048: Speaking with Olga Gleckler about Custom Development and the Russian WordPress Community


About Olga Gleckler:

WordPress developer and marketer with 15+ years in software support, marketing and web development, an active member of the Global WordPress Marketing Team and Russian WordPress community and brand ambassador weDevs for Russia.

Find Olga Gleckler: Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn


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Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
048: Speaking with Olga Gleckler about Custom Development and the Russian WordPress Community
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Transcript

Speaker 1:

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

Tracy:

Hi, Women in WP listeners. This is Tracy with a quick message from our sponsor, WPRemote. WPRemote is a dedicated care plan platform that will help fuel your agency’s growth with maintenance care plans for your clients’ websites. WPRemote provides an automated workflow for you to manage multiple sites from one central dashboard. With one-click updates, incremental backups, automated malware scans, firewall, uptime monitor and more. WPRemote is created by the same great folks behind BlogVault, MalCare, and Migrate Guru. Save time, increase your revenue, and make your clients happy by trying WPRemote today for free. Learn more at wpremote.com/womeninwp. And now, on to our show.

Angela:

Welcome to the show. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela:

Our guest today is Olga Gleckler, a full stack WordPress developer who makes plugins and custom themes, child themes and especially likes third-party integrations. Welcome, Olga.

Olga:

Hi.

Angela:

As you know, we like to start off each episode by asking our guests about their journey to WordPress. How did you get started?

Olga:

It was started a long time ago. I was very much wanted to become a programmer. But, first attempt wasn’t very good. I failed because I had no knowledge, no mentors, no ways to get information. I put it on hold. I don’t like a failure thing. So, it was postponed for me, and it took me 14 years to return to it and finally make my first site from scratch. It was very narrow path, and it was very difficult to know where to look for information. So, finally, I got working site to maintain, and it was really luck, I took it apart, found how it worked, and started to write my own site from scratch. It was only one thing I had at hands, but then I have no idea that there are some kind of systems. I was building again and again from scratch. And then I got a website on WordPress to fix bug, and I figure out it on a weekend. But then it was like fun thing for me. I fixed it and go back to my business.

Olga:

I started also to work with another system but then I started piece by piece comparing them. And I got clients with different systems and find out that WordPress is the best choice there is. So I was continuously struggle with other stuff and was very disappointed and started to think, “Why on earth I supposed to work on this systems I don’t like,” so now I’m working only with WordPress. I have some legacy. I suppose everyone has, but it’s different world. In quality and in understanding and in familiarity with things… How I feel that things supposed to be going.

Amy:

So that first website you made. The very first one. What was it about? What was it for?

Olga:

It was some stuff for repair, like catalog for stuff for builders and it’s still running.

Amy:

It’s still running?

Olga:

Yes, yes. I make some new design several years back, but it’s the same site. It was eight years ago.

Tracy:

Wow, that’s pretty awesome.

Angela:

That means you did a good job.

Olga:

I hope so.

Amy:

And that site was WordPress or that was one that you built from scratch?

Olga:

No, it was from scratch and it was a problem, because each time I need to… new feature, I need to write it from scratch and actually it was like your shop. You can make it’s favorite product you can make it, go into cart et cetera and make a order, so it was piece by piece made and it was very slow work.

Tracy:

Well that’s very difficult to do from scratch. I mean, but that’s amazing experience when you start working in WordPress. I know if I hadn’t started just doing hand coding. I was never at your level. I was HTML when I first started and then CSS came around and then I gradually learned that and then after that anything else I was copying and pasting from other websites and stuff but to understand how it works in the backend that makes you such a valuable programmer and you talk about failing, but that’s how you learn. That’s amazing and I just wanted to give you credit because I think that’s pretty amazing.

Olga:

Thanks.

Amy:

The very first websites I made were in college and I taught myself HTML just by looking at the source code on other websites and nothing I made actually had any functionality, I mean it was just like, “Hey, I’m Amy and here’s pictures of me being stupid in college and then click a button and go to another page with more pictures of me doing stupid things.”

Tracy:

Did we have the same website because that was basically mine.

Olga:

Well, I failed. It was like include and it was all what I managed to do. And add pictures.

Amy:

Yeah. And I remember that first time I made a WordPress site and I’m like, oh, wait a minute, this template applies to every single page. I don’t have to remake the page or duplicate the page every single time and it was just… it opened a whole new world for me.

Angela:

Yeah. So in those early sites, where you using programming languages like PHP or ASP or what did you end up learning first in terms of all of the web…[crosstalk 00:07:28]

Olga:

It was HTML mostly. It was also PHP, it’s inaudible. HTML, just it was Jakeway. First it was to make a calculator and I made it in month. And I really wanted to bump my head on the wall because it was so difficult with Jakeway. Now I can do it in two hours, I think. Just because of what I was typing and I don’t really use Jakeway anymore, it’s below the standards. Sorry.

Tracy:

I’ve been there.

Amy:

Well, I think that’s one of the benefits of moving from making everything from scratch to a system like WordPress is that it enables you to bypass so much of that time you spend individually making each little thing that takes a month that, oh, now there’s a plugin for it and I can install it and an hour later it’s perfect. Or near perfect.

Olga:

I still like to do things by my house.

Tracy:

I’m the same.

Amy:

Well, and you make plugins so what plugins have you made?

Olga:

Not for repository, it’s for clients. Additional functionality mostly soft part integration, indication restoring system with loyalty system which come with some other systems. And most times you need something special and existing integration just don’t work.

Angela:

Yeah. Integrations makes a lot of sense is where you will need custom development work. It’s where the rubber meets the road, we say. Where the tires hit the road is with those integration pieces.

Olga:

And each time, it’s something new.

Tracy:

Yeah. We were talking earlier before, we were coding about.. because I’ve gotten this too where they just basically assume you’re not a real developer, right. And I don’t know if there was also a discussion, a debate or something on Twitter about what’s HTML and CSS a programming language. And I’m like, yeah. We’re Programming and stuff. So I’m very encouraged by your story. I love that you just have that ability to make things unique from scratch. Do you have anything like, your favorite project or something that you’re really proud of that you created?

Olga:

It’s difficult really no showcase. There are good cases but they are just good. Mostly, it’s all about creativity and design when you’re starting to make showcases and most of the time I’m not so creative in these things and they are just good. And I think that functionality is supposed to be forced. And when your client or your boss or whatever want to make some creative things that look cool, it isn’t my thing.

Amy:

I totally agree.

Tracy:

Well, and that’s actually a really good point because I was also thinking because I do design but I also do project design and some development and that stuff and you’re right. You don’t know a good programmer because you never have to see their work because it just works. So it’s one of those things like, well, how do you share that, how do you… because I’m terrible at writing a resume because I was like, how do you say it? Well, I just made it work. That’s what you did.

Olga:

And if you made something for some client, you cannot share it.

Tracy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, yeah. Sometimes you can’t.

Angela:

Yeah. That’s so true.

Tracy:

Yeah.

Angela:

Yeah. It’s like you’re this hidden person, you’re behind the scenes and people don’t realize. I find that with my clients who I do maintenance work for, maybe they don’t want to pay for this more expensive host dinner, maybe they don’t think they need the maintenance and the only reason for that is that because I’m doing it, nothing breaks. And so they take that for granted. If I weren’t doing it, I know their site would be broken or hacked or whatever happens to sites when they’re not kept up well. And so when you’re that person making things work, yeah, it’s this invisible hand and you maybe don’t get the total respect that you deserve for a good job you’re doing.

Olga:

Yeah. It’s very difficult when actually, it’s all working.

Tracy:

Yeah, exactly.

Angela:

It’s almost better in your start when you had to go fix someone else’s work and find that infinite loop that you had happening in that theme and you fixed it.

Olga:

Yes, yes. It was infinite loop. Some kind of conditions. It wasn’t happening each time.

Angela:

Yeah. When you can fix someone else’s mistake then you can look like the hero.

Olga:

Yeah.

Amy:

So what type of are you typically working for?

Olga:

Small businesses, I suppose. Some people who sell some stuff or make a bare month. Small businesses.

Amy:

And are you doing a lot of eCommerce?

Olga:

From time to times, yeah. Because I suppose it’s most popular.

Amy:

And how are your…[crosstalk 00:13:47]

Olga:

[crosstalk 00:13:49][inaudible 00:13:49]

Amy:

Are your clients mostly in Russia or are you working with people everywhere?

Olga:

Mostly in Russia but right now it’s not only in Russia. I work too.

Tracy:

What’s the WordPress community and even just the tech community like in your town? In your city?

Olga:

Actually, we have local community and we spend time. Even without word camps. Right now I’m avoiding such things but people are going to computer club to play games and I suppose I can join them to plug up the courage because right now it’s not very simple thing to do.

Tracy:

Yeah.

Olga:

I need to be brave.

Tracy:

Exactly.

Olga:

But we have here local community, small but robust. And we have most close community a bit bigger and we have people all over the Russia and we all stay together and I think it’s the most beautiful thing that right now I can attend. Most close meet up or make a conversation with people from all over Russia. And we are staying together and we have coffee break, one. But we had it already and we had fun.

Angela:

That’s so wonderful. So you started into programming, you took a break for 14 years, you got back in, you discovered WordPress, when did you discover the WordPress community? And tell us about your involvement with WordPress 5.6.

Olga:

Yeah. Its a story.

Angela:

Its a story. We want to hear this story.

Olga:

Yeah. So I started with the community three years back. It was tough moment for me because I was working with another system and I wasn’t satisfied and it wasn’t my decision to work. And work wasn’t going well. It was a disaster. We succeeded but it takes two years and a lot of stress. So I want to make myself engaged in something so I started to look for events in events, anything. And watch press meet-up. I came and actually it was the first event when I was engaged with lots of people because I went to a lot of events and didn’t tell anyone anything and here I was very comfortable, I felt myself like a professional and I have knowledge to share. I was open and I made some connection with people and after this, and half a year later we had WordCamp.

Olga:

It was a fantastic event and it’s open community so open people and possibly because just I feel myself in the right place, with the right people, it’s so comfortable.

Amy:

Something I think that we have talked about before is how we felt like in the WordPress community, women aren’t quite as second class as maybe in some other tech communities and I wonder if that is how you feel about it in Russia. Do you feel like their women are more equal with men in the WordPress community there?

Olga:

I don’t feel any uneasiness, I suppose. But most women in community are designers, marketers but we have developers as well and well known and they make presentations etc. so there are no difficulty for women. And I don’t feel anything out of place. I’m quite comfortable and people are just awesome.

Tracy:

That’sgreat.

Angela:

And are you working with the WordPress 5.6 release teams? Are you involved with the core project right now?

Olga:

Oh, a bit. I was working on Q and A, we published it on marketing channel on GitHub. It was a lot of work and we still struggle to put it on the right place on HelpHub really. But we hope that it work will help people to find right answers and we are really deep in say, optimization and seeking for questions and also after 5.6 was launched, I specially went to form and spent several days answering questions. To know what actually problems are.

Angela:

In terms of the global community then, how has that impacted you aside from local meet-ups with local word camps? What has been the influence of being part of more the global? And you mentioned Abatecho as a mentor. What role has that played in your development as…

Olga:

About global community, it was March of 2019 and it was Nordic WordCamp in Finland, Helsinki and I wanted to give it a try. Back then I wasn’t sure that I would be able to speak English, in a year. So it was not very difficult to go to Finland. So I just give it a try and it was fantastic. I met lot of people from all over Europe. I just loved it. So after this, I went to Berlin, without any doubts. I went to Vienna, this February. I was really lucky because Asia was canceled and it was only a week later.

Tracy:

Yeah. That’s right.

Amy:

Where you supposed to go to Asia?

Olga:

No, no. I prefer Vienna. English at least now I know that I know it and a bit of German so, it’s quite comfortable for me.

Tracy:

It makes sense.

Amy:

Wow. So you gave a talk in Finland?

Olga:

No. I just attend.

Amy:

Okay. You just attended, I got…[crosstalk 00:21:41]

Olga:

But it’s a freedom. Attending it’s a freedom.

Tracy:

Yes.

Angela:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Olga:

You can do whatever you want and there are a lot of amazing people around.

Tracy:

Well, the whole idea of an on conference was the fact that, I’m not just going and attending a conference. Even if we do just go, “just go and attend a WordCamp,” there’s always an exchange of information because that’s the culture that is fostered of yeah, sometimes the best sessions are in the hallway with people that I just meet and we come up with ideas, like, Angela and I met and we were like, we should do this thing, yeah. I feel like those are most valuable things of going to a conference like WordCamp versus just these other conferences where you don’t talk to other you just , whatever. So yeah, that’s awesome. How was Finland? I want to go there so bad.

Olga:

Finland was awesome. And actually, there was all people from Europe and it was so exciting and good food also, very good food. Thanks to sponsors.

Tracy:

Cannot wait till we can travel again because then I have a list, I have a long list.

Amy:

Yeah. I can’t wait until we’re able to go places and actually have real life WordCamps because I know they’re doing them online and you can go on and you can see the talks but to me, it’s more about that connection with other people that are in my field and I don’t feel like I can get that by sitting here and looking at my computer. So I’m excited to when we can actually start getting together in person again, which probably is 2022.

Tracy:

Yeah.

Amy:

But what we have now possibly, it’s best what we can have.

Tracy:

Yeah. That’s true.

Olga:

And we have very busy online life, I think. We have marketing meetings, we have coffee breaks. Its very, very close to each other and I can attend meet-ups or WordCamps from all over the world.

Tracy:

That is a really good point. That’s very true because you could just pop-in anywhere. And I think honestly, things like this where we can see each other and just add the group and chat. That to me is so wonderful and the fact that we do have the technology and that we work in technology we can make that better and we can continue doing that because then we can foster those things. We might not be able to travel or I’m too busy, I can’t travel, I can’t afford to go to this thing but to have this technology to figure out how to make these connections without being in the same room, I think it’s going to really help us in the future too.

Amy:

It’s definitely a lot less expensive.

Tracy:

It’s true.

Angela:

Yes. I participated in a derby max last week just for one day

Amy:

Oh, my sister did too.

Angela:

And I have to say, they produced their segments so well and I was so inspired. And it’s not an event I would have gone to because of the price and all of that, I would’ve prioritized probably a WordCamp or something but that was special and it was free and I also didn’t have a lot of time, so I only participated for one afternoon but it was enough to feel like I got something and it was mind blowing how well they did that. But I was blown away by the speakers, you do not get to do the attendee thing and I think that’s where so many connections come.

Angela:

Even the sponsors of this podcast right now, the makers of blockveld, I met them at pressnomex and I went up to them and talked to them and told them about the show and then they approached me about sponsoring the podcast and it was that in person connection that allowed that to happen. So I feel like in some ways it is harder, it’s so much harder to make these connections but we’re making different connections and so we’re doing the best we can at least, we have technology like the Jacksons to…

Speaker 2:

I want my flying car. Where’s my flying cars? No, man.

Angela:

And our robot blade.

Tracy:

I know, right.

Angela:

Well, we have robot vacuums, right. That’s close.

Tracy:

It can just stand on a conveyor belt and wants a shower and, right…

Angela:

Oh, yes. Yes.

Tracy:

… get ready.

Angela:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And fly off in our flying car.

Tracy:

So has your client work grown during this pandemic or what is your business been like?

Olga:

Different, different. Some projects are on hold, some people have problems, yeah. But everyone want to go online. Their question is about payment of course, because people want everything and they want it cheap. It’s another thing.

Tracy:

And fast too, right?

Olga:

Yeah.

Tracy:

I wanted to…[crosstalk 00:27:18]

Olga:

It’s mostly.

Amy:

I was really concerned when COVID hit about what business was going to look like because I know when we had the recession in 2008, having a website was a luxury that people just decided to go without or not update and so my business really suffered and so I actually started stock-pilling all the profit we were making just in case it started to go downhill, we could still get paid in a few months. And when I would send out invoices each month, I would put a notice that I understood that people were having financial trouble because of COVID and if they needed to delay payment or they needed me to work for free, then I would do it and so far luckily, everybody’s been able to pay and nobody has questioned it and we haven’t taken a big hit. So I feel like we’ve been really lucky here, at least, I have, to be able to still work.

Tracy:

I feel like in technology because everything is going online and I remember when the recession hit and that’s when I wanted to start my company because I lost my job because the big corporations were the ones that lost all the money and were suffering the most and then they just laid us all off and then hired us as freelancers and such. So because I was doing some contract work for getting laid off but it’s very fascinating for me to see the parallels and the very differences because of the situation and how much we rely on technology now. So yeah, it’s amazing to me.

Amy:

And what is the situation like with COVID in Russia right now?

Olga:

It’s growing worse. Children went to schools, teachers didn’t miss out actual attendings because it was Zoom of course, but teachers were struggling and they just cannot do it. And because most of the day when children has no questions, no tasks to do and they just waiting and become angry because this system does not work. And they will be able to do it in the evening at last moment because tomorrow will be another studies. It was problem for children, for teachers, for parents, or both. I have a 13 years old son so it was tough.

Tracy:

How old?

Olga:

13.

Tracy:

Nice.

Olga:

So it was all this explanation.

Angela:

Yeah. My granddaughter is six. My daughter is really struggling because and in particular the system, she’s saying just for six words, it’s impossible.

Tracy:

My friend is teaching at three different universities and three different systems that she has to use and they’re all terrible. This is an opportunity for us to make this better. It needs to…[crosstalk 00:31:09]

Angela:

Is your son back in school now or are you still at stay at home or do you think you’ll go to stay at home?

Olga:

They stayed at home two weeks this autumn but mostly they are at school.

Angela:

Great.

Olga:

Just behave very differently, stay away from me.

Angela:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Olga:

Don’t go any near.

Tracy:

I can’t imagine being a kid in this situation because I wouldn’t… yeah.

Olga:

Different times too, so.

Amy:

It was an NPR article just last week, I think, saying that they realize that the schools are not the super spreaders that they thought they were going to be and that with the mask wearing so far it’s been pretty good. Universities, that’s different.

Tracy:

That’s a different story because, yes. They’re invisible right. No.

Amy:

And they just won’t stop getting together in groups and socializing whereas the kids go to school, they wear their masks, they come home, they’re not doing those big parties and things like that. And drinking. Which oddly contributes.

Angela:

Right?

Tracy:

Well, and I wonder because I don’t know, kids these I just feel like they adapt so much faster to things. I’m like, but this is how we used to do it, it’s just a struggle and I feel like as you get older, it’s harder. So yeah.

Angela:

Do you have restrictions now on your movement where you live? Where we live right now you can’t have more than 10 people from two different families total together and the nearby big city it’s limited to five people can get together, it’s all and then we also have a mask mandate now. In Denver if you’re outside your house and you’re near anyone outside your household, you have to have a mask on. So you can’t go walk with a friend and not have a mask. We have about five million people in our state and we’re having about 2,000 cases a day now. But not so much there.

Olga:

We have five million people in Saint Petersburg and possibly more because of oh, this area around. But we have only restrictions that you’re not allowed to go inside shops etc. without a mask.

Angela:

Okay.

Tracy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Same here.

Olga:

On public transport as well. But I don’t think that someone will bother to try to catch you outside.

Amy:

Yeah. Ours is similar. There’s a mask mandate but if I go out and I run and I run with a friend and we don’t wear masks where we’re running, and if we’re going so fast that all the gems are just blowing behind me which is not true because I don’t run fast.

Tracy:

Yeah.

Angela:

This is the dream running, Amy.

Tracy:

And this is how you look right. And you look like photogenic runner and then…[crosstalk 00:34:37]

Angela:

Yes. And your hair is blowing.

Tracy:

[crosstalk 00:34:37][inaudible 00:34:37] it’s like.

Amy:

The people that aren’t watching and are only listening and are really missing out on all of us pretending to run, at our desks.

Tracy:

Oh, my goodness.

Angela:

Well, I’m glad your movement isn’t so restricted and your son is in school. That must be such a relief to you that he’s at school.

Olga:

[inaudible 00:35:03]

Angela:

Yeah. It’s a hard age.

Amy:

Do you have a team of you pretty much just by yourself?

Olga:

I’m pretty much by myself. Sometimes I’m work with designer when I need some creativity I cannot provide and sometimes I’ll of course, work with other people in a team. I have some legacy, I was mentioning before. But the advantage of this work is that you can do almost everything by yourself. It’s one of the reasons because I started to be a developer. At some point I was a marketer and I was from another side of the site and I was asking, asking and asking and I didn’t get anything useful from this guy.

Tracy:

Not surprising.

Olga:

And I had no right to go and write it by myself and I hated it.

Angela:

When you want something done, you got to do it yourself.

Olga:

Yes, yes. So I went on other side of the site.

Tracy:

And honestly, I don’t know how much you have to deal with clients but for me because I also came from a design background and self-taught, I also don’t do that whole, well, here’s a bunch of gibberish and those words just to confuse you and then not answer the question but taking the time to go and say, oh, this is… I don’t know how much with your clients do you end up doing guiding and training and answering questions like that.

Olga:

I’m always trying to teach people.

Tracy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Olga:

But it’s not always the case they want. Some people just want…

Tracy:

Just fix it.

Olga:

… you can make me anything what I want and I will not bother how it looks inside or how it works and it’s a bit frustrating because I want people to be able to manage it by themself and it’s a good system, pretty easy to handle. And I’m doing from my side everything that all these settings will be available in admin page and if no one was reading it…

Tracy:

Yeah. The extra time to do that.

Amy:

Yeah. I would prefer either clients take over managing the site all together, 100%. Or they have me do it a 100%. The hybrid, where they want to do stuff and then they need me to come in and help, that’s where I start to have problems but we make it work.

Olga:

If they asking you to sometime, switch some button or make a change in telephone, it’s not my thing. They can do it themself because it’s all in admin.

Tracy:

Yeah. I’m the same because I also am not good at typing out instructions so I just do a video recording my screen because I cannot be sure with words. I just blab along, and I’m like, oh, yeah, then you go here and do this and, yeah, so that helps.

Olga:

I was writing instruction but I’m not sure they actually read it.

Tracy:

[inaudible 00:38:49]

Amy:

Well, I do the screen casts too with Loom and you’ll get a notification once they’ve watched it and I will send them all the time and they’ll never watch it. Like, okay.

Tracy:

I have mine on YouTube so I can see how many of them viewed but I don’t know if it’s the clients or just people found them or something.

Amy:

I just send them out. Specifically what they want and all. Well, it’s been great having you on the show today. Before we go, can you tell everyone where they can find you online?

Olga:

They can find me on marketing WordPress channel. They can find me on Twitter of course. It’s most popular for me, place to be.

Amy:

Awesome. Well, thanks for being on.

Angela:

Thank you.

Olga:

And great.

Tracy:

It was great meeting you all.

Amy:

Thank you for listening. Interested in being on the show, sign up on our website, WomenInWP.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and join our Facebook group to have conversations with other women in WordPress.

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