From administrator to web developer thanks to the supportive WordPress community. Through learning from other software users in Pakistan, Ihtisham Zahoor knew that his life would change. He moved cities and careers to make his life through open source.
The People of WordPress series shares inspiring stories of how people’s lives can change for the better through WordPress and its global community of contributors.
Ihtisham, from Haripur, a city in northern Pakistan, said: “The WordPress community made me a firm believer in the power of open source software. This is why I am an enthusiast and one who enjoys contributing back to the community via writing, speaking, and helping organize meetups.”
When Ihtisham discovered WordPress, his fascination for working with computing grew. He knew he did not want to just work in administration his entire career.
Ihitsham describes himself as an ‘introvert’ and therefore the idea of remote work appealed as he could still add value to others through technology. He was intrigued by the thought of the freedom to choose his work hours. However, without access to others who had already transformed their careers and lives through web development, he felt he ‘had no path to follow to turn my dream into a reality.’
Challenges become opportunities to learn when there is an active community
Lacking any kind of informed support network to advise or guide him, Ihtisham devoted time to online research to find the next steps he could take. Looking back, he believes that for those who are not in a network with others with similar interests, it can be hard to keep learning and experimenting with new things. Isolation can be a barrier to working in web development.
He said: “I think it is not easy to stay motivated when there aren’t immediate rewards for the hard work we do. Sometimes, weeks would go by when my only focus would be to stay motivated rather than give up.”
After another two years of combining learning and work, Ihtisham took up using WordPress as a full-time career. He moved to the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. It was not easy at first. He recalls: “After many failed attempts at getting hired and desperate moments, I finally received an offer from a digital agency as a web developer focused on the WordPress platform.”
He added: “Moving to work with a bigger agency was one of the best decisions of my life as it helped me with my professional growth by becoming familiar with the whole WordPress ecosystem in a supportive environment. I was valued for my opinions in the web projects in which I was involved. I was also appreciated and encouraged for the open source work I did for the company.” He summarized his enthusiasm for WordPress like this: “It is really interesting figuring out what is happening in the backends. I like problem-solving and finding solutions which you can do with WordPress.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Ihtisham moved to join a start-up which provides web development services to international clients. He works as a developer and has the opportunity to learn more about client communication and project management. “WordPress has opened up so many opportunities for me. It has been an exciting journey for me with lots of learning every day,” he said. In particular, he has discovered an interest in APIs and regularly uses his spare time to follow tickets in the hope of one day contributing even more to topics.
Give back through WordPress community
It was not just software that made a difference in Ihtisham’s life. Joining a welcoming and sharing community was transforming for him. Recalling those early days of isolation, he values the WordPress community and is wholly committed to the power of open-source software. He now enjoys writing, speaking, and organizing meetups to give back to the community. He has been involved in developing plugins and themes for the platform, which he describes as a ‘humbling’ experience. He is fond of WordCamp Islamabad and in 2023 is on the organizing team to help bring both WordPress and its community to others in Pakistan.
“My first experience,” he said, “was that everyone was so friendly and open to sharing what they have learned, even though they were all busy working. This really had an impact on me. It really helped me and gave me the confidence that I could work with WordPress…. It was a real step forward for me joining this community.”
A particular meeting in 2018 led to new friendships through the WordPress community. Ihtisham was on a train to Karachi for the first ever Pakistani WordCamp in 2018 and met a group of fellow attendees he now regards as close friends. What impressed him most about the camp was that although he met many people with considerable expertise, they also had a generosity of spirit and humbleness in their willingness to share this knowledge. Now, with this group of friends he is fulfilling another dream of traveling widely across the country. He says these things and other ‘side benefits’ have been made possible by the WordPress community, and for that, he is ‘forever grateful’.
Ihtisham particularly wanted to share his story through this People of WordPress article to encourage those starting with little or no support to remain persistent. He knows from experience breaking into the tech world can be hard, especially when you may be switching from doing something else and have no ‘track record’ to offer.
He feels he is a living example of how perseverance can lead to success. He offers these words to anyone thinking of making a move into development using the WordPress platform: “I attribute my success (financial and mental well-being) to the open-source nature of WordPress and its amazing community. It would not be possible to learn and use the plethora of free tools WordPress provides if it weren’t an open-source platform. It is for that reason I feel obligated to contribute back to this platform to the best of my abilities.” To those who are finding getting going difficult, as he did, he adds: “Get yourself a clear learning path and just dive in doing WordPress, and things will get better for you over time as they were for me, I promise. Good Luck!”
Share the stories
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series.
To help you discover more about how to use the WordPress software, there is a free resource from the community, Learn.WordPress.org
Thanks to Ihtisham Zahoor (@shaampk1) for sharing about his adventures in WordPress.
Thank you to Abha Thakor (@webcommsat), Nalini Thakor (@nalininonstopnewsuk), and Meher Bala (@meher) for interviews, the feature and collaborating on images. To Chloe Bringmann (@cbringmann), Mark Smallman (@marks99), and Mary Baum (@marybaum) for reviews. Thanks to the late Surendra Thakor (@sthakor), Maja Loncar (@majaloncar), Maedah Bahtool (@maedahbatool) and other members of the Marketing and Polyglots Team for their contributions.
This People of WordPress feature is inspired by an essay originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. It highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories might otherwise go unheard. #HeroPress