With WordCamp Europe 2023 in June, we feature Stefano Cassone, a web designer, photographer and volunteer translator, who believes his life has been transformed through WordPress and its community.
The People of WordPress series shares inspiring stories of how people’s lives can change for the better through WordPress and its global community of contributors.
Stefano has always been fascinated by the internet. His initial learning in the 1990s was through joining friends at a local pub where they could explore how websites were structured and learn to use chat software.
This led to Stefano creating websites for fun in 1998, and his first paid job was for the shop where he bought comics. He turned to content management systems (CMS) to speed up the creation process for sites, but found he needed more documentation to really understand their capabilities. Then he read a magazine article about WordPress, a CMS which was being used to make incredible blog sites, and was supported by an international community and documentation. Over time, Stefano started using that documentation to work on websites in Italian.
WordPress provides a life-changing turning point
Stefano describes himself as an introvert. He found that WordPress helped him to work from home, to develop his skills and the quality of what he could produce, as well as build his self-confidence.
A catalyst for the turning point in his life and career was the discovery of an area for events on the WordPress dashboard. On this page, he found a forthcoming local meetup in Rome.
In November 2017, Stefano took the step to go along to this event, led by a curiosity of what he might discover and intrigued by how a software could be supported by a vast community. The topic at the event was on WP-CLI, a command line interface for WordPress. He recalled that he felt outside his comfort zone as he did not regard himself as a developer and at that point, had only used the software for simple jobs. He wondered whether using the software as his only CMS was going to be a long term option and if these meetups were suitable for him.
At the meetup, people were talking about a forthcoming event, called WordCamp Rome. Through his research, he saw that there was a lot of enthusiasm for this event. This intrigued him and he wondered if it would show him that he could have a career using the software after all.
Unfamiliar with WordCamps, Stefano found it difficult at first to know what he could go to and how to get involved, but he persevered and attended the event.
“The WordCamp was a great discovery: talks at all levels from basic to those for developers, advanced and very advanced. I was immediately struck by the enthusiasm of the volunteers. It was an environment where I felt very comfortable, so much so, that I asked myself how I could participate in some WordCamps.”Stefano Cassone
From this event, Stefano was encouraged by those he met to consider applying as a volunteer for a future WordCamp.
There was also much talk at the event about ‘Slack’. It was new to Stefano, but with help from those attending, he signed up for the messaging tool Slack, used by the WordPress community. He was still unsure how he could contribute, and if he would be welcome.
Joining thousands of volunteer translators of WordPress
Stefano took the plunge and was excited to find there was a team called Polyglots. In this team, people from across the world translate the WordPress software into many different languages. He started with translating a theme he was using in his work. Little by little he became more interested in plugins and attended meetings with other translators. He offered his skills to translate into Italian themes and plugins in general and as his experience grew, he took on the volunteer role of a General Translation Editor. He also took care of the translation into Italian of the WordPress Core. More recently he has joined the group of translators for the HelpHub, which is part of the WordPress documentation system.
He said: “Participating in the WordPress Slack has helped me enormously: I’ve met a lot of people who I now call friends. Moreover, by translating, I learned a lot about how themes and plugins work.
“It’s a great way to contribute to WordPress, especially for someone like me who is not a developer. Translating also allows me to fully understand how WordPress works.”
“I always say that translating themes, plugins, and the Core software is the best way to learn WordPress, better than any course or book.”Stefano Cassone
Sharing skills to support Open Source WordPress
Stefano’s growing commitment to the open source WordPress project was further boosted through his volunteering. He was a volunteer at WordCamp Rome 2018 and participated there in his first Contributor Day where he had the opportunity to translate the software with others.
He was also able to bring his own hobbies and skills to help the project grow and reach others. One example was his passion for photography, and he volunteered as a photographer for many other events in Italy organized by the WordPress community. He said: “This commitment to the community also allows me to have fun: being a photographer means having the opportunity to walk around the halls and capture moments of the life of a WordCamp.” The more WordCamps he attended, the more he wanted to be part of and keep contributing to the wider WordPress community.
Contribution to WordPress is inspiring
When Stefano was asked to become an organizer for the WordPress meetup in Rome in October 2019, he knew he wanted to be part of reaching and supporting more people in his area. He faced challenges with finding venues, but a greater issue was to come: the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spurred on by the Italian WordPress community as a whole, he was determined that the meetup was still needed. The regular event was transformed into an online meeting. He was able to gain help from people he had met as a volunteer to share their expertise with meetup attendees.
The community in Italy also worked together to put on WordCamp Italia online. It brought together the organizers of previous meetups and WordCamps, and new contributors too. Stefano volunteered in both online editions of this camp, including being part of the social and communication team. He found it to not only be a fun experience but also one that helped him grow professionally and learn from so many others.
He went onto help restart the Rome WordPress meetup in-person meetings in May 2022, was an organizer for the third WordCamp Italy, and has been volunteering for camps in 2023.
What will WordPress bring you?
“Persona and professional growth and friendship” are some of the things they have brought Stefano. Contributing boosted his confidence and willingness to try new opportunities in his work.
He said: “The best thing I got out of joining the WordPress community was the chance to collaborate with some people on a working basis and, I have to say, that was incredible. Being with many of them you have an incredible opportunity to grow in knowledge, you just have to be ready to learn. With WordPress you never stop learning.”
His top recommendation is: “Join your local meetup or think about organizing one, it will introduce you to an amazing world. Don’t be afraid to meet people at WordCamps and Contributor Days, because you will learn more there than in dozens of courses. Talk to people at those events and don’t worry. The WordPress community is inclusive so you’ll always feel welcome, and you will see enthusiasm like you’ve never seen at other IT events. Sign-up and get involved.”
Share the stories
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series.
Thanks to Stefano Cassone (@deadpool76) for sharing about his adventures in WordPress.
Thank you to Abha Thakor (@webcommsat), the late Surendra Thakor (@sthakor) and Meher Bala (@meher) for interviews, writing the feature and collaborating on images, to Chloe Bringmann (@cbringmann), Mark Smallman (@marks99), Nalini Thakor (@nalininonstopnewsuk), Mary Baum (@marybaum), and Maja Loncar (@majaloncar) for help with reviews.
This People of WordPress feature is inspired by an essay originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. It highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories might otherwise go unheard. #HeroPress