Jean-François Arseneault discovered WordPress in 2005 and after trying a lot of different software, he decided to choose WordPress to create his personal and professional websites. He never left this CMS since then and even launched new services dedicated to it such as SatelliteWP.
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Q1: What is your background and how did you first get involved with WordPress?
I remember discovering WordPress in September 2005 (version 1.5.2, if you’re wondering) and I know this since my personal blog has a post describing how I was moving away from Mambo/Joomla. Even though at the time I was an employee at IBM, I was constantly trying open source software, since I was working in the Software division. Over the following years, I tried a lot of software: Drupal, Xoops, Prestashop, Magento, wikis, etc.
I started consulting as a side gig and WordPress surprised me by its ease of use and elegant user interface. After a few years, when came time to start my consulting business, WordPress became my tool of choice to build websites for clients.
Q2: What should readers know about all the stuff you’re doing in WordPress these days?
I’ve been making a living from WordPress for close to 10 years now. In 2017, I co-founded SatelliteWP as a team, we provide management services to WordPress website owners and help them focus on their business by handling all the technical aspects such as backups, updates, security, and performance. I wear multiple hats in the business; one day I’m doing solution architecture to improve our platforms and grow our business, the next day I’m doing front-end work and managing client projects to ensure customer satisfaction. But the one constant has been my involvement in the community.
I attended my first WordCamp in Montreal in 2010 and I was inspired by the friendliness of everyone involved. Since 2011, I’ve volunteered and spoke at various WordCamps in Canada. In 2017, we also began sponsoring various WordPress-related events, and I became involved in improving the translation to Français du Canada for the whole WordPress ecosystem as well as key vendors such as Beaver Builder and WP Rocket.
Q3: What challenges did you face in getting to where you are now professionally?
The one constant we’ve found over the years is getting clients to understand that there are real risks involved in operating a website and that this risk has substantially increased over time. After all, WordPress is the MS Windows of CMS, and with popularity comes an equal increase in intrusion attempts and potential vulnerabilities due to the thousands of plugins and themes. Our job, therefore, becomes one of educating clients and providing proof that threats are indeed real, all of this without sounding like an alarmist.
A related challenge is that, once clients trust us and we handle their website’s uptime and security, nothing bad happens, and then clients might be tempted to ask “Why are we paying you, nothing bad happened”, to which our answer is “Yes. Because we’re there.”
Q4: Has anything surprised you while coming up in the WordPress world?
Coming from a corporate background, my first foray into a WordCamp was eye-opening! There I was, fresh out of my corporate job, launching my web consulting business… and all these designers and WordPress businesses were openly sharing tips on acquiring clients, improving my craft, providing leads. There was no competition, just professionals sharing and helping me get started on the right foot, in exchange for nothing!
Q5: What does the future look like for you in the WordPress world?
I believe that the development of WordPress has entered a new cycle with the arrival of the block editor (Gutenberg) in 5.0 and all the new possibilities it brings to the table, as well as traction with other open source projects such as Drupal, an upcoming Block Repository and the planned move to “blockify” every interface element in the WordPress backend.
It truly brings a paradigm shift to the WordPress platform for its next phase of evolution.
But now that WordPress has such a dominant position in the marketplace, one of the things I wish were addressed is providing a separation of concern between data and configuration (today, both are in the database) which would allow the use of more powerful enterprise deployment scenarios when using multiple environments such as test, staging, integration and production.
Q6: What do you look for in a WordPress host?
To me, the most important thing would be the speed and frequency at which technical support can communicate back when problems arise. Problems will happen, whether it’s the hosting provider or some other infrastructure provider somewhere on the internet. But there is nothing worse than being left in the dark as a client, and so, transparency in documenting issues, what was the cause, how they were solved and what will be done to mitigate this in the future are, in my view, what sets apart exceptional hosting providers from the rest!
Q7: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi, whether it’s novels, movies or video games. To the point where I’m watching questionable B-series flicks, because “Hey, it has spaceships, must be good”! While I also enjoy occasional cycling and trying to get ready for a first 5k (and then 10k), the one passion I’ve had for a long time is sailing, and last year, I bought my very own sailboat (which I’ve documented in French on my blog) and am now a member of a Boating Club which is a great way to learn from experienced sailors, talk (sail) shop and obviously take the boat out to practice my technique.
Q8: Whom should we interview next & why?
Over the years, thanks to WordPress, I’ve developed dozens of friendships all over the world… so many interesting people from all walks of life, but all with a common purpose in seeing WordPress improve in democratizing web publishing.
If I had to name someone, I’d say Chris Flannagan, who is simply a wholesome and no-BS person on a personal and professional level, hustling to provide for his family, doing his best AND enjoying life through a variety side projects (ask him about “eating wings”).