We continue with our interview series to professionals of the WordPress world. This time, our interviewee is someone I appreciate a lot and with whom I’ve had the pleasure of co-organizing part of the WordCamp Europe 2019. You’ll find him in WordCamps all over the world. Without further ado, please welcome José Ramón Padrón.
Hi, Mon. Thank you very much for giving us your time for this interview. It is a real pleasure to share a few minutes with one of the most known and friendly faces of the Spanish WordPress community. I believe that everyone knows you, but for those who have just arrived and are still a little confused … tell us a little more about yourself and your relationship with WordPress.
The pleasure is mine without any doubt. My name is José Ramón (Moncho), I’m from Ourense, I live in Gran Canaria and I work in Madrid for SiteGround. I have 19 years of experience in the hosting industry. My relationship with WordPress is personal and professional and has always been related to the world of hosting. I use it to publish mainly in the blog of the company. I’m also in charge of giving some talks and workshops on web optimization (WPO) at the basic level. But what connects me with WordPress the most is its community, mainly in everything related to its events.
I’m the co-organizer of the WordPress Meetup in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, with monthly meetups since October 2016. I also collaborate as co-organizer of the WordCamp Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, of which we already have two editions. And since two years ago I am an organizer in the WordCamp Europe, the largest WordPress event in the world. Actually, this year I’m the team leader of the content team, which is responsible for finding the speakers and organize all the logistics regarding speakers and talks to make the WordCamp an unforgettable event.
I also participate in many WordCamps as an assistant or speaker.
Since 2015, you’re working on SiteGround, a well-known hosting company, specially for its WordPress support. One of the things I like the most about SiteGround is the support it gives to the community, investing in many WordCamps and WordPress events. Tell us a bit about your work in SiteGround and tell us your opinion about the relationships we see between private companies and open source (alliances, symbiosis, opportunities, risks, etc).
Thanks for being our customers—I hope you are happy with the service 🙂 I’m the Country Manager in Spain. This means I’m in charge of directing the sales, operations and human resources of our presence in this country. Right now we are 24 people in Spain and practically all belong to the support department. In total in SiteGround we’re about 535 people.
The relationship of SiteGround with the WordPress community is extensive and permeates the company. Not only is it true, but it’s also a relationship that grows with the years. For giving you a figure, the company gives 50% of my time to the community. From SiteGround, as a provider of specialized WordPress hosting services, we sponsor all WordCamps in Spain, Portugal, and Latin American countries. Our employees and ambassadors (a set of eight employees related to the brand who share our same principles) also attend as speakers when we’re given the opportunity. We’re also one of the three hosting companies recommended on WordPress.org, largely because of our role in the community.
Just last year we sponsored 49 WordCamps and 176 WordPress Meetup groups in 18 different countries. We invested about 145K € in sponsorships. And these are figures that are increasing every year!
This relationship between private companies and Open Source communities is very satisfactory from our point of view. I am not only talking about our brand’s visibility—I’m talking about all the things we learn and then apply to our own products, as well as all the contacts we make. You can be a hosting provider specialized in WordPress, but if you take an active role and participate in the community, you’ll transform your own environment and incorporate the values of our community: ethics and collaboration. This symbiosis makes us more humane and closer to the client.
This exposure comes with a few risks. The vast majority understand our role in the community perfectly and thanks us for our support. But, as always, there’s some people who don’t understand that private initiatives can coexist perfectly with the interest of the community. They don’t really understand our role (nor that of other companies). But it’s something we know exists and doesn’t really bother us.
One of the reasons why so many people know you is because of your involvement with the community: you attend to so many WordCamps! In fact, right now you are the leader of one of the organizing teams of WordCamp Europe 2019 (a team in which, BTW, I’m involved). Tell us about your experience: What would you say to someone who still does not dare to participate, because they think they do not know enough or have nothing to contribute?
I’m happy I can work with you David—I hope we coincide more times. The experience is breathtaking, both from personal and professional perspectives. Collaborating in a WordPress event gives you the opportunity to interact with many people who share with you great values such as altruism and teamwork. The community allows you to collaborate with people all over the world. Working in WordCamp Europe as a team leader has allowed me to contact hundreds of people that would otherwise be very difficult for me to know.
To those who have certain doubts in participating in a WordCamp in any of its facets: do not hesitate. From the moment you get involved, your personal and professional environment changes and is filled with great friends, trustworthy people who are also working in your sector, and who are moved by a great internal desire to make a better world and achieve a free Internet through the use of WordPress. It isn’t necessary that you have technical knowledge (just look at me)—simply come to a WordPress event and you’ll see how cooperative and friendly we all are.
If you allow me a more personal question: how do you balance your private life with traveling so much? In all events you are always seen with great energy and happiness, but it should not be easy to spend so much time away from home…
I know what I want for me and my family, and I’m lucky enough to work in an excellent company that gives me a lot of flexible hours. I can work from home. Sure, it’s a difficult balance, but in the end, traveling doesn’t take that much time… well, at least for me (70-80 flights last year). And the important thing here is to distribute the schedule so that you can enjoy everything: my family, my company, the community.
It doesn’t matter how much time I spend with my family, but the quality of that time. Gran Canaria, where I live, allows me to enjoy great weekends in the beach or horse riding (my hobby, which I share with my daughter). I also love working in SiteGround and the environment of the WordPress community, so it’s not hard for me to invest time in all these areas.
Now another a little more technical because, as a SiteGround employee, I think you can give us a very informed answer. How can we choose a good hosting provider for our website? What should we look at?
There are several important aspects. In general terms, I usually explain it in this way:
a) How much time I want to devote to hosting and how much I know about the technical world. If you don’t have a techincal background, or if you do but don’t have the time, you should choose managed hosting providers so that somebody else can take care of the hardware and software infrastructure you use. Suppliers like SiteGround can be very helpful there and are valid for all types of customers who delegate the administration of their projects to a good hosting provider.
If you have time and knowledge, you must choose companies that provide a good basic infrastructure, such as Amazon, Google, OVH… But you’ll be in charge of everything: configurations, updates, security, etc.
b) Specialized provider. If you are going to use WordPress or another CMS for your project I recommend that you choose a specialized provider in that CMS. These providers like SiteGround give more value to your project, because of the technologies they use and the knowledge they have, both translating into greater speed, security, and support.
c) And last but not least, the characteristics of the hosting itself. Aspects like disk space, SSDs, email accounts… they all are a commodity at the moment. But if you’re a developer, SEO expert, or manage a design agency, details such as SSH access, product scalability, and tools integrated in the control panel such as WP-CLI, CDN, GIT, Staging, or Let’s Encrypt certificates are things you can’t ignore. If these tools are integrated in your hosting provider (even when you don’t need them), that gives you a good idea of the quality level of your hosting provider.
But above all of them is technical support: there’s nothing greater than knowing that, if you have a question or an incident, there will be someone on the other end of the phone, chat, ticket or email to help you, 24×7, ready to help you in your language, efficiently. I always recommend that before hiring anyone, you should call them and ask something, just to see how they operate—it can be eye-opening.
I’d recommend you avoid the following:
- Hosting providers with a single family of products (shared, dedicated or VPS)
- Low cost economic providers as the main selling claim.
- Hosting providers with old software versions. The version of PHP or WordPress available gives some clues about this.
- Hosting providers that do not promote the use of free software.
- WordPress hosting providers that say they are “WordPress” hosting providers 😉
The WordPress community is making many efforts to promote diversity and inclusiveness. In your opinion, what things should be improved in the community? What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong?
We are an exemplary community in this area without a doubt. There have already been several WordCamps with a 50-50 gender representation, but only those responsible for the content of the events know how difficult it is to get that ratio. In a matter of gender debate we are ahead of other communities, but it’s not only the gender debate that’s important in my opinion:
a) I think that we need to aim higher in terms of diversity and provide the means for people with hearing and visual difficulties to have more presence too. It’s something I saw in WordCamp San Jose 2017: I was giving a talk with a sign interpreter by my side and in the front rows of seats there were people with hearing difficulties. I thought it was exemplary and I think we should work more in this direction.
b) Languages. I would love to see a WordCamp Europe in which, even if the official language is English, any speaker could express in their own language. This year we received 460 talk proposals, and I think it could easily double if we gave speakers the opportunity to use their languages.
You already know that in our interviews we always ask the guest to “prove” his humanity by sharing some epic fail from the past. So, come on, what did you do to screw up?
The biggest fail in my life was giving technical support. I was writing an email template describing how to transfer
.es domains. My colleague and I were having a good time and added some stupid jokes and bad words in the template during testing. Nothing too offensive, but unprofessional anyway.
At one point, we realized that we just sent one email using this template to a client 😱. I picked up the phone immediately and called the customer, describing what happened and letting him know how sorry I was. Luckily, he was an understanding person who laughed at the error. Had it not been so, my career in the hosting world would have ended in 2001.
I still have a copy of the template.
And to finish, who would you like us to interview in the future? Tell us 3 WProfessionals that you want to be in the blog.
It’s hard to choose; you’ve already interviewed many! But just to mention some:
Fernando Puente is my first choice for many reasons, but among them are his enormous knowledge and experience in all fields.
Miriam Schwab is a person full of positive energy, with great business experience. I met her at WCEU Paris and she participates a lot in the community.
Milan Ivanovic, leader of WCEU 2019, is a great person and undisputed leader.
Thank you Mon for this interview. As always, it’s been a pleasure to chat with you. And to you, reader, see you next week with another post in the blog and next month with another interview. Stay tuned for news!
Featured image by Ramiro T. Argentona.