Hey there, I’m Jay. I’m a back-end WordPress developer, Star Trek Geek, Space Finatic, Gamer, and Father of 3 amazing ( and sometimes annoying ) kids. First and foremost, I’m a WordPress guy; tell me something can’t be done in WordPress, and I’ll prove you wrong. I can be found lingering on Twitter @plugish, over at Github @JayWood making ‘dem repos, or if you want to know me on a personal level, over on Facebook @therealjaywood.
Where it all Started
I guess I can say my journey into WordPress started my sophomore year of high school. My girlfriend’s dad ( now wife ) had given me a Tandy computer; which was the first computer I ever owned. I was quite bored one day and figured, “Let me take this apart and put it back together”… and it still worked, I was absolutely astounded…
A year later I joined the Vo-Tech center as a high school elective, and went with Computer Science, and was given the BEST possible teacher, Mr. Fox. He as a way of explaining things that may seem overly technical, but he can associate it with real-world situations, which makes it that much more intellectually palpable.
During our senior year, we were required to select a topic for our final exam. At first, I selected Flash ( when it was owned by Macromedia ), mainly because all the cool kids were doing it, and I wanted to learn animation. However, months down the road I found myself more interested in Action Script.
It wasn’t long after until I asked my teacher to switch my studies away from Flash and into HTML.
Fast forward to graduation, and a few months after. I moved into my parent’s apartment and wanted to start to learn websites, since in my senior year I learned a good bit about HTML and CSS. So, I immediately started googling to figure out what was the best CMS at the time. Bet you don’t remember PHP Nuke! Yep, that was my FIRST content management system. A year or so later I picked up Joomla; but it was a bit too bloated for what I wanted to do.
A few months later I picked up Drupal, and for the longest time it served it’s purpose. But I wanted customization, and something that was far more wide-reaching… so I found WordPress, and have stuck with it every since.
It wasn’t long after I picked up WordPress that I had an itch for plugins; so I picked up a book, PHP for Dummies. For two years I read this book, wrote code, broke code, and dabbled in MySQL storage. I literally taught myself PHP and MySQL in two years, at least the basics.
After a year or so I figured it was time to start freelancing. So I dabbled in some local businesses, calling myself a ‘professional web developer’ because I thought I knew all that there was to know about WordPress. Many people told me “you’ll never make money doing computers here” but I was determined to prove them wrong. For the longest time I was using premium templates, and a ton of plugins to achieve my goals.
As many have said, using plugins and themes doesn’t make you a developer. It wasn’t until one of my clients asked for a ‘custom plugin’ did it really hit me… I wasn’t a developer, I was merely a pawn who knew how to configure a website and plugins. So… given the fact I knew PHP at the time, and a bit of WordPress, I got to coding, and in a month or so, Content Warning v2 was born!
Local business are well and good, but overall I wanted to reach further, but given financial instability I elected to get a regular job. Near the start of my freelancing career, after two years of a regular job. I was working at our local K-Mart as a front-end manager for about 6 months. Well it was near Christmas time and I was given the order to restrict my fellow employee’s lunch time in favor of ‘having them on the registers’.
Well I went in the back to talk to the boss and to my surprise, the manager at the time was just sitting there with a few of his friends, twisting a pen, doing nothing. He could’ve covered for our guys… instead he’d rather sit and do nothing. So… I walked out, I handed in my ear piece, my badge, and left. Needless to say 6 months later the store closed down, so that must’ve been a good decision.
At this point I started my freelancing career. For two years my freelancing career was a journey, but it’s not without mistakes. Diving into freelancing has a learning curve, and I even blogged about it if you’d like to read it ( Common Freelancer Mistakes ). Overall, freelancing allowed me to build my portfolio, learn, and get the feel of the WordPress landscape.
When I realized I needed to know more about how others do WordPress, I joined WebDevStudios when it was less than 20 people. It was an agency, and I was anxious to learn how things worked – given Freelancing just wasn’t for me, and I had no idea how to run a company…
I lived and breathed WDS for almost 4 years. Keyword, almost, more on that in my other article: New Horizons. I had the greatest mentor for about a year and a half. As a lead developer, my hat goes off to Justin Sternberg. Under his wing I learned about PHPcs, coding style, different PHP patterns and many many more things.
I grew quickly, becoming a Lead developer in just two years. But that, of course, had it’s problems. With a fast growing agency came the growing pains along with it. ( again, more details in the article linked above ) — I learned a lot as a Lead, ran my role for a little over a year, almost two, helping others, seeing a lot come and go, and getting to see the politics involved at that level.
I was the innovator of WDS’s first continuous integration system using Jenkins, taught myself all things CI over a period of two months, on my own time. Helped setup and enforce coding standards. I spearheaded the effort on code reviews, not just the review itself, but actual functional reviews. Honestly, I had a great time at WDS, aside from the last few months leading up to my departure.
The 10up Shift
At the agency level, you start to hear about other agencies like Automattic ( duh right? ), Modern Tribe, and… 10up of course. At WDS, 10up was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Every other week something would pop up about 10up. So imagine my glee when I was scouted out by the team.
Making the shift wasn’t easy, nor was it really planned, at least so abruptly? To be blunt, I was let go from WDS after almost 4 years there. The exec’s cited that they, “want to cut their losses”. Pro-tip… don’t tell your boss you’re looking elsewhere, while it might seem like the right thing to do, just don’t… that was it, nearly 4 years down the drain, I was nothing more than a statistic now.
So I took up the scout’s offer to join 10up, and a few interviews later — I’m now a 10up engineer, and I’ve left the management life behind. I like to code, it’s what I’m good at. I’d rather not be the decision maker in rather someone gets to feed their family or not.