Yoast Care fund: An interview with Michele Butcher-Jones

Michele Butcher Jones

Nominated by:
Michelle Frechette

Today we’re interviewing Michele Butcher-Jones, who received a nomination for our Care fund from Michelle Frechette. Michelle nominated her (almost) namesake for all the time she pours into WordPress and the WordPress marketing team. Michele helped organize WordCamp St. Louis and WordCamp US, is part of the WordPress marketing team and was a member of the all-women release squad in 2020! In addition, she runs Can’t Speak Geek where she showcases other passionate people in the community and she is always ready to help everyone. She’s one of those volunteers that keeps our community running with her many contributions.

Let’s get to know Michele Butcher-Jones!

That introduction gave us a pretty good idea of the many hours that Michele commits to WordPress. But let’s get to know her even better by asking her some questions about her contributions and love for WordPress:

Hi, Michele. So tell us, what do you do?

I wear a number of different hats in the WordPress Community. My day job is as the Lead Support Specialist at Thrive Agency. That time is spent managing support tasks & projects, and training employees & clients on various WordPress topics. I also complete junior development work, documentation, and other various fun activities. When not at Thrive, I do have a freelance agency, 13Core and I run a tech blog over at Can’t Speak Geek.

Can’t Speak Geek was born out of my introduction into the tech industry and how difficult the language can be to someone either not in tech or just emerging.

I am also a hobby photographer who specializes in Senior and themed sessions. I also shoot games for our local university when I have the time. I love being behind a camera capturing epic scenes.

Can you tell us about your first contribution?

I actually started contributing quickly after I got into WordPress with the Plugin Repo Support forums. It is something I still enjoy doing. It first started with Jetpack and grew to where any forum questions I know an answer to, I jump in and reply. Unfortunately, I had an old profile on WordPress.org and had to make a new one, so I am unable to access my first contribution. Contributing to the WordPress Plugin Repo is one of the easiest ways to get involved with the WordPress Community.

The first WordCamp I ever volunteered or spoke at was WordCamp Austin 2014. It was a great experience that led me to speak at over 30 WordCamps. I typically volunteer at every camp I attend or speak at in some capacity or another.

What did you work on?

The past decade of being in the WordPress community has been spent wearing many various hats. I have been a speaker, organizer, and volunteer for many WordCamps. I have been on the organizing team for WCUS 2017-2019, WordCamp St Louis 2014-Present, and WordCamp Nashville 2015-2016. WordCamps are one of the many things I love about the WordPress community and I cannot wait for us to get back to having them live again!

I have also tried to dedicate as much time as I can to reading, reviewing, and answering various support questions in the WP Plugin Repo. This was actually the first way I gave back to WordPress. My favorite way to give back to the community is sharing my knowledge. If I can help just one person, it makes it all worth it. I was on the WP Version 5.5 and 5.6 Release Teams for the documents review team. This was such an amazing experience being able to see all the behind-the-scenes work of what it takes to launch a new version of WordPress.

Randomly I have also assisted with the Marketing Team and the Training Team. I do hope that once my personal life slows down some I can dedicate more time to those two teams.

Who is your WordPress mentor?

Many, many moons ago (fall 2010), a friend of mine, Chris Wiegman was building Better WP Security (no iThemes Security) and I mentioned to him that I would like to start a blog. Instead of building it for me, he taught me WordPress as we built my site. The more I learned from him, the more I got interested in WordPress. Finally, in 2012 I left my career of being a preschool teacher to work in WordPress full time. Throughout the years Chris has always been there to help answer my questions, send me links of pertinent information, and to be my cheering section when impostor syndrome was getting the best of me. I owe my WordPress career to my husband and Chris becoming friends so long ago and then mentioning that I would like to start a blog.

However, there have been many more people to aid in my growth in WordPress that are not limited to Michelle Frechette, Jeff Matson, Cate DeRosia, Topher DeRosia, Brandon Kraft, Michal Bluma, Shawn Hooper, and many more amazing people.

What contribution or moment are you most proud of?

There are 2 contributions that I am most proud of. I am most proud of myself as the WordPress 5.6 Documents Review Lead for the Release Team. The team was an all-women-led team. It was the first-ever all-women-led team in any technology release that I am aware of. While I did not do as much as others who have contributed, being on a release team was one of my WP bucket list items. Then to be a team lead was that much more of an amazing experience.

My other contribution that I am most proud of was WordCampUS 2019, when my daughter, Dina Butcher, joined 5 other young women for a panel to discuss the future of WordPress, women in tech and removing the stigma of mental health. It made me so proud to see that everything I have done with WordPress has impacted my daughter.

What would you love to do in the future?

My future goal would be to do more with the WordPress Community. I want to do more with the training and marketing teams. Eventually, I would like to do more in the Open Source advocating community to help grow and get the awareness of the amazingness of the Open Source Community.

Professionally I would love to get more into documentation, training, and DevAdcovate/Evangelism. Part of what I would love to pursue with evangelism is pushing awareness of the importance of great support and business support teams. Often I see the support teams are the least looked at teams of companies, and they need to be a more important team when building out their company goals. Anyone can build a great product, but it is the customer experience and support that keep them thriving.

I would also like to build more with my current passion project that is still being built called ShePress. ShePress will be an online community for women in the tech industry but mostly centered around WordPress. There will be a blog for empowerment stories, aids to assist people identifying as female, and later a yearly live retreat. The retreat will focus on empowerment, reconnection, and life skills. It had plans to go live at the beginning of the year. However, life happened and has pushed back everything. Now I am hoping for mid-2022.

Where may people find you? Online, WordCamps, other meetups?

You can find me on WP Make Slack @michlebutcher-jones. On Twitter as @Michele_Butcher, Facebook at Michele Butcher-Jones, and on LinkedIn at Michele Butcher-Jones. My WordPress blog is Can’t Speak Geek. My WordPress Hosting and Maintenance company is 13Core. You can find my photography business can at Shutter and Shoot Photography.

Thank you for this interview, Michele. And for all of your contributions to the WordPress community! If you’re reading this and know someone like Michele who also deserves to be in the spotlight, go to our Yoast Care page and nominate them right away.