The Challenges & Opportunities In Building a Second Career With WordPress

About Alisha Lewallen & WP-Connects

At WPConnects our Mission is to help United States military personnel find their next career. We understand that this time in their lives and career can be unsettling with all of the unknowns. WPConnects wants to help soldiers with their transition from Military life to their civilian careers.

Main Questions For Interview

#1 – Talisha maybe you can tell us the founding story behind WP-Connects?

#2 – What would you say the present position is connected to the WordPress project that finds itself at the beginning of 2023?

#3 – What are some of the special challenges that the military personally finds connected to getting started in the tech sector?

#4 – What has been your personal journey connected to your involvement with WordPress?

#5 – If you go back to a time machine at the beginning of your career, what key advice would you give yourself?

#6 – Are there any books, websites, or online recourses that have helped you in your business development that you like to share with the audience?

This Week Show’s Sponsors


Sensei LMS: Sensei LMS

LifterLMS: LifterLMS

LaunchFlows: LaunchFlows

Episode’s Full Interview Transcript

[00:00:00.000] – Introduction

Welcome to the WP-Tonic This Week in WordPress and SaaS podcast, where Jonathan Denwood interviews the leading experts in WordPress, eLearning, and online marketing to help WordPress professionals launch their own SaaS. Welcome back, folks. The WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS.

[00:00:00.000]  – Jonathan Denwood

This is episode 748. Got a great guest. We’ve had a pre-show chat. It sounds like we got a lot of stuff to talk about. Got your leads Talisha Lewallen I’ve just butchered, her name and surname, but I did warn her. As you know, listeners and viewers, I do it almost every week. And also, I’ve got my co-host, Kurt to tell you, would you like to put me right about how to pronounce your first name and surname? First of all?

[00:00:56.620] – Talisha Lewallen

It’s Talisha Lewallen.

[00:00:59.630] – Jonathan Denwood

Thank you so much.

[00:01:00.400] – Talisha Lewallen

Great chance. She’s laughing. She’s not.

[00:01:04.180] – Jonathan Denwood

Scowling, listeners of yours. Bless her heart. I give her full marks for that. And Kurt, would you like to give the users and viewers an introduction about yourself? Sure.

[00:01:17.620] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’d love to. My name is Kurt von Ahnen. I own a company called Manana no Mas. I focus primarily on membership and learning websites and I do a little public speaking here and there. I love to do this one.


[00:01:29.550] – Jonathan Denwood

Got you. Leisure helps set up a business called WP Connects that helps ex-servicemen in the US military translate their skills into WordPress it’s a fantastic setup. I think there’s a lot of interest in how you get into the WordPress community. I think it’s going to be a fabulous discussion. Before we get into the main part of the interview, I’ve got a commercial break for a couple of our major sponsors. We’ll be back in a minute, folks. Are you looking for ways to make your content more engaging? Sensei LMS by Automatic is the original WordPress solution for creating and selling online courses.


[00:02:18.260] – Talisha Lewallen

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[00:02:18.900] – Jonathan Denwood

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[00:02:20.700] – Talisha Lewallen



[00:02:21.280] – Jonathan Denwood

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[00:02:25.500] – Talisha Lewallen



[00:02:25.680] – Sponsors

Display quizzes, lead generation forums, surveys, and more. For a 20 % off discount for the tribe, just use the code WP Tonic, all one word, when checking out and give Sensei a try today. Hi there, folks. It’s Jonathan Denwood here, and I want to tell you about one of our great sponsors, and that’s Zolo. Com. If you’ve got a WordPress website, membership website, and you’re looking to link it with a great financial management package.


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[00:03:59.320] – Jonathan Denwood

Thank you so much, Zolo, for supporting WP Tonic and the Machine Membership Shows. It’s much appreciated. We’re coming back, folks. I just want to point out, if you’re looking to build a great partnership or a great hosting company, why not look at WP Tonic? We specialize in the hosting and learning management, large membership websites, and Buddy Boss community websites. We provide all the consultation to help you build something fantastic for your clients. Plus, we provide a suite of software and great hosting that you need for this type of website. If that sounds interesting, becoming a partner with WP Tonic and the possibility of earning in great ongoing commission. Go over to WP Tonic partners. So, T ueysa, can you just go a bit into about your background and what the story is about how the idea around WP Connects got formatted. And we had a pre show chat and you said you’ve been now coming up to your first anniversary, but what led to the forming of the idea around WP Connect?


[00:05:23.080] – Talisha Lewallen

Excuse me. I was working at Poststatus as their Director of Operations. When we were really having these member chats and just conversations with companies within the WordPress community, one thing we kept hearing was that there was a need for fully trained developers and hiring personnel. It’s not that there’s not personnel or people trying to get into WordPress, but how do you really tell us somebody is trained and if they can be a developer front end back end? What does that really entail? A round that time, I met with a gentleman that his name is Hector Aguera at ERA Solutions. It was a chance of fate meeting, if you will. We started talking and he said that he had military personnel that needed hiring. I was like, Well, I have companies that need to hire people. And so while I was at post status, I was spending the majority of my time trying to put this program together. And there’s a few different programs we’ll talk about. But Cori and Lindsay, the owners of Post Status, finally were like, Why don’t you just start your own company? This is something you’re passionate about, obviously. So that was the formation of WP Connects.


[00:06:43.340] – Talisha Lewallen

And our business is really modeled off of Hector’s. He runs similar programs and has really been a very good mentor in the space and has been helping us really reach and contact a lot of our military personnel.


[00:06:56.940] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, it’s a fantastic concept. It’s i think, especially with a equitable company like yourself, because obviously I don’t know too much about this. So if I make some fundamental mistakes, I’m sure you’re going to put me correct. But my understanding is that ex service men, when they’re going into accredited training, they can get financial support and financial resources. But I think a few years ago, there was a particular college that was providing courses, a private college that was providing courses in the creative digital arts that got a lot of criticism about how the courses they were offering, the prices, years, and just the support and training they were offering ex service men. So I suppose, has that been something you’ve also been concentrating on getting your process of getting your company identified. So you could offer services to servicemen where they can utilize the financial resources that they’re offered.


[00:08:14.710] – Talisha Lewallen

Yes. That’s where we have our credentialing assistance program, and that is funded through the Department of Defense or the DOD. T hat’s for active duty military personnel, so they can get that extra training while they’re in the military, the purpose of it is so whenever they go to separate, they have a credential that can help them get a better paying job whenever they get out. Because that’s a problem right now is that their skills just aren’t exactly transferable. They have very good baseline skills and a lot of skills that employers can use, but it’s not exactly transferable or translatable. The military and Department of Defense was having this issue of all these people getting out, but then they can’t get a job. They spent 20 years doing X, Y, Z in the military, but for some reason, they can’t get a job in the civilian sector. T hat’s where they came up with the credential assistance program, which I said does have funding through the DOD. Then our skill bridge program is within the last 180 days of their service contract. T hey are not reupping. They’re not going back for another term with their contract.


[00:09:29.010] – Talisha Lewallen

They are getting out. In the last 180 days, they could join the skill bridge program, which also has to be approved by the DOD and Army United and a few other places. But there is not direct funding. So the students get to join for free. They don’t have to pay. But also my company doesn’t get paid for them either. It’s just one of those really just helping them transition. And it’s a 12 week hands on course. We have an instructor. Ours is through Zoom or Teams because we have so little… We’ve had a couple in Germany. We have soldiers from all over and we want them to be able to access our course. And so it is an instructor led. Our CA course is instructor managed or provided, but the skill bridge is instructor led. And then after that 12 weeks, our hiring partners can hire them directly, or we’re starting the assessment process to enter people into our newly formed apprenticeship program. So currently, we have an apprenticeship program in Texas, almost Oklahoma, and about to be Arkansas and Ohio. So once we get five states, then we’ll be a nationally recognized apprenticeship program. And that’s just better for our employers and our service members because then we’re not buying by state.


[00:10:46.920] – Talisha Lewallen

Right now, there’s some qualifications there. But once we’re nationally accredited, those just go by the wayside. So there is funding and there are programs set up by the DOD and the military to really help them try to hit that transition to better themselves whenever they get out.


[00:11:05.640] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I can only imagine the amount of work you’ve been doing. Over to you, Kurt. I’m actually fascinated.


[00:11:17.620] – Kurt von Ahnen

I worked corporately in motorsports, engine stuff, and so I was always intrigued at the idea that the military would teach guys how to work on helicopters and Humvees and stuff, and then they would come back as you well know, they come back and it’s like, Well, how do I integrate? How do I become part of society again? What obstacles do you specifically face, especially in the WordPress space or getting military to adapt to the tech environment?


[00:11:46.480] – Talisha Lewallen

I think sometimes it’s not exactly just our military adapt, they’re very adaptable. That sounds weird to throw them in a group and say they. But the military has really trained them and these people people to adapt to a lot of different situations and to overcome adversity. So what we’re really finding in our skill bridge course is not that they’re not exactly adapting. They are eager to learn and they want to learn. And so the problem that I probably said the challenging part we have right now are interviews. A lot of these men and women came in at 18 and joined the military or 20, but they never had to do an interview. They never wrote a resume. So in one hand, they are behind their competitors, if you will, or other people going for the same job. We had one gentleman tell one of our hiring companies that he would work overtime for free just because… So they’re like, Oh, we don’t want to touch him with a tip of… There’s work laws and all this other stuff and that makes us nervous that he’s not going to transition. I’m like, Okay, well, we have mentor set up to help them transition.


[00:12:56.780] – Talisha Lewallen

But also, let’s look at what he’s really trying to say. What he’s trying to say is I’m willing to do the work and put in the extra hours and to do this. So it’s trying to find a way to get them to hone their enthusiasm and answer questions that are not going to make our company shy away, but also to explain to our companies this is where they’re at and you can compare them exactly with other people because they haven’t had to do these types of interviews or scrutiny. But t he other side is trying to train somebody in 12 weeks. We’re constantly adapting that skill bridge program. We’re just now in talks with OS training. Robbie, at OS training, she’s going to donate a tailor made course for our military personnel because I went with her with our syllabus currently, and I’m like, this just is not working, which I didn’t create it, and I finally got my hands on it and I was like, oh, my gosh. This is why I’m figuring out why we’re not really hitting what I would consider my mark. I contacted Robby, who’s also helping us build the WordPress credential.


[00:14:10.540] – Talisha Lewallen

S he was exceptionally helpful. W e’re really just trying to find a way to give these men and women a baseline education. W ell, they’re not fully trained. I’m like, You still have to onboard. We’re giving them the baseline education and trying to get them to do it. We have students that went above and beyond. They take our coursework and then they went and enrolled in a few other courses or have done WordPress. Org and done a lot of self-learning. I’ve hired one of them and he is fantastic. But it really is that transition from very structured regimented time in the military to very open in the civilian world. And so it even goes into time. I told our employee, he was working on a project and I was like, okay, they’ll be due at end of the month time, whatever else, not even thinking it was Christmas. So he messaged me on Christmas Eve and asked for an extension because the next day was Christmas and he wanted to be with his family. I was just horrified at myself for not even recognizing that he would not take Christmas Eve and Christmas day off for his family, but instead try and complete this project that he was working on.


[00:15:31.770] – Talisha Lewallen

It’s just trying to be aware and being very specific with your language. But there are challenges, but mostly it’s just between employer and getting them to say the right things in their interviews has been it’s very interesting.


[00:15:49.700] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, thanks. I can see that the soft skills would be an obstacle, but think of the bonus. E mployers now are having a hard time getting people to show up for work, and it seems to be the opposite complaint you’re having, right? These guys show up all the time.


[00:16:03.160] – Talisha Lewallen

Well, and that’s the thing. We always say you hire for character, you train for skill. You don’t have the time or the money to sit here and train character. The military spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on each person, making sure that they have the character they need for the business. And so they really do have those soft skills of eagerness. They’re not afraid to ask the question. They’re also not going to sit there and say they know something if they don’t, because in the military that could be, not to be dramatic, but that could be life or death in that situation. They are taught to, you have to ask questions, or if you don’t know something, you need to speak up, which is a problem. I own a couple of companies. I work a couple of different jobs. That is a problem with people not stepping forward and saying, Hey, no, I actually don’t know how to do this. Can you explain it again? So their soft skills, to me, way outweigh their technical knowledge because you could teach that. And we’re proving that you can teach that. It’s not teach an old dog new trick.


[00:17:00.980] – Talisha Lewallen

They are willing to learn and they want to be in this space.


[00:17:05.940] – Kurt von Ahnen

Nice. Jonathan? Yeah.


[00:17:10.000] – Jonathan Denwood

The WordPress sector is a very diverse sector, isn’t it? Because you’ve got a lot of freelance work around and a lot of people that are freelancers. But I think the sector you’re dealing with are medium to larger companies now. I’m just assuming this based on my own thoughts. A very old title webmaster that became very old fashioned termed. I think in some ways it’s coming back a little bit where organizations looking for somebody that’s got some medium to larger organization is looking for somebody that has a diverse spread of digital skills from visual to marketing, to some coding, but not a full time developer skill level. Am I right about that, or am I totally off target there? I don’t.


[00:18:22.480] – Talisha Lewallen

Think that it’s totally off target. I think WordPress is changing. I’m changing and I’ve had… And changing in a particular way is what I mean. I’ve had this conversation with a couple of different people now about how when you’re hiring in the WordPress space, it’s not just developers, it’s not just front end back end, it’s not just coders. But you are needing HR people, you are needing marketing people, you’re needing project managers, you’re needing CFOs, CEOs, all of these different levels of people now. T hat’s the great thing about the people we’re bringing in is that they have several different types of skills. We have people that have had no tech background. But the last Killrich course, I had a gentleman that had done nothing but human resources for the military. I had a firefighter. That one was very interesting to me. So I was like, That’s a good career. Why are you coming over to this sector? But it’s very interesting. And then we have.


[00:19:23.800] – Jonathan Denwood

Did you find out why?


[00:19:25.300] – Talisha Lewallen

No, I never asked him, but I didn’t want to be that nosy. I wanted to be nosy, but I was like, Okay, you want to be here. T hat’s what matters to us is that you are wanting to be here and really go through with this. Then we had seven project managers We had two drone operators, or they had worked in some type of tech and done drones and satellite type management stuff, too. So we have this vast array of people that have a lot of different skill sets and knowledge. So we’re still teaching them the baseline same thing about WordPress because in my opinion, you should know how those site works. Even for me, I can create a website. You don’t want mine? Ask Michelle for check. I break ours all the time. You want to watch my fingers? I was on the phone with one of my guys yesterday trying to fix our certified WP website because I broke it again. But for my skills, I need to know how the site works so then I can sit there and say, okay, we need to do X, Y, Z. I know it can do it.


[00:20:32.660] – Talisha Lewallen

I don’t know how, though. I could go find the person that can make that happen. I think knowing just that baseline of what the website can do and what WordPress is capable of is very important for project managers or marketing or just vast array of people. We are bringing in several people that have other skill sets beyond just coding and development. But teaching them how WordPress works in the community and really just giving them that other skill set where they do want to learn how to be a coder or developer, they can. But you do have this other skill level.


[00:21:15.940] – Jonathan Denwood

Just a quick follow through question before we go for a break because when it comes to the development side, obviously it’s been a large change or transition or period for WordPress where php is still important, but the JavaScript front end side of things is becoming more and more important. Obviously, you can’t tell somebody to be a proficient JavaScript developer in 12 weeks.


[00:21:49.960] – Talisha Lewallen



[00:21:51.920] – Jonathan Denwood

Maybe lower intermediate one year, high intermediate two years, proficient, three to four year, if you’re really focused. So what is the 12 week course? It’s just an introduction to the fundamentals of WordPress and tech. And then you give them resources and give them some idea about what areas that they might need to focus for a specific career path. Is that?


[00:22:25.930] – Talisha Lewallen

Yeah. So basically, if they’re wanting to do major, actually learn JavaScript, there is a credentialing assistance course they can take to get that JavaScript credential. T hat takes them a little while, obviously, still to be proficient. We are currently teaching the Web Foundation Associate, which gives a lot of baseline tech. It’s not really specific to any JavaScript. It has a lot of different areas in it. Then we’re creating the WordPress credential, which is where we would hope all of our students eventually will be is that they have to have that WordPress credential to get into the WordPress skill bridge course to get into the WordPress apprenticeship program. But within that WordPress skill bridge course, that 12 week course, currently, they’re learning a little bit of a lot, if you know what I mean. They’re learning CSS, they’re learning JavaScript, php, there’s Linux, and then they have to build three websites throughout the length of the course. Along with a few other, like the syllabus we currently have is a little, in my opinion, a little daunting. And we’re teaching them, like I said, a little bit of a lot, which means a whole lot of method.


[00:23:43.200] – Talisha Lewallen

So that’s where we’re trying to funnel it down to where we’re teaching them a lot of a little bit. It will be front end development. There will be a little bit of back, because we want them to test them both out. Which one do you want to do? Are you interested in one or both? Are you not interested in either one? You want to do something completely different but still be in the WordPress space. We have just this basic introduction. That’s where the WordPress credential, in my opinion, will be paramount to what we can teach in the skill bridge course. Because if we have people learning that front end development credential, then we could spend the skill bridge course getting into the back end because you do need to know front end before you do back end, or else you’re not going to know the translation. You’re not going to realize what it’s actually looking like on the front end and how to use it as a user. We’re really getting into that. But currently, we are crawl walk run, military standard. You have to teach them how to crawl walk, and then we’re building that website.


[00:24:46.490] – Talisha Lewallen

And so as we’re setting here and revamping our skill bridge course with each class that comes out to see what works, so we find something and we’re able to at least stick with it, we’re really going to be in that crawl and walk stage. And the apprenticeship program is where they’re going to learn to run. So they’ll really learn with that mentor. They have to have a mentor to be in the apprenticeship program. So that falls back on our companies that are willing to hire and take on an apprentice, as well as WP Connects. We’re also starting an apprenticeship course through WP Connects. So we’re getting out and getting just lower. I hate to say lower. That sounds terrible. But just smaller companies that are just starting out that need a website that want to support military veterans and want to really help them engage in their learning. Then our veterans within the WordPress are WP Connect’s apprenticeship program will be building those websites with a mentor. Then if they go to another company, that company will train them how to do what they want to do. Currently, Zow, CorePHP… I might be saying Zow wrong, sorry, Justin, if I’m saying it wrong, and Enate Le, are all willing to be apprenticeship programs for us.


[00:26:09.660] – Talisha Lewallen

They will hire one or how many apprentices they want and basically onboard them and train them in their company. It’s a good way to see if somebody is a good fit for your company, too. They learn based on standards and this really fun thing. But you’re also helping somebody and you’re getting cheaper labor, I guess. So it really is a win win for companies, but really getting these people the hands on experience. We have some that have a lot of experience in tech, but they can’t get hired because they don’t have the job experience, but they have the education experience. So it bridges that gap.


[00:26:46.320] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. We’re going to go for a break, folks. Got some more questions to ask. I think it’s been an interesting discussion. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks.


[00:26:58.560] – Kurt von Ahnen

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[00:27:15.930] – Jonathan Denwood

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[00:27:18.320] – Jonathan Denwood

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[00:27:21.460] – Jonathan Denwood

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[00:27:25.810] – Kurt von Ahnen

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[00:27:26.920] – Talisha Lewallen

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[00:27:30.480] – Jonathan Denwood

This podcast episode is brought to you by Lifter LMS, the leading learning management system solution for WordPress. If you or your client are creating any online course, training based membership website, or any type of eLearning project, Lifter LMS is the most secure, stable, well supported solution on the market. Go to lifterlms. Com and save 20 % at checkout with coupon code podcast 20. That’s podcast 20. Enjoy the rest of your show. We’re coming back, folks. We’re talking about training, a change of career, looking at WordPress tech, the armed forces. Where else on a WordPress podcast could you hear this conversation? But before we go into the second half of this great discussion, I just want to point out, if you’re looking for some great deals from our sponsors and you’re looking for a created list of the best plug ins for different type of jobs. We’ve done a lot of the hard lifting for you, and you can find this created list of plug ins, plus some great special offers by going over to WP Tonic… Oh, my mind’s gone blank. Sorry, folks, my mind’s gone blank. Go over to WP Tonic Deals. That’s it, WP Tonic Deals.


[00:28:57.500] – Jonathan Denwood

And you find all that knowledge there. So let’s go forth. I think I mentioned it in the first half, but I don’t want to go into down it because I think what you’re doing is fascinating and a lot of work. But is the elephant in the room? And I mentioned it at the beginning of the introduction. I think it was under the Obama administration, there was a lot of problems with private colleges offering training to servicemen, and they basically were taken to the cleaners. And it s ourd. I’m imagining that it s ourd all the rectal people that were… Everybody was quazard, tarnished with the same brush. And it’s very regrettable, I would imagine. Is this something you’ve had to deal with and struggle as you tried to build your own presence in this area and the unit’s syllabus?


[00:30:03.940] – Talisha Lewallen

I wouldn’t say exactly for us. There are certain standards now that you have to meet to be able to train military personnel now. Because I do know a few years ago when they first started a couple of these programs, there were companies, I don’t know names and probably wouldn’t name them if I did, but literally did just take the government funding and ran and left our military personnel hanging. They didn’t receive the training or it wasn’t proper training. The DOD now has certain standards. You have to at least have a two year old company. You have to have a training history. You have to have a lot of different things. Even your skill bridge program, you have to get so many people hired out of your program every month or every cohort. So they’re really trying to crack down on requirements and also the documentation you have. We have to document how many people actually receive the credential, how many failed it, how many passed. And so there’s a lot of documentation now that sucks that you have.


[00:31:11.770] – Jonathan Denwood

To do. Well, it’s not that surprising, isn’t it? Because you find, I’m just basing this on my past experience, I might be totally wrong, is that when you get a quasi scandal like that, the reaction goes over the OTT. It goes from not enough observation or management, and it goes to the totally, obviously, a load of document theft, basically.


[00:31:44.170] – Talisha Lewallen

Yeah, definitely. And it’s one of those you can’t almost complain about it because you understand it. Any government contract, any government monies that you take has a crap ton of documentation at the end of it. And that’s where we’re looking into grants. We are a woman owned and I’m Native American, so we’re a Native owned or minority owned company. And then we hire a lot of veterans. I myself am not one. Tons of military and family and whatever else that are in there, but just not me personally. I made a recruiter very mad taking my social security card back. But it’s just one of those things that we’re able to get government funding, but I shied away from some grants just because of the paperwork. I’m trying to get our programs off the ground, and I’d rather spend my time getting those off the ground before we really start looking into more grants and funding opportunities.


[00:32:42.860] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I can totally understand that. Over to you, Kurt.


[00:32:48.100] – Kurt von Ahnen

Hey, T alisha, I want to roll back. You had said something that reminds me of a conversation that Jonathan and I have had multiple times, and that’s the role in WordPress. So everyone says they’re a developer, And then when you get down to it, I’m not a developer, I’m an implementer. I’m someone that takes puzzle pieces and glues them together. But I don’t build this stuff. What’s your personal background, your personal path in WordPress that led you to your passion and where you’re at today?


[00:33:17.660] – Talisha Lewallen

So my WordPress background, I think started like a lot of other people, COVID. I’ve done social work for many years with Cherokee Nation and also with the state of Oklahoma. I was a program field rep, so I was going out and training daycares on how to, I hate to say handle, but how to give children a little extra love, the ones that need it. We don’t want to say problem kiddos, but so I’m doing that and we got sent home. And during COVID, I also own a farm that has cows and chickens and all this other fun stuff. So the meat shortage came up and I’m like, Well, there’s not a meat shortage. I have meat in my field. They still got four legs and they’re moving, but we have meat. And so we really started looking in. My husband and I started looking into starting a meat processing business or just wholesaling our beef. So we got our license to wholesale. Well, then we couldn’t find a butcher. So I’m like, Okay, I got to get a website so I can do this. So I call up, oh, Cori Miller, the one person I knew in tech space and was like, Hey, my guy, I need a website.


[00:34:27.610] – Talisha Lewallen

Tell me how to do this. And so that’s whenever I built my first website was our farm website, which is still operational. I haven’t broke it too much. And so I’ve had to come up with a couple of workarounds because I still can’t get Woocommerce to work. It’s me, it’s not it. And so we have some workarounds that work for me. It’s not efficient, but it works. And then, Cori called me one day. I’m also a foster adoptive parent. So I just got my youngest daughter who were adopting in March. But I just got her out of the NICU and had her home, sitting there doing the total mother thing of being overwhelmed and crying. I’m just like, The baby’s crying, whatever else. And he calls and he’s like, I want to go into business with you. I was like, Sure. Because that’s a normal response to being overwhelmed, let’s add another job. And so he and I started a fun little company. We never really got it off the ground. And then he asked me to come into post status. I was like, okay, yeah, sure. I’d love to get out of social work and do something in this field.


[00:35:32.800] – Talisha Lewallen

And everybody I had met in WordPress was beyond fantastic. And so that is what led me to it. But to touch on a point you just made about everybody says they’re a developer. But I built five websites. I could technically claim that title. T hat’s really where the WordPress credential has came in is because we’re trying to get a standardized level of education education. Companies hiring knows that, okay, you have this level of credentialing, we know what your baseline education is and we know where you can go off of. And likewise, you said about there’s a lot of freelancers. Well, you’re trying to get a job and you’re trying to sit here and say, yes, I’m a developer and I could do these things. But to a lot of people, that can mean you built one website, so you built 100. Nobody fully understands. And so that’s where the WordPress credentialing is coming in to really try to hopefully standardize that.


[00:36:37.300] – Jonathan Denwood

Perfect. Right. So you’ve been doing this for about a year. What has been the biggest learning event on this journey so far that you didn’t understand or have been surprises so far, the areas that you didn’t anticipate that you now realize that are crucial in your objectives to move this on?


[00:37:08.500] – Talisha Lewallen

That’s a very good question. I feel like this whole thing has been a learning experience. Starting any business, there are just crazy ups and downs. I was having a conversation with Lance Robinson. We were talking, he just launched his own company. It seems like in the first year, every obstacle you run into is financial. Every time you turn around, there’s some type of financial obligation or obstacle that is just hitting you. Here you have these majorly high peaks and then these major lows. And so we’ve gotten contracts just to find out that they were being pulled. Or with the government contracts, especially with the CA program, our CA program funds the whole company. And they shut down for two years every year. Well, then this year, there was also the power shift in the government, not trying to get into political stuff, but it was the power shift and that made the program shut down for four months. Now, here we are in the January where we haven’t received funding since September, October area. Then on top of that, they started and they created a new website, new system that is not working. T hat’s backed it up even further. I t’s companies like mine that are really struggling on that financial aspect because the government funding was supposed to be opened up in November, December, and here we are in February, and it’s just now starting to trickle through.


[00:38:45.100] – Talisha Lewallen

It’s really not looking like it’s going to fully open until almost April. T here’s that aspect. Then there’s how do we get in front of these soldiers? How do we show them that we really care about them? There’s some programs out there that still are in it to make the money. Where we care about the people when we care about them because we want them to come into our community. But I want my programs to work well because my name is on it and I want to be able to show my face in this community still after training these people. And so there’s a lot of that or each company needs something different. So how do I train these soldiers to be able to hit every level? And it’s not possible on that standpoint. So we’re trying to hit the most and just talk to companies about those soft skills and how they are trainable and how we can get them there. The other aspect is how do I get in front of the companies that have hiring needs and hitting that side of it and then also getting them to understand the people that they’re interviewing are not going to probably be their best interview they’ve ever had in their life, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t do the job.


[00:39:53.800] – Talisha Lewallen

So there’s really multiple facets that, like I said, some weeks I’m like, Yeah, you’re h, we got it, we got it, we got it. And then the next day it’s just like…


[00:40:07.030] – Jonathan Denwood

I’ve worked for myself almost all my adult life. It’s always a chicken and egg scenario. You can’t do one thing because you ain’t got the other and you can’t do the other thing because you ain’t got that. It’s a jigsaw puzzle all the time. So it’s always interesting. Over to you, Kurt. Oh, you’re muted, Kurt.


[00:40:37.810] – Kurt von Ahnen

Sorry. See, I’m not a professional either. So I think that takes us to our time machine question, Jonathan. Yes. T alisha, if you could use a time machine and go back in time to the beginning of your career, what advice might you give yourself?


[00:40:53.940] – Talisha Lewallen

I think the biggest one would probably be better work life balance. I wouldn’t change necessarily the career field I went into originally because social work gave me a lot of knowledge, a lot of human knowledge, a lot of experiential knowledge that transfers over into many facets of everything that I do from my personal life to professional life. So I wouldn’t exactly change my career path. But I do believe it would be more about living for the moment. I still struggle with that. I’m five years down the road, this is where we’re going to be and really still struggle within the moment and especially having children. There’s times that I work a day job while I’m trying to get WP Connects and certify WP off the ground and having to pick my kids up and being on the phone. M y daughter just wants to tell me about her day in kindergarten or the little kids whenever I pick them up. Or really just taking time to prioritize my family needs along with trying to prioritize my company because that’s how we pay for our bills. But at the same point in time, I still want my children to know that I was there for them.


[00:42:09.880] – Talisha Lewallen

And though I was trying to be successful on one side, I still want to be a successful parent, too.


[00:42:16.270] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. Having it all as a hard offer.


[00:42:19.320] – Talisha Lewallen

It is. I don’t succeed all the time. It’s just a work in progress. But I would definitely say my time machine moment would maybe learning how to do that at an earlier age. Maybe that should be the take away from that is that I wish that I wouldn’t have learned it earlier instead of still trying to figure it out. I’m not old by any means, but trying to figure it out before I had got my children and started a family. I think it would have been a little bit easier.


[00:42:51.180] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think it’s a great one. What are some of the books online personality websites, anything out there that you regularly… If you hear their name or they produce a bit of content or something, you think, I’m going to watch that or read it. Are there any people that you regularly follow that’s helped you on your own journey?


[00:43:18.300] – Talisha Lewallen

Yeah, there are quite a few people that have really helped me. I wouldn’t say books or podcasty things. Mine is legitimately just personal connections I made in WordPress. There are several people, the thing that I always promote about this community is that everybody is ungodly helpful and they do it without wanting financial gain at the end. They are genuinely sharing their knowledge. I said Michelle Fuchette, that woman, I swear to I cannot buy her enough coffees on this planet. Cannot thank her enough. Will never be able to be where I am without Michelle’s help. The same thing with like, Robbie, totally stepping up and helping us get a course and me just being like, this is the problem I’m having. This is what I think the solution is, but you’ve done training in this space for so long. Where do you think that we should go and how do you think we should go about it? And the same thing, Nikki at Liquid Web. Very helpful person. Anytime that I’m like, hey, I just need to pick your brain, the calendar link just gets immediately sent and they dedicate an hour out of their busy, busy day or Michelle, her evenings to proofread anything that I post, Michelle’s proofread it.


[00:44:33.910] – Talisha Lewallen

She hates my capital letters. I put capital letters everywhere just because I want to. I blaze my own trail and I’m going to put those capital letters wherever I want them. And she’s like, delete, stop it. I could tell you wrote this, quit it. So, yeah, it’s more personal connections or even like post status. I made a lot of my personal connections while I worked at post status. And Lindsay and Cori, I know, have been very very helpful to several people in the community. I’m lucky enough to be related to them. So I get their help for free anyways. But either way, the community is just beyond helpful. I haven’t met one person, I should say, that was just like, no, I’m not going to help her. No, I’m not going to give you advice. And so that’s where I would say my most help has been is probably not reading or listening to a podcast, but actually picking somebody’s brain and listening to their experience share.


[00:45:30.680] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fantastic to hear. I would agree with you. I think it’s one of the strengths of the WordPress community is that it’s deteriorated a little bit because of COVID, because a lot of that used to come with the WordPress meetups. Obviously, COVID’s had an effect on that, but it’s still there. I think we’re going to wrap it up now at Chalisha. I keep doing it, don’t I? But I’m trying. She’s been a champ about that. What’s the best way for people to find out more about what you’re up to and what WP Connect is doing?


[00:46:11.660] – Talisha Lewallen

Our website is always a good one. Sophia De Roche is our main person that is in the Twitter account. So if you see anything on our Twitter account, you can thank Sophia. But contacting us either through our Twitter DMs or the contact page on our website where I’m in post at Slack or anywhere that you see us, feel free to jump out and ask questions. The same thing goes for Certify WP and the credential. We’re out here just trying to be helpful and are willing to answer any questions or meet and discuss what we got going on and what you have going on.


[00:46:49.300] – Jonathan Denwood

And all those links will be in the show notes on the WP-Tonic website. So if you want to connect and learn more, you’ll find all the links there. So Kurt, how can people find out more about you? What are you up to, Kurt?


[00:47:03.280] – Kurt von Ahnen

The easiest quickest way to find me is on LinkedIn. I’m the only Kurt von Neumann on LinkedIn, so it makes it easy. And I’ll accept your connection. When we connect, we’ll probably get an invitation to an icebreaker call and figure out how we can help each other. Other than that, everything on the internet that’s Manyana no Mas generally leads to me. That’s great.


[00:47:21.640] – Jonathan Denwood

We’ll be back next week with another great interview. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye. Hey, thanks for listening. We really do appreciate it. Why not visit the Mastermind Facebook group? And also to keep up with the latest news, click wp. Tonic. Com newsletter. We’ll see you next time.


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#749 WP-Tonic This Week in WordPress & SaaS: With Special Guest Talisha Lewallen of WP-Connects was last modified: by