A way to escape chronic pain and give a sense of independence, is what using WordPress means for Italian-American Allison Dye. Now as a project manager and social media content manager living in North Carolina, USA, she uses the software in her work and in disability-advocacy.
The People of WordPress series shares inspiring stories of how people’s lives can change for the better through WordPress and its global community of contributors.
Allison was first introduced to WordPress when she was 13 years old. Her parents gave her own WordPress website to use, play, test, and try whatever she wanted with it. Her health issues had started when she was eight years old, and being able to express who she was and learn new skills provided an escape she needed.
My first encounter with WordPress
Allison said: “While the technical aspects of my new WordPress website intrigued me, I was more interested in the space it made for me to write. All throughout my childhood I had struggled with chronic pain, fatigue, and other unexplained symptoms. Having a private world I could call my own, I was able to write my story.”
“There is something truly amazing about having a place to tell your story.”
Her family faced many doctors, nurse, specialists and hospital visits, but could not get an answer to the difficulties faced by Allison. She said: “I felt like my life and world were out of control. But logging onto my little website and typing away on the computer keys gave me a sense of control. I couldn’t always do things that other kids had the energy to do. But I could get lost in writing for hours. I couldn’t control my life story, but I could write about it.”
She felt it was like writing letters to her future self and would act as a reminder of how strong she had become. Even now when Allison writes on her website, she feels it is writing letters to her past self, expressing reassurance and pride. The practice of writing online continues to help her reflect on how she coped and made it through the difficulties.
WordPress in the real world
Allison hoped her early experiences with hospitals and being unwell was just part of being a child, and that in adulthood she would be healthy. She longed for this time.
Growing up did not bring her this dream of a healthier life and an end to chronic pain. In fact, her condition worsened as she went through her teens and at 18 she finally received a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
This changed what had been conventional job choices, as she was not able to handle a 9 to 5 work schedule. She could not drive herself to work on some days and relied on her mother to help with transport. She knew that she would have to find another way to work and she was determined to find it.
She began writing music and book reviews online, and then moved onto writing blog posts. As they were published she started to receive payment and a sense of power over her life. She said: “WordPress felt familiar, typing on the computer keys felt comfortable, and sharing my words with the world felt surreal.”
Allison’s sense of ownership of the software became part of her strength. “I think I believed WordPress was mine somehow. I was learning that WordPress is something that belongs to everyone in some way. And I loved it.”
Finding work with WordPress
The confidence using the platform gave Allison led her to find more about what it could do and meet other people who used it. She said: “The thing I love about WordPress is that it’s not just for developers or bloggers or SEO experts. I began to meet more people in the community and was delighted to find people like me, who didn’t know the technical stuff, but were a part of WordPress.”
This global community orbiting around the software gave her an opportunity to meet social media managers, designers, and people from many different areas. She found that ‘there was a place for everyone’. The guiding strength and fascination Allison found and still finds today is in that community. Allison said: “The community felt as important as the rest of everything that makes WordPress what it is. It felt like it was about people and relationships as well as codes and databases.”
In 2020, she was hired by a WordPress company. She said: “I like being a part of a WordPress company, and I love that I contribute to a team that helps people with their websites. I understand the importance of having a space that’s yours. Whether it’s a business or personal site, having a website gives you the power of telling your own story.”
WordPress gave Allison a freedom and an independence. She did not have to work a 9 to 5 job, rely on others to drive her on bad days with her MS, nor worry about days when she wanted to stay in her sweatshirts rather than go into an office to work. She said: “I have a 100% remote job which I can do despite the plot twists in my story, thanks to WordPress and the people in it.”
WordPress took Allison into the world of project management for a small agency, and this experience was to help guide her path, skills and confidence into the future. She went on to work in content management in WordPress, building pages for awareness campaigns for non profit organizations and small businesses as a contractor. She helps people update their websites, add and edit content, perform basic updates and help them to learn how to use their sites.
“I tell all my clients to use WordPress because there is really no other solution that can scale as easily for growing organizations and small businesses. I love how WordPress allows them to tell their stories, share their passion, and have a place to call their own on the internet.”
As a fluent English and Italian speaker, Allison is able to support clients in different countries from where she lives. “I love that with WordPress I’m able to support clients remotely. This is thanks to all of the many WordPress contributors, developers, project managers, content writers, and many, many volunteers that work tirelessly to enable people around the world to use WordPress.”
Allison also became a certified as an English As A Second Language (ESL) teacher. “My affinity for words and languages allows me to teach passionately and creatively. I’m Italian-American and am fluent in English and Italian. Teaching English allows me to share my passion for communication with others.”
Welcomed into the WordPress community
Allison attributes mentors and supporters in the WordPress community for helping her appreciate she really is part of it. Allison recalled: “It felt unreal. I wasn’t a dev, I don’t know how to code, and yet I got to be a part of it all? I felt like I was a fake. But Kimberly continues to remind me that I’m real, I get to be here, I get to stay, I have a place.”
She was later encouraged to contribute by a WordPress community member to the Big Orange Heart, which aims to support and promote positive well-being and mental health within remote working communities. She said she felt ‘honored typing my words, pieces of my story, and sharing them with a community of people’.
She also joined the WordCamp US 2021 online organizing team.
Allison enjoys the fact that in the WordPress community, ‘everyone here is constantly working to be better and do better’.
Facing the future with strength from her friends and colleagues in WordPress
Allison was later diagnosed with two additional neurological conditions: Functional Neurological Disorder and Migraine. She said: “If it were not for WordPress I would really be unable to work. But WordPress and its community continue to be a part of my life and I am grateful to everyone who’s helped me along my way. I don’t know where I would even be without it.”
She strives to raise awareness of dynamic disabilities and invisible illnesses like her own through podcasts and social media. She feels that her WordPress friends have helped her both in her professional life and in her wish to be an advocate for others with disabilities too.
Allison hopes reading of her experience will help others who are worried about not progressing in a WordPress career due to health concerns.
“I hope that it will remind anyone reading this that WordPress is a space for everyone. Healthy or not, developer or not, blogger or not — WordPress belongs to you too.”
Share the stories
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series.
Thanks to Allie Dye (@allisondye) for sharing about her adventures in WordPress.
Props to Abha Thakor (@webcommsat) and the late Surendra Thakor (@sthakor) for interviews and writing the feature, Meher Bala (@meher) for work on images, and to Meher, Maja Loncan (@mloncar) and Chloe Bringmann (@cbringmann) for reviews.
This People of WordPress feature is inspired by an essay originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. It highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories might otherwise go unheard. #HeroPress