The year was 2011 and I was a music composition major sitting in my dorm room, lamenting the fact that I had to have multiple tabs open to try and find a bus ticket home. "Why is there no version of Expedia for this?" was the thought that crossed my mind. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, he suggested that we try and build it. Having no idea how to code, I opened Google and typed "how to display data in an HTML table" and I was off on my coding journey.
Many late nights, hundreds of hours of coding and Stack Overflow threads and one cease and desist (more on this in a future post) later, our project was dead. It was my junior year and I realized I needed to start figuring out what I might be doing after I graduated. I realized that I liked this whole "coding" thing and I might be able to actually make a career out of it. So one day, when I was browsing Hacker News and found a comment from an owner of a web agency in Chicago looking for PHP developers and, more specific to my situation, interns, I was immediately interested.
I still had no idea what WordPress was at this point, but we had built our "Expedia for buses" project largely in PHP so I figured I would give it a shot. I ended up DMing the company on Twitter and after driving back to Chicago for an interview, I had my internship!
When I started working there, I realized that developers weren't just coding everything in custom PHP scripts and stringing them together like I had been, they were largely using WordPress to build sites for clients. As one of the early WordPress VIP partners, they had clients of all levels of complexity from a local grocery store launching in Chicago all the way up to a ~40-site multisite installation hosted on VIP.
As I started digging in and learning from the other developers around me, I realized that much of the work I had been doing manually (including the header and footer on every page, having pages with the same look and feel where I would copy/paste all the HTML and just change the content, etc) was handled by WordPress automatically!
I discovered Advanced Custom Fields, started to dig into things like the WP REST API as it became available and discovered the larger WordPress community through the local Meetup as well as WordCamps all around the country.
Since then, WordPress has taken me around the world and allowed me to start my own agency, meet some folks who I consider very close friends and further in my career in a direction that would have never thought possible back when I was hacking on PHP scripts back in college.
I'm eternally grateful to the WordPress community and all of the amazing people in it for helping me grow and learn over the past 10 years. If you're just getting started, I'd love to pay it forward. Shoot me an email and let me know if there's some way I can help.
Here's to the next 20 years of WordPress!