Journal

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 be 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 <marquee> 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.

jan-cavan-shamrock-samurai
One of the first few 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.

dawghouse-jan-cavan

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”.

jan-cavan-first-tutorial

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.

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!

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, the company behind WordPress, 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.

jan-cavan-olivia

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.

This was originally written for and posted on a8c Design Flow: How WordPress Changed My Life.

2 Responses to How WordPress Changed My Life

  1. ED C> CAVAN says:

    Marie, I am very proud of you and keep up the good work. Please remember always to pray and thank God. Always have HIM for HE is LIFE. Love PAPA

  2. Hadait says:

    keep up the good work that you are doing

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