Beth Soderberg stopped by ManageWP to host an AMA this week. Soderberg is an independent developer and digital communication strategist living in D.C. She helps organize the DC WordPress Meetup, and co-organized DCFemTech Hack For Good, w at giving women in tech resources and closing the gender gap.
Soderberg’s main goal with her work is to empower people in tech and tries to make sure everything she does works toward that goal. People asked about the process of writing a book, gender equality, and how to make WordPress more accessible.
Here are five takeaways.
Soderberg Is Determined To Write A Book.
Last November, Soderberg wrote a blog post called This November I Will Write A Book, where she promised to write a book in a month. Though it was not completed, she has started.
“The book is basically going to be the book I wish had existed when I first started to be interested in web development (I had zero technical background),” she said. “There were a lot of resources out there that claimed to be for beginners, but I I never found anything that quite filled the gaps I had.”
Though Soderberg once worked professionally as a writer and editor, the process is proving more extensive than she had a.
“I have struggled a bit in writing it because I have too many things I want to say. I have a pretty extensive outline and have been working with a few folks who are at the early stages of learning to code who have been generous in continuing to provide valuable feedback on the ideas I’m putting together,” she said. “Once I’m done this research/organizational piece, I think the actual writing part will come together easily.”
Companies Should Pursue A Diverse Candidate Pool.
Soderberg is extremely passionate about finding equity in the workplace, especially among web developers and designers.
“I think equity in regards to technical positions is something that needs to be framed within the larger context of workplace issues including equal pay for equal work access to paid family medical leave, including maternity/paternity leave; and flexible work schedules for all workers as appropriate,” she said.
Just because one company is working hard to maintain equity and search out diverse candidates, doesn’t mean everyone else is. It’s important to make sure that everyone on the team is feeling heard and represented.
“Everyone comes to their roles on these teams with relative degrees of privilege or lack thereof and it is important for everyone on a team to recognize that each person is coming from a unique standpoint,” Soderberg said. “Culture of teams matters and it’s everyone’s job to make sure their teams are friendly places for everyone else.”
Stick With One Method Of Building A Site.
Making WordPress seem easy and accessible for clients can be challenging. Soderberg suggests to choose the way you’re going to build a site and stick with it. For the most part, she stays away from short codes and drag and drop models in WordPress. Instead, Soderberg’s typical approach uses custom post types, custom fields, Dashboard modification, and training and documentation. Always working to make learning the CMS as accessible as possible.
“At the end of the day, some clients are never going to be comfortable doing everything themselves and that is OK,” Soderberg said. “In that case, I view my role as an ongoing support person. Never should they ever feel incompetent because of their website.”
Finding Time For Donated Work Isn’t Always Easy.
On top of her full-time work, Soderberg also does a lot of volunteer work, and managing that can be difficult. Luckily she has a few tips for balancing everything life has to offer. Track anything you do for free so you can make sure one part of your life isn’t getting out of hand. Find someone you can check in with a few times a week who will keep you accountable to your goals.
The most important tip is to focus your attention on things you love.
“I don’t do things if I don’t love doing them. I 100 percent love the community projects I work on and the people that are involved in them and I won’t work with clients I don’t like. I’ve been fortunate to be able to build my life around projects (paid and unpaid) that I think are meaningful,” Soderberg said.
The Government Is Still In Love With Drupal.
Living in D.C. puts Soderberg around the government and she did admit she has worked with certain government agencies she can’t name. However, it seems most agencies are still more interested in Drupal than WordPress. Hopefully, that will change in the future.
“From an agency perspective it still seems much easier to sell a Drupal project to a government agency than it is to sell a WordPress one,” Soderberg said. I think a lot of this has to do with a lack of examples of WordPress being used in the government context, though right now there are some major projects happening in one unnamed branch of the U.S. government that are all based in WordPress. I think that the completion of this set of projects will start to open the door for other agencies to explore WordPress more seriously as an option.”
Check back every other Wednesday for another AMA with a WordPress influencer!