Chris Wiegman is currently a software engineer at WP Engine working on developer tools to support the WP Engine user base as well as WordPress, PHP and other web developers.
Chris grew up primarily in Chicago and after high school thought he could make it as a musician (among other things). Fortunately, at least for Chris, those were in the days of the Y2K scare and he quickly realized he could make more money in Information Technology than in music so he left college after a semester and decided to try the IT world.
While a career in IT brought plenty of money it didn’t hold much else in the way of attraction. It turns out fixing other peoples’ computers just isn’t much fun. After his son was born about a year later he decided it was time to pursue a career in something he loved so he enrolled in the Aviation Program at Southern Illinois University (SIU) and relegated IT to no more than fixing computers at the airport as a student worker.
Fast forward to the Great Recession and, after flying private jets and nearly anything else with wings Chris was working as a captain for a small airline in Hawaii with SIU called to see if he wanted his old tech support job full-time. It paid about what a captain made in those days (next to nothing) and offered him the ability to get a master’s degree in Computer Science for free so over the next five years he moved back to Carbondale, IL, got married and made a transition back to technology with one difference. This time, instead of fixing other peoples’ computers he was writing code to build solutions to bigger problems than a crashing application.
It was at SIU that Chris discovered WordPress as a solution to make it easy for various people and groups in the Aviation department to create their own websites. To help protect those sites, as so many others on campus were being hacked, he also started Better WP Security around this time to protect both his own sites and the Aviation websites from the biggest threats they would face, their own users (it’s true that the “Away mode” feature in the plugin was actually built to stop student workers from posting about parties and other things they shouldn’t have been after hours).
After college Chris and his wife, Joy, moved to Austin, TX and quickly got involved with the Austin WordPress community while watching Better WP Security go viral in the WordPress world. A few years, and a few jobs, later he realized that Better WP Security had reached what he could do with it on his own so he sold it to iThemes where it became iThemes Security.
Chris continued to work on iThemes Security until 2015 when he moved to Florida and joined 10up. In 2016 he returned to his roots in Higher Education by joining the team at UF Health where he worked on their two large WordPress networks for hospitals, colleges, clinics and various other units in the UF Health system. Finally, Chris moved from UF Health to WP Engine in September 2018 to help better support WordPress and other developers with workflow and other improved developer tools.
While only having been officially employed as a developer since 2012 Chris has lucked out, if you will, by getting to work with some of the best and brightest in the WordPress and Higher Education spaces. Today he is considered an expert in WordPress plugin development, security, WordPress site performance and the technologies and techniques needed to succeed as a modern web developer.
When not writing code, Chris and his wife enjoy getting out to the beach near their home as well as traveling, writing and reading as much as possible. This year alone you might seem him at various conferences around the country or even hear him passing overhead with a student in a small airplane.
Michele: How did you get involved with WordPress?
Chris: While at SIU I got into WordPress as a solution to providing sites to our faculty, student groups and other stake holders. Originally I thought of it as a simpler and complimentary system to work alongside our Drupal sites but as time went on it’s abilities shined through and it eventually became the sole system I worked with.rcross: On accident, really, since I had a full time job in the finance industry at the time. I had built a server at my house with an old desktop, and had to install something on it. It took a bit to get WordPress to run (this was a Windows server in 2006) but a friend had a small site he needed hosted so I assumed I could figure it out.
Michele: Please tell me one story of someone who has inspired you within the WordPress Community?
Chris: There are so many here that naming one is nearly impossible but I would say I’m constantly inspired by folks like yourself (Michele Butcher-Jones) who have overcome so much to be where you’re at with the help of WordPress and its various communities.
Michele: What does the Open Source Community mean to you?
Chris: Democracy and shared goals are, to me, the key components of the open source community. The ability for a wide range of folks to work together to, in some cases, change the world is really unparalleled in technology.
Michele: Please name some of your favorite plugins.
Chris: Pods Framework, SearchWP, Gravity Forms, Jetpack, Yoast SEO
Michele: Name a favorite theme or framework you like to use.
Chris: My current site is on Underscores but I’m also a big fan of Genesis
Michele: If you could change one thing in WordPress, what would it be?
Chris: Replace the organizational structure with a board of directors made up by a more diverse group of WordPress users and companies.
Michele: What is your most memorable WordPress moment?
Chris: When my plugin, Better WP Security, first crossed 1 million downloads.
Michele: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone just getting started with WordPress?
Chris: Don’t be afraid to pursue your own goals and remember WordPress is just one tool of many to get you to those goals.
Michele: What do you think is in store for the future of WordPress?
Chris: Like any project it will continue to evolve and change. As long as there is no real competition it will continue to thrive with an ecosystem that really can’t be topped.
Michele: Just for fun, share one memory that makes you proud to be a part of the WordPress Community?
Chris: While I’ve seen it a few times it’s the ability of the WordPress communities to take care of their own. From friends like Jesse Petersen and Jeff Chandler to countless others I’ve watched people in WordPress be there from the beginning to the end in ways that go far deeper than any job or club. I’ve seen Jeff, for example, be there for people who really need help and then turn around and introduce himself to me with the opening line “so you’re that asshole…” Not many places or people could manage that.
You can find Chris Wiegman online at ChrisWiegman.com.
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