David Vogelpohl Says Farewell As Host and Begins a New Adventure
Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Each episode features guests from around the community and discussions of the largest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl. I supported the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I loved to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This. As a reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @wpdavidv, you can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm.
In this episode, we’re gonna be talking about me, David Vogelpohl, saying farewell as host of Press This, welcoming a new host, and the start of a new adventure for me.
For over 260 episodes I’ve interviewed countless guests from around the WordPress community about the latest advancements in WordPress, interesting projects, people in the community were working on and a countless list of optimizations, hacks, and techniques to make WordPress sites better.
It’s been an absolute honor to be in the host seat all these years. I want to thank our guests who taught me so much. I want to thank our audience, who was just as curious as I was when I asked all those questions.
In this episode, we’re going to turn the tables and interview me—about my thoughts around stepping down as host, new adventures in my career, my favorite memories hosting Press This, and what I’m excited about for the road ahead.
And now for the rest of the interview with me, I’d like to thank and welcome a prior guest of Press This, a bellwether in the WordPress community, and your brand new host for Press This, the one, the only Doc Popular. Doc, welcome, and congratulations on your new host role.
Doc Pop: Well, thank you so much, David. You know, I’ve always appreciated being on this show, as part of the Word Around the Campfire segments that you did once a month, and it’s a big honor to help keep the show going and keep alive the tradition that you’ve had going for so long. Thank you so much.
DV: Yeah, of course. It was so fun to have you on those Word Around the Campfire episodes, and I know you’re so well-connected in the WordPress space, and have a long background in broadcasting and podcasting and video casting.
So I’m really excited to have you in the host seat, and I’m really excited to answer your interview questions today, Doc. I’m really curious how this is gonna go, but I’ll step back from the host mic for a minute and do like the Wayne’s world, get into the new modality. Really looking forward to the interview Doc.
DP:Well, you know, David, every episode you’ve asked folks how they got into WordPress, and I don’t know if you’ve shared your origin story, so why don’t you tell us about how you got into WordPress?
DV: I may have mentioned it on an episode or two, but I don’t know if I’ve really told it in a little more detail. But, I was getting into guest posting, I had been in digital marketing for a while, and I wanted to start making more of a name for myself. So, I looked for publications that I could guest post for, and I found one. It was a top 10 digital marketing site at the time, it was called Marketing Pilgrim. It did not survive the 20-plus years since I did that. It was sold, I think, and rolled into another site.
And I did a guest post, and I was exposed to WordPress for the first time. I had had experience with Drupal and Joomla, but it was actually writing a content piece for Marketing Pilgrim. The person who owned that site’s name is Andy Beal, and Andy’s a dear friend, and that was a start of a grand adventure actually, in both WordPress and in digital marketing.
DP: Wow. So you started off with guest posting, which is a thing I’m actually really interested in finding out more about. We’ll have to talk about that off the show, maybe, but when did you come to WP Engine and what have you been doing during your time here?
DV: Well, WP Engine. In 2010, I started a digital agency. WordPress was a focus, but not the only focus, and this was right around the time that custom post types and custom fields had been added into WordPress core.
I met a partner of WP Engine’s founder. So WP Engine’s founder is a person named Jason Cohen and he had a partner at the time, they’re still friends, maybe partners on other things. I don’t know. His name is Josh Baer, and he’s associated with an organization in Austin called Capital Factory.
I met Josh at a meetup. And I didn’t talk to anyone at the meetup, Doc. I was, I don’t know, it just wasn’t in me that night, and before I left, I was like, I need to talk to one person. I turned around, and it was Josh Baer, and I talked to Josh, we got to kind of conversing about our backgrounds, and he’s like, “you know who you need to meet, is Jason Cohen.” And he introduced me to Jason and WP Engine became a client of my agency, and we serviced WP Engine as their outsource, web and digital marketing arm, if you will, for many years,
Eventually in 2015, I actually joined WP Engine’s leadership team directly. So about 12 years since I’ve joined, but that’s the backstory about joining.
DP: I have to say, meeting Jason Cohen early on in your career, that seems not just fortuitous for your career, but he’s such an interesting person to talk to, and back then his insight into WordPress and the kind of future of WordPress must have been fascinating. I’m just kind of curious what were the vibes Jason was giving back then? Did he know it would be, you know, nearly 50% of the Internet by 2020?
DV: It was fairly popular at the time. I think for me, custom post types and fields are really what turned WordPress into a CMS. So I would say at that point, that really wasn’t what it was. I’ve been in my digital career, about 20 years, this was about the midpoint in my career, when I met Jason.
The first meeting was at the WP Engine office, which was shared with a bunch of other very early stage startups—I think there might have been three employees at WP Engine at the time. It was on the eighth floor of the Omni Hotel business offices in Austin, Texas, and I rolled up there.
And I get out, and they have the whole eighth floor, and it’s part of Capital Thought, and again, that’s why there’s these other startups in there, but it was mostly empty. And there was just like one part of the whole floor where everybody was working around all this used furniture, and all the lights were off. And I remember thinking, are the lights off because they’re all engineers or because they can’t afford to pay the light bill? And, it actually was the latter. I’m sorry. The former, not the latter.
DP: Whoa! [laughter]
DV: Well yeah, it was the former. They just, they liked it dark, but you know, I don’t think they really knew what it would be at that time. I mean, it was popular, Jason had done some research and, and some posts on LinkedIn kind of proposing the idea of WP Engine, and a lot of people were getting behind it.
So I think they knew there was something there, but it definitely wasn’t 43% of the web. I wanna say it was probably closer to 12, about a year or two later, it was around 16% of the web, if I recall. At least that’s what Matt Mullenweg told me at WordCamp Atlanta at the time. People weren’t even really tracking the total share of the web extensively. So, no, I don’t think they foresaw what would happen with WordPress or WP Engine, even when I first got involved.
DP: Well yeah, I know you’ve seen some stuff. At WP Engine, you would’ve seen the growth in employees, you would’ve seen the expansion of WordCamps across the world and you know, the expansion of WordPress in market share. So you’ve done some exciting things in the past at WP Engine, what are the most current projects that you’ve been working on?
DV: Well, I’ve had a variety of roles over the years, you know, everything from working with our labs team, leading StudioPress after the acquisition of Studio,Press. And the role I have today, or, or should I say before I left WP Engine, was VP of Growth, and what my teams focused on were strategic programs that allowed WP Engine to grow in new and material ways.
This spanned our international presence, our brand customers, our agency customers and partners. It was providing support for things like Flywheel Growth Suite, for those who are unfamiliar, it’s a platform for agencies that allows them to drive MRR in their business and easily manage their client’s sites. Our eCommerce offering, which is, in my opinion, in all these years, one of the most innovative forms of eCommerce hosting out there, if not the top, and then a variety of other strategic programs from our agency partner program, to our work in Atlas, and so it’s been an incredibly enriching journey. I’ve been very blessed, if you will, to have such an amazing team. But that was my role at WP engine, was VP of Growth
DP: Exciting stuff, you’ve seen some incredible stuff in the WordPress community over the past 12 years. We’re going to take a break, and when we come back, we’ll talk to David Vogelpohl about what his future is going to be like in the community and after Press This. So stay tuned.
DP: Welcome back to Press This the WordPress community podcast on WMR Radio. My name is Doc and I am talking to David Vogelpohl, the former host of Press This about his time in the WordPress community and working with Press This, and working with WP Engine. David, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about some of your favorite memories so far, what is the future for you? What are you going to be doing after Press This?
DV: Well, I’m definitely pleased to say that I won’t be leaving the WordPress community. There’s actually some meaningful connections to the WordPress world in my new role, but the role that I’ll be stepping into is Chief Marketing Officer of a company called FastSpring.
FastSpring is a payment platform for software companies, they have a few WordPress product customers that are in their universe, and they operate off of what’s called the Merchant of Record model, which basically means you can use the software payment platform to sell your software, your SaaS, and not have to mess with any of the sales or back tax stuff, you basically get a wire transfer once a month for your proceeds. But that’s effectively what FastSpring is, and I’ll be the Chief Marketing Officer of that company.
DP: Wow, a C-suite, that’s sweet, that’s a sweet gig. So, you mentioned that you’re not leaving the WordPress community. What is FastSpring’s connection to WordPress?
DV: Well, as I mentioned, it’s a payment platform for software companies and actually has WordPress product companies that are customers of theirs. If you look on their homepage, you’ll see, Rank Math as a customer. There are others not on their homepage, and it was really interesting, you know, as I was thinking about this change, and of course in the WP Engine universe, my whole world is WordPress, and so in the new role, it’ll be broader than just WordPress.
But I was at WordCamp US in San Diego, and of course, I was letting friends know and folks I knew from around the way, and it was just so encouraging and relieving, frankly, to hear like, “oh yeah, I’ve heard of them,” or, “we use them to sell in Italy,” and you know, “we used them in the past.”
So, that familiarity there, I think the WordPress product space is an important customer base for FastSpring and I think that’ll give me lots of opportunities to continue my involvement in support of the community. I don’t know if you can really, truly walk away from WordPress, I guess some people do, but it has been such an enriching community to be part of. I think, as I was exploring, you know, the next step in my career to get into that C-suite if you will, it was important for me to maintain those connections and maintain that value. I feel I get from contributing to the community.
DP: I’m just kind of wondering, do you think you’ll be doing a podcast series over at FastSpring?
DV: I have considered it. I think they do have a podcast if I’m not mistaken. What I will say is that I’ve had many rewarding experiences at WP Engine and I think Press This is way, way, way high on that list. And, you know, I think when people podcast, they often think of, oh, the audience I’ll build and the things I’ll grow because I’m doing it. And I think those parts are great, but the part that was most valuable for me was learning something new every single week from different people. It was just such an amazing part of the experience.
And when you work in an agency for so long, and then you kind of get out of it and go into, you know, inside a brand, you can get separated from that world. But I felt like I never did because I had this opportunity to do the podcast.
So yeah, I think I probably will do something like this in the future there, but I don’t have any concrete plans right now.
DP: What will you miss the most about working with WP Engine?
DV: That is a very difficult question to answer, you know, there’s so much about the company that I found valuable.
I think the growth and open source puzzles I got to solve were incredibly enlightening. I felt like I learned a lot about technology, about business, and probably above all leadership. I think in these moments what most people say and it’s because it’s true, I guess in most people’s roles, maybe, maybe not, is the people, the caliber of people, the intensity in which they care, their smarts and above all, their heart, is really, really something special.
And. I think for people outside of the company that may come through to a degree, obviously being inside, you can really feel it. But I think there are people outside the company who really feel it in terms of WP Engine’s, customers and partners, and, I know Doc, you know, this, but WP Engine of course has a set of Core Values and it’s things like Do the Right Thing and Built for Growth and Committed to Give Back.
And WP Engine really lives that, the people here really live that, and will make decisions based on those Core Values. The combination of smarts and hearts and commitment to values is hard to find, and I think that element is what makes the people of WP Engine special, including you Doc.
DP: Even me, I have to agree. The Core Values are something I’ve always been impressed with, working with the company, just how much they stick to it. And the leadership from Heather definitely reflects that internally. And I can’t say it externally, if people quite see how attached we are to those values, you know, that we talk about, on a weekly basis, during our meetings.
And then of course Jason’s leadership is just always very inspiring to his vision, has always been great. So yeah, I wonder if externally, people really kind of get the same vibe we do, because it’s magical to see here. I haven’t worked at a company like this before.
DV: I was just gonna say, and I’m looking forward to, you know, kind of taking those lessons into my next thing, and it is, it was such a special time for me with all those people. But yeah, it’s a big part of what I’ll miss.
DP: I I’m wondering also, if you think you’ll be doing as much traveling and going to WordCamps and stuff with your new role.
DV: Yeah. I think what I’ll likely end up doing is doing either both WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe each year, or maybe one or the other.
I don’t think I’ll be able to do as many satellite WordCamps as I have in the past, and satellite’s maybe the wrong word to use, but, you know, city-specific WordCamps. I just had such an amazing time at WordCamp US, but there are business reasons for us to be focused there. because again, there’s a lot of SMB software companies in the WordPress space, believe it or not with 43% of the web.
So there’s that commercial interest as well, but a lot of my friends, a good majority of my personal friends now, not just people I know at work, are in the WordPress space, and I’ve done this in every community I’ve ever joined, I’ve gone all in and I still have lifelong friends from communities I’m not really an active part of anymore. And that’s okay, but to actually have material business reasons to be there, it was fantastic. Did you have a good time at WordCamp US, Doc?
DP: I had a great time at WordCamp US, as you know, it was capped at 650 attendees, which is maybe a third of what it was before the pandemic.
And that was probably out of caution of trying to ease back into doing in-person meetups, but it really gave it a very intimate feel. I really like that. You felt like you could actually catch up with people. If there’s someone you were looking for, you could find them.
It really reminded me of WordCamp San Francisco, many years back, where it did feel like these were the people you wanted to meet. And there was only about 600 or 700 of them there. And you could hang out with them and you weren’t kind of fighting to find someone or fighting to get someone’s time. It really reminded me of the early days, for me, of going to WordCamps.
DV: Oh, that’s cool. I soaked up every minute of it. If you follow me on Twitter at WP David V from around the WordCamp US 2022 timeframe, you’ll see a picture I tweeted from Daniel. It was just like this massive smile on my face and I was just soaking up every minute of it. It was such a special experience.
DP: Well, we are going to take another break. We are chatting with David Vogelpohl, the former host of Press This, and when we come back from this break, we’re gonna talk about his favorite experiences here at Press This, so stay tuned.
DP: You’re listening to Press This, the WordPress community podcast on WMR. I’m Dr. Popular, the new host of Press This, talking to David Vogelpohl, the person who started the Press This podcast, and who is moving on to a new career at a FastSpring as the CMO. David, what are some of your favorite experiences of hosting the Press This podcast?
DV: Well, I think the first thing that stood out to me is Doc, I actually did not create Press This. Press This was initially created by Joost de Valk of the Yoast SEO plugin, and I would say one of my favorite experiences or memories hosting Press This was those early days. For those familiar with WMR, Brasco had talked to me about it and I knew Joost hosted the show. I actually had listened to it in the past. And I know Joost from around the way, he’s actually been back on the show with me as host many times, and I talked to him about it and got his point of view. He was very supportive. I mean, it’s a WMR show, but that was great, and he was actually one of the early guests.
I had never podcasted before, I had done public speaking and things like that. So I think it was fun to kind of learn how to figure it out. And I have a pretty busy job, so I had to, you know, figure out ways to work it in and get it done every week, and that was an adventure. But I think one thing that really, really stands out as a favorite experience is hearing all those origin stories and hearing the trends in them.
There’s a surprising number of musicians in WordPress, and almost every origin story, Doc, was like, “I was in the back of my band’s van between shows, making the website for our band, and then I made it better.”
That was a theme that emerged, a lot of themes emerged, of people who were leaving jobs they didn’t like, and careers they didn’t like to reinvent themselves and to start a business, there was a lot of that. A lot of lost souls who found WordPress along the way.
I think other themes that emerged that really stood out were how WordPress played a role in people coming from a low technology background, all the way up to being a software engineer, and how people get involved just to make a website for their soccer team or something. And then, you know, low and behold, five years later, they’re writing custom plugins and doing wonderfully interesting things.
And so, I could probably pick out a few guests. Mary Jo was a great guest. I really, really love the interview with Meryl Evans around captions and accessibility. I really love the interview, not too long ago, with Jason Cohen and Brad from Delicious Brains around the acquisition of Delicious Brains.
That was a really fun one. There’s just been so many of them over the years. I feel like I’ve met everybody in WordPress because of this podcast. If anyone listening is considering making a podcast, if no one ever listens to it, and all you do is talk to somebody new in your space once a week. It’s well worth the effort.
I don’t know how it’s 260 episodes in, I probably have too many to share in the space of time we have Doc, but those were some of the ones that really stood out.
DP: Well, I’m taking notes here on those good guests so I can ask them to come back. I’m looking forward to having some of that experience too, of learning from the guests and, you know, spotlighting new folks and just getting kind of these intimate questions.
I’m kind of an awkward person in real life, so the chance to be able to talk to people in a format like this, honestly, is thrilling for me. I’m super excited. What would you say as your kind of final words for the Press This audience? What would you like to say to the listeners now?
DV: Well, I guess before I do more of a goodbye, maybe what I’ll do is comment a little bit on you as host, Doc, and I think over these years hosting Press This, I mentioned it earlier, I have, you know, a pretty busy job. Not that you don’t, but I’m just saying I had to kind of operate the show in a very consistent pattern. And I think people, in a large way, respond positively to that. But I think, you know, you bring so much creativity to your work Doc, you’re so connected, and I think, there’s obviously others at WP Engine and beyond, that might have other interesting questions to ask guests and other stories to bring. And so I’m really looking forward to that creativity you bring into everything you do, Doc, and what the impact that will have on Press This.
As far as a special message for the audience, I guess, as I move from host to listener. I’ve been at digital for 20 years. I’ve been involved with probably three major segments of the technology community, WordPress being the most recent, and, you know, 12 years, most recent.
We work in a really, really, really cool space. I know in the moment when you’re knee deep in projects and trying to figure out the next challenge or puzzle, or something’s getting you down, what we do is fun. It’s cool. It’s special. And it beats busting rocks, right? It beats some of the roles we might have had in the past, it provides opportunity to others.
And I think enjoy it, savor it. It is something special. It is something worth savoring and enjoying, and I’m very happy that the new company I’m going to, their .com is a WordPress site. So it’s not just the customer connections, but I’m very happy to have that connection there. But just generally, it’s such an enjoyable and enriching community, and not just WordPress, but I think digital and technology in general, and we are all very, very lucky to be able to work on these kinds of puzzles in these kinds of ways and take advantage of these kinds of opportunities. So, lean in and enjoy this time because it’s very very special.
DP: David, how can people keep in touch with you and follow what you’re doing post Press This?
DV: Oh, well, keep an eye out for me at future WordCamps, of course, as I mentioned before. Certainly look for me on LinkedIn and then if you want to drop me a follow or a tweet on Twitter, you can find me at, at WP David V.
DP: Awesome. Well, David, once again, it’s an honor being part of this show with you. I’ve always looked forward to these chats that we do. They’ve been one of my favorite things to do with the company, is the Press This episodes that I’ve joined you and Anthony Burchell with quite frequently, so thanks again for doing what you’ve done here and, I wish you luck on your new job, as CMO at FastSpring.
And with that, I want to thank the listeners for tuning into Press This, the WordPress community podcast on WMR. Remember, you can follow my adventures in the WordPress space over at the Torque. Torque is a publication about WordPress news and events.
You can also subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. It’s also available on Torque mag dot I O. That’s a lot of links for you, but we’ll provide those in the show notes for you.
I’m Dr. Popular, the new host of Press This. I’m excited to get to know more folks through here and know the listeners. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to spotlight members of the WordPress community, like David, and many others every week here on Press This.