Introducing Christina Workman
Christina is a frontend developer, support specialist, trainer and community leader in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her favorite things include furry creatures, the colour purple, tea, Wapuu, and Brit TV.
Tara: This is Hallway Chats where we meet people who use WordPress.
Liam: We ask questions and our guests share their stories, ideas, and perspectives.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is Episode 108. Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today we’re joined by Christina Workman. Christina is a front end developer, support specialist, trainer, and community leader in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her favorite things include furry creatures, the color purple, tea, Wapuu, and BritTV. Welcome, Christina.
Christina: Thanks. It’s great to be here.
Tara: Hi, Christina, we’re glad you’re with us today. Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Christina: Yeah. As Liam said, I’m in Calgary, and I’m a very big part of our WordPress community here. I really love the community. I’ve been organizing the meetups and some of the most recent WordCamps and brought KidsCamp to Calgary. We did our first contributor day. I’ve been using WordPress for about 10 years now as a freelancer, and I’m taking the next step pretty soon into another company.
Tara: What have you enjoyed about being a freelancer, and what has been your motivation for joining a company?
Christina: I love the flexibility and the fact that I can sleep as much as I want or as much as I need to. It’s been a really big help in my mental health, being able to take care of myself and do what I need to do on my own timeline. But I’m ready to join the bigger, more global WordPress community. I want to be more involved and I think joining the right company is a really good step. So being able to still have some flexibility, and being able to work on all the things I love and still talk to people in the community was really important, then being able to work from home still.
Tara: That sounds exciting. How did you get started in WordPress and web development?
Christina: Sort of a strange story. I was working for a local company, and due to various reasons, both personal and at work, I ended up…I don’t know if you really say you ended up with depression. But I got depression or became…
Liam: Experienced it.
Christina: And took some time off and reevaluated things and realized that I really needed to get away from that environment, and thought, “What am I going to do?” The answer turned out to be Reiki, not WordPress. But Reiki was sort of stopgap. I found I was meeting more fellow practitioners who needed help with computer issues, and I was able to provide that for them and still understand where they were coming from. That turned into helping them with all things online and building websites. Eventually, the Reiki got left behind and WordPress became the forefront.
Liam: Can you just explain briefly what Reiki is. I’m not sure that everybody knows.
Christina: Yeah. Essentially, at its most basic, it’s energy healing system. You are a channel for good energy flowing into the person you’re working on, which could be yourself and helping negative energy be released. Lots of people can feel the warmth in the area that you’re currently working on, and yeah, just works with energy. Which I know some people think sounds hokey, but I like to remind them of the fact that I used to use watches as an example and how the quartz crystal helps power the watch with energy. But now, even better is all of these touchscreen devices that we have. It’s not a matter of how much pressure we’re putting on, but it’s the energy from our fingertips that’s actually opening up an app on our iPhone, or whatever it is. So if you think about that little bit of energy that’s coming out of you. We’re all full of energy, and it’s all manipulatical if that’s a word.
Liam: Right. So it’s like a yoga or therapy or massage type of thing. Not perfect analogies, but it’s that sort of thing.
Christina: It’s in that sort of, yeah. And it follows lots of the same points as acupuncture as well.
Liam: There you go. So you started doing WordPress development for your friends and contacts and colleagues in Reiki and then that developed enough to be a freelance business for you?
Christina: Yeah. I started with just wordpress.com and then learned about self-hosted and started dabbling in that. Way back when I was in university, I had – and I can’t even remember now – I think it was an Angelfire. But maybe I had an Angelfire energy or cities. I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I had Angelfire, though, for my guinea pigs. And so I learned a bit of HTML back then. I remember enjoying it. Math and languages have always been my best subjects, and so coding to me, just kind of makes sense because of the structure to it.
So I just did some free courses online to sort of renew my HTML and learn more about what CSS was. And that was sort of the gateway code into developing.
Tara: So would you say also that Reiki is a language. Just curious, when you said math and Reiki. I mean, what’s the training like to learn that?
Christina: I guess in a way there’s a bit of a language. It’s not so structured like most oral languages are. But there is sort of a communication happening there. So yeah, there would be.
Tara: Interesting. So you’re in Canada, and you mentioned that you’re involved in the WordPress community. What do you do in the WordPress community there and how has that helped you grow?
Christina: I first learned about our community from meetups.com and found our Meetup group. From there, I learned about WordCamps, because there was a WordCamp happening north of us in Edmonton. It was being promoted on our group as well. So I went up to that, and had a great time, learned a lot and kept going to our meetups.
Then one day I was asked to join the organizing team of our WordCamp, and I became pretty good friends with the person who’s running the meetups. He needed to step down, so then I took over organizing the meetups. I have some other people that I do that with now. I was the lead organizer for our WordCamp for two years. Then last year 2018, we started our first KidsCamp. And so I run that. And that’s the whole second…we do two days for camp, and so KidsCamp is the whole second day.
Then we did it again this past year and had even more kids show up. So it was really exciting to see that it’s growing already and that people are really interested. I really like teaching kids in general, but also especially with coding, and giving them tools that they’re going to need. And the sooner they learn that they can do it and that they get exposed to it, the more likely they are to continue. Especially girls and minorities to know that it’s not a boy thing or…anybody and everybody can code and have fun and keep going with it.
Liam: What does a KidsCamp look like in Calgary? What does that entail? I mean, if you’ve got to keep children effectively entertained, you’re educating them, but you also have to entertain them, what does that look like?
Christina: It’s pretty low key right now. We started off with talking to them about what WordPress is at a pretty simple level. Then we walk through getting them set up with their own wordpress.com account. And then we showed them how to create a page and a post, and add images, and embed YouTube videos if that’s what they want to do, and pick a theme and change the colors and all that kind of stuff. And so that hopefully, at the end of the day, they’ve got a bit of a blog started. We like to have them, if they will want to, come up and put their blog up on the screen and tell everybody what it is that they created. And just the pride on their faces is so awesome.
Next year, we’re hoping to maybe add for people returning or people who already have some experience, some HTML and CSS learning. We’re still in baby stages but have big plans.
Tara: It’s been really interesting. We’ve spoken to some other folks who have gotten involved in teaching kids and her WordCamps have started to really expand and offer KidsCamp components of their WordCamps. Do you have any kids that come to your meetups?
Christina: We did once, but it was more of being dragged along because it was there was nobody to watch him. But no, not yet. We don’t.
Tara: It’s an interesting question. For the KidsCamp, is it mostly children of people who are attending or are these kids who discover this or their parents discover it for them, but the parents themselves are not involved?
Christina: Yeah, this year, it was mostly kids who I don’t know how they found out about it. But it wasn’t that their parents were attending. We had a couple, especially some last-minute people that were there on the first day, and then heard more about it and like, “I’m going to bring my kids tomorrow.” But yeah, I didn’t get a chance to ask them how they found out but most of them just kind of registered.
Tara: That’s great. When you have done your freelance work, how have you grown that business? Is it mostly local? Are you building websites…
Christina: It’s mostly local.
Tara: …from start to finish or are you doing just development? How does that look?
Christina: It started off being me just making sites by myself. About four years ago now, I hooked up with a lady who’s a graphic designer. So as often as possible, we try to work together. She was looking for a developer at the time because she had some of her clients that said, “Hey, do you build websites?” and she tried, but you know, there’s a lot of things to know about WordPress and building a site and she didn’t know them and recognize that.
And likewise, I am not a fan of digging really deep into design stuff. I have creative bones in my body and I can recognize when something works and doesn’t work, but I prefer to leave that to her. So luckily, we’ve able to partner up a lot in the last few years and have become best friends in the process too.
Liam: And is your colleague active in WordPress or is your colleague just a designer and doesn’t care if you use WordPress, or Joomla or something else?
Christina: When it comes to websites, she does what I tell her. She basically refers to me – and we’re WordPress only. But just as she’s taught me some things about graphic design, she’s learned about different things with websites. And so she kind of understands WordPress now as well. She’s actually also joined the WordPress community organizing our camps as part of the organizing team. I forgot to mention also on the WordCamp US, organizing team this year, and she’s ended up joining as well. I bring her along.
Tara: Have you been to WordCamp US before?
Christina: I was lucky to go last year. It was my first time outside of Alberta for a WordCamp. It was amazing. I actually volunteered at the registration table the whole weekend. So I got to see everybody coming and going and it was a lot of fun. I am a big fan of swag. So I ended up with four tote bags sort of, I think.
Tara: Wow. There’s a lot of swag at WordCamps. What’s your favorite swag you ever gotten?
Christina: I have become a huge fan of the Wapuu pins. I have turned my son into a fan of them as well. So now I come home with stuff, and he’s like, “Hey, can I have that one?” We fight over it, and I say no. And he has to find his own, but any doubles I get for him.
Liam: There you go. There you go. Christina, I want to ask you one of our more signature questions, and it’s around success. You’ve talked about freelance and you’ve talked about some of the value that you’ve gotten from Reiki and how you’re transitioning into a job with a company now. Can you share with us your definition of success? And it can be a personal definition or a professional definition, or maybe for you, it’s a mix of both.
Christina: It’s definitely a bit of a mix and not just one single definition. I think that there’s sort of a broader, more grand scheme version of success, which is overall that I’m happy and healthy and doing things that I want to be doing. But then just daily successes, smaller successes are just achieving those goals that we’ve set out for ourselves. So whether that’s getting landing a particular client that I was really excited about or finishing a project to maybe one day renovating our basement. But I think that if you’re not setting goals for yourself, then you end up sort of just floating along and not achieving much. So for me, success is essentially achieving those goals that I’d set up.
Tara: So I’m a goal setter or have become one. Is there a process that you use? And I guess, you know, goal they change over time or you achieve them and make new one. Do you have a formal process? Or is it something more that you just…do you have Post-it Note, or know in your head, or a journal? Talk a little bit about your process for coming up with goals and setting them.
Christina: It varies too. I try sometimes, usually at the beginning of the year, to sit down and set some goals for business for the year. And so those involved looking at, you know, for something’s looking at what happened in the past year, and ways to improve that and thinking about things that I that I’m really excited about and want to make sure that I work towards. Because something like a KidsCamp, for example, you can’t just decide the day of, “Hey, we’re going to do a kid’s camp, right?” You have to actively be planning for that. So to make sure that those are set up. And then try to set some target dates. But more or less I find as long as I’m decided that I want to do something and keep it top of mind, then I follow through and be able to achieve that.
Tara: So is it like yearly goals that you set?
Christina: For business, yeah. But then again, like you said, things change all the time and new opportunities come up. So those are just sort of a bit of an outline, I guess, a starting point.
Tara: Yeah. Yeah.
Liam: Christina you shared that when you keep your goals top of mind you pretty well are getting them achieved or reaching them. And I kind of wonder about what do you do to keep them top of mind? Because you’ve talked about career, you’ve talked about all the work you’re doing in the WordPress community, we’re fortunate enough to meet your puppy and your son before we started recording. So you clearly have some family obligations and goals there. And you’ve got a house that you’re looking after and taking care of. So there’s a variety of different things. How do you manage all that? What does that look like for you?
Christina: Managing all that can be pretty chaotic sometimes. Especially in my house, I am the one that kind of keeps all of the dates and the important things and all that. This is something that I seem to be a natural at. I don’t even know how I do that, particularly. But I know one of the ways anyways, that I keep things top of mind is making sure to share them with other people. So if I have a goal, that I want to achieve something great, and I don’t tell anybody, chances are I’m not going to do much. Not only am I not going to do much to move forward in achieving that goal, but a big part of achieving the goals is the help along the way, right? The opportunities that present themselves and the little ways that other people can influence.
You know, if somebody doesn’t know that you’re, say, looking for a new job, when a new job comes up that they think you’d be perfect for, they might not tell you about it because they think you’re happy doing what you want. So sharing with people helps also just keep it top of mind for myself.
Tara: Yeah, it also holds you accountable in some ways too.
Tara: Accountability is a big thing. So do you have a group that you rely on, your WordPress friends, your family, all of the above?
Christina: My colleague is a huge part of that. My husband also, he’s a great support and helps me keep on track and keep going. And then I think the WordPress community is really great. I’ve got a few Facebook groups and Slack groups and different things like that that help keep me on task when I need to. And if I need some help or support or whatever, then there’s always somewhere I can turn for that.
Liam: Christina, we’ve talked with different guests who have gone from employment with others to their own freelance and some have gone from freelance to employment of others, and some have joined partnerships and then gone freelance, all sorts of different ways. That often comes from a desire to face a new challenge, take on a new goal or some other thing like that. And I wonder if you can talk about your experience in thinking about and pondering about and working through the process to which you came to decision that employment is going to be the right choice for you over a freelance career or freelance position.
Christina: A lot of its come down to, again, those goals and wanting to expand more in the WordPress community. I think our community down here is really – Down here. We’re up from you – is really small in comparison to a lot of them in the States. And I want to have a bigger impact, I guess.
And so I know some people are quite good at taking their companies and really growing them, but for me, as a freelancer, I really like that one on one relationship with my clients that I have. But that wasn’t going to allow me to expand into the global community as much as I want it to. And I just love WordPress so much that I just want to do it all the time.
Tara: We love WordPress too. That’s why we are doing this. We love chatting with people who love WordPress and for whom WordPress has done more than just, you know…it’s more than just a work thing. It’s more than just a career. It’s a community. And so I can sense that that’s thing for you. And so I’m excited to see where you’re going with that too.
Liam: Let’s talk about advice. Christina, what’s the best advice or some valuable advice that you’ve been given or received or read and successfully implemented in your own life?
Christina: I think one of my business coaches started planting this into my head and I’ve taken it a bit and expanded on it. It comes down to those goals again. Not even necessarily goals, but wins and your tiny little successes that you maybe didn’t even plan for. The idea is to keep track of those. Make sure that you’re somewhere, wherever it works for you, to write down all the things that have been a win.
And sometimes something that didn’t go well as a win to you because you made it through or you learned a lesson. So I would have things like got a referral from a client. And then that referral, if it turned into an actual client, that would be a win, as well. And then the great thing is, it serves a couple of great purposes. One is at the end of the year, you can take a look back and see all of the things that you have achieved. And if you are the kind of person who’s planning your goals out for the next year, and you’re trying to remember what you did this past year, you’ve already got a list going.
But the other really great thing is when you’re having those down moments because I mean, we all experienced them in general. But when you’re freelancing too, you can have some pretty severe slumps sometimes and when you’re doubting yourself and whether you should be doing this and all those negative kinds of thoughts. So being able to then look and see, “Oh, no, I am good at what I’m doing and people do want to work with me and all of those other things.” And throwing any, anytime somebody says something nice, that’s the beauty of email, and text, when they come through, is always copy those and put those in as well so that I actually have the actual words that people have said thanking me for helping them solve a problem or whatever it might be. So tracking all of your wins.
Tara: It’s a good mental health exercise. I think working alone a lot, as many freelancers do, as many WordPress people do, it’s easy to get in a slump as you mentioned. And so I love the idea of keeping track of all the positive things in order to help you when you’re going through negative stuff. It’s really good advice.
Christina: And you don’t need anybody’s help to do it, right? You can do it all on your own and you can make it look however you want. And it’s not dependent on anybody or anything except you.
Tara: That’s great advice.
Liam: Yeah, that’s advice I share with work I do with an organization that helps people on transition. That it’s so easy to forget those little bits of nice words and those little wins and those little successes and you know, look back six months later, and “I haven’t done anything.” I call it an I Love Me Book. If we just keep an I love Me Book, and just as you do, copy and paste out emails, throw the text messages in there, just a little one line note, it’s so valuable, because it just starts some memory, “Oh, yeah, that was hard day. And I got a meeting with that person. And I didn’t get any business, but they never take meetings from anybody and they took mine. So yay.”
Christina: Exactly. And you never know where those things will lead to. For people who are very visual, I kept a spreadsheet or I keep a spreadsheet of my wins, and then I’ve got a sheet of paper that has 100 circles on it. And I put a sticker on each circle to correspond with whatever I’ve added to my Spreadsheet. So not only do I have this list, but I also have a fun sticker sheet.
Tara: I love that. And Liam would not be surprised to know that I probably will now have yet another spreadsheet.
Liam: In Google Docs. No doubt.
Tara: Sure. I’m starting one as we speak right now. Do you rate them like best wins, medium wins, little wins?
Christina: No. As far as that spreadsheet is concerned, they’re all important.
Tara: That’s great.
Christina: I do try to put the date. Sometimes I forget to update it and I have to kind of remember back a week or two. So I don’t necessarily have the exact date, but try to date it as well.
Tara: I think that’s good parenting advice. Do you share that in your family as well? I think kids these days, it’s easy with social media to get focused on negative stuff and miss all the positive encouragement that they might get.
Christina: I haven’t actually shared that with my son. Although when he has his moments, I’m that spreadsheet for him.
Tara: I love that. “I’m that spreadsheet.” That’s great.
Liam: That’s an important role fto fill.
Christina: Yeah. We got to keep encouraging them and lifting them up, right?
Tara: Yeah. How do you balance your parenting family life with your work when you’re working from home?
Christina: One of the great things about being my own boss and having the flexibility, particularly when my son was a bit younger, there were a lot of volunteer opportunities in school. So I was really happy that I could take time off whenever I wanted to, and then shift when I was working so that I could go in and do that. Now he’s almost a teenager, and he’s a lot more self-reliant. So during the days, right now being summer, he’s pretty self-sufficient, but I try to make sure that we have time to either go for a walk into Pokémon or go see a movie, take him to the zoo, different things like that so that we’re spending some time together.
And then just being here whenever he needs me. He has a couple of special needs, and so it’s really important for me to be here for him and to understand him. He said to me a couple nights ago, you know, as kids do, but he said, “You know, you’re the best mom ever.” And I thought because that balance is tricky, you know, and I said, “No, I’m not. I don’t do lots of things.” Because as much as I try to do things, there’s still lots…you know, you always compare and you think, “Oh, that mom does all of these things, and I don’t.” He actually got really, really upset when I said that I wasn’t the best mom and that I could be better. And he’s like, “No, you understand me.” That was probably the biggest thing for him was that I understood him and I took time with him.
Tara: Yeah, it’s easy to compare yourself. I hope you put that on your win sheet.
Tara: That’s an ultimate win to hear that from your child. That’s awesome.
Tara: That’s great.
Liam: I think especially where our children think differently than the normal typical world, if you will, as their parents, we understand them. Even if we don’t think like them, and we can’t always predict the way that they’ll think, that they know and trust that we understand where they are, and what they’re doing, and where they’re coming from, and where their needs are. That’s invaluable. My hat’s off to you for achieving that. That’s a huge win. That’s patience. That’s a lot of patience. It’s a lot of love. So, congrats, and thank you.
Christina: Thank you. Well, he’s a pretty good kid.
Liam: I don’t doubt it.
Christina: Yeah, he’s worth it.
Tara: Christina, I’m afraid we are out of time. I have just really enjoyed chatting with you and getting to know you a little bit, and I look forward to meeting you in person at WordCamp US.
Christina: That’d be great.
Tara: Where can people find you online?
Christina: I’m pretty much online everywhere as Amethyst Answers. I might be changing that soon to just Christina Workman. So we’ll have to see. So if you find Amethyst Answers doesn’t exist anymore, look for Christina Workman. And I can be emailed at email@example.com.
Tara: Great. Thanks again for joining us.
Christina: Thank you for having me.
Liam: Thanks so much, Christina. It was an absolute pleasure. I really enjoyed it.
Liam: Thanks for listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
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