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How WordPress Changed My Life

Growing up, I’ve always been very creative and drew a lot, perhaps influenced by my dad who has exceptional drawing skills, but I never thought I’d become a designer.

In the early 2000s, I had an idea. I wanted a place where I could share my illustrations online. I wasn’t sure what to call it, but came up with the name “doghouse”, as a tribute to our family dog who passed away when I was in high school. This domain was taken, of course, so as an alternative, I called it “Dawghouse”, admittedly because I couldn’t think of any other name. I tinkered with Geocities, posted a few illustrations online, but not much came of it. College took over my life and not having the knowledge to take this idea further was a barrier I didn’t know how to overcome.

I fell in love by accident

I took up Computer Engineering in college, but wanting to draw was still an itch I needed to scratch. One day, my mom told me she found a school (outside of the university I was attending) that taught “animation.” Upon hearing this, I was ecstatic! The course package included HTML, animation, PERL Programming, etc. Little did I know that the animation they meant was actually the HTML tag! But as I attended the first couple weeks of class, I fell in love with it! I felt so empowered as I gradually learned how to fully customize my own site without the need of a template.

Starting out

During my last year at university in 2005, I wanted to purchase my own domain. I was born and raised in the Philippines and owning a credit card wasn’t commonplace at that time. Luckily, I found a tiny web hosting company where I could just make in-person payments so I purchased my own domain for the first time! Exciting! I posted ads on Craigslist, built sites at a very low cost (or for free) just to gain some experience.

craigslist

Between job application rejections, scouring for projects, and getting promises of payment but getting nothing in return, it’s tough when you’re starting out and have nothing under your belt! The future looked bleak for me, but I wasn’t giving up! Eventually, I found a job as a Junior Designer at a design and development agency. This allowed me to cut my teeth and helped me build my portfolio.

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One of the very first sites I designed.

The year 2007 was when I first heard about WordPress. It seemed to be what everyone was talking about and a lot of my favorite design blogs were powered by it. Wanting to be one of the cool kids, I designed my first blog, typical of a list of posts and a sidebar. But being my not-so-patient self, I wanted to launch this as soon as possible so I rolled out my “pseudo-WordPress” site with a couple blog entries that linked to individual static HTML files! Pretty soon though, I managed to replace this with a real WordPress version with the help of an old co-worker.

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To stay true to what Dawghouse intentionally was for, I decided to write my first ever tutorial, a step-by-step guide on “How To Create A Web 2.0 Style Web Design in Photoshop”.

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I didn’t really expect it to get a lot of traction, but to my surprise, it got picked up by Digg and ended up on its front page within a couple hours. The Digg Effect crashed my site and prompted me to upgrade my hosting plan immediately to increase my bandwidth.

The more you give, the more you’ll get back

In the next few years, I continued to write more tutorials. In addition, I created design resources such as icon and texture packs to give away with the Old Bottle Crown Set being the most popular. This led to many amazing things and opened up new opportunities for me — new projects, speaking engagements, and publication features.

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Speaking at the 2010 Future of Web Design Conference in New York City.

One I’m particularly proud of was when Web Designer Magazine featured the release of WordPress 3. I ended up on the same page as Matt!

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When a door closes, a window opens

In 2008, I had a job opportunity in Australia that didn’t quite pan out. It was frustrating and I had thoughts of just going freelance full-time, but I was too scared. In 2009, I decided that it was time. It was still a risky decision, but writing helped me get my name out there and gave me a pretty decent client base. In November of that year, I received an email from the founder of SendGrid who found my site through a design blog. I vaguely remember the details of our Skype conversation, but when I mentioned that I was located in the Philippines, he then asked, “Would you like to move to California?”

I don’t think I had anticipated this big a change in my life, but I was pretty excited for what’s to come! I started working for SendGrid from the Philippines as a contractor, also as I was waiting to get approval on my US Work Visa.

The big move

In July 2011, I finally moved to the United States. I packed my iMac and my entire life in two suitcases. Expectedly, there were a lot of doubts and fears moving to a new country, but for the most part, a lot of things happened in a blur.

move-to-US

In 2014, I was actively looking for a new job and stumbled upon a post about Automattic in search of a UI Designer. I was pretty excited to apply, but I was also quite nervous at the same time. I don’t think I slept as I was going through the trial, but I made it through! I joined the company a couple months later. In that same year, I married my husband, whom I met at work, and we now have a beautiful and energetic little girl.

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Everything happens for a reason

It’s funny when you try to recollect and realize how things happen for a reason, how one thing leads to another. WordPress and blogging gave me a voice, a voice that reached a vast amount of audience which otherwise would not have been possible. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t started writing.

By Jan Cavan Boulas

Jan is a designer and illustrator whose work has been featured in several publications online and offline. When not trying to help make the Web a better place, she can be found taking off on an impulse adventure, experimenting in the kitchen, or playing badminton.

Comments

I’m so proud to see a Filipino designer. 🙂 Your story is very inspiring. More power!

Great story.

Maybe WordPress changed your life, but clearly a lot of talent on your part too!!

Having two blogs, mathematically speaking my chances of huge success should be doubled. Although thinking about it, maybe halved…?!

Joking aside, it’s great to read a tale like this where one thing led to another, to another, until your life ends up transformed. It’s all about small steps…good decisions…hard work…talent, I guess.

I’m guessing you’re an example of the old adage to just do the thing that’s in front of you as well as you can – excellence as a habit – and who knows where you’ll end up.

Thanks for sharing.

A very inspiring story! I just started my blog too 04th October 2017. And it taught me how to WRITE and DESIGN A BLOG PAGE… It turns me from street child to blogger!

I am happy for you sir I hope it’ll change mine too voices must be heard
I believe this is a platform to voice out yo the world
Your Success story has lifted my soul

Congratulations! I am proud of you. You do what you like. You have your own passion and you still develop yourself. People think they will reach at once success but it isn’t true. They have to work very hard and not give up. After long time they will see the efforts.
I wish you all the best.
PS: Your daughter is so cute :*

What a fantastic story! We’re just starting out, so we’re hoping for a similar degree of positive life changes. Thank you for sharing.

Always nice to hear the success stories. Congratz!

I myself am on the verge of possibly making a major move that would change my life (for better or for worse? not sure yet) and strongly believing that everything happens for a reason keeps me from freaking out.

It might sound cheesy, but WordPress changed my life, too. Maybe not as much as yours, but it sure did. It keeps me motivated to write regularly, which in turn oils my creative parts. It gives me the opportunity to discover and interact with other fabulous users.

Thanks for sharing. I enjoy reading things like this. I just started my blog last night and I am not sure if I am doing it right or not. I decided to do this because I like to write. Maybe one day I can upgrade my plan from free to something else so I can attract more people.

I love reading these inspiring stories! Thanks for sharing!

It’s true that opportunity knocks at your door when you least expect, so you should always be reared. Thank you for the inspiring story!!

Thank you for sharing this motivational story! Makes me want to do better!

I love this! WordPress has changed my life too! Hope you can check out my blog!

Thanks for sharing! I am trying to use my WordPress account to change the perceptions of how one view things. Feel free to check my account out. It includes my thoughts as well as some nice sentences which I found them relatable or nicely written. Thank you!

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