Introducing Rene Morozowich
Rene Morozowich is a WordPress developer from Pittsburgh, PA. She works with agencies and small businesses and loves planning, organizing in all of the details. Rene is an introvert who loves rollerskating, naps, non-fiction, and talking about money.
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 84.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats, I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today, we’re joined by Rene Morozowich. Rene is a WordPress developer from Pittsburgh, PA. She works with agencies and small businesses and loves planning, organizing in all of the details. Rene is an introvert who loves rollerskating, naps, non-fiction, and talking about money. Hi, Rene.
Rene: Hey, guys. How are you?
Tara: We’re great and so glad you could join us today. Thanks for coming on the show, Rene. Can you tell us more about yourself?
Rene: Sure, yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I’m Rene and I live in Pittsburgh. I live here with my 10-year-old son half the time. I will be 40 this year. I don’t know if I should say that or not.
Liam: You just did.
Rene: Yeah, I did. I don’t know if I should tell or–
Tara: No shame in that. 40 is awesome.
Rene: It’s the new 30s or something, right?
Liam: You are wearing black, I see.
Rene: I am. I’m just preparing for the year ahead. I’m excited. I’m hoping that I avoid the midlife crisis. I’m also wondering, is this midlife? Have I reached it or am I going to live to 100 and then I have another 10 years until midlife? I don’t know how it goes.
Tara: Having just turned 50 last year and about to turn 51. I would say I feel like I’m frighteningly beyond midlife now. I’m on the other side of that.
Rene: Really? Yo just feel like you feel though. I don’t feel really like I aged. I kind of just feel like me.
Tara: I think you definitely do, but when you’re looking at your life ahead of you, it’s sort of like, “Wow. Look at all that’s behind me.” There’s still a lot ahead of me but it’s not as much as what’s behind me. That’s the thing, I think. At 40, you are kind of in the middle, so happy birthday. [laughs]
Rene: Thanks. That’s a little bit about me. I work with WordPress. That’s why I’m here.
Tara: Where in Pittsburgh do you live?
Rene: I live in the suburbs. I live in East Side. Then when you live on– I don’t know if this works that way with other cities but when you live on the East Side, you don’t like the other side.
Tara: Oh, yes.
Rene: To go to the South, no, no, South Side is no good. North, no, it’s so far and there’s so much traffic. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a grid system so it’s all haphazard, there’s hills and one-way streets, everything’s always closed so you can’t really get around. I like the East Side and I stick to it mostly.
Tara: Did you grew up there?
Rene: I grew close to where I live now, yeah, in the suburbs. My parents live about 10 minutes away. Yeah, it’s fine, it’s nice. They can live closer to the city once my son is older.
Liam: Classical question about Pittsburgh. I understand that it has the second most amount of bridges of any city in the world, bar Venice. If that’s true and even if it’s just anecdotally true, I know there are tons of bridges. Has anybody or do you keep track of how many bridges you’ve crossed to try to cross every bridge in Pittsburgh?
Rene: I don’t keep track. Sometimes you end up going across the bridge that you don’t intend to go across. You’re like, “I’m on this road, I didn’t realize. Oh, no. Here I am. I’m going somewhere else.” But funny you say that. I work for an agency who just did a website for a client called 446 Bridges. The theory is that there are 446 bridges in Pittsburgh. I don’t know if that’s true and I can imagine that’s a not a fixed number I would think.
Liam: I don’t know that it would flex all that much, right? It’s not simple to throw up a bridge across over a quarter of mile wide piece of water.
Rene: Exactly, right. Yeah, if maybe one goes down, they put it back up. But specifically, 446. They tore one bridge down, it takes years of lifting it back up. And then maybe they tear one down and it never goes back up. Like, “Oh can’t go that way any more.” It’s just the exact number. So yeah, about 446 but–
Tara: That’s a lot of bridges. I’m going to bridge into WordPress and ask you how you got started with WordPress?
Rene: I started with WordPress a few years ago. I was working at, I had like a regular job. I went in at 8:00 and then I went home at 5:00, that kind of thing, every day. I kind of had been down at work, I started looking around. And then I had so much downtime that I started taking some classes. I got really interested in it. I liked the community that I found and I liked how I can leverage some of my past experience to either do something new, and it was new and exciting, and it came with all of those other things beyond WordPress like working for yourself and taking on different kind of clients and projects where I get a regular job. You work with the same people doing the same project every day. I really liked that and I kept going. And last year– not last year. Year before in August, I quit my job, with some clients I jumped in. I had seen this cartoon where there is a guy hanging off a cliff in the first panel, and then the second panel, he let’s go. And then the third panel is the ground is three inches below him. He thinks he’s going to fall really far and he really doesn’t fall that far and it’s totally fine, which is what happened. So far, it’s been really good. Everybody’s been really nice and I’ve had really great clients. Some difficult times but overall, it’s a much better fit for me.
Tara: What’s your background? Has it been in computer, coding?
Rene: Yeah. I went to the school for computer science and then when I graduated, I got a job at PPG, some people know PPG. They make glass and paint and stuff like that. I worked there for a little while and I knew right away that it was not going to work. They gave me a lot of money and a bunch of benefits and all these things, they put me in an office, and I was 22 years old, and thought, “Oh, no.” And I would cry, and I’d go home and I’d cry. I couldn’t get up in the morning, I would cry. It was so bad. A few years later, I quit and my parents were like, “Ugh.” Like I had done something really, really terrible. And then I had some other jobs. I kept going back to that same sort of job. I was programming, I did a little bit of teaching adults computer related things, but I kept going back. Every two years or so, I would get a new job, just in a different company doing the same kind of thing. What’s insanity, doing the same thing and thinking something else is going to happen. The same things kept happening. Then eventually, I was like, “Wait, wait. No. Something has to change.” So here I am.
Tara: Sounds like working for yourself feels more right.
Rene: Definitely, yeah. And I like the whole gamut of things. Some people are like, “I hate billing. I hate talking on the phone.” And all this stuff. I like all that stuff in moderation. I can’t talk on the phone all day, I can’t do billing all day, obviously. I like the whole spiel, so it is good.
Tara: That’s great. And you have flexibility, you have a son. How old is your son?
Rene: He’s 10.
Rene: So I don’t cry in the mornings now.
Tara: Yeah. [laughs] He needs some attention and you can be flexible which is a great thing.
Rene: Yeah, definitely. I can pick him up early, or I can take him in late. It’s not a big deal. If he’s sick– and he really hasn’t been sick now that he’s passed that really young and child age, he’s better. Now I can just, for the most part, stop whatever I’m doing and attend him if he needs.
Liam: Yeah, that’s a great flexibility there and it’s hard to put a dollar amount on that, right? A few years down the road, what would they have to pay you to get rid of that? Like, “Oh, geez. I don’t know.” It’s such an interesting thing and I’m in a similar position. My children are about the same age and I work from home and work for myself. Having that flexibility to be there when they need me, or even just when they want me. Like, “Yeah, alright. Let’s go play some Fortnite. Let’s go do that.”
Rene: Yeah, definitely.
Liam: Yeah, let’s go out for ice cream, why not? That’s lucky. Tell me a little bit about your clients? Who do you work with? You said you work with agencies and small businesses. Are you working directly with the website owners? Are you working on behalf of other agencies that are delivering for their clients? How does that all work for you?
Rene: I do work with some agencies and in some cases, I have access to the end client. I can talk directly to the end client. I just move the agency people in and that’s no problem. Other agencies, I don’t, I just work with agencies themselves. They give me all the requirements. In those cases, though, they’re generally website build. So, “Here’s the design, build out the homepage and some of the other pages.” And then they take it from there. I like both, both are nice. But then I do work with my own clients, individuals and small businesses who need something. Maybe they need changes to an existing site and maybe they need a whole new thing entirely. I can do those sort of things. I just started working with a plugin developer making some plugin changes. That’s my goal in 2019 is to get a little bit more into that and get up to speed in the WordPress world as really to the languages that are used here. I have programming experience but in other languages.
Liam: I see. That last plugin work is a plugin owner is saying, “Hey, Rene. Can you help me add these three bits of functionality? We want to bulk this out in some way, shape, or form. Can you just lead on that?”
Rene: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened so far. That will be my goal is to look for more opportunities like that. How, I’m not sure yet. And maybe do some contributions to free plugins where it looks like it might fit my skillset.
Liam: And the plugin that you’re working on, is that a paid plugin or is it one of these freemium where it comes free and then the add-ons come in? I’m just wondering about the business behind it and not asking you to reveal for whom you’re working but more just what’s the economy behind what you’re doing?
Rene: Yeah, the freemium sort of model where the base plugin has a nice number of features, and then if you want to add this on or add that on or add something else on, then those features, too.
Tara: You’re doing a lot of different things and you like the variety of the things that you’re doing. What is the biggest challenge of when you are doing so many different kinds of things? How do you manage all of the things that you have in different directions?
Rene: I think part of it, yeah, is hard to manage the time, especially with the technical work, I really need to block off time where if I’m working for an agency and making some changes or doing a quick build and waiting for a client, I can have my email running. I can have Slack open, I can kind of ping around and do these things. But the other type of work, I have to turn all of that off. I try not to promise anything really quickly. That will give me buffer time so that somebody says, “Hey, can you do this by tomorrow?”, “Well, I can do that by Friday. Give me a couple of days.” That way I can fit it in so that it works out.
Tara: Yeah, it sounds like you have a good handle on your time management and what you need to do to get things done which helps you.
Rene: As it gets busier, it can get more difficult. I have that worry right now. I have a couple of new leads and okay, what if people sign up all at the same time? I try not to think too far ahead, just, “Okay, what do I have to do right now? What’s upcoming? Map it all our as best I can and basically just sit down and get to work.”
Tara: I was going to say that you know how to plan your time so that your time so that you can be successful, which is the question I’m going to ask you next, which is, how do you define success, Rene? In your personal, professional, combination of the two, how do you define success?
Rene: I think we talked a little bit about it already but the professional is that flexibility, doing interesting work, helping people. People email me and say, “I need help with this.” It’s so exciting to be able to write back or talk with them on the phone, meet with them in person and help them in their business. Even making enough money to support myself and not crying in the morning, all of those. I feel like I’m wildly successful right now. I don’t want to jinx it. I feel very fortunate, too, for the professional success. And then personal success is traveling, spending time with people that I care about, spending time by myself relaxing, hobbies, that kind of thing. That area probably needs a little bit of work but those are things that I define personal success.
Liam: Yeah, those are good things. What are hobbies? Travel, that’s a pretty obvious one, the newness and the adventure, different cultures, all that comes with that. But when you’re not working, when you’re not traveling, what are you doing?
Rene: As soon as I said hobbies, I thought, “Oh no, I shouldn’t have said hobbies.”
Liam: “Now I have to have a hobby.”
Rene: [laughter] I know.
Liam: It doesn’t have to be a hobby.
Tara: I do hear rollerskating.
Liam: We all refer to hobbies, but yeah, talk to us about rollerskating.
Rene: I love rollerskating.
Liam: Are you an inline skater or a four-wheeler?
Rene: No, no. Four-wheeler. I have my own skates. For a couple of years, I wanted to teach my son to skate. I feel like it’s my duty as a parent to teach my son, whether I teach him or somebody else teaches him, to arrange for his teaching of these things that are harder to learn as an adult. I felt like rollerskating fits into that. And he has a girlfriend that’s 16 or whatever and she likes to roller skate, and he’s like, “Well, I can skate.” I feel like I will have done him a disservice. We have some friends who go. He really likes the inline skates so he has those, but I have my own roller skates that are black and pink. It’s a communal activity but it’s really an individual activity. We’re all there together. We all take a break and get some snacks. We eat a couple of things and then we sit down on the side and we talk to each other. But when you’re out there skating, it’s just you and it’s kind of freeing. You listen to songs and go around the ring.
Tara: I did that when I was younger. I didn’t even know there still were rollerskating rinks.
Rene: There’s actually one. My sister lives in Minnesota and they have one close to her house where they have an over 30 night and it’s just people over 30. I would love to do that. When I was out there, we didn’t get to go but that’s my dream, to go, when there’s no kids.
Tara: Elbow pads, knee pads, big huge pads on everybody. I have a friend who tried rollerskating, she broke both of her arms.
Rene: Oh, no.
Liam: Not good.
Tara: It gets dangerous when you get older.
Rene: It is. And that’s why I feel like maybe skiing or something. And I go slow. I’m not that person zipping around the rink. You’ve got to be careful.
Tara: That’s cool for your son. Imagine him growing up with that skill and doing it with his friends and that kind of thing.
Liam: Can you skate backwards?
Rene: Funny you say that too, my brother-in-law was here over Christmas and he was asking my son about skating backwards, and neither of us can do it. So we went a couple of weeks ago after Christmas, and there was a backwards skate so I thought, “Okay, I’m going to go out there and do it.” I get out there and I’m thinking really hard, I said, “Take a video of me.” So I have a video, I was going so slow and we were with a couple of friends, and the little girl was five. In the video, she just glides backwards right past me and here I’m thinking and trying, trying to wrap my mind of it. Obviously, way overthinking the whole thing. So no, or not yet. [laughter]
Liam: Not yet. That’s the success. I like that.
Rene: I’d like to do that crossover thing, too. Where you see the people and they cross.
Tara: Do you ice skate also?
Rene: No, no, no. I’ve been ice skating before but you have to try to skate really tightly around your ankle and that’s uncomfortable for me. But the same friends that we go with, they like to ice skate. Maybe we try it. We haven’t yet but maybe we will.
Liam: I look forward to seeing that video, please.
Rene: Oh, no. [laughs] I’ll put it on Twitter later.
Liam: Alright, sounds good. I want to talk to you a little bit about WordPress community. You shared, Rene, how from your day job, you started looking at WordPress as something new, a bit of a challenge, freshen things up, what have you. And then you drifted, I’ll say drifted but if you like to plan that well and you’re that organized, you did not drift, you went methodically from one point to the next, but I’m going to use drift. You drifted into where you’re at now professionally. But how did the WordPress community find you or how did you find it and how did you get into it really?
Rene: When I was taking some classes, somebody mentioned that there were things like meetups and there were things like WordCamps. I didn’t know any of this, I didn’t know it existed. I went to a meetup in Pittsburg. I had two Meetups, one on the North and one in the city because, again, if you go to one, you’re not going to the other, in general. And I met Melinda Helt and she was the organizer of that city group at the time. And just the minute I walked in, she was so eager to talk about WordPress and everything that was available and how everything worked and all of that. She works for automatic so she has a lot of information and has been in the community a long time. I started coming to the meetups regularly, I went to WordCamp Kent, which was my first WordCamp in, not this past year but the year before. It was a two-day event and the first feature was Carrie Dils and she talked about her time at Starbucks and wearing a green apron and what that meant. And I started crying, I’m like, “What is this? What have I stumbled into?” I thought we’re talking about WordPress and we’re talking about Imposter Syndrome. We’re all encouraged to say hi to each other. I’ve been to tech conferences before, like, no, not doing that. You know, you’re encouraged to find somebody sitting alone and go to lunch with them and all that kind of stuff, which I did. So it’s overwhelming but in a good way. Then I went to another WordCamp – WordCamp Pittsburgh – and then I started organizing that city Meetup. I’m kind of the organizer from the perspective of like, I like to find people to talk, I like to reserve a space and I like to make it all happen. I’ll be the introduction that–
Liam: All the details?
Rene: Exactly, the details, I take care of all that. Make sure everybody is here and all that kind of stuff. And try to welcome and encourage people when they come. Then a bunch of meetups last year, we have a meetup next week, and then I have two more scheduled. Our meetup next week is just like a coffee. We’re going to meet at a coffee shop and just talk. Then in February, we have a back-to-back Google Analytics 101 and 102. We had the 101 last year and it was really popular but some people couldn’t make it. We’re going to do a Zoom call Monday night and then the 102 the next day. We have two really great spaces here in Pittsburgh that we have the meetups pair-networked. On the South Side is the local hosting company, they host anybody and they’re really great. They’re personable, you can call them and just talk to somebody in Pittsburgh right away. And also Code & Supply. Code & Supply is a coworking space and they do a lot of really great community things. We can use their space for free and it’s really nice. I started doing that last year. WordCamp Pittsburgh, I helped with the social media and the tweeting. Overwhelming. I tried to post some on the website and kind of just make people aware of the event and try to get people in. We had a really nice event, it was good. Just kind of keep going from there. Also, I’m part of a Slack group that Tara’s in. And we’re just trying to meet people with any opportunity that there’s like a call or something that we can kind of get together. I like to try to take advantage of– because although I like to work alone, I do like to talk to people, too. I hope that answers the question.
Liam: Yeah, that was great. WordCamp Pittsburgh is definitely on my list. I’m over in Philly and it’s one state separated by just a lot of miles.
Rene: It’s far, it’s really far from one to the other.
Liam: But I do have plans to go, so you’ll have to keep us posted.
Rene: We’re looking for an organizer, though. Terry was the organizer of the past two years and it’s a little bit of weight right now and it’s kind of uncertain.
Liam: Do you know anybody that likes to get all the organizational work done and bring in the speakers, and arrange a venue, do you know anybody that’s good at that?
Rene: I don’t know if I’m ready yet. There is some pressure but I–
Liam: I’ll walk you back to that. I think you got it if you want it. Let me ask you another question, if I can, and it’s about advice. It’s not advice necessarily that you would share or that you pass on, but what is something that someone has shared with you? What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received and successfully implemented in your life?
Rene: When I got out of college, I stumbled upon this CD by Jim Rohn. It’s called the Art of Exceptional Living. I realize this is not an actual person that I know or somebody who’s said specific words to me personally but–
Liam: That’s fine, that’s fine. Anything.
Rene: It’s a great CD and as I was preparing for our talk last night, I was searching for it. There’s actually a SoundCloud recording of the whole thing, which I can share. He’s such a great teacher and he’s so eloquent. So not only the things that he says, it’s how he says it. But basically, the gist is you have the power to create the life that you want and also then for you to think about what you actually want. But through practicing daily positive habits and continuing to learn, life isn’t something that’s happening to you, it’s something that you can fashion and you can create the life that you want. Although it took me a while to really understand and implement those lessons, I feel like I’m on a better road now. So that was good advice.
Tara: That is good advice and I love hearing about new resources like that. New podcasts or books and things like that. Thank you for sharing that, that’s great. What books are you reading right now that you’re enjoying? You said you liked to read non-fiction?
Rene: Yeah. I’m almost finished with Start With Why, it’s one that I’m almost finished with. And I’m actually reading one about. I forget what it’s called, it’s something about stopping binge eating and it’s a really loaded title but binge eating meaning anything outside of how you want to eat. Not like, “I ate four quarters of ice cream.” But, “I ate two pieces of cake and I really didn’t want to eat two pieces of cake.” It’s a really interesting book, I’m almost finished with that. I’m reading one more, I’m reading The Daily Stoic. Adam Silver and I both bought The Daily Stoic. It’s 366 meditations, so it’s a meditation a day. I’m just reading one of those every day, two to or three pages.
Tara: Do you also meditate or is reading a form of meditation, I suppose?
Rene: I’ve meditated in the past. I have an inside timer and there’s a few meditations that I will listen to, especially if I wake up really early. If I wake up at four o’clock in the morning, my brain will turn on like, it’s go time. That’s unacceptable. I’m not getting up at four and I’m not going to start working. So I tried to listen to a meditation that will lull me back to sleep and that worked pretty much. But yeah, that’s the extend rate right now. I did Headspace for a year and that was really great.
Liam: What’s Headspace?
Rene: There’s a book but there’s also an app. The app kind of guides you on a daily meditation practice. There’s different packages, like 30 Days for Sleep, and things like that. But it became an obligation. It became self-care that was something I had to check off the list, which I think was defeating the purpose.
Tara: Yeah, I feel that way about meditation. I used Headspace as well and I’m sort of back into it now. I’m trying to get a streak of a few days in a row but I don’t feel like it makes that huge of a difference for me but I know it’s supposed to so I keep trying it. It is that ‘check the box’ type of thing.
Rene: And over time, it’s supposed to help at some point later where you don’t need to necessarily see the results really quickly.
Tara: Hoping to maybe pause and let things kind of roll past you so they don’t, so I guess you can handle them better maybe as part of it, as part of the philosophy. You referenced a couple of times getting over a phase for you where you’re crying in the morning. You want to tell us a little bit about that or how you’ve moved beyond that?
Rene: At the time, I think it was just the structure of the work and it was like, “Oh, my god. I can’t go, I can’t sit there all day.” And sometimes you’re not busy and all it takes in workplace. The guy that never washes his dishes. It’s too much. Some people are great with that sort of corporate thing. My sister works for 3M, her and her husband both. They’re high up in the food chain and they’re like the people and they’re doing the thing. I’m just not that kind of person. My dad is a mechanic, he owned his own business 50 years this year and he’s doing whatever, man. He goes and he wants to haul something today, he’s going to fix some cars. He works. He’s a good worker but he’s working on his terms. He’s not taking that person that comes in and they seem like they’re pain, he’s going to tell them to go to the next garage over. But it’s just more how I feel. I don’t know how I got to be that way but that’s kind of how I feel about it. The crying has subsided just because I can do what I want to do now.
Tara: Good to hear.
Liam: Following the Jim Rohn CDs or DVDs? Life your life the way you want it to, think about how you want it to and then make that happen over time?
Rene: Yeah. And that you really have the power to do those things. He talks about things that are easy to do or also not easy to do. It goes both ways, so like eating an apple every day, easy to do, easy not to do. But it adds up over time. So you have that power. We just read Atomic Habit in the Slack group, we’re going to talk about it I think later today. And also, I read The Slight Edge. Those are books that talk about the same thing where, like, if I’m eating a cookie every day and you’re eating an apple every day. For a really long time, it looks like we’re going along and making a thing. You’re not going to see this in podcast but eventually, my health is going to go up if I’ve been eating the apple, and the other person’s health is going to go down if they’ve been eating a cookie. It looks like it will have happened all of a sudden, but it’s that exponential curve. The same thing with money. The curve looks like not much is happening and then, whoo, it goes up or it goes down.
Tara: Interesting. Very introspective. Those are some good resources, you have a lot of good tips and information, your reading pays off.
Rene: I like to read.
Liam: We didn’t even get into talking about money and that’s probably going to have to be a conversation for another day because we are out of time today, Rene. It has flown by. Thank you very much for joining us.
Tara: This has been great.
Rene: Thank you so much. Thanks so much for having me. I had a lot of fun.
Tara: Thanks for joining us. Where can people find you online?
Rene: They can go to my website, Renemzw.com and that will redirect to my name which is much longer than that and harder to spell, so Renemzw.com. And also on Twitter, but you can find that from the website.
Tara: Great. Thanks again for joining us and we’ll talk to you soon. Thanks Rene, bye.
Rene: Thank you.
Liam: Bye, Rene.
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