324 – Having a career in tech and WordPress with Fränk Klein

Interview with Fränk Klein and Nathan Wrigley.

On the podcast today we have Fränk Klein, and he’s here to discuss the important topic of making a career from using WordPress.

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Like any other career, in technology, there’s really no replacement for knowledge. The more you know, the more likely you are to adapt to situations that arise. Some of those might be repetitive, but there’s also the curve balls that life throws at you, and your knowledge can empower you when strange things happen.

Fränk is all about acquiring new skills. Learning new things so that you can make yourself indispensable to the organisation that you work for.

But don’t take my word for it. He’s a brief introduction which Fränk put together for this show, and it really shows that he’s been committed to learning in some high-powered environments.

I’m a self-taught developer. I started learning PHP in 2011 and found WordPress from there.

My formal education is a university degree in visual arts. Initially, I wanted to be a print designer. I continue to benefit from that background.

My first WordPress job was at Automattic as a theme designer/developer for WordPress.com. After that I switched to WordPress VIP, where I focussed on code reviews.

My second job was at Human Made, an enterprise WordPress agency. I’ve risen through the ranks to senior, and now Principal.

My journey from print designer to WordPress developer was arduous. My site WP Development Courses is a result of those experiences.

I’m sharing what I know, to make it easier to become a WordPress professional.

Fränk Klein

Fränk’s premise is pretty simple… being better educated will give you a chance to earn more.

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On the podcast today, the conversation centres around 7 topics:

  1. Fränk’s background, and how I became a WordPress developer.
  2. His framework for having a career in the software industry.
  3. The current job market for WordPress developers, and the changes that Gutenberg is bringing.
  4. Wider web development vs. WordPress development.
  5. Why you learn more, you earn more, is great advice.
  6. The challenges of learning, and why courses are only part of the answer.
  7. What solutions there are for agencies that want to level up their skills?

We talk about how Fränk became a WordPress developer. What his framework is for moving through the software industry, what his current job market is like in the wider WordPress ecosystem.

We also talk about whether WordPress is the best place to put all of your educational endeavors. Perhaps WordPress is just something that you do part time, whilst learning skills which apply in other tech spheres?

Some things that we touch on are:

  • Do what you enjoy? If not, have a try at something else.
  • What do you need to learn?
  • What resources do you need?
  • Should there be a budget to do this?

We talk a lot about ‘Site Editing’ and the fact that he thinks it really truly is the future of WordPress.

We also get into Fränk’s course, which can either be video learning or you can also pay to do one-on-one learning, which is quite an interesting approach from him.

Essentially, the message from this podcast boils down to staying curious and keep learning as a priority.

Mentioned in this podcast:

WP Development Courses

Brian Tracey – motivational speaker

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the Worth Rest community. Now welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there once again and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 320. Entitled, having a Career in Tech and WordPress with Frank Klein. It was published on Thursday the 27th of April, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley and I'll be joined in a few short minutes by Frank. Firstly, though, a little bit of housekeeping, if you are enjoying the WP Builds content, we would really appreciate it if you shared it.

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A review certainly helps spread the show far and wide. The other thing to mention is that if you do head over to our subscribe page and fill out the form there, we will send you possibly two emails a week. The first one is to notify you of the Thursday podcast that we produce. That's what you're listening to now, but also our this week in WordPress show.

It's live every Monday, 2:00 PM UK time. If you join us, you can leave a comment and we'll try to get as many of those comments featured in the show. It's a bit of fun, and we've recycled that as a podcast episode on Tuesday. The other thing to mention is our deals page, WP Builds.com/deals. It's a bit like Black Friday, but every single day of the year.

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Okay. Today, as I said, we have a podcast episode. It's an interview we're chatting with Frank Klein. Now, Frank has had a fairly long career in the WordPress space. He began learning PHP in 2011. Since then, he's worked for a whole bunch of different companies, including Automatic and Human Made, where he's now one of the principal engineers over there. And Frank is on the show today to talk. Careers in WordPress, really how it is that you could make yourself a career in WordPress.

The whole episode really boils down to staying curious and keep learning, and Frank talks about the different things that you could learn, the different techniques that you could use to learn whether or not it's a good idea to learn things which are outside the WordPress space, so that you've got options.

Should you decide to move away from WordPress. The challenges of learning. Using courses or just self-taught learning, there's a whole load in here and I hope that you enjoy it. I am joined on the podcast today by Frank Klein. Hello, Frank. Hi, how are you doing? Yeah, I'm good, Frank. And I have I've done this is the second time.

Now, if you if you want to hear Frank and I having a chat about a different subject, feel free to head over to the WP Tavern Podcast, episode 50 Over there will find you listening to me and Frank talking about how Gutenberg and full sight editing can be used to bring new opportunities to WordPress developers, but not the subject of today's conversation, though.

Frank, just before we get stuck into this, I wonder if you wouldn't mind, there's about to be a whole bunch of people who've not heard that previous episode. I feel we need a bit of background. You can tell us who you are and who you work for and how long you've been using WordPress and all of that stuff.

So over to you, Frank.

[00:04:30] Fränk Klein: So my name is Frank Klein. I live in Luxembourg, and I'm a principal engineer at an enterprise WordPress agency called Human Mate and also run my own WordPress developer education company called Top P Development Courses. And yeah, I've been using WordPress since 2011 and that's when I switched careers for the second time, actually to go into web development. And yeah, I picked WordPress of course, because it's widely used. And for me that was a great possibility to get a job easily because yeah, I switched careers when I was 26 to development and I thought to myself, Hey, if this many people use WordPress, for sure, there's somebody who's gonna gimme a job in it.

So that's how I got to.

[00:05:18] Nathan Wrigley: That's great. It's a really nice trajectory. That just going off piece a little bit, and Frank we never did discuss in our pre-recording conversation, we didn't discuss this, but I'm just curious, a lot of the people who listen to this podcast are freelancers, so they look for their own work and they do their own work and perhaps they're working by themselves and so on.

Just give us a bit of an insight into what it. How that differs from the enterprise level work that you do. Just, I don't know whether you're authorized to talk about human made, but if you are, if you feel willing to do that, I'd love to hear a little bit more about them.

[00:05:51] Fränk Klein: So I think it's hard to define what the enterprise is because you can say, oh, it's a big company.

How do you define big and big budget? Okay for me it's more when I look at, when I look at kind of websites, I would say an enterprise website always makes money in some form or fashion. So it can be direct in the sense that if you have an online shop, of course it makes direct money or it can be more indirect if you have, for example, an online publication, they publish content and they make money through ads, for example.

So that is the first criteria. It's that it's a money making machine, I guess for the company that runs the website. And the difference is important. If you will build let's say you have an online store and your client has online store and you can improve the conversion rate. So you can put the money amount on that, and if you increase conversions by a lot and your client makes a lot more money, that means you can charge a lot for it.

The other part is that where I would see the difference in the enterprises that your clients actually need to use the backend of WordPress a lot because. Custom design, the front end, that's a given. Everybody needs to put some kind of front end on a website, but the difference really comes in the back end, how you can adapt or press to fit your client needs.

And this is where, I guess inside of human made we make the most difference because if you have clients that work in the publishing industry something like that every little piece that you can give, That makes this process more efficient, just results in a lot better outcomes for them in terms of, how much productivity they have.

And so that's really where we spend a lot of our time in Saudi River Made is actually the back ends, not so much the front end. So that's, I think for me the two big difference makers. That other part has more to do with security and perform. Yeah, so obviously your bigger, the bigger your website is, the more it's important that it doesn't get hacked.

The website doesn't get any visits and gets hacked. You put the backup on and no worries. But if it gets hacked and you have big side and you have published content and stuff like that, you cannot just slap it, backup on and you lose a day of, work. Obviously it's a lot. It's very, For you, your view outside if your website gets hacked.

And the other part is performance where it's something that you need to distinguish front end performance important, but I'm also very, especially talking about backend performance, because usually big sites get a lot of traffic and so the margin of error for how you build stuff, how you architect it is quite small.

So those, I guess the things that differentiate the enterprise from the rest. The problem that you have when you switch from one to the other is just things that previously were considered just best practice or that's how everybody does it. Suddenly they aren't. And that's sometimes when I say things on Twitter people are confused.

But yeah, it comes from this background of the stakes are a lot higher. Yeah. The margin for errors are a lot. So obviously things are done a certain way in the enterprise

[00:09:07] Nathan Wrigley: market. Yeah. I guess you've gotta be a little bit more opinionated and yeah, what have you. The subjects at hand today really is, I guess the one word you could sum up with is careers or career.

Being a WordPress developer, you've obviously, Had a great deal of experience and you've taken different forks in the road to get to where you are now, but you've written sort of seven points that you want to discuss about getting into WordPress and learning journeys and all of that kind of stuff.

So you talked about WordPress in general, but is there anything about your first point, the background on how you became a WordPress developer that you wanted to develop above and beyond what you've mentioned?

[00:09:48] Fränk Klein: So what I wanted to say there is that it's typical that A lot of purpose developers don't really come from, computer science degree or something like that.

And for me, it was the same. I actually studied print design and when I got out of university, that was in 2008. There was just no work anywhere because that was the Obama recession, as I like to call it. And I was actually in an internship as part of my studies in a, in an agency, a big agency. So there were 50 people in total and they did, print.

Audio, visual, everything. And so I talked to the boss and I said, Hey, I'm leaving my internship. Can you gimme a job? And he said, no I really don't need another print designer, but what I need is a project manager. Because the particular thing about Luxembourg where live is that we have three official languages.

So Luxembourgish, French and German, and the Luxembourger is all know these three. But a lot of the work. In Luxembourg, nearly half, actually, Germans saw French people or Belgians that crossed the border every day to come work in Luxembourg. Huh. And they don't have those language skills. So just based on that, he said, I need somebody who can do all these things.

So if you go back to like school and you get some education project mentioned, I will hire you for sure. So I went back to university and you can do like a transfer of skills where you need to present your knowledge in a certain area and all of this. So I got into the third year of a four year project management degree in the IT space.

And so it's one year where it was just at school and then a second year is just half and half where you work and you go to school a few times and that was it. I was a work project manager and my former boss cap kept his work and became my then permanent boss. First full-time job and I was a project manager and yeah, it was just miserable to be honest.

[00:11:36] Nathan Wrigley: I wasn't expecting that.

[00:11:38] Fränk Klein: Yeah, I was super miserable. I have to admit that. And I felt like a failure obviously, because I, we, in Luxer you get out of secondary school at 19, you add six years of university to it. Wow. You are 25, which is which great, wow. If I were in the US I would rather probably maybe be married and have kids or something.

Yeah. Because, and so you are standing there, you essentially have nothing that broke, obviously student loans and everything so I wasn't reading the situation, but I could just say, Hey, I'm gonna quit this job and, do whatever. Especially cause the pay was really bad. It wasn't great situation.

So I was, in my lunch break Googling for career advice. Oh no. Yeah that's how bad it was. No. And then I found Brian Tracy, so you probably don't know him. He's no, an American Canadian how can say a motivation speaker maybe? Yeah, like self-development. And he had his really great blog post, I think it was a blog post right now.

I just found it as a video where he said, you. How to change careers. I'm like, okay. And it was very short to say, Hey, first of all, identify what you want to do. So I'm like, what I want is a job in a growing market because that means a lot of job opportunities and job security. And I want it to be well paid, obviously, and I want it to be creative because project managers not creative.

And some people say programming isn't creative either. It's very creative because Yeah, essentially just coming up with solutions all the time. Yeah. I said, okay, I'm gonna be a web programmer. Then the second step that Brian Tracy said is that, create an action. Alright, I need to learn php, that I Googled, what's the most common language?

Php. What is the most common cms? WordPress. Alright. Check. Create a budget. Not a lot. I just bought a book on php and then the professional WordPress development, right? The big book that everybody has, and then from that point on, I was just, I said, Hey, now I can do web development.

And the part that he said is that the next step, once you have acquired the skills, You need to maximize your experience. And what he meant by that is that. If you come into like the development space and all you know is just those books and maybe a little bit of stuff you have done on the site, you are lacking all of the experience that other people already have.

So if you come up against a body who has five years of experience developing more precise, yeah, just way behind. And there's only so much you can get from the day shop, so you need to do additional stuff on the site. And that's what I did in my free time. I got involved with the theme review team.

I contributed to then open source, so the fold themes in WebPress, and then that kind of got me then launched on the trajectory to then be a professional developer. And then the last two points, Which are gonna touch briefly on those are very important because he said, be ambitious. And to me it was of course if I'm gonna be a developer, I'm gonna be, he said be in the top 10% of whatever you do.

I'm like, yeah, that sounds like a good idea because obviously the top people make the most money. And he also said, be humble. Don't like, you need to be aware of what you don't know. And when you see somebody do something like some other code that somebody wrote, instead of going, oh, this is obviously all wrong.

Say, okay, why would they be writing like this? Do they have more experience in this domain? What can I take from this? So that's the approach. I would just need to look at things and say, Hey, what can I learn from this? Instead of saying, oh, this is obviously wrong because of this and this.

Whereas the reality is when you're starting out, you have basically no clue what you're doing, and you just need to be aware of that and try and learn from other people. And it's quite interesting because it was just this small blog post that I read, but it's a framework which I've kept ever since.

And so that's the the reason why I like mention it because I think it's a good framework to have. It's something that you need to continuously apply, especially in the market that we are now in, right? So the wider work nels web development market.

[00:15:49] Nathan Wrigley: You mentioned it as a framework, but as you were talking about it, I suspect that it's really clear in your head what that framework is and what the bits are that hang off it.

But it may not be the case for people who are listening to this, they've heard you just talking about what you've talking about and, but then you mention framework and suddenly, oh, what does he mean? Can you describe like the steps that are in that framework specifically? Is it like a bullet pointed list of things.

It's you would advise to do in a particular order. How does that

[00:16:22] Fränk Klein: actually work? So I think that the important part is that you need to first look at the situation that you're in and then be clear of whether this is something that you like doing or not. And that's something which you have to do continuously.

Cuz I think the worst thing that you can do is, you work in WordPress and you just hate it, right? If that is the case, Then just do something else. I think that's a very important point. It's something that is not said often out loud because some people think it's negative, but generally in my, from my point of view, if you don't like where WordPress is going then do something else.

Like why would you stay with it and be miserable? There are plenty of opportunity out there to do other things. The web development space is huge. Tons of great communities. Weapons for sure isn't Tony one. So that's just something which you continuously need to ask yourself.

And also as a developer, there are other careers available to you, right? You could go more into management people management, technical management. So just make sure that. You don't just do the same things over and over just because you have been doing them for, years. That's probably the worst thing to look at it.

And if you see that there is a change needed, either because you want a change or because you have to change because circumstances change, then just come up with a plan. Okay, what do I need to learn? What are the resources that I could find to learn them the skills that I need? And then what is the budget?

That's very important because million WordPress and general web development, we are big on free education, but free education has its limits for sure. There is a whole market for courses, certifications, one-on-one coaching, and it's there for a reason. It's because if you do pay those offerings are often.

A big shortcut to getting where you want to be. And then the other part is when you do something you need to apply whatever you are learning. It's very important. So don't go out and learn, I don't know, rust, right? The program language rust. Just don't go out and learn rust and then do nothing with it because your time is too valuable.

You just need to learn the things that apply to your immediate career. And then the other part is, when I say be humble, is that. Don't think you have, figure it all out. That's very important. Especially in the WordPress space where I think, it's always, when you say I read is on Twitter, I read is on Facebook.

I think there's a minority of people for sure, but there are some people who just say, this is the way it is, and then that's fine. Just final word. Look at what these people are doing, what are their experiences, what are their successes? And then ask them yourself. Can I learn something from this?

Why would this person say that? Why would this person have this opinion, use this specific framework use this software. I think those are the steps that I would recommend to everybody just. Applies to their own career.

[00:19:16] Nathan Wrigley: Anybody listening to this podcast is very likely really into WordPress. They've probably got some job in the WordPress space, whether that's working for themselves or working for a at a company like you do.

What's your take on the current state of. The job market in WordPress, the numbers have for years and years been going up and up. We hear constantly about, it was 20%, now 30 and 40 we're in the mid, early forties, 43%. This figure always getting touted. So on the face of it, it seems everything's very positive. The job market's gonna be buoyant, but we are recording this at the beginning of 2023, where tech in general seems to be hit really hard. There are significant portions of the community where they're experiencing layoffs and things like that. In terms of development roles in particular.

How do you feel it is at the moment? Is it is it a job market which you feel comfortable, would you, for example, feel comfortable stepping away from your current job thinking, ah, yes. I'm gonna find it fairly straightforward to get a new job.

[00:20:24] Fränk Klein: For me it's it's a bit, when you go back to this, to how farm WordPress, for me, security is very important.

I need to feel secure, so I never want to go back to that situation again where I'm just standing there and, broke and working a job that I don't like. So for me, it's very important to always look at what's out there, what could I do, and how do I stack up against the other people that are out there?

For sure. I think in this current market you just need to look at, okay, what are the skills that are very common? The very common skill of workers, developers, some php, a bit of h hml and css, and you build, sites with page builder and Met Box framework Internets it and. To me, I don't think that this is a good situation to be in because there are just so many of you, and there are only so many jobs for these kind of developers.

So anything that you can do to stand out of that group. It's great. And that's obviously, in my opinion, where, the ability to use JavaScript, build custom blocks comes in because I always look up when I see a job advertising, always click on it, look at the skills that are required.

And that was last week or the week before I stumbled upon a job advert for developer position at a Woo commerce plugin developer company. And building custom blocks was just a requirement. It wasn't nice to have. It was just, Hey, that's what you need to do. I was like, really? Okay. Are we at this point?

So it makes sense for WooCommerce because obviously it's owned by automatic and they're going in with blocks like fully. But it's something that I suspect would just. Go out to the wider ecosystem. It's if you wanna work in the enterprise space, so any of the big agencies that you know the name of, yeah, that's pretty much either a requirement that you should have when you come in, or you should be really willing to learn it quite fast when you join because all of these are using, to block edit on some form or fashion.

And the other part where I just look at is that I always ask myself, Now if WordPress would just disappear overnight, for some reason, some freak accident happens, it just disappears. What would I do then? To be honest, I can write, I think my PhD skills are better than the average, but they're still just way below what I would need to know if I were to be a PHP developer.

I just have to be honest with that. Definitely I think if I were to do the work, I could get hired as a junior at a PHP agency. But yeah, so that's just to be realistic about. And so for. What I focus on more is JavaScript. It's a language that I really like, and so I would say, okay, react would be the space that would go in if I didn't have WordPress.

And I think that's just important to, to look at because WordPress has been super stagnant for so long, and it's great because essentially you can just keep doing the same thing of Ando and has worked for so long. But I think it's gonna stop working at some point or another. And for me, it's always better to be prepared for the changes that are coming.

So try and figure out what are the changes that are coming and prepare for them rather than just being left without a job. And now, having to scramble to figure out, oh, how can I get the skills that I need to get hired? At an agency or product company. Yeah. It's

[00:23:46] Nathan Wrigley: interesting. So you've definitely hooked yourself into the JavaScript React and Gutenberg blocks development piece.

And I'm curious, you saw that job advert where the company who was hiring didn't have. Oh, if you've worked with blocks, that would be nice. It was, don't bother applying if you haven't built blocks and worked with blocks before. So that's quite an interesting shift. But in, in the work that you've been doing recently, would you say that is really the case?

Does it feel like there's a groundswell moving towards blocks? Is this becoming a thing in the enterprise, which is just a requirement of getting through the door at an I.

[00:24:27] Fränk Klein: In enterprise space, it's already an established fact. Yeah. Because what would we do besides blocks? Yeah. Classic editor.

I don't think that's an option. I don't think that metal boxes are necessarily bad in terms of ui, although they are for sure in a lot of cases. But it's more the storage. Commonly the model is that you take a metal box and it goes into post matter and then you do everything with it, like you query, right?

Does post matter and that's just not gonna cut it. In the enterprise space for various reasons. One, especially one being performance. The other part is a page builder. I don't know any enterprise sites that use a page builder, but I know a lot of them that want to move off them, just a third party page builder.

And it's not because they are, I don't want to bet off them. It's just at a certain point, a page builder is not what these companies need. And so what you reach for is then the Brock editor and it gets deployed in various ways. I think that the difference is, as I said previously when you have an enterprise company, they really want to, build with with WordPress.

So it's not that you give them a very fixed website and then you update a few text. It's more that they have marketing departments. They want to have landing pages, they want to build they want to add certain zones to block content, right? They want to. Shape how this website looks and the functionality of it.

And so that's the difference in the enterprise where with blocks you can give your clients all of these tools that you need to really extend the website. And it's not like smaller websites which uses very fixed, right?

[00:26:02] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Let's take a segue. Let's talk, we could carry on through your seven point list, but I feel this is the right moment to talk about the course that you actually.

Is that all right with you? Can we talk about that for a couple of minutes? Yes. Yeah. So just lay out what your course is, where we find it, and what it is that you are setting out to do in that course. Cuz it, it felt like this was the perfect place to drop it in,

[00:26:28] Fränk Klein: right? So for me, when we talk about full set editing I'm convinced that this is the future, if not only for the fact.

If we look at the wider project, so Matt Qui has just put all of the chips on the table, right? He's all in with this, and I can't really imagine a future where, The whole block experiment would just go away. I think if it doesn't work out, that's it for WordPress, because so many resources invested.

There's a whole, project timeline that's gonna build upon foods editing. So if this doesn't work out, then that's it for WordPress. That's how I look at it. It's not gonna go away immediately because it's just so much of it, but I would just be out of it. I would be haunted the next thing if it doesn't happen, and the thing that people ask me say, oh, how much of editing are you using, on your websites?

Are you building with it? And the question, the answer is, yes, we're building with it, but we are not completely going block theme, or at least not a hundred percent. But the problem is that you need to understand the end result. What is the block theme? What are the features that are there? How do they work?

And if you understand that, then you can do the bridging back. More classic themes and then building a hybrid themes, right? Themes that make, that makes block building approaches with just php. And the way that I teach this is I have a course called the Block Theme Academy, and it has two parts.

So the one part is just all there is to know about block theming so that you know all of the tools that are available. You understand how these themes are built, and the second part is more, okay, now that I have. But I cannot fully go block-based because of various reasons. How can I apply this to my classic themes?

What can I take? And so the roadmap for that is the same line gonna present at the page pillar summit is where I say, okay, let's start off with just the content, right? The content editor, and let's just use everything there is. So we customize all of the options for the color palettes, the phones, we remove them.

We curate the number of blocks that is available. We use patterns, we use reusable blocks, right? All of these tools that are available ready in the content, because that's gonna give us the base is for the next phase where we go outside of the content area, so other parts of the website that people need to edit.

And then if we have master that, because a big part of this is building layouts with the block editor, which is not terribly different to all the concepts as you know from css. Just the way you apply, it's very different because. Writing the code and just building it out is just something you need to get used to.

Then the last part is that way you can then go fully block based and you can still keep the PHP fallbacks. So that is the structure of the course, and it's really meant for agencies and freelancers that want to start building with blocks, but are very hesitant to just say from one day to another.

Right now, this is last classic theme we built. Tomorrow's gonna be block based. I don't think that's a good approach. And so that's a course. So you get the content, you go through it to yourself, and then if you have a question, you just ask for support. And then the second part is I have a one-on-one coaching program, and that's for people that.

That want to learn how to build custom blocks. And this is really a program where you go through with me. So it's a lot of one-on-one coaching that we do on calls with code review. And that's just because when we talk about building custom blocks, people come from all kinds of backgrounds. So some need to learn more things, some need to learn less things.

A base which we need to prepare, just the base knowledge. Then we get into just the block building. And a huge aspect of block building is not just the technical aspect, it's just the design aspects. And that is something that is very hard to do, in a course because there's really the way I teach is very much Socratic, I would say.

So you say something and I ask, so why? And then you say this, so really dig down into why you want to do something. And I try. To point you in the right direction rather than just telling you, do it this way, because I don't think that teaches you anything, right? I want to get you, I want you to lead you to, so that you get to the place where I want you to go.

But you get there on your own by figuring it out yourself. And that's very important because then when you have these skills, you can go out on your own and then, apply the same tactics. Tactics in your own work and. So that's, that has been, it's very small because of course, one-on-one that can take so many students.

Yeah. But it has been very successful.

[00:31:05] Nathan Wrigley: That's a really interesting model because it's normally, it's video based, isn't it? Somebody like you shoots the videos, which is obviously a big part of what you're offering. The fir the first part, if you like the first half of it all, that's amazing that you've got an option in there to do one-on-one.

I guess you're just squeezing that in around the rest of.

[00:31:26] Fränk Klein: Yeah. So the thing is that for this there needs to be a fit also. This is not something that you just can buy. We need to get on a call. We need to agree yeah, that you want to do this. And then there also needs to be a fit between, of personality between us.

And then I think if this space is there that people want to learn it and they trust you that you can teach it, then the result is great. The other part is that you. It's all about block building, and that's the outcome that, that I want to have, that you build your own custom blocks for your own projects.

But usually there are other things that come up, which are not immediately related because it's not like this is a green field and you're starting out and you don't have anything before. Usually you have other solutions and you say, oh, but I have this, how can I adapt this? So it goes outside of just block development, but that's why it's one-on-one because we can address these questions also during that time.

How do I migrate content from here to there? How do I teach this to, the clients that they have? So all of that is just in there and it's really enjoyable because the problem with the course is you don't really see, unless somebody writes, you don't really see what people do with it.

And here you, you see every week how people are progressing. Yeah. And this is a business, so for sure, the money part is important, but it's just a satisfaction that, that you get from seeing people succeed. It's something. Yeah, I'm really looking forward. That's why I enjoyed this so much.

Do you

[00:32:50] Nathan Wrigley: take people's situation, so let's say for example, I come to you and I've got a, I would like to go through that program, but I've got a particular outcome that I need to achieve. Do you work through that or is it more right, I've decided what the program is, we're gonna go through this, or do you iterate through with them?

Enabling them to get it, get what it is that they need out of it at the.

[00:33:15] Fränk Klein: Yeah. So it's very much you come with your own projects. Nice. And then we can decide on whether it's a good idea to build it now or later. A very, an example would be, I had a student called and she really wasn't the developer by her own admission.

But she was very willing to do the work. And what she wanted to build is just a list block where you can have an image as a list icon, right? Which apparently exists in Elementor, but not in block editor. So yeah, we built that together. And of course it sounds easy, but it's essentially a rubber block and every item is.

A block in the wrapper. You know how this work now in 6.1 and then you need to have the UI on the site, but to upload the image, you need to have controls for the padding. And then the thing is that the padding is controlled centrally on the wrapper, but it needs to feed down to the child blocks.

So all these concepts are dressed and the way that course works or the program works is that there are the basis that you need to understand, and then we use this specific project to branch out into different fields and then to show you all of the possibilities that are there.

Because, for example, plugin sidebars, so it's called if you want to have a custom sidebar in, in the editor. I didn't have a single student so far needing that. So for me it's, why would I teach you that if you don't need it? So the other part is that I've been working with a broad editor since 2018, I think, when it first came around.

And the things that, depending on what you're currently doing, I might say, Hey, we gonna, I'm gonna teach you this stuff, but really what you should be doing at this time is something very moderate. So there are all these kinds of solutions that we are going to implement specific for your kind of, your agency, your projects, and also the roadmap is open where I say, okay, now we know this, but once you have done this, you can go, this is the next step.

This is the next step. So it's really setting you up for future success because the kind of the problem with the whole Brock development is that it's so much that I cannot teach you everything. It's just too much. Yeah. Also, I'm much more, as I said previously, why should I show it to you if you don't need it?

So it's just useless. And so the, I get you to the point where you have. You have a base of knowledge. You are confident in your skills because you're seeing that I can do this and you know where to look if you need to find out, okay, how can I create this component or that. So really I'm just making myself obsolete in a sense.

Cause you have all that you need to go out and be successful on your own.

[00:35:55] Nathan Wrigley: The the. One of the things that you wrote in the show notes was that you listened to a previous episode that we had out on the WP Built Podcast. It was episode number three 13, I believe, and it was all about certification and the idea that in the WordPress community there's a move among some people to.

To have a WordPress certification. Now, obviously you've got your own courses, you're not giving people certificates. That, I don't know, maybe you are, but the point isn't really that you are trying to invent some kind of certification, which is widely recognized throughout the WordPress community, but you are doing something to get people upskilled, to give them, greater skills.

What do you feel about this whole certification movement, this idea that there. There could be a piece of paper that you hold that potentially could get you through the door to your, I don't know, first job interview. Prior to you having years of experience at an agency and testimonials from your previous employers and CVS filled up with things that you've achieved, what do you think of the certification thing?

[00:37:01] Fränk Klein: When we talk about a certification, we can only look at what we see in other parts of the community. And for sure, for example, if you look at php, that's the Zen certification. You have certifications for Symphony, for Laravel those kind of things. And the problem with it is that when we look at WordPress, a certification is really for you who wants to get a job.

Because if there is a certification, there certainly is the expectations from employers that you have this expect, this certifi. Or you're gonna pass it soon. And the interest really part should really be you. And so all of these certifications that you have, they are paid. So you actually need to pay to go through the program to get certified.

And that's just something which Repa space, I think. It's not very popular. I think the idea is more that everything is free, and obviously why would you need a certification? Because you can build all of this already and you don't need nobody to certify you. Which is valid, but the problem is that there really isn't a good way for.

Agencies to, look at the skill level that you have and therefore you need references so they actually see what you're building and you can make up their own mind about, how far you are. And also for clients, it's not easy because if you do Microsoft, you go to Microsoft certified whatever company, and you can be sure that.

They know at least something was in repress space. There's no guarantee, and for sure I know that a lot of, you know, bad experiences actually happening in repress space with, clients that are getting websites that are not up to where they should be. And so with a certification is really something where, I don't see a private company doing it.

I think it needs to be done by WordPress itself. But then it's a huge amount of work to Oh, yeah. To have that certification and you would need to actually make up career paths because I think in Dult they had A theme. I think they have the CMS user cert certification. Then a theme developer was a while that I looked at it.

But you essentially need to define the roles that are there in the ecosystem and then, put skills to that. And you know that in WordPress, whatever you put into the curriculum, people are not gonna agree with you because you could have something in there write the metal box from scratch.

Yeah. To say, oh, I don't need to because I have this plugin. It's yeah. Okay. That's not the certification cannot check for the fact that you know how to use a certain plugin. So I think that's just the difficulty of it. And I don't think that anything is gonna come out of it, to be honest.

But also

[00:39:39] Nathan Wrigley: I think that it very difficult at the minute to imagine how long any curriculum in WordPress could really. Stay around because it's changing so rapidly. Literally from month to month things are no longer what they were. You'd go through this process and then the piece of paper that you've got in your hand, maybe there's questions as well.

Have you been learning things since then? Because in the last six months this is all happened. Are you able to prove that you can do that? Yeah, it's interesting. I think the rate of change Is a difficult bridge for the people trying to get the certifications going. They're gonna have to cross that one,

I think.

[00:40:17] Fränk Klein: But it's more, I guess if you look at other, if you look at JavaScript, for example, Java ecosystem which is probably, one of the more fast moving ones. It's just that, how can I say that? Sometimes I hear people say, for example, I want to create this component. In a block. In a block cpr, right?

A selector that shows the terms from this taxonomy and then they say why isn't there documentation that just shows me that, so I go in and then I copy paste this into my code and then it works. Yeah. That's just so many variations of this is the flat taxonomy, is it, a hierarchical taxonomy.

What do you do if you have tons of just tax? Does it need to be a multis slack the single. So those also variations that you can build once you understand. The things that are underneath it, right? If you understand how to get the data and how you can find the components. You just combine the two and then you got your end result.

So the expectation just that you can go in and get stuff is just not realistic anymore. I think that's just because everybody got started with snippets. I think WP Beginner has the whole website just full of snippets, or you wanna achieve this little thing, take this snippet, paste into your functional PHP and boom, and you're like, Wonderful.

But that's because the knowledge is essentially flat. All you need to know is how to find functional php, how to pay stuff in it, and how to find a snippet, and then you're good. But if you were to say, give me a block that does this, and I give you the source coat, you wouldn't even know what to do with it.

You say where do I put it? You need to register the block. And even if we were have to the complete block, then you're saying this JavaScript doesn't work. And then, yeah, you need to build the JavaScript, or how do I get it to build the JavaScript? And so it's just the knowledge isn't flat anymore.

You need to understand how does JavaScript development. How does the package manager work? How does the build pipeline work? And then you can go into how does the actual code work? And it's just the smallest details. For example I had this student in my course and we were building this block and they said, oh, want to add class names to this?

And there is a function, it's called class names. And I said, use this. And then it just put class names in their code and. The build tool said it's not defined. They say, why isn't it defined? Say, ah, yeah, you need to import the class names package. You need to import the function into the file while you're using it.

Which is something that in Charles which is normal. Yeah. Yeah. But in WordPress, we are just used to everything. Always being there. Yes. Yeah. Which is sometimes people get tripped up because there are certain PHP fives and WordPress that are only included in certain scenarios, and that's the same thing.

You need to make sure it's defined before you.

[00:43:18] Nathan Wrigley: That's right. Really interesting. I'm gonna move on to the fifth point here where you've put, essentially it boils down to this, your endeavor to learn hopefully will lead your capacity to earn on an upwards trajectory. So the more you learn, the more you are likely to earn.

It seems like a reasonable proposition at the moment. Do you would do. In your own work, do you concentrate learning only word pressy things or do you stray outside of the WordPress domain? So when I say word pressy, I guess there's so many things that you could put under that umbrella. It could literally be JavaScript, react css, who knows?

But do you find yourself tinkering? Around with other things, just in case that's doom scenario that you mentioned that WordPress might not be around forever. Do you explore different things so that you've got options?

[00:44:18] Fränk Klein: Yeah, so React is something I just keep my eye on because it's again, something that, that I like actually like using it a lot, but I'm also the php, I'm not, it's not saying that I don't like php, it's just not so much my interest.

But I think with the PHP eight stuff that's happen. I keep my eye on that because it's very important to know what this language is doing. It's really a big part of WordPress written in php, right? And that's just the thing where is you need to keep an eye on all of the things that WordPress is made off of.

So PHP is part of that because the language, if you're still used to the way that purpose does things, where it's just functions, there are no name spaces there's just, there's no strict typing, nothing like that. And you go to where PHP is going because. Really, it's not the language that it used to be in the past.

PHP is now getting used in the enterprise to replace Java. It's a very different language. So yeah, I keep my own debt, but my particular interest has been now on SaaS applications in the past because data square based has wigs and some people look down on it. But I actually go in and look at it.

I'm like, oh, this is pretty interesting. And you can program on w it's it's after a thing that is there. Last time I built a Shopify theme. So I just look at this and I say, okay, what's, what is happening in these SaaS spaces? What are they doing well? What they, aren't they doing well?

And to be honest I don't have a big knowledge of WooCommerce. I've been on a bit of it. And just when you go into Shopify, I knew nothing about it. Just say, Hey, sign up, where are the tutorials? And you can really build out a shop, which is complete with very little knowledge actually. So I'm like, I'm quite impressed with that.

And that's the problem where I see, I dunno if you just stew in this WordPress soup all the time. It's not really good because you think that the way that WordPress does things, it's normal, but it's really not in a lot of, in a lot of sense, it's not normal what WordPress does and how it is, and so that's what I would just recommend to everybody, just to, to look at, what's happening outside because it will inform what you do with WordPress.

Then of course, once you get to a certain part of your career, It's just not the technical skills, it's also more the team management the project management, architecture, all of that. I think that's more the point now where I invest a lot of my learning time in. Yeah,

[00:46:45] Nathan Wrigley: I think it's just good in life to be curious, isn't it?

If you. I've always had that philosophy that if you are, if you can maintain your curiosity about almost anything really, then life is constantly a bit of a joy. Whereas if you just fixate on one thing, then you know, you just sort get lost in the mire of it all. Yeah, that's interesting advice.

I'm gonna, I'm gonna take us to the last of your. Seven points here, which is you've written, what solutions are there for agencies that want to level up their skills? I truly don't know what the answer is there, so I'm just gonna pose that as a question and hope that you can answer it.

[00:47:22] Fränk Klein: Yeah. So for me, I think that when you look at the agency space, You need to know where you are at currently, what your weak points are and where you want to go.

And so it really depends on where you're at. But I think that already, if you just keep up on the, more than say, keep up. But if you add regular intervals, let's say every WordPress release, just check the make WordPress, the notes, the deaf notes, and look into this. That's already a good starting point because.

I think that what you cannot do at this point is just ignore, everything that's going on because say, while we use this solution here this page, bill this theme, package, this whatever, and not really insert what's happening in WordPress itself. I think that's something where, that's just the baseline where you should look at it.

Then the other part is that for sure for agencies I would recommend that. Start experimenting with full set editing. So that is my course. But besides that, obviously there are tons of resources on the WordPress store doc website. And this is really the baseline because just that approach of using blocks, it goes away from a lot of the established practices that are there.

And it's going to take some time just to, to wrap your head around this, all is supposed to work and I think. The less you come into it with pre-established notions of how things should work, like in your mind, the better it is. Because if you are not open to this new experience because oh, it's different or it's, it's not the shape you want it to be, I think it's really bad.

If you just come at it with an open mind, then I think that's probably the best way that you can approach a subject. And then of course, if we are talking about the future, I don't think you can get around mastering JavaScript and just, building blocks. That's just my opinion because I don't really see.

Unless you do very simple websites where you just deal with the core blocks which is definitely possible. I think there's a market for it. You need to know how you can customize all of that. And then the other part is just the part where it's not really fun and it's not new, but just reviewing the fundamentals.

Because I, I talked to WordPress developer and they said, That they never in their career had to write an SQL query like ever. And they don't really know how it works. And I was. Puzzled because when I learned, PHP in the book that I bought is just, what's just a random how to learn PHP book.

Okay. Of course what you do is you build out an application with an S SQL database. Yeah. And the way you do it is you write a query against it. So I'm by far not, a Master S sql, but at least I have a knowledge of it and it's serves me well if I need to debug certain things. But that's just the part.

I think that's sometimes forgotten is that there's just a lot more tool WordPress than just taking a plugin and then activating it. Because actually what I see with the SaaS solutions, Ws, is it great? I would say, yeah, it's okay. It's definitely okay. But the thing is that if you look at what it costs you to build it with wigs and what it costs you to build the same with word.

There's obviously a big difference, and with wics, you don't have to do anything, right? You don't have to find a hosting, you don't have to update plugins. There are no conflicts. And so that's why I say both that full set editing lowers the barrier to entry, but it also raises it because for the people that are more designers, And they are developers on the site to just develop because they need to build stuff.

It's great because now with the block editor, they can build visually, and it's all integrated into WordPress. They're not dependent on anything but for other agencies that say, Hey, we are really building custom solutions for our clients. Then you need to be able to customize this editor, and that means just getting over that hump of dealing with the broke editor and JavaScript and everything.

So if you're interested in that, I'd love to help you, but even if you say, I wanna learn this on my own, I think the resources are there. I know will always say, I think that if you invest enough time and energy into this, you can definitely learn it because I learned it that way. But it's more whether you want to go through that in terms of frustra. I have a very high tolerance for frustration. And the other part is more, I think one of the big struggles is that just the time aspect of it. And that's just a matter of being efficient. You can mow your own lawn, you pay somebody to do it, that's just the approach that I look at it and.

I think a good concept from Brian Garner is that I like to keep repeating is that just the five for your own future is to really take 5% of your time and then invest it into building your skills that will serve you well into the future. I think that's important to. To make part of your journey.

And also what I think if maybe like me, I went into the whole JavaScript deal, quite neutral. I was like, this is something I have to do, so I'm gonna do it. But actually I find it quite enjoyable. So maybe you are, you're gonna discover that this is not as horrible as you think and you're actually gonna enjoy building these sites.

And the possibilities are then endless. If you like JavaScript, there is definitely a market for Hatless websites. So I think. The more you get out of your own shell and the more you get out into the wider even web development ecosystem, the better it is for your future, whether you're a freelancer or an agency.

[00:53:06] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Nice. I really like your sentiments there. That's lovely. Frank, if people have listened to this and they're, they wanna learn a little bit more about blocks, maybe they're just interested to chat with you about working at an agency and all of those kind of things, or maybe they. Have that one-on-one call that you are offering as well as part of your courses, where's the best place for them to contact you?

[00:53:30] Fränk Klein: The best place would be my website, WP development.courses, and there are all the course on there and also possibilities to reach out to me and yeah, that's the place.

[00:53:38] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, perfect. Frank, really nice to chat to you. Sorry, I'm gonna say that again, Frank. Really nice to chat to you today. Appreciate you coming on the podcast.

[00:53:47] Fränk Klein: Thank you for my having me. I hope we can do it again some other time.

[00:53:51] Nathan Wrigley: I hope that you enjoyed that lovely chat today with Frank Klein all about educating yourself in the WordPress space. What do you think, if you've got any comments about what Frank said, whether or not you should stray outside of WordPress, what style of learner are you?

Those kind of things. Head over to WP Builds.com and look for episode number 324. There's a search button at the top right of the site. You can use that to search and filter down, but hopefully you'll find episode 324 and feel free to leave as a comment there. We'd really appreciate that.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go me slash WP Builds. And sincere thanks to GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, that's more or less it. All I've got to say is we'll be back next Thursday. It'll be David Wamsley and I having a chat. But we'll also be back on Monday for our this week in WordPress show 2:00 PM UK time. You can find us at WP Builds.com/live.

We love when people show up and give us your comments. But aside from that, I hope that you have a nice week. Stay safe. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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