Welcome back to the interview section in our blog! Last time we talked to Pedro Fonseca, one of the local organizers of the upcoming WordCamp Europe 2020. As I told you last week, this year I’d like to interview 12 women from the WordPress ecosystem and that’s what we’ll do today. Let’s meet a person we wanted to have in WordCamp Europe 2019 but couldn’t be there. Someone whose story is very inspiring. Please welcome Mary Mojisola Job!
Thanks for the interview, Mary. 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.
My relationship with WordPress officially began in 2015. My first encounter was in 2012 and I totally ran away because I thought WP was complicated. It’s safe to say I have not looked back since 2015.
I see WordPress as a diverse tool for empowerment. There are about 20 different ways off the top of my head that a person can use WordPress to empower themselves. I believe this is also why I have fallen head over heels with WordPress. I keep saying this, WordPress saved me from roaming the internet—I can’t be thankful enough for that.
You’re the founder of HowDoYou.Tech, a platform that curates answers to problems and challenges in tech for Nigerians and Kenyans. If I’m honest, I would have never thought about such a project, but I love it! I think it embraces the ideas of WordPress and aims to build a community in which people can help each other. Could you please share with our readers a little bit more about this initiative?
Hmmm. Yes, I prefer to call myself a Product Manager though, instead of a Founder. I have this idea that Tech is not restricted to only a certain group of people (aka developers as most people assume), tech is for everyone, maybe not inevitable (that’s also arguable).
Tech has become a part of us, like a culture. How Do You Tech was created with that idea in mind, and more importantly helping us grow a culture of knowledge sharing through our free community forum, encouraging documenting of knowledge through our blogs, and offering answers using a subscription model through our membership site. Because let’s face it, not everyone can retrieve useful and functional answers from search engines as fast as they would want to.
Think of us as a human personal search engine, doing what we do best: empowering, supporting, and equipping Africans with digital literacy skills, through the use of information and communication technology tools to build strong knowledge sharing communities and problem solving initiatives with technologies for the purpose of making meaningful contributions to the human and economic growth of the African continent.
You also created a village hub for females curious about tech: uwani.org. Your programmes have reached about 2,000 girls already and teach valuable skills (including WordPress, of course). In America and Europe we’re also very interested in removing the barriers to women and girl’s advancement in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. What’s your experience in this area? What lessons can you teach us about it?
Having had the opportunity to connect with a lot of girls and women, I must say that to get females to embrace technology, you have to be very deliberate about your approach. And males have to be allies. That is, males should make it a habit to speak out for females when other males misbehave, not dismissing their behavior as a joke or downplaying whatever just happened. You can call this, simply, calling a spade a spade.
Stereotypes will make most females typically be quiet and prefer to observe their environment until they are 1,000% sure they are welcome, they are safe, and someone is willing to speak out with them if they are wronged.
The third is saying instead of males feeling left behind or abandoned in this world quest for empowering females, they have to put whatever ego that is stopping them from being a part and supporter of the movement and join the bandwagon. Because the way I see it in years to come, if they do not support the movement, they would find themselves becoming the marginalized population in the future. Instead of having a gender balance, the scale would be women 90 men 10 and that would not be good for men or women.
Your story is somehow related to WordPress. How did WordPress, a “simple” blogging platform, help you to achieve your goals? How did it empower you?
So I rediscovered WordPress at a time when I saw other people making a living as Infopreneurs on Facebook. I had only recently before that stopped roaming the internet.
I went from writing on hubpages to blogger to WordPress. I just wanted a platform to write, to find my voice. I found my voice with WordPress, I found a welcoming community first on WordPress.com and then .org. And of course I never looked back.
I went from blogging to knowing what programming language was due to my curious nature.
I went from building websites for $50 to $1,000.
Not only did my WordPress business empower me financially—it set me on the path I am today, one where I am referred to as a Techie, a professional at that. And more importantly, one where I am a digital nomad and friends to amazing humans in the WordPress community. Being a nomad was a goal of mine as a kid, I wanted to experience different cultures, but of course without the digital part, traveling the world, and volunteering my time and skills where needed. I had no idea I would become a digital nomad.
In 2019 I was part of the organizing team of WordCamp Europe. In particular, I was in the Content Team. I know you were one of the selected speakers and would have loved to attend to your talk. Unfortunately, you couldn’t make it because you weren’t granted a VISA. It was a real shame and I’m really sorry you weren’t able to share your story. In your opinion, is there anything we can do to improve this situation? Should we open the stage to “remote speakers” so that, if one can’t attend, they can share their talk via videochat or something? I feel like, if we don’t, we might be missing some great content like yours…
Yes, that was unfortunate. Fortunately I always see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I would say WordCamps and WordPress need to be a force to be reckoned with at governmental level. I am quite aware that WordCamps are informal events, but with a difference judging from the number of humans whose lives are impacted upon positively by these events.
But yes, virtual dial-ins should be explored… However nothing beats being physically present and able to bond over coffee with previously virtual friends.
You’ve spoken in many different events. As a WordCamp organizer, sometimes I find it difficult to encourage people to get up on stage and share their knowledge. How would you encourage them to do so? How can we help them overcome their fear? What is it that makes you so happy about speaking?
Getting on stage to speak was not planned. I simply found myself at the point where I had to get up on stage, first with Lagos meetup events. Our number had grown from three (3) people at the first physical meetup I organized to seventy (70) at the third event.
Someone had to get in front of the attendees to make them feel welcomed and get each person to introduce themselves. I realized someone also had to come up with topics to discuss / present, and someone had to be the presenter.
WordPress was a big blessing to me at that point and I just wanted to connect with anyone who did WordPress in one way or the other. More importantly, I desired to share the view of WordPress I had with others, hoping it could empower them as it has empowered me. My desire to share outweighed my fear—I just found a community who were into something I held dear, I was not about to let them go by not speaking up.
To answer your question, I have learnt that everyone has something to share—don’t think about it, don’t plan it, just get up on stage and speak. When you do, you will most likely suck but it’s okay. I can however guarantee you that every time you get up on that stage after that, you would suck less and less.
However, there is a catch. Be prepared! And by that I mean, read widely on the subject you are speaking on, you will not have all the answers, but you will be confident because you have prepared to deliver!
What makes me happy about speaking is knowing someone is in the crowd who will be impacted by my story or knowledge.
This year we’ll have WordCamp Asia for the first time. I’m really excited about it and I’m looking forward to it. What about WordCamp Africa? Do you see it happening any time soon?
I definitely see a WordCamp Africa. Just a little while ago, there were only a handful of WordCamps on our continent. Today, there are quite a number. In Nigeria alone, when I joined the community, we barely had three (3) meetup groups—today we have about 20 meetup groups as at the last time I checked. So yes of course, might not be so rapid as other countries grew but I definitely see a WordCamp Africa in the picture soon.
And finally, who else should we interview? Tell us what 3 WProfessionals you’d like to see in the next interviews and why.
Tunbosun Ayinla. My co-organizer for the Lagos WordPress community, highly supportive and could not have done all I do without him. But also very quiet, so folks do not think he is there or doing much, but every step I take for the community, we take together.
Sodiq Akinjobi. At first I kept asking myself if he could take on the role of managing the community without breaking down, but he kept reassuring me that he could do it and I should assign him tasks, I told him it is a lot of work and he said he could handle it. They say, to be a good leader, one has to learn to delegate. I am happy to write that I have not attended any meetup this year in the Lagos Community as I told him I would not but he has been a committed community organizer and he is super selfless despite school work.
Last would be Elias Durosinmi. Also selfless and committed, he’s been a good organizer for the Lagos WordPress community. He loves to see people grow, learn, and connect. A WordPress developer that is super sincere and always ready to give back. Just like Sodiq, he has been awesome and supportive of our growing community.
If I am permitted to mention one more, it would be Seun Taylor. Now in Ireland, every community member misses him due to his dedication, commitment and giving back nature when he was here with us.
I hope to be able to list females next time.
Thanks Mary for sharing your experience with our readers. See you guys next month!