Skills & Work Experience

I am a Developer turned Community Manager for the global open-source WordPress project.

My studies in pastoral ministry, coupled with my years of work as a web developer, have been the perfect blend of theory & practical experience to prepare me for my current work as a community manager in the tech industry.

πŸ”– Some initial information

🌍 I live in Cape Town, South Africa, but I am currently in the process of relocating to New Zealand. I hold citizenship for both South Africa & New Zealand.

πŸ’» I have worked remotely for the last 7+ years, which has helped me to grow my skills in independent working, effective communication, working across timezones, self-management, and making the most of online collaboration tools.


πŸ–₯️ Find me online

My online presence is focused on my personal site/blog as well as Twitter. My WordPress profile is also relevant since it highlights my involvement in the community that has been my primary work focus for the last 7+ years.

✍️ hugh.blog
🐦 Twitter (@hlashbrooke)
πŸ”— WordPress.org


πŸ‘¨β€πŸ”§ Work Experience

My career has been a natural and steady progression from programmer to community manager. In my current position, I am the team lead for a team that I have been working on for over four years – while the team lead promotion came relatively recently, I have been deeply involved in leadership within the team for a longer period.

Community Team Lead

Automattic / WordPress (April 2020 – Present)

In my role as team lead, I oversee the day-to-day work of the team as well as focus on long-term strategic planning. There are 8 people on my team, all of who are skilled leaders in their own right, which adds an interesting layer as I am leading a team of already highly capable leaders. After spending so long working as an individual contributor on the team, the promotion to management has been a compelling challenge that I have relished and found hugely enriching, especially during the challenging year that 2020 has proved to be.

Community Manager

Automattic / WordPress (May 2016 – April 2020)

I worked as a team member on the WordPress Community Team from within Automattic. We manage a large, global open-source software community, including over 700 local communities all over the world that host monthly events & annual conferences.

Our work involves building & maintaining the processes & tools that keep the community running, as well as working closely with local organisers to help them grow their local in-person & online communities. We are involved in plenty of mediation, conflict resolution & written communication across all cultures and timezones.

A large part of our work, in addition to supporting local community organisers, is to actively manage the large team of volunteers who assist the central Community Team.

Along with our own team’s responsibilities, we work closely with other teams in the WordPress project – most frequently the Core Team – to coordinate product releases, mediate conflicts, assist with marketing, and craft project messaging.

Community Engagement Manager

WooCommerce / Automattic (January 2015 – May 2016)

I worked internally to help the company & staff engage with the broader WordPress community in which we were working. This involved hands-on guidance, community advocacy & a community-focused mindset to encourage active participation & contribution. During my time in this role at WooCommerce, we were acquired by Automattic where I continued in this role until I switched to the community team I work in now.

Web Developer

WooCommerce (April 2012 – January 2015)
quickOnline (October 2011 – March 2012)

Naspers (October 2010 – September 2011)
White Wall Web (July 2008 – September 2010)

I built & maintained client websites & in-house web properties – from bespoke platforms to open-source solutions – at a few different companies. I grouped all of these in one job title since my responsibilities were largely similar across all the roles, although it did evolve from building websites to building products. My final developer role at WooCommerce is what gave me the springboard into the open-source community management space that I currently find so enriching.


πŸ’― Notable Projects & Acheivements

Spearheaded a global community transition from in-person events to an online learning platform

With in-person events being put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to make rapid changes to the WordPress community events program. After initially simply moving events online and largely sticking to the same format, we came to realise that we needed to make more drastic changes. This was when we birthed Learn WordPress – an online learning platform for WordPress users, builders, and contributors. The platform hosts workshops that can be watched asynchronously along with live discussion groups facilitated by members of my team as well as community volunteers. Upcoming features of the platform include courses focussed on specific learning outcomes with self-grading quizzes.

My work on the platform has involved planning the feature set, establishing a content calendar, outlining course structures, recording workshops, collaborating with the marketing team, working with the development team, and generally managing the project as a whole from the start. It has been, dare I say it, educational.

Created & launched a global charity event series

I conceptualised, organised & managed an annual community event to build websites for non-profits. It started off locally in Cape Town and has grown to the point where it is now organised independently by WordPress communities all over the world. I wrote the event documentation and built the tooling that local organisers use to make these events happen. Part of my work on the WordPress Community Team is to continue to support these events around the world. You can find more information about the program at doaction.org.

Created a monthly series of posts covering global community news

Starting in early 2015, I have been writing a monthly series of posts, titled “The Month in WordPress” that covers all the primary news in the WordPress community, This was originally done internally in my company (at WooCommerce, and then at Automattic), then in March 2017 I started publishing it publicly on my own blog. A few months after that it became a regular resource for the global WordPress community as I was asked to publish it on the central WordPress news blog, where it has found a permanent home and remains there today. For over five years I researched and wrote all the content on my own every single month and, more recently, have passed the responsibility on to a member of my team while I continue to be involved as an editorial resource.

Long-time local community organiser

I have been involved in organising monthly meetup events and annual conferences for local communities since 2013. In this work I have partnered with other organisers that I have recruited over the years to enrich my local community. This is where my passion for community work really began and where I first saw the fruits of this kind of work.


πŸ‘₯ Practical Community Skills

Empathy

Empathy may not usually be considered a skill in the traditional sense, but I believe it’s a vital trait for community managers to focus on improving, especially when dealing with conflict mediations.

Persuasive & creative writing

Written communication skills are a must-have for anyone working online, but in the community industry being able to be creative, persuasive and strategic with your writing is absolutely essential.

Conflict mediation

Conflict is found in even the most friendly of communities. In my work, I have guided dozens of community members through incredibly difficult situations and mediated conflicts of all kinds.

Contextual communication

Communication can only make an impact if it is relevant to the context of the listener. Working with a community spread out across the world has taught me to be sensitive to cultural differences and to tailor communication accordingly.

Servant leadership

Servant leadership is all about leading with the best interests of your community in mind – it’s a principle that I learned from my studies in pastoral ministry and apply daily to my work in community.

Volunteer management

Working in an open-source community like WordPress means we rely on a large base of community volunteers who contribute their time and resources to the project. This makes the management of those volunteers a large part of the work of our team.

Transparency & openness

Working in an open-source community like WordPress has taught me the value of radical transparency in community work, which is now deeply ingrained in how I operate.

Understanding community technology

The combination of my software and community experience has given me an extensive understanding of the technical needs of communities, enabling me to make informed platform decisions that help to grow the community.

Event organising

What is a community manager if not an event organiser first? I cut my teeth as a local meetup and conference organiser before getting involved in broader community work.

Cross-team collaboration

The WordPress project includes 18 teams, and the Community Team crosses over with almost all of them in some way. This has given me plenty of experience working with teams of all disciplines.

Remote collaboration

Remote work presents many unique challenges for community management. I have worked remotely for over 7 years and am intimately familiar with the tools techniques required to collaborate effectively.

People & team management

As team lead, as well as having worked as a meetup organiser and volunteer coordinator for so long, I am well-verse in managing people and teams to be more effective and impactful in their work.

Strategic planning

A large part of my work is long-term strategic planning for my team as well as the WordPress project as a whole – I find myself to be decisive and effective in this work.

Developer & community advocacy

Community members need their leaders to speak on their behalf, and this is something with which I am intimately familiar and deeply comfortable.


πŸ“œ Articles & Writing

This is a selection of my posts that I feel are a sound reflection of my skills & philosophy around community management, leadership and open-source.


πŸ—£οΈ Talks & Workshops

Here are a handful of talks & workshops I have presented – some online and some at in-person events.

Building an Open-Source Community
WP Sessions – January 2020

Defining a Community Membership Identity
CMX Global 2020

Finding Your Place in the WordPress Community
The Virtual WP Summit 2020

Democratising Community
WordCamp Cape Town 2016

The WordCamper’s Guide to the Galaxy
WordCamp Cape Town 2015


πŸ“š Education

Bachelor of Theology – Major in Pastoral Ministry

Stellenbosch University / Cornerstone Christian College (2005 – 2007)

While I didn’t initially see the long-term career value in my degree, I have since come to the realisation that pastoral ministry and community management are so similar that I now find myself frequently using & referencing my studies in my daily work. My degree was an incredible growing experience for me personally and continues to have a deep impact on my work with communities.

Interested in working with me?