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Taco Verdonschot 5 Career Growth Tips from Yoast’s Community Leader for Aspiring Professionals - Inside WPRiders Article

Taco Verdonschot: 5 Career Growth Tips from Yoast’s Head of Relations for Aspiring Professionals

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Who is Taco Verdonschot?

Taco Verdonschot is the Head of Relations at Yoast, the world-known company for its SEO plugins. He joined Yoast as a junior developer in 2013 but didn’t take long to jump into Customer Help (managing a team of 25 support engineers spread around the world). Later, he became the Community Manager at Yoast. Now, he’s responsible for the Support Team and Community Team at Yoast.

With Taco, it’s not just about work; he’s all about community. His first experience with WordPress was at WordCamp Europe 2013, which left a long-lasting impression on him due to the friendly and open atmosphere of the users’ collective. Since then, he has been actively promoting WordPress by acting as a Global Translation Editor for Dutch and also as a deputy on the WordPress Community team. Taco also co-organizes the WordPress Meetup in Nijmegen, Netherlands. That’s not all; he is an active participant in WordCamps and other gatherings; he volunteers, educates others, and makes friends. He possesses the desire to see inclusiveness and support in every social contact, making him a beloved figure in the community.

Taco Verdonschot is more than a workmate or a professional connection. He’s a buddy to a lot of people from the WordPress Community, always happy to help. No matter if you’re new or an experienced developer in WordPress, Taco’s friendly nature and skills, make him a guy you want to get to know.

1. What key skills and qualities do successful WordPress professionals possess, and how can job seekers develop or demonstrate these traits?

Taco Verdonschot:

It depends. It’s a lame answer, I know. But it’s true.

‘WordPress professional’ is such a broad term that I don’t think there’s a single answer for everyone.

As a developer, you need skills in problem-solving and knowledge of programming languages like PHP and JavaScript. As a marketer, you need to understand your audience, and how to speak to their needs. As a QA engineer, you need to have a deep understanding of defensive coding and various ways of testing code and products. As a customer support agent, you need to have in-depth knowledge of the product(s) you’re supporting, the WordPress ecosystem, and decent general knowledge about web hosting. And that’s just a few of the many professional roles we have in WordPress.

The good news is that, regardless of your interest and area of expertise, there’s probably a Make WordPress team that can use your skillset. And helping build WordPress in the open is a great way to develop your (public) profile and showcase what you’re capable of.

2. Can you share a personal or professional setback you faced in your WordPress career, and how you overcame it? What lessons did you learn from that experience?

Taco Verdonschot:

Taco Verdonschot 5 Career Growth Tips from Yoast’s Community Leader for Aspiring Professionals - Inside WPRiders Article

I joined Yoast as a junior developer back in 2013. Within a few months, it turned out that was not the right position for me. I wasn’t able to learn fast enough, and it didn’t bring me any joy. Well, the company and the people did, but my role didn’t. I knew it, but couldn’t admit it -even to myself- as I was afraid I’d be let go. So I kept struggling for a while. As you can expect, it didn’t go unnoticed. So when I was called into the office to talk about my performance, I feared the worst…

Luckily, Joost and Marieke (founders and then owners of Yoast) helped me find a new role in the company. That’s now over 10 years ago, and I’m still happy where I am today.

From that experience, I learned to be open and honest with myself and my employer about not enjoying a role, as it will ultimately affect my performance and the company. I learned it would have been better to take the reigns in such a situation, address the problems, propose potential solutions, or find another position.

And, knowing what you don’t want in a job is probably as important as knowing what you do want. Especially when you’re searching for your next gig.

3. What advice do you have for job seekers who feel discouraged or overwhelmed during their job search? How can they stay motivated and maintain a positive mindset?

Taco Verdonschot:

A lifetime ago, I was active in multi-level marketing. One of the sales insights I got there is “it takes 100 noes to get a yes”. The general principle probably also applies to your job search, although your odds should be better than 1/100 when applying for roles you’re qualified for.

If you get a no, don’t let it end there. Ask the hiring manager or HR person what lead to the ‘no’. Listen carefully to learn if there’s anything you could do differently next time? Ask clarifying questions to understand why another candidate was favored over you. You might not always get a meaningful answer, but you most certainly don’t if you didn’t ask at all.

4. How can job seekers differentiate themselves in a competitive job market? Are there any unique approaches or strategies that you recommend?

Taco Verdonschot:

Build a brand. Not necessarily the next Nike or IKEA, but your personal brand. Be active in the community or communities where you’re looking for a job. Attend public meetings. Contribute to the community.

That way, you’re building a name for yourself which might increase your chances of getting hired.

A great way of building your personal brand is by speaking or hosting workshops on the topic or topics you’re expert at. Or, you can go to industry conferences and mingle with the experts there. Listen to them, ask them questions. Show that you care for what they have to say, and pay your learnings forward.

Through building your personal brand, you’re increasing your visibility and value to potential employers.

5. What are the emerging trends or areas of growth in the WordPress industry, and how can job seekers align themselves with these opportunities?

Taco Verdonschot:

Listen to what Matt Mullenweg is saying. When he tells to learn something deeply, throw yourself at the topic. So far, the fields he mentioned have seen significant growth in the years following the statement.

  • 2015: Learn JavaScript, deeply.
  • 2023: Learn AI, deeply.
  • 2024: Learn Enterprise, deeply.

Besides that, keep an eye on where WordPress is going and anticipate which skills will be needed to further develop that area.

Even beyond WordPress, there are signs that tell you how to develop your skills to stay or become relevant in the job market. A great example is the upcoming legislation on accessibility. All of a sudden, every website owner needs someone to help them in that area. So, if you are in a luxury position, you can take the time to learn new or improve existing skills: learn accessibility deeply.

Last but not least, keep an eye on the job opportunities that are posted. Browse through job ads on websites like indeed, jobstreet, ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn. Take a look at the job ads at larger companies, like Newfold Digital or Yoast. Sign up to databases like Underrepresented in Tech (if you fit that target audience), or check out the weekly Twitter thread by Michelle Frechette. Reading through those can give you an idea of where your skills can be improved!

Taco Verdonschot 5 Career Growth Tips from Yoast’s Community Leader for Aspiring Professionals - Inside WPRiders Article

Thanks, Taco, for these valuable tips 👍🏻! And also, thanks for sending a very nice Word document with all the answers. It made my day 😊

You can find Taco Verdonschot on X, LinkedIn, GitHub, and WordPress.

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