When Kyle Maurer started building websites as a solo entrepreneur more than five years ago, he wasn’t just trying to make some extra money on the side. He set out to make a full blown living as a local web developer to the extent that he could provide for not just himself but a young family too.
“When I think back to when I was learning how to do this professionally, I was in a position where I was highly motivated to accomplish something,” Maurer said. “I had just gotten married, bought a house, and left another job, so it was sink or swim.”
Maurer took on as much work as possible and threw himself into his passion and craft at the deep end, but something was missing at first. Learning through sheer grit and determination is laudable, but being part of a community can provide things that only those walking in the same shoes have to offer.
After learning about local WordPress-focused meet-ups in Ann Arbor and Jackson, Maurer attended his first sessions and the experience is a big reason that he’s working as part of a global team at EasyDigitalDownloads, a developer of WordPress plugins and themes that exists entirely because of the widespread popularity and online dominance of WordPress as a blogging and web development platform.
“I engaged my local community and found that there were some smart people right in my town or nearby attending those meet-ups who could help me,” Maurer said. “And they were completely open with me and generous with their time. People would share all kinds of knowledge and advice at meet-ups and expected nothing in return.”
From there Maurer discovered his first WordCamp in Ann Arbor and he was hooked, as the yearly event embodies everything wonderful about a meet-up on a much larger scale with the amenities and structure of a conference spanning two days capped off with an after-party for furthering the bonds built collaborating and collectively reflecting on not just WordPress, but blogging, web-development, and a host of other tech topics that all amount to where online in general is going.
“It’s just a completely different attitude than any of the other business conferences I’ve attended in the past … people don’t care if you’re there to buy something or not, we just know that once we were helped by other people and now we want to help others and perpetuate this culture of giving,” Maurer said.
If you’re thinking you need to be a blogger or a web-developer to attend WordCamp, which starts tomorrow and runs through to Saturday, that’s not entirely what the attending crowd is composed of each year. There are dozens of marketers, executives, small-business owners, and many people who may not know how to code at all in attendance looking for advice, guidance, or to hire some help.
“We get many attendees who have recently started a new job who are looking to increase their skills or who are looking to really put their business out there more online,” Maurer said. By this point, he has become a major organizational leader of WordCamp Ann Arbor and is integral to the volunteer-driven event’s organization each year.
Maurer’s come a long way in five years with help from the WordCamp community, and he believes that professionals from all over Washtenaw County could find some real value, whether it’s imparted knowledge or a valuable collaborative relationship with a member of the local WordPress community who may know the way through whatever’s the most current hurdle in the way of a goal.
For more information on the 2017 Ann Arbor WordCamp visit the event’s website where tickets can be purchased and volunteers who want to get involved beyond just attending can pitch in to help the organizers who make WordCamps happen as volunteers themselves, making a WordCamp function similarly to many local community events throughout the county.