Every year, the team at Jilt (and SkyVerge) attends lots of events—from eCommerce conferences to developer meetups to events that help us get better at our individual jobs. One type of event that we love to attend are WordCamps.
We’ve always been very committed to the WordPress and WooCommerce communities, and attending WordCamps helps us stay connected, learn, and energizes us. Since we’re a global team, we attend a lot of WordCamps, and in 2019 that included WordCamps on three different continents! One of the biggest we look forward to each year is WordCamp US.
Seven of our team members arrived in St. Louis, Missouri last week (November 1-3) to checkout WordCamp US and we had an incredible time bonding as a team, reacquainting with old friends, meeting lots of new ones—and throwing a party for all of them! As usual, we also learned a ton about WordPress, WooCommerce, and the eCommerce industry while we were there.
The Jilt crew at WordCamp US, from left to right above: Lindsey Fogle, product manager; Beka Rice, head of product; Ryan Frizzell, customer support specialist; Tabitha Turton, customer success lead; Deiva Magalhaes, PHP engineer; Brian Krogsgard, customer experience; and Max Rice, cofounder and CEO.
Here are some of our thoughts, discoveries, adventures, and experiences from WordCamp US 2019 in St. Louis.
Our team attended several of the sessions at WordCamp US—and we got to present one as well. Beka led a session called “Unlocking six-figure eCommerce growth with automations.” (Keep an eye on WordPress.tv to check it out in its entirety—it got rave reviews, and we promise not just from our team! 😉)
There were plenty other sessions that stood out to our team, too. Here’s a taste of our favorites:
- “The Hierarchy of Needs for High-Performing Websites” from Steve Persch got high marks for both its content and presentation. Ryan described it as “feeling like I was attending a standup show from John Mulaney.”
- “Technical SEO Checklist: How to Optimize a WordPress Site for Search Engine Crawlers” from Pam Aungst was also a highlight, as it featured several advanced, implementable strategies for competing in the ever-changing modern SEO arena.
- The premiere of Open Film, a documentary on all of the people powering the WordPress community, was, according to Brian, “really cool, and an impressive undertaking.”
- And “Feeling Fried? A WordPresser’s Guide to Preventing Burnout” from Dr. Sherry Walling made an impact on everyone who attended. “I think it was the first time I’ve seen mental health issues as a topic in a conference,” Deiva said, “And I really believe it is a very important topic.”
It’s pretty much impossible to attend a conference like this and not pick up some new knowledge. Here’s one quick tidbit that each member of the team learned over the weekend…
- Max: “All the new features coming in Gutenberg.”
- Ryan: “Hold monthly office hours to share knowledge with other teammates.”
- Lindsey: “Google dings your site for intrusive pop-ups on mobile.”
- Deiva: “I learned about a performance monitoring tool I hadn’t heard about before (SpeedCurve) and learned the importance of monitoring performance and speed to identify anomalies that can indicate other problems (like a JS not loading and making a site faster than it usually is).”
- Tabitha: “The importance of healthy and transparent communication within a company or team structure.”
- Beka: “Content frameworks—especially approaching content from a product management standpoint.”
- Brian: “Put a chatbot on your refund/return policy page.”
Jilt teamed up with WordPress news site Post Status to host an afterparty for the WordPress and WooCommerce communities (and anyone else interested in eCommerce) on Saturday night. We thought we’d get about 125 people to attend—then we got over 200 RSVPs. (We’d like to think it’s because we’re just that cool and not, as Deiva put it, “I guess everybody loves free drinks…”)
Even with that many RSVPs, we weren’t sure how many people would actually show up, but over the course of the night, more than 200 people came through our party. We had a lot of fun and a ton of great conversations, and it sure seemed like everyone else was enjoying themselves, too.
The party was at the Malt House Cellar in downtown St. Louis, a “very cool” venue according to Ryan (and he’s a jazz musician, so his opinion on such matters carries quite a bit of weight). Everyone who came had the chance to take some pictures, grab a Jilt/Post Status koozie, and drink and chat with members of the community. It was a great way to unwind after a couple of days of intense learning and amazing WordCamp content.
We decided to throw a party this year, because we wanted to provide a place to hang out with people from the conference in a more informal setting. “It was a great opportunity to meet some of the other folks, learn about what they’re working on, and to get to know them better,” said Lindsey, “Conferences can be a little intimidating for the more introverted attendees, but the party was laid back and fun, which gives those folks a chance to open up a little more.”
Beka agreed. “It was a nice opportunity to catch up with folks in more detail in comparison to chatting between sessions,” she said.
For Brian, who works with Jilt and founded Post Status, it was a case of worlds colliding. “My favorite part was to see people I know and like,” he said, “and connect them with one another.”
The Jilt team is spread out all over the world, so it’s a lot of fun when part of the team has a chance like this to come together. “It’s always wonderful to see my teammates in person,” Beka said, “Which is an important part of work, even in a fully distributed company.”
The team bonding time meant a lot of dinners—”we ate just an absurd amount of delicious food,” according to Lindsey—and a lot of outings.
On Friday night, the team (along with our good friend Zack Katz from Gravity View) ate at a restaurant called Tony’s, where everyone raved about the food and how much fun they had—even if the atmosphere initially caught them off guard. Tabitha described it as, “feeling like a fish out of water in a posh restaurant with table service.” (While we certainly can be a sophisticated bunch, we are a company that dogmatically visits Denny’s on every team retreat, soooo…) Brian described Tony’s as “the world’s quietest restaurant.” Apparently not too quiet for him to share a story about how he was in a movie as a baby where Sharon Stone played his mom. We’re currently hiring a team of investigative journalists to dig up more information about that.
The team also went to the City Museum for the official WordCamp US party, described by Tabitha as, “a weird, interactive maze environment spanning at least seven stories. Dark tunnels, slides, fish, funk cafe.”
And three out of our seven team members even woke up early on Saturday to go for a run with some other WCUS attendees. The overachieving is strong with these three.
“If you have the opportunity to go to a WordCamp,” Max said, “Definitely do it. Especially the larger ones like WordCamp US and WordCamp EU, or the upcoming WordCamp Asia.”
And when you’re there, here’s some advice from the team on how to get the most out of your experience…
- Ryan: “Split your time between sessions and chatting with people in the ‘hallway track.’ It’s a good opportunity to make personal connections and discuss work with others in the field.”
- Beka: “Introduce yourself! Whether you’re familiar with someone’s work or not, some of my best memories from WordCamps have been conversations I’ve had with kind and driven people in this space.”
- Lindsey: “I’d recommend checking out a good variety of sessions—pick some that are relevant to your work, but also sit in on a few that are a bit outside your day-to-day work. WordCamps are a great opportunity to learn something new.”
- Tabitha: “Speak to as many new people as possible. Sit beside someone new during a session and ask what they do/how they work with WordPress. Do the same thing at lunch or in the hallway between sessions. It’s so interesting to meet folks with a shared interest, find out how they’re using the same tools (it might surprise you!), and the ways you might collaborate in the future.”
- Deiva: “There were fewer developers than I expected. It would be worth staying another day and participating in Contributor Day to get to know other developers.”
- Brian: “I always find the most value in conversations and meeting new people!”
And if you’re going to be at WordCamp Asia in Thailand in February 2020—so will we. So make sure to come say hi to the team! 👋