Today I turn 41. It’s also the end of my quasi-leave of absence, and on Monday I’ll be returning to full-time work at Automattic on the Dot Org Team. When I do so, it will be in a new role; I’m posting about it here so that all concerned will know what I’m doing, why, and that yes, it’s intentional.

For 4+ years, I was the UX/Design lead for core. At some point in the first year or so, I also started project managing the core team/core development. Then I started doing some community work, events, and general contributor community management. There were also other things here and there, like trademark for a while, being the team lead of the Dot Org Team at Automattic, and various design forays. You might remember that this was too much. I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned out, and needed a break.

It’s my birthday, so it’s a natural time to reflect on where I’ve come from, where I’m at, and where I’m going. When Matt convinced me to take the job at Automattic, one of the things that got me in was that he said I could work on programs to bring women and girls into the WordPress community, especially around programming. In that lunch on a San Francisco sidewalk, I laid out a vision including mentoring programs, school projects, summer camps, trips to the moon… okay, not trips to the moon, but just about everything under it. And then I never did any of those things because I didn’t prioritize it over my work on core.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think core is mega-important. Core *is* WordPress. Without it there would be no community. That said, core doesn’t need me to pour my life into it; my offering feedback, some sketching, and advice occasionally can be as much of a help as my doing research, creating wireframes, reviewing every trac ticket, and testing every ui patch.

In 3.5, I was meant to be on leave (aside from the summit planning), so I  answered some questions and gave some feedback early in the cycle to Dave/Helen/Chelsea/Koop, but otherwise stayed out of it. (P.S. Kudos to Nacin on the project management of 3.5!) My only real involvement was at the end of the community summit, when I spent several hours the last morning sitting with Koop going though the media uploader screen by screen, asking questions (“What about _____?” “What problem does that solve?”), sketching alternate approaches, and generally dumping every reaction and idea I had about it into Koop’s head before he left for the airport. Then I didn’t think about it again. From Skype a few weeks later:

Andrew Nacin 11/27/12 12:28 PM
feeling good about 3.5?

Jane Wells 11/27/12 12:31 PM
i wasn’t really involved with it aside from media morning with koop before he left tybee

Andrew Nacin 11/27/12 12:31 PM
that morning was huge. completely re-shaped a lot of our thinking.

That has me thinking that 4 hours here and there will do just fine instead of ALL THE HOURS.

So! Where does that leave me, if I don’t need to do core design or project management anymore? I keep going back to that sidewalk lunch and how exciting it was to talk about possibilities around using WordPress as a gateway for women, girls, low-income kids, and minorities of all stripes who are under-represented in our community to get into the web industry (see also #2 in this post).

My first week back at Automattic (starting Monday) I will be doing a week’s rotation on support with my team, but will then be jumping into a new role focused on our contributor community. It will involve a lot of projects, but one of the first will be aimed at increasing diversity in the contributor groups, starting with the gender gap. These efforts will all happen under the aegis of the new Community Outreach contributor group, so if you are interested in working on this with me (and Andrea Rennick, and Amy Hendrix, and Cátia Kitahara, etc), please join us! I’ve got a giant list of projects that I’d like us to tackle in the new year, and we’ll need people to help make things happen.

But what about core? And other stuff? I’m reserving Wednesdays to do design so I don’t get rusty. These “office hours” can be used by the core team to have me look at something, or by an Automattic team. Otherwise, I’ll use that day to work on designs to improve areas of the site to help with our goals, and/or tools to help us get things done.

So that’s the plan.

What do you think?

19 thoughts on “Changes

    • This time around I am going to force myself to work normal hours by turning off skype and email when I’m not working instead of keeping everything on all the time. Also, vacations!

  1. Jane,

    I think this is great, really great. The sheer level of contribution you’ve offered to core in the last 4+ years is staggering and I don’t blame you stepping back and taking stock of what’s important to you. And the fact that you’re continuing work to expand and enrich this evolving community is a testament to open source and your character as an individual.

    I don’t have to tell you that over the years there has been a lot of misplaced blame and undue criticism extended in your direction, but it should be said that you’ve handled it better than most people would. I think it’s what’s known as gumption, and you’ve got lots of it.

    I think as we move forward as a community there will only be more opportunity to expand our reach and I trust you’re probably the best person to lead us there. See you ’round!

  2. Pingback: Jane Wells Returns, Changes Role to Focus on Community - WP Daily

  3. I’m so glad that you’re going to get to work on what matters to you most. Thank you for all of your amazing work on core, and also what you’ve done to help the community connect thusfar.

  4. using WordPress as a gateway for women, girls, low-income kids, and minorities of all stripes who are under-represented in our community to get into the web industry

    This sounds incredibly good.

  5. Glad you’ll be able to re-focus on something meaningful. Make sure you keep your promise of some “me time”, and avoid burn-out! I’ve always appreciated the hard work and dedication you put into things, and often found myself wondering, “does she *ever* sleep?”

    This isn’t directly related to WordPress (except that it’s hosted on, but a friend of mine (also a “Jane”) recently started A Vroom of our Own, which is aimed towards mentorship for girls (or girl-gender identity, more generally) in creative endeavors. If you feel so inclined, and have thoughts on the project, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

    Oh, and Happy Birthday! 🙂

  6. From my life experience as an African American where I was the only one in working group both in my career as a graphic designer, and my recent work in the design aspect of the web points out a need to get the attention of very young women, minorities, and other individuals with a creative bent, because the counselor system within most school district to not direct these minority individuals in the options of working in a creative field: music, design, programming, and related coding activities.

    I many times felt that was the only chocolate chip, or walnut in the cookie.
    I am retired, but active in working with design aspects of WordPress. I would encourage the assistance in providing WordCamp and ‘meetup’ experiences to young people in the upper elementary grades [middle school | junior high school] and in high school.

  7. I’m so glad to hear that you will be re-focusing on what got you on-board with WordPress and Automattic in the beginning. Hope to see you again at WordCamp showing the passion that you have for WordPress and everything that it can do for people. Happy birthday and I look forward to having you back!

    • To be clear, redesigning WordPress *is* what got me on board. Making WordPress easier to use was and still is the most important thing we can do. It’s just that there are enough other people working on that now that I don’t need to devote myself to it full-time, so I can put more energy into the other stuff.

  8. Jane,

    I am newer to web development and wordpress in particular but have learned a tremendous amount in the past year and a half. For me, it was ‘sink or swim’ as I was handed a blog migration that was very much over my head. I had no choice but to learn what was needed to finish the project…it became a matter of integrity. So now I know WordPress much better than I did…I know sql, some php and more DNN than I wish that I did.

    I am getting ready to embark on another journey because of some of the connections I’ve made through all of this. Myself and new friend are starting a ‘non-agency’ agency, or a co-op similar to what the Quite Strong ( ladies are doing in Chicago. I have always said that I work to support my volunteer work and my heart is go give back. I already do some volunteering in our inner-city and hope to expand it. I have always wanted to teach what I do.

    This quote: “using WordPress as a gateway for women, girls, low-income kids, and minorities of all stripes who are under-represented in our community to get into the web industry”

    There is such a need…and one commenter above is so right, the schools don’t promote it….at all.

    I am in Tulsa, OK. Not sure if or how we can connect the dots but I am interested in hearing more as you go along or helping out if I am able.

    It’s always such a struggle to maintain that balance…I’ve raised my kids (they are 21, 19, 18 and 14 yo twins) I am loving all I am learning…I don’t get enough sleep because there is too much information to absorb. I could easily burn out. I don’t want to do that though….there is too much to be done…oh the irony!

    Kudos to you on good choices and great work on WordPress. 🙂

  9. I’ve always admired you, and I guess now more than ever. I’m glad you were able to take a step back and think so you could focus your energy on something new, something I know you’ve been passionate about for a long time. For Core I’m super excited that someone will actually spend time on all this – it’s very much needed and will strengthen WordPress greatly moving forward. To the cause!

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