Estela Rueda – WProfessional of the Month

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Welcome back to our interview section! This month, by recommendation of Tammie Lister, we’ve had the pleasure of talking to Estela Rueda, @estelarueda. Estela has been able to adapt to the circumstances and has come a long way thanks to her tenacity, her desire to always learn new things and without fear of new challenges. Don’t miss her whole story and how she became involved in the WordPress Community. Please, welcome Estela Rueda!

Thanks for the interview, Estela. It is a pleasure to have you here! For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and your career.

My career did not start in tech. Right after college (graduated from the Universidad de las Americas in San Jose, Costa Rica) I worked in the nonprofit sector for a short time before moving into social policy while living in Mexico.

After getting married, I moved to The Netherlands and that’s where my involvement with tech began. I worked with the team that built the fibre optic cable network throughout Europe until we connected it to the USA. It was amazing to see fast internet happening.

Moving back to the USA opened new doors for me. As I settled in the Washington, DC area, I joined a group called DC Web Women, founded back in the 90s to support women who were entering the tech/digital arena. We used to have a list-serve that still functions, the knowledge I obtained from that group equals a college degree. I learned how to build my first website with HTML by asking questions—that was 2004 and I started my first online business as a virtual assistant. While volunteering with DCWW, I helped organize many events, from workshops to job fairs. All of our workshops were hands-on only and the workshops culminated on a yearly conference, the Code(Her) Conference. It ran for 3 years until I moved back to Europe.

My business evolved from virtual assistant to building websites, first in HTML/CSS and later with WordPress. My niche was always small businesses—the DC area is full of small businesses.

Could you also tell us how you first head about WordPress and your first experience on a WordCamp? Did you ever have difficulty in feeling part of this community?

I started with WordPress about 12 or 13 years ago. I used to buy some computer magazines with pretty good tutorials and lots of interviews with Matt. Back then, I was living in the US (Washington DC) and it was very hard to break into the tech community as it was primarily male and they were a very unpleasant group. The WordPress community only existed in Baltimore and as a single mom with a young child, I could never attend the meetups and I never felt “good enough” to attend a WordCamp. I really thought WordCamps were for very experienced developers only. 

The first WordCamp I ever attended was when I moved back to The Netherlands in 2017 (WordCamp Utrecht 2017) and it was the best experience I had. The Dutch community welcomed me with open arms and they have always been very supportive. Because of their support, I decided to venture to WCEU in Belgrade all by myself, knowing very few people. It was odd (I am a bit of an introvert) but I managed to get to know more people in the Dutch community and also made friends with Anna Cirujano, who introduced me to the Spanish community. I was hooked and opted for volunteering at WC Nijmegen 2018, Rotterdam 2018 and Utrecht 2018. 

Your story of contributing to the WordPress project has been a little bit different than others. As you mentioned, you started participating in the WordPress community three years ago but found your preferred roles last year. Could you please tell us more about your story and what your current roles are in the community?

My introduction to the global WordPress community was in Belgrade, I joined the Slack group and contributed here and there. During contributor day in WCEU Berlin, I realized that I don’t like contributing to small things and that I wanted to participate in a specific project. There I was introduced to the Docs team and HelpHub, a project that is still going. During the time we were organizing WCEU 2020, Tammie asked me if I was interested in becoming a design team rep, she nominated me and the team accepted me. It has been a challenge in every way. I am learning tons about WordPress, the community and the design team. I also have to say, we have the most amazing team, everyone has been very supportive of my role as “solo” team rep while Tammie went on sabbatical.  

This year, you have been an organizer of both WCEU 2020 and WordCamp Netherlands (WCNL) 2020, which sadly could not be as expected. What has it been like to be involved in these two teams?

Contributing to both teams is very different. One has to be able to be open and flexible. Working on design with people from different countries and diverse cultures is sometimes difficult, but also a lot of fun. And the language is always a challenge. With the WCEU team, we always communicate in English but with the WCNL team, communication is mainly in Dutch—that keeps me on my toes cause it forces me to make an effort and improve my language skills.  

Estela Rueda at WordCamp Vienna 2020 by Credit Jan Markuse
Estela Rueda at WordCamp Vienna 2020 by Credit Jan Markuse

In connection to your contribution to the Docs Team, you gave a working session at the WordCamp Vienna 2020. The session was about improving the documentation search (HelpHub) for WordPress.org. Could you, please, summarize the main issues and challenges that can help users find the information they are looking for?

Basically the problem is lack of organization. The old Codex is being moved to HelpHub and we are taking this opportunity to revamp all the documentation, including updating the content of the articles, adding new articles for new features, and redesigning the look of the pages. 

The Codex was built 17 years ago and I am sure nobody predicted it would grow so much. The goal of the redesign is to improve what we already have and leave it at a point where it can grow gradually. There is a lot of valid knowledge, we only need to rearrange it in a way that makes sense nowadays.

It was during the redesign that we discovered that navigation is not clear. Tags and categories are used the same way and this practice is affecting the navigation. There are close to 200 articles and plans to add more to cover for new features in the next releases. 

The problems that the user encounters are in the navigation and the search of articles. The SEO in the documentation site is nonexistent and the navigation is quirky at best, some titles are not descriptive enough and the end-user of documentation is not defined. I wrote a post on this that can clarify more about the problems and the plans we have for resolving the navigation, adding a new classification and improving the searchability of documentation.

On the same note, our project on improving articles discovery has been chosen in the Google Season of Docs challenge, so I will be mentoring a technical writer until the end of the year.

In addition, you are also working on the Design Team with Tammie Lister who suggested we interview you. Gutenberg was a turning point for all of us! Then, you launched WordPress 5.5 and now special features are coming with WordPress 5.6. What are the most important features that come with this and the future versions? 

Well, 5.5 came and went. I didn’t participate much as I was an observer of the release process and everything that is involved. I was also invited to design the About page for 5.5.

5.5 was an exercise for me as I am actually part of the all-female-release-squad for 5.6, as a member of the design team, of course. Not sure if it is the most important feature, but I am most excited about the beta for Full Site Editing. It will be a public beta and I am looking forward to the comments and learning if there are opportunities to improve it before launching the final version.

And do you think that we should expect more radical changes in the near future? What are the most crucial challenges for future versions? 

In the design aspect of WordPress, we are planning on improvements in the block editor and the block directory, as well as finalizing the Full Site Editing feature.

With your experience on different WordPress teams. How would you encourage someone to start collaborating with WordPress? What would you recommend to get started? What are the most important challenges to getting involved?

In my opinion, it is best to attend the meetings of any team you would like to be involved in. It is a good idea to attend meetings of different teams until you find what picks your interest. Reading the team’s handbook is the best way to get acquainted with the team’s processes.

Attending meetups and contributor day at WordCamps is also a great way to get involved, so keep an eye for those once we are able to meet in person again.

Trying to follow and adapt to a team’s routine is always a challenge. If a new contributor attends a Slack channel for the first time, announce yourself so the team reps are aware and can guide you during the meeting. And always ask questions, we love to chat.

The year 2020 is becoming a very difficult year and all of us are not exempt from this complexity. What are the most important difficulties and challenges you’re facing right now? 

Right now my biggest challenge has been losing most of my clients due to the pandemic. I love working with small businesses and it has been disheartening having to take websites down from clients that had to close their doors.

I’m sorry about that but we can’t end the interview that way, so now it’s time for our most-acclaimed question: sharing an epic fail of your past 😉 So please confess: where and how did you screw up?

This happened during my first job right after graduating from university, I helped organize the founding conference for a non-profit global organization for peace and conflict resolution. I was living in Mexico back then. The inauguration included the President of Mexico and Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan human rights activist who had just received the Nobel Peace Prize a few weeks before. And there were few VIPs we needed to accommodate.

During the planning, I was asked who would my boss be happy to accompany, the President of Mexico or MS. Menchu. Of course, the young me, who thought that a human rights activist was more important than a man who had been President for two days, decided that my boss would accompany Ms. Menchu. All of this was done only for the press. Sorry to say, my boss was so mad at me. I learnt that politics were not my game.  

Well, history has shown us that probably you made the right decision… 😅 And finally, I don’t want to take you more time, who else should we interview? Tell us what 3 WProfessionals you’d like to see in the next interviews and why.

Abha Thakor. Abha is the marketing team rep, one of her goals is to improve collaboration among teams in the WP community. She is also writing FAQs that will live in the documentation area. The FAQs are development documents written for the end-user in an easy-to-understand language

Sergey Biryukov is the developer that committed over 600 tickets for 5.5 release. He is very quiet but everyone knows Sergey. He also runs the WP Russian community.

Milana Cap, docs team rep. Milana is the star of the docs team. She is trying to make rules that will allow the documentation to grow in a positive way, like the External Linking Policy, which is being discussed because when documentation was a part of Codex, external linking was very abused.

Thank you very much for your time, Estela, and many encouragements at these difficult times. It has really been a pleasure to have this interview with you, and I hope that our readers enjoy it too. See you next month!

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