we are. It’s really crazy to think about that.

Tracy Apps:

I think-

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

… I might have been the last class. In high school, we had typing on typewriters and-

Amy Masson:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

… yeah-

Amy Masson:

Mine did.

Tracy Apps:

… because I think we had like two computer box machines, like that kind of thing and microfiche. That was kind of the technology landscape. It’s funny because you say like… Because we are in that kind of middle area, the teachers, the people that were teaching us, didn’t understand what the ramifications of this was. I got downgraded because I was like, “Oh, and then I’m thinking about this and this,” and they didn’t understand it. It’s fascinating. We just kind of take social media things and then make it our education.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. We didn’t have a choice. I remember in college we got our first digital editing system. It was called a Media 100. I was a TV and Com major. It was called the Media 100. I was a senior in college. My professors had no idea what to do with it, but I learned it really quickly. I learned how to use it and I had to teach their classes as a senior in college because they had no idea how to teach the other students how to use it, but it came kind of naturally to me, and so I ended up teaching those classes. My first computer was a Commodore 64. I still remember doing the rainbow.

Amy Masson:

Mine, too. Mine, too.

Jodie Riccelli:

40 go to 10, 30 [crosstalk 00:08:28]-

Amy Masson:

Yeah.

Jodie Riccelli:

That was my education.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. When I was a freshman in college, I was very, very briefly a business major and one of the early classes we took were computers in business and they introduced us to this thing called Mosaic, and it was how you browsed the internet before Netscape, which became a big thing. Within a year from learning about Mosaic, the next year we’re writing HTML and making websites. I remember showing one of my friends my website that I had made on the university server and it had a picture and he’s like, “How did you get that picture on there? Did you like hold it up to the screen?” It was just hilarious and now we’ve kind of grown up with this.

Amy Masson:

I had somebody recently that I was working with and they’re like, “You know, I just really need to find a kid to do all of this for me.” I’m like, “No, you need a Gen Xer because we’ve been here from the beginning to now.

Jodie Riccelli:

That’s it. Gen X is the generation that was in the middle of this huge dynamic shift about the way that we consume and process information. I’m glad that it was Gen Xers because we have the best music, we had like the right movies. We had the right training to be able to handle this-

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Jodie Riccelli:

… but it’s definitely our generation.

Tracy Apps:

We were left on our own, so it was like, “Well, what are we going to do?” I remember I got home and I was home a couple of hours and I learned how to fix computers because I broke my parents’ computer before they got home and I had to fix it.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yes, critical thinking. We learned critical thinking because we couldn’t Google answers.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly [crosstalk 00:10:13]-

Jodie Riccelli:

Stack of encyclopedias.

Amy Masson:

Now, the kids can’t even Google answers. Everybody comes to me, I’m just like, “Google that.”

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. Now, it’s even [crosstalk 00:10:22]-

Amy Masson:

Or, “Let me Google that for you.”

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

That’s what I do all day, Google stuff for people. It’s my job.

Tracy Apps:

It’s your official job title?

Amy Masson:

Yeah, Official Googler. I need a name tag for that.

Angela Bowman:

Yes, yes. I have Google Fu, too. I love it. You have this background. Then, did you become more techie? More market-y? More artsy? Where did you go with that?

Jodie Riccelli:

I was always, like I said, in music and very artsy. I traveled with Up With People. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. It’s an international student organization. Right after college, I got on a bus with one suitcase and traveled the entire country doing musical performances and that was great. Then, I came back and I thought there was a lot of things I should be doing, so I met a boy and we got a house and we got a lab and an SUV. I thought, “I’m going to get a normal job.”

Jodie Riccelli:

My sister was working at Verizon at the time and she said, “I’ll get you a job. They’re selling Yellow Page ads. I was in my early 20s, so I went through this training at Verizon. This is important only because it gave me my sales training. I didn’t know it at the time that I was going to be using it later, but it was this six weeks intensive corporate sales training class that I went through. I was there for about a year and a half selling Yellow Page ads and just with a manager that would walk up and down the aisle going, “Smile and dial.” A hundred cold calls a day. It was brutal. It was brutal.

Jodie Riccelli:

Then, all of a sudden, online directories, like Yellow Page directories, started to pop up. Now, I had to sell internet listing to a generation of business owners that had absolutely no idea what it was, what its important was, and why they needed it because they were just so used to picking up the phone book. This was when I started to really not like the job anymore and so I gracefully exited from that position because it just wasn’t for me.

Jodie Riccelli:

I also gracefully exited from that relationship, the SUV, the house, all of that whole life, and I ran back to Center City, Philadelphia, and I got a job as a bartender. I bartended three nights a week and on the weekends I would go down the shore and spend it on the beach and it was exactly what I needed to [inaudible 00:12:52]. Eventually, though, I needed to kind of get back into the world, and so I did the music thing with somebody for a very long time.

Jodie Riccelli:

Then, right around 2009-2010, the music industry took a huge shift, too, because music then was available online in a way that it had not been before. Unless you could really adapt to creating other streams of income with the music industry, you weren’t going to make it from record sales anymore. I didn’t want to adapt. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it wasn’t going to be for me, either.

Jodie Riccelli:

I had all of these new skills now, these new online skills, WordPress skills, and I had this sales training. I saw this job opening for a sales account manager for a digital agency that did WordPress. I thought, “This kind of takes everything that I’ve been doing for my whole life and puts it into one cohesive, really neat package. I’m going to apply for it. I’ve never done it before but I’m going to apply for it.”

Jodie Riccelli:

I went for the interview and it was at YIKES, which is a digital agency here in Philadelphia, and I met with Tracy and Mia, who are the owners of that wonderful agency. I just loved them and I loved the business. The interview just went well and like pure luck, they offered me the position and I worked for them for vie years. In relation to this podcast, these are the first two women that I really encountered within the WordPress community and I could not be more grateful because they were two of the best mentors that I could have possibly had.

Jodie Riccelli:

I’ve also been very fortunate that the people that I have worked for or have encountered within the WordPress community, the majority have really been powerful, successful women who have really just reached out their hand and like pulled me through. They were the first to and I loved working there for five years. Then, it was time for a bit of a change, and so I came to WebDevStudios after YIKES. I’ve been here for four years now, so it’s almost 10 years in total that I’ve been doing sales and/or business development for WordPress websites.

Jodie Riccelli:

At WebDev, I have Lisa Sabin-Wilson, she’s our COO, the author of The WordPress for Dummies books, which is always behind me. She’s been my mentor here in so many ways. I’ve been so fortunate that I really have been able… I’ve worked for two brilliant agencies for a good amount of time and I’ve always loved this job. For me, meeting the clients that I get to meet is just really the most exciting part of everything that I do.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. All of those women are just amazing. We need to have… I should talk to Lisa. We need to get Lisa on here and we need to get Tracy on here, the other Tracy, because some people, they still confuse me and Tracy because we’re both gay, we have short dark hair, and we do WordPress. I mean, it’s very interesting. I was like, “No, there’s two different Tracys in-

Amy Masson:

Does she wear a bow tie?

Jodie Riccelli:

No.

Tracy Apps:

No, but she does wear a regular-

Amy Masson:

Well-

Tracy Apps:

… sometimes, so-

Amy Masson:

… that should be, you know [crosstalk 00:16:08]-

Tracy Apps:

There you go.

Amy Masson:

… I don’t know.

Tracy Apps:

There you go.

Amy Masson:

At the first WordCamp, were there gloves that said YIKES on them?

Jodie Riccelli:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, I [crosstalk 00:16:15]-

Amy Masson:

I believe [crosstalk 00:16:15] I own a pair of those.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Jodie Riccelli:

The first WordCamp, I think I was still with YIKES and that was one of the marketing things-

Tracy Apps:

I think you were because I think I remember meeting you when you were there.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah, exactly, exactly, until we got a touchscreen so people could still use their cellphones, but joke was on us because if you remember, it ended up being super warm in December here in Philadelphia, which was just like a weird thing that never happened. It was unseasonably warm in Philadelphia.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Jodie Riccelli:

… but you could still use the gloves [crosstalk 00:16:47]-

Tracy Apps:

I [crosstalk 00:16:47]-

Amy Masson:

I still have the gloves [crosstalk 00:16:47]-

Tracy Apps:

… for people in Wisconsin that use it. Yeah, like [crosstalk 00:16:50].

Jodie Riccelli:

They were great.

Amy Masson:

Awesome. Now that you’re at WebDev, what are some of the kind of things that you’re going there as your WordPress role?

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah, so my official title is Director of Business Development, and I kind of grew into this role. When I started, it was more client strategy, which I was essentially writing technical project plans for the projects that we were doing, but also working with the client for the initial needs assessment. I quickly realized that the level of work that we were doing here, I was not the best person to write project plans because unless you’re doing engineering day in and day out, it’s really hard to, I think, understand the complexity of the work that is involved with a lot of that.

Jodie Riccelli:

I quickly realized that my strength was being in a room of clients, finding out where their challenges were, and offering a solution that made sense. You could put me in a room with two people, 10 people, 15 people, and that’s like my natural happy place to be and I can talk to them for hours and I was really good at that, but when you ask me to do documentation, that is not a strength that I currently have. I’m okay with that, though. I think recognizing what you’re really good at, what is maybe not one of your strengths is just a luxury of age. You start to figure out what you’re really good at and what you shouldn’t be doing, so I know that now.

Jodie Riccelli:

We evolved the role into more of a business development role, which suited me perfectly. A lot of my responsibility is working with our enterprise clients that are retainer clients that we have for a very long period of time, finding out about potential new opportunities, making sure that they’re happy that we’re doing everything that we can for them. Talking about some things that we would like to do for future phases. Viacom, Campbell Soup Company, Microsoft, News Corp, NBA, they’re some of my top clients that I get to work with pretty much on a weekly basis, which I love.

Jodie Riccelli:

Then, we also have like a lot of small and medium-sized businesses that come to us with their own challenges that they’re having and I’ll sit down and we’ll figure out the best solution for them or what kind of website they need and put together proposals and ultimately gracefully transition them into strategy. Primarily my job here is sales, but also a lot of account management. I really love talking with clients and I spend most of my day now on video chats. I certainly miss being able to go visit people in person. I don’t think that that’s going to happen anymore this year.

Jodie Riccelli:

That’s been my challenge of my job this year is how to engage clients doing video chats now or figuring out different ways. I resorted to sending cheesesteaks to clients because being in Philadelphia, that’s one thing that we get asked about all of the time, so that’s kind of like my new thing, sending cheesesteaks to you and your family that you can enjoy so that [crosstalk 00:19:55]-

Angela Bowman:

Okay, so how far can you send these cheesesteaks?

Jodie Riccelli:

Listen, you could send cheesesteaks anywhere in the country.

Angela Bowman:

No.

Tracy Apps:

Well, then.

Amy Masson:

The question is, Whiz or no Whiz?

Jodie Riccelli:

See, it has to be whizz wit. It’s actually onions or no onions is like the bigger… If you’re going to try an authentic Philly cheesesteak, you got to use cheese whizz. Now, I’m here to tell you that as you start to eat Cheez Whiz, you realize that it is not really a food product and using things like Provolone is probably better. Then, the question does, “Do I have onions? Or do I not have onions?” Now, we have even a vegan cheesesteak in Philadelphia that was creating by Questlove of The Roots, so-

Tracy Apps:

Nice.

Jodie Riccelli:

… you can get a vegan cheesesteak made with Impossible meat now, too, and that can be sent anywhere in the country.

Tracy Apps:

This Cheez Whiz isn’t dairy, right?

Jodie Riccelli:

I’m actually not sure what it is [crosstalk 00:20:50]-

Amy Masson:

It’s not food [crosstalk 00:20:51]-

Tracy Apps:

Okay, well, then I could eat it because I’m allergic to dairy, but not food, I could probably eat.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. That’s actually a really good question. You know, ironically, Tracy doesn’t eat dairy either, so she has a solution to that, I bet.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, see [crosstalk 00:21:06]-

Jodie Riccelli:

Broccoli and cheese sticks.

Tracy Apps:

… we might really [crosstalk 00:21:07]-

Amy Masson:

We call that foodstuff.

Tracy Apps:

Foodstuff.

Amy Masson:

Edible foodstuff.

Tracy Apps:

Oh yes.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. Well, they’ve got vegan cheese, which doesn’t have dairy in it.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. Actually, my ideal diet would be vegan, but then with meat, so like I get stuff from the vegan restaurant, and then I could just eat like an actual burger to it, so it’s [crosstalk 00:21:37]-

Amy Masson:

I think you need [crosstalk 00:21:38] to open your own restaurant, Vegan With Meat.

Angela Bowman:

Vegan With A Side Of Meat. We’ve got all our main dishes are vegan, but we have these meat sides you can add,

Jodie Riccelli:

You know what? I bet that would solve a lot of people’s problems going out to eat like if you were dating a vegan, right?

Tracy Apps:

Yeah [crosstalk 00:21:56]-

Jodie Riccelli:

You are always [crosstalk 00:21:56] where to go. That’s-

Tracy Apps:

Right.

Jodie Riccelli:

… a problem-solving solution.

Tracy Apps:

Oh my God.

Angela Bowman:

I’m all about solving problems/

Tracy Apps:

See? See? Business ideas just flow from this.

Jodie Riccelli:

There we go.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you. That’s great.

Jodie Riccelli:

You’re welcome.

Tracy Apps:

With all of your music background, do you get to use that at all now?

Jodie Riccelli:

Not as much as I would like to. I will say, though, I’ve been trying to keep my brain active during this year that 2020 has shaped out to be, so I did go buy a guitar. That was on instrument I didn’t play and I was convinced I was going to teach myself how to play it this year. I’m still working on that. It’s very hard. It’s very difficult. I was a piano player trying to kind of convert all like 20 years of piano lessons into… Playing the guitar has been a bit of a challenge, but I do have that and I am starting to kind of use that again, although I found that so many people in the WordPress community have music backgrounds.

Jodie Riccelli:

So many people have a musical ability or a musical talent and I really attributed that to the way that you process music is the same way that you process writing code. To me, writing code is an artform, just like playing music. I know it’s more like on the technical side of things. I understand that, but there really is an art and a skill that is associated with it, and so I think that it’s very closely related to music. You’re reading something and you’re transitioning it into another form. With code, it’s very much the same thing. Yo’re taking it from one form and moving it into another form.

Jodie Riccelli:

It doesn’t surprise me that so many people have music knowledge or backgrounds or ability within the WordPress community. Everybody’s so talented in this WordPress community. They’re either into art of some kind or doing crafts like knitting or crocheting, or they’re musicians, or something. Everybody has these really amazing skills, and what I think is really cool about it is that everybody will talk about them, too, and kind of share, like, “Yes, I do WordPress. Yes, I might code or design or whatever, but look at like this whole other life I have.” We kind of embrace one another through those similarities, which has been really fascinating to see.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, you’re right. I’ve seen a lot of people… Well, yeah, also play drums, so does Tracy, so like that’s [crosstalk 00:24:12]-

Jodie Riccelli:

Yes [crosstalk 00:24:12]-

Tracy Apps:

… okay.

Amy Masson:

Are you sure you’re not the same person?

Tracy Apps:

You know what? I question it sometimes, but we do have a photo of both of us together, so we are two people. I think it would be really great because there are so many people that are very musically… We could just do WordPress bands because I want to play more music and we can do this because we all are in technology, too, so we would probably be able to adapt to kind of a virtual setting. I’m just saying, just saying.

Amy Masson:

I have an idea for the next time we can do WordCamp US in person, which is like, what, ’27? Is that we have a Battle of the WordPress Bands.

Tracy Apps:

Oh yes.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yes. I love that.

Amy Masson:

Look at Tracy [crosstalk 00:24:56] light up.

Tracy Apps:

Oh yes.

Jodie Riccelli:

That would be so awesome. That would be so awesome.

Angela Bowman:

We were speaking with Milana Cap in Serbia and she’s a developer there and she is a very, very, very accomplished violinist, right?

Jodie Riccelli:

See?

Angela Bowman:

I mean just like high, like way up there. You’re a marketing person. You have that brain for dealing with like synthesizing a lot of information coming at you from a lot of different directions.

Tracy Apps:

Throwing out the musical terms.

Angela Bowman:

Yes, and she’s a developer, but she felt like her ability to understand music helped her to understand. It’s almost like her code with music. It was like the code had this, well, what do we say? The poetry in it, and yeah. No, it’s so fascinating.

Angela Bowman:

You’re involved with a lot of really incredible kind of nonprofit groups like The Advisory Board for The Diversity in Philadelphia’s Convention and Business Bureau. Talk to us about your work with that.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah, so actually my tenure just recently ended, but I served on that board for a number of years and it was just for The Convention and Visitors Bureau here in Philadelphia. It was a committee to help promote diversity for the tourism industry that came into Philadelphia. I’ll tell you, it was one of the most enlightening experiences I ever had. I just got to work with some of the most brilliant minds in Philadelphia and I was so proud of our City for wanting to put together something that encouraged of an inclusive tourism area in Philadelphia and really wanted to talk about diversity and inclusion in a very open and public setting.

Jodie Riccelli:

That was really fascinating. What’s really interesting about that is I ended up getting involved because of WordCamp. WordCamp US was held at our Convention Center here in Philadelphia, and that’s how I was introduced to some of these people on the Convention and Visitors Bureau. They had asked me to serve on the Board because I had been working so closely with them in the WordPress world and they didn’t have enough people in tech that were currently sitting on the Board and I said, “Yeah, this is like such a great opportunity.”

Jodie Riccelli:

We did a lot of different things to help just keep that open conversation, so on the Board with me were hotel managers and restaurant managers and people like from the Chinatown District in Philadelphia, from West Philadelphia. Everybody just kind of got together and we tried to think of interesting and fun campaigns that would say, “Philadelphia wants everyone here.” We really are The City of Brotherly Love and so we want you to come. Everybody come. This is the City where you can really experience a melting pot of personalities and different kinds of people.

Jodie Riccelli:

It was very much a learning experience for me, too. I just love Philly. I think it’s a really great city. I think sometimes it gets a very bad rap on the news. You hear a lot about the bad things that happen in Philadelphia. Recently, someone that I won’t mention his name, said bad things happen in Philadelphia during a debate, but the reality is, is that Philadelphia is one of the most artistic, inviting, historic, inclusive cities that exist. I think it is so cool that you can walk down cobblestone streets that Benjamin Franklin walked on, turn the corner, and see a mural that was done by The Roots. To me, that’s just one of the coolest things ever, right?

Jodie Riccelli:

So much music started here in Philadelphia, too, like so many famous DJs and Motown artists really got their start here in Philadelphia. When people talk about Philadelphia on the news, they’re talking about these bad things that are happening, but they’re missing the really important stuff, like we are a melting pot. We want everyone here. This is the City of Brotherly Love, and so on this board, we got to kind of talk about that in a really open setting. It just made me feel like I was giving back to my community in a way that I wasn’t able to, which is really important to me, but also, I learned so much about the way that people view Philadelphia. It was fascinating and it was all because of WordCamp, which is interesting, too.

Amy Masson:

That’s awesome. Well, the only times I’ve ever been to Philadelphia have been for those two WordCamps, but my experience there was it was wonderful and lovely and I enjoyed my time. I enjoyed going sightseeing. I don’t know Voldemort saying things about Philadelphia that aren’t true or aren’t accurate. I didn’t feel unsafe or in danger or anything and I felt that people were very wonderful.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. I mean, it really is. I think that people need to kind of see or embrace the good stuff. We have some of the best food here, we have some of the best art. We definitely have some of the best music. You can’t really negate the history here in Philadelphia, whether or not it’s good or bad, a lot happened here in this City, and I find it very fascinating.

Jodie Riccelli:

I learn something or see something new every day in Philadelphia. It gave me an opportunity to learn, too, about what inclusion really means and I’m not sure I can even fully define or understand it, but it certainly put me in a position to understand it more. What does it mean to be inclusive? What does diversity actually look like? How can we best represent that in the City? There were some really important lessons learned there.

Tracy Apps:

That’s awesome. Those are very important questions, very important conversations. I think that’s really awesome to hear, to learn about, because one of the things I think of because you think of, yes, if you just are home and you watch the news, every other place is going to look horrible. I remember like growing up and I would see other countries on the news and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I live here. That looks terrible.” Then, I was in Australia, and then I looked at the news of the U.S. and I was like, “If I were here, I would never want to go there,” but by going and experiencing things, then you actually get to see like the breadth of the beauty. Then, usually, you don’t even see the horrible whatever stuff that’s on the news anyway.

Tracy Apps:

Putting that in… Well, now, we can’t travel, but when you can again, that’s really how I have learned and grown the most by like going and actually going into a place and experiencing it. It was like, “Oh, this isn’t anything like I was expecting it to be.”

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. If people make up the culture of any city, and the news is never going to be able to clearly express what the community makeup is like, and I think the only way to really understand any location that you ever visit is to meet the people, taste the food. It’s a very tangible experience that you need to have to fully appreciate it. I feel very fortunate, too. I had mentioned right after college I got to travel for a year. I learned so… First of all, having one suitcase, living out of a suitcase for a year is crazy, so I learned to pack light, but also, I traveled the country on planes and buses and I got to stay with host families in these individual cities. I was integrated into these communities in a really strong way and I came out of that experience with an education I could never have paid for.

Jodie Riccelli:

I learned so much and I was so naïve and green going into that year. I came out of that year thinking, “I still know nothing,” but like at least I got to experience this because I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania in a super small coal mining town where the only thing that mattered was what nationality you were. The Italians lived together, the Polish lived together, the Germans lived together, and that was it. If you were Italian, you lived in one section, which I was an Italian-American family. You went to the Italian church, you went to the Italian school, and that was it. My whole existence up until I left, even thought we went on vacations and stuff, but until I left and got to live somewhere else, was I thought that was normal, that was diversity.

Jodie Riccelli:

Then, I turned 18 and realized that I was like, “I’m out.” I ran so far from that city. I’ve never went back, but then I started to live in other places and I thought, “Wow, I was sheltered.” I was completely shut off from what reality really is and I started to see the world in a very different way. I think sometimes the universe has a plan for you and I think the universe really pushed me into traveling because I needed that or I wasn’t going to be able to, I think, effectively live my life the way that I wanted to. I think I was pushed to do that at a young age so that I could come out of that experience realizing there was so much to experience and so much to learn and rally wanting to embrace that my entire life.

Jodie Riccelli:

I feel very fortunate in that respect, too. I’m very much a believer that if you are open to it, experiences will surface and you should take advantage of them because some exciting things could really happen. I think about this all of the time. Why did I travel for a year? Why did I answer that ad for YIKES? Or, why did I choose to learn WordPress and how that all kind of contributed to leading me here right now? It’s kind of a nice feeling to have knowing that you can be guided into really amazing experiences if you allow yourself to be.

Tracy Apps:

So true. It’s funny because [crosstalk 00:35:44]-

Amy Masson:

I really miss traveling.

Tracy Apps:

… I know, and think like what you were saying because I traveled for a year after I graduated from college in host homes. I think everyone needs to do that because I think we’re all a little bit sheltered in our own little culture, so whatever it is. Some of the lessons I learned, you can read that in a book.

Jodie Riccelli:

No you can’t, you can’t.

Tracy Apps:

No.

Jodie Riccelli:

I agree with you. If I had any advice for anyone coming up like young folks that are in high school right now or debating whether or not to go to college, I think that’s a very personal decision for somebody, but the only thing I will say is that I think everybody should travel as much as possible and everybody should do an internship. Those are like the two biggest pieces of advice that I would give anybody kind of trying to figure out their future plans. You don’t need to have any answers, but do those two things and the answers will come to you. That’s just very much how I feel.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I agree. I love travel and I miss it so much and I remember as soon as I had kids, one of the big things that I felt really strongly about is that I want to travel with them and I want to travel internationally with them. When we first started planning our first big like international trip outside of.like the Caribbean, which I know technically is not the U.S., but it’s the same, and we were planning to go to Italy. One of my friends who had never been out of the U.S. and kind of lived in the Midwest all of her life, she’s like, “Is that safe?” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah. I’m pretty sure it’s totally safe.

Jodie Riccelli:

Yeah. You just do the best that you can. You don’t put yourself in unnecessarily unsafe situations. I’ve traveled alone. When WordCamp was in Paris, I thought that, “This was my opportunity to go to Paris.” I went and I spent the next five days after WordCamp by myself traveling through Paris. I remember my mother calling me every day just making sure that I was okay, and I didn’t put myself in bad situations, but I think that feeling or that independence of being able to travel alone and experiencing things like that is really important.

Jodie Riccelli:

By the way, I was married at the time, too, and I still wanted to do it on my own because there’s an empowerment that comes with that, being able to figure out how to use the public transportation in a new city, or figuring out what restaurant to go to, or working through that language barrier on your own. There’s lots of lessons to be had there, and so I try to embrace those opportunities as much as possible.

Jodie Riccelli:

In college, I remember I went into classes overseas. We went to Hungary, we went to Austria, Croatia, a bunch of places and I remember I was in Croatia, this is actually one of my favorite stories to tell. I’ll be telling it until I’m like 80. We were out, and so we had a few beverages, and it was late at night and I was very young. I heard these people shouting some profanities from across this grassy field, and so like any true person in a B movie, what did I do? I like ran into the field because that’s what seemed logical at that moment.

Jodie Riccelli:

I ended up getting chased by this group of Croatians continuing to scream these profanities. Finally, I got out of this loop of being chased and back to my friends into safety. I remember talking to one of the locals in the bar and thinking like, “I don’t understand why they were screaming that word. Why did they know I was American?” He basically explained to me that they knew I was American because I had on shorts and only Americans wear shorts, and also the only words that they knew were those that they learned from American Graffiti, and so those profanities.

Jodie Riccelli:

I thought that that was so interesting. It never occurred to me. That’s what I learned that if you really want to stand out in Europe, wear shorts. Everybody will know that you’re American. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying it’s a tale, and then [crosstalk 00:40:02] so that people paid attention to American Graffiti in a way that I had not really understood, but it’s an artform, so I get it, but that’s why they only knew those words. I don’t even think that they were trying to be mean. I think they were really just trying to communicate with me and I didn’t understand that that was their barrier to entry.

Angela Bowman:

“We are using your language [crosstalk 00:40:23] do you not understand?”

Jodie Riccelli:

I’m like running 90 miles an hour trying to [crosstalk 00:40:30] get away from them. One of them could have been a future partner. I don’t know. I missed an opportunity.

Tracy Apps:

This is your entryway into Croatia.

Jodie Riccelli:

Exactly.

Tracy Apps:

Missed it.

Angela Bowman:

I love your story. I had always wanted to travel, but I was a teen mom and I was so busy like raising my daughter and going to school and I didn’t get to leave the country till I was 40. The first place I went to was to West Africa and I-

Jodie Riccelli:

Wow.

Angela Bowman:

… landed on this tarmac. I was supposed to be with friends. They missed their flight and I’m just on my own in a craw. Like, “Oh, so here I am.”

Tracy Apps:

Go big or go home, right?

Angela Bowman:

Go big or go home. That was the best experience of my life, so once I had that experience, it gave me the bug. It was like, “Oh, you just need to buy a plane ticket. That’s all [crosstalk 00:41:17] to do and just land yourself someplace and then work it out as you go along.”

Amy Masson:

It doesn’t work right now.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

It doesn’t work right now. I know [crosstalk 00:41:24] it’s so sad.

Tracy Apps:

Even just like without the ability and privilege to be able to travel, just putting yourself outside in your comfort zone because that’s really what it is. It’s like putting yourself out of your comfort zone and you’re like, “I’m expecting this<” and now all of a sudden you have to kind of take a step back and be quiet and listen and watch and learn and go into a situation where you’re like, “I am not the expert here. I don’t know the language.” Or whatever it is, I think every kid needs to experience that because it’s one of those things that’s just so life-changing and then you realize the world is so much bigger. You can find that down the street from your house. Just [crosstalk 00:42:09]-

Jodie Riccelli:

Even [crosstalk 00:42:09] something as simple as volunteering in your community will expose you to so many different kinds of people within your own neighborhood that that in and of itself could be very eye-opening and a learning experience. The plus side of that is also you’re giving back and I believe that that always come back 10-fold to you. If you can humble yourself and donate time to something, it’s huge. It’s just such a huge thing.

Jodie Riccelli:

Here in Philadelphia, while we can’t do it now because of the pandemic, but my number one main thing to get involved with is animals. I have two dogs, Frankie and Aria. They’re both rescues. They are the love of my life. I grew up with animals. We always had animals. I was always saving animals. Here in Philly, I walk the dogs at the animal shelter because they need to get out and see other people. I think that’s such an easy thing. If you are in a community that has an animal shelter, you can go play with animals and even that is going to teach you about empathy in a way that you’re not going to be able to learn in a classroom because I definitely believe animals can teach us a whole lot.

Tracy Apps:

Oh yeah.

Jodie Riccelli:

I encourage anybody to get involved with anything that they can within their community and especially now this year just feeling so chaotic and off-kilter. I think it can help with mental health sometimes even to be able to give back to something that you truly believe in. To just kind of center yourself for a minute. I mean, clearly, I am not an introvert, and so this pandemic has been very challenging for me to be inside and it’s like not being able to experience people in person as much as possible. I’ve had to be very creative in ways that have kept me sane throughout this year. Music, obviously, like trying to pick up music again, paying attention to the animals as much as possible. I am embarrassed to say this that I have 130 house plants that I take care of in my house-

Angela Bowman:

I love it.

Jodie Riccelli:

… because that is like for me one of the best mental health exercises ever. In the summer, I have like my container garden outside growing things. I had to be very creative in ways to keep sane.

Angela Bowman:

You live in a jungle?

Tracy Apps:

I love it.

Jodie Riccelli:

I do. I live in a jungle [crosstalk 00:44:36]-

Amy Masson:

130 [crosstalk 00:44:36] oh my goodness-

Jodie Riccelli:

… a very small [crosstalk 00:44:38] silly row home. It’s like 980 square feet. It’s tiny.

Tracy Apps:

You have lots [crosstalk 00:44:42] of oxygen.

Jodie Riccelli:

I have the best oxygen ever in here, yes.

Angela Bowman:

The air’s naturally filtered.

Jodie Riccelli:

It is.

Angela Bowman:

You have a hab.

Jodie Riccelli:

A what?

Angela Bowman:

You live in a hab, a habitat.

Jodie Riccelli:

Oh. I do. I do live in a habitat. Everybody makes fun of me and my house plants. Actually, there was just an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about people using plants as therapy during the pandemic and they had a picture of one of my plant shelves and my two dogs in front of it.

Amy Masson:

Oh my goodness. I am not good with plants that grow in pots, so this summer for the first time I bought a hibiscus in a pot and had it on my patio. I just brought it in and I’m going to try to keep it alive for the winter-

Jodie Riccelli:

That’s [crosstalk 00:45:30]-

Amy Masson:

… but I doubt my abilities to make that happen.

Jodie Riccelli:

You got this. You can do it. This is the number one secret with plants. I’m going to share it with everyone in case anybody’s interested in plants. This is the number one tip. This is all you will ever need to know. You stick your finger in the soil two inches. If it comes out and there’s dirt on it, don’t water. If it comes out clear, water it. That’s it. If you don’t want to use-

Amy Masson:

All right.

Jodie Riccelli:

… your finger, use a chop stick. If [crosstalk 00:46:00] there’s dirt on it, it doesn’t need water. If there’s no dirt, it needs to be watered.

Amy Masson:

Oh my gosh[crosstalk 00:46:06]. That is an amazing tip.

Jodie Riccelli:

That’s my tip.

Tracy Apps:

I mean, we can’t-

Amy Masson:

Wow.

Tracy Apps:

… top that.

Amy Masson:

It has been wonderful having you on with us today. Before we go, can you tell us where people can find you online?

Jodie Riccelli:

Absolutely. Thank you very much for having me. I think the work that you’re doing with this podcast is wonderful and it’s really exciting to see all of these amazing and fabulous people and hear their stories. On behalf of the community, we appreciate the level of effort you’re putting into this because I know it’s a lot. Anybody, Twitter’s the best place for immediate contact. It’s just my name, @Jodie_Riccelli. It’s that on Twitter and also on Instagram. Feel free to reach out and start a conversation. I’m happy to chat with anyone.

Amy Masson:

Awesome. Well, thanks for being here.

Jodie Riccelli:

Thank you so much.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you.

Announcer:

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