This year in March, I attended my first ever WordCamp in Mumbai and it was an experience I wish I had, had earlier. It was fab to say the least. Meeting so many people and getting to learn from them was absolutely enriching for me as a business development professional in the WordPress industry.
Joel Bronkowski (Business Development Manager, WooThemes) was one such individual I had the opportunity to meet with and I am glad I did 🙂
My first impression of Joel was that of a down-to-earth guy and it remained that way throughout our conversation. Right from his suggestions to me on business development to his revelation about his love for sports (especially NFL and MLB) he was candid and spoke his heart!
The guy has many feathers in his cap. Many colourful ones at that. Business development is just one amongst them. Apart from that he also is also speaks at WordCamps and likes travelling the world. His love for helping people took him to South Africa where he dedicated a significant amount of his time towards the study and implementation of sustainable development models for underprivileged sections of society.
Ok, I think I have blabbered enough. Now I think it would be best for you to get some bytes from the man himself, Joel Bronkowski!
Tell us something about yourself, and what it is like working with WooThemes.
I am originally from California. I lived at home until I was 23 before taking a year to live in South Africa as a volunteer for a non-profit and have lived there ever since.
WooThemes has had a tremendous impact on my life. It’s provided me the opportunity to meet people all over the world. I love the idea of creating amazing products that help people all over the world. If I ever get discouraged I just have a look at some of the businesses using WooCommerce and get all excited for them.
Being a people’s person, mainly focused on business relationships is not always easy in an organization full of more techie/developers. Being able to work out of WooHQ in Cape Town has helped me with this, though. It’s really nice to be able to share life with my co-workers. Since January this year I’ve been travelling with my wife doing the nomadic thing which has been a big change, I really miss my co-workers and sometimes struggle doing everything online via slack, trello, p2’s..etc.
How does a Post Grad. in Philosophy get into Sales and Marketing? (or should the question be the other way around?)
I always describe my life since I was 16 as a mix of ‘helping people’ and ‘being an entrepreneur’. The golden thread between it all is a quest for doing something of significance and making an impact.
There was a 3-year window where I stepped out of the business world and went to South Africa to work in the nonprofit sector. Following 2 years at the non-profit I did a postgrad degree in Sustainable Development, a very enlightening field and life changing in terms of shaping my worldview (esp as an American studying in Africa). This course led me down some crazy trails, namely studying how poorer communities can lead their own development process. I lived in a slum for one month to do ethnographic research on this particular community.
The truth is, I loved the people and loved learning, but the experience made me realize I do not want to make a profession out of the development sector. Following this experience I launched my own WooCommerce store and got back into sales and marketing – something I had been doing since a young age.
Your business development mantras are?
Create win-wins. The most popular phrase I use is a triple dip where about we can help our users win, partner companies win, and of course, remain profitable while doing so.
I also firmly believe in doing business with like minded people that get it.
To me life is all about people, I do what I do because I genuinely love people and want to make an impact.
What role does the WordPress Community play in business development?
The community is everything to WordPress and WooCommerce. We would not be able to be nearly as successful without the stakeholder ecosystem we’ve built. WooCommerce and WordPress would not be what they are without many people buying into the vision. It’s been really incredible for us to see WooCommerce Meetups take off.
Why are WordCamps important?
WordCamps bring users together and encourage people to help each other. I think what is often not emphasized is that relationships formed at WordCamps bring a feeling to WordPress that is hard to put your fingers on. All you can really say is, it feels good to be part of a community. I think these events mean a lot to a lot of people who might not otherwise have met good company, friends and it helps people feel good about whatever they are doing with WordPress.
How important is volunteering to Joel Bronkowski?
It’s key. Tough to explain but I’ve always felt the most fulfilled when I’ve let go of what I want and helped others. This is not an easy place to get to, I mean tons of people volunteer for the wrong reasons. The purest form of volunteerism is doing things for others out of a place of compassion without telling anyone about it. That’s the kind of stuff I want to be involved with. There is nothing worse for me than people that brag about all they’ve done or given. 🙂
So that was Joel Bronkowski, straight from the heart!
It was a pleasure meeting you Joel. Thank you so much for your time and for doing this interview with me. I do hope we cross paths again. And if we do I’m not letting you go without giving me some WooThemes swag 😉
If you have questions for Joel you can use the comments section. Better still follow him on twitter!