050: From Nursing to COO of WebDevStudios with Lisa Sabin-Wilson

In this episode of Women in WP, we talk to Lisa Sabin-Wilson about everything from mommy blogging, political blogging, to literally writing the book on WordPress.


About Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Lisa Sabin-Wilson is the Chief Operating Officer, and Co-Founder, of WebDevStudios (WD3, LLC). In this role, she provides the leadership, management, and vision necessary to ensure WebDevStudios has the proper operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures, and people systems in place to effectively grow the organization and to ensure financial strength and operating efficiency.

Prior to her role with WebDevStudios, Lisa operated her own freelance business for 10 years, starting in 2003, providing custom WordPress design and development services, as well as technical support and hosting, to her WordPress clients. Lisa has 14 years of experience delivering WordPress solutions to clients, both large and small.

Lisa is the subject matter authority on WordPress and is the For Dummies™ brand (John Wiley & Sons Publishing) franchise author on all things WordPress due to her extensive experience and knowledge on the platform and shares it as the author of several WordPress-related books, including the best-selling WordPress For Dummies now in its 9th Edition released on January 7, 2021.

Find Lisa Sabin-Wilson: WebDevStudios | Twitter |  LinkedIn


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050: From Nursing to COO of WebDevStudios with Lisa Sabin-Wilson
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Show Notes

Books by Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

WordCamp Videos:

Quotes and Notes:

In another lifetime, Lisa Sabin-Wilson might have been a political journalist. Lucky for us, she became a WordPress expert and helped so many of us through her great talks at WordCamps, involvement with the WordPress community, and her seminal book WordPress for Dummies.

“Who doesn’t need a nurse who can code a WordPress theme?”

“The lessons in empathy I got from my years in nursing really helped me to become the person I am today and the leader I am today in my company”

On leading a company during the pandemic:

“The most important thing when you are leading a group of people is to try to put yourself in their position.”

“I have a pragmatic approach to leadership: if you really help your employees take care of the basics and remove as many stressors as you can from their life, then not only will they achieve great things with you, but they will be happy to do it, I think.”

Transcript

Amy Masson:

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

Tracy Apps:

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, up-tide 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, onto our show.

Angela Bowman:

Welcome to the show. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy Apps:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy Masson:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Lisa Sabin-Wilson, who co-owns a WordPress client service agent, WebDevStudios, and is the COO and oversees project management-

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Hello.

Angela Bowman:

Hey. [inaudible 00:01:32] episode by asking our guests to tell us about their journey to WordPress. How did you get started?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I’m going to date myself on some of this stuff. I’ve been around WordPress a long time. So, I started blogging in 2000, on Movable Type, if anybody remembers Movable Type. Tracy does.

Tracy Apps:

I had one, yep.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yep. So, I started blogging on Movable Type and, first, I just started blogging, and then I wanted my blog to look cool, so I started doing templates for Movable Type, and really was good at it, like I was understanding the Movable Type templates and all of that non-dynamic static publishing that was going on with Movable Type at the time. So, I think it was around 2003, 2004 … well, 2003 is when WordPress came out, so it must have been 2004, when Movable Type changed its licensing.

Tracy Apps:

It was 2004. I remember.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Was it ‘4? All right. I don’t remember what they changed it to or from now anymore, I just remember that people like me, who was just blogging for fun and hobby all of a sudden were going to have to pay a license. So, I had a friend of mine who said, “Have you heard of WordPress?” And I’m like, “No, I haven’t.” “Well, you should give it a try,” and so I did, and haven’t looked back since then. Migrated my blog over to WordPress from Movable Type and started blogging on WordPress, started doing templates, themes, and then started doing them for friends, and then started doing them for work, for pay. So, that’s how I got my start.

Tracy Apps:

I love it. You say you’re dating yourself. Actually, my first blog was on b2.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Wow.

Tracy Apps:

So, I get that. And I did, I remember Movable Type, and I was fumbling around with it, and then I started charging, and then I went over to WordPress. So, all of my WordPress stuff was in ’04. When did you start … because basically you wrote the book about WordPress.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I have written a book about WordPress.

Tracy Apps:

You’ve written some stuff about WordPress. When did you start and how did you get into the publishing portion?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, that’s a fun story. It’s one of my favorite stories in my whole career. I’d mentioned that I started doing WordPress themes and templates and stuff for friends, and then started doing it for pay. It was in 2005 that I left my career, I used to be a registered nurse, and I was for 12 years. The blogging thing was a hobby, and the design thing came natural to me, I’m completely self-taught, and self-taught in front-end development. So, that’s what I did to destress after my shifts, like just a little front-end development to destress yourself after-

Tracy Apps:

Just for fun.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes. That will tell you how stressful my day job was at the time. So, I kind of became known in smaller circles, like political blogging, mommy blogging, as a go-to to get template done. I think I was doing full-blown templates at that time for like 75 bucks. Yeah, it was cute. And somebody was putting together a panel, a friend of mine, Suzie Gardner, was putting together a panel for South by Southwest, and the title of the panel was Can You Make Money Designing Blogs? And they wanted a multidimensional panel, so we had somebody from ExpressionEngine and somebody representing Movable Type and somebody representing Typepad, and they needed a WordPress person to represent can you make money designing WordPress blogs. Suzie was like, “You’re the only person I know who does this right now, so do you want to?” That was actually my very first public speaking engagement as a WordPress tech design person. So, no pressure, just speaking-

Tracy Apps:

No, just the largest stage. Yeah, totally.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah, speaking at South by, no big deal. I was petrified. So, in the audience was a representative from John Wiley & Sons, who are the publishing house behind all of the Dummy series. So, there’s a For Dummies book for every single thing out there. There’s like a Baking Cookies For Dummies and Gardening For Dummies and Investing For Dummies, there’s a For Dummies book for everything, and they came to South by specifically to find somebody to write WordPress For Dummies. And they saw this panel on the schedule, they decided to go to it, and they’re like, “Oh, you’re the WordPress person. I want to talk to you,” and that’s where I got my book deal was in 2006, at South by Southwest.

Tracy Apps:

Love it.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Tracy Apps:

I love it. The first time I remember seeing you in person, I was speaking at my first WordCamp, in WordCamp Milwaukee, I don’t even know how long ago it was, and I was competing against you. My first session, and I was in the next room and I was like, “I don’t think anyone’s going to come to my talk because the person who wrote the book is talking right next … like everyone will go over there.” But then we ended up being really loud and then we just had a competition on who could laugh the loudest.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I remember you being really loud, like on purpose, you were really loud.

Tracy Apps:

Well, after I heard the cheer, the roar, I was like, “Okay, now it’s a competition.”

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

“Now, this has gotten real.”

Amy Masson:

Oh my goodness.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Tracy, I have fond memories of just not seeing you at all through the year and then just randomly running into you at South by Southwest. It seemed like we always did, like we always ran into each other at the Convention Center, or it was like, “Tracy.”

Tracy Apps:

You didn’t realize that we lived in the same state, but we would always … Same thing, I had another friend who lived down the street and the only time I saw him was at South by Southwest in Austin or across the country.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah, exactly.

Tracy Apps:

Every time.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And every time we would see each other, it would be like, “We should get together back home. That would seem to make more sense.”

Tracy Apps:

Well, one of these days, we’ll make that happen.

Amy Masson:

So, before you wrote the book on WordPress and you were just a blogger, what were you blogging about?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

A variety of things. I’m very into politics.

Amy Masson:

Me too.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah, I get that, I got that from … Where’s your calendar? Can we see it on the podcast?

Amy Masson:

My countdown calendar.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

There it is.

Amy Masson:

If you’re not watching the video, you don’t get to see it, but, yes, this is my Countdown to Inauguration calendar that I have been marking off Xs every day.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes, we’re very excited about tomorrow. I always think that, in another lifetime, I might have been a White House corespondent or some type of political journalist because I really dig it. So, I was blogging politics back then, and then I was also blogging about nursing because that was my career at the time, I was a home care and hospice nurse. So, when I talk about the level of stress at my day job [inaudible 00:09:20], I was literally dealing with terminal patients all day long, so I was blogging a lot about my experiences with that. So, really not anything tech, I really wasn’t into anything tech, except I liked to tinker with the software that I was using to make it all happen.

Angela Bowman:

I did a little home health care, I was a home health care scheduler, so I went from being a home health aid to doing the scheduling, and so just even the scheduling is super stressful because you got to get all these cases covered, 24/7.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah, that’s not a job I would want, for sure.

Angela Bowman:

That was really-

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I always made good friends with the scheduler, very, very good friends with the scheduler.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, because you want to get the slots you want.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes. And the hours that I needed.

Angela Bowman:

The most stressful job I’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot, considering how stressful WebDev is. Having been a former nurse, has your level of empathy and compassion during this COVID times peaked and how have you been feeling about that?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

It’s funny because we do an annual retreat at WebDevStudios, except last year, we didn’t do one, probably not going to be doing one this year. But the last one that we did, we do these lightning talks, we do a lot of learning and knowledge share at these events, but then we do these lightning talks, where it’s like you can do your lightning talk, but it has to be on anything but web development, it needs to be something personal, it needs to be something that means something to you or you could teach some … So, we had people that were teaching us how to make maple syrup from a tree, and people that would talk about 10 steps to raising teenagers, things like that.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, I did a talk at the last one that was my lightning talk that was the top 10 things that I brought from nursing into my web development career. And I always used to joke about who doesn’t need a nurse, who can code a WordPress theme, it’s very niche. I think I’ve got that avenue covered in this industry. But, really, there’s a lot that, once I started thinking about it, I brought over. And empathy in technology is a big deal to me, and empathy in leading people, which is a lot of what I do at WebDev, is very, very important to me.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, I think that the lessons in empathy that I got from my years in nursing really helped me to become the person I am today, the leader that I am today in my company. And with COVID, when we started finding out, I think it was late February, I took my last trip down to Austin, Texas, and we started locking down and, of course, our employees were very much like, “Oh my God, what’s this going to mean? Am I going to have a job next week? Are our clients going to shut down?”

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And I think that that crisis management, even though it wasn’t really … I mean it was crisis for us, for them. But my crisis management from nursing, those experiences just kicked in and you try to become the calm person, you try to be very realistic and talk to people about, “We don’t know what we don’t know, but here’s what we do know, and that’s how we’re going to handle this, and we’ll take it as we come.” And I think the most important thing when you’re leading a group of people like that is to really try and project and put yourself in their position. I’m older, my children are older, I have grandchildren, two of them.

Angela Bowman:

Me too. I have many grandchildren.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Okay, so then you know.

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I am not the person who has young children at home. I’m very fortunate in this pandemic that I don’t have young children at home at all. But I have very many employees who do have young children at home, so then it became what do we need to do for those people so that they can deal with this? We are normally a 9:00-5:00 company, but now we need to change and we need to be flexible. Just all of those empathetic traits that you just really need to put yourself in people’s shoes, understand what they’re dealing with, what they’re having to go through, how that affects the work that we’re doing, and what adjustments do we need to make as a company to help them be successful and calm and just less stressed and decreased anxiety and all of those things.

Tracy Apps:

I think that’s huge. Because you were already a distributed agency, correct?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

So, you had the tools in place, it was just a matter of figuring out those processes. And I have been a part of distributed agencies that have good processes, and then I have had experiences with not-so-good processes. And the difference, as an employee in those situations … It’s really great to hear because that is something that has been a big issue, like all these things are changing, now how does this [inaudible 00:15:01] worried about this empathy that you can bring into their … I think that’s amazing. I have a two-fold. First off, because you had taught yourself, so how did you go from that into owning a successful business and having employees? And what things have you found that have really worked and you’ll probably stick with from what you’ve learned during the days of COVID?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

All right, well, we’ll start with the first one. So, yes, I am self-taught, and the foundation of my learning came from Microsoft FrontPage. That’s how I learned HTML.

Angela Bowman:

Same.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I’m not embarrassed to admit that. It would be embarrassing if I still used Microsoft FrontPage. That’s how I learned just your basic HTML markup. And I can remember when I was going from Movable Type to WordPress, I used to do Movable Type in tables in FrontPage.

Amy Masson:

Well, nested tables were the thing.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, yeah, 100%.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

But then I needed to learn CSS. It became very clear that I needed to learn CSS and abandon tables, and that was super painful for me. But I bought a couple of books and read a couple of resources and just learned it, I just learned it. And it was cool because you’d learn a new thing and you’d be like, “Oh my God, I can stick the footer to the bottom of the page with this dev, this is amazing. And float left,” I mean just simple concepts back then. So, just constantly learning, I always used to say that I am constantly in college, I’m constantly in school, and that’s still true because I still take courses on JavaScript mostly because JavaScript was one of the areas that I did not bother to teach myself in those years because JavaScript really … I mean I knew some of the-

Tracy Apps:

JavaScript’s mean. It’s mean. We have a hate-hate relationship. I get it.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

It bites.

Amy Masson:

It had my head in the sand.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I don’t mean it bites in that it sucks, it literally bites, like it sinks its teeth in and it hurts.

Amy Masson:

I’m really good at hiring people to write JavaScript for me. That’s a strong suit of mine.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Hey, that’s half the battle. So, I started my own small freelance agency, I called it eWebscapes, which was kind of like landscaping for the web, so it was like eWebscapes, and everything back then was e-something, so eWebscapes. And, there, I just did a lot of work for mommy bloggers and political blogs, just the circles that I ran in.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And I was doing that for a very long time, from 2004-ish, 2005, up until 2012, when I merged eWebscapes with WebDevStudios. By the time I merged with WebDevStudios, I wasn’t doing mommy blogs anymore, I was starting to do corporate enterprise work, and I was in over my head. Sometimes, I was in over the head with the type of work that was needed, and sometimes in over my head with the amount of work that I was needing to do.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, for the type of work, I’m a front-end dev, pure and simple, and I’m a designer, and I can hack together some of the more advanced-level development requirements that my clients needed by cutting and pasting from stack Overflow and all of that kind of stuff. But when things got over my head, advanced API integrations or a high-level migration that wasn’t straightforward, I would hire WebDevStudios to do the work for me. So, I got to know Brad and Brian Messenlehner at the time through that.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And then, one time at WordCamp Chicago, I walked up to Brad and I said, “I’m drowning in work.” Christmas morning, I’m sitting on the couch with my laptop, coding, and my children are opening presents, trying to get my attention, and that was a real eye-opener for me because this is not sustainable anymore. Brad, I noticed that your website’s really super ugly. You don’t have a designer on staff, do you?” And he didn’t. They were a development group, they didn’t do any design, and it showed.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And I’ve said this to his face before, numerous times, so he won’t get too upset with me for mentioning it. But we decided that my design background, a lot of my design clients, coupled with their development work that they were doing made sense, and we merged in 2012. WebDev was a 12-person agency at the time, and now we’re pushing 50 in 2021.

Angela Bowman:

Amazing.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

What was the second question?

Tracy Apps:

Because I felt like, as a business owner, I gain my footing, I hit my stride, and then COVID hit and there’s a lot of things that had to unlearn, relearn or adapt, and for fellow business owners and people that do work in the tech industry, how have you found success through that and what have had to change and those kinds of things?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Surprisingly, and not so surprisingly actually, when I talk to agencies that are about our size or larger, I found that most of us have had a pretty decent year because people are on the web. And WebDev has had a very, very good year because of the type of clientele we have and that we’re lucky to have. We do a lot of media, a lot of news, and a lot of consumer-packaged goods, like Campbell Soup is one of our clients, so they had a really good year. So, when we have clients who are having a good year, we tend to have a good year as well. So, it was surprising.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

But when I do go back to those early days of the pandemic, shutting down, we didn’t know what was going to happen. So, immediately, Brad and I put some limits on our spending. We suspended some benefits for employees that … One of the benefits that we did suspend was we do HeyTaco! Are you guys familiar with that? So, HeyTaco! is a way to give kudos to coworkers and allow us to give kudos to employees, and you collect tacos, and you can redeem those tacos for awards, like Amazon gift certificates or this, that or the other thing.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, we did put limits on that because we just didn’t know what was going to happen with the pandemic, so it’s like, “Let’s take what we can and slash our expenses for now.” So, what we allowed them to do was we allowed them to bank their tacos, like you can keep giving and collecting tacos, you just can’t redeem them until we’re pretty sure we’re going to be on steady footing, things like that.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And then we started looking at avenues of revenue that we never really looked at before. We have Maintain, which is our WordPress maintenance and support division of WebDev. They started offering hosting through reselling with Flywheel, and they also started doing small business design. WebDev does a lot of enterprise work, but we don’t do mom-and-pop shops or small e-commerce builds or things like that. So, Maintain started doing SMB because we thought different avenues of revenue, we don’t know where we’re going to end up with this pandemic, so let’s do what we can. And that’s turned into to be a nice little ally of revenue for us that we wouldn’t have considered before that we’ll hang onto, post-pandemic.

Tracy Apps:

Nice.

Angela Bowman:

How has it been for you, making that transition from being that freelancer and controlling yourself and what you do, to then maybe having to pull back and direct other people? I can imagine, for me, I would just be like, “No, let me do it.” But to manage people is quite a thing, and I’m so curious about how you could make that shift to being a director.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Well, when I was a nurse, for a lot of my career, I was a director of nursing. So, at one point, I was the director of nursing for a hospital and I had 200 employees of all different disciplines, so nurses, LPNs, nursing assistants, and then all of the therapy departments fell underneath me, too, which didn’t make any sense, but physical therapy, occupational health, speech therapy. So, I had a lot of experience managing people and just being that director figurehead.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, when I talk about things that I brought with me from my nursing career, the leadership, skills and experience that I learned then apply very much to what I do today because it seems not to … I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter the type of work that we’re doing, but it doesn’t. When you’re leading and managing people, the priorities are still the same, people want to get paid, that’s number one; people want benefits, they want a decent benefits package, so you need to work towards a benefits package that is attractive to people; people don’t want to get burnt out, they don’t want to work overtime, they don’t want to be forced to work overtime. These are things that are universal, and it doesn’t matter if you’re working at the hospital or a web dev company or McDonald’s.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, I have a very pragmatic approach to leadership in that if you really help your employees take care of those basics and remove as many stressors as you can from their life, then not only will they achieve great things with you, but they’ll be happy to do it, I think. I think. I’m pretty sure.

Angela Bowman:

So, it sounded like it was comfortable for you, so you didn’t feel like you had to be doing the doing anymore. I mean in terms of building sites and actually coding-

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

That’s not entirely true either because when I joined WebDev, there were 12 people, and I was bringing design to a company that was development, so I really had to build up the design and the front-end development piece of the company, so that meant, probably the first year or two, I was still committing code, I was still doing mockups, I was still doing those things until I could hire people on. And then as I hired people on, then I would step back a little bit more. I think by the time I stepped back completely, I was ready, I was ready to step back.

Angela Bowman:

That’s good to know, that you have to be willing to let it go, too, for that to evolve well.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah. And you need people around you that you trust. That’s the key to letting go is trusting the people, their skills, their experience, their creativity, trusting them to do as good, if not better, job than you would have done.

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Amy Masson:

Yeah, I definitely have trust issues, and so I think that would be hard for me.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, same. So, how many different editions of the book have you-

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

On January 7th, and I didn’t make a big deal out of this, normally I would be all over social media, talking about it, but it was January 7th, the day after January 6th, and it just didn’t seem right or important for me to promote it, so I waited until I came onto your show. So, the 9th edition of WordPress For Dummies was released on January 7th.

Tracy Apps:

That’s spectacular.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah. I’ve done nine editions of those. And then I’ve got another book, called WordPress All-in-One, which is a 948-page book about WordPress. That’s in its 4th edition. And then I have another one, called WordPress Web Design, that’s in its 3rd edition.

Tracy Apps:

So, how do you keep up with all of the updates in order to keep the book’s content up-to-date?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I have a batphone in Matt Mullenweg’s office.

Tracy Apps:

I love it.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I just put up the WordPress signal and he calls. I’m kidding.

Amy Masson:

I was wondering about that, too, because I remember after years of having all these My HTML and CSS and whatever books I had, I’m looking at these, I’m like, “I’m never looking at these again, they’re so old and out-of-date,” and so I just ended up taking them to Goodwill, which nobody wanted those old books anyway. So, now that you’ve got one that’s being updated so frequently, how do you keep up with that?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

There’s a huge challenge in writing a static book on such a dynamic piece of software. And I did have to resolve within myself that my book is probably going to be outdated. My book is already outdated. The January 7th edition is already outdated, and that is just the reality of it.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

But if you think of the audience of my book, they are new users, so they’re not us, they’re not people who are digging into the code, they’re not people who are trying to build their own templates, they may eventually get there, and I do touch on that stuff in the book, but the book is primarily for how do I get into WordPress and start publishing content? How do I organize that content by using menus and categories and tags? And how do I put things in the sidebar and the footer, using widgets? And what are themes and how do I use those? And what are plug-ins and how do I use those?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, it’s really a new user book, not a book for advanced people or even intermediate people. So, if you think about today, or January 7th, when the book was published, it does have all of the stuff up until, I want to say, Christmas of 2020 because that’s when I stopped writing it and then it was published on January 7th. So, it’s got all the good stuff, all the foundation, and I would say 95% of what new users need are in there. And some of the newer stuff that gets thrown in in these point releases, new users sometimes don’t even get that far. So, this book teaches them how to use Gutenberg, how to use all the different Gutenberg blocks to put together different types of pages and all of that.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, it is hard to keep up with what’s going on with WordPress, but thankfully I’ve got a very smart team of people at WebDevStudios who help me keep up with what’s going on. I’m constantly updating my local with bleeding-edge releases so that I can dig in. I follow all the normal important people, like Helen, on Twitter. I keep track of what’s going on in track and TheMake.WordPress. I’m just kind of all over the place, just looking at what they’re publishing over at WP Tavern and what Post Status is having to say about new releases. And I’m in the Post Status Slack channel, so whenever I hear something that’s like, “This is going to be in the next release,” I jot it down in a notebook because I’m a pen-and-paper person, and then do my research on it before I write about it.

Tracy Apps:

I mean that’s impressive, just because the amount of Slack channels alone that I’m in, I can’t keep up with them, and that amount of communication, I know for me personally, I can’t do that and my job and whatever. So, what percentage of your brain power ends up being book-related versus company-related?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, a book, like this 9th edition, they give me four months to write it. Now, if I really wanted to, I could probably update from the 8th to the 9th edition maybe in two months, if I worked full time at it. But because I don’t have full time to work at it, I usually reserve weekends to work on my book, and some weeknights. And, usually, when I’m in the thick of it, like I’ve got a deadline this week, I just tell Brad, “I’m out this week,” and being the owner of a company gives me the flexibility and the opportunity to do that, which is nice.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

It really depends on the update. So, Wiley has me updating it every, roughly, 15 to 18 months, on that cycle, and it depends on what has happened in WordPress in between the time that I last released and now. It could be a simple release, a simple update to where I’m just going through and refreshing all of the screenshots that are in the book so that it looks like the current WordPress dashboard. Or it could be something like this 9th edition, where I had to gut out the entire post editor and add in all of this block editor stuff.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I think the biggest one was 3.0, I want to say, when we got the new menu system in and Multisite was not in Core. It used to be the earlier editions of the book handled Multisite as MU in WordPress, and now it’s integrated in Core, so I had to make that change. So, there are some times, during the course of the last 14 years that I’ve been writing this, that the updates have been easy, and there are some times where the updates, I just want to pull my hair out.

Tracy Apps:

Sounds about right.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I’m just being honest. But I like doing it, I mean I really like doing it, otherwise I wouldn’t be. Every time they want to do a new update, my contract says I’ve got right of first refusal. So, they come to me first, “Do you want to do the update?” I can say yes or no. If I say no, then they have to search for a new author. But I’m not ready to give it up yet.

Amy Masson:

I was going to ask if you’d ever consider not doing it.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes. But then I think about it and I’m like, “It’s mine though.” It’s been so much a part of me and my career, and it’s so much a part of everybody knows that I wrote the book For Dummies, that I’m not sure that I … I wonder, if I would let it go, if people would still refer to me as the WordPress For Dummies author.

Amy Masson:

I think so.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

These are things I worry about when I’m falling asleep at night. Like, I have nothing else to offer in my career except a book For Dummies.

Amy Masson:

Well, and then the person that takes it over and they’re always referring to that person as the replacement or the new person.

Tracy Apps:

They just need to change their name to Lisa Sabin-Wilson.

Amy Masson:

Right.

Angela Bowman:

You just need a ghost writer.

Tracy Apps:

So, it’s like Dr. Who, so it just takes over the next … you regenerate.

Angela Bowman:

I want to make sure we have time, because we’re getting close to our time, to ask you, of course, because we’re the Women in WP podcast, about your experience as a woman developer so people can hear about that because we’re probably about the same age and we came of age in software in the late 80s and 90s, and it was a different scene, and it’s changed a lot.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

It has.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, it’s amazing how much it’s changed, and I’m very, very grateful. Tell us how that evolved for you and why you would be on a podcast like this.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

I’ve actually been thinking about this very topic ever since I knew that I was coming onto this podcast because I wanted to give a super intelligent, inspiring answer. But I can only give you my answer, whether it’s inspiring or not. I am older, like I’m going to be 53-years-old in April, and I am not at all shy about saying that. I think when I was growing up, when I was a kid, my mom, from a different generation, “Women should be seen, not heard. Women should be grateful for where we are in life. Feminism is bad. Gloria Steinem is the devil.” This is how I grew up. And this probably isn’t unlike many people my age, many women my age, in thinking back to their childhood on how they grew up.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And as I grew into adulthood, the echos of your parents just linger in your mind. I kind of kept to myself when I was emerging in tech and was just very grateful and thankful for the things that I was able to achieve and the things that I was able to do. I think it was this younger generation of women that really started saying, “We’re not going to apologize for being here and we’re not going to stay quiet, for God’s sake, and we’re not going to accept the status quo,” that really started inspiring me. And I think when I look back earlier in my career, as I was emerging, and getting the opportunities that I was getting at South by and the book, I wish I would have had the wherewithal and the state of mind to turn around to women around me and bring them with me. But I was just so grateful, I guess, at the time.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And that mindset grew into a not wanting to, I don’t even know how to put this … Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she is my idol, and she was once asked, “How many women do you think need to be on the Supreme Court?” or something like that, or “How many women are enough on the Supreme Court?” or whatever, or “When will you be happy with the amount of women …” I don’t know what the question was, but her answer was, “When there’s nine. Nobody’s ever questioned the fact that there’s nine white guys on the Supreme Court. Why would anybody question?” I went through this stage where I felt like I don’t want women in tech being the 500-little bit gorilla in the room. I just want it to be status quo, I want it to be normal to be a woman in tech, I just want it to be normal.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

And for me, it kind of was normal, but I kind of felt like that was because I was sort of keeping just to myself and doing my thing and really not getting involved. And if I had it to do over again, I would probably get more involved in that movement of really encouraging women and helping women, and I realize it’s never too late to do those things because I try to do that now as much as possible. I’m just really inspired, I really am inspired by the younger generation. And I think that it is our obligation, as older people, as the adults in the room, I don’t know, let’s just call us old people, to take our cues from the younger generation because progress is what it’s all about. And the years and era of my mother’s “women should be seen not heard” are just so crazy out there that I can’t even imagine thinking in that way.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

So, I think that my experiences as a woman in tech have been pretty mild. I haven’t had a lot of the struggles, but, again, I think it’s because I kept to myself. I was a freelancer, pretty much kept to myself, and then when I joined WebDev, I was kind of like a bull in a China shop, like, “Don’t even question that I’m a woman in tech because if you do, you’re going to get an earful. I am a woman in tech, it is just what it is, and it is what it should be everywhere.” So, I think people were mostly afraid to even broach the topic with me. So, I kind of have run the whole spectrum of just women in society in general, and I am where I am right now because the younger generation has inspired me so much. God, that was a lot of yapping, but I hope I made a point in there somewhere.

Tracy Apps:

No, that was good.

Amy Masson:

It was perfect.

Tracy Apps:

It’s funny because you’re talking about even just how, after all of those years of experience, you still go, with the company, learning from others, and I think that’s how we continue to grow as … apparently, we’re the adults in the room. I don’t know, I still look for the adult to ask permission for things, like, “Why did they leave me alone? Oh, that’s right, I’m the adult.” But in that attitude of I am always learning and I am having that, and you absorb that, I think that’s really key, even with many, many years of experience, so it was great. And I am thankful that you were there to blaze that path.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Well, I mean I don’t know what would have happened to you if I wasn’t next door to you in WordCamp Milwaukee.

Tracy Apps:

I don’t know either. I don’t know.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Where would you be today, Tracy?

Tracy Apps:

Where would I be today? I have no idea.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Oh, man.

Amy Masson:

Well, it’s been amazing having you on today. Before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yes. I am on Twitter, LisaSabinWilson, all one word, no dashes. And WebDevStudios.com. I have a blog at LisaSabin-Wilson.com, but I rarely blog over there.

Amy Masson:

All right. Well, thanks for being on.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Thank you so much.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson:

Yeah, thanks for having me, this was fun.

Amy Masson:

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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