I quietly wrote down a list of potential professional goals earlier this year. One of the things on the list was to apply to give a WordCamp talk. I’ve facilitated workshops and classes in the past (hula hoop teacher) and I’ve done some public speaking (as a mental health advocate) but generally my 99%-introverted-self sits that sort of thing out. So why now?
After a wandering path through the beginnings of adulthood, I was reacquainted with code through a Ladies Learning Code workshop several years ago. & now I volunteer with them as a mentor. I’m passionate about introducing more women to being builders of technology, not to mention that seeing people’s eyes light up as they click with a concept is pretty much aces.
Applying to give a WordCamp talk seemed like an excellent way to help contribute to the WordPress community while also spreading some of the knowledge I’ve gathered within my own journey. Also, truth be told – I think a teensy part of me wanted to test my boundaries in regards to my capabilities and my anxiety.
I ended up crafting two different talk proposals for WordCamp Chicago, one of which was chosen!
— Carrie Forde (@CarrieForde) April 29, 2017
It was called “Be The Loop You Want To See In The World” about custom queries and loops. When brainstorming ideas for talks (I’ve mentioned I like making lists, right?), one of the questions I asked myself was what ‘past Allison’ would have loved to hear more about that might have seemed too overwhelming otherwise.
Grabbing custom data via queries and loops of your own creation made a lot of sense that way. Even brainstorming topics wound up with interesting results overall; it helped me hone in on what elements of WordPress and/or web development I adore to the point of nerding out for explaining purposes (Sass! Bots! Wellness! Custom things!)
And as with any topic, even when you already grasp it yourself, finding the language and structure to explain it to someone else helps deepen your own understanding of it. And of course, the universe often works in mysterious ways as the week leading up to my talk I had to write at least 3 various custom queries and loops for differing scenarios, go figure!
Of course, as the actual weekend approached my anxiety levels increased tenfold as expected. Pushing these boundaries was definitely stressful for me. Stressful yet an important reminder for me to experiment with why certain activities and actions are within my comfort zone and some are not. And even though I have a lot more coping mechanisms in my tool belt, this was still quite challenging for me to tackle.
— Allison Tarr (@allisonplus) April 30, 2017
Luckily I have some pretty stellar people in my circles, two of which (Carrie Forde and Brad Parbs) were in attendance at my talk. It was so great to see them in person, yet again in a city where none of us actually live… Their company really meant the world to me. I couldn’t have been more grateful to have Carrie make a geographical detour to spend the weekend being an amazing support or to Parbs for distracting me with what were either the best (or worst) puns ever.
As I mentioned in my recap over at the WDS blog, one of my favourite aspects is just being part of a larger community or dev ecosystem. It’s pretty easy for me to get wrapped up in my own mental space and forget about the connections within it all. Even just being in attendance helped me tap into motivation to work on some of the other items on my list of potential professional goals.
One of the reasons I love technology so much is the ability to create communities in a non-physical space that might not exist otherwise. And when you can transform those non-physical spaces into physical spaces to continue having those connections….just wowza.
I learned a lot from the process prior and from giving the talk itself. There were definitely components that could have been more polished and things I would do differently if I gave it again. (It is easy to let my inner gremlins take free rein here but also, at the end of the day, I did the best I could and I think people walked away with some helpful nuggets of clarification.)
I have another WordCamp talk that will be happening at the end of May which will also be a boundary tester for the usual “I’m a card-carrying introvert” reasons as well as because the subject matter is a bit more personal in regards to mental health. Either way, it will be interesting to evaluate how I feel about speaking and knowledge sharing after both talks have been completed.
Also, for anyone who is interested, the slides for my talk are over at Speaker Deck.