For the last week I’ve been traveling in Chicago and Vegas for business. This is a rare treat for me, because our project load typically does not allow me to venture out of the office much. This heads down approach may be great for productivity, but it is terrible for relationship building. This week that point was driven home and my resolution for 2014 is to actively convert more virtual clients and friends into physical ones.
After a few client meetings concluded, headed towards WordCamp Las Vegas and I entered into WordCamp mode. Coming from the other side of the country I really didn’t know what to expect from the WordPress people I was about to meet in person.
Prior to leaving for my trip, I made sure all of my Christmas shopping was done, presents wrapped, and boxes shipped to far away family. I did not know that the best presents were the gift of friendships that were awaiting me in Las Vegas. I wish I could adequately express the gratitude I have for the relationships and friendships I cultivated over these last few days.
Some Superheroes and Their Superpowers
While this is only a sampling of my encounters, they are examples of the wonderful people within the WordPress community and why we all place such a large emphasis on personalizing internet marketing:
- Chris Lema (@chrislema) – Knowing I was new to WordCamp Las Vegas, Chris took the time to personally introduce me to as many people as he could. Each time he started the introduction with “meet my friend” and each time he remembered to include some tidbit that illustrated why this person should want to know me. Throughout our industry Chris is known for his generosity, but this generosity goes much further than many realize. He frequently offers gifts of food, drink, introductions, business wisdom, or simply his time. And while all of those are wonderful gifts, his greatest offering is the genuine smile that comes to his face when he sees you approaching. That smile comes from his core and it is what drives his generosity. If I asked a room of people what Chris’ superpower was, the group would most likely provide a mixed response of generosity and intelligence. While both are accurate, I believe the greater superpower is the purity within his core. I once overheard someone ask what was Chris’ end game. If you knew him well you’d see that the end game is irrelevant. What is important is the genuine nature of his personality because that is who he is and his actions are based upon these core values. That is a true superpower.
- Se Reed (@sereedmedia) – Over the last few months I’ve had a number of people state that I “need to meet Se from WPwatercooler”. For months I found this intriguing, but confusing. I knew in time I would meet the infamous Se and I hoped she would live up to the hype. She did. I found Se to be a mixture of sweetness, energy, and good old fashion comedy. Se is truly unique and I loved every minute that I spent with her this weekend. There were so many qualities of Se I liked, I’m still debating about her superpower.
- Mika Epstien (@ipstenu) – You never know who you are going to end up sitting next to at a conference. Thankfully, I ended up next to Mika on Saturday morning. I quickly liked her and found her to be highly intelligent, funny, and just good people. After a few hours of discussion, I realized we share Andrea Rennick as a common connection. As soon as Mika said she was a close friend with Andrea, I knew why I liked her as much as I did. Good people tend to pack together with other good people. Andrea aside, Mika gives to the WordPress community more than I could ever imagine being able to do. She educates and tries to teach WordPress end users to help themselves. Mika is a bit like Se. There are so many qualities present, picking one superpower is a bit difficult.
- Joseph Karr O’Connor (@AccessibleJoe) and Laura Legendary (@Accessible_Info) – My local WordPress friend Deborah Edwards-Onoro provided an online introduction to Joseph prior to my arrival to Las Vegas. Joseph and Laura were joint presenters who discussed website usability for those with disabilities. As trite as this sounds, they opened my eyes to a world I did not know and to website design requirements I had not even thought about. For this I am thankful, as it was a revelation I needed. Joseph and Laura share the same superpower. They help people see the world in the same way someone with a disability sees it. That is one powerful superpower.
- Sarah Wefald (@sarahwefald) – Sarah was a bit of a hidden gem. She quietly arrived and sat next to me during an early morning quest for breakfast. Her superpower is uniqueness and given her client base of musicians and bans, I know they have to be in good hands.
- Karim Marucchi (@karimmarucchi) – By day Karim is a trailblazer who is pushing WordPress further into large corporations and the enterprise. By night he switches gears and becomes an entertaining storyteller who captures your attention and keeps you hanging on his every word. Karim’s firm just acquired Crowd Favorite, which is a very well respected firm led by Alex King. If you are familiar with the WordPress community, you’d know that this acquisition states volumes about the direction WordPress is bound to take moving forward. There are many characteristics I like about Karim, but if I had to specify a superpower it would be vision.
- Kari Leigh Marucchi (@CandyAppContent) – I had heard great things about Kari Leigh prior to arriving to Vegas and like my new friend Se, she did not disappoint. I think the group of us cannot thank Kari Leigh enough for efforts this weekend. She was a cat herder and taxi driver all wrapped into one. I’m not sure if Kari Leigh likes cats, but cat herder is certainly her superpower.
- Carrie Dils (@cdils) – Because Carrie is a fellow Genesis developer, I knew of her well before WordCamp Las Vegas. I knew of her coding skills and her overall reputation within the Genesis community. But Carrie is much more than a coder. She is sweet, funny, and can sing a mean blues tune when the situation presents itself. I truly hope this weekend was only the beginning of a close relationship with Carrie. I’d like to learn more about Carrie and her superpower of awesomeness.
- Jennifer and Brian Bourn (@jenniferbourn and @brianbourn) – Jen and Brian are also fellow Genesis developers. While I have known Brian for over a year, this was my first opportunity to meet his wife Jen in person. Jen is known for her excellent skills in branding, but I discovered she shares my love of yoga pants and my not so love of being clumsy. Jen and I share the superpower of being able to rock our yoga pants while simultaneously kicking out great websites.
- Suzette Franck (@mt_Suzette) – I knew of Suzette prior to arrival, as she is an active member of the WordPress community. The digital Suzette does not do her justice. When you meet Suzette in person, you will quickly see that her big smile and sparkly eyes literally light up a room. They draw you in quickly and they keep you captivated. This is her superpower.
- Dre Armeda (@dremeda) and Tony Perez (@perezbox)– Dre and Tony are the founders of Sucuri, a company setting the benchmark for WordPress security. I met both at the first PressNomics back in 2012. This weekend Dre reminded me that the first time I had met him I had started the introduction with a thank you. I had thanked him for taking care of my clients and our community and I will try and do so every time I see him and Tony. Dre and Tony are instrumental in keeping WordPress safe. They not only offer an amazing set of security products and services, they take the time to attend WordPress events so they can educate users on security. They don’t just sell you on their offering, they teach you how to protect yourself. If you ever have an opportunity to hear them speak, you should. If you ever need assistance with security, you should go no further than Sucuri.
- Natalie MacLees (@nataliemac) – Natalie reminds me of my son’s first grade teacher. The quieter the teacher would become, the more her students would strain to hear her. Natalie was one of the speakers on day one. She starts her presentations with a quiet and calm voice. And in doing so, the room stops and listens. Just like my son’s teacher, Natalie has a gift of capturing your attention with her quiet voice and her wisdom. I wish Natalie could share this superpower with me.
- Robert Neu (@realFATmedia) and Nickie O’Brien (@FATmediagirl) – Sunday afternoon was the first real opportunity I had to talk to Robert and Nickie. Unfortunately I don’t have enough exposure to talk about their superpowers, but I would like to so if you read this please stay in touch.
- Jessica Barnard (@thepixelista) – Jessica is a fellow Genesis designer. She is young and quiet, so people like me can quickly overshadow her in a group. If you take the time to stop talking (yes I’m talking to myself), Jessica will throw out a zinger that is complete comic relief. She did this Saturday night and her comment lived on in laughter for the next twenty-four hours. Looking back I can see she is a bit stealthy and ninja like. Prior to this weekend, I had not realized that this was her superpower.
- Alex Vasquez (@alexjvasquez) – I met Alex this year at PressNomics. He is a funny “bear” who is about as transparent as they come. He is also resilient and he bounces back quickly and with grace. Alex please know that this grace and resilience is your superpower.
- Steve Zehngut (@Zengy) – This was my first opportunity to meet Steve. Unfortunately we were always in a large group so I didn’t have a moment to really talk to him. After seeing his smart and savvy presentation on costing and pricing, I realized this was a grave error on my part. Steve I shall be stalking you in the future so I can figure out what superpower you possess.
If you are reading this and you are on Twitter, take the moment to head on over to each Twitter profile listed above and follow these great people. You’ll thank me later.
No matter what may be waiting for me under the Christmas tree this year, I know I have already been given the most precious gifts of all. I was given multiple days of laughter, entertainment, and WordPress education. I was also given the gift of friendship, which is truly priceless.
Thank you seems so small and so insignificant, but it comes with sincerity.