Jenny Beaumont—WProfessional of the Month

Published in Community.

Hello and welcome to our monthly interview section. Last month we talked to Mary Job, a technology enthusiast and WordPress lover. This time we move back to Europe and talk to a wonderful person of our community whom I had the pleasure of meeting at WordCamp Paris 2017. Please welcome Jenny Beaumont.

Thanks for the interview, Jenny. It is a pleasure having you here! For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with WordPress.

Sure thing, thanks for having me!

I’ve been working in the web industry as a designer, developer and project manager since the late 1990’s and before the inception of WordPress. I witnessed the emergence of CMSs, and first experimented with French products like PowerBoutique and Dotclear, before starting to dabble with WordPress. Oh, I was a big fan of OSCommerce too and did a bunch of cool projects with it. It wasn’t until 2010 and the release of WordPress 3.0 (menus, yay!) that I started considering it seriously for projects.

In 2013, I discovered WordCamps (Paris, then WordCamp Europe)! From there, I became increasingly involved with the WordPress Community, first as a speaker, then as an event organizer, and most recently as a mentor.

When you started in the web world, you had a degree in Journalism and Communication and wanted to become a professional photographer. But at some point, you changed your mind and founded a web agency instead. What did you learn from that entrepreneur experience? Would you recommend others to run their own businesses too, even if only for a brief period of time?

I love photography, and I freelanced for several years both in the US and France. I worked with architects, rock bands, and did a bunch of weddings. What I quickly discovered was that working commercially took away a lot of the joy and passion that I got from it. I was better off keeping it as a hobby. Although had the opportunity to delve into the web not presented itself when it did, it’s possible that I would have stuck with photography for a while longer. Who knows! The lesson? Plan, but be ready for plans to not work out as you expect. Follow your passions, but also be open to opportunities that might not be obvious choices.

Jenny Beaumont
Jenny Beaumont

I don’t know that I would recommend running a business just for the life experience. It’s very much a personal choice and one that comes with a lot of added responsibility. I do think that, to some extent, we all need to have an entrepreneurial spirit or mindset to thrive in most industries today.

Later on, you became a freelancer and worked on a lot of different projects. Do you remember the first time you worked with WordPress? Was it a client’s project or something on your own? How did it change your workflow?

The first project I did with WordPress is still online! And looks like it hasn’t been updated since… http://www.filmactingparis.com/blog/ Yes, this was a client project, and you’ll notice that the site itself is some pretty simple HTML/PHP, with a homespun solution to manage the different language pages. But the blog I created in WordPress – it was good practice for what would come next!

Not sure if I can say that it changed my workflow much yet at that point. I was already used to CMSs – it was more a question of figuring out how WordPress, in particular, worked compared to others.

You’re an active member of the WordPress community and a former organizer of WordCamp Paris and WordCamp Europe. What are, according to you, the main benefits of being part of this community? How would you encourage someone to take a step forward and get involved too?

I had been working as a freelancer for 13 years before discovering the WordPress community, and while I had friends and colleagues who also worked in the web industry, I hadn’t yet experienced any kind of meetup or conference. I felt very much alone and with no physical space to interact with folks, learn in a group setting (outside of classes), and connect. WordCamps were a game-changer! They really changed my whole work dynamic and attitude towards work in general. I had been benefiting from open source for over a decade without really understanding its depth and breadth. WordCamps introduced me to an idea and understanding of the community that I’d never known.

Community is about sharing, learning, connecting, been seen and heard, having a common goal, finding inspiration, and even support. Getting involved—volunteering—takes that experience to a whole new level. I have always found volunteer work very rewarding, and I would encourage everyone to volunteer at least once in their lives. Prior to WordCamps, I had volunteered in soup kitchens, for disaster relief, at concerts and music festivals. There are lots of ways to get involved with WordPress and WordCamps – if speaking isn’t your jam, signing up to be a volunteer where maybe you hand out t-shirts for a day, that’s a great way to start. But if you have bolder ambitions, go for it! Connect with your local community, ask them what they need, pitch in with the time and energy you have to give and stay open to it being different than you might have imagined. That’s a good thing.

A few years ago, you talked about multilingual sites at WordCamp Paris. Since then, WordPress hasn’t changed much in this regard, missing native multilingual support. Do you think this is a limitation of the platform? Would you like to see a native solution or are you happy with the current approach (i.e. relying on plugins)?

It’s true that for a long time I was heavily invested and working regularly on multilingual sites. Though this hasn’t been my domain of focus for quite some time now (where does the time go?). But yes, I do see it as a limitation of the platform, and a tough problem to solve. I love the creative and very different ways that plugin authors have tackled it (taxonomies, relational post IDs, multisite, SaaS).

Jenny Beaumont at WordCamp Europe 2019
Jenny Beaumont at WordCamp Europe 2019. Image by WCEU.

In his 2019 State of the Word, Matt Mullenweg talked about this being on the roadmap for the next couple of years. It will be interesting to see what direction the project takes on the question!

Where do you see WordPress in 2 to 3 years? How would you like it to evolve?

My hope is that the WordPress project will continue to evolve to have more clear and transparent governance, and with that, that we can start to also be politically influential and play a part in shaping policy to ensure an open web. Maybe a bit of a pipedream, but one can hope.

Feature-wise, in addition to solving multilingual architecture, I’m really excited about the prospect of collaborative documents—the ability to have more than one person connected and working on a page at a time. This is a pretty common request from enterprise clients. Solving this would be a huge win.

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?

OMG pick one! As you may know, I dedicated a whole talk to this subject.

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

Oh dear, only 3?! 😱 There are so many interesting folks out there with great stories to tell. I’ll have to go with some of my lovely colleagues from Human Made:

  • Jenny Wong – because she is amazing and has contributed so much and on many levels to both the WP and larger dev community.
  • John Blackbourn – because besides being a long-time core committer and WordCamp speaker, he is delightful and hilarious and would make an enjoyable read (sorry John, no pressure).
  • Jen Laker – looking across the pond to our US contingent, Jen is a breath of fresh air! Probably lesser known in the wider community and with so much goodness to share.

Thanks for the interview, Jenny. It was a pleasure talking to you. See you, dear reader, next month with yet another interview!

Featured image by WCEU.

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