This year I attended my first ever Word Camp Asheville!

These weekend events happen all across the country and focus mainly on supporting WordPress enthusiasts across different industries. I was really impressed with the range of attendees who spanned from freelance web developers to entrepreneurs using WP to grow their business.

I’ve compiled (pun intended) my favorite aspects from the weekend to help give a sense of what it was like to be there, so read on!

The People

Having not been to many conference style events like this, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Asheville contingency of this unfamiliar event. But one thing I knew for sure was that the WordPress community at large is one of the reasons I got into web design and development to begin with. The global open source community around WP has certainly gained my trust and admiration.

So I figured at worst the event would be filled with a bunch of amazingly talented developer dudes and that I would be among the few (if any?) women there soaking up some dense code block logic and feeling slightly awkward about socializing and sharing about myself and my work.

And at best I would experience a deeper glimpse into the fantastical world of the people who help further the open source and inclusive mission that I’ve witnessed as alive online and in larger metropolitan areas.

To my delight, I was among the 40%-50% of women and non-binary attendees who also thought it was a good idea to show up to Word Camp Asheville 2018! Walking into the beautifully designed Ab Tech Conference center on Saturday morning to see such a diversity of attendees and everyone shuffling around the check in area was so energizing for me. Even though I didn’t see any of my Asheville software/design/startup peeps until later in the day, I immediately felt at home and so very welcome. That enthusiasm and excitement really only increased over the course of camp. I was so *giddy* that I imagine those who I met for the first time were amused.

The Schedule

So… the session schedule was pretty off the chain. Lets be real. Again, I didn’t know what to expect from my first experience. I had seen the glimpse of the schedule on the site which included mostly presentation titles and bios. Once I checked in I was handed an epically designed schedule with three different tracks to choose from for each session. And the theme was Space Invader so I almost melted before I could choose where to go at 9am.

I learned so much in each session and was actually torn a couple of times over which learning presentation to choose. Most of the sessions I attended were in the “business” track, which is where most of my growth and industry questions are at the moment. However, I also attended some great “developer” talks which reminded me as always of my love for the back end. Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of the presenters who volunteered their expertise and time to WC AVL 2018.

Word Camp Stickers

The Leadership

Of course I can’t praise the schedule and content of Word Camp Asheville without also noting the powerhouse team that pulled the event together. As mentioned earlier, I was surprised by the diversity at camp from the moment I walked in- the leadership team most of all! There are so many women and such a diverse set of experience and ages on the organizing team. I was super impressed. As someone who spends half of my professional life working in the music festival and event industry, I have to say that this camp out shined many of the big events I work with on pretty much all levels when it comes to organization, collaboration and inclusion. What an inspiring team to witness, thank you Word Camp AVL team!

The Opportunities

Everyone I shook hands with, passed in the hallway, and chatted it up with at lunch was genuinely invested in making authentic connection at Word Camp this year. The atmosphere of inclusion and mentorship that I experienced is difficult to put in words, but it is definitely real and what made my experience so memorable. One of my favorite take aways was seeing and interacting with so many local Asheville/WNC professionals that I have been growing baseline relationships with over the past year since I’ve dived into tech. Witnessing these people in action teaching, learning and orchestrating the event was a genuinely inspiring experience

 I look forward to the opportunity to attend my next Word Camp and hopefully contribute even more to WC AVL next year. We may have a fun new development in the works that will be an opportunity to further enrich our local community. Stay tuned for that! In the meantime, go register for Word Camp AVL 2019. See you there!