Hello! Let’s welcome summer with a fresh Themeisle interview. In this one, you’ll get to hear the beautiful journey of Val Vesa – community manager at Cloudflare. Read further for his cool insights about the WordPress community.
Before that, make sure to check last month’s interview with Maddy Osman (where she talks about marketing, productivity, and WordPress) or explore our full collection of interviews to find many other interesting people for your inspiration.
Val Vesa believes in the power of human interaction as a way to bring positive impact to this world.
That’s why he is fully involved in the WordPress community and helps people whenever he sees the opportunity.
Moreover, Val is leading the Photography Team at this year’s WordCamp Europe. This is the perfect way for him to add his passion for photography to the mix.
In this interview, Val shares what it means to be a community manager, plus a lot more insights on social media, success, marketing, and his personal mission. You won’t be surprised to notice that most of what he says revolves around people.
Val Vesa Interview – “Although people now heavily rely on AI and automation, the most productive engagements are still direct human interaction”
When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?
I installed my first WordPress site back in 2009, to set up an online presence for Shoebox Romania. It’s basically wrapping gifts before Christmas every year in shoe boxes and just offering them to underprivileged children, orphans, or families having issues or having a hard time.
At the time, I was talking to my wife, and she was like ok, we cannot go on doing this out of our Yahoo messenger chatbox. For those people out there that are too young, they might not even know what that is. For us, we remember a time when all chat online was done either via ICQ (if you remember that) mIRC chat, or Yahoo messenger.
I used to have a status description in the Yahoo messenger chat saying “we collect boxes for children with needs”. We just couldn’t get the words and the letters to match in a meaningful sentence, because there was like a 65-character allowance. Then Yahoo sometime later offered the opportunity to also add a website URL to a status field. You could say something in there like “for more details click here”. Then you had a URL field.
So my wife said why don’t we just build a website? I was like how in the world am I going to make a website? I’ve never built a website. I was doing web hosting as a side gig, but I never actually created a website by myself.
I started looking online. The famous “be online in five minutes” catchphrase caught me immediately. I was like ok. So there is a system that allows me to have a website online in five minutes. Ok. I’m going to get on it.
There was of course WordPress.org. I downloaded the CMS zip. I uploaded it to my server and went through the installation steps. It was literally more than five minutes, of course, because I wasn’t familiar with what I was doing, but we were online.
Then I remember getting a free theme; whatever the default theme back then was. Then there was the guy called Vlad. His website is Vladstudio.com. I want to mention this because he was the first person to ever help me with anything related to WordPress.
You know there’s this plugin that comes automatically. Then make sure you have this. Permalinks. That’s how you do them. That’s how you create pages. These are posts versus pages.
It was a mess in my mind, but I was so eager to learn. I was sure that by having a website there, live, I could write so much more stories about what we do in the project that I could never have written within the 65-character limit that Yahoo Messenger status was offering.
So we went online in 2009. Then we just took it from there. As I was involved in marketing and social media, I was starting to talk to customers that I was having, and I was like ok. You can also have a website.
So of course all the websites I ever built (ever) were always based on WordPress. Just because WordPress was my first love. I always go back to that.
How do you define “being successful”?
Be at peace with yourself that you have done the best you could with the resources at hand, without doing anything illegal or immoral.
Describe the WordPress community in one word.
What’s the no. 1 thing a new business entering the WordPress space should do?
Connect with the community, create relationships, go to WordCamps/events. Meet people. Don’t SPAM 🙂
What’s your favorite/must-have WordPress plugin and why?
Yoast SEO. This needs no explanations.
What are some good techniques to market a product at this moment?
Although people now heavily rely on AI and automation, I think the most productive engagements I have noticed are still direct human interaction: events, webinars, podcasts, and live-streamed segments. The email will never die also.
Find your audience on all social platforms, but never rely on any of them to host all the content you have. Keep a blog/personal/brand site. Write. Write some more. Go to events and speak.
Develop your story. Be authentic… as in do not lie, tell the truth. People will “smell” it when you’re real.
What do you do at Cloudflare to build a community and keep people engaged?
I practice what I just preached: I talk to people, I am offering to be #AlwaysHappyToHelp and I ask questions all the time: how does this work, what does this do, how did this help you get from phase 1 to phase n, etc.
Engaging people and being authentic is not necessarily a treat you are born with, but it can be learned and practiced until you feel it as being natural to you.
Something else that is very important is to ask people questions or provide sneak peeks into what’s coming. Ask them how would they use feature X if it would come out in a week (when you know it will launch the next day) 🙂
What makes a successful social media presence?
Love people. Anything you do on social media, without genuinely loving people is doomed. Respond to all comments. The good and the not-so-good.
Of course, you don’t need to respond to insults, but be ready to have a response to all reasonable questions. Do not talk to people from a higher pedestal, be their equal. Ask for forgiveness when you made a mistake.
Your social media following is part of your community and the community will stick by you in the hardest times if you show respect and love.
What is driving you to keep doing what you’re doing? What’s your personal mission?
I love helping people tell their stories online and on social media and shape their profiles as genuine reflections of themselves.
I am very passionate about photography and online security. A weird mix in a world where these two are most abused.
My personal mission is to share God’s love with all people I meet and be a helping hand for anyone who needs help. I just happen to do it a lot on social media, where I spend my work hours 🙂
That sums up our Val Vesa interview. If you enjoyed it and want to learn more, please leave your comments in the section below. Also, if you have any ideas for who we should talk to next, feel free to share your suggestions with us!