Hey there, I’m Jay. I’m a lead back-end WordPress developer @ WebDevStudios, Star Trek Geek, Space Finatic, Gamer, and Father of 3 amazing ( and sometimes annoying ) kids. First and foremost, I’m a WordPress guy; tell me something can’t be done in WordPress, and I’ll prove you wrong. I can be found lingering on Twitter @plugish, over at Github @JayWood making ‘dem repos, or if you want to know me on a personal level, over on Facebook @therealjaywood.
Where it all Started
I guess I can say my journey into WordPress started my sophomore year of high school. My girlfriend’s dad ( now wife ) had given me a Tandy computer; which was the first computer I ever owned. I was quite bored one day and figured, “Let me take this apart and put it back together”… and it still worked, I was absolutely astounded…
A year later I joined the Vo-Tech center as a high school elective, and went with Computer Science, and was given the BEST possible teacher, Mr. Fox. He as a way of explaining things that may seem overly technical, but he can associate it with real-world situations, which makes it that much more intellectually palpable.
During our senior year, we were required to select a topic for our final exam. At first, I selected Flash ( when it was owned by Macromedia ), mainly because all the cool kids were doing it, and I wanted to learn animation. However, months down the road I found myself more interested in Action Script.
It wasn’t long after until I asked my teacher to switch my studies away from Flash and into HTML.
Fast forward to graduation, and a few months after. I moved into my parent’s apartment and wanted to start to learn websites, since in my senior year I learned a good bit about HTML and CSS. So, I immediately started googling to figure out what was the best CMS at the time. Bet you don’t remember PHP Nuke! Yep, that was my FIRST content management system. A year or so later I picked up Joomla; but it was a bit too bloated for what I wanted to do.
A few months later I picked up Drupal, and for the longest time it served it’s purpose. But I wanted customization, and something that was far more wide-reaching… so I found WordPress, and have stuck with it every since.
It wasn’t long after I picked up WordPress that I had an itch for plugins; so I picked up a book, PHP for Dummies. For two years I read this book, wrote code, broke code, and dabbled in MySQL storage. I literally taught myself PHP and MySQL in two years, at least the basics.
After a year or so I figured it was time to start freelancing. So I dabbled in some local businesses, calling myself a ‘professional web developer’ because I thought I knew all that there was to know about WordPress. Many people told me “you’ll never make money doing computers here” but I was determined to prove them wrong. For the longest time I was using premium templates, and a ton of plugins to achieve my goals.
As many have said, using plugins and themes doesn’t make you a developer. It wasn’t until one of my clients asked for a ‘custom plugin’ did it really hit me… I wasn’t a developer, I was merely a pawn who knew how to configure a website and plugins. So… given the fact I knew PHP at the time, and a bit of WordPress, I got to coding, and in a month or so, Content Warning v2 was born!
Local business are well and good, but overall I wanted to reach further, but given financial instability I elected to get a regular job. Near the start of my freelancing career, after two years of a regular job. I was working at our local K-Mart as a front-end manager for about 6 months. Well it was near Christmas time and I was given the order to restrict my fellow employee’s lunch time in favor of ‘having them on the registers’.
Well I went in the back to talk to the boss and to my surprise, the manager at the time was just sitting there with a few of his friends, twisting a pen, doing nothing. He could’ve covered for our guys… instead he’d rather sit and do nothing. So… I walked out, I handed in my ear piece, my badge, and left. Needless to say 6 months later the store closed down, so that must’ve been a good decision.
At this point I started my freelancing career. For two years my freelancing career was a journey, but it’s not without mistakes. Diving into freelancing has a learning curve, and I even blogged about it if you’d like to read it ( Common Freelancer Mistakes ). Overall, freelancing allowed me to build my portfolio, learn, and get the feel of the WordPress landscape.
Where I am Now – The WebDevStudios Shift
Living in southern WV has it’s limits when it comes to technology. Here you’re either in the Mines, Medical industry, or Construction. Finding a web development company is just insane, and while they’re here, none compare to WebDevStudios. Wanting something different from my freelancing lifestyle in June of 2014, I took a leap of faith and applied online.
Almost a month or so went by and I was honestly losing hope. I mean it was a long shot, I’m just a back-woods country boy with little college experience. So I had also applied to McDonalds… lol, yep. Literally two days after I turned in my mickey-D’s app, Brad Williams called me… and I gotta say, it was the happiest day of my life!!!
We went through the usual interview process of looking over my credentials, portfolio, past clients, etc… and I was told there would be more interviews to come. I was absolutely surprised by the amount of information we were exchanging. By this time it was two years after I started freelancing, which I did to build a portfolio… and to my surprise, it actually worked.
At WebDevStudios I get to work with some amazing people and, as people do, some have came and gone with time. One of the absolutely most influential people in my life at WDS was Justin Sternberg, another back-end WordPress developer. Coming into WDS I had a two year freelancing background, but a 4 year programming background on top of that ( side projects here and there ). As a self-taught developer, I thought I had a great handle on things… but Justin has a way of shutting you down haha, in a good way.
As my developer lead at the time, he was responsible for reviewing my code, and getting me up to speed. And I gotta say, if you do not have an open mind, you won’t survive with a developer lead. For that, I’m forever thankful, it’s made me a better developer, and an overall better person. Really good stuff.
WDS Has grown since I first started, we were at just about 15-ish people when I first started, and we’re now right around 40 people… which hasn’t came without challenges. Overall it’s been a long journey since 2014, and I hope to be a part of it for the years to come.
A few more notable people of the WDS Family who have influenced my code:
This guy…he is THE go-to guy for server administration questions. Really a great dude to work with and filled with positive reinforcement.
Marcus is the leader of our company when it comes to data migration. His knowledge in MySQL is just amazing and has taught me a lot, especially when it came to joins, which I never really learned until 2016.
During Stacy’s stay at WDS, she was a very influential person to me. I can’t count the conversations we had on hip-chat about SASS issues I was having ( sass was new to me at the time ). Overall, she’s a pretty cool chick, and I’m thankful for the information she’s shared with me in terms of styling.
Brian ( CTO of WDS ) is an all around great guy, and no I’m not kissing up here. The energy he has when working with clients is just astounding. Throughout the past two years Brian has pushed me to get stuff done that I would otherwise consider impossible. Instead of giving up, he pushed me, and gave me the time I needed to properly learn what needs done, and implement the correct solution. His assertiveness when it comes to tasks has forced me to reevaluate my ways of doing tasks over the years and helped me in realizing what to prioritize.
Ben.. the boat guy haha! Ben has really influenced my dev environment. Like me, Ben uses a remote dev environment. For the longest time I was using VVV and now.. I’m completely remote. The knowledge sharing between him and I during some larger projects was just amazing, and I’ll be forever grateful.
Overall I absolutely love our WebDev family, and hope to be with these guys ( and every one else ) for the years to come. It’s been a journey since 2014, we’ve grown exponentially, and I look forward to every new team member we get.