I speak at a lot of WordCamps, and that’s how I met Shayda Torabi. She’s this intelligent, bubbly, and wonderfully kind lady, who has a big heart. I met Shayda when she did her first WordCamp talk, You Have 2 Hands, at WordCamp Las Vegas 2015. Like a lot of people, she was nervous, but I remember telling her (like I tell other first time WordCamp speakers), “You’ve got this.”
And of course, I wasn’t the only one who said this and cheered her on. And, of course, she rocked her talk too! She’s been rocking out her talks ever since. Shayda brings her warmth and wonderful personality to her talks, and knows what it takes to reach out and connect with people. It’s no wonder that she’s in marketing, as a Marketing Manager with WP Engine. She really knows people and honestly wants to help people.
I’ve been privileged to not just meet her, but sit down to eat a meal with her, and discover more about her, like the fact that she is a foodie, and runs her own blog. Believe me, her blog, Dine with Shayda, makes me hungry. (lol)
Shayda is a WordPress Rockstar because of her dedication to give back to the WordPress Community, her ability to encourage others, as well as the care she’s put into her job at WP Engine and at WordCamps.
Shayda’s Official Bio
Shayda is a born and raised Austinite with a love for traveling to far off places and dining on one of a kind meals. She was the 13th employee at WP Engine, where she currently resides as a Marketing Manager. At night she runs a burgeoning food and travel blog called Dine With Shayda. She believes in building genuine relationships over good food, and will most likely always suggest you start with dessert. She loves WordPress, community, and storytelling, so reach out and say hello.
Interview with Shayda Torabi
NILE FLORES: How did you get into using WordPress?
SHAYDA TORABI: I was lucky to find WordPress 8-plus years ago. At the time when I discovered WordPress, it was mainly known as a blogging platform — an alternative to LiveJournal, Blogger and Xanga. Somewhere in the midst of spinning up blog after blog, a hobby of mine, I landed with WordPress. WordPress appealed to me because of its maturity as a platform, and also because of its ease of publishing. This was true back then, and is even more accurate today.
A hopeless creative inspired by the digital world, I was first given a computer by my loving parents when I was in high school, and that was just the piece of sugar that this candy addict needed. It lit me up and made my dreams a reality. I could be creative, I could personalize websites, and I could have a voice. It didn’t matter if anyone read my blog because I had a place where I could write about anything I wanted and WordPress made it fun to do so.
While not the most technical, I am very curious. WordPress gives me just enough flexibility to try new things out through plugins, or editing the CSS, while still allowing me to create a beautiful site, launch new ideas, and write content.
In the beginning, I used WordPress mostly from the .com side, but that transitioned to the .org side when I realized the additional power it gave me over my sites.
All of this experience is what set me up and prepared me for accepting a full time job with a WordPress hosting company (at the time very small startup) called WP Engine. I’ve been with them for a little over 4.5 years, and it’s only empowered me to dig deeper into WordPress and its community. Now I’m never looking back!
NILE FLORES: I’ve been privileged enough to hang out with you and find out that you love food, and blog about your dining ventures at Dine With Shayda. As a food blogger, please share a couple tips for the other food bloggers out there that you’ve learned.
SHAYDA TORABI: One of the biggest reactions I get from non-bloggers or bloggers who are just beginning is, “Woah, so cool, wish I could do that!” and the reality is… you absolutely can!
Dine With Shayda is not my first blog (and it will not be my last), so there has been some trial and error on my part. But there are no rules, only the limitations you place upon yourself. While writing content is hard, writing content on a schedule is even harder. So just pick a place, a day, a topic and start there. You can always change your mind. And eventually, you will get to a schedule that you feel comfortable with. Or start a new blog!
Here are my top three tips for aspiring food bloggers:
1. Find a network in your city, globally, online, or in person. Getting together with like-minded individuals is motivating. I’m connected to the WordPress community at large, but also involved locally in an Austin Food Blogging Alliance, as well as an Austin Bloggers Facebook Group. These are safe places for me to ask questions, get connected to opportunities, and share my content!
Also, networking is a two way street, so make sure you engage with other’s content.. Find a group, or start one, where you can learn and grow with others who share similar interests.
2. Practice makes perfect. When I first started food blogging, I used my iPhone for all my photography. It was convenient and easy because it was a camera I always had on me. But as my blog grew, I invested in a versatile camera that could produce higher quality photos.
It was the right move for me, but I don’t recommend breaking the bank. Use whatever makes you feel comfortable, and don’t feel like you need some fancy camera. Just have fun with it! Find out what your style is and just hone in on that. With food photography, it helps to use a lens with a wide aperture, which lets in more light (helpful in low-light settings.)
The same rule applies for your writing style. Find what is comfortable for you, but above all else, be authentic. People can tell if you’re passionate or not, and that is how you build a following. You have to connect with your audience. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula, it just takes practice!
3. Be a person of your word. I am fortunate now to work with a lot of brands. And as someone who wants to continue to build upon those opportunities, the worst thing I can do is to get invited to a food event, or be sent products and then never follow up with that person/brand. So when you’re given something, make sure you show up, you do what you say you’re gonna do, and you follow up. I promise that in and of itself will open doors!
NILE FLORES: You’ve spoken at several WordCamps in the past. What did you like best about public speaking? Can you share a tip or two for the readers, whether it’s about the actual presenting at a WordCamp, or applying to speak at a WordPress?
SHAYDA TORABI: Public speaking is daunting. Even for the most experienced speakers, we all still get nervous. It’s only human. Part of why I wanted to speak at WordCamps was to help me personally overcome that fear. This helped me realize just how supportive the WordPress community is. Once you accept that you have a unique story and perspective to share, what you say is that much more meaningful.
I try to do everything with intention, so really consider that when submitting a talk for a WordCamp (I even happened upon this handy Speaker Training guide from WordPress.org.)
For example, my talk in particular is about the WordPress Community, which isn’t a unique topic. I had to think of what do: “I, Shayda Torabi, bring to the table what someone else might not be able to speak about.”
I’ve been to over 30 WordCamps, so I try to tie in the things I’ve learned along the way , and try to relate that to how my life has genuinely been changed as a result of WordPress.
My hope is to remind and inspire someone else that we all start from ground zero. You just gotta start somewhere. Being relatable and showing your human side is what connects us, and it level sets the expectations both of what others perceive you as and how you perceive yourself. If you’re on the fence about applying to speak for a WordCamp, or your local meet up, or some other event, I want you to know that your voice matters and someone is waiting for you to speak up!
NILE FLORES: You work for WP Engine. Can you tell our readers what you do? Also, what do you think WP Engine does that makes it stand out, versus other Managed WordPress web hosts?
SHAYDA TORABI: Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been with WP Engine for a little over four years. Four years feels like a decade just because of how fast we’ve grown as a company, but also because of how fast WordPress has grown as a platform. I joined when there were less than 20 of us. and we all worked in a coworking space in Austin, TX. Fast forward to today…we’ve grown to more than 400 employees with five offices across the globe!
It’s been a really fun ride. I initially started out as our Events Manager/Office Manager, which was really how I got ramped up into the WordPress community and attended so many WordCamps. But currently, I’m a Marketing Manager on our Product Marketing team, which means I work with our Product, Marketing and Sales teams to train internally and then help market externally new products and features.
What makes us stand out is our relentless pursuit of our customers’ success. This is much more than powering WordPress sites. For us, it’s about helping customers move their business forward faster with innovative technology and award-winning service.
Like I mentioned before — we’ve grown a lot the past five years. We are now trusted by over 50K customers in 136 countries. This allows us to innovate in a way that no other managed WordPress platform can as we continually learn from our customer base.
I also think our laser focus on WordPress sets us apart. We now have 250-plus customer-facing team members with deep expertise that gives our customers peace of mind and ability to spend more time growing their business.
NILE FLORES: If there were one thing about contributing to WordPress that you liked the best, what would it be, and why?
SHAYDA TORABI: I’ve been forever changed by the WordPress community. So I take the challenge to introduce myself to new attendees at WordCamps and Meetups whenever I identify someone I don’t recognize.
There are a ton of personalities in the WordPress community: the ones you see speaking at multiple camps, writing guest blog posts, in long Twitter conversations, and making commits to Core.
And if you haven’t picked up on my theme, it’s that we all started somewhere, so the real key is to just start. If you want to speak at a camp, I’m here to support you! If you want to start committing to WordPress core, I’m here to support you. If you want to learn to code so you can build your own websites, or start a web design firm, I’m here to support you!
WordPress has so many ways for you to contribute back to the project, so depending on what it is that you want to do, there are lots of ways for you to give back. I’m always here to talk if you want more information on what that means and looks like.
NILE FLORES: What is something unique or weird or fun that most WordPressers in the community don’t know about you?
SHAYDA TORABI: I really enjoy national parks and natural wonders. I feel fortunate living in America where our parks system is structured, managed, and paved so I can hike, climb, and drive through these magnificent places.
About three years ago I started on a journey to make it to all 58 of them. It began by exploring Big Bend in my home state of Texas, then I went north to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, and then last year I took a trip to Utah where I hit up Zion, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
A few on my list that I have my sights set on for my next adventure are Glacier National Park in Montana, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. If you ever want to geek out on rock formations, waterfalls, or sunsets from the tops of your favorite hikes, I’m all ears!
NILE FLORES: What kind of features are your favorite in WordPress, and what would you like to see with WordPress in the future?
My favorite feature is the plugin directory! I love that on one hand, there always seems to be a plugin for what i’m trying to incorporate, and on the other hand, you can pretty much customize your site to look and feel however you want, thanks to easily being able to add plugins to your site.
A pro tip: Let’s say you want to incorporate a Facebook feed in your sidebar. There are going to be multiple plugins who claim to do the same thing. Make sure you look at how recent the plugin was updated, how many installs it is running on, and any reviews before you install it. That can save you a lot of headache by just following those rules of thumb.
Big thanks for Shayda dropping some awesome tips and taking time to tell us about herself and her involvement in the WordPress community. Besides her website, you can reach Shayda Torabi on Twitter at @shaptora or @dinewithshayda.
Feel free to ask Shayda any questions in the comments below.
(Note: Pictures of Shayda Torabi within this interview were provided and permitted for use by Shayda Torabi.)