Alice Orrù, by Matthieu Bousendorfer

Welcome once again to the interview section in our blog! It’s been already a month since we interviewed our friend and colleague JuanKa, which means it’s time to share a new interview with you. This time, we’ve had the chance to talk with Alice Orrù, and Italian girl that currently lives (and obviously loves) Barcelona. She moved here a few years ago, looking for new challenges. A couple of years ago she started to work at WP Media as a support agent. If you want to know all the professional opportunities WordPress has to offer, specially if you’re not a techie person, don’t miss Alice’s story!

Thanks for the interview, Alice. I’m very happy to have you here. For those readers who don’t know you, please introduce yourself and describe your relationship with WordPress.

Thank you for inviting me!

I’m Italian, but Barcelona adopted me. I moved to Barcelona in 2012, after I started my professional career in online marketing and communication in Milan. I was pretty tired of my life in Italy, so I decided to change my life completely–I left everything behind and I moved to the other side of the Mediterranean.

I have a Master’s Degree in Economy, but languages have always been my real passion. Since I spoke four languages, I could easily find a job in a fertility clinic as a multi-language support agent. Meanwhile, I continued to cultivate and write in my personal WordPress blog.

My relationship with WordPress started as a hobby–I never regarded it from a professional or technical perspective. In 2015, as I was looking for new opportunities, I found an offer at WP Media–they were looking for a polyglot to support their plugin–WP Rocket. That’s how I started my career as a remote agent at WP Media and regained my interest in content writing and editing. WordPress has changed my life in many positive ways ?

You’re a great WordPress contributor and a pretty active member in the community. We’ve seen you speaking at many WordCamps. From the top of my head, I remember your talks at WordCamp Europe 2017 or Barcelona 2016. How did you find out about the WordPress community? What would you tell someone new to WordPress to get them involved?

When I started working at WP Media in 2015, I had no idea there was a WordPress community. Then I went with my teammates to my first WordCamp in Paris 2016, and from there a new world opened up for me. I could see with my eyes what the WordPress community was capable of organizing.

Talking to my partner Caspar about the work of the Polyglots, he suggested that I checked with the Italian community to see if I wanted to start contributing to the translations of themes and plugins. And so I did. I met the Italian WordPress community in person at WordCamp Milan 2016, taking part in the Polyglots table during the Contributor Day. There I met Laura Sacco, who introduced me enthusiastically to the work of the Polyglots. I am now one of the Global PTE (Project Translator Editor)–I translate and supervise the work of the new contributors of the Italian Polyglots team.

The idea of participating as a speaker in a WordCamp came to me last year when I saw the call for speakers by WC Barcelona 2016. My entry into the WordPress world was not “standard”–as I mentioned earlier, I started working in this field thanks to my passion for languages, but I didn’t have deep technical skills. I’ve never worked in IT before, which has been a challenge… I found the idea of telling my story and sharing the message that working at WordPress doesn’t necessarily mean knowing code and focusing exclusively on developing websites useful.

To those who would like to participate in the community, remember we can all make our small contribution. For example, something as simple as knowing that the theme you’re using in your blog was translated by you and that this translation, a product of your work, can potentially reach thousands of other websites… isn’t that super exciting? Moreover, participating in the community is a gateway to the world! You can make new friends, encourage yourself to travel to follow WordCamps, dare to speak out in public because you have something to share during a Meetup in your city… there’s plenty of reasons for participating in the WordPress community!

At WordCamp Europe you covered an extremely interesting topic: user support. That’s something we’ve also discussed in our blog a few times. As you just told us, you’re now working as a support agent for WP Rocket. What do you think about this topic? How does a typical day in your workplace look like?

Well, I think a good product, to define itself as such, must also have good support behind it. This is true in any market sector: accompanying the customer in the pre and post sales phases is very important, and this requires your taking this role seriously. It’s also very important to have good communication skills.

For me, a day of support with Rocket WP users is first and foremost a continuous switch between languages (English, Italian, Spanish, and French). Each language corresponds to a different tone, a different way of speaking: more informal in Spanish, a bit more formal in French… It might seem confusing, but I love it ?

Then there’s the technical part, which at first I found very difficult and tiring. Fortunately, working in support gives me the possibility to train myself constantly and learn something new about the product I support and about WordPress. In fact, an important part of my days is devoted to reading, studying, and taking more confidence in the code. Oh! And I also to take care of the documentation of WP Rocket in Italian and Spanish ?

The good news is that there is no one day like the other; customers’ questions are so varied that there is always something new to learn.

Truth is, you have a very interesting profile. You currently work on the WP Rocket support team and as a freelance editor, but your professional experience is varied and includes other areas such as SEO or community manager. What lessons have you learned over the years? From the different roles you’ve played, which one did you like best?

Indeed! I have a very varied profile (according to some recruiters, too much!). Honestly? I get bored quickly when a job gets monotonous and it doesn’t teach me anything new. That’s why I’ve changed so much during my first 10 years of professional life ?

Nonetheless, all the roles I played allowed me to either forge new skills or feel more confident in my strengths. Working as a community manager, even if it was in a very local context, helped me to be better at talking in public and to go deeper into the techniques for communicating effectively.

For the same reason I am also very passionate about SEO—I have only a small amount of professional experience in the field, but I love to continue studying it as I apply what I learn in my personal blog and freelance projects as a web editor.

Support’s also very interesting—it gives me the possibility to do small studies on people, their websites, and their way of communicating.

Basically all the jobs that allow me to communicate with people make me happy ?

As a content editor, have you had a chance to try out Gutenberg? What do you think about it?

Yup, I tried it on a test site. I like its visual approach—it’s less “noisy” than the classic editor and it allows you to focus more on writing. But I don’t know how to assess the large number of options for customizing content blocks…

On the one hand, I like the possibility of having so many options within reach, without having to install plugins or intervene in the CSS. On the other hand, it reminds me of Visual Composer and that can be problematic. The support experience teaches me that users, especially the less experienced ones, can get pretty carried away when they have so many options at their fingertips, and they might end up forgetting the importance of creating accessible web pages.

We’ve all made mistakes at some point. But the important thing is to learn from mistakes and try not to repeat them, right? So, come on, tell us about some epic fail you’ve lived through.

I’ve been wrong several times, no doubt! Now, the epic fails that come to mind are the most recent ones related to the multi-language support I do with WP Rocket.

Being able to work in several languages for me is the realization of a dream. But that comes with a price: sometimes using a language that is not your mother tongue can lead to misunderstandings. I’m talking about the typical “lost in translation” moments, which are especially noticeable under stress when dealing with difficult clients.

I remember a French customer who had a problem with his website. After writing me a message in a very aggressive tone, I answered that I could naturally help him as long as he expressed himself in a more polite way. He was very angry! I learned that asking a French person to be “more polite” had a much stronger connotation than doing so with a, for instance, Italian customer. There you have an example of the importance of considering the culture of the people you’re talking to.

The other mistakes I remember are those that roll around the golden rule “breathe before you answer”. I consider a fail all the times I’ve hotly answered a customer; these are the cases in which I’m most likely to be wrong. Now I’ve learned that if an answer to a problem client involves some mental fatigue or negative feelings, it’s better to breathe and possibly take a break before doing anything else.

Another topic I like to discuss with our guests is the professional opportunities in WordPress. It’s said there’s plenty of opportunities… but the focus seems to be on developers, implementers, designers, and so on. What about other professionals? Is WordPress a good market for them too? Where can we bring more value?

I’m one of those people who advocates developing a professional career within WordPress. You might need some imagination… but I’m sure there are many opportunities for the “alternative” profiles you mention.

WordPress can indeed accommodate very different talents. In my case, my knowledge of languages has been fundamental. I see there are many offers in multi-language support, for example, where you don’t always have to have a technical background as a developer.

I also see more and more space in the web content editing area. In Bilbao, for example, I attended the talk by Kat Christofer, WooCommerce documentation editor, and I thought it was a great example of how writing skills can be recognized in the WordPress world.

I love the idea of more people with humanities and social science skills coming to WordPress. Working in the web doesn’t just mean making beautiful, high-performance websites—it also means being able to communicate effectively and empathetically with your audience.

And finally, who else should we interview? Tell us which 3 WProfessionals you would like to see in the next interviews and why.

Thabo Botswana, WordCamp Harare organizer, who I met at WordCamp Europe 2017 with his talk about the WP community in Zimbabwe.

Carole Olinger, because her story on how she evolved within the WordPress community is a great example for us all.

Lucy Beer, one of my colleagues at WP Media with an outstanding talent for coaching. Her blog has been one of my reference points when I started working with WordPress.

Thank you very much, Alice, for participating. I really enjoyed taking a look at WordPress from a completely different perspective. See you all next month!

Featured Image by Matthieu Bousendorfer.

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