Jean Galea interview

Let me just assure you that the Pirate Interviews series is going to continue into 2017 with many more great WordPress people on board. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but if you’d like us to invite someone in particular, please mention him/her in the comments.

Jean Galea interview
Okay, about today’s interview … the next person to step up is certainly a man with many ideas and many projects under his belt. Jean Galea is what you would call an influencer in the WordPress space. Over the years, he has earned his spot in the limelight by being the man behind a number of interesting projects.

With WP Mayor being around since 2010, WP RSS Aggregator used by 40,000+ people now, and his latest MastermindFM podcast being nearly two years old there’s surely a lot to talk about.

Plus, apart from what you’d call work, Jean is also living many people’s digital nomadic dream, being a WordPress entrepreneur and traveling the world at the same time.

Here’s our Jean Galea interview:

Jean Galea interview

In short, what is your history with WordPress?

Jean Galea:
I stumbled on WordPress during my studies at university. I worked as a freelance web developer on the side to help finance my education. After a brief stint with Joomla I switched to WordPress, attracted by its promise of an easy installation and straightforward theme customizations. Soon after graduating, I teamed up with a friend of mine to form a WordPress agency in Malta. I ran that successfully for a few years before moving on to blogging and product development.

What are the benefits and challenges of remote work?

Jean Galea:
Working remotely was my dream even when I was younger and didn’t have my own business yet. I dreamt of a future where we could work from a location of our choosing where we can be most productive.

Honestly, I had a few short stints working in offices while on summer break when I was a student, and I hated the office politics and time wasted due to constant interruptions. I am also very much into tech and love being able to make my own choices with regards to my desk, chair and other hardware and software. This is usually not possible in an office environment. Another big downside was the lost time in commuting and being stuck in traffic jams.

With that in mind, you will understand that I’m all for remote work and find myself very comfortable in such a setup. It is a bit tougher to recruit people who are able to work remotely, as you need to have a high sense of autonomy and be able to organize your day and motivate yourself. So that’s one of the challenges for sure, although nowadays it is getting easier to find people who already have experience with remote work as it is becoming more and more popular around the world.

Perhaps the one thing that office-bound teams have that I miss is the camaraderie and cohesion that is built by a united team pursuing a particular goal. It can still be present in a remote team but it’s not as tangible. That’s why yearly retreats can be a great tool for remote teams.

You and your wife are living and working as digital nomads. What were the biggest drawbacks, if any, of this lifestyle?

Jean Galea:
Let’s get the drawbacks out of the way. The biggest challenge is the fact that being constantly on the move makes it exponentially harder to form routines and have a comfortable work space where everything works and you can just walk in and start getting things done.

On the other hand, a digital nomad lifestyle will reward you with incredible experiences (and challenges) that will remain with you for the rest of your life. The experience of immersing oneself in totally different cultures will give you the chance to appreciate things on a deeper level so that they can become part of your personality.

What are your favorite development tools and why?

Jean Galea:
I use Sublime Text for code editing and Mamp Pro for setting up a local server environment. These days my development time is very limited but when I do jump into code those are the main tools I use. As a team we also rely a lot on Slack and Atlassian’s JIRA and Confluence to manage our projects and internal communication. You can also read about all the software I use over on my blog.

So far, you’ve had several successful WordPress projects. Do you have certain criteria to determine whether a project might be successful?

Jean Galea:
I try to look beyond my own ideas and dreams and ask people in the community whether they would have a need for whatever project I dreamt up. If there is an overwhelming positive response, I’ll go ahead and develop a first prototype. There’s a lot to be said on this topic, though, and there are many ways to make a successful entry with WordPress products. We have a few episodes tackling this very topic on Mastermind.fm, including an interview with Pippin Williamson who is a real master at achieving success over and over again with several products.

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How did you decide to create the WP RSS Aggregator plugin? RSS is not that popular nowadays.

Jean Galea:
I created the plugin for two reasons. First, I had been waiting for the opportune time to create a plugin and submit it to the WordPress repo and finally had some time to work on something. Secondly, I needed a way to import WordPress jobs and news from others sites onto my WP Mayor blog. So, armed with a use case and some time, I went ahead and created the first iteration of the plugin which was enough for my simple needs at the time.

What happened next will answer the second part of your question. Feature requests started pouring in via the plugin’s support forum on .org and that led to me creating premium addons for the original core plugin. That core plugin has of course also come a long way from where it started in 2012, mostly thanks to the excellent developers on our team.

It’s been almost two years since you’ve started Mastermind.fm. How has this experience been for you?

Jean Galea:
I’ve always felt comfortable writing, but speaking is not something I consider to be one of my natural strengths. So first of all, the idea of having a podcast was to challenge myself to improve and develop my speaking skills, as this is undoubtedly an important tool in an entrepreneur’s arsenal.

The research is the same across blogging and podcasting, but podcasting is harder as you’re recording everything live and need to keep things flowing at all times. Sitting down to record a podcast is a much more intense experience for me compared to writing a blog post. Recording a podcast takes 30 minutes to one hour while writing a blog post can take several hours or even spread across a few days.

Talking about Mastermind.fm specifically, it’s been an awesome journey so far. I’ve been blessed to have an excellent co-host in James, who has a lot of experience in the domain of public speaking. Doing the podcast with him helps me improve much quicker than if I had to do it on my own.

Moreover, the whole point of Mastermind.fm was to open our private mastermind session to the public as we both felt that we were sharing and discussing topics that would be useful for many other WordPress entrepreneurs. I consider this project as a good way of giving back to the WordPress community, which has given me so much in the past ten years.

We have now started inviting guests on the show and this will give us the opportunity to have discussions about even more topics and have more viewpoints on things. Lastly, we have also been lucky to find sponsors early on and this helps us keep the show self-sustainable and viable in the long term.

To be successful, you said one should never stop learning. Do you have someone you currently look up to or follow? What do you read during your spare time?

Jean Galea:
That is indeed my maxim. I don’t have a particular person I look up to or follow. I’ve never had idols and believe that one should blaze their own trail in life. Having said that, I do enjoy reading biographies of people who are successful in different areas of life and always learn a lot from their lives. I read about many different topics. Apart from tech and business, I also enjoy reading about philosophy and psychology, with a good novel thrown in every now and then for good measure.

With several priorities to juggle and the excitement of living abroad, what does your typical workday look like? How would you describe your workflow?

Jean Galea:
Well, there simply isn’t a typical workday really! I try to juggle many things and do the best I can to have enough time for work, fitness and sports as well as my family. I’ve written about my workflow on my blog if you’d like to get more in depth about the tools and processes I use.

If you had one advice to give to an aspiring developer, what would it be?

Jean Galea:
I would tell them to get involved in the WordPress community right from the start. Attend WordCamps, join groups like Advanced WP on Facebook, WP Chat or the Post Status community, contribute to blogs and release plugins on the .org plugin repository.

The more you get involved and make connections, the faster you’ll achieve success. The community is by far the best thing about WordPress, I’ve met many incredibly awesome people in my journey that have become friends beyond work and I can’t be thankful enough for this experience.

This concludes our Jean Galea interview. If you happen to have any questions, please feel free to submit them below. We’ll try getting Jean back to answer them.