“WordPress is going through a transformation.” Interview with Mike Hansen (Featured WP-Professional)

  • Interviews

We’re thrilled to present Mike Hansen as the featured guest in our WP-Professional of the Month series. Currently serving as the Vice President of WordPress Product at Newfold Digital, Mike brings a wealth of experience to the table. Newfold Digital, home to renowned brands like Bluehost, Web.com, HostGator and Network Solutions, offers a wide array of solutions spanning from web hosting to digital marketing.

With a passion for innovation and a deep understanding of the WordPress ecosystem, Mike spearheads a dedicated team at Newfold Digital that excels in delivering top-notch products and services. While at Bluehost, the open source team he assembled thousands of contributions to the WordPress project! 

He can be reached on X and LinkedIn.

Can you share your journey and experience in the WordPress ecosystem, leading up to your current role as VP of WordPress Product?

I’ve been using WordPress since 2008, working in the hosting industry since 2011 and started my journey with Bluehost in 2012. Since 2008, I’ve spent a lot of time talking directly with customers to understand their needs and what problems they are trying to solve. Software engineering is my foundational skill set; however, my interest in solving problems and entering the unknown has taken me to many places but always focused on solving pain points for small businesses, dreamers and WordPress users. WordPress became my go-to tool for developing sites to address those pain points.

When the opportunity to join Bluehost came in 2012, I was excited to join the open-source team and contribute to the WordPress project as one of the first full-time core contributors. During that time, I made over 100 contributions to WP core, organized multiple WordCamps and spoke at various events. I later realized that while impacting the web through core contributions, I personally could make a larger impact inside the Bluehost organization. At that time, I transitioned to a Lead Developer role leading and building many of our early WP features.

During this period of time, Bluehost was going through many changes and I found myself and the team I built of SMEs working in various departments like Marketing, Product and Engineering. I believe this path is unusual, however, I believe all of these experiences and my understanding of open-source have made me uniquely positioned for my current role.

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

I am currently based in Orlando, Florida but spent the majority of the last decade in Utah. Location does not really influence my work because I have been remote for many years.

Please share some projects you are currently involved with, especially Bluehost Cloud.

My team is currently working on revamp our migration experience end to end. Our current solution is not up to our standards or expectations. My team also leads all of our AI features for WordPress from Site Generation to Help, and is currently working on additional AI features to remove friction points from our WP users building and managing sites. We have a few big launches coming this summer, all of which will be available on our Bluehost Cloud offering.

From unimpressed clients to a partnership with Automattic, Bluehost has come a long way. What’s the secret behind this transformation?

We have historically supported low-price, high-value hosting that supports very small businesses and dreamers. I love this; however, when our customers find their stride, they often outgrow us. Our transformation over the last couple of years has been in efforts to bring both innovation, performance, & scale to the forefront of our customer focus. This has enabled us to launch unmatched features like Bluehost WonderSuite–which received high ratings in Kevin Ohashi’s performance benchmarks with ReviewSignal– and expand our offering with Bluehost Cloud. We can now support small and midsize businesses [SMBs], dreamers, web professionals, agencies, & enterprises.

With WordPress being such a dominant platform, how do you see the future of WordPress hosting evolving in the next 3-5 years?

WordPress is going through a transformation and, as an open source project, it feels like it moves both too fast and too slow. But a lot is happening and some of the most exciting things do not always get the attention they should. One thing Matt Mullenweg said many years ago, that has always stuck with me, is that in an ideal world, users would not know what version of WP they are running. I think we are getting closer to that all the time.

I would like to see the same thing in hosting. A customer starts at an entry level tier and then we scale as they grow; that’s a win-win. They never have to worry about how many resources they have or need but rather they always have what they need and never notice otherwise.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in the WordPress market today, particularly from the perspective of a hosting company?

A unified and consistent experience.

Can you share any insights or lessons learned from your experience leading the WordPress Product team at Newfold Digital?

We are moving fast, making great progress and there is nothing but opportunity from here. Listening, identifying, then executing on the right opportunities inside my team and across other departments is critical to our success.

As a leader in WordPress hosting, what are your thoughts on the growing popularity of headless WordPress?

I find it personally interesting but out of reach for average customers and businesses. What I find more interesting is how WP backed applications leverage APIs to power distributed solutions. An example is our AI Help tool uses AI and WordPress as a CMS to manage the content, then we embed that application in many interfaces. So headless can be used to power a single website, but it can also power a distributed application.

I read newsletters, talk to members of my team who have varying interests and lurk in slack channels such as WP.org and Post Status.

Life has both success and failure. Please share one mistake that you made early in your career.

I have long spoken directly with customers, however, I could have learned earlier to sell outcomes and value instead of technology. Realizing that folks are busy and do not want to become tech experts was a pivotal mindset shift for me. So, the time before that was a mistake early in my career. Also, the times I DDOS’d ourselves or crashed countless sites, those were also bad.

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

I like to build projects around the house, play fetch with my dog, travel the world with my spouse and ride motorcycles any chance I get (in no particular order).

The WP-Content team wishes Mike all the very best in his future endeavors and hopes to see him make more contributions to the hosting world.

Meet our previous WP-Professionals of the Month – Kimberly Coleman, Birgit Pauli-Haack, Hari ShankerWinstina Hughes, Vikas Singhal, JB Audras, Michelle Frechette

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