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In today’s episode, Joe talks to Courtney Engle Robertson, a WordPress teacher dedicated to helping businesses streamline their online marketing. She has been teaching basic through advanced software, hardware, and social media uses in plain English for third graders through grandparents, including businesses and bootcamp students since 2001.

Courtney reveals the unlimited passion behind the Learn WordPress community where volunteers contribute educational resources to share with professionals that are seeking to upscale their skills.

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:09 Welcome to the pod, Courtney!
  • 05:02 Teaching programming in educational institutions
  • 10:22 Summer camp for high schoolers to learn WordPress
  • 17:39 The challenges of teaching programming in schools
  • 21:29 There’s no clear map for people who wants learn tier 2 tech support
  • 23:23 Contributions at Learn are mostly from volunteers
  • 26:13 Motivation behind WordPress learning voluntary contributions
  • 30:12 Identifying needs and keeping the team together
  • 32:19 Tapping in to the web dev area can be tricky
  • 37:08 Taking subcontract developer job
  • 39:26 Identify where you are lacking and what to learn next
  • 42:04 What’s the best way to learn new skills?
  • 45:54 Find Courtney online! 

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Oh buddy folks, Joe Howard here this week, I got to have Courtney Robertson on the podcast. I’ve tried to have Courtney on for a little while. We kept running into calendar stuff. I’m busy then. And then we finally got to sit down today and get a few minutes to chat on the podcast. Courtney is awesome.

She is an educator. She’s been doing education work and teaching for a long, long time. Starting off with high school. Students teaching coding, moving in and doing more agency work, but eventually making her way to learn.wordpress.org and really doing a lot of the organization around that volunteer effort and really cool to hear, you know, what drives her in her.

Pursuit of doing as much teaching and education as possible. She really wants to help, you know, as many people as possible get jobs and find careers that they love. Uh, and it really is inspiring to just talk with her here. But I think I lost me inspiring for you all to listen to today’s episode and really hear from someone who has pretty clear North star they’re following.

All right. Without any further ado, here is Courtney Robertson. Please enjoy today’s episode

Courtney Robertson: [00:01:23] WP MRR. WordPress podcast is brought to you by WP buffs. WP buffs manages WordPress websites, 24 seven. Empowers digital growth for agencies, freelancers and WordPress professionals. Join our white label program. And by next week you could be offering a 24 seven white label website support to your clients and passively growing your monthly recurring revenue or become a WP buffs affiliate to earn 10%.

Monthly payouts every month for the lifetime of every client. And finally, if you’re looking to sell your WordPress business or website, check out the WP buffs acquisition unit, learn more about all three at WP buffs.

Joe Howard: [00:02:05] Hey, we are alive on the pod this week with Courtney Robertson. Courtney, tell folks a little bit about you, what you do with WordPress.

Maybe like when we met for the first time where you kind of covered that offline before we got started here.

Courtney Robertson: [00:02:17] I met you at word camp Lancaster. I am West of Gettysburg. I’ll say most people. If they look at the map would not know the town name. So I’ll just call it West of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. And we’ve been to a few word camps together.

I teach WordPress a lot. I teach WordPress development a lot. I am a former high school business ed teacher. My parents were also both teachers. I taught computer programming at a high school setting. I took some time off to go build my own websites for clients. Did that for a number of years, hopped back into the classroom, teaching WordPress into a vo-tech.

Took some more time away with young children and then worked for a while at the events, calendar, fantastic company, good group to work with had a lot of experience in a plugin and agency environment and learning a lot of the tools of the trade there and then found an opportunity to come back as teaching WordPress again.

So I find myself these days at code differently, which is a bootcamp located in Delaware. Our main offices. Before COVID are located in Wilmington these days, we are all in zoom. Everybody’s in zoom all the time. And so I work with those that are in a front end development track. They are learning HTML, CSS and Java script.

They have been unemployed due to COVID and the program is at no cost to participants because it is part of an initiative through the department of labor to get people back to work. We’ve added into that. Some intermediary. PHP and we’re press up through developing themes. So it’s been a real fun ride over the past year.

And I have loved that time. I also hang out over with the WordPress training team, facilitating meetings and leading where we’re going.

Joe Howard: [00:04:01] Nice. Oh my gosh. So much in there. I didn’t want to go into it all right now, but I did want to rewind back to what you originally said about meeting at WordCamp Lancaster, because I feel like everyone’s like.

Most people in WordPress community know the big word camps, like the word camp, Europe and word camp B West now like word camp Asia. Although that’s not really had a chance to bloom yet because of COVID stuff, but they know the big word cancer and word camp Lancasters like a smaller camp, you know, it’s one, maybe it’s a couple hundred people in Lancaster, PA it’s the first word camp I ever.

Went to, as a WordPress person. And I actually say pretty frequently, I think it’s my favorite word camp. Like maybe more favorite than even like some of the more major ones. It’s just, so I feel like almost at home there, it feels like so friendly, not the bigger camps don’t, but it’s like, it’s more intimate at word camp Lancaster.

And I just, it always feels like I get to revisit my roots. So I just want to give a shout out to all the folks working on blank, Esther. Cause what, what a great word camp.

Courtney Robertson: [00:04:54] Also there’s Whoopie pies or gobs, depending upon where in Pennsylvania you’re from.

Joe Howard: [00:04:58] Exactly. Exactly. So you can’t skip out on those for sure.

Right. Other thing I did want to touch on because we were kind of talking offline before this, you were talking about some of the WordPress and educational stuff you do, but it sounds like you also. At one point was doing work in schools and maybe I missed it. Was it high schools or middle schools or both?

Yeah. So

Courtney Robertson: [00:05:15] I taught high school. I am certified as a high school business ed teacher. I got into this specifically to teach programming. I taught HTML and CSS as it was just becoming available. In the high school setting, along with other business ed type of classes, I did teach grades three and up as young as grades three and up on keyboarding as well.

And I’ve had a little bit of experience teaching adult education in corporate headquarters or adult ed continuing programs through a few vo-tech settings.

Joe Howard: [00:05:46] That’s cool. I wanted to talk about that. Cause I was a teacher at one point as well, before I got into WordPress stuff. Also, you talked about teaching keyboard stuff.

I remember my keyboarding class from like, it must have been like third grade or fourth grade and today I’m a fast typer. I’m not like crazy fast, but I’m, I would say very proficient when it comes to typing. I feel like that’s a skill that I learned in like fourth grade. That’s still serves me extremely well today and throughout honestly like all of being a student in college.

So. I don’t know if they still did that game where you speed up your character. That’s what I remember being like, you want to type faster to get your character to go faster or something.

Courtney Robertson: [00:06:20] There are all kinds of typing games online these days, and we can all go type our way through the rest of the internet.

My mom was also a high school business ed teacher, and I had to learn how to type in the summertime before schools taught it before I was led to go out and swim or play or anything during summer breaks, the kids have. Teachers have a wholes unique world of requirements.

Joe Howard: [00:06:45] Totally. Totally. My son’s got an ex teacher, so not a teacher anymore, but I was a high school math teacher for a few years before having ended up doing more WordPress and web work.

Wow. So, yeah, so I taught in public schools and some challenging. School’s challenging situations and the computer classes were never as up to snuff as I would’ve liked them to be. I always thought like this would be a great place to focus more financial benefit, more attention, give them more resources in this class because if you know, even one or two kids learn early on that, Hey, I can do this.

And Hey, like I could even like build a website for peoples. Someone could pay me a thousand bucks. Like for some freelancers, that’s like, I don’t do products that are a thousand bucks for like a high school kid. That’s a lot of money, right. Especially one that was not as well off socioeconomically. So I always thought, man, that’s important.

So, and it sounds like you were doing some HTML CSS stuff when you were doing high school or maybe like front end stuff.

Courtney Robertson: [00:07:38] I don’t know. Yeah. So at that point it would’ve just been Ishmael and CSS. And that would have been 2005, maybe at that point. And I stumbled my way into source work because I needed an LMS and I got Moodle.

And then I was like, I also want to blog. So then I found Joomla two and after I found WordPress and I have loved WordPress, I taught high school students, WordPress in a vo-tech setting for a long-term substitute position just before having my now older son. And that was a wonderful experience. We went through all the user stuff up through development and intro to plugins PHP.

This past summer though. So proud of these students, there was an initiative also through the department of labor in Delaware to get high school students jobs, because it’s actually a little more tricky than when you and I would have been in high school to get a job. Now, the age requirements different, we don’t see things like newspaper delivery person jobs.

It’s a little more complicated than that. So this past summer I had students that were paid interns. Learning how to use WordPress. Now it wouldn’t have been something an adult would consider a good earning, but it was certainly something that a high school kid thought this is fantastic. So they were paid to come and hang out with me in zoom every day for five weeks.

And we were learning WordPress and what they could do with WordPress, some of them have gone off into college and I’ve heard from a few that they are using their WordPress portfolios. One went to study photography and she’s using it. Out in the college experience. So they spoke at WordCamp Philly this past fall.

They were all online, but they spoke at WordCamp Philly around diversity, equity, inclusion and learning WordPress. And so that was really exciting to be again, back with high school students, but now knowing more and being able to point to sites like, Hey, you’ve got the proficiency. By the time they finished up with me, they had the proficiency to apply for WP buffs in tech support.

Joe Howard: [00:09:33] That’s so cool

Courtney Robertson: [00:09:34] love that took them to the site and said, look, those of you that are 18, you were qualified at this point. Let’s go.

Joe Howard: [00:09:40] Absolutely. We’ve had folks working in a support capacity in a developer capacity who we’ve had like early. College students working with us who are taking full class loads.

I may want to put a few hours in and make, you know, a few extra books and no WordPress. And so, yeah, I mean, companies like mine, I’m sure other companies, the WordPress space, a full-time position on top of classes, maybe a lot, but especially if someone’s definitely looking for some part-time work and even full-time work.

I, I think just, yeah, what I want to say is I think WordPress companies, a lot of them are definitely willing to. Take a look at younger, maybe less experienced, but hungry folks who have learned the basics and, uh, are rock and rolling. Absolutely. How does it feel to see their progress from like starting off and like what’s hosting?

Like, what is WordPress? How does open source work like installing WordPress knows to go from there to having portfolio sites and, you know, selling there. Photography services via this website. I feel like it’s a huge ability. It’s a huge skill set to be able to throw away a website together. It sounds so simple, but it’s like, not everyone can do that, but to be able to put a website together and then maybe like drive a little traffic to it, like that’s a huge skill set for people.

So you must’ve been pretty proud when you kind of saw that come to fruition.

Courtney Robertson: [00:10:56] So the group that was with me were not especially eager to jump in over in the JavaScript track. There are a lot of amazing opportunities in Ishmael, CSS and JavaScript and jumping in from that point. When we’re looking at training and WordPress, it gets a little bit weird because we have this whole on-ramp before we can develop for WordPress of learning, how to use this existing software and the nuances and knowing the products, plugins themes services that are out there available.

And so the students that were with me specifically were not wanting to start in code. And yet still wanted to get into web development. And so we went through so many parts of using various plugins and themes and sequencing what to learn in which order and all the way up through they learned using Beaver builder as a page builder, Beaver builder, give us a license for the class and

Joe Howard: [00:11:47] it’s great.

Shout out Beaver builder. Those guys are great. Yeah,

Courtney Robertson: [00:11:51] totally. So if they were a little familiar with CSS, bootstrap, just tiny bit, they really hadn’t spent any time in there, but to then be able to take somebody that has a different learning style that would understand from a visual perspective, how to use bootstrap.

That’s what BeaverBuilder was doing for them. And Beaver builder then gets all of the WordPress websites set up and connected the way that somebody might envision that. So. I think for the right learning style, some people will do better to learn from this gooey Wiziwig approach. And then. Back-end their way into code.

And then other people let’s just go from code and maybe learn how to be the developers of these editors or something like that. So it was just really fun to point out all of the things that were out there, but while this was all happening, that was when the last president indicated that Tik TOK, my kid shut down, which opened up a specific, unique opportunity.

I was the only person with my skin tone and my skin tone for those on podcast is white. And so I was the only person of that skin tone in the room at the time. And we had a conversation about, think about last summer and about the protests that were happening and what happens. For them in their preferred way of getting the news was tick-tock what happens for them if that were to be blocked off.

And what does that mean? If a platform holds all your information at the time of today’s recording, we’ve seen other platforms in the news lately that may also hold users information and not allow them to take their data somewhere else. So we looked at the freedoms of WordPress and the four freedoms standing a lot on your own ability to.

Modify the software itself. Take it wherever you like, but also this idea that your voice, your message, it matters, and you should be able to port that information to a place that is home for you. So if this host isn’t working out, you still could take the software and go somewhere else. And that really matters.

And that suddenly helped these high school students understand if their access to the way that they preferred to consume news were blocked, what would they do? How could they still get their own message out? And what would that look like? So that was, uh, an interesting and lively summer. And I absolutely loved.

Being right where I was.

Joe Howard: [00:14:09] Yeah. Wow. That’s cool. The topic of open source software and the value behind open source software, because the value is exactly what you said. It’s hard to understand initially, like it’s kind of hard to explain owning your own platform. I think people understand that a basic level, but it’s until you’ve kind of been closed off from something or been using close offer and have been able to move somewhere else or be able to like move your, yeah.

Your news. You’re consuming somewhere else. That’s like a big. Moment for most people where they’re like, Oh, this is what they meant by like, well, Wix websites, but they literally don’t allow you to export your sites. You have to probably like copy and paste and grab your images and like manually move them over.

Like, That sucks for people who want to move to a platform or get honestly like trapped in a platform. Right. So I think that’s cool that you’ve had actual educational trainings, not just around teaching WordPress, teaching emails, teaching CSS. That’s, that’s great. Right? Don’t get me wrong. But the actual bigger concept of like what all those things together in an open source environment can actually do for you.

It can set you free. You can own your information, you can own your content. You can, which kind of in turn allows you to. Have ownership over, I don’t know your life over how you live your life. So, yeah, it’s definitely an interesting subject to be like teaching young people. It

Courtney Robertson: [00:15:29] was a little heavy on some days at looking over this information and what does that mean?

And look like for them, but in the process of it all, they walked away having the skills to. Be a website, administrators at the whole thing up, back up their stuff, take it somewhere else. If they’d needed to take it somewhere else, they were able to do a lot of administrative assembled the theme, the plugin, all of these tools and make use of it.


Joe Howard: [00:15:53] that’s the base of WordPress that you really needed that yes, to be an advanced developer. That’s a great skillset to have. You can maybe do some pretty high paying jobs. You can do some good, cool custom workbook. You don’t need all that to be a basic WordPress developer. Like I’m like non-developer WordPress developer, right?

Like I can set up a WordPress site like easy-peasy, but I’m not like an HTML or CSS. Master by any means by any stretch of the imagination. So yeah, I think the basics of things is, is important to folks too, so, yeah. Wow. That’s cool. Um, always good to hear success stories, especially for young people, because I think there’s a big push in WordPress to, you know, with kids camps and making sure we.

Continue to cultivate the next generation of WordPress, you know, and to what’s the next step you have to get, let’s get them involved in the community. Let’s get them. Yes. Speaking of more word camps, uh, you know, it sounds like they’re like young web admins for websites. Hey, like let’s do some monthly recurring revenue.

Let’s get them into like a care plan model like that. So it’s a great way to build a business. I think I can safely say so there’s just a lot more to work on as well. So cool. I wanted to touch on now. The. Education work that you’re doing currently because all that stuff sounds really cool. I bet people are listening.

Our audience varies across different spaces are probably some people who are like, I would like to learn some WordPress. Does any of the stuff you’re doing online? I just had a sales call today, like literally two hours ago with someone who is wanting to sign up. With it for WP buffs subscription. And she was like, I also love to learn, like, could you recommend some educational resources for me?

And so here I am two hours later, like maybe she’s listening. And she actually actually also mentioned, funny enough, I’m talking about this. She mentioned she had like listened to one of our podcasts episodes before she talked to me. So this is perfect for people like her who are looking for places to maybe go learn some more press.

I don’t know if any of the stuff that you’re doing online, but. I’d love to hear more about the active education work you’re doing.

Courtney Robertson: [00:17:43] It’s really good. It’s hard to explain to educational institutions how to approach we’re pressed because there’s this, like I’m going to be a user admin level type of thing, or maybe I’m going to build themes to build the themes.

You need to know how to be a user. You also need to know all these languages. So that gets a little muddy. Trying to tell an educational institution here is how proficient people should be by certain points. Because in the program that I’m in, we are specifically looking to retrain people, to be employees in an environment of a dev shop.

And so there’s a specific need in that case. What we really need is a big map that tells us what to learn and maybe in what order, because when we are new to learning something, we don’t know what we don’t know. You’re like, ah, I want to get started with WordPress. What do I do? How do I start? I still

Joe Howard: [00:18:32] don’t know what I don’t know.

Courtney Robertson: [00:18:34] Right. That’s why I hang out with my dev friends and I’m like telling me what I should be learning. Like if I’m going to teach this stuff, tell me how much I should learn and how fast I need to learn it. And what’s new. So. I hang out with cool people like that, that I think often for the role that they are in my life, but I also am really passionate about what’s going on, on learned that were pressed that work.

I am the co rep of the training team, along with how a Shia, how it is based out of the UK. And she and I together help. Steer the part of the team that makes the lesson plans. So if you visit learn.wordpress.org, there are two things happening there. At this time. We have workshops. Those workshops are videos that are on demand.

You learn. When you want to learn, they have an extension for using meetup as a platform to attend a live session. Discussion area to talk with somebody through whatever you just watched. And then we also have lesson plans and those lesson plans can be used by any educational institution. The lesson plans are different from docs in that we’re not trying to document all the things about WordPress.

We’re trying to create an order. And a learning sequence to this and provide something that somebody could take to a meetup. Doesn’t have to be a teacher, could be someone taking it to a meet up, or it could be a teacher in a classroom and organizing here’s everything that you might want to know as the person instructing behind the scenes.

What type of resources do I need? What are my prerequisites, all of those pieces together. So we’ve got. I think about 55 lesson plans that are published on learn. The team has been around together since 2013. I joined in 2014 and had to take some years out when I had young children back last summer, obviously, as I was hopping back into teaching WordPress, yes.

That changed things. I needed to hire some childcare and get back into teacher mindset. So give me lesson plans, all of them we’re working right now on kind of plotting out more of a course sequence to things unlearn. So that just instead of here are videos or lesson plans, that there is perhaps a more orderly approach to it.

The way that this comes together is that there are a few meetings. Where people that would like to contribute to this, get together on a regular basis. Those that would like to participate in the video workshops area, meet on the first and third, Thursday of the month. Those that would like to contribute to lesson plans.

We get together in Slack. These are chat messages in Slack. We get together every Tuesday and we’re running through our priority lists of what content needs to come next. What additional areas are on our radar? The team is a bit regrouping because during the middle of a pandemic and not all the contributors that used to be there are there.

And so things have sort of shifted around and learn launched. As we saw soft launch was last summer. And then Matt really announced it during state of the word this past year. So look for more resources to be coming there. We’re also eager to have those that are employers in the industry that are saying.

Here are the skills that I need from people. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from some of the plugin product companies indicating they’ve got people applying that have HTML, CSS, JavaScript, but they don’t have any WordPress or any PHP skills yet we’re pressed as 40% of the internet. I’ve only found one other bootcamp, technically that is teaching WordPress as development.

And if somebody is interested in getting into a tier two tech support where they need to know some code or junior dev positions, There’s not really a clear map of how to get there. And so we’re wide open for some of that type of feedback to help shape what the information is. That’s there. How to go from, I just want to install WordPress all the way through.

I want to make a headless site and do all kinds of fancy things. Everything in between those ends of the spectrum, we need to make sure that we’re accounting for those steps along the way. And then we’ve got some good resources available for folks because I struggled in the way that I was taught coding.

I didn’t have a computer lab. I didn’t have a, literally it was pencil and paper in a room at night with a dim projector. So just, there was a lot of circumstances to how I learned to code and how I got into WordPress that I don’t want anybody to ever have to go through it.

Joe Howard: [00:22:48] That’s a good reason to want to pay it for her.

I can’t think of a better reason just to provide a better experience for others. And maybe we got so more power to you. This project sounds pretty big. I mean, I’m on learn.wordpress.org right now. And I was just kind of like clicking through a lesson plan and clicking through workshops like these lesson plans or like.

Super in depth. I’m like, I am here. I click on how to create like a reusable WordPress block description, objectives, prerequisite skills, readiness questions, materials need. I mean, this is like really like thorough, thorough content that you’re putting together. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe you are an automatic employee.

Is that right? I’m also assuming that. Most of this work, maybe I could say all of this work is volunteer based. Is that also correct? There

Courtney Robertson: [00:23:35] have been a few people over the years that I have been involved with the project. We’ve had a few lesson plans that have been written by automated actions when we launched learn.

We had an issue where a lot of our screenshots needed to be updated or replaced. And so we had some folks come in through automatic and work on that. So I am welcoming their contributions, but most of those that have contributed a lot of the work in writing the materials have not been automatic. More folks have contributed accounted.

Over 160 contributors when learn launched, I’d dug back into the archives of GitHub and make.wordpress.org/training is where the team meets make.wordpress.org/training.

Joe Howard: [00:24:18] And people can go there if they’re hearing this and they’re like, I want to contribute, but I just don’t really know how they can go say that you are a one more time.

So people who are like, I missed it again, rewind so they can just type it in

Courtney Robertson: [00:24:27] make.wordpress.org/training. And we do have people that contribute all around the globe. We’ve had a couple of times where we had enough need for contributors, where we were able to run meetings based upon different time zones.

I would like to see us again there again soon. Yeah. Very welcoming to have lots of, and you don’t have to be a teacher to contribute, not required. There’s a lot of work to be done. Just adding screenshots, adding featured images, helping us check off some of the things. When we imported our material from GitHub, I noticed that some of the quiz questions.

Put the answer on the line with the next question. And if you know how to just look through everything we’ve got, and if you spot that error, go fix it. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. And in doing so, you’re helping those that are the end receivers of this material. I love

Joe Howard: [00:25:16] that it feels like that’s really your driving goal.

Maybe your North star is really to help that end user to be able to learn WordPress. Faster more effectively, maybe both, you know, end up with the skills necessary to get a job, whether it’s a junior position or a level, two support technician, et cetera. But I am also, I’m always interested in talking with people who contribute at such a high level and having all their contribution work be volunteer.

all the work you’re doing is fantastic. But it does take a lot of time and energy to probably do all this work, to organize all this work. I would like to hear more about like, kind of your motivations and what keeps you going and this, because this is probably not financial benefit. Maybe there’s some, maybe people know you for being a contributor and thus you’re known well in the community.

So maybe people want to work with you in the community. Like you mentioned. I think he worked for events, counter pro, maybe one of the reasons they wanted us to work for them was because, Hey, she does great community work. So that may have had some. I guess indirect financial benefit, but I want to know, like every day when you’re working and contributing, you know, for half an hour or for hours on ends, you know, writing this content, what’s the motivating factor.

It keeps you

Courtney Robertson: [00:26:22] to put out flat out, disclaimer, as a teacher. Teaching WordPress in a development environment, I need the lesson plans and I need the stuff to be on an official WordPress site that says here’s how much to achieve in order to get people hired. Here’s how much they need to know. So there’s this self-serving need, I’ve got where I have no columns and Tang it.

I run to get the students. I’m working with a job. I want them to get hired. And I want through the entire scope of those that. Provide the funding to our program and everything. We need to have some criteria of what to reach for, to get people ready to go to work. The flip side of it is also, I’m equally passionate about helping people.

No matter what their current skill level or their accessibility happens to be an accessibility, both in thinking about any kind of visual impairments or physical impairments, whatever. Also though, thinking about those that have connectivity issues, where I am just West of Gettysburg, should I go another 30 minutes West of here?

You’re not going to find a whole lot of broadband. If I go to visit my mother-in-law in Wyoming, you would find satellite internet. If I traveled to other parts of the globe, not even just North America, but even other parts of the globe, I would find even less connectivity. I’ve heard from some people that have told me that they will download the videos and take them home.

And watch them, they’ll go to a cyber cafe, get the videos, take them home with the lesson plans. They’re all, every source somebody could choose to print to PDF as to save it. And so that’s not tied then to connectivity issues. So there’s this part of me that is equally driven in my contribution efforts.

Well, if I need to write the lesson plan anyway for reporting, then let’s put it out on learn and get people off and running that way. But then there’s. The flip side where it genuinely, I feel that there’s this whole piece around, if you really don’t know what you don’t know. And then you’re also stifled by the resources available to start learning any of it, that equity piece on how do we make that material available.

So it’s not behind a paywall so that it is not tied to their bandwidth connection so that it’s not tied to what language they natively speak. How can we start making inroads and that direction, so that globally. We’re improving the quality of life.

Joe Howard: [00:28:44] Yeah. That all sounds like it makes complete sense. I think not trying to reinvent the wheel or not, or the ability to knock out two birds with one stone is a better analogy for that.

I think. Cause yeah, you need those lessons planned and you can also put them out where the mode they’re going to have the biggest reach for the most people. Yep.

Courtney Robertson: [00:29:01] I will say I did not write most of the lesson plans. I’ve written a few of them. I did not write all of the lesson plans that are there. I just helped.

Organize those of us that are writing them

Joe Howard: [00:29:10] well, management and organization of that stuff is huge. I’ve been to contributor days before, and man, are they hectic, but people who are leading those teams are trying their hardest at it. In a lot of cases, succeeding in what it feels like is kind of, you know, what do they call it?

Wrangling cats. It’s just some expression. I’m probably getting it wrong, but bring some order to the chaos or slightly less chaos from the chaos. And it’s every. Contributed to, I’ve been to, I’ve been in like three or four contributed days for word camps. And it seems like at the end of each day, it’s like, seems pretty hectic.

But then like also got a lot of stuff done that day. Oh great. And it’s all usually it’s because of the people who are just like, at the beginning of the day, we’re like, all right team, this is what you’re doing you to do that you three do that. And then they’re like, okay, we’ll do it. And then, okay. It gets done.

So yeah, that position super important. Yeah.

Courtney Robertson: [00:29:55] Contributed the days are fun. There’s a lot of opportunity in those days. I don’t know about all of the teams, but I think a lot of times we look for what are some small lift things that if somebody only wants to ever contribute on a contributor day, that can get done during that time.

And there are little small bits along the way that often don’t require a whole lot of skill to be able to do that. And then there’s also the piece around onboarding people that would like to keep hanging out with us. And so in training that could look like getting everybody accounts and access to the lesson plans, seeing the roadmap of what we’ve got, where we’re going, but it could also look like having conversations.

You know, one of the things that I am used to as a teacher in a vo-tech setting, a career technical school is having a curriculum advisory board that tells me what they’re hiring for, what their job needs are and being able to identify some of those. So those are pieces too, where it’s like, what are we seeing in the industry?

What are the needs? And do we have. Resourcing for that. And what will it take to get there? Okay.

Joe Howard: [00:30:50] Yeah, I was actually just thinking about that in terms of like what I wanted to talk next about here, which was, you know, your goal is to get folks who are taking these educational resources and applying them themselves.

Self-learning learning through classes, learning through workshops, learning through. Everything you’re offering, but eventually to get jobs, right. That’s the big goal of this project. So I’m thinking like we should talk. So that WP buffs can maybe like talk to you at the end of every cycle to say like, Hey, do you have any students who, you know, can handle X level of PHP or Y level of HTML, or like this level of a junior support load.

Maybe we should talk to them and put them through an interview process. And cause honestly for us, hiring is like, It’s hard. It’s hard. Hiring is hard to finding the right people, finding the right fits, who people who have the exact right skill sets. But I think honestly, like there are a lot of WordPress companies that.

Including WP buffs. It probably should be like talking to people like you more Courtney. And honestly like being like having regular conversations and almost maybe like a formal, like WP boss hires someone from every graduating class or something like that, you know, so that it gives us a better pipeline to hire from, or a place where you can go to know, we can find, you know, the folks we need to hire and it gives you the ability to kind of like push your students into it.

Jobs and that kind of everybody wins there. So I don’t know. What do you think about that?

Courtney Robertson: [00:32:09] That I’m certainly wide open as far as code differently goes for that portion of things. I think also over in learn and general community, you know, I love the work that we’re doing. We can’t serve the entire world.

We’re only allowed to serve those in Delaware that are impacted by COVID right now. So like my target audience, as far as students right now is very specific. As far as a global audience of folks, knowing the details of this idea of who’s hiring also, what do they need when they’re hiring, getting the feedback?

I see a lot of skillsets that are out in the rest of the web dev world, but in terms of. Tacking WordPress into a web dev area were a little tricky. And the pipeline idea, I absolutely am super supportive of, again, just hearing from folks that are struggling out in product plugin, agency services, land saying I get all these applicants.

They don’t know anything about WordPress. There’s the entry point. And then there’s also the ongoing training of those people and growing those people, you know, my younger students, not the high school, but a couple of them are just a few years out of high school. And so they can probably handle jumping in on tech support, the pay scale for somebody that is mid fifties at mid-management and retraining.

Could look different. And so what do we do in those unique situations? This is somebody that would have strong project management skills. And so their life and skillset would be vastly different than my just out of high school students too. And figuring out how do we steer folks like that? Or how do we work with people in developing nations that have that mentorship, part of the ongoing, you got the job now, what do we do?

And how do we. Continue developing and training our people.

Joe Howard: [00:33:53] Yeah. Talking about a lot of our hiring challenges. It’s just like, we’ve talked with Nick and I talk about this all the time. It’s like, man, it’s just like, there are a hundred challenges. There’s a hundred nuances to hiring. That’s like, well, we have this job descriptions like, well, this person could be a good fit, but what about these three factors?

But that person’s a different fit, but also good. But like these different challenges, it’s like, Oh, this book, it always feels like there’s nuance. I think that’s probably less than there is. We live in a world of nuance, but yeah, I think there’s something there. You know, I think there’s, to me, it sounds like something that maybe to like try out and figure you stumble our way successfully to eventually find something that kind of works.

That’s I dunno. That’s usually my history of success has been, I didn’t just do something. Well, I kind of like stumbled my way into like trying it and experimenting with it and eventually it turned out. Okay. And then eventually it turned out. Pretty good. So yeah, I think there’s

Courtney Robertson: [00:34:43] something there. I’ve thought through a little bit too about some subcontracting work again during the times when, when I had young children and we were not doing childcare for the young children, I subcontracted with another friend and had some skills on.

CSS and a few ways of getting at some code that maybe were not her strength, knowing the MRR market a little bit, a lot of folks can go at having a very successful business and not needing to know code, but they might then find themselves in a spot of either. Now I want to learn a little bit more and, or get subcontractors.

And again, that piece around how do we continue? Where can you go? What should you learn? In what sequence what’s going to serve you the best. How do you streamline that process? So you’re not just like, there’s an order to what you’re doing and that you get to that defined outcome that you’ve got in mind.

Joe Howard: [00:35:34] Yeah. And this is definitely not the first time I’ve heard that exact challenge before I have a good friend, Beth, who’s a kind of a DC WordPress person with me. Beth Soderberg. People may know her from like around WordPress.

Courtney Robertson: [00:35:44] I worked with Beth on the training team. She was a co rep with me years ago.


Joe Howard: [00:35:48] Beth. She is awesome. Uh, yeah, shout out Beth. But I remember she gave a talk. I think it was just at a word press DC meetup, but I believe she’s given it at word camps before, too, where she said this pretty much this executive she’s a self-taught developer and she. It actually like a pretty advanced developer, especially for someone who’s like, just totally self-taught.

But she talks about like, I didn’t really know what to learn first. Like, do I learn HTML and CSS first? Like what about JavaScript? Like, does that have to come afterwards? Like, and there’s just so many intricacies and nuances and unheard talk was kind of, it was trying to frame that exact challenge, which is like, here’s my advice on like what I think you should probably learn first and second to like, get to this level.

Just remember, this was like my experience. So like maybe it doesn’t apply to everybody, but having like a really proven pipeline to tell people what they should learn at what steps and what kind of mastery they need to achieve. And then what level that dictates that they are, which eventually would dictate, like what kind of job you can get or what kind of job you should be pursuing.

I think like just having a more kind of visible timeline for people where they can just follow along. I think we’ll just. Helping that scaffolding of improving that conversion rate of people who start to people who eventually like finished that track and get the job. Right. If it’s like 20% right now, like how do we make it 30%?

How do we make it 50%? And that’s

Courtney Robertson: [00:37:07] that’s challenge. I think to those that are in not working within an agency, but building either their own site, they might have a couple of people they work with as they continue to advance their own. Programming skillset and all of the build tools that go with that they can take on bigger level projects that could take on some things that they would either have the skill sets themselves to do it, or by learning the code.

Like they would know how to identify the person that they should subcontract to do the rest of the work, getting clarity around if I’m going to customize the site this way. What do I need to know to be able to do that? If my regular page builder, for instance, doesn’t get me that far, then what, how do I hire the right person to get the rest of that job done?

Or can I learn the skills myself to do the rest of that customization work? And that’s a whole piece too, in there. Yeah. Totally. Her press were like, there’s so many ways to get in and so many ways to keep growing and it’s massive. Yes. At the same time it is. I love we’re pressed again for the freedoms that it stands for.

And I love WordPress for the community of people, because the reason that we are. A lot of us and a lot of websites using WordPress is because of how welcoming I find the community to be. And how I personally have experienced that. I work with Beth and Courtney. Courtney O’Callahan was one of the training team reps, Courtney and Tracy Laveck, who is the co-owner at yikes.

Joe Howard: [00:38:32] Oh, I know all these people. This is so fun. This is so fun. I miss it. I miss everyone.

Courtney Robertson: [00:38:37] So Courtney and Tracy were the original training team reps, and then Beth and I were next in line. And then I wandered away for awhile. During that time, Julie, Jesse, and Teton have all kind of hung out in that role too.

But training team or we’re pressed in general, the idea of welcoming people into our community. Helping people come in from so many varying points with so many different goals. I love that. We’re all about all of it, but you could also hopefully appreciate why it’s complicated and map that all out.

Joe Howard: [00:39:07] Yeah.

I struggle around education sometimes because for me, it’s like education only got me so far. It’s kind of like, I’m so glad to learn. All this cool stuff, but like, how do you be an entrepreneur? Like how do you be a freelancer? How do you be successful? Sure. There’s a lot of articles you could read or videos you could watch.

Of course you could take. But like, from my experience, the most I learned was like, okay, like literally 10% into this learning thing. Like I’m off the reservation. Like I’m kind of making it up now. Okay. Did it work? Did it not work? Like measure, figure it out. So I think there’s probably like a good combination of like education and then like learning from self experience, just experimenting.

But what you said, I think is probably the most important part. Like, do you have a safe space to do all that stuff? To learn, to teach yourself, to make mistakes, to ask other people, Hey, I. Like screw this up. What would you have done to like kind of bare your soul a little bit and to be okay with not being perfect and to not doing everything right.

And I think that is exactly you’re talking about, about the WordPress community. Cause that’s what it feels like. I always feel like in the, my little mastermind group or just like, if you’re part of the WordPress community, like I can be real with you, you know, I pretty much like. Hey, I, I screwed this up.

Like I’d like to pick your brain. I actually just did that. I invited someone else to be on the podcast. So I was like, were like the CEO of like a bigger company than mine. I have been having these challenges. I want to talk to you on the podcast. Because I’m selfishly wanting to like, learn from you. And he just like put that podcast episode.

So awesome. I do feel like the WordPress community is really good for that for me. Like, I’ll be fine. Right? If it’s more, most important is the beginners, the people who are getting into WordPress, the people who are at this point, like relying on learning WordPress to like get a job. And like that’s a really vital thing, especially in the next like three months, six months.

Like if we can do that better, I think that’s going to help way more people and improve the lives more people. So. Yeah, I’m down with that. Cool. Let’s start to wrap up. I want to ask like one last question, which is kind of around the core of education, because we’ve talked about like the things you do around education, but WP buffs does some educational work as well.

And like, we, you know, we do do tutorials and we write a lot of good content to help people. And like the primary goal of that is to help as many people with WordPress as possible. But there’s also the secondary goal of like, it is content marketing. And we do want to like, at some point, like maybe say like, Hey, we.

Do this work, would you like to like pay us money to do that thing, but even though there’s some for-profit within that educational space that we do at the core, I still want us to be the best educational company that we can. And then if the result happens to be people paying us, that’s great. But I wanted to kind of pick your brain a little bit in terms of the education you’ve done specifically, what have you found to be like really effective in, I don’t know, this is kind of a broad question or a big question, but I don’t know if you’ve had any like, moments of like, wow.

That really worked or things that you kind of make almost as like a blanket recommendation for like, if you’re getting into education, whether it’s like non-profit work or whether it’s for-profit work like. What is going to give you the most impact what’s going to have you as effective as you, as humanly possible within that, you know, delivery of that education.


Courtney Robertson: [00:42:13] You are a former teacher and you’re familiar with learning styles. You’re also familiar with teaching a whole classroom full of. Students. And so the best way that I have learned things is partially by breaking them and partially by having other people break them and ask me questions of how to fix it.

And so when I am teaching. In my class, you know, today I was having a good conversation on like CSS grid, flex float. When do I use which thing and how do I know I’m doing the best method, blah, blah, blah. It was a great question. She was spot on with her question, but it causes me to think and go back through the resources.

And so I’ve spent the last, you know, jumping back into teaching WordPress. I had some catching up to do that was. Areas that were not specific to what I needed to do while I was with the events calendar. And again, I learned so much about industry and agency life and what their needs are. In that experience, but I wouldn’t have considered myself a developer ever in that role.

And so I needed to Polish up on some of what’s coming, developing blocks and all of that. And what I have found if I’m doing it really fast, what helps me is watching lots of videos and also reading helpful tutorials and articles, getting to the point where I prefer sometimes to redox, I will. Look at the same topic in multiple learning formats and also for multiple instructors.

So if I am watching videos, I will watch the same. Thing delivered in several ways. And then also let my students know that I’m human too. And sometimes it might take me a few minutes to get the answer. If it’s about how to navigate to some part of the basic WordPress install, I’ve got that down really well really well by now.

But if it’s like this thing broke and I don’t know how to fix it, and it’s in the code, it takes me a while to catch up with what all code they’ve written to get to this one point. If I’m looking back through things, navigating back to where the source of the problem might be. If I see that here’s the error, but where did that come from?

And what did we forget at some point, or what’s wrong with our method? It takes a little bit to get to that point. Giving people, the idea that it’s safe and okay to make mistakes. And then also discussing and talking about that process of what we learned, what surprised us, what were the mistakes that we made?

What do we gain from that experience? I’ve made a bit of a scene telling people that some of my biggest mistakes, I had a client’s website, a well-known best-selling author. That his WordPress website was powered by Kubrick that somebody just hand coded all the smell inside of. And I went to hit update back when Kubrick was still Coker brick, and they had an update apparently available.

And so everything broke. And this was back before we had it. Staging and the backups were not readily accessible. And I had to get on the phone with their very inexpensive host. That was a challenge. I’ll just say getting all of that recovery. So I let people know here’s some of my most glorious mistakes and break down like, okay, we’re going to set up a safe space and it’s okay to make the mistakes.

And we’re going to talk about that process together. And we learned through that engagement. That’s where a lot will come in and that learning doesn’t have to be limited to the extroverts that want to talk.

Joe Howard: [00:45:28] I couldn’t agree more when I hear stories about people who are for the first time have like, made a big mistake like that, or like really broken, like a kind of important site they were working on.

I feel like they’re thinking like what a doofus I am like, I can’t believe I did this. And all I can think is like, welcome to the club. Like you made it now you’ve done it. So like, everyone goes through that, you know? So no worries. I couldn’t have said it better myself. So let’s, uh, finish on that. Note and last but not least, I do want to have you tell folks where they can find the stuff you’re doing online, you online, social media, all that.

Courtney Robertson: [00:45:59] Yeah. That’s awesome. So the learn website learned that were pressed that org code differently is coded differently.com. My website is still under my maiden name. The story there. And my social media accounts are under my maiden name. I go by Courtney Robertson, but online, you can find me as Courtney angle, E N G L e.com.

My Twitter is the same or LinkedIn, wherever you would like to connect. I’m happy to do so. The person that owns Courtney robertson.com is not me. And that domain now costs thousands of dollars. So it’s not in my price range at this time.

Joe Howard: [00:46:30] Targeted being totally trolled. Oh, you want this domain? Oh yeah.

Courtney Robertson: [00:46:33] She was on the bachelor.

That’s not my lifestyle.

Joe Howard: [00:46:37] Yeah, that’s my wife’s lifestyle, but it’s not mine. So I’m with you on that last but not, I said last two minutes ago, but super last but not least. I always ask our guests to ask our listeners for a little Apple podcast review. So if you wouldn’t mind asking listeners for a little review, I’d appreciate it.

Courtney Robertson: [00:46:52] Hey, if you liked this podcast, please leave a review on Apple’s podcast platform or wherever you happen to be listening.

Joe Howard: [00:46:58] Yeah. Stitcher, whatever, whatever platform you’re on a little review helps us. You can go to WP mrr.com forward slash iTunes takes you right to Apple podcasts, and you can leave a review there.

You can leave a comment that helps us to know. Hey, Courtney, someone learned something from this episode. So that’ll help us to do more episodes. Exactly like this one or similar topics to this episode, we’re all reviews are very much appreciated. If you’re a new listener to the show, we’ve got a hundred and like 40 or so episodes of the show.

So if you have questions about a certain topic, you can. Do a search on WP mrr.com/podcasts. There’s a ton hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of content, how we have on the podcast. So feel free to search to your delight and go ahead and binge some older episodes of the podcast. Or you can email us yo@wpmrr.com.

You’d like to do Q and a episodes around here every once in a while, and happy to get any direct questions answered there as well. So feel free to shoot us an email too. All right. That is it. For this week. We’ll be in your podcast players again. Tuesday, Courtney. Thanks again for being on. Thank

Courtney Robertson: [00:48:06] you so much for having me.

It’s great to be here.

Joe Howard: [00:48:08] Yeah. All right. See you everyone. Bye .

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