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Why I attend WCEU: A journey through the years

HM Account Director Ant Miller is a veteran WordCamp attendee (and emcee!), but what is it that keeps him coming back for more? Ant’s diving in to all the reasons why WordCamps, and WCEU in particular, are the gifts that keep on giving…

WCEU 2024 is coming up fast in the fabulous city of Turin in northern Italy, and I’m just fizzing with excitement. But what is it that sets me and so many others in the WordPress world buzzing with the imminent congregation of the community? It’s the idea that every time I go, it’s like going back to where we left off last time, and continuing on a journey together. It’s a parallel time loop of exploration, creativity, and friendship. So, come with me now to retrace the steps we’ve taken, and let’s see if we can imagine what’s in store…

Seville WCEU 2015

I was just a few weeks into my role at Human Made, my first in the WordPress industry, when WCEU 2015 rolled around. It was my first WordCamp, and I was still trying to wrap my head around what WordPress truly is—not just the software or its architecture, but its nature as an institution, a constellation of commercial, open-source, and conceptual entities with intricate interdependencies.

Audience in a conference room at WCEU Seville 2015

It was also my first opportunity to meet my colleagues in person. For remote teams like ours, WordCamps are central to the social fabric of our company. These events reinforce company culture and foster good working relationships. To expedite my understanding of the industry and my company, I took some audio recording gear to start conversations. Podcasting was a great way to ask questions, and the recordings ended up on my website.

Vienna WCEU 2016

Vienna was my first attempt at emceeing—a daunting prospect with Matt Mullenweg as my first speaker, interviewed by Brian Krogsgard in front of 1,200 people (plus thousands online). Despite my nerves, the room was a delight, the talks fascinating, and it turned out to be one of the most exciting afternoons of my life.

Petya Raykovska on stage at WCEU Vienna 2016
My awesome colleague Petya at Vienna in another superb Florian Ziegler shot

Emceeing takes a surprising amount of energy and attention, limiting my capacity for networking outside my slot. However, it allowed me to introduce myself to everyone quickly and have intense conversations with the speakers beforehand to ensure their talks were well contextualised for the audience.

Unfortunately, Vienna was overshadowed by the Brexit vote. The impact on our progressive, forward-thinking, collaborative international community was profound. There were tears and real anguish, a stark contrast to the spirit of cooperation beyond borders that the WordPress community represents.

Paris WCEU 2017

I emceed again in Paris, and for the first time, we at Human Made didn’t schedule our annual company retreat around the event. Despite this, there were probably just as many Human Made people in Paris as in Seville two years earlier.

Stage and audience at WCEU Paris 2017 during a thank you address to the 45 organisers of the event.
Image by Mark Smallman, lifted from site of WCEU 2017 organiser and erstwhile colleague of mine at Human Made, Jenny Beaumont

Paris was a superb event for community building. At the speakers’ dinner, I reconnected with many people dealing with the same issues we face in delivering enterprise WordPress experiences. The sheer scale of WCEU enables ‘enterprisey’ conversations that require a critical mass of WP professionals in one place.

WordCamps are also excellent for meeting potential hires. Paris will always be tinged with the potential of one hire we concluded soon afterward—a good hire indeed.

Belgrade WCEU 2018

As I prepared to fly to Belgrade, the adventure felt different again. I was emceeing (introducing a Human Made partner), looking at hiring possibilities, and exploring the ‘mood music’ around WordPress’s enterprise ambitions. The podcasts in Seville had been a great way to engage with people, so I brought the recorder again.

With fewer Human Made staff attending, it was another opportunity to reforge bonds, trust, and friendship.

Berlin WCEU 2019

In Berlin, for the first time, I neither presented nor emceed. This change allowed me to focus on a different aspect of the event: hosting clients and discussing partnerships. Without the responsibilities of emceeing, I could dive deeper into meaningful conversations with clients and explore potential collaborations. This shift in focus was refreshing and provided a different perspective on the value of WCEU.

Porto WCEU 2022

After leaving Human Made at the start of 2022 and joining Maksimer, an e-commerce agency, I attended WCEU in Porto. The community as a whole was just coming out of the pandemic, and Human Made were off to their retreat the week after, so very sensibly no one from HM attended. I did however, as I was now at a different agency.

Matt Mullenweg and Josepha Haden-Chomphosy on stage at WCEU 2022
Matt M and Josepha H-C back on stage was emblematic of the reconnection of the community that WCEU 2022 represented. Photo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Alice Bertran

This event marked a significant transition in my career, as I was now part of a different company with new perspectives and goals. There is a place for all of us as individuals in the WordPress community. It hadn’t really been real for me before – I had seen my presence as being as a representative of HM, but for the first time I realised I have a place in the community in my own right. I emceed a fantastic set of speakers, and once again established friendships I still cherish with experts in design and accessibility and development.

Bangkok WCAsia 2023

In 2023, I joined Crowd Favorite and had the chance to attend WCAsia in Bangkok. This was a huge new event – immediately vaulting to the scale of a full blown WCEU from a standing start. The event was amazing—big, vibrant, and full of energy. 

It was a testament to the growing influence of WordPress in Asia, and it was exciting to see the community’s enthusiasm and innovation firsthand, and it was also great to see a specific enterprise strand of the community coming together and starting to run dedicated events and have very focussed discussions.

Panel discussion at WCAsia. Human Made moderator Petya Raykovska, and panelists Karim Marucchi, Noel Tock, Miriam Schwab, and Myles Lagolago Craig.
Panel dicussion. From left, Human Made moderator Petya Raykovska, and panelists Karim Marucchi, Noel Tock, Miriam Schwab, and Myles Lagolago Craig.

Turin WCEU 2024

Though I missed WCEU 2023 (I had been booked to speak), I am looking forward to WCEU 2024 in Turin. Each WordCamp Europe is a unique experience, a parallel reality that brings us all together, detached from everyday life yet intensely meaningful. It’s like a parallel universe we slip into every year, waking up the morning after the end of the last one, ready to embrace new challenges and opportunities.

As I pack my bags for Turin, I am filled with anticipation for the new connections, the insightful sessions, and the serendipitous encounters that make WCEU such a special event. Whether it’s catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, or diving deep into discussions about the future of WordPress, WCEU is where it all happens. See you in Turin!

Want to connect with Ant or the Human Made team at WCEU this year? Reach out to schedule a coffee!