“While others miss the mark with full inclusion, I believe the WordPress community can rise to the occasion.” Interview with Winstina Hughes (Featured WP-Professional)

  • Interviews

Meet our WP-Professional of the Month – the incredible Winstina Hughes, a powerhouse in the tech community! As both a dedicated Community and Core Contributor, Winstina has left an indelible mark on the industry. She is the visionary founder behind the remarkable “Support Inclusion in Tech” initiative, rallying partners and sponsors to join her in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

By extending a helping hand to WordCamp speakers and offering support for travel and accommodations, Winstina’s work transcends boundaries. She is very active in the WordPress community and was a speaker at various WordCamps. She helps organize WordCamp NYC and WPNYC Meetups. She is also in the WordPress 6.4 Release squad.

You can connect with her on Twitter and Support Inclusion in Tech on Linkedin.

You are well-known in WordPress circles today. How did the journey start? How did you get introduced to WordPress?

Thank you for inviting me to share my story, Jyolsna. My presence in the WordPress community originates from attending Meetups in NYC. I first attended Steve Bruner’s Meetup events and I attended my first WordCamp in 2008. Today, I am a co-organizer with Steve. I am also the founder of the initiative Support Inclusion in Tech. SiNC champions diversity, equity, and inclusion through travel expense support for underrepresented WordCamp speakers. I started using WordPress for a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) assignment in college. My professor had us create a blog on WordPress.com. That is where it all started. WordPress.com.

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

Winstina Hughes Workstation

I am based in Maryland and my WordPress contribution is influenced by my location. Hosting an in-person NYC Meetup event requires early coordination and a longer train ride home. My in-person events are fewer, but nothing keeps me away from home for long. I love our Meetup group. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of WordPress, and we remain the largest WordPress Meetup in the world with 9,400 plus members and counting. Props to the co-founders of WordPress and our founding WPNYC Meetup organizers! 

Please share some projects you are currently involved with.

Screenshot of supportinclusionintech.com

Earlier this year, I shared an update about SiNC’s Cohort One. Since then, our reach has extended across four continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Our speakers have participated in five WordCamps—WCAsia, WCTorrelodones, WCEurope, WCEntebbe, and WCUS.

Together, GoDaddyYoast and MasterWP sent BlackPress members, women core contributors and organizers to WordCamp US at National Harbor. It is amazing to work with these companies to support and uplift this diverse group. I am creating a team and currently developing programming for Support Inclusion in Tech. This programming includes short workshops and networking to help our speakers in their careers and help them increase their level of interreliance and growth within our community. 

What’s the story behind Support Inclusion in Tech?

Screenshot of supportinclusionintech.com

My inspiration for SiNC came in 2022. Something aligned in me during conversations about the lack of diverse representation on WordCamp Europe’s organizing team and I wrote a call to action on my blog where I shared, “I think the WordPress mission to democratize publishing is quite possibly realizing something more.”

My take on it is that the WordPress community and its programming mirrors many societies that grapple with the full participation of all groups beyond the dominant group. While others miss the mark with full inclusion, I believe the WordPress community can rise to the occasion.

What makes WordPress so special to you?

Our NYC WordPress community. NYC has a vibrant group that I am grateful to be a member of. Over time my contribution has introduced me to many more WordPress contributors. It is surprising and special how close we can grow to someone we meet once a year at a WordCamp, are introduced to on Slack, or by a comment on Make while working on the WordPress open-source project.

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

As a Meetup Organizer, hands down my favorite plugin is Webd Ltd’s plugin Remove “Powered by WordPress”. Webd Ltd’s plugin saves a new user from breaking their website. If you are new to WordPress, you are probably dedicating hours of your life searching for the magic code snippet to remove ‘proudly powered by WordPress’ from your footer. 

As a website builder, I’m currently loving WP Zoom’s Inspiro Theme. It’s simple. I do not receive money as a WordPress contributor, and I pay for products and services within the ecosystem.

Screenshot of world.siteground.com

I have been a SiteGround customer for several years and that could be permanent! I took a leap of faith this year and asked if they would sponsor my personal hosting. SiteGround said yes! I am deeply appreciative to SiteGround and Stasi for the care they have shown me.

As a Release Cohort for the WordPress 6.4 Documentation Team, what are your expectations for this historical release?

This is my second release and it is a journey. I was on the 5.6 “Simone” release squad in 2020 and it was the first all-women and non-binary squad. My expectation for 6.4 is to provide encouragement and assistance with mentoring new cohort members, to be a support to our leads, and to improve my documentation skills.

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

I would increase opportunities for creatives and freelancers to understand the breadth of business within the WordPress ecosystem. I also think the creator economy could benefit from a fundamentals course on the multinational corporate business model.

What are your thoughts on WordPress meetups and WordCamps and how was your experience organizing them?

The magic happens at Meetups, and seeds for growth are planted at WordCamps. Leading WordCamp NYC in 2018 was life-altering because 18 of us worked well together and planned a memorable flagship WordCamp. My organizing experience and speaking in NYC, WordCamp US and WordCamp Austin have made leading Support Inclusion in Tech intuitive.

Organizing meetups and WordCamps is hard, but it is worth it.

You are a veteran WordCamp speaker. How did you start speaking and how can we encourage more women speakers?

Thank you! I was educated at schools where impromptu speeches, debate competitions, and group presentations were requirements. All are distant memories when I stand on stage at a WordCamp. But it is this journey to the stage that is my encouragement, and I think your journey can be your encouragement.

Early on, several community members reassured me that I had the knowledge to offer and encouraged me to submit a speaker application to WordCamp NYC, but I hesitated. When in doubt about applying to speak like I was, ask yourself “Why not?” rather than, “What if I…?”. The difference between those two questions can be the extra push you need.  

What do you think about women’s participation in the WordPress ecosystem? Can the community do anything to encourage more female contributions in all areas?

Josepha Haden Chomphosy currently serves as the Executive Director of WordPress. We are essential. Yes, WordPress will encourage and sustain female contribution in all areas as our community continues to take deliberate action to integrate underrepresented groups into WordPress core releases and WordCamp programming. We shouldn’t shy away from the discord this deliberate action creates. Growth is uncomfortable, but it is where we find beauty and possibility.

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

My career is in transportation. My first month in a new position my supervisor discouraged me from dressing business casual. We’re not that fancy, she said. I tailored my style accordingly. In time, I noticed our Administrator wore a suit daily. Impressions matter. This reinforced what I understood. At the minimum, dress business casual and be prepared with full business attire when external meetings are a possibility. The exception is fieldwork that requires safety gear.

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

I am quiet and laid back. I need alone time. I seek out those who keep me centered on my faith, push me to grow, keep me thoughtful, positive and make me laugh. I experience joy watching the sun sparkle on the water, I cherish music, I melt over chocolate and fall for flowers. A chill day for me includes all four.

The WP-Content team wishes Winstina all the very best in her future endeavors and hopes to see her make more contributions to WordPress.

Meet our previous WP-Professionals of the Month – Andriy Andreyev, Wibowo Sulistio, Vikas Singhal, JB Audras, Ben Townsend, Michelle Frechette

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