“WordPress, the community, is welcoming and open. Everyone is available and happy to connect and talk” – Interview with Chris Lema [Featured WP-Professional]

  • Interviews

We have happy to introduce Chris Lema as the WP-Professional of the Month

Chris Lema is one of the most popular influencers in the WordPress world today. For more than two decades he has been enriching the community as a public speaker, author, blogger, product strategist and eCommerce expert. He is an expert in several trades but what you can’t miss is his passion for WordPress and his enthusiasm to share his knowledge with others (and of course his ever-present hat!)  

Chris Lema is Liquid Web’s Vice President of Products and General Manager at LearnDash. You can follow his writings on his blog, Leaders Blog, or even attend his popular “pool” business conference CaboPress. You can also connect with him on Twitter.

You are a renowned WordPress blogger and public speaker today. How did you get introduced to WordPress?

Back in 2005 I was helping some entrepreneurs with their websites and I was using DotNetNuke (written in C#). I was frustrated and started looking around. WordPress had just added pages in the summer and it was perfect timing to switch over.

Please share with our readers something about the projects you are involved with.

Today I’m the GM of LearnDash – the leading LMS plugin for WordPress and online learning. I continue to be employed by the company that purchased LearnDash last year, Liquid Web, and am a VP of Products there – focused on product strategy and development. Of course, I also blog on chrislema.com, create courses there, and that’s where my coaching is anchored.

Where are you based? Does your location influence your work?

After ten years in San Diego, California, we moved to Houston, Texas in the summer after COVID started. So we’re here now but location doesn’t play a role in my work, and hasn’t since 1996. I’ve been remote for decades and led remote teams since then.

Work station of Chris Lema

What makes WordPress so special to you?

WordPress, the software, is open source. That’s what makes the software powerful – is the ability to see what’s going on, fix something when you want it to work differently, and share those changes with others. WordPress, the community, is welcoming and open as well. When you’re steeped in the traditions of other technology communities, you get used to the key players being removed or apart from everyone else. That’s not how it works in WordPress. Everyone is available and happy to connect and talk.

What makes WordPress unique is its vibrant community. What do you think about the WordPress community and also your experiences with the WordCamps and other meetups?

The WordPress community is constantly changing, evolving, and learning. That’s why WordCamps and meetups are so fun – because there’s always an opportunity to learn something new, from someone you may have never met before. I’ve been attending WordCamps for ten years now and I love them (and miss them).

What is your favorite a) Plugin b) Theme and why?

My favorite theme is a three-way tie between Astra, Kadence and the one I’m using on my site right now, Blocksy

My favorite plugin is likely GenerateBlocks because it has helped me embrace Gutenberg (with only 4 blocks) without bloating my site.

You blog daily about WordPress and eCommerce. How do you stay motivated and deal with writer’s block? Please share your trusted blogging tools too.

I just published a new course on how to become a better blogger on WP101.com which answers a lot of these questions. It’s included when you buy any of their memberships. That said, the short answer is that I have frames, or structures, to help me write better and faster.

Screenshot of chrislema.com

What words of wisdom do you have for those planning to start blogging?

Just start. There’s no time like today to get started writing. You may feel like there’s a lot you don’t know, but there’s also a lot that you do know – far more than others who don’t know what you do yet. So share it and provide your opinions, wisdom, and perspective for others to learn from.

There’s no time like today to get started writing

What are your thoughts on WordPress security and the new WordPress Performance Team ?

I’m a big fan of Thierry Muller and so, as you can imagine, I’m excited to see what comes from the WordPress Performance Team. I think it will be fantastic.

What do you think about the future of WordPress and the web hosting industry?

I think we’ll continue to see further abstraction in the WordPress space when it comes to hosting. How much do customers really want to know about, when it comes to hosting. There was a time when we used to buy Certs (SSL) on other sites, and then bring them to our hosts. And there were different kinds of certs, at different prices, and a host might even charge you for adding a cert to your site.

Now it’s all free and few people want to get into the details of an SSL cert. So much like that, I think we’ll see more and more items get abstracted and removed from the day-to-day experience of running a WordPress site.

What do you think about the latest acquisition saga in WordPress?

I think acquisitions are healthy. They provide an exit for folks who have been working for years on their products. It reduces financial risk for them, and provides the acquirer an opportunity to take things to the next level. I think we’ll continue to see more and more acquisitions, and as a person who has been involved in many, I welcome it.

If you could change one thing about WordPress, what would it be?

The capital P. It creates a friction with newcomers that I don’t want.

What would you like to see implemented to WordPress as a Core feature?

That’s a great question. I think there’s room for improvement in the way people find and use blocks on their sites. If I add 3 or 4 block plugins (with libraries of blocks), I may end up with three testimonial blocks. It is hard to know which is which and which one I’ve already used.

The pandemic has widened the scope of the eCommerce industry. From your experience what is the biggest factor that decides the fate of the startups today?

That’s an easy one. Market dynamics. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how awesome or how poor your product is, the market dynamics will have a greater impact on your growth than the quality of your offering. That may be good news for some and bad news for others. But you can create an incredible solution that is perfectly coded and if it’s in a small or dying market space, you won’t find the success you’re looking for.

What is Chris Lema like away from WordPress? What are your ways of chilling?

You’ll likely find me at Stogies in Houston smoking a really nice cigar.

That’s it for this month. We wish Chris Lema all the very best for his future endeavors. And we hope at least some of you will heed his words and take up blogging.

Meet our previous WP-Professionals of the Month – Miriam Schwab, Justin Tadlock, Davinder Singh Kainth

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