Introducing Cameron Jones
Cameron Jones is a WordPress developer from the Gold Coast, Australia. He currently works for Digital Makers building websites for enterprise clients, and independently, he develops custom plugins. Outside of WordPress, he’s busy playing for sports clubs and parenting.
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 78.
Liam: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Liam Dempsey.
Tara: And I’m Tara Claeys. Today, we’re joined by Cameron Jones. Cameron is a WordPress developer from the Gold Coast, Australia. He currently works for Digital Makers building websites for enterprise clients, and independently, he develops custom plugins. Outside of WordPress, he’s busy playing for sports clubs and parenting. Welcome, Cameron. Nice to see you.
Cameron: Hi, guys. Nice to be here.
Liam: Oh, it’s our pleasure. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself please, Cameron?
Cameron: Yeah. Like I said, I live in the Gold Coast, Australia. I’ve been involved with the WordPress community for a bit over four years now, I think. And yeah, I’ve co-organized WordPress Meetups and WordCamps. I’ve got some custom plugins that I’ve used on more than 30,000 websites now. And yeah, I worked for an agency developing websites.
Tara: Cool. Tell us about the plugins that you’ve developed?
Cameron: The main one is called Facebook Page plugin and it just lets you embed a Facebook page on a website. That one I released April 2015, I think it was. Yeah, it’s used on more than 30,000 websites.
Tara: That’s great. How did you get started with WordPress? I can see you so I can say that you look like you’re a relatively young person. Technology probably is not something foreign to your upbringing. But how did you get started with WordPress?
Cameron: Yeah, I’ve kind of grown up with technology a little bit. Always had an attraction to computers. When I was in high school, I did a class that was doing coding and it was primarily MySQL and that was my introduction to web and coding. Before that, I’ve done some Flash games. I was designing MySQL databases and from there, I went to further study, got a diploma, and that was more website stuff mainly. Yeah, I was interested in doing work, making websites, web design and development. I was trying to find a job and I found most of the jobs were asking for people that do WordPress. So I literally just went onto YouTube and searched ‘how to make a website with WordPress’. That’s how I got into WordPress.
Tara: YouTube, the benefits of YouTube. That’s amazing. What a great story. And you are now employed doing WordPress and you also do some work on the side on your own. Which do you prefer?
Cameron: It’s a good question.
Liam: Given that you are currently employed, I’ll allow you to answer in a very diplomatic way.
Liam: Or we can withdraw the question if you’d like.
Tara: Yeah, we can take that away. Let me change the question. We talked to a lot of people who are self-employed and when we get to the question that will ask you about success, a lot of them say having the freedom to do what they love and those types of things. Seeing that you sort of have your foot in both of those areas, what do you like about working for yourself and what do you like about working for someone else?
Cameron: I enjoy both and they both come with their own different challenges. I enjoy working for an agency and working with other people. As part of my experience working with agencies, I’ve done a lot of digital marketing, SEO, so I’ve learned plenty of things. You get a design from a designer and it’s stuff that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. So it challenges you and pushes you in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to without working in that agency. But on the flip side of that, I’m very creative person and sometimes that can be a bit restrictive, so yeah, I really enjoy plugin development because I have full creative freedom. I don’t actually do freelance work as such on the side anymore. Because I’m good at writing code but there’s so much more to doing freelance web work than just writing code. You’ve got to be a salesperson and client relationships and all that sorts of stuff that I just don’t enjoy. And a lot of work that came to me was people who outsourced a website for a couple hundred bucks and then they weren’t happy with it and they wanted someone to tweak around it and get it– all the sorts of stuff that I didn’t really want to do anyway. There’s not really a conflict of interest there. Yeah, I really enjoy aspects of both working with an agency and then also working independently on my own product stuff more than client stuff.
Liam: I want to talk to you a little bit about the process of realizing you didn’t want to freelance. And I wonder, was that ever a notable part of your work or your revenue stream? You were relying on some level of income coming in there until you eventually realized, “I don’t like this.” And if it was like that, what was that process like? How did you eventually learn to say no to that? What was that all about?
Cameron: It wasn’t really a path of my– financially, it wasn’t really something I depended on. I’ve got my own registered business but it’s never made a profit so it’s not something that is keeping me up or anything. How it came about that I learned, realized that was in part due to the company that I work for now and that, as you can expect, some– the companies I work for, they’re like, “Yeah, we don’t feel entirely possible with you freelancing on side. We’re not going to say, don’t do it. But we just prefer if you don’t.” Sort of thing. When I was interviewing for working there, that kind of put that thought in my mind. That was there, just in the back of my mind. For quite a long time, my overall goal had been to go freelance full-time eventually. Some of the freedoms that that offered. But then ending up with a kid to look after and having the clients or leads that kept coming to me just were the same sorts of things that I didn’t enjoy, like stuff that I wasn’t even writing code for. And it was just a combination of all those couple of things that don’t show a period of time where it just showed to me that, yeah, it’s not the sort of thing that I have the time to deal with and it’s not like something I’ll enjoy anyway. Yeah, that was kind of how it came about.
Liam: Yeah, I respect that. The idea of working for oneself often seems great on paper but, as you said, all the non-billable work of looking for clients, chasing clients, billing the clients, collecting money. Even if all the clients pay on time, you still got to send them an invoice, right? Someone’s got to generate that and we can automate this and automate that but at some point, we have to look back on that data and see that they actually pay. You know, I respect that. And I want to tie that in because you just mentioned parenting and ‘the kids to deal with’ I believe was your phrase. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that and kind of where you are in life?
Cameron: Yeah. I’ve got a teenager that I take care of so that’s lots of fun. It’s quite amusing when I refer to him as my kid and people are like, “How old is your kid?” I’m like, “He’s 16.” And people look at me really funny.”
Liam: [laughs] How old are you, Cameron? You’re 23, correct?
Cameron: Yeah, I’m 23. I was only seven when he was born. People get really confused and it’s really funny seeing the cogs stuck in their mind.
Liam: [laughs] People’s face pauses as they’re trying to do the math on that.
Cameron: Yeah. Their face just goes blank and it’s like, trying to compute. I’ve been taking care of him for more than a year now. Last year– he’s a friend of someone close to me and last year, he became homeless and so I took him in and have taken care of him ever since. I expected that it would only last a month or two, that sort of thing, but no, I’ve completely fallen in love with this kid. He’s like assigned to me. And he’s been here effectively for over a year.
Tara: That seems like it would be something– I think it’s probably unusual for someone your age to take on a teenager to supervise and to– being a parent, it’s challenging and the teenage years are especially challenging so that’s quite a commitment that you’ve made to this person and it says so much about yourself that you’ve made this– It’s a sacrifice, I’m sure it’s a sacrifice to do this. I think that’s a good segway into the question that I want to ask you that we ask everyone, which is about success. And for you, with this person in your life, I imagine it might have some bearing on your answer about how you define success professionally and personally in your life?
Cameron: Yeah, that’s a very good question. Almost expecting it because I’m regularly listening to the show. Success for me on a personal level, my mantra for life that I’ve developed over the last, I don’t know, five or so years has been to be the person that I needed when I was younger. For me, success is just being anything that gets me closer to that goal. And work ties into it a bit. I’m very privileged in that I have a very supportive workplace. It gives me flexible working hours and it allows me to be flexible with the leave and that sort of thing. They assist me in being there for him. Just trying to be the person that I needed when I was younger to other people and right now, in particular, to him. It’s kind of like my goal for life, yeah, success is just pretty much anything that gets me closer to that.
Tara: It sounds like maybe you didn’t have that growing up. Where does that come from, I guess my main question is? It’s a void that you had that you wanted to fill or is it based on something else that you’ve seen or friends of yours, and you look at that and say, “That’s how I’d like to be as a parent or a mentor.” Where does that come from?
Cameron: Yeah, just from my upbringing mainly. I certainly didn’t have the worst childhood by a long way but I’m sure anyone who looks back at their upbringing, you see things that your parents did that you’re like, “That’s not a good thing. I don’t want to do that when I grow up.” And that sort of thing. Yeah, it’s just something that I felt strongly about. I’ve wanted kids of mine for as long as I can remember and it’s just something that– and the teenage years, like you mentioned, are a particular challenge. They are particularly challenging for me, too. I don’t want people to feel the way that I felt and dealt with some of the stuff that I did back when I was that age.
Liam: This is really moving in a lot of different ways and I’m kind of struggling to come up with a question that isn’t just, wow. But I’m really impressed by and I wonder about your goal, which is deeply personal and really moving about being an adult that you didn’t have, that you needed. And you’ve been kind of focusing on that for the last five or six years, as you said. And you’re 23. Coming out of teenage, going into young 20s as we try to figure out what in life really matters and where we want to go, and what we want to do, and who we want to be, and where we want to party, right, in a flippant kind of way. It’s not easy for most people to do, especially most people, including people or even people who have a tremendous level of support and community around them. That’s really amazing to me, that you not only set that as a goal, because I can see somebody setting that. If they’ve had a tough background, they say, “This is my goal.” But then being able to be in a position where you are today where it sounds like you’re absolutely delivering for your kid in a way that maybe you didn’t have when you were growing up. That’s really amazing. That wasn’t a question at all.
Tara: Yeah, I know. [laughs] I’m struggling with– there’s so many things going through my head right now, mostly just kind of in awe of this step that you’ve taken in your life and what a lucky kid this is because there are lots of kids who don’t have that kind of support. Do you have support to help you? Is there a community there that you rely on? What kinds of things do you do to be guided in this path and to give yourself some piece of mind? You say you play some sports. What’s the community like there? Is it a small town that you live in?
Cameron: No, I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly small town. It’s a rather large city. Gold Coast is a very broad area with lots of people. The suburb that I live in is the fastest-growing suburb in the state. Not particularly small by any means.
Tara: Is that where you grew up? Do you have family in the area?
Cameron: No. I moved here almost two years ago. And it’s funny. Looking back on all the things that happened when I moved here– it call came together so that I can be here for him. Just looking back and seeing all these things came together just so perfectly. In terms of community. I’ve got local WordPress communities so I go to several Meetups every month, and I play football during winter and cricket during summer. I do have social groups and stuff that keeps me busy. In terms of specifically being a parent or a pseudo-parent or whatever that you’d call it, I don’t necessarily have a great deal of support around that. I do have friends that I talk to and stuff.
Tara: They probably can’t relate to this at all, though, right?
Cameron: No. It is a very unique situation. There are people that do have similar situations like that. I’ve heard from someone the other day who– someone was in their early 20s and they’re taking care of their teenage sibling. That happens more regularly and it’s a fairly similar situation, I expect.
Tara: Yeah, I think also this person that you’ve taken under your wing probably also, it sounds like if he was homeless, he probably also has some struggles himself that you need to help him through and I would imagine that takes a lot out of you. My parents have been raising my niece and nephew for most of their life and they’re teenagers. Similarly, they struggle with not having a peer group that are in the same position that they are. Their friends are all grandparents and don’t have children living with them full-time and teenagers or troubled teenagers, I have somewhat of a picture of what that can be like to feel a little bit on your own as a parent or a pseudo-parent. We can spend a lot of time admiring you today, Cameron, because of what you’re doing. Pretty incredible. Thank you for sharing that with us and I hope that it continues to go well. Is this person interested in WordPress? [laughs]
Cameron: No. He’s not particularly tech-savvy, unfortunately. [laughter] He looks at what I do and is fascinated by it, amazed by being able to write code and that sort of thing. But he’s just not very technically-minded, although we were talking last night like, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” I’m like, “That I might be able to help you with.”
Tara: Yeah. [laughter] “I can build you a website.” [laughs]
Cameron: Definitely. I can tell you how to do marketing and all those sorts of stuff. I’ll give you the right podcasts to listen to.
Tara: That’s wonderful. Let me move on to another question, another topic, and let’s talk a little about advice and what the best advice is that you’ve received and implemented in your life?
Cameron: Another really good question. I don’t know if it’s so much advice. Have you guys seen the movie Robots? It’s this animated movie.
Tara: Yes, yes.
Cameron: one of the characters, Bigweld, one of the things that he says is, “See the need, fill the need.”
Liam: I love that. I thought that’s where you’re going. I love that.
Cameron: Yeah. It’s not so much as someone’s advice or something but that’s something in particular that has stuck with me for some reason. So yeah.
Liam: Yeah, it sounds like you’re doing that. See a need, fill a need. I love that. Speaking of filling a need. I want to circle back to kind of your WordPress involvement with the community. You said that you’ve organized WordPress Meetups, you’ve organized WordCamp– was it WordCamp Brisbane or WordCamp–? There’s not a WordCamp Gold Coast, is there? It’s WordCamp Brisbane?
Cameron: Yeah. There was a Gold Coast WordCamp a several years ago. Hopefully, there’ll be one some time.
Liam: I hope so, too. What I wonder is, how long between that first YouTube video, ‘How do you make a WordPress website’, and getting involved with organizing Meetups and WordCamps, how did that transition? Because that sounds very much like see a need, fill a need.
Cameron: Yeah. I think it would have been about nine months. In a very short period of time after starting to develop sites with WordPress, just learning, I managed to land my first full-time job. While I was working there, WordCamp Brisbane 2015 came along and so one of the people that worked there send out like an email and everyone was like, “Hey, look. There’s this WordPress conference on weekend.” It was like a week before it was on, sort of thing, so it was very last-minute and I had no idea what to expect or anything. I’m like, “Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll go.” You know how affordable WordCamps are. Living in Brisbane, it wasn’t hard to get to or anything. Pretty easy decision to make. Yeah, I went to WordCamp Brisbane and enjoyed it more than most things I have in my life. I was just amazed by all the things that I was learning. Just information overload for your first WordCamp, as I’m sure you guys experienced, too. Yeah, I just wanted more of that. I jumped on the WP Australia Slack and jumped on all the Meetups that I could find and went to as many Meetups as I could and that sort of thing. Yeah, that’s how I got involved with WordPress community, through a WordCamp.
Liam: That’s fantastic.
Tara: Cameron, what is your favorite thing that you do every day? Do you have like a special thing or a ritual or anything like that that you do every day? And if you don’t, that’s okay, too. Maybe just getting up out of bed and having coffee.
Cameron: I don’t like coffee. One of the strange people that doesn’t like coffee.
Tara: I can understand that. It takes some getting used to.
Liam: It does. Once you’re used to it, it’s awesome. Let me ask you this as you’re thinking about that because you said earlier, you’re into sports and you play football. For our non -American listeners, we should clarify that that’s Australian rules football. And that’s not a passive sport. Cricket is very passive in my mind, but there’s nothing passive about Australian rules football. Why that sport? Did you always grew up with it or did you say, “You know what? I need a stress relief and I’m either going to pound on people or get pounded. And that will get the stress out of my life for the day.”
Cameron: My brother got really into it when he was really young and introduced me to it. I’ve been playing it on and off since I was about eight or nine years old. I never played for a club growing up but I did play competitively with school. No I’m all grown up and stuff. I sit at a computer all day writing code for a living and just like noticing how unfit I’m starting to get. It’s like, “Okay, I really need to do something about this.” And I don’t feel particularly comfortable with going to the gym, I’m so self-conscious and every time I think about, “I should go to the gym.” There’s 50 million things that I can do that are quite productive. Writing some code or cleaning the dishes, all this sorts of stuff. I have to do something that I enjoy. I’ve been playing football since I was much younger and it’s something that I really love. For me, getting back into it was harshly for fitness and also just because I love the game. It wasn’t particularly to be a stress relief or anything like that. It’s just, I’ve been playing it since I was a kid.
Tara: That’s great. How often do you play when it’s in season?
Cameron: Every Friday night just about.
Tara: That’s great. And do you go into your office every day or how is that? You work remotely sometimes?
Cameron: Yeah. I go into the office in Brisbane four days a week and one day a week, I work from home.
Liam: And you say that’s not a short commute, right? Are you 90 minutes one way, 90 minutes both ways, 45 in, 45 out?
Cameron: It’s between an hour and a quarter and an hour and a half each way. Yeah, it’s 50 kilometers. That would be about 35 miles, I think. It’s an hour on the train, plus drop into the station, waiting for the train, walking to work once I get off the train, that sort of thing. It adds up a bit. The commute is a bit of a hike.
Tara: Do you listen to podcasts? What do you do when you travel?
Liam: Nice one, Tara. [laughs]
Cameron: I do. Before I listened to podcasts, I listened to music, but yeah, I mainly listen to podcasts on my commute. I find that helps me get into a good mindset for work. Listening to WordPress oriented podcasts helps me get in the zone to a degree. Yes, listening to podcasts mainly and doing some work on my own stuff on my laptop or catching up onto work if I need to.
Tara: Wow, so you can do that on the train, that’s good.
Cameron: I’m on the train for at least an hour so I’ve got plenty of time to kill.
Tara: Okay. It sounds like you make the most of it. You sound like a productivity-focused person from what you’ve described.
Cameron: Not really. I find I procrastinate a lot.
Tara: Ah. Well, you mentioned being productive so it sounds like you have that in mind. We all procrastinate.
Cameron: I try.
Tara: Even the most productive people procrastinate. It’s necessary for productivity, you know.
Liam: I like to think that we procrastinate more strategically than others. That’s what I tell myself when nothing on my to-do list is done yet.
Tara: Yeah. I just tell myself it is part of productivity, the process is having some procrastination and not planned time. That’s good. Having all that time on the train every day, I think it’s important to make use of that time or else you would just kind of feel exhausted. Just the monotony of traveling to commute and it sounds like you make most of that.
Liam: Speaking of time, we are out, I’m afraid. It’s been about a half an hour. Cameron, it’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you and chat with you a little bit. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Cameron: Thank you for having me.
Tara: Thanks for sharing your story and for all that you’re doing to help people in your world, one person in particular. Thank you so much, Cameron. It’s really been inspiring, I appreciate it.
Cameron: Nice to meet you, guys.
Liam: And before we say goodbye to you, Cameron. Please tell people where they can find you online.
Cameron: I am on my social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and all that, you can find me at Cameron Jones Web. On my blog, Cameronjonesweb.com.au.
Liam: Excellent. Well, thank you very much for your time today. As you said, it’s been a real pleasure. You’ve given us a lot to think about, a lot to ponder, and a lot to be grateful for. So thank you.
Tara: Thanks, Cameron. Bye-bye.
Cameron: Thanks guys. See you.
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