Alexandra Draghici talks about the benefits of public speaking, to her past experiences – good and bad

Alexandra Draghici speaking at WordCamp Europe 2017 in Paris (Photo by Steve Blythe)

Alexandra Draghici comes from Romania where she works as a product manager for 123ContactForm — the creators of very popular plugin for building forms in WordPress — CaptainForm. I met Alexandra for the first time in Vienna on last year’s WordCamp Europe and once more on WordCamp Belfast where she gave a talk about the user interface messages we commonly see and interact with. Her talk in Zagreb will be different than most of the previous ones, as she will be speaking about her personal WordPress experience in a story you shouldn’t miss. Today we’re talking with Alexandra about some of these experiences.

Alexandra, this is not your first time in Croatia for a WordCamp. You were with us last year in Split, although not as a speaker – something that we’re changing this year. Can you tell us more about yourself?

Firstly, thank you for the awesome WordPress community that you are helping build and maintain in Croatia. The reason we are attending this year’s WordCamp is the great experience that we had last year. We clicked with many of the attendees and we are thankful to have met you guys, the passionate professionals who still find the time to organize WordCamps – and to do it very well.

About myself, I am a Product Manager at 123ContactForm, a Software as a Service form & survey builder that has been on the market for almost 10 years. Besides our core product, we have different products derived for specific markets, from WordPress to Wix and Weebly. I am in charge of our WordPress product, CaptainForm, of our Salesforce product, 123FormBuilder, and I am currently taking on our Enterprise vertical. WordPress and Salesforce are at extremes, from a market and user typology point of view, which makes things quite interesting for me, with no day being like the other.

I have a six years history with 123ContactForm and I took on various roles over the course of time, from support to project management. Apart from that, I used to be an English teacher and afterwards built a website for Romanian learners of English, which is still the most popular website of this type in my home country, although I don’t have time to manage it or to produce new content anymore. I also used to build websites as a freelancer until I realized that I don’t have the courage it takes to be a good freelancer (more about this in my talk).

When I’m not working, I’m taking on various projects and activities that are more or less lucrative.. usually less 🙂 I’ve recently started building furniture items with my better half.

The benefits of speaking can be huge

You spoke on many WordCamps including WordCamp Europe in Paris this year. What are the benefits of speaking? How did you feel stepping on this big WordCamp Europe stage?

The benefits of speaking are quite varied and I would encourage anybody who has ever thought about doing it to actually do it. For a start, you get to know a lot of people. After you get off the stage, people approach you to exchange thoughts and that usually goes on for an hour or more and then the entire evening. So speaking is a very efficient way to meet like-minded people quickly.

Then, you get to know yourself better. I used to have trouble watching my talks, but now I’m eager to watch them and see what I can improve. For example, people usually can’t tell I am nervous, but I am – and I camouflage my nervousness behind a teacher-like tone. Not on purpose, but that’s how it goes for me. I don’t like that, so I’m trying to change it and to get my message across in a smoother way.

Another benefit of speaking is that introverts get to validate the fact that being an introvert is simply a trait and not something to be ashamed of. When you’re on the stage, you don’t need to be pushy or try to speak the loudest – you just need to tell your story. And the feedback will show you that your story is valuable. So the benefits of speaking go at different levels, and there are a lot more than these.

About the stage at WordCamp Europe, the self-sabotaging part in me was hoping that people will not show up, but they did. In the end, I was actually less nervous than usual because the lights were dimmed and I couldn’t see their faces 🙂

The most important aspect of visiting a WordCamp is saying “Hi” to strangers

CaptainForm at WordCamp Split 2016

I know that you’ve been quite active, travelling to a lot of WordCamps. What’s the most important aspect of visiting a WordCamp?

Yes, we have tried to cover many WordCamps in the past year, to get engaged face to face with the community. Personally, I will be taking a break soon, as this takes its toll. But we will be preparing other people to continue what we started.

I think that the most important aspect of visiting a WordCamp, from the attendee perspective, is to say “Hi!” to strangers. WordCamps are very safe environments to meet new people. I think that the talks are not the primary reason to visit a WordCamp. The primary reason is meeting people who use WordPress in some way.

The benefits of doing this could be the subject of an essay. To mention just a few that pop into my head now:

  • You get quick and honest feedback on projects you are working on.
  • You get a lot of ideas about how you can make your work better.
  • You expand your network of contacts with people whom you could really collaborate with in the future.
  • Your “how to”-questions that remained unanswered online will find a pertinent answer.
  • You learn the fastest about what is trending and what is upcoming in the WordPress world.

Worst and best moments

You are handling product development at Captain Form, one of the most popular WordPress form builders in the world. In your talk “My WordPress Story” you will talk not only about that but your journey too. As with every voyage, you had your ups and downs. Can you tell us what the best and worst moments of this trip you’ve taken are?

One of the worst moments was when I built a website for a town hall in France. The experience in itself was OK, but they had complicated procedures for paying their bills. I was young and pretty much out of money, with the rent waiting to be paid. It went on for weeks. When the payment finally arrived, I paid my dues and I bought a better computer 🙂

One of the best moments was when CaptainForm came up on our roadmap. I got the opportunity to work with WordPress at my day job, which was somewhat unexpected. I was very much familiar with WordPress and actually missed working with it. The fact that I got to put my WordPress knowledge to good use at my day job made me very happy.

Any final words?

I’m very much looking forward to meeting you all in Zagreb. I’m sure it will be an awesome WordCamp, so do your best to be there 🙂

Did you get your ticket?

If you haven’t already, get your ticket for WordCamp Zagreb today. Tickets are priced at 20€ (around 150 HRK) which will give you entrance to the conference, (first) access to workshops on Friday and to Contributor day on Sunday. You will also get the drinks, lunch, incredible t-shirt and other cool swag from our sponsors.

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