I’m going to step away from my role as Marketing Lead. I consider this mostly a personal failure, both in correctly setting and getting expectations and in fitting into another type of organization. Matt and I have talked this through and there are no hard feelings on either side whatsoever. At the same time I’m sad about not having been able to leave more of a mark. Let me explain why I’m stepping down.
When I first talked to Matt about this role he asked me to become “the CMO of WordPress”. In my eyes, a CMO is involved in all aspects of a project / company. When I was announced, I was announced as a “change in WordPress leadership”. My experience over the last few months made me feel that while I was doing things and getting things done, I certainly wasn’t leadership. Which is why I want to step away from my role: I don’t want to pretend I have a say in things I don’t have a say in.
What is marketing?
It seems the problem of defining of what marketing is beforehand, is one of the problems of why I failed in my role. Marketing to me is not just the last step of “promotion”, but the entire process of bringing a product to market. It’s clear that others within the WordPress project don’t necessarily see it like that, and when they describe marketing, it’s a lot more like what I would call advertising. A lot more tactical. I don’t dislike that tactical work, but I think my qualities lie elsewhere.
There’s a stark difference between where I thought I would be in the organization in this role, and where I am actually finding myself now. Even things that every outsider would consider marketing (release posts, about pages) are created without even so much as talking to me or others in the marketing team. Because I felt left out of all these decisions, I feel I can’t be a marketing lead.
Clarity about my position
My position is unclear, not just to me, but to many people which makes me uncomfortable. I’ve been asked dozens of times on Twitter, Facebook and at WordCamps why I now work for Automattic, which of course I don’t but that is the perception for a lot of people. On other occasions I seem to be the token non-Automattician, which I’m also uncomfortable with.
At the same time I feel hampered by my WordPress position to do the work I need to do at Yoast. I notice I’m sometimes shutting up about things Yoast does because that would look weird on the outside and could be perceived wrong. I also felt I was “defending” WordPress too much, on stuff I had otherwise perhaps been more critical of.
WordPress mission and vision
I am used to having a strong vision and mission for a company and a product, and to be translating that into product & marketing decisions. Matt has certainly shown some of his product vision in State of the Words over the year but I’ve found it very hard to get more of the vision behind all the recent changes and the roadmap “out there”.
I’ve not encountered (or been brought into) any discussions about our product vision, something I would need to translate into day-to-day actions. I was expecting there to be some backchannels where these discussions were had and these decisions were made, turns out these simply don’t exist. Matt takes his input from core devchats and lots of other chats and then decides what the roadmap should look like. I honestly think that process needs opening up, even though I do appreciate that Matt has so far been pretty good at bringing the product forward.
An inevitable conclusion
Combined, this doesn’t work for me. I was expecting to be actively involved in larger product and marketing decisions. That didn’t happen. At the same time I have to explain what we do to the outside world and to other people within the WordPress ecosystem, because they assume I know and I’ve been involved. I’m unwilling and unable to do that.
I think some of these things need to change. I see the value in what Josepha is doing and also in projects like the governance project, but these processes take time and patience, and patience is a virtue I’ve not developed well. This was my way of trying to broaden WordPress leadership. I’m sad to conclude that I failed. I’m of course still available to advise and strategize should the project want for that, and will give my opinion, whether I’m asked to or not 😉
Turns out failing burns me out faster than going fast does… That’s why I’m taking an extended holiday this summer, after which I’ll focus my work time for 100% on Yoast and my Chief Product Officer role there. In that role, and outside of it, I’ll absolutely still be an active voice and contributor in the WordPress community.