Contributor Spotlight: Tracy Rhodes

Welcome to another edition of the Training Team’s Contributor Spotlight! In this series, the Training Team introduces you to one of our many valued contributors, and you can learn more about their contribution journey.

Introducing Tracy!

Today’s featured contributor is Tracy Rhodes! Tracy is a Faculty Member with the Training Team, contributing as an Administrator, Content Creator, Editor, and Subject Matter Expert.

Tracy’s Background

Tracy brings a unique perspective to the WordPress Training Team! He is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and served 20 years in the USAF as a pilot and Aeronautical Engineer. After retiring from the Air Force, Tracy was a pilot for Northwest Airlines (and Delta Airlines after the merger) for a total of 22 years.

Merrill and Renny on a mountain hike. Renny is 'flat dog' waiting for someone to make the pine cone move.

Tracy has always enjoyed technical subjects. He earned a BS degree in Engineering Sciences and an MS in Aeronautical Engineering. His early programming experiences were using Fortran (and punch cards), then around 1985 he bought his first computer—a Zenith 100 desktop—and taught himself Basic/Visual Basic. 

When not in the WordPress world, Tracy is immersed in the world of aviation. He owns a small 2-seat airplane that he flies and maintains. He is also the president of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association and volunteers as a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative with the Reno FAA Flight Standards District Office. He and his wife also take care of their two dogs, a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd.

WordPress Origin Story

Tracy’s journey with WordPress began during a challenging period in the aviation industry around 2005. As major airlines declared bankruptcy and renegotiated employee contracts, Tracy experienced a significant reduction in salary and potential retirement income. In an effort to regenerate some of that loss, he and his wife decided to start a business focused on selling homemade dog toys at events and through an ecommerce store.

This new venture required Tracy to acquire skills in ecommerce development, and SEO/marketing. He started out studying PHPPHP PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML., HTMLHTML HTML is an acronym for Hyper Text Markup Language. It is a markup language that is used in the development of web pages and websites., CSSCSS CSS is an acronym for cascading style sheets. This is what controls the design or look and feel of a site., and MySQLMySQL MySQL is a relational database management system. A database is a structured collection of data where content, configuration and other options are stored. databases. He pursued online courses, consumed programming manuals, and attended programming and marketing conferences.

It wasn’t long before Tracy discovered WordPress as a CMS that simplified website creation. This discovery marked a turning point in his trajectory. Upon retiring from airline flying, Tracy established his own single-member LLC and began creating WordPress websites for clients.

First Contributions

Tracy’s enjoyment of teaching played a big role in his decision to contribute to the Training Team. With his background as a flight instructor, Tracy has been giving civilian flight instruction since 1972, making teaching a natural inclination for him.

Inspired by his experience at the Reno-Tahoe WordCamps in 2011 and 2012, Tracy, along with a few others, started up the Reno WordPress meetup. Soon after, he started leading discussions within the group then became a co-organizer for the 2013 Reno-Tahoe WordCamp.

For Tracy, joining the Training Team was a logical continuation of his participation in promoting and teaching WordPress to new users. His first contribution was part of the Training Team’s onboarding process, engaging in a content review for a Tutorial. Tracy found the process to be very rewarding, as his comments and suggestions were received well and appreciated by the Tutorial creator.

“It felt great to be a contributing part of the team and to be able to help out, even a little bit.

Overcoming Challenges

When he began contributing, Tracy struggled to find a clear path to becoming a better contributor. Having come from regulated industries with clear paths to success, he found it frustrating to not have clearly outlined steps on how to progress with the Training Team. However, this challenge was greatly mitigated by the efforts of the team in the past year.

“This first challenge has been largely taken care of with the tremendous changes this year that can be found in the Training Team Handbook. Thank you to all who have contributed to that effort.”

Tracy also encountered challenges in determining his level of participation. As a self-taught programmer in WordPress languages and without prior experience working in a website agency, he wasn’t familiar with aspects such as pull requests and code development as part of a team. Due to this, Tracy had to dedicate lots of time and effort to research and catch up in this area. Yet, even when he became a training team faculty member with the ability to carry out significant tasks within the Training Team systems, he initially hesitated.

“At first I was very reluctant to participate because even though I had the ability to do things I wasn’t sure if I really should.  Discussions with and questions to @courtneypk, my self-designated ‘faculty mentor’ have helped me through this challenge. Many thanks for the guidance, Courtney.”

The Rewards of Contribution

Conducting WordPress Meetups, where Tracy had the opportunity to assist new users in solving the problems they have been facing has been rewarding for him.

Additionally, witnessing the success of WordCamps has also been rewarding. Seeing the tickets sell out and the event come together is satisfying, as it shows the valuable impact and interest that the WordPress community generates.

Tracy also enjoys helping presenters and developers with Online Workshops. The appreciation expressed by attendees through their comments and words of thanks is a great feeling, and serves as a reminder of the positive impact that the team’s contributions make within the WordPress community.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started with contributing to WordPress?

“The WordPress Training Team is an international volunteer organization and as with any volunteer organization, what you get out of the organization is directly related to what you put into the organization.

If you really want to know what WordPress and the WordPress project is all about then become part of the project by participating in one of the many teams that make up the project.

Are you new to WordPress and don’t feel you have anything that you can contribute? You are wrong. There are many things just on the training team that you can accomplish as a new user. Take a look at the Training Team Handbook and get started with your training team onboarding process today.”

Thank you Tracy, for sharing about yourself, your contribution journey, and advice with us! The Training Team appreciates all your contributions and your dedication to the WordPress Open SourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL. Project.

If you are interested in getting started with contributing to the Training Team, please check out our Getting Started guide and/or join the Guide Program to be mentored by an experienced contributor. We’d be happy to have you join us!