WordPress Experts – Interview with Scott
[Straight Out of The Kitchen] Scott shares relatable stories and experience about working as a Project Manager
Last time, we did an interview with Zack – the head of the Shopify department at htmlBurger. Now let’s go back to the Kitchen where this time we invited one of our WordPress experts.
Scott will share with us his journey for the last 11 years. His struggles and how he overcame them. In this interview, we emphasize more on the personal experience of a project manager in the field and the balance between work and personal life. All things we can all relate to.
Scott is a WordPress expert with more than 11 years of experience in htmlBurger and 3 600+ WordPress projects behind his back. We sat and talked about what motivated him for that long, what are his thoughts on the platform and experience with his team, as well as what advice he would give to novice and senior developers in the field.
Scott, can you tell us about yourself?
Scott: My name is Simeon actually, but for most of my clients I’m well known as Scott. That could actually be a whole new story. I’m 34 years old and I’m a Project Manager at htmlBurger and part of the team for about 12 years now. I first started as a developer, then a senior developer and after three years I took on the offer to become a project manager. In my free time, I enjoy sports, especially soccer. One of the things I enjoy most is traveling. Basically, I prefer outdoor activities to balance the time spent in front of the computer.
Simeon Gold: Sounds about right. I’ve been trying to do the same and start doing more sports since June. Now it’s March. (both laughing)
Could you tell me about your earliest experience with the htmlBurger team? How did it all start?
Scott: This was quite a long time ago, November 2009. I remember the date since I had just graduated from the university. As a student, I’ve been working in different fields unrelated to STEM, but after graduation, I decided it was high time to kickstart my career professionally. By the way, back then I applied for the job developer in two different companies and I have just accepted to start working for someone else when I was called to an interview by the htmlBurger.
I had literally 2 hours to attend that interview before my first day at the new job. Since htmlBurger was my preference, I had to give it a try.
So, I went on the interview and I met one of the founders of the company Stefan, who tasked me to code a small front-end website. Unfortunately, by the end, I had completed only 70% of the entire project when I ran out of time. I simply told Stefan that I had to go as I was late for work. I was absolutely sure I botched the interview and nobody would call me after that.
To my dismay, they did call me and offered me to join the team.
Simeon Gold: That 70% surely was well done.
And what happened later, how did you switch from a senior developer to a project manager?
Scott: After a few years of development, the first 2 years of front-end coding, then back-end, I was given the opportunity to become a team leader and start handling more responsible tasks. The whole idea was to manage the projects directly, and it seemed very new and foreign to me to deal with clients and agencies myself. To be honest, as much as it was a good challenge, I was kinda stressed by the idea. But I did accept the challenge and gradually grew to like it a lot. I don’t regret my decision.
Could you share something about your experience with WordPress? What is your opinion on the platform?
Scott: WordPress is a very suitable platform for business, e-commerce, and portfolio sites, that gives you the freedom to have intuitive administration, easy-to-manage content, and a professional look & feel. I and my team have worked with WordPress for several years and I’m confident to say that we know the ins and outs of it. This all results in the possibility to create well-structured and built-with-care websites for our clients.
What were your most difficult experiences in htmlBurger?
Scott: It’s always the beginning until you get the grip of the dynamic. When I first started, everything was new to me, it moved really fast, I had to adapt quickly. It’s normal. Once I got experienced enough, adapting to new things and practices became way easier. Probably hardest to me was when I became a Project Manager. Unlike when I was a developer and had to work on one project at a time, here I had to basically go deep with all current projects simultaneously. This doesn’t mean just the code, but also the workflow of the teammates who coded them, the communication with the clients, all the requirements and deadlines, and so on. It was just a lot of responsibility from day one. Surely takes some time to adapt and make it second nature.
What I do is face the problem with positivity: focus entirely on what causes the problem and how to fix it the best way possible.
On the topic, how do you deal with issues and situations when they occur? Do you have a blueprint you follow?
Scott: Over time, yes, I did build a process that I follow. Ironically, difficult situations, although nobody welcomes them, are at the same time welcomed as they are what give you experience and make you become better at what you do. The more issues I have to deal with, the quicker and faster I deal with them next time something unwanted appears. What I do is not face the problem with negativity, but the opposite: focus entirely on what causes the problem and how to fix it the best way possible.
…when you take an objective perspective and think what’s best for the project, the client, your team members, this is when you make decisions devoid of personal bias and based entirely on logic and empathy.
How do you solve issues? The very moment they appear of you prefer to give it time to rationalize them?
Scott: Depends on the urgency, frankly. But I prefer to avoid quick solutions since they are often impulsive and driven by current emotions. It’s very important to let the initial emotional reaction pass and think through the situation carefully, with empathy. You got to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, no matter if it’s a client or a developer, and understand how they view the problem and what they expect from the solution.
Every person is different, everyone has different views, but when you take an objective perspective and think what’s best for the project, the client, your team members, this is when you make decisions devoid of personal bias and based entirely on logic and empathy. Reading materials on the Situational Leadership theory surely gives you good insights in that direction.
Now let’s talk about the positive experiences with htmlBurger.
Scott: This would mean most of my experience. Thing is, I’ve been on the team for half of my life so it doesn’t feel like a job anymore, it’s a part of my life. I have amazing memorable moments with my colleagues, it does feel like home. With my team, we often organize our own smaller team-building events outside the official ones for all the teams. We also love to do Secret Santas or birthday presents and treats for team members. We also have the same thing for the project managers’ team, like going out to eat hamburgers, going to sports events, and so on.
What motivates you the most through these 11 years?
Scott: The people I work with, it’s always a pleasure and recharges me to give my best in my job. The working environment and atmosphere are also very motivating, the conditions that’d been given to us. Well, currently most of us work at home, considering the situation, but there’s definitely a lot to look forward to returning to. These are all factors that make me, and probably everyone else, wish to perform and present themselves in their best light possible.
What about your internal motivation outside the office?
Scott: Sports. It gives me lots of energy and relaxation, as well as balance. The more I practice soccer and other sports, the more I feel well-rested and motivated to work.
When you don’t take the risk, it definitely won’t happen. And there’s nothing to be learned.
What advice would you give to newcomers developers? Not just the ones who just started working for htmlBurger, but in general.
Scott: First, be proactive. Instead of waiting for someone to give you a task, try finding one, ask for it even if it’s more difficult than your current tasks, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Even when you fail, you gain really valuable knowledge and experience. One of the founders of hamburger has once told me, and I completely agree with him, don’t be afraid to take risks because, in the end, the thing would either happen, or it won’t. And you gain experience. When you don’t take the risk, it definitely won’t happen. And there’s nothing to be learned.
Many people think that specialists don’t need to learn more than they already have, but it’s just the opposite, they need to learn and evolve the most.
Do you have any advice for senior developers?
Scott: I do, actually. Don’t fall into a routine. You can be the best in your field, but you can also benefit from trying new things, unfamiliar types of projects outside of your expertise, and become even better. This benefits you greatly as well as the whole team. Especially when it comes to development, business, requirements, supply, and demand constantly change and evolve. It’s impossible to do the same thing for decades and stay on top if you don’t challenge yourself and keep up with the trends and new technologies. Many people think that specialists don’t need to learn more than they already have, but it’s just the opposite, they need to learn and evolve the most. Their teams also depend on it.
Simeon Gold: Great advice, indeed.
To balance the serious tone of the interview, will you share a funny story from your experience with the team?
Scott: Absolutely. It was just when I started as a programmer. Back then, we were only 12 people in the entire company, I was the 12th. So, Stefan invited us all to a restaurant to celebrate his birthday. I was still a noob, had only worked for a month in the team, so I was still deadly serious and stuff, so imagine my concerns when after the restaurant we continued the birthday party in the club. It was really late at night and I had to wake up really early and be in the office at 9. So I did.
After only a few hours of sleep, I woke up with the alarm, prepared, and went to the office at 9 AM, exhausted but ready to work. And the office was empty. Not a single one of my colleagues. I waited for hours, while the first person to join me came around 11 AM. I remember I was even wondering if something happened to the company. My colleague was like “Ah, don’t worry, the others will come shortly.”
Work, career, self-development, are crucial, but they must never come before family.
What is most important to you?
Scott: Family and work. Those are most important to me and I aim to keep a perfect balance. What I regret is that there was a period of time when I favored my work more at the expense of my family, just like many people tend to do, but I realize now it’s not right. Work, career, self-development, are crucial, but they must never come before family. It’s important to be self-aware and notice when you lose that balance.
Do you have a long-term goal?
Scott: Every single book recommends that in order to be successful, you have to have one. I don’t know if I should be ashamed or not, but I don’t have a clear long-term goal. However, I do have concrete current goals, like taking care of my team and make sure my team-members prosper. My other similar goal is to make sure the work I do benefits the whole company.
As a finale, which book would you recommend to the readers and fellow project managers?
Scott: Before I became a Project Manager, I was never interested in trying to read books about self-improvement. However, once I started on the new position, I had to try and I quickly became interested. I would recommend one of my favorites, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It has given me a lot of insights and motivation for my professional and personal development as a person and professional.
We hope you enjoyed diving into the work ethics and everyday life of a passionate WordPress expert.
If you have any questions about WordPress, feel free to book a call with Scott for a free consultation and further discuss your needs. He will be happy to chat with you and help in selecting a solution that is perfect for your needs.