Meet a Maker: Miina Sikk, WordPress Engineer

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With one of our very own, WordPress Engineer Miina Sikk, speaking at WordCamp US this weekend, we thought it would be great to learn more about her, her background, and what she’s sees for the future of WordPress.

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do at XWP.

Hi, I’m Miina, originally from Estonia, a tiny country in Europe. I’ve been traveling around and staying in different countries for the last 5 years, mostly in Latin-America, also worked with different startups for a few years. I’m a fan of fixing stuff, challenging activities, and learning new things. I believe that possibly the most important things in life are family and friends and I consider myself super lucky to have mine. Have been with XWP now for a little bit over two years now serving as a WordPress engineer.

Describe the moment you first discovered and played with WordPress.

My older brother can be blamed for that. Originally I actually studied psychology and economy but neither of these felt exactly something that I wanted to continue with. So the next options I was considering to choose between were photography, choreography, and software development. Well, and then my brother happened to show me some basic HTML and WordPress and that made me decide. He was working mostly with WordPress at that time and gave me some mini-tasks to do on a site of his friend as a favor. So it started. It was 2009.

Why do you think WordPress has maintained such relevance and momentum during its 15 year history when so many other platforms and technologies have come and gone?

One of the key factors is probably the simplicity of starting using WordPress. Anyone can do it. Even not so tech-savvy people can create simple blogs and change templates and maybe modify some CSS. Perhaps the simplicity of using it created a lot of users which created the demand for WordPress developers which resulted in improving the quality of WordPress and forming of a large community with answers to almost any question you might have. Based on my experience and what I’ve seen then the learning WordPress is quite pleasant and stressless. It simple, intuitive, and just works as it is.

What do you think is the biggest risk to WordPress in maintaining its relevance and momentum in the coming years?

Hmm, well, I suppose there are things that could happen, I’m not sure though how likely these are. For example in theory it could be possible that WordPress code grows too big and complex and loses its simplicity, that might give someone else an opportunity to build a newer, better, simpler platform.

Also, in theory it could happen that the plugin/theme developers lose their motivation to create new plugins/themes. For example maybe it’s hard to stand out among all the other plugins, or maybe the development process gets complicated, or maybe for a user it gets too complicated and stressful to find a suitable good quality plugin among tons of similar plugins. If the creation of these would slow down / end, that could theoretically make WordPress lose the momentum and perhaps again give someone else an opportunity to build something better.

There are more possible things that could happen, these were the first two that came to my mind.

Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

I must admit that I’ve probably read the books of Lord of the Rings around 10 times, the last time might have been around 15 years ago. The books of Lord of the Rings were my favorite when I was a kid / teenager. I haven’t seen (all) the movies though.

So I guess it’s Lord of the Rings.

What is your favourite project you’ve worked on with WordPress?

So far my favorite has been in XWP, working on adding AMP support to Gutenberg within the official AMP for WordPress plugin. I has been technically very interesting and challenging, the first time I’ve worked so closely with Gutenberg and also AMP — it has been fun stretching the default behavior of Gutenberg to accommodate custom features and interface! Another important thing that has made the project great has been the team, I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome team! Before XWP I had mainly freelanced or worked in startup with in a tiny teams or alone — I’ve learnt to really appreciate being part of a bigger team.

What do you do to “de-screen” throughout your work day?

I don’t, generally I’m completely “screened” throughout the whole workday! (I do eat lunch AFK.) Sometimes I go running after the workday or play tennis but that’s usually after I’ve already finished for the day. I completely “de-screen” over the weekends and late evenings though.

For someone wanting to level up from a beginner (relevant role type), what tips and guidance would you give them?

When you’re looking for a solution for something that you don’t know how to do and you find it — don’t just copy and paste, learn why and how the solution works.

What is, and can you teach it to me, one of your biggest “aha” moments when learning something new with WordPress development?

That was already a long time ago but at some point I didn’t bother to configure and use debugger when coding. When I finally did it, that was definitely an “aha” moment to realize how helpful that is and how much easier it is to understand WordPress code and how it works with using the debugger.

What’s your IDE/editor, local, tool stack look like?

Before XWP I was using Eclipse IDE + LAMP, very occasionally Docker. Now I’ve been using PHPStorm and depending on the project we’re using Docker / VVV.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading “Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham at this moment — for the second time.

I recently made a calculation to see how much money I’d need to have by a hypothetical retiring age considering living 25 years afterwards and the amount was quite shocking, so I decided to do something about it and not put all my hopes on the government, this book has definitely be super useful.

How would you like to contribute to WordPress in the near future?

Likely Gutenberg — it still needs quite some work to get into shape for the editors and developers being happy with it, so, that seems like a fun and useful thing to do!

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