Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode I’m really excited for this one we’re going to talk about how women and teenagers in Africa, particularly in Nigeria are using WordPress to thrive. And joining us for that conversation from how do you attack I’d like to welcome to press this, Mary Jo, Mary Welcome to press this.
Mary Job: Hi David. Thank you for having me on this show, I’m so excited to be here.
DV: I’m so glad you’re here and I want to thank you for joining us later in the day your time there in Nigeria What city are you in?
MJ: It’s 6:30 pm here right now
DV: All right. All right, so not too bad here while we record this episode but so later in the day so thank you for that. For those listening though what Mary is going to go into today is her work around. You want to hub, and her incredible story of helping to equip and empower underrepresented population of women and teenagers living in rural and low income households in Nigeria, around computer and Internet technology and research skills but also how to build with WordPress and so I thought this was an incredible story of Mary’s and thought I’d have her on the show that to tell us all about it. Mary I’m going to start with the question though that’s a little more general, it’s the same question I asked every guest is actually also asked to view. If you have a wordpress.org profile. But I was wondering if you could tell us your WordPress origin story when was the first time you use WordPress.
MJ: Okay, Great. So the first time I use WordPress hours and turn it off it’s actually on my WordPress profile. And I remember thinking to myself, oh my god I’m just trying to write, you know I was just trying to blog there I was like this software is complicated, I think I better find something else and then I went to all pages and blogs Blogspot blogger and blogger, says, mentors, but I also discovered WordPress again and Tennessee’s into my internship in Ghana for my master’s program. And I remember my uncle telling me oh but I’ve typed the surname G what I want to test for that aspect is get on what supplements. Really, you could use what persevere is said I didn’t know that I particularly use WordPress blog, I didn’t realize you just viewed a site, so I dove right in and I was like fascinated like, wow, oh my God, why didn’t I take the time to actually learn how this works the first time I discovered it, maybe I would have been a developer or designer by then but that’s how I got into WordPress. That’s how I discovered WordPress, and I have not ever since.
DV: Oh, fantastic. What were you studying in your master’s program was it related to the web or was it unrelated.
MJ: yeah it was unrelated, it was Information Management.
DV: Okay. Yeah, that’s what you said this was 2015 when you discovered you could make websites with WordPress.
MJ: Yes it was 2015 that I discovered I could do that work for price.
DV: All right, well, yeah, for me like an I. 2010 was when custom post types and custom meta fields came out. And like I feel like in the 2007 range when like widgets and shortcodes were released like that was the timeframe when I think like WordPress was like, known for building websites but of course we all have our different journeys there’s it’s interesting to hear about yours. Now you’re currently working in a company called How do you tech and particularly with the paid memberships pro product so could you tell us a little bit about what you do there,
MJ: okay yes so I kind of worked full time at paid memberships Pro is not in conjunction with have the deck how the deck is my site was for that I started before I started working for paid memberships for paid memberships Pro is a membership plug in very popular and WordPress space is the plugin you could use to tie your site into a membership website, right, and I work as a software engineer that I’m going on three years now, and to tell you. I think this has been one of my best experiences in WordPress because of the people that I work with. I think I was very fortunate that as my first remote job, I found myself in the midst of people who were so open to sharing and lifting you up and, you know, encouraging you. So, that has actually done a lot for me and the way I think. So far.
DV: Fantastic I haven’t gotten the opportunity to get to know really anyone over there other than you, so I’m going to have to do a little. Yes, I know we have customers of course on the WP Engine platform they find success with paid memberships pro but to hear you paint a picture of the team that’s sounded really awesome I’ll have to do a little bit more digging maybe I have a connection I don’t realize, you should. Yeah definitely thank you for that, so apologize for getting the how do you tech part wrong, but maybe you could tell us a bit about how do you attack and exactly what the backstory is there.
MJ: Okay, so how do you take care and then when, like I said I just covered what person services in and an incentive system, somebody asked me to give their site and researching. It’s good to know that before this time, like my first degree has nothing to do with computer science actually like a delivery of what HTML was imperative to a certain extent, but, you know, it goes back. So, because of my fascination with computers and the Internet to actually open my first email in southern and to understand secondaries to the way you call it school. And I was always so fascinated by the web, you know, for me it was always like, how I did it for fun, but I always want to be an HR person manage people because I like managing people. And then in 2015 I genetics and I realized, I think I’m trying to chase the wrong field, maybe not really wrong but why am I trying to do this, if I’m good at getting answers on the web, right, because I get people calling me and asking me Larry How do I do this, how do I do that so what I was looking for company name to register officially I must function as a freelancer anymore but then I was already good with Union sites, designing sites, not the coding part then but designing websites I was gonna say a friend of mine said, Why are you looking for a name you already have a name. How do you tell people is asking you how do they do this and that insect so how did you touch is a good name and that’s how the name of actually life is right now how Gtech is registered in Rwanda, and registered in Delaware in the US, as well as in Nigeria,
DV: that’s fantastic and it’s kind of a precursor to some of the work you started doing with you wanting in a way through the through the nature of helping others to learn and to you know be able to use technology for their benefit. So thank you for the how do you tell the story that was interesting to hear that kind of backstory there. So you want to have though this is something you also created see Could you tell us a little bit about what you want to have is, What is your missing mission and what is you want to stand for.
MJ: Okay so this is also a very funny story so when I formed back, I, I was working in Lagos, promote Do you know, working nine to five jobs was more like nine to nine anyway. And then having to go to the office was quite a lot, I wanted to really focus on building a business online. So I had to leave the job and then I decided to move back to where I’m from, which is a juggle motion, one of imageable motion. And when I moved back here, my parents have a villager tell us Yes. Tell us about a very large compound so I thought to myself, Oh they have a room, a spare room which they used to use for the bath, that was not being used anymore so I said okay, why don’t I make this is my office space, because then I remember my mom was was one word and my dad was really like. What do you mean you want to work from work like we don’t understand that concept. Like, you can actually work from home later work from home. So I decided to turn one of the rooms in my office space. I did that and then I thought, why am I doing this instead of this, this could actually be, this could actually be a space where I give back to the community, where I’m from, this could actually be avoided. Cheaper house use computers right teach women and girls how to use a router and for me that was, that was the turning point for the name came the main one, it came from. My dad’s mom, my dad doesn’t know his mom, right I think the story is that they had a child but he was really it was maybe two or three years old so he doesn’t even really look and name, or say they call up who am I, that’s what he calls that when he over that lemon name they all bought from my grandmother that I never met, and I did take a trip to our power, actually, as you can see, it’s somewhere in the nuts, and a Fire Lord, I just took a trip there. It was actually very interesting and I opened because I guess in there. Nobody could speak English or I couldn’t speak outside I was like the local language there. So it has to get somebody on the phone to translate everything I said but all the older people were looking at me like they were still somebody that they know, you know, and I discovered some of my persons, and it was fascinating. I thought, Okay, what, what was it for me was like, Yeah, this is like a lemon named after my grandmother that I never met.
DV: So, I was gonna say that’s a really, I think interesting story so like you saw this opportunity there with this empty space. And I think this is so, you know, kind of close to how the web developer and web designer mind works, which is like, there’s some space, what can I do it that would be helpful. And you chose to help your community, which I think is very, you know, very commendable. And it sounds like the name kind of rooted, with your grandmother and, You know, was real special as well I want to deep dive deeper into this, but we’re going to take a break and we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I’m interviewing Mary Job about her work in Nigeria and Africa to help underrepresented women and teenagers with technology and other skills, life skills and career skills to help them out. Marry right before the break, you were talking about kind of your you Wani origin story, where you had this empty space and this office building, you were working in, and you decided to help, you know, basically women and teenagers from this space. You named it after your grandmother, which I thought was really sweet, part of that story. But like what happened like how did you like make that real. How did you decide to start reaching out to people and bringing them in and, and training them like, what was that next step beyond just like seeing the empty room and thinking I could do something with this.
MJ: So the first thing I did was to make plans and put it out there and tell friends and family, like, you know, if you have daughters that I in high school that I graduated from high school, burn them down, they are about to turn out to use computers to empower themselves so that when they go to universities. They know how to do research and how to get information from the web, that will help them with just school. Yeah, so that’s what I did. We have three students to begin with. Yes, we have faced them begin with animals. And then I had an order to them. So, even though the mission of ruin your was to focus on women and teenagers and girls. I felt a little bit bad at focusing on just girls. Right, so I said a woman, and teenagers, teenagers, I can undo so I thought we came to focus on women and teenagers right, but I never turn anybody away because I remember had this something I would lecture I would came. I had heard about the up from a friend, and then it came on Saturday I was going to do my student on 11th House blog for a month which is fun. Yeah. So, I’m sorry I’m trying to perfect.
DV: Yeah, it sounds like you’re just, you have the empty space, you got your three students you’re kind of, you know, wanting to help you know whoever is kind of raising their hand for the help.
MJ: Yeah. So we started with the digital skills workshops, you know, we actually had a number of people are not even from the town here tonight for classes which I tried to get some of my friends went on last year’s, like I had a friend come to photographes martial photography. And then in August of that year we decided okay so why not do a teenager’s comp, and that was actually just, I think we have like eight to them, or seven or eight of them. But, boys and girls who signed up for the snitch come and they were coming from outside right, they were coming from outside. And then the next year we had a second camp and we decided to camp everybody on the premises. What do you tell us poetry, the room. First come everybody on the premises, and well, the rest of his history had a series of events and had a woman tech Bootcamp for older women who are working, we’ve had the pleasure of summer camp, the first second and a third time this year. This year we had about 28 kids get 20 It was another work but it was, it was worth it.
DV: Why did you decide to follow this path with you wanting with that open space you found in the office door opener me found in the office building like why this, I mean again, obviously like you’re doing very good work, I’m just curious, like, what was your motivation for pursuing this versus other things you might have considered.
MJ: Yes. So, that is actually very funny to say, if you know Nigeria very well, you know Legos Legos is like the center of everything, I mean there are two other big cities, two or three but Legos, is the icing on the cake, you know, there’s nothing you want that you can get in Legos. Right. And there are so many arms and legs, like so many of them. Every corner at any time, Mark Zuckerberg came to Nigeria, you know, that’s formed also question of like herbs, if you had like digital or mechanical or the ones you call maker spaces, you know, sure that this arms were only focused on the big cities which is fine, I mean I could understand the business or implication of taking your dog to a city where it’s, you know, like new. Like, it’s not nearby like people don’t see the value in it, until you show them the value of being a part of the computer community. So for me it was the decision was okay yeah so we don’t have it up here. So that means that even through our kids are going to school because I have a daughter and when she comes home and I asked her to how some Jews. Did it teach you comfort I said, Oh, they have a computer, but they only allowed to use it like once more, they don’t even use it they just like, look at her. And I was always good like they your school is supposed to be a private school and you’re not even using computers right you’re not learning how it works. So imagine what happens in a public school, that most likely don’t have. I mean the state of the classroom, tells you that they don’t have computers so also why last before COVID The year before that we did a lot of outages, we went to different schools, to try and talk to girls, and like students in the school to try and get, you know, get their interest piqued and visit our skills and how we could help them in their educational career. So for me that was simply, there are no hubs in this village, although people from here, what have you and this is how I like to call it a village district admit that there are no hubs in this in this town, you know that for me it was like a reason why I set it up, like I wanted to do something that people were enjoying, or people weren’t doing for the community. Right, this is a collection of the urban village I call it a village of, you know, people from me I also need to be a host this technology is supposed to mean they know what happiness is from the outages within. So they really know what it means to digitally steward on how we can help empower their lives. That’s what we want to do.
DV: That’s fantastic. It sounds like you know you’re filling a need there you’re gonna make the point that a lot, Lagos, and I probably pronounced that incorrectly so sorry Mary. But there’s, there’s more access to these hubs, but where you’re from there was. And so, in your community, there was a need, but it also sounds like you had that personal connection like you’ve named it after the grandmother you never met, of course, but then you also have this connection to your daughter and, you know, again, I’m guessing, making sure that her and her friends and the others in the community have access to this type of training and computing, computers and skills and things like that. Would you say that’s fair to say Mary.
MJ: Yeah, absolutely.
DV: Okay, awesome. So I know that you were awarded some funding from the use diversity fund congratulations for that hat tip for me to the use team for running that but what did you do that funding, how did you help people, what did you do.
MJ: Okay yes so you remember I said, we started with a space with a room it’s a 12 by 12 sheet room we started with. As we grew over the years I realized that we needed a much bigger space because right now for instance we only have eight workstations in the computer, and we had funding from an organization and this past January Web Foundation. From this sponsor they asked which is we had before COVID right for seven months straight, and, and also the purchase of pre convert as what I wanted was a computer room where we had like patching workstations, and that of course would not be possible in the space that we had. So I started thinking, we need a bigger space. Our first my friends are more than willing to give us a space on the compound to actually put up a building that we would call out in the future. By January, we would open. Right, so I was eager to turn that space into, you know like a big, oh, well we have room to compress upstairs and the makeup is downstairs. So I started raising money for that. And what I really wanted was a summer camp this year to be aired in the new. Right, but we didn’t make that up and so when I applied for the US the rescue firm, and the center again, from the summer camp this year. Right, so we use the funding funds to fund the events, the summer camp that we had this year, all the kids were camped on the premises the facilitators are rotated to call them on week three. We’re also considering accommodation, everything was all sponsored paid for here. Because, yeah, I have some parents who wanted their kids to come from town like some of the kids from my daughter’s school. The parent, but I explained to them when that was not a good idea, because, I mean, with COVID I know it’s nice to have the kids come and go, and then every day I worry in the morning I pick up their house
DV: I’m glad you were able to fit those funds to get use and allow the kids there to attend the camp is sponsored. That’s fantastic. The opportunity there, and I’m glad that you were able to put those funds to good use. I do what I was gonna say I am very, very, yeah. It’s okay, it’s okay, I was just gonna say I am very curious though about like WordPress plays a role in your workshops in the way you support your community, but we’re going to take our last break and we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello everyone welcome back to Press This the WordPress community podcast I’m David Vogelpohl in the middle of our episode learning about how women and teenagers in Africa are using WordPress to thrive and joining us for that conversation is Mary Job. Mary right before the break, you were telling us a little bit about how you’re able to leverage the funds you received from the Yoast diversity fund to hold, essentially, a free camp for kids this summer. And I think that it’s fantastic that we’ve talked to generally about you Uwani and just curious, though, about the WordPress parts. How does WordPress play a role in what you do it you wanna
MJ: it was a challenge trying to focus on a specific trend and because then when we would get feedback from parents you know they say oh no I want my kids to learn robotics. I want my kids to learn programming. So, in the initial stages we were stretching ourselves a lot to and because we were trying to be able to please our friends, and then last year we decided, how about we teach what we’re actually good at digital skills, yes, we have to teach that because we know the foundation was pressed we’re good at that, if it was first published in WordPress design was first development. We are good at that. So how about we focus on that so this year we decided to focus on digital skills and WordPress is actually a digital skills WordPress and enterpreneurship right so the idea was to get the foundation, you get the WordPress skills and then you learn the enterpreneur skills be able to afford the people they’re able to market, whatever skills they have learned from us. So we decided we’re focusing on WordPress I mean I teach what personalized sleep and I have. Thankfully I have a lot of people in the community who are more than willing to comply or, as most of us citizens, as all of them come from Legos, in battle and other cities right. And that’s where most of the people who come to our workshops as they come, they come from distances. And we would think to the community we have access to those people and we’re able to build relationships with them enough for them to show up when we leave them. What first class so I don’t actually have to take the class all the time which is great, especially the development path. So, what you’re sponsoring this year has come. It was a very previously before now name CI that is easy WP also reached out and said they wanted. Also, our, our participants with free blog, I was the first year we had to come. And I remember telling them, then that it’ll be difficult for the kids to be able to maintain those blogs, when I started can because they’re just new to these are, these are new to this technology. So instead we created a class blog, which will demand, in which, for everybody that passes through our events, including the changes they publish their story on our class blog. This year, we’re alive that are the last test, and none of them already had gloves and I was happy that I did love the machine and say that those were my issues at the time, right. That’s what I meant just maintain a published post often about experience. So this year, with that let’s go deeper and system WordPress design. And that’s what we’re doing going forward. Right, we’re focusing so we have those what I call a vision 2010 2030 WordPress goes to my desire now how does that add Well, it’s really to teach, by necessity, I teach 5000 women and teenagers, WordPress, but more importantly this is a product I’m most concerned about is also at the same time encouraging those people to actively contribute back to the software, because if you look at the contribution chat for people with a bunch of books, WordPress, I should look at the chat, globally, you will see that from average and hear from our continent, and individual countries that number isn’t quite high, it’s, it’s the number is not high at all. For instance, we go to the local man languages of Nigerian Victor what kinds of process translate to find other languages have been translated like 0%, which is why we’re saying, let’s focus on WordPress, you know, digital skills which is the foundation, let’s focus on what because WordPress, actually has a lot of options within it, it’s not just about blogging. It’s not just development, you have documentation you have fully blogs are all places that can be tested in all aspects that can be built into that area so this is why we’re personal WordPress going to work. And, yeah.
DV: Mary That sounds wonderful, it sounds like you settled on teaching folks, the skills that you do well, which I think is a wonderful way to give back and then I really love the fact that you’re teaching the kind of philosophy of contribution and giving back to your students to kind of carry that forward and it’s really commendable, particularly from the polyglot scenario, and just having, you know, a more diverse, but you know body of folks contributing to WordPress worldwide. Well I wish I had more time to like go deeper into this but this was really interesting, thank you so much for joining us today, Mary.
MJ: Thank you for having me on the show.
DV: Of course of course if those listening would like to learn more about what Mary’s up to or even to contribute I did by the way, you can visit UWANI.org. Thanks everyone for listening to press this, the WordPress community podcast on WMR. Again, this has been your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.