Ioana Mureșan Talks About Transitioning to Tech.

It was December before the holidays (remember how recent that was?!) when I opened my inbox surprised to find a new email from WP Tavern. This was during the times Sarah departed the publication and no one was filling in for her, and WP Tavern was just a quiet, deserted place. And all of a sudden, we got coverage of the State of the Word 2023 happening in Madrid.

As I was reading it, I noticed the name of the writer, “Mureșan,” which is a common name for Romania, more exactly, Transylvania, where I lived for a short period of my life. I tracked Ioana down only to discover she’s been living in France for more than 15 years.

Besides loving WordPress, Ioana is a wonderful writer, which you will get to see in her answers below. She’s also passionate about WordPress and her work at Automatic, and when the State of the Word happened, she just wrote a blog post about it and sent it to Matt. He was like, ‘Good job; go ahead and publish it’.

But let’s rewind this a bit.

Ioana Mureșan Talks About Transitioning to Tech.

Ioana started out in the non-government sector. When her daughter was 7, their family moved to Strasbourg. There, she worked at the European Court of Human Rights for 13 years.

At 42, she enrolled in a master’s degree in web development and completely switched directions. She had found a new purpose and was going all in.

To help others who dream of switching directions, she created a new website about transitioning to tech. There she offers guidance and resources for people looking to change their career, with real-life stories standing proof that this transition can be done.

Fast forward, Ioana is a Happiness Team Lead at Automattic, and, as she told me, is loving every second of her job.

I would love to read Ioana’s own version of her WordPress journey on HeroPress. Until she does, let’s see where she is now:

What is driving you to keep doing what you’re doing? What’s your personal mission?

Ioana Mureșan:

When I look back at my career, I see a clear pattern of service. I started with 10 years in the non-profit, then spent the next decade in public service. I thought I was dedicating the next one to business when I joined Automattic – but soon realized that the pattern continued :))) – as Automattic is very much mission-driven, focused on making the web a better place.

I’ve always been an activist at heart, so this new phase fits well with my past and my identity, so I think it brings us to the answer to your question here. I feel I’m meant to be in service of something meaningful, to work for causes I care about – generally on the progressive side. And I aim to do so while staying true to myself and giving the best of me every step of the way.

What are the important qualities you consider essential in a support engineer role?

Ioana Mureșan:

Oh, I love this question SOOO much because being what we call a Happiness engineer has taught me so very much about what quality support should look & feel like!

In addition to a solid understanding of the product, of course, here are my essentials:

  • First up, being empathetic is a definite top of the list: relating to the issues our customers are sharing, understanding how these issues impact their lives – that’s critical! People often need to be heard and understood more than they actually care to have their issues resolved!
  • Next on the list is being a great communicator: being able to use clear language, to be conversational in writing, to bring concepts to life, and to do it in a highly caring way – while showing ‘your true colors.’ Showing some personality helps us connect with our customers, and that’s where magic happens. When they feel you’re in their corner, so to say, everything else falls into place.
  • Finally, being curious and having an inquisitive mind. These allow you to find out all the details about the issue that are needed to really support that customer. It means being open-minded enough and vulnerable (and honest!) enough to know that sometimes your product just isn’t measuring up to their expectations or needs!

When you put these together – taking in all the details the customer shares, understanding their goals and dreams, and striving to help them reach them – that’s where the customer thrives on your platform – where the magic happens, really.

All Automatticians have recently been given a “card”. What is yours and how does it shape your role?

Ioana Mureșan:

My card is ‘Be the host.’ As a Team Lead in Happiness (our support organization), that means that I strive, along with all my work friends, to make WordPress.com the best hosting platform out there.

In my particular role, that means supporting my own team to be the absolute best they can be and – more widely – bringing my most creative self to the table in improving our platform day in, day out.

What are some common misconceptions users have about WordPress?

Ioana Mureșan:

When it comes to WordPress in general – one of the main misconceptions I’m seeing is that WordPress is only for blogging. In fact, as we both know, while WordPress started out as a blogging platform, it can do. So. Much. More! Today, WordPress is the most versatile option, supporting e-commerce, business sites, portfolios, membership sites, and everything in between.

Another set of misconceptions, perhaps closely related to the above, revolves around security, performance, and scalability. Is my site secure? Will it scale if my content is successful? Will it perform well for my visitors and for the search engines? Our awesome community works literally around the clock to address all these, but the answer often depends on the quality of your hosting service and on using reputable themes and plugins.

Finally, since I support WordPress.com, top of mind for me is the misconception that you cannot use plugins on our platform. Of course, you can! In fact, there’s literally nothing you can’t do! We’ve evolved the platform to cater to all needs – from the beginner blogger to the most demanding developer and to agencies of all sizes!

Describe the WordPress community in one word

Ioana Mureșan:

Values! In fact, can we go with three, pretty please? Thank you! They’re values, commitment, versatility!

What is your advice for someone who is considering transitioning to tech?

Ioana Mureșan:

Thank you so much for this question! As a recent addition to the tech world myself, this question REALLY speaks to me! What an exciting and enriching path to be on, and doubly exciting for me – since I’m running a little service helping people transition into tech, which is surely why you’re asking this in the first place!

As you can imagine, there’s soooo much to be said here. But, for the sake of our discussion, here are three pieces of advice to get things started (more on transitionintotech.com):

  • Be sure. Just kidding, that’s unreasonable :)))) – you’re likely never gonna be 100% sure, but aim for at least 75%! To get there, take some time to reflect on your motivation and especially your drive; are you ready to let go of the old you, or a good part of it? To go to great lengths to discover and shape a new you? To lose some and win some? Are you ready to deploy patience, to be vulnerable, and to have to effectively reintroduce yourself to the world?
  • Put on your thinking hat. Tech is vast, and so are tech-related opportunities. Take the time to narrow things down to what makes the most sense to you, what lights you up, and what resonates with your previous experience, so you can make the most of your transferable skills. Read up, talk to people doing the job you’re considering, and find out the skills needed and what it takes to get them. Oh, and enlist all the help you can in the process!
  • Dabble. Once you’ve gotten a head start on building your new skills, put them to use. Find opportunities to use your new skills – run little personal projects (even silly, useless ones!), volunteer, do pro bono work, contribute to open source projects, of course!, run little freelance projects – anything that can help you move from a passive receiver of information into the practice of your new skill. I can’t overstate just how important this hands-on approach is to building your skills and test-driving your new you! (Oh, and if you need reassurance: it’s definitely doable. It’s been done. You can do it.)

Reflecting on your recent leadership role, what do you think are the most important qualities of a good leader?

Ioana Mureșan:

In my experience so far, I’d say a mix of optimism, trust, good instincts, deep caring, solid communication, and long-term vision.

Optimism is needed to help move past the temporary roadblocks – real or imagined! – towards your (and your organization’s) long-term vision. In a team setting, you can only do that if you are ready, willing, and able to deploy a lot of trust and caring; trust in yourself and your instincts, in your team’s drive and competence, in your organization’s leaders’ vision, and… in the process.

How do you define “being successful”?

Ioana Mureșan:

My definition of ‘successful’ has definitely evolved over time. It’s now at a point where being successful means living your best life – not the one ascribed by society. Living in harmony with who I really am, having the opportunity to give the best of me, being valued when I do, feeling peaceful deep down, waking up grateful every day, enjoying the little things, loving and being loved, staying healthy, and finding meaning in the things you’re doing – in doing things!

There’s a quote that resonates particularly deeply with me these days (one that I first heard from @photomatt – I love how he drops little pearls of wisdom like this!); it’s by Will Durant and it goes like this: “Health lies in action, and so it graces youth. To be busy is the secret of grace, and half the secret of content. Let us ask the gods not for possessions, but for things to do; happiness is in making things rather than in consuming them.” It encapsulates sooo well how I feel about a successful life these days!

I don’t have much to add to Ioana’s interview. I feel lucky to have met her, and I’m looking forward to seeing her in person at WordCamp Europe. If you know someone who is considering transitioning to tech, this post should set a good example of what can be achieved. If you know someone who already transitioned to tech, then they are probably intelligent, highly motivated, intentional people that you should be thankful for. Thanks for reading!

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