082: Ines van Dijk Providing Quality Support to End-Users


About Ines van Dijk:

I’ve worked as a front-line support agent and WordPress specialist for over a decade, and have always excelled at translating technical things into language that customers and users understand well. From turning a ‘no’ into a selling point, to converting complicated problems into motivation to stick around: my work has always been of stellar quality.

During my career, I have specialised in determining what constitutes a high quality interaction with a client or customer.

Find Ines van Dijk: Quality In Support | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


Ninja Forms Logo

This episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms

Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
082: Ines van Dijk Providing Quality Support to End-Users
/

Show Notes

Amy Masson:

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

Angela Bowman:

Hi, welcome to Women in WP. Today’s episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms, allowing you to build beautiful WordPress forms without being a developer. I’m Angela Bowman.

Amy Masson:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Tracy Apps:

And I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Ines van Dijk, joining us from The Hague, the Netherlands. Ines offers customer support and consultancy services, and also frequently speaks at WordCamps and runs the DonateWC nonprofit, helping people travel to WordCamps. That is awesome. Welcome, Ines.

Ines van Dijk:

Thank you for having me.

Angela Bowman:

We’d like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Ines van Dijk:

When I was 22 years old, I became a single mom. I had done some university, but then quit, didn’t have a degree. And this was the height of one of the financial crisises… crises. You get the point. So single parent, no degree, and everyone’s looking for a job. So I wasn’t going to get hired by anyone, ever. And then I figured I’ve always had an interest in building websites for myself, like a hobby, why not try that as a from-home kind of job? So I taught myself PHP, and then very quickly found WordPress as a platform that allowed both my clients to learn it very quickly, and for me to build and extend whatever I needed to do for my clients. Found community within the WordPress environment and never left. That’s pretty much it. So that’s how I got started.

Amy Masson:

Well, I love that you… it seemed like you found the community right away. Is that what I’m hearing?

Ines van Dijk:

I think maybe a year after I really started working for myself, came across the concept of a WordCamp, and I was like, “I’m in the field. Might as well go and have a look,” And then kind of randomly decided to apply to speak, because I figured, “Well, they’re not never going to select me anyway.”

Amy Masson:

So I was doing WordPress for years, like six years before I ever discovered the community. So I was wondering, how did… you discovered it, and then you just signed up to speak at your first WordCamp?

Ines van Dijk:

This was under the assumption that they were never going to invite me.

Amy Masson:

And?

Ines van Dijk:

And they did. Yeah, no, I was… that was a bit of a shocker. Yeah, no, I don’t quite remember. I think it was through Twitter that I found other people working within the environment and then kind of decided to keep an eye on what they were doing, keep up with the news, and then, what do you know? I’m on a stage somewhere.

Tracy Apps:

I love it, because this actually reminds me… the first WordCamp I ever went to, I spoke at, because I was asked because I knew people in the community, but I wasn’t really going to events and that kind of stuff. And one of my friends was like, “Hey, we’re looking for some more speakers. You want to apply?” I was like, “Yeah, sure. Why not? I’ll do this.” And I’m speaking at the same time as Lisa Sabin-Wilson, who literally wrote the book on WordPress, and I’m sitting there and I’m like, “Well, no, one’s going to come to my talk.” But they did. And I was like, “Oh, that’s crazy.”

Tracy Apps:

And then we had a competition to see who was loudest because we were literally… the door, she peeked in. She says, “Can you all be quiet down there?” I was like, “Okay, well now let’s be really loud.” And we were having the best time. And it was crazy. I did not expect that. And I was like, “Hey, sure, that’s a great first WordCamp experience. Just speak, why not?”

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah, they put me on the big stage too.

Tracy Apps:

Of course they did!

Amy Masson:

I need to know what this time was about.

Ines van Dijk:

It was on customer support, actually. Or it was on providing support to WordPress end users. Because this has been a thing for me since I be began in the whole WordPress world, is we’ve got so many people building so many beautiful things, but then when it comes to actually providing the support on the products that have been released, a lot of developers go, “Well, I already provided my services for free, so I don’t have to do this anymore.” So I’ve been arguing for like 12 years to please, please, please take care of your free users because that’s what keeps our ecosystem going. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Absolutely. And I agree. I actually did a talk… any time I have one of those crotchety, curmudgeon, get-off-my-lawn moments, I actually get inspired to write WordPress talks, and one of them as for… because the WordPress admin, when you’re making a site for a client, that client who is going to be adding things to the website is also one of your users. And if they can’t use the site and update it, then it is not successful.

Ines van Dijk:

Right. Right.

Tracy Apps:

So what kind of feedback do you get and do you hear from end users?

Ines van Dijk:

It really, really depends on the level of comfort when it comes to doing technical stuff. You have the end users who really don’t want to do anything that even remotely looks technical. Any time it requires them to turn on their computer, they go, “I don’t want to do this. I know it’s necessary to have a website, but I don’t want to have to do anything with this,” to… I’ve done a lot of plugin support. I’ve worked at Automattic for six years, so I’ve done support for WooCommerce for six years, and there you get either developers who are using the plugin to extend whatever project that they’re working on, and they are generally fine. They know what information you need, they know kind of where to go. You don’t have to direct them every single freaking step. If you go, “You need to go here,” they’re fine; to people who have installed upwards 75 different plugins and then go, “It’s crashed. Can you please fix?” And I go, “I’m not going to poke around on your website. It’s very nice of you to have given me admin credentials straight off the bat, but-

Tracy Apps:

Yes.

Ines van Dijk:

… I’m just not going to do that.” So it’s very diverse, I would say.

Tracy Apps:

My experience, I felt that same kind of thing, and one of my big things lately is because when I’m doing a lot of contract work, I’m kind of outside of the WordPress world. And then just even being on TikTok, where the attitude towards WordPress outside of the WordPress community is kind of… it’s not great. And that’s not going to be sustainable for us as a community. So having that, “Okay, well, we need to kind of keep an ear to the ground and keep working towards making that good user experience,” it’s an invaluable space in the community to keep this community going strong.

Amy Masson:

So I was looking at your website for your support. And so are you just doing support now for WordPress? You’re not building sites?

Ines van Dijk:

No, no. I don’t build anything. The only code that I touch is for my own personal projects or if I need to look at, is this a bug or expected behavior?

Amy Masson:

And do people, like individual peoples, hire you to help them with their website? Am I understanding… no. Okay.

Ines van Dijk:

No. So what I do is… I was talking about these individual developers building nice plugins and themes and stuff. You have a lot of them that build something that grows exponentially to a point where they’re spending more time doing customer support than they are doing development. And then the entire bit of support gets dropped down the toilet because they go, “Well, I’ve got a product that actually makes me money. I’m not going to bother with this.” So either they’re going to drop it or they can hire me. And then I work with a bunch of freelancers who also do support. And as a team, we can then handle whatever plugin it is that you’re developing.

Amy Masson:

Okay. I have not talked to anybody that does this particular niche of support. There are other people out there, or are you pretty low on competition?

Ines van Dijk:

I think I have a pretty unique concept, because if you look for WordPress support, the thing that you get is people doing maintenance, so offering maintenance packages for people who have a website and then… but no one who targets plugin developers or theme developers specifically. So I’ve not found anyone.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing, because we did have Kathy Darling on the show who is a plugin developer.

Ines van Dijk:

I work with Kathy.

Angela Bowman:

You work with Kathy?

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Is she one of the people you help support?

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

That’s perfect, because she talked to us about how much time she spends on support, and she also has her career as a professional athlete, and she needs to be very cautious about her time, and she also wants to spend as much time as she can improving and developing her plugins, and you could spend literally all of your time doing support. And a lot of that support, you can train someone else to do at least to go through and see, is this just a user question? Are they just not understanding how to use the plugin? Or is it a real bug and I need to figure that out and report it up to her?

Angela Bowman:

And then we spoke with Stephanie Wells with Formidable Forms, and they have such a huge user base. They have a pretty big… they have a good support team and… but it’s still a lot, and so then they spend a lot of time doing documentation and tutorials. Do you find that that’s also a niche for this support? This customer support is helping with documentation and tutorials?

Ines van Dijk:

It’s the whole thing. So it’s not just answering tickets. It’s also building internal documentation so the next time they’re looking to actually hire someone full-time, all of the information is already there. It’s setting up and creating macros or snippets that they can reuse. It’s looking at documentation needs. One of the things I’m doing for Kathy is taking the internal snippet database that she has and turning it into usable, shareable snippets on GitHub.

Angela Bowman:

Oh nice.

Ines van Dijk:

So it’s a lot of stuff, and one of the things that… one of the goals that I usually have with the client is, I want to take them from, “I’m doing this by myself. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know where to go,” to a point where they can securely, safely hire someone to actually be their employee without having to worry about, “How do I do this? How do I transfer all of my information over to this new person?” So it’s taking away a lot of the anxiety, a lot of the pressure on these developers looking to grow.

Angela Bowman:

That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant.

Amy Masson:

And are you only doing plugin developers, or you work with agencies that have support queues?

Ines van Dijk:

Both, both. But the bigger teams, what I usually come in for is consultancy. So I look at what the work they’re already doing, I analyze the quality of what they’re doing, and then I give recommendations on what I think they could do to make that even better.

Tracy Apps:

This is fascinating.

Angela Bowman:

I’m blown away.

Amy Masson:

Yeah, I could ask-

Angela Bowman:

And I love that you work with Cathy.

Amy Masson:

I could ask questions about this all day.

Angela Bowman:

I want to go to a whole-day workshop just with [crosstalk 00:14:03]-

Amy Masson:

Yeah. Or a webinar that just teaches those of us that have an agency or a plugin or whatever, how to be better, more efficient, and run our support. Do you have any webinars we could watch?

Ines van Dijk:

Not yet. But I can work on that.

Amy Masson:

That’s something that I would be interested in. I would pay to watch just… or your next WordCamp talk, how to implement an effective and efficient support queue, because mine is… I feel like it’s pretty good, but-

Angela Bowman:

We were talking about that.

Amy Masson:

… terrible at the same time. So…

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, before we started this episode, Amy was lamenting about time blocking, and I feel that pain where we’re not having the time we need to build the sites that we’re committed to build because we’re so pulled off task all the time by the constant emails and support needs, and how to manage those and be responsive, and not be cranky.

Ines van Dijk:

Well, I think what a lot of people tend to overlook is how big of a job customer support really is. A lot of people kind of look at it from a perspective of, “Oh, well, I worked in a call center because I needed money and I did that as kind of a part-time time job.” But a lot of people don’t realize how much of a job it really is and how much it touches within a company. So it’s not just responding to customers that come in with a question. It’s noticing trends. It is discovering bugs or problems within the product that the product team needs to be aware of and that your development team needs to be aware of. It is working with the product teams to discuss which features need to be happening because we see this happening with our customers, and if we take a product this way, it’s going to work better than if we go that way. So it’s absolutely really diverse.

Ines van Dijk:

And, in the end, it’s still a job that represents your company. So if you’ve got a support team that you’re undervaluing and that you’re not taking care of, that’s what your customer’s going to see. Right? They’re not going to see how beautiful your product is. They’re going to see, “Hey, I had a really crappy experience with your support team. Yeah. I’m not going to pay you any money anymore.”

Ines van Dijk:

So I think where we skip a lot of opportunities, really, is within the customer support team and hiring someone to do that work for you if you notice that is overwhelming.

Amy Masson:

And how many companies are you working with at any given time?

Ines van Dijk:

At the minute, I’m working with five, but because I’m also working with freelancers, I can scale that up. And I also have clients who come in for a singular analysis or quality review. So it depends.

Amy Masson:

I’m overwhelmed by my own support queue. I’m thinking about going into five other companies’ support queues, and it’s blowing my mind.

Ines van Dijk:

Well, when I used to work at Automattic, we would do live chat support, I would have up to five or six conversations at the same time.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing. So tell us about your journey, a little bit more about your journey. So you started with single mom, teaching yourself PHP, learning to build websites, getting to know the community. And you were doing this freelance work, but then at some point you ended up working with Automattic, and then you ended up creating this new job. So take us through that.

Ines van Dijk:

I worked as a developer for three years. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. I did that kind of work, and then the clients I was focusing on were female business owners either working individually or with a small business. And the reason I did that was because when I sat down with them, the feedback I got from every single one of them was, “It’s really nice to be able to sit down with someone who’s technical but who will not make me feel like I’m incompetent when I’m asking questions. I feel comfortable sharing that I don’t know something because at no point do you make me feel like I’m wasting your time asking these things.”

Ines van Dijk:

So I became really good at translating stuff and going, “Okay, hang on. How do I actually focus on making, not just the women, but everyone feel like they’re open to share with me when they don’t know stuff?” So a lot of looking at, what language am I using with people, how am I explaining this, and how can I do that better? And that kind of naturally pivoted me towards doing freelance customer support. So I actually did this job that I’m doing now way before I started working for Automattic. And then I got invited to the community summit in Philadelphia, spoke at WordCamps US afterwards. And then, from there, got hired into Automattic.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Ines van Dijk:

That’s also when I started DonateWC.

Angela Bowman:

And did you know… was Patrick Rauland working for WooCommerce when you started?

Ines van Dijk:

Yes. Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

So was that-

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah, we were in the same team.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, that’s fabulous. So Patrick’s in my city area.

Ines van Dijk:

Oh, cool.

Angela Bowman:

So we’re friends. Yes. He’s wonderful.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

So you spoke at WordCamp, then you started working at Automattic.

Ines van Dijk:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy Masson:

Was that a plan?

Ines van Dijk:

No. No, I got bullied into sending in an application.

Tracy Apps:

Oh my goodness. That’s hilarious.

Tracy Apps:

Hey, Women in WP listeners, this is Tracy with a quick message from our sponsor, Ninja Forms. Wish you could build forms for WordPress without spending forever or recruiting help? You can. Ninja Forms is the WordPress form plugin that is both extremely flexible and easy to use. Create contact forms, order forms, donation forms, and more in literally minutes using prebuilt templates easily customized with form logic, upload fields, multi-step pages, and more. Just drag and drop what you need, where you need it. Integrate with hundreds of services like MailChimp, Google Sheets, HubSpot, and more without needing to write a line of code. Get Ninja Forms now at Ninjaforms.com. And now, back to our show.

Amy Masson:

Okay, who was bullying you?

Ines van Dijk:

I say bully, and I mean that in the best, best terms possible. No, I still have a very good friendship with James Huff, who was on the… still is on the support team over at WordPress.org. And I was part of the moderator team. So we sat down and we were talking about how are we going to do this over the next year? And he was like, “Have you applied to Automattic?” And I went, “No.” And he went, “You’re going to, right?” And I went, “Uh, but they’re never going to hire me.” This is the thing: I expect things to not happen and then they happen, and I get really surprised. Imposter syndrome, yay. But, yeah, no, it really wasn’t the plan to get hired. I thought I’m just going to shoot my shot and see what happens. And then I got hired pretty quickly afterwards, straight into WooCommerce, and then I never left up until very recently.

Angela Bowman:

What makes you such a great match for Kathy Darling?

Ines van Dijk:

We worked together for years because she would be in my Slack channel that I kept an eye on. So we had a lot of experience working together already.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

And tell us about WCDonate.

Ines van Dijk:

Other way around DonateWC.

Amy Masson:

Oh, DonateWC. Sorry. Sorry.

Ines van Dijk:

So the experience I had with going to the community summit and then WordCamp US straight after. That was a two-week travel. And I was doing pretty well, but that entire travel, even though I was staying at a hostel where I had to share a bed with three other people, it still cost me more than a month worth of income.

Amy Masson:

Whoa.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah. And I was like, “If someone who’s from one of the richest countries on the planet with a decent income is having trouble affording, attending something that’s really going to dictate where everything is going to go in the next year, who else are we missing here?” Because that just means we’re cutting off the majority of the world. You have really active WordPress communities in places like Nigeria. They’re not going to be able to afford that. Not in a lifetime are they going to do that, even if they’re invited. And I know that by now there’s some initiatives to make that easier for people, but certainly at that time it didn’t exist.

Ines van Dijk:

And it’s not just the big WordCamps. You have the small ones as well. If I have to travel to another country and stay in a hotel for four days or five days, that’s a lot of money to be spending. And if I’m just getting started, or if I’m in a position where I really can’t afford that, I’m just not there. And we all know that everything happens in the hallway chats.

Angela Bowman:

Right.

Ines van Dijk:

And if you’re not there, then your voice is just not heard.

Ines van Dijk:

So I figured, we’ve got all of these companies sponsoring WordCamps, why don’t we pull money from these companies that have a surplus, and make sure that the people that we need to have within these community summits, within these big WordCamps, et cetera, they can just go and not worry about the money. And that’s what we’ve been doing since 2017 now.

Amy Masson:

Wow.

Tracy Apps:

That who are we missing here is key because that is one of the things that I see about being a sustainable community and standing the test of time, is that having a diverse set of people at the table making those decisions. And you’re right, that is… there’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen. And we miss out on all of that amazing information that we would be missing out on, and we’re just seeing the same people over again.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Tracy Apps:

And I think that it’s such a crucial need, and I think that’s really amazing. I’d love to hear how many people you’ve sent. How has this all been coming out in practice? Because I love this.

Ines van Dijk:

I don’t know the number off the top of my head. I think about a dozen people that we’ve sent now.

Tracy Apps:

Nice.

Ines van Dijk:

More or less. But then obviously the last two years with COVID, there was no-in person stuff, so the whole thing was dormant so… but we are restarting it now, so if people want to sign up for a sponsorship, they can over at DonateWC.org. You can submit the sponsor application form either for yourself or for someone else, if you feel like someone’s really deserving of receiving such a sponsorship.

Ines van Dijk:

And then we do due diligence… difficult word, on whoever sends in the application. So we look at their contributions to the ecosystem and what people are saying about them. We don’t just randomly hand out travel vouchers for everyone, but… it is open to anyone, in particular underrepresented folks, so people with disabilities, people of color, you name it.

Amy Masson:

I can’t believe we’re in the 80s of these episodes, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this.

Ines van Dijk:

I think that’s my fault for not doing [inaudible 00:27:38] really well on it.

Angela Bowman:

We are going to go gangbusters. So I’m doing a talk on Friday, and I’m going to put this on my last slide as a what can you do to help women in WordPress.

Ines van Dijk:

That’s amazing. Thank you.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this. You’re not in the US and we’re in the US, so are you mostly sending people to WordCamps around Europe or…

Ines van Dijk:

The majority has been in Africa actually.

Amy Masson:

Okay.

Ines van Dijk:

The African communities. The first one we had, his name was Trust, and he was in Zimbabwe. And this was right when Zimbabwe’s economy crashed. And he sent in an application, he said, “I booked a ticket, but everything is canceled. I would be able to go but it’s now… everything costs three times as much. Would you be able to help out?” Because he was traveling to WordCamp Cape Town, and we went, “Yeah, cool. Dude, we book you a ticket and go.” And he went and then sent me a photo of him by the sea going, “Huh.” And that had been the first time he saw the sea in his lifetime, and that was the first person that we sent, and it was just such a… like I’m doing the right thing here. This is doing the right thing for the right people kind of feeling. But it’s a really worthwhile thing to be working on.

Amy Masson:

Literally donating right now.

Ines van Dijk:

Thank you. Awesome. I hope it works because it’s…

Amy Masson:

I’ll let you know as I get through the process. I’m-

Ines van Dijk:

Awesome.

Angela Bowman:

Love it.

Amy Masson:

All right. I think it’s working. Donating with PayPal.

Angela Bowman:

I’m doing it too. PayPal.

Amy Masson:

So everybody that’s listening to this. Be like me-

Angela Bowman:

Take a moment.

Amy Masson:

Pause the podcast, go to DonateWC.org and make a donation. It’s not that hard. It’s in euro, so you might have to do some currency translation, or you can just pretend like it’s the same and donate. So I did it, we all can.

Angela Bowman:

This is like a telethon now.

Tracy Apps:

I know, right?

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. We can definitely promote this through our podcast on a more regular basis too.

Amy Masson:

Well, and I know that… you mentioned Nigeria. We’ve had several people from… women from Nigeria on the podcast, and I know that they have a really thriving WordCamp or WordPress community, but to get to somewhere out of Africa or to Europe or the US, that’s really expensive.

Ines van Dijk:

It’s massively expensive. Yeah, a plane ticket alone will, for a lot of people, be a month worth of income. And then you’re not sleeping anywhere, you’re not eating anywhere. So it’s really hard for people who are not being sponsored by companies to get around anywhere. And I sometimes wonder if that’s why we’re being so pushed to go to a local WordCamps rather than the big ones. But that… speculating. Not sure.

Amy Masson:

I also did the click to tweet, and so now I tweeted my donation, so that was a really handy thing right on the end of the form, you donated, click to tweet. Oh look, I can do that. I can also tell other people to do it too. So everybody should do that as well.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I like how clean the interface was for that. There was no distractions. It was just easy.

Amy Masson:

Oh look, Angela. You did more than me, Angela. You just went and donated and just showed me up.

Angela Bowman:

No, I did.

Amy Masson:

Well, I did €50, and you did 100.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, I was a little flush. I won’t be so flush after I get back from Europe though.

Ines van Dijk:

And just to put that into perspective, if we’re talking about sending someone to a WordCamp in Nigeria, that’s food, hotel, and things like a SIM card, internet covered in those two donations. Done.

Amy Masson:

Wow. Well, and I know when we interviewed the ladies in Nigeria that they are working primarily from phones.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

Unlike here where I’m sitting here with four screens in front of me, it’s just a different environment.

Ines van Dijk:

But this is a thing: these are the people that you need to put next to the people spearheading the next WordPress release, and have them go, “This is what I’m working with. This is what I’m running into. These are the problems that you need to solve if WordPress is to be a usable platform for my community. And if you don’t, I’m going to use a platform that does do these things because they have a presence here.” And that’s what’s missing, because these people… you don’t see them at the community summit. They are not there.

Amy Masson:

You’re right.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. And if you travel to Africa, which not very many people do, but I have, you start to appreciate the level of tech, the internet speeds.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

The unreliability and things, and that need for the flexibility of devices and bandwidth. So I think it kind of goes both ways. We need to get people here, but we also, those of us who have the means, maybe should go-

Ines van Dijk:

Go there.

Angela Bowman:

… to WordCamp in Nigeria and then build that empathy to bring it back to make changes.

Ines van Dijk:

If you have an interest in SEO, work in Cape Town is fantastic because there’s a lot of SEO stuff going down there that I know of. Obviously, it’s where WooCommerce was born so there’s a lot of people who have very specific knowledge in that area. So, yeah, it makes so much sense to travel more to areas that maybe would not make a lot of sense to you initially.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I love this so much because it’s not just somebody saying, “Oh, we need more people at the table. We need more people at the table.” You’re doing it. You’re making it happen, and that is what’s so fantastic about this.

Ines van Dijk:

Thank you.

Angela Bowman:

So when you transitioned out of WooCommerce from out of Automattic, what helped to get you on your own, and how is that different from you not working with a company and working… what are the pluses and minuses of that, being on your own?

Ines van Dijk:

Well I thought I was going to have a quiet three months of slowly ramping up and gently networking and starting my business. And then, within two days, my inbox had exploded to a point where I was like, “I think I need to hire someone, because… oh no.” So where I thought I was going to be not very busy… yeah, quite the opposite. But that’s a good thing. I went from the expectation of not being able to pay my bills and having to rely on savings to, “Oh, look, I can pay all of my bills this month. That’s actually pretty awesome.”

Ines van Dijk:

I think the main thing is that, in particular, owning an agency is that you can’t really take a day off. So you can’t say, “You know what? I don’t feel like working this week so I’m going to chill out for a week.” That’s not really a thing anymore. But other than that, I’ve been doing this job for a decade now, so it’s not very different. It’s just the seeing different faces from having the same team for six years, that’s a big difference.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I totally hear you about not being able to really disconnect no matter what.

Ines van Dijk:

Right.

Amy Masson:

On any vacation, I always take laptop. I’m always checking in, even if I have people taking care of things. I’m also a control freak, and that doesn’t help anything. But you just can’t. You can’t just shut down your business for a week.

Ines van Dijk:

Right.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I did send an email to all my clients. I try to make them believe that I’m taking a month off.

Ines van Dijk:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). How’s that working for you?

Angela Bowman:

Because if I just seed that, they just won’t get any wild ideas while I’m gone. But inevitably I’ll be… I was in Lisbon in a museum and had to sit down on a bench and solve some PayPal issue on someone’s WooCommerce site on my phone… so talking about phones. And I fixed it. I fixed it sitting on a bench in a museum, and then I was gone on to continue my sightseeing.

Ines van Dijk:

Well, this is the thing, right? If we look at usability, if that’s the thing that we’re going to touch on, usability is not just for people who have the disability. It’s for me as a mum of a small baby having one hand free to do the thing. It’s going to help me as much as the person who’s missing an arm, right?

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Ines van Dijk:

So making sure that people who predominantly need to use their phone in order to do websites, listening to them, and making sure that the web is usable for them is going to be incredibly useful for a society that lives on their phones, not out of necessity but out of desire. So if we are going to look back at why should these people be attending the places where decisions get made, that is why. If you want to be selfish about it, that is why.

Amy Masson:

So important.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, with Gutenberg, I used to be able to really just do everything on my phone if I needed to. It may not be the best experience, but I could do… I could navigate the whole WordPress dashboard. I used a page builder that kind of was toggle-ey so it was easy. I could do everything I needed to do in that because it had toggles. But, now, with Gutenberg, you can’t do really anything on the tablet or phone in a practical way without a mouse. And I use Elementor. Can’t do anything at all on a mobile device. So it’s frustrating, for sure. Yeah. And I love what you’re saying about accessibility. Accessibility is for everyone.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. When I’m teaching that, it’s like, yeah, it might have low visibility, but I also might be using my phone and there’s a glare. And so it’s one of those things where that thinking about accessibility is for a fraction of the population is not accurate. I want to be careful of low connectivity speed for people that are on mobile-only, that maybe do not have WiFi, maybe they don’t have unlimited data, but also I might be in the middle of nowhere traveling, and I need to do something, and I have really slow internet connection on my phone.

Ines van Dijk:

Right. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

So there’s a lot of factors, and having people remind… because when we’re developing in our broadband, with all of our screens, it’s really easy to lose sight of that. And there’s another reason why I think just traveling to places and going to these WordCamps, not only meeting people and seeing how people use the products out in the world, but understanding people’s situation, and then getting outside of our little bubbles of our little offices and computer setups, and it’s just going to make for better design. It’s going to make for better code. It’s just better products-

Ines van Dijk:

Right. Right, right.

Tracy Apps:

… everything.

Ines van Dijk:

Yep. Yeah, agreed.

Amy Masson:

Well, it has been amazing having you on the podcast today. And we first want to thank our sponsor, Ninja Forms. And before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah. So my website is Qualityinsupport.com. That’s for all of your support needs, and then obviously DonateWC.org for everything to do with WordCamp travel. If you want to find me on Twitter, I am motherofcode.

Amy Masson:

Awesome.

Tracy Apps:

Awesome. Good stuff.

Amy Masson:

Well thanks for being here.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you.

Ines van Dijk:

So much for having me.

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.

Transcript

Amy Masson:

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

Angela Bowman:

Hi, welcome to Women in WP. Today’s episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms, allowing you to build beautiful WordPress forms without being a developer. I’m Angela Bowman.

Amy Masson:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Tracy Apps:

And I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Ines van Dijk, joining us from The Hague, the Netherlands. Ines offers customer support and consultancy services, and also frequently speaks at WordCamps and runs the DonateWC nonprofit, helping people travel to WordCamps. That is awesome. Welcome, Ines.

Ines van Dijk:

Thank you for having me.

Angela Bowman:

We’d like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Ines van Dijk:

When I was 22 years old, I became a single mom. I had done some university, but then quit, didn’t have a degree. And this was the height of one of the financial crisises… crises. You get the point. So single parent, no degree, and everyone’s looking for a job. So I wasn’t going to get hired by anyone, ever. And then I figured I’ve always had an interest in building websites for myself, like a hobby, why not try that as a from-home kind of job? So I taught myself PHP, and then very quickly found WordPress as a platform that allowed both my clients to learn it very quickly, and for me to build and extend whatever I needed to do for my clients. Found community within the WordPress environment and never left. That’s pretty much it. So that’s how I got started.

Amy Masson:

Well, I love that you… it seemed like you found the community right away. Is that what I’m hearing?

Ines van Dijk:

I think maybe a year after I really started working for myself, came across the concept of a WordCamp, and I was like, “I’m in the field. Might as well go and have a look,” And then kind of randomly decided to apply to speak, because I figured, “Well, they’re not never going to select me anyway.”

Amy Masson:

So I was doing WordPress for years, like six years before I ever discovered the community. So I was wondering, how did… you discovered it, and then you just signed up to speak at your first WordCamp?

Ines van Dijk:

This was under the assumption that they were never going to invite me.

Amy Masson:

And?

Ines van Dijk:

And they did. Yeah, no, I was… that was a bit of a shocker. Yeah, no, I don’t quite remember. I think it was through Twitter that I found other people working within the environment and then kind of decided to keep an eye on what they were doing, keep up with the news, and then, what do you know? I’m on a stage somewhere.

Tracy Apps:

I love it, because this actually reminds me… the first WordCamp I ever went to, I spoke at, because I was asked because I knew people in the community, but I wasn’t really going to events and that kind of stuff. And one of my friends was like, “Hey, we’re looking for some more speakers. You want to apply?” I was like, “Yeah, sure. Why not? I’ll do this.” And I’m speaking at the same time as Lisa Sabin-Wilson, who literally wrote the book on WordPress, and I’m sitting there and I’m like, “Well, no, one’s going to come to my talk.” But they did. And I was like, “Oh, that’s crazy.”

Tracy Apps:

And then we had a competition to see who was loudest because we were literally… the door, she peeked in. She says, “Can you all be quiet down there?” I was like, “Okay, well now let’s be really loud.” And we were having the best time. And it was crazy. I did not expect that. And I was like, “Hey, sure, that’s a great first WordCamp experience. Just speak, why not?”

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah, they put me on the big stage too.

Tracy Apps:

Of course they did!

Amy Masson:

I need to know what this time was about.

Ines van Dijk:

It was on customer support, actually. Or it was on providing support to WordPress end users. Because this has been a thing for me since I be began in the whole WordPress world, is we’ve got so many people building so many beautiful things, but then when it comes to actually providing the support on the products that have been released, a lot of developers go, “Well, I already provided my services for free, so I don’t have to do this anymore.” So I’ve been arguing for like 12 years to please, please, please take care of your free users because that’s what keeps our ecosystem going. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Absolutely. And I agree. I actually did a talk… any time I have one of those crotchety, curmudgeon, get-off-my-lawn moments, I actually get inspired to write WordPress talks, and one of them as for… because the WordPress admin, when you’re making a site for a client, that client who is going to be adding things to the website is also one of your users. And if they can’t use the site and update it, then it is not successful.

Ines van Dijk:

Right. Right.

Tracy Apps:

So what kind of feedback do you get and do you hear from end users?

Ines van Dijk:

It really, really depends on the level of comfort when it comes to doing technical stuff. You have the end users who really don’t want to do anything that even remotely looks technical. Any time it requires them to turn on their computer, they go, “I don’t want to do this. I know it’s necessary to have a website, but I don’t want to have to do anything with this,” to… I’ve done a lot of plugin support. I’ve worked at Automattic for six years, so I’ve done support for WooCommerce for six years, and there you get either developers who are using the plugin to extend whatever project that they’re working on, and they are generally fine. They know what information you need, they know kind of where to go. You don’t have to direct them every single freaking step. If you go, “You need to go here,” they’re fine; to people who have installed upwards 75 different plugins and then go, “It’s crashed. Can you please fix?” And I go, “I’m not going to poke around on your website. It’s very nice of you to have given me admin credentials straight off the bat, but-

Tracy Apps:

Yes.

Ines van Dijk:

… I’m just not going to do that.” So it’s very diverse, I would say.

Tracy Apps:

My experience, I felt that same kind of thing, and one of my big things lately is because when I’m doing a lot of contract work, I’m kind of outside of the WordPress world. And then just even being on TikTok, where the attitude towards WordPress outside of the WordPress community is kind of… it’s not great. And that’s not going to be sustainable for us as a community. So having that, “Okay, well, we need to kind of keep an ear to the ground and keep working towards making that good user experience,” it’s an invaluable space in the community to keep this community going strong.

Amy Masson:

So I was looking at your website for your support. And so are you just doing support now for WordPress? You’re not building sites?

Ines van Dijk:

No, no. I don’t build anything. The only code that I touch is for my own personal projects or if I need to look at, is this a bug or expected behavior?

Amy Masson:

And do people, like individual peoples, hire you to help them with their website? Am I understanding… no. Okay.

Ines van Dijk:

No. So what I do is… I was talking about these individual developers building nice plugins and themes and stuff. You have a lot of them that build something that grows exponentially to a point where they’re spending more time doing customer support than they are doing development. And then the entire bit of support gets dropped down the toilet because they go, “Well, I’ve got a product that actually makes me money. I’m not going to bother with this.” So either they’re going to drop it or they can hire me. And then I work with a bunch of freelancers who also do support. And as a team, we can then handle whatever plugin it is that you’re developing.

Amy Masson:

Okay. I have not talked to anybody that does this particular niche of support. There are other people out there, or are you pretty low on competition?

Ines van Dijk:

I think I have a pretty unique concept, because if you look for WordPress support, the thing that you get is people doing maintenance, so offering maintenance packages for people who have a website and then… but no one who targets plugin developers or theme developers specifically. So I’ve not found anyone.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing, because we did have Kathy Darling on the show who is a plugin developer.

Ines van Dijk:

I work with Kathy.

Angela Bowman:

You work with Kathy?

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Is she one of the people you help support?

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

That’s perfect, because she talked to us about how much time she spends on support, and she also has her career as a professional athlete, and she needs to be very cautious about her time, and she also wants to spend as much time as she can improving and developing her plugins, and you could spend literally all of your time doing support. And a lot of that support, you can train someone else to do at least to go through and see, is this just a user question? Are they just not understanding how to use the plugin? Or is it a real bug and I need to figure that out and report it up to her?

Angela Bowman:

And then we spoke with Stephanie Wells with Formidable Forms, and they have such a huge user base. They have a pretty big… they have a good support team and… but it’s still a lot, and so then they spend a lot of time doing documentation and tutorials. Do you find that that’s also a niche for this support? This customer support is helping with documentation and tutorials?

Ines van Dijk:

It’s the whole thing. So it’s not just answering tickets. It’s also building internal documentation so the next time they’re looking to actually hire someone full-time, all of the information is already there. It’s setting up and creating macros or snippets that they can reuse. It’s looking at documentation needs. One of the things I’m doing for Kathy is taking the internal snippet database that she has and turning it into usable, shareable snippets on GitHub.

Angela Bowman:

Oh nice.

Ines van Dijk:

So it’s a lot of stuff, and one of the things that… one of the goals that I usually have with the client is, I want to take them from, “I’m doing this by myself. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know where to go,” to a point where they can securely, safely hire someone to actually be their employee without having to worry about, “How do I do this? How do I transfer all of my information over to this new person?” So it’s taking away a lot of the anxiety, a lot of the pressure on these developers looking to grow.

Angela Bowman:

That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant.

Amy Masson:

And are you only doing plugin developers, or you work with agencies that have support queues?

Ines van Dijk:

Both, both. But the bigger teams, what I usually come in for is consultancy. So I look at what the work they’re already doing, I analyze the quality of what they’re doing, and then I give recommendations on what I think they could do to make that even better.

Tracy Apps:

This is fascinating.

Angela Bowman:

I’m blown away.

Amy Masson:

Yeah, I could ask-

Angela Bowman:

And I love that you work with Cathy.

Amy Masson:

I could ask questions about this all day.

Angela Bowman:

I want to go to a whole-day workshop just with [crosstalk 00:14:03]-

Amy Masson:

Yeah. Or a webinar that just teaches those of us that have an agency or a plugin or whatever, how to be better, more efficient, and run our support. Do you have any webinars we could watch?

Ines van Dijk:

Not yet. But I can work on that.

Amy Masson:

That’s something that I would be interested in. I would pay to watch just… or your next WordCamp talk, how to implement an effective and efficient support queue, because mine is… I feel like it’s pretty good, but-

Angela Bowman:

We were talking about that.

Amy Masson:

… terrible at the same time. So…

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, before we started this episode, Amy was lamenting about time blocking, and I feel that pain where we’re not having the time we need to build the sites that we’re committed to build because we’re so pulled off task all the time by the constant emails and support needs, and how to manage those and be responsive, and not be cranky.

Ines van Dijk:

Well, I think what a lot of people tend to overlook is how big of a job customer support really is. A lot of people kind of look at it from a perspective of, “Oh, well, I worked in a call center because I needed money and I did that as kind of a part-time time job.” But a lot of people don’t realize how much of a job it really is and how much it touches within a company. So it’s not just responding to customers that come in with a question. It’s noticing trends. It is discovering bugs or problems within the product that the product team needs to be aware of and that your development team needs to be aware of. It is working with the product teams to discuss which features need to be happening because we see this happening with our customers, and if we take a product this way, it’s going to work better than if we go that way. So it’s absolutely really diverse.

Ines van Dijk:

And, in the end, it’s still a job that represents your company. So if you’ve got a support team that you’re undervaluing and that you’re not taking care of, that’s what your customer’s going to see. Right? They’re not going to see how beautiful your product is. They’re going to see, “Hey, I had a really crappy experience with your support team. Yeah. I’m not going to pay you any money anymore.”

Ines van Dijk:

So I think where we skip a lot of opportunities, really, is within the customer support team and hiring someone to do that work for you if you notice that is overwhelming.

Amy Masson:

And how many companies are you working with at any given time?

Ines van Dijk:

At the minute, I’m working with five, but because I’m also working with freelancers, I can scale that up. And I also have clients who come in for a singular analysis or quality review. So it depends.

Amy Masson:

I’m overwhelmed by my own support queue. I’m thinking about going into five other companies’ support queues, and it’s blowing my mind.

Ines van Dijk:

Well, when I used to work at Automattic, we would do live chat support, I would have up to five or six conversations at the same time.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing. So tell us about your journey, a little bit more about your journey. So you started with single mom, teaching yourself PHP, learning to build websites, getting to know the community. And you were doing this freelance work, but then at some point you ended up working with Automattic, and then you ended up creating this new job. So take us through that.

Ines van Dijk:

I worked as a developer for three years. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. I did that kind of work, and then the clients I was focusing on were female business owners either working individually or with a small business. And the reason I did that was because when I sat down with them, the feedback I got from every single one of them was, “It’s really nice to be able to sit down with someone who’s technical but who will not make me feel like I’m incompetent when I’m asking questions. I feel comfortable sharing that I don’t know something because at no point do you make me feel like I’m wasting your time asking these things.”

Ines van Dijk:

So I became really good at translating stuff and going, “Okay, hang on. How do I actually focus on making, not just the women, but everyone feel like they’re open to share with me when they don’t know stuff?” So a lot of looking at, what language am I using with people, how am I explaining this, and how can I do that better? And that kind of naturally pivoted me towards doing freelance customer support. So I actually did this job that I’m doing now way before I started working for Automattic. And then I got invited to the community summit in Philadelphia, spoke at WordCamps US afterwards. And then, from there, got hired into Automattic.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Ines van Dijk:

That’s also when I started DonateWC.

Angela Bowman:

And did you know… was Patrick Rauland working for WooCommerce when you started?

Ines van Dijk:

Yes. Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

So was that-

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah, we were in the same team.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, that’s fabulous. So Patrick’s in my city area.

Ines van Dijk:

Oh, cool.

Angela Bowman:

So we’re friends. Yes. He’s wonderful.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

So you spoke at WordCamp, then you started working at Automattic.

Ines van Dijk:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy Masson:

Was that a plan?

Ines van Dijk:

No. No, I got bullied into sending in an application.

Tracy Apps:

Oh my goodness. That’s hilarious.

Tracy Apps:

Hey, Women in WP listeners, this is Tracy with a quick message from our sponsor, Ninja Forms. Wish you could build forms for WordPress without spending forever or recruiting help? You can. Ninja Forms is the WordPress form plugin that is both extremely flexible and easy to use. Create contact forms, order forms, donation forms, and more in literally minutes using prebuilt templates easily customized with form logic, upload fields, multi-step pages, and more. Just drag and drop what you need, where you need it. Integrate with hundreds of services like MailChimp, Google Sheets, HubSpot, and more without needing to write a line of code. Get Ninja Forms now at Ninjaforms.com. And now, back to our show.

Amy Masson:

Okay, who was bullying you?

Ines van Dijk:

I say bully, and I mean that in the best, best terms possible. No, I still have a very good friendship with James Huff, who was on the… still is on the support team over at WordPress.org. And I was part of the moderator team. So we sat down and we were talking about how are we going to do this over the next year? And he was like, “Have you applied to Automattic?” And I went, “No.” And he went, “You’re going to, right?” And I went, “Uh, but they’re never going to hire me.” This is the thing: I expect things to not happen and then they happen, and I get really surprised. Imposter syndrome, yay. But, yeah, no, it really wasn’t the plan to get hired. I thought I’m just going to shoot my shot and see what happens. And then I got hired pretty quickly afterwards, straight into WooCommerce, and then I never left up until very recently.

Angela Bowman:

What makes you such a great match for Kathy Darling?

Ines van Dijk:

We worked together for years because she would be in my Slack channel that I kept an eye on. So we had a lot of experience working together already.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

And tell us about WCDonate.

Ines van Dijk:

Other way around DonateWC.

Amy Masson:

Oh, DonateWC. Sorry. Sorry.

Ines van Dijk:

So the experience I had with going to the community summit and then WordCamp US straight after. That was a two-week travel. And I was doing pretty well, but that entire travel, even though I was staying at a hostel where I had to share a bed with three other people, it still cost me more than a month worth of income.

Amy Masson:

Whoa.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah. And I was like, “If someone who’s from one of the richest countries on the planet with a decent income is having trouble affording, attending something that’s really going to dictate where everything is going to go in the next year, who else are we missing here?” Because that just means we’re cutting off the majority of the world. You have really active WordPress communities in places like Nigeria. They’re not going to be able to afford that. Not in a lifetime are they going to do that, even if they’re invited. And I know that by now there’s some initiatives to make that easier for people, but certainly at that time it didn’t exist.

Ines van Dijk:

And it’s not just the big WordCamps. You have the small ones as well. If I have to travel to another country and stay in a hotel for four days or five days, that’s a lot of money to be spending. And if I’m just getting started, or if I’m in a position where I really can’t afford that, I’m just not there. And we all know that everything happens in the hallway chats.

Angela Bowman:

Right.

Ines van Dijk:

And if you’re not there, then your voice is just not heard.

Ines van Dijk:

So I figured, we’ve got all of these companies sponsoring WordCamps, why don’t we pull money from these companies that have a surplus, and make sure that the people that we need to have within these community summits, within these big WordCamps, et cetera, they can just go and not worry about the money. And that’s what we’ve been doing since 2017 now.

Amy Masson:

Wow.

Tracy Apps:

That who are we missing here is key because that is one of the things that I see about being a sustainable community and standing the test of time, is that having a diverse set of people at the table making those decisions. And you’re right, that is… there’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen. And we miss out on all of that amazing information that we would be missing out on, and we’re just seeing the same people over again.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Tracy Apps:

And I think that it’s such a crucial need, and I think that’s really amazing. I’d love to hear how many people you’ve sent. How has this all been coming out in practice? Because I love this.

Ines van Dijk:

I don’t know the number off the top of my head. I think about a dozen people that we’ve sent now.

Tracy Apps:

Nice.

Ines van Dijk:

More or less. But then obviously the last two years with COVID, there was no-in person stuff, so the whole thing was dormant so… but we are restarting it now, so if people want to sign up for a sponsorship, they can over at DonateWC.org. You can submit the sponsor application form either for yourself or for someone else, if you feel like someone’s really deserving of receiving such a sponsorship.

Ines van Dijk:

And then we do due diligence… difficult word, on whoever sends in the application. So we look at their contributions to the ecosystem and what people are saying about them. We don’t just randomly hand out travel vouchers for everyone, but… it is open to anyone, in particular underrepresented folks, so people with disabilities, people of color, you name it.

Amy Masson:

I can’t believe we’re in the 80s of these episodes, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this.

Ines van Dijk:

I think that’s my fault for not doing [inaudible 00:27:38] really well on it.

Angela Bowman:

We are going to go gangbusters. So I’m doing a talk on Friday, and I’m going to put this on my last slide as a what can you do to help women in WordPress.

Ines van Dijk:

That’s amazing. Thank you.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this. You’re not in the US and we’re in the US, so are you mostly sending people to WordCamps around Europe or…

Ines van Dijk:

The majority has been in Africa actually.

Amy Masson:

Okay.

Ines van Dijk:

The African communities. The first one we had, his name was Trust, and he was in Zimbabwe. And this was right when Zimbabwe’s economy crashed. And he sent in an application, he said, “I booked a ticket, but everything is canceled. I would be able to go but it’s now… everything costs three times as much. Would you be able to help out?” Because he was traveling to WordCamp Cape Town, and we went, “Yeah, cool. Dude, we book you a ticket and go.” And he went and then sent me a photo of him by the sea going, “Huh.” And that had been the first time he saw the sea in his lifetime, and that was the first person that we sent, and it was just such a… like I’m doing the right thing here. This is doing the right thing for the right people kind of feeling. But it’s a really worthwhile thing to be working on.

Amy Masson:

Literally donating right now.

Ines van Dijk:

Thank you. Awesome. I hope it works because it’s…

Amy Masson:

I’ll let you know as I get through the process. I’m-

Ines van Dijk:

Awesome.

Angela Bowman:

Love it.

Amy Masson:

All right. I think it’s working. Donating with PayPal.

Angela Bowman:

I’m doing it too. PayPal.

Amy Masson:

So everybody that’s listening to this. Be like me-

Angela Bowman:

Take a moment.

Amy Masson:

Pause the podcast, go to DonateWC.org and make a donation. It’s not that hard. It’s in euro, so you might have to do some currency translation, or you can just pretend like it’s the same and donate. So I did it, we all can.

Angela Bowman:

This is like a telethon now.

Tracy Apps:

I know, right?

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. We can definitely promote this through our podcast on a more regular basis too.

Amy Masson:

Well, and I know that… you mentioned Nigeria. We’ve had several people from… women from Nigeria on the podcast, and I know that they have a really thriving WordCamp or WordPress community, but to get to somewhere out of Africa or to Europe or the US, that’s really expensive.

Ines van Dijk:

It’s massively expensive. Yeah, a plane ticket alone will, for a lot of people, be a month worth of income. And then you’re not sleeping anywhere, you’re not eating anywhere. So it’s really hard for people who are not being sponsored by companies to get around anywhere. And I sometimes wonder if that’s why we’re being so pushed to go to a local WordCamps rather than the big ones. But that… speculating. Not sure.

Amy Masson:

I also did the click to tweet, and so now I tweeted my donation, so that was a really handy thing right on the end of the form, you donated, click to tweet. Oh look, I can do that. I can also tell other people to do it too. So everybody should do that as well.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I like how clean the interface was for that. There was no distractions. It was just easy.

Amy Masson:

Oh look, Angela. You did more than me, Angela. You just went and donated and just showed me up.

Angela Bowman:

No, I did.

Amy Masson:

Well, I did €50, and you did 100.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, I was a little flush. I won’t be so flush after I get back from Europe though.

Ines van Dijk:

And just to put that into perspective, if we’re talking about sending someone to a WordCamp in Nigeria, that’s food, hotel, and things like a SIM card, internet covered in those two donations. Done.

Amy Masson:

Wow. Well, and I know when we interviewed the ladies in Nigeria that they are working primarily from phones.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

Unlike here where I’m sitting here with four screens in front of me, it’s just a different environment.

Ines van Dijk:

But this is a thing: these are the people that you need to put next to the people spearheading the next WordPress release, and have them go, “This is what I’m working with. This is what I’m running into. These are the problems that you need to solve if WordPress is to be a usable platform for my community. And if you don’t, I’m going to use a platform that does do these things because they have a presence here.” And that’s what’s missing, because these people… you don’t see them at the community summit. They are not there.

Amy Masson:

You’re right.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. And if you travel to Africa, which not very many people do, but I have, you start to appreciate the level of tech, the internet speeds.

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

The unreliability and things, and that need for the flexibility of devices and bandwidth. So I think it kind of goes both ways. We need to get people here, but we also, those of us who have the means, maybe should go-

Ines van Dijk:

Go there.

Angela Bowman:

… to WordCamp in Nigeria and then build that empathy to bring it back to make changes.

Ines van Dijk:

If you have an interest in SEO, work in Cape Town is fantastic because there’s a lot of SEO stuff going down there that I know of. Obviously, it’s where WooCommerce was born so there’s a lot of people who have very specific knowledge in that area. So, yeah, it makes so much sense to travel more to areas that maybe would not make a lot of sense to you initially.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I love this so much because it’s not just somebody saying, “Oh, we need more people at the table. We need more people at the table.” You’re doing it. You’re making it happen, and that is what’s so fantastic about this.

Ines van Dijk:

Thank you.

Angela Bowman:

So when you transitioned out of WooCommerce from out of Automattic, what helped to get you on your own, and how is that different from you not working with a company and working… what are the pluses and minuses of that, being on your own?

Ines van Dijk:

Well I thought I was going to have a quiet three months of slowly ramping up and gently networking and starting my business. And then, within two days, my inbox had exploded to a point where I was like, “I think I need to hire someone, because… oh no.” So where I thought I was going to be not very busy… yeah, quite the opposite. But that’s a good thing. I went from the expectation of not being able to pay my bills and having to rely on savings to, “Oh, look, I can pay all of my bills this month. That’s actually pretty awesome.”

Ines van Dijk:

I think the main thing is that, in particular, owning an agency is that you can’t really take a day off. So you can’t say, “You know what? I don’t feel like working this week so I’m going to chill out for a week.” That’s not really a thing anymore. But other than that, I’ve been doing this job for a decade now, so it’s not very different. It’s just the seeing different faces from having the same team for six years, that’s a big difference.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I totally hear you about not being able to really disconnect no matter what.

Ines van Dijk:

Right.

Amy Masson:

On any vacation, I always take laptop. I’m always checking in, even if I have people taking care of things. I’m also a control freak, and that doesn’t help anything. But you just can’t. You can’t just shut down your business for a week.

Ines van Dijk:

Right.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I did send an email to all my clients. I try to make them believe that I’m taking a month off.

Ines van Dijk:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). How’s that working for you?

Angela Bowman:

Because if I just seed that, they just won’t get any wild ideas while I’m gone. But inevitably I’ll be… I was in Lisbon in a museum and had to sit down on a bench and solve some PayPal issue on someone’s WooCommerce site on my phone… so talking about phones. And I fixed it. I fixed it sitting on a bench in a museum, and then I was gone on to continue my sightseeing.

Ines van Dijk:

Well, this is the thing, right? If we look at usability, if that’s the thing that we’re going to touch on, usability is not just for people who have the disability. It’s for me as a mum of a small baby having one hand free to do the thing. It’s going to help me as much as the person who’s missing an arm, right?

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Ines van Dijk:

So making sure that people who predominantly need to use their phone in order to do websites, listening to them, and making sure that the web is usable for them is going to be incredibly useful for a society that lives on their phones, not out of necessity but out of desire. So if we are going to look back at why should these people be attending the places where decisions get made, that is why. If you want to be selfish about it, that is why.

Amy Masson:

So important.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, with Gutenberg, I used to be able to really just do everything on my phone if I needed to. It may not be the best experience, but I could do… I could navigate the whole WordPress dashboard. I used a page builder that kind of was toggle-ey so it was easy. I could do everything I needed to do in that because it had toggles. But, now, with Gutenberg, you can’t do really anything on the tablet or phone in a practical way without a mouse. And I use Elementor. Can’t do anything at all on a mobile device. So it’s frustrating, for sure. Yeah. And I love what you’re saying about accessibility. Accessibility is for everyone.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. When I’m teaching that, it’s like, yeah, it might have low visibility, but I also might be using my phone and there’s a glare. And so it’s one of those things where that thinking about accessibility is for a fraction of the population is not accurate. I want to be careful of low connectivity speed for people that are on mobile-only, that maybe do not have WiFi, maybe they don’t have unlimited data, but also I might be in the middle of nowhere traveling, and I need to do something, and I have really slow internet connection on my phone.

Ines van Dijk:

Right. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

So there’s a lot of factors, and having people remind… because when we’re developing in our broadband, with all of our screens, it’s really easy to lose sight of that. And there’s another reason why I think just traveling to places and going to these WordCamps, not only meeting people and seeing how people use the products out in the world, but understanding people’s situation, and then getting outside of our little bubbles of our little offices and computer setups, and it’s just going to make for better design. It’s going to make for better code. It’s just better products-

Ines van Dijk:

Right. Right, right.

Tracy Apps:

… everything.

Ines van Dijk:

Yep. Yeah, agreed.

Amy Masson:

Well, it has been amazing having you on the podcast today. And we first want to thank our sponsor, Ninja Forms. And before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Ines van Dijk:

Yeah. So my website is Qualityinsupport.com. That’s for all of your support needs, and then obviously DonateWC.org for everything to do with WordCamp travel. If you want to find me on Twitter, I am motherofcode.

Amy Masson:

Awesome.

Tracy Apps:

Awesome. Good stuff.

Amy Masson:

Well thanks for being here.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you.

Ines van Dijk:

So much for having me.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Top