Mahangu Weerasinghe is a WordPress lover from Colombo, Srilanka. A high school teacher turned Happiness Engineer at Automattic, he has used and provided support for every major release of the software and is excited about the impact the platform can have in South Asia. We got to have a little one-on-one talk session with him at the recent WordCamp Kathmandu 2016.
How and when did you get started with WordPress?
I was in high school when I thought of starting a blog. In the beginning, I wrote my own small script in PHP but it did not turn out so good. I was looking for an analyst and I found b2. When I came to know of b2, Matt was already talking about forking. So, I have been using WordPress since the very first version 0.70 of WordPress.
What do you like most about WordCamps?
It’s the people. It’s the fact that we all are so different, we all are from different parts of the world and we all have our own thoughts and experiences. In WordCamps, we get to share our knowledge and experiences with one another. That is what I like most about these WordCamps.
What do you hope attendees will take away from your talk?
My talk is on building product and services. I think there is a lot of room for the growth in that area. Especially, in this part of the world, there are a lot of opportunities which we are not exploiting fully. And I hope my talk will, maybe in a small way, change that.
Are there any challenges you faced that you’d like to share with us?
The main challenge for me is my stutter. I’ve had that since I was three years old. It has always been a problem for me to speak in public. I would not speak up in public but after joining Automattic, I had a mentor there. He kept on encouraging me and I slowly started speaking in WordCamps. I still stutter but I try and not let that stop me from doing what I want to do.
What are your thoughts on the WordPress community of Nepal?
I’ve only been here for half a day but I can already see that you have a very strong community. It also shows you’ve been having WordCamps here for a long time. Also, this is one of the few South-Asian WordCamps I’ve been to, which has started in time. I am really happy and impressed by your community.
How have you been contributing or giving back to the community?
The main way is by speaking at WordCamps. I am very lucky that I work for a company which allows me to take time to speak and also sponsor my travels which makes it possible for me to do this. So, the main way I like to give back is by speaking and sharing my experience at WordCamps because I feel that has the most impact in this part of the world.
What do you think about female participation in WordPress?
I think in some parts of the world, it’s quite good and in South Asia, it can get better. At this WordCamp, it’s better than many others that I’ve seen. I am very happy about it. But we basically need to have more female participants. It’s like a cycle, if you have more female speakers, next year you’ll have more female attendees, if you have more female attendees, you’ll have more female speakers. I think in this part of the world, if a small boy says he wants to be an engineer, his parents would say okay but if a little girl would say the same, her parents would tell her no and she has to marry and have a family someday. I don’t think that’s fair and it has to change. WordPress community is that one platform, where we can change that easily because the bar to enter WordPress is extremely low. Even if you don’t have any engineering degree, it will not be an obstacle for you to enter WordPress. I think every WordCamp in South Asia has to focus on having more women speakers and panellists.
How do you stay updated on WordPress?
I read a lot of blogs. And also I stay updated with WordPress through many social media platforms.
What can we find you doing when you’re not WordPressing?
Other than WordPressing, I really like running. I’ve been training myself as I wish to complete my first 5K someday. I also love teaching. Helping someone learn something new is quite addictive and it’s one of my favourite things to do.
What advice would you give to a new WordPress user?
The main thing is that WordPress can be anything that you want it to be and something we can count on at anytime. I would like to advise a new WordPresser to get started and create your own website. That is the first step in WordPress. You should try it, it’s not difficult. It’s something you can do as the first step.
WordPress 4.7 is releasing soon. Which feature are you most excited about?
I am excited about the REST API. WordPress will no longer be CMS, it’s going to be an application platform. And that’s going to be very exciting.