One of the organizers for WordCamp RI 2016 is Mary Beth Amaral. She’s also the Lead Designer at Linchpin. Mary Beth takes us behind the scenes of WordCamp RI and explains how WordCamp RI is responsible for introducing her to Linchpin.
Q: Mary Beth, you are back again this year as WordCamp RI is planned and coordinated. What draws you back?
A: Working for a company where WordPress plays a huge role in our day to day has made me more aware of the supporting community that makes it all possible. I’m fortunate that my company is more than willing and able to take time out of our busy schedules to help organize and plan WordCamp. Being part of WordCamp for the past few years has helped me see how important everyone’s involvement is, no matter how big or small.
Q: In your professional life, when you’re not helping to organize WordCamp RI, what do you do? What role does WordPress play?
A: Professionally, I spend my days designing websites for custom WordPress builds. With a full dev team on staff, I’m able to work closely with our developers to create sites that not only achieve our clients’ goals, but push the boundaries. Whether it be through visual animations or advanced functionality, having such a knowledgeable and skilled team here has taught me a lot about the capabilities of WordPress.
Q: WordCamp RI is two days of all things WordPress. For someone attending for the first time, what advice do you offer to get the most out of WordCamp?
A: Network! The great thing about WordCamp is that everyone there has a common interest in WordPress. Ask others how they use WordPress, start a conversation; you never know where it could lead! Four years ago, I attended the very first WordCamp RI where I met Aaron Ware, president and owner of Linchpin. Little did I know that a few months down the road I’d be looking for a new job and lucky for me, Linchpin was the perfect fit!
Q: Friday there are day-long in-depth sessions on various topics. Saturday is made up of a variety of 45-minutes seminars throughout the day. What is the advantage of taking the two approaches over the course of WordCamp RI?
A: Regardless of your experience with WordPress, both the day long sessions and shorter seminars are beneficial. Friday’s sessions provide in depth, hands on workshops that cover a variety of skill levels. In the past these have included, WordPress Basics, Getting to Know Sass, Contributing to WordPress Core, and more! The shorter presentations on Saturday typically run on specific tracks, focused on development, design, content or business. With these tracks running at the same time, there’s a good chance you’ll find a session that interests you!
Q: What’s this Happiness Bar everyone is talking about? Why would I want to stop by?
A: If you’re looking for some help, support, or have any WordPress related questions, the Happiness Bar is for you! Throughout the day WordCamp speakers and WordPress professionals will be camping out at the Happiness Bar at the ready.
Q: After WordCamp RI is over, there is the After-Party. What is that? Why should I attend?
A: Second to the awesome speakers and informative workshops, the After Party is the BEST way to end a great conference. If not for the amazing food and bevs, attend to mingle with others! It’s a relaxed atmosphere where most of the speakers, volunteers and organizers will head after Saturday’s sessions come to an end. If you wanted to talk with a speaker, or get some information on how you can get involved in the WordPress Community, it’s the perfect venue to do so. I promise, you won’t wanna miss it!
Q: WordCamp draws a diverse crowd: beginners, experienced coders, people who provide web content, project managers, and more. What approach does WordCamp RI take that such a varying group attends each year?
A: As a volunteer, I can attest to the amount of work that goes into promoting WordCamp. From university flyers and social media, to banner ads and extending reach beyond our own networks, we make sure to inform anyone and everyone we can. With a schedule of sessions targeting various career tracks, and presenters representing a range of professions, it’s easy to appeal to a diverse crowd.
Q: What tips and tricks do you recommend to get the most out of WordCamp RI? What should I bring? What should I do? Does it matter if I look at the schedule posted on the WordCamp RI website a day or two before I attend?
A: You’ll meet so many new people, some of whom you might want to reconnect with later – make it easy on yourself and bring business cards with you to hand out. I always have a pen and paper on me to jot down any references or contact info I don’t want to forget, but that being said all the sessions will be recorded and posted up on WordPress.tv, so don’t sweat it if you miss something. A laptop or tablet is recommended for the workshop day to be able to participate in any hands-on activities. I think it’s helpful to have an idea of your game plan for the conference, and the website will provide additional information about the sessions and speakers, but the schedule will be up online and posted throughout the venue for any last minute updates!
Q: Once the actual days of WordCamp RI arrive, what do you personally like to make sure you do?
A: Stock up on some snacks and water to prepare for the day ahead! I have a bit of a commute to East Greenwich (and am always hungry!) so I like to make sure I have a LaraBar or two, maybe even a banana to get me through until the very end!
Q: Is there any follow-up that makes sense once WordCamp RI is over?
A: A few days following WordCamp, a survey will go out to all the attendees. Whether you have good or bad feedback, the survey is a great opportunity to not only contribute back to the community, but to help make next year’s WordCamp even better!
You can reach Mary Beth on Twitter @maryelizabeth55