Pantheon Hero Spotlight: Michele Butcher-Jones, Lead WordPress Support Specialist and Founder of Can’t Speak Geek

Can you speak geek?

If you’re not sure, let me help: You’re reading a blog run by some of the geekiest WordPress and Drupal developers you’ll ever meet. You probably speak the language.

But not everyone can talk the talk. There are plenty of people who could rock programming and developing, but the language barrier makes learning intimidating.

Michele Butcher-Jones is on a mission to make tech more accessible. Her Can’t Speak Geek blog helps bring in entry-level developers, and has plenty of content for those looking to further their education. 

In addition to her geek-translation skills, Michele is Lead WordPress Support Specialist at Thrive Agency, a popular speaker at WordPress conferences, and actually likes fixing hacked websites.

For all her efforts to educate and elevate the WordPress community, we thought Michele was a great fit for the Pantheon Heroes Program

We sat down with Michele to learn about her career path, what she loves about her current job, and her upcoming WordCamp Sacramento 2019 presentation: What To Do Post-Launch: How To Care For Your Brand New WordPress Site.

Pantheon: 

When you were younger, what job did you imagine yourself having?

Michele: 

When I was four or five, I wanted to be a nurse just like my great aunt. Middle school was my astronaut phase. When I got a little older, about 10 or 12, I watched “Good Morning, Vietnam” and then I wanted to be a journalist.  

Pantheon: 

Wow, how did you go from journalism to web development?

Michele: 

Oh, I took quite a detour! I was a preschool teacher for 13 years. Then I got into WordPress and left it all behind. 

I was first introduced to WordPress when I was wanting to write a blog about some of my teacher stories, lessons, stuff like that. A friend of mine was building a plugin at the time, and he said, “Well, we can build you a site on WordPress, except I'm not going to do it for you; I'm going to teach you as we go.”

And the more I learned, the more I thought, “I could actually do this.” And then I got connected with Regina Smola, who owns WPSecurityLock, a WordPress cleaning and security measures company. I started working for her and then got into working for agencies and WordPress plugin support companies, and then landed at Thrive.

Pantheon:  

Why did you continue to focus on WordPress? 

Michele: 

It is actually the community itself. About a year or so after I got into WordPress, my best friend and I went to the WP Engine's 10th-year birthday party. That was my first meeting of a lot of WordPress people and it just kind of sucked me in. Then I went to WordCamp Chicago—that was 2014. The more I work within the community, the more I enjoy it.

Pantheon: 

What hobbies do you have outside of web development?

Michele: 

I do professional photography on the side, mostly events and concerts. I love getting the picture that tells a story. One of my favorite things to do is go to a baseball or football game and get that one picture of the bat hitting the ball or the foot touching down in the end zone.

Pantheon: 

What kind of moments would you try to capture at a WordPress event?

Michele: 

There was a great moment at WordCamp Orlando this past weekend. There was a dev panel I was on with (among others) Josh Pollock, Tessa Kriesel, and myself.  And Tessa had said something about how she likes working around people. And I leaned over to Josh and said, loud enough for Tessa to hear, “Since when does Tessa like people?” 

Josh completely lost it; I just broke him. And he's just sitting there, for five minutes just laughing hysterically. Had I not been part of that, I would have totally gotten that picture of Tessa laughing, me smiling, and Josh looking shocked.

Pantheon: 

Do you see any connections between photography and WordPress?

Michele: 

Both are very creative—making things to be proud of. And there’s an emphasis on sharing with both. I do a lot of sharing with my photos on my website and social media, the same things I do with my WordPress projects.

Pantheon: 

How did you get started with Can’t Speak Geek?

Michele: 

Well, one of my best friends is Chris Wiegman, the guy who wrote Better WP Security, now iThemes Security. He and my husband would get talking about different stuff and I'd be like, “You need to stop speaking geek. I don't understand it. Speak English.” 

Once I really got into more and more WordPress work, then I actually could understand it. I can speak it and I can translate to laypeople. We know there's a lot of people who can only speak geek and can't translate it, so I had to start putting my skills to use for people.

Pantheon: 

Does being able to translate Geek help you with clients?

Michele: 

Yes. Because some clients are pretty techy and I can get into more of the details of what's wrong. And there are the other ones who are like, “I just want to know it's fixed.”

Pantheon: 

What are you covering in your WordCamp Sacramento presentation? 

Michele: 

The basis of my presentation is what to do once the developer hands you the site and walks away. We have a lot of different clients who come to us saying, “We've got our site done and it's been six months, and I don't know what to do with it anymore.”

They're not updating; they're not making backups. They don't really know how to apply SEO to content, how to add pages or edit pages or anything like that. This is a talk for the beginning users to know what to do with a site once it’s handed to them.

Pantheon: 

What do you expect about web development to change in the next five years?

Michele: 

I think there's going to be a lot more automation to updates and workflows. And hopefully, better QA for the automated updates to happen. I feel we're going to be going more into the API's stacks—instead of just straight JavaScript and PHP— to deal with the React, Gatsby, and all the wonderful stuff coming about. I think it's just going to be a natural progression.

Pantheon: 

What do you think WebOps teams will do with the extra time if updates and regression tests are automated?

Michele: 

Coding is and always done by humans, and to be human is to err. So, we will constantly be building and fixing. The developers will still be taking the time to perfect what we have, add more features, and grow it. I think it's just going to be an ever-growing snowball.

Pantheon: 

What do you think makes for a successful WebOps team?

Michele: 

They know what they're doing. The best WebOps teams really understand quality assurance and follow their own procedures. Because there are times where—even with us—where it's like, I do this step, then I do this step, then I do this step. If you've done the step 500 times this week, there's still a big chance that you might miss something.

So, it’s important to keep those processes up-to-date and be able to see them as you go through—kind of a checklist type thing. Keeping everything documented is what makes for the best WebOps.

Pantheon:  

What's your dream web project? Are there certain types of clients or projects that you're hoping for?

Michele: 

I love to clean hacked websites. I know a lot of people don't like to deal with them but I've always been more of a fixer, than a builder. I love when clients come to me and they're like, “I can't fix this issue.”  

Pantheon:

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Michele: 

I think the ability to fly would be awesome. So then I could just strap my backpack on and just go to the next WordCamp. Either that or the ability to teleport. It would save so much money. 

Pantheon: 

That’s a common thread with our heroes! Mauricio Dinarte wanted to be a teleporter, too. So, what would be an awful superpower?

Michele: 

I would definitely not want to hear people's thoughts.

Pantheon: 

Oh yeah. Definitely a "No" on that one. All right. Michele, is there anything else you would like to share?

Michele: 

I was really excited when Pantheon came out with the Heroes program, and to jump in and be a part of it. I used to work for an agency, and they used Pantheon as their primary web host. Even after I left, when people would be like, “What's your favorite for building on?” I’d always say, “Pantheon.”

 

If you’re going to be at WordCamp Sacramento 2019, make sure you catch Michele’s session, What To Do Post-Launch: How To Care For Your Brand New WordPress Site at 4:10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. 

Do you have what it takes to be a Pantheon Hero? Or do you know someone who does? Check out our announcement post for details.

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