#112 – Miriam Schwab on Balancing WordPress Success and Family Life



[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley. Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress, the people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, balancing WordPress success and family life.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice, or by going to WPTavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast, and you can copy that URL in to most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully get you, or your idea featured on the show. Head over to WP Tavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox and use the form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Miriam Schwab.

Miriam co-founded Strattic to enable WordPress websites to be more secure and performance. After Elementor or acquired Strattic, Miriam continued leading the unit before becoming head of WordPress relations. Previously Miriam founded and managed a WordPress development agency in Israel. With over 15 years of experience, she’s a respected member of the WordPress community and a renowned speaker.

In today’s episode we discuss Miriam’s life. It’s a departure for this podcast, which usually focuses upon the code, the plugins, and the community.

The idea came out of a talk which Miriam presented at WordCamp Asia this year. In this talk, Miriam outlined how she carved out a successful career in the world of WordPress whilst also being the mother of seven children. And it’s fascinating.

She openly shares her story as a way of empowering others in the WordPress space. Her journey goes from content writer to startup founder, and ultimately to the important role she now has at Elementor. The episode paints a picture of Miriam’s drive, perseverance and adaptability.

We talk about the shifts in Miriam’s career from the decision to sell Strattic, to the challenges she faced when transitioning to a more structured environment at Elementor. Her experiences underscore the importance of finding one’s footing amidst rapid organizational growth. Something Elementor continues to experience, even in the face of emerging tools like Gutenberg.

We also talk about the fabric of the WordPress community. A fundamental aspect of Miriam’s professional life. The generosity and collaborative spirit of fellow WordPress enthusiastic have been crucial to her success, leading to lifelong friendships and a supportive network that thrives even amidst competition.

We also get into how Miriam manages to maintain her productivity, and talk about the specific tool she has adopted such as Jira, Text Expander and Notion. How she uses them and why she likes them.

This episode is a fantastic discussion, with a tenacious person who was not just found balance, but has also flourished.

If you’re interested in hearing how one person has managed the stresses and strains of an incredibly busy life, this episode is for you.

If you want to find out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading to WPTavern.com forward slash podcast. Where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

A quick note, before we begin. This was recorded live at WordCamp Asia. There was quite a lot of background noise to contend with, and I’ve done my best to make the audio as easy to listen to as possible.

And so without further delay, I bring you Miriam Schwab.

I am joined on the podcast today by Miriam Schwab. Hello.

[00:04:10] Miriam Schwab: Hello.

[00:04:11] Nathan Wrigley: Very nice to have you with us. We’re going to talk today about, well, something entirely different. We’re going to talk about you, and your actual life. We might get into WordPress a bit. But you did a talk at WordCamp Asia, which is where we are at the moment, and it was about your life, and how busy you are, and the ways that you cope, and all of that. Will you just tell us a little bit about the presentation that you gave this morning?

[00:04:35] Miriam Schwab: This was an unusual talk for me to give, because mostly my talks are pretty practical and technical, and I actually tried to stay away from talking about my private life. Makes me a bit uncomfortable, and I’m not sure how much people want to know. And also, you know, it’s sharing private aspects that I’m just not used to sharing so much.

But I submitted this talk, and I actually had forgotten that I submitted this topic, until they wrote to me and they’re like, your talk has been accepted. How I built my WordPress career while raising seven children. I was like, oh my gosh, I actually submitted that. Because it was like, there’s some time gap between it.

The reason I submitted it is because, for a while, people have been saying to me that I should share my story because it’s unique, slash weird. And I thought, okay, you know what, maybe it’s time. And also, my hope was that the talk would be helpful to people, and so I spoke about that.

[00:05:21] Nathan Wrigley: So tell us a little bit about your life. What makes your life so, well, complicated? You are going to have to get into the family, and all sorts, aren’t you? So hopefully you’re comfortable covering that.

But you’ve got an incredibly busy life. A very large family. We can get into that a little bit. You’ve got a very busy career. In fact, you’ve had many different hats that you’ve worn over the years. Let’s just start with the family. You’ve got seven children? And I imagine for most people, just the idea of one or two children is probably about as much as they can cope with. Seven, I’m guessing it kept you very, very busy. Are they all grown up now?

[00:05:56] Miriam Schwab: So my oldest is 25, and my youngest is 11. And then, you know, all sorts of ranges of ages in between. So I don’t have babies anymore. It’s a different stage. But at every stage it’s like a different type of need. It gets easier, at least it gets less physically demanding in terms of, now I mostly can sleep. That’s exciting. You know, I’m not changing diapers, and like I don’t have to bathe my kids, and all that kind of stuff. And they can pretty often make their own food, and so a lot of that has been reduced. Or even do their own laundries. How awesome is that.

My two oldest actually just got engaged. Dealing with all of that, and that’s a whole thing. It’s two productions, two events, two new families to be connected with, you know? And thank god, I’m very happy about it. So everything has its, every stage has its thing.

[00:06:34] Nathan Wrigley: It paints a picture, like I said, if you know anything about raising a family, you’ll have an intuition that seven will keep you incredibly busy. But obviously that’s just one component of your life. You’ve had a really, really interesting career path, through the WordPress space. So just tell us about the different projects that you’ve launched, because I think, if you tell us about Strattic, and all of the different projects, we’ll get another idea of the difficulty, if you like, and how busy you’ve been.

[00:07:01] Miriam Schwab: I got into the WordPress space about 17 years ago, when I was looking for more flexibility in my work life. And I, at the time, had four kids. I had three kids, and then when my fourth was born, I quit my job that I was working at the time, because I needed to be able to be with my kids, and be there for my kids, without feeling bad about not being at work, or in an office or something.

And at first I wrote content and copy, but it was for companies that were putting it on websites. And then I realised the website aspects of it interested me much more. And I started exploring that, and I decided open source spoke to me more, and I checked out three main options at the time, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, and I really loved WordPress.

And so I started offering it as a service. First, you know, just me. And at the time it wasn’t really a CMS yet, so it was like blogs for companies that wanted to start having blogs, because that was like a big thing. And then that eventually, with time, grew into an agency. And we were building full custom web solutions for companies, and large nonprofits, and organisations.

Yeah, so WordPress enabled me to continue to develop myself professionally, learn a lot. Because, you know, when you’re building a WordPress business, you’re learning, not just WordPress, you’re learning about hosting, server management, security, and also business, everything around that. Sales, marketing, accounting, cashflow management, like whatever, all that stuff, billing contracts. And I loved learning all of that.

But I was able to do it kind of on my own terms, so that I could have that flexibility for my kids. So that was company number one. Then after doing that for like 13 years, I came up with the idea for Strattic. After 13 years working with WordPress, I knew the benefits of WordPress, which are many.

But also, the industry was kind of suffering from issues around security, scalability, performance. And I encountered this new trend, static site generation. And I was like, oh my gosh, if we can generate WordPress sites as static sites, you get all the benefits of WordPress, and the powerful CMS. And sites that are fully scalable, you know, highly secure because there’s no tech surface, and just really fast.

So I started working on Strattic, building out the product, sold my agency. And yeah, and then Strattic was a whole new journey, and it was a venture backed startup, raising funding, and the whole thing. And did that until it was acquired by Elementor in June of 2022, and that’s where I’ve been since then. So that’s quite a few.

[00:09:10] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, there’s lot in there, isn’t there? But so, we’ve got the family life, which is very, very, busy. You’ve got the work life, which is very, very busy. Do you feel that you got into it at just the right time? Was it kind of like the perfect thing, WordPress at that moment? Because you could, I’m going to guess there was a bit of late evening work, and that kind of thing. Where you could fit your family life around all the different moving parts of the business. Did WordPress and, you know, building websites, and building up that agency, was there some overlap there with family, and the kind of remote, if you like, distributed sort of nature of the work that you could do?

[00:09:40] Miriam Schwab: It really supported my family life. I don’t mean economically, but that as well. But now there’s more remote options. But in those days, remote work wasn’t really a thing so much. Maybe Automattic was already doing it, I’m not sure, but nobody else. So it wasn’t an option. You either worked in an office, or you didn’t work, more or less. And so embarking on a journey with WordPress meant that I could work when it was good for me.

It’s not like I didn’t work because of this, it just meant that I could work at night, or early morning or, you know, whatever, off times, and catch up with things. Because instead of having to be pressured to work in a certain window of hours, and that just worked. That worked really well for me.

I think, also in the other direction, I got into WordPress at a good time, because I started learning it before it became a CMS, so I was already there. And I already like was creating reputation as a WordPress person. And then when it became CMS, and companies started to turn around and go, wait, our proprietary CMS is, we can’t do anything with them, they’re too limiting, cost a fortune. They start to look to move to WordPress, and I was well positioned for that. So that was also good timing.

[00:10:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that’s nice. Did you find that the community, the people in the WordPress space, were they a crutch that you could rely on? I mean, we always talk about the WordPress community, and I know for a fact that you are deeply embedded in the community. So I’m anticipating the answer here.

But let’s imagine that you’d have done a similar business, but not with open source, with some, I don’t know, corporate kind of thing. I get the feeling life would’ve been a little bit harder. I’m getting the feeling that the community may have helped you, but I’m not trying to put words into your mouth, but just talk about that.

[00:11:09] Miriam Schwab: So in the earlier years of being part of the WordPress community, I really enjoyed being in touch with people online. And the way I benefitted was that WordPress has a strong culture of sharing. Sharing knowledge, sharing learnings, which I was inspired by. And as I started learning about WordPress, I actually started a blog at the time, and I would just write posts about everything I learned, which also helped other people. So it was kind of like paying it forward. I benefitted a lot from that.

I only was able to meet up with people face-to-face, for the first time, at the first WordCamp Europe. It worked out for me to go, and it was life changing, I think, in some ways, which is funny to say. It wasn’t the size of the conferences now. It was, I think a couple hundred people, and it was in Leiden in the Netherlands.

But I got to meet people that I’d been in touch with online, but for real, and there’s something about that connection that’s different. Then I really became close to people in the community. And it’s just, being part of an industry that’s friendly, to me was really important. Well, I didn’t know that, but now I see. It’s really nice. People are supportive, and friendly and like, yeah, we might compete with each other, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.

I loved introducing, for example, the co-founder, CTO of Elementor to Robbie from Beaver Builder. They had never met, and they were both thrilled to meet each other. And they’re page builders that compete with each other, but that’s okay. This just suits my nature more than being in a, like a cold, corporate type of environment. That wouldn’t work for me.

[00:12:24] Nathan Wrigley: You just used the word close when you were talking about these people, these colleagues, these people in the community. Do you have actual friendships based upon the software? You know, you’ve been to these events and, do you consider them to be your actual friends?

[00:12:37] Miriam Schwab: So there are some people that I would definitely consider to be my friends, I’m in touch with on an ongoing basis. And, yeah, definitely my friends. And then there’s a lot of people who, you know, we’re in touch a little bit, but then when we see each other it’s like, you know, we never stopped being in touch. So if we meet up at WordCamps, then it’s just like picking up again. And it’s a different kind of friendship, but I also consider them my friends. I just really love the people in the community, they’re so nice.

[00:12:57] Nathan Wrigley: You always seem to be very positive. Very effervescent. There’s always a very nice energy coming from you. But I’m guessing that, given everything that we’ve talked about, you know, beginning an agency, starting a new company, learning all of that with the family in the background all the while. I’m guessing it’s not always been easy. I’m guessing that maybe there’s moments where it wasn’t quite so rosy. Tell us a little bit about that. Tell us some of the struggles over the last decade.

[00:13:20] Miriam Schwab: So i’ve definitely had struggles, definitely. Running businesses is hard and stressful. There’s certain things that have kept me going. So first of all, I think almost any founder has to be somewhat unrealistically optimistic. I think you just always have to be like, well, that’s going to work out. I don’t know, there’s something about it. Otherwise you can’t keep going. So I’m just generally optimistic.

Also I think I’ve learned through the years, okay, so that’s not going to work. But like, figuring out ways to circumvent an issue, or take a different path. Which to me is also like interesting and exciting, because then you get to like rethink things. So that’s one thing, I’m realistically optimistic.

And the other thing that has kept me going is working with really great people. So I’ve been fortunate, in the agency and at Strattic, working with people. I can’t say when people say that employees or team is a family, it’s not. It’s not, because in the end it’s a business. But we became really close at Strattic, and we really care about each other. We make each other laugh a lot. Like, they’re hilarious people. It’s almost like we’re competing to see who can make each other laugh more.

And even since we’ve been acquired by Elementor, and the team is doing, not always the same things anymore, we still will meet up for lunch together, and things like that. So working with good people. My family, my parents, you know, my siblings have always been very supportive. So that means a lot when I’m going through hard times. And then my own personal community. I live in a really nice community, and so I’m there for people when they need it, and people are here for me when I need it. And so it’s about having, just really good people around you.

[00:14:39] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah.

[00:14:39] Miriam Schwab: I think that helps. And sometimes I just literally just pray. I’m like, oh my gosh, what’s going to be? All right, time to pray. I know that’s not going to, a lot of people aren’t going to really be able to relate to that. But I do think that a lot of things are out of our hands. Like, we can work really hard, and we can try really hard, and then in the end, things go one way or another, and that’s out of our control. So that’s where I pray.

[00:14:56] Nathan Wrigley: I wrote down a question, which I think is an interesting one. And it was about just the capacity to cope. And everything that you’ve described, I don’t think I could have lived through what you’ve been through, and come out the other side successfully. I think it would’ve been a bit of a disaster. I’m imagining all the plates spinning, and probably most of them shattered on the floor. Do you think that there’s just something about you, your nature, if you like, or the way you were raised or whatever, that allows you to cope?

Because there must have been times where everything was happening all at once. And, you know, I’ve got no time for me. Where’s Miriam time? Do you think about yourself in that way? You said you are optimistic, but it must go a little bit further than that.

[00:15:36] Miriam Schwab: The way I describe my, these two aspects of my life, the career, and the personal, in my talk now, is I took both to the extremes. I did. Seven kids and two businesses. I don’t know why I am like that, I need to be living at the edge. And I’ve told my kids this because they can’t believe it, but before I got married and started having kids, my nature is actually lazy. That doesn’t seem like it aligns with where I am today.

But my nature is lazy, and I think I always felt like I needed to push myself more to not be lazy. So like to make sure that I didn’t have a chance to just do something unproductive. When you have kids, and work, and all that stuff, you don’t have time.

But I always made time for myself, when I felt like I needed. If I felt like things were be coming too much, I would say no. I would take a break. At a few points, I did something which now people call like a workcation, where I would go to Tel Aviv, stay in a hotel on the beach for like a day or two, work there, maybe not as intensely, and go to sit by the sea. So just to recharge when I felt it.

So I was able to identify when I was going too far. I will give credit to my family, in that I come from a, I’m probably the first generation in a long time, that is properly working as a woman. You know, my mother, my aunts, they were stay at-home moms, which is important. But, you know, they didn’t have professions outside the home. But I come from a family of very opinionated, strong women, including my grandmother, both my grandmothers actually. Very strong, have gone through a lot, always keep a good attitude, always loving and, I must be inspired by them.

[00:16:54] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I mean, from everything that we’ve talked about already, and we’ll get into how you actually managed it, on a sort of nitty gritty way. It does seem like you’ve coped incredibly well. How do you manage the actual tasks? So if we were to look at your typical day, what are you doing? How are you making sure that everything gets done? I mean, do you have like this giant to-do list? Do you have tools that you use? Do you have people that you rely on? Are you good at delegating? We could go off in any direction.

[00:17:18] Miriam Schwab: So I’ve had to learn over the years, first of all, to try to focus mainly on the things that I love to do, because then I’ll really do them well. And if there’s things that I don’t love to do, then I’m either just not going to do them, or I won’t do them well. So really try to focus on that.

[00:17:31] Nathan Wrigley: Are you fairly brutal with that then? If you’ve got an intuition that you would enjoy something, and then you didn’t enjoy it, even if you’d put lots of time into it, you just drop it.

[00:17:38] Miriam Schwab: It depends how critical it is. But if I don’t feel like it’s critical enough, I will drop it. It’s not a good thing. It’s not necessarily good. Like I should have more self-discipline. But that’s how it will be. If it’s not like motivating me enough, or enjoyable enough, then I might not do it, or I’ll try to hand it off to someone else. I also, I use Jira for all my tasks.

[00:17:55] Nathan Wrigley: I’ve never used it. So you’re going to have to tell me a little bit about what that is. It’s software.

[00:17:59] Miriam Schwab: Yeah, software. I used to try to manage my tasks in different ways, but it’s especially good for what I do now at Elememtor, because I use it actually for documenting what went into like a project or a task. So all links to docs, and other tickets, whatever, it’s all in there. And I love that I can do that in one place.

It has a status, like where it’s up to, and if it’s completed, and that really helps me. One of the things that really helps me with also, is I can track what I actually completed. I do a lot of very diverse things, and so I can often get to the end of a day or a week and be like, what did I do? But with Jira in the background, and I make sure to keep it updated for small things and big things, that I can be like, oh right, I did that. I connected this person with that person, I made sure that this project went forward, I, whatever. So that’s something.

And I use some tools that help with automating things, or like making things more efficient. I hate wasting time on things. If there’s something that I can make faster, it has to be faster. If it can’t be faster, again, I might not do it, or like not do it well.

So I use some tools, like I use this tool called Text Expander, where you can just type of shortcut, and then it can expand anywhere in your, like whatever you’re doing, your email, a doc, a form, it just submits everything.

[00:19:03] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, so you write a thing once, let’s say it’s an email or something, and then you get like a short code or something?

[00:19:07] Miriam Schwab: Yeah, it could be like a sales email, for example. The short code could be like, good sales email, or something like that, and just write that, and then boom, it’s all there. I use it a lot for submitting talks. So like I’ll have a short bio shortcut, and a long bio shortcut, and I have my email address, my phone number, just things that don’t take that long to do, but it’s just annoying to do over and over. I just use shortcuts for everything, so I love that.

I started using a tool for managing my personal contacts, called Dex, like Rolodex, Dex. It’s like the tool I’ve been looking for all these years. I do a lot of relationship building, and I meet a lot of people, especially over like 17 years in an industry. It’s hard to remember. When did I meet the person? What did we talk about? What’s their areas of interest? And it syncs up with LinkedIn and Twitter, and you can create custom fields. Anyways, I love it. So I keep that updated.

[00:19:51] Nathan Wrigley: So at the end of a day like today, when you are in a conference, will you go back to your hotel and write down who you’ve spoken to, and what you spoke to them about?

[00:19:58] Miriam Schwab: So I’ll take notes so that I don’t forget, like I’ll just write something quickly, let’s say in Google Keep. And then when I get back, I’ll probably organise everything then, because I’m usually too tired. But yeah, I’ll update it.

It’s such a great tool that enables me to do that. I wasn’t good about it, because I didn’t know where to put everything. Like, what am I doing? I’m writing like a note, and how am I going to find the note later? But now it’s all associated. It also shows me all meetings I’ve ever had with a person, and emails sent to them. It’s all like synced up. When was the last time I was in touch with them? Super useful. Oh my gosh, I’m in love with that.

[00:20:25] Nathan Wrigley: So any other tools, just before we round that one off?

[00:20:28] Miriam Schwab: I use Notion Calendar. It was a different calendar, but they just bought it. But what I like about it is that, it adds something to your toolbar, at the top of your laptop screen, where you can easily see upcoming meetings. And also right before meetings, it’ll pop up with the link directly to the Google Meet or the Zoom.

So you don’t have to like, keep going back to the calendar going, when’s my next meeting? Oh, it’s in a half an hour. Wait, where’s my next meeting? And then, find the link there. It’s all right there.

[00:20:48] Nathan Wrigley: You’ve got your family, you’ve had an agency, you’ve had the product, the server software if you like. Strattic that you built, and then sold, and you’re now working with Elementor. Is there anything that you would do differently if you could replay the last 15 years?

[00:21:02] Miriam Schwab: Yeah. When the kids were younger, I should’ve probably had more help in the house, to help me give them more emotional attention, because I was doing everything for various reasons, pretty much. I was like a technical mother, so I would make sure that the food was cooked, and the dishes were washed, and the laundry was done, and like everyone got up, and appointments. But less emotional bandwidth, after all of that. And that I think is a shame. That’s something that I would’ve done differently.

[00:21:25] Nathan Wrigley: Just spent more, I’m doing air quotes, quality time.

[00:21:28] Miriam Schwab: Yeah, more quality time. More like thorough conversations with them. Some of them, some know how to demand attention, and then they get it. But the ones who are quieter and like, oh, I’m not going to bother, whatever, like easy going, they also need that attention, and they don’t necessarily get it, because they’re not as loud and demanding.

[00:21:44] Nathan Wrigley: That’s a minor regret in a way. But do you think, if you did replay your life, and you were that different person, do you think you would’ve achieved what you did achieve? Or, do you think it was a necessary sacrifice? I’m going to use that word. Did you need to be that kind of driven person that was, like you said, getting everybody up, cooking the food, and all of that, but not having the time to do, again, air quotes, quality time?

[00:22:05] Miriam Schwab: Maybe it would’ve impacted my future professional success. I would’ve liked to have been able to do both. But actually I did talk about that this morning, which is that, you know, we’re all trying our best, to do our best, right? It’s not like I wanted to do something poorly, or less efficiently. So I did my best under circumstances. And it’s not ideal, but it’s also not worth feeling guilty about. It is what it is.

And thank god my kids, they’re great. Like, they’re very independent for good and for bad, right? Like, seven kids you end up starting to make your own food like at some point, maybe earlier than other families, and things like that. And even helping me with the younger kids, so like older kids would help me with younger kids.

But they’re independent and strong. You know, we all grew up with, our parents are humans, which means that they’re flawed, so I’m flawed as well. I don’t normally regret things, it’s just something that I would’ve wanted to improve.

[00:22:50] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. If you look back over the same period of time, all of these different things that you’ve done, what’s been some of the highlights? What have been the bits that have made you most happy? So I’m concentrating on the work side of things. I’m sure that the family side of that would, you know, bound to be fabulous things that you did with your family. But on the work side, what’s given you the most pleasure looking back? The most satisfaction.

[00:23:08] Miriam Schwab: So I don’t remember specifically which projects it is, but in my agency, when we would sign on like a really cool company, and then work with them and build them something successfully, that always made me so happy. That felt like a big win. Working with a cool brand, or building a particularly interesting site. That’s what kept me going all those years building sites, because it was always different. Like, it wasn’t cookie cutter. Every company had different needs and different goals.

We also worked with some really amazing nonprofits. Not only in Israel, outside of Israel as well. That’s always inspiring, because you feel like you’re like a partner in their efforts. So that always kept me going. And then with Strattic, every time someone validated it, that was super exciting for me. So it started off with getting accepted to startup accelerators. Smart people being like, oh, that’s really cool, we think there’s something there.

And, you know, getting investors, and our CTO at Strattic was one of the co-creators of the PHP programming language. And getting him on board with the vision, and he was one of our early investors, then he joined full-time as CTO, and he’s a great guy. These kinds of wins, they were super exciting, and seeing people using Strattic, and having success with it, and loving it, yeah, that was all really exciting.

[00:24:08] Nathan Wrigley: Why did you sell Strattic? Were you tired of managing it? You just wanted to let go of something there. What was the reasoning behind it?

[00:24:14] Miriam Schwab: The timing was right, for many reasons. And I knew Elementor for a long time. I knew the founders because I used to organise the WordCamps in Israel. And they were like sponsors, and they were early, early days. I have pictures of them standing at like a very plain table, with some cards, and that was Elementor in the early days.

It’s great to see because now we have this ginormous booth here, you know. And I felt like this is a good home for us also, from that perspective. Thank god, I think it was right.

[00:24:40] Nathan Wrigley: Did it live on? Does it live on?

[00:24:42] Miriam Schwab: It’s still there. It’s still under the Strattic brand. That might change soon, where it becomes something like Elementor Static Hosting. I think that would be a good move for it. But yeah, we have happy customers, people signing on and gaining from the value of it, which is really great to see.

[00:24:56] Nathan Wrigley: It sounds like everything that you did prior to Elementor, you probably were leading whatever it was. You know, you were leading the agency, you were leading the development of Strattic. I’m guessing that you are not leading all of Elementor, so that means that you must now be, you’ve got a boss. How’s that? How’s that shift in, okay I’m being told what to do now? As opposed to me inventing all the things that I need to do.

[00:25:18] Miriam Schwab: It was really hard in the beginning, really hard. I hadn’t been an employee for, well, I stopped being employed when my fourth kid was born, and she’s 19 now. Okay, so it was like, I don’t know, 17, 18 years. And what was hard for me, was not that I was being told what to do, I think Yoni and Ariel, knowing me, they knew that, can’t really tell Miriam what to do. That won’t go over well. And they weren’t interested in telling you what to do, but they’re the founders.

But it was that I didn’t know what was flying. I always knew exactly what was happening in my companies. I knew what was coming up next. I knew how to get things done. I knew who to be in touch with. And then things just became really, there’s like a lot of friction in Elementor for me, because I didn’t understand how the organisation worked. If I needed something done, or if I needed to do something, or if I needed to buy a tool, or I don’t know what, I didn’t know who to talk to. And I didn’t know how to get it to happen. And it was really frustrating for me.

And when I was in the beginning, I was still leading Strattic, and that was incredibly frustrating because, also, I didn’t know how to get things done. If I know something needs to be done, I like to just do it. And then I felt like I was dealing with way more bureaucracy, it was really frustrating. I didn’t know if I was going to stick around because of that. Not because of them, just I was like, I can’t be an employee. And I was like, you know what? Maybe I just need to learn how to be an employee. That’s a new skillset, which I love learning new skill sets, and having new experiences.

So when I shifted my mindset to, okay, instead of trying to fight the system, why don’t I learn to work within the system? And then I took on the role of head of WordPress relations. So I literally, I learned how the system works, and now I find that I have capabilities to do way more than I did at Strattic. Which is interesting, because there’s more internal resources. So like there’s design teams, there’s video teams, you know, different types of teams like that. And I can use their services for different projects, or initiatives that I’m working on.

And I also learned that at Elementor, if I have an idea, I can bring it up, and pretty often, or almost all the time, or all the time, I’m trying to think if they ever said no, they’ll be like, okay, go for it. And I can just do it, which is amazing. And I don’t have to stay in my lane. That was something else that I learned. So like, if I see something happening in a different team, that I think can be improved, I can be like, can I help you improve this? And they’ll be like, okay. And then I can help. Because one thing that’s hard for me is to see things that I think are being done in a way that that I don’t think they should be done.

[00:27:24] Nathan Wrigley: Not optimal.

[00:27:25] Miriam Schwab: No. And it frustrates me like crazy. So at Strattic, I would fix that. But I can fix that too at Elementor, because people are open to it, and so it got better. And I’m having a pretty good time. Also, my boss is basically the CEO, so I don’t have, there’s no middle management, and I just report to him. And he’s not like a micromanager at all.

[00:27:41] Nathan Wrigley: What did you say the role was called again?

[00:27:43] Miriam Schwab: Head of WordPress relations.

[00:27:44] Nathan Wrigley: What does that mean?

[00:27:45] Miriam Schwab: Yeah, it’s a funny title and role, but Elementor is a WordPress based company, and our relationship with WordPress really matters. Like we need to be good, contributing citizens in the WordPress space, and be community members, and all that. And also, around Elementor are, first of all, a lot of Elementor add-ons. You know, we need to make sure that things are going well with them, and have good communication with them. And also other plugins, that aren’t necessarily Elementor specific, but we have big overlap with their user base.

Which is a lot, because Elementor’s user base is so huge. We passed the 16 million active install mark. It’s like 20% of all WordPress sites, and like almost 10% of all sites, something like that. Like it’s mind boggling numbers. So there’s going to be overlap with other WordPress tools. Their users are going to be using Elementor. And we want to make sure that our users are having a great experience. So now we have good open lines of communication with these companies. There’s a face that they are familiar with, that they can turn to, which is me. And try to improve our communication overall, with external parties.

[00:28:49] Nathan Wrigley: That role, were you the first person to fill it at Elementor? So was that role created for you? You are nodding. So that’s a yes, thank you.

[00:28:57] Miriam Schwab: The answer is yes.

[00:28:58] Nathan Wrigley: And why was that role created? Was there a sense that you needed to contribute more into the community? What was going on there?

[00:29:07] Miriam Schwab: I think that Elementor’s management wanted someone in this role for a while. But it’s not a typical role, where you have a job description. Because I’ve been in this space for so long, and I know WordPress in and out. I’ve built an agency and products. I am very well connected, and I’m passionate about WordPress. I’m a WordPress person, not an Elementor person. Now I’m an Elementor person as well, but like my passion is WordPress, and the project, and its future, and the community. And all of that comes together to form this position and, you know, there’s not, I don’t know how many people there are that could fit that role.

[00:29:41] Nathan Wrigley: It sounds like the perfect role. Has it turned out that way?

[00:29:44] Miriam Schwab: Yeah. When I first took it on, so many people’s response was like, oh my goodness, this is like the perfect role for you. It’s totally the perfect role for me, because I’m passionate about all of that, about WordPress, and open source, and the community.

And like I mentioned, I’ll do that better, because I care. I get to build relationships, which I love meeting people, and connecting with people. And so that’s part of my job, which is really fun. And I get to be creative in different ways, and bring initiatives. And it’s like all of the good parts of being a CEO, without the stress. So yeah, it’s really great for me.

[00:30:15] Nathan Wrigley: Does Elementor continue to grow? I mean, I’ve been following the progress of Elementor since right at the beginning. And I remember it coming out, and there was this free version, which gave away so much. And then, you know, pro came along, and what have you. But it was meteoric rise. I think unlike any, maybe there’s been one or two things in the WordPress space that have had that kind of level of rise, but it really did go gangbusters for years and years and years.

How has Gutenberg affected usage? You talked about Beaver Builder and introducing them to, you know, some of your people and what have you. Does Gutenberg seem like a sort of threat to you, or is it, we can all live, the there’s space for everybody, it’s fine?

[00:30:55] Miriam Schwab: So first of all, with regards to Elementor’s meteoric rise, I mean, I saw it from the side, because I was, you know, I knew them, and I was friends with them. We were both in the Israeli WordPress community and, I mean, it was crazy. In their first year of activities, they had a hundred thousand installs. And then by the second year, a million. How insane is that? They brought a product to market that solved a huge pain point, in a really good way, and continues to do so.

Elementor continues to grow, and any WordPress growth, or at least lack of negative growth. Some of, by certain people, has been attributed to Elementor actually, bringing fresh websites into the space. Which is amazing. I’m so happy to be part of a company like that, because every new website in the WordPress space is a new potential business for all of these tools, that are here at this conference. It means that they might, you know, they’re going to need hosting. They might not use Elementor hosting, and they’ll choose someone else. They’re going to need an SEO plugin, they’re going to need maybe security, translation, whatever. That’s good for everyone.

It’s continuing to grow. Like I said, we just past the 16 million mark, and we reached 15 million not that long ago. I think it’s, it’s not even half a year, I’m not sure. So Elementor is continuing to grow, thank god. And hopefully it’ll continue to grow, at a good pace.

I think Gutenberg is a promising project for WordPress. I think it was the right move to make it a priority, because continuing with the old WYSIWYG editor, I think would not ensure a good future for WordPress.

It needed to be modernised, and made more user friendly. So far, I wouldn’t see it as a threat exactly. I try to talk to people about their Gutenberg experience, to understand its benefits versus Elementor, but yeah, it’s just another option, and it’s good that it’s there. And actually many users use both. They’ll use Gutenberg for part of the site, and Elementor for part of the site. And that’s great. Like, everyone should use what works for them.

[00:32:38] Nathan Wrigley: I feel like the phrase is, a rising tide carries all boats. Something like that. If Elementor provides a way in for WordPress, exactly as you said, you know, they’re still going to need hosting, they’re going to need an SEO plugin. And if Elementor grows, and I think you’re right, I think you can attribute significant proportion of WordPress’s growth, over the last eight, nine years or whatever it has been, to page builders, and Elementor kind of leading the charge there. Yeah, it’s amazing.

Okay, well, hopefully you’ll be around with Elementor for the foreseeable future, and it’ll maintain, its position. 16 million sites. That’s, yeah, really impressive.

Miriam, tell us where we can find you. I’m sure people listening to this, maybe they’ve been interested by the Elementor bit, or maybe they’ve been interested in listening about your life, and how you’ve managed all of that. Where can we find you?

[00:33:25] Miriam Schwab: So I’m on Twitter at Miriam Schwab, S-C-H-W-A-B. You can email me, miriam@elementor.com. I’m also on Facebook, I’m also on LinkedIn, all the places. I’m not on TikTok.

[00:33:36] Nathan Wrigley: Not on TikTok, okay.

[00:33:36] Miriam Schwab: Don’t find me there.

[00:33:37] Nathan Wrigley: We’ll not be finding you on TikTok. But thank you Miriam Schwab, for chatting to me today, all about your life.

[00:33:42] Miriam Schwab: Thank you. Thanks for talking to me about it.

On the podcast today we have Miriam Schwab.

Miriam co-founded Strattic to enable WordPress websites to be more secure and performant. After Elementor acquired Strattic, Miriam continued leading the unit before becoming Head of WordPress Relations. Previously, Miriam founded and managed a WordPress development agency in Israel. With over 15 years of experience, she’s a respected member of the WordPress community and a renowned speaker.

In today’s episode we discuss Miriam’s life. It’s a departure for this podcast which usually focuses upon the code, the plugins and the community. The idea came out of a talk which Miriam presented at WordCamp Asia this year. In this talk Miriam outlined how she carved out a successful career in the world of WordPress whilst also being the mother of seven children, and it’s fascinating.

She openly shares her story as a way of empowering others in the WordPress space. Her journey goes from content writer to the start up founder, and ultimately to the important role she now has at Elementor. The episode paints a picture of Miriam’s drive, perseverance and adaptability.

We talk about the shifts in Miriam’s career, from the decision to sell Strattic, to the challenges she faced when transitioning to a more structured environment at Elementor. Her experiences underscore the importance of finding one’s footing amidst rapid organisational growth, something Elementor continues to experience, even in the face of emerging tools like Gutenberg.

We also talk about the fabric of the WordPress community, a fundamental aspect of Miriam’s professional life. The generosity and collaborative spirit of fellow WordPress enthusiasts have been crucial to her success, leading to lifelong friendships and a supportive network that thrives even amidst competition.

We also get into how Miriam manages to maintain her productivity, and talk about the specific tools she has adopted such as Jira, Text Expander, and Notion; how she uses them, and why she likes them.

This episode is a fantastic discussion with a tenacious person who has not just found balance, but has also flourished.

If you’re interested in hearing how one person has managed the stresses and strains of an incredibly busy life, this episode is for you.

A quick note. This was recorded live at WordCamp Asia. There was quite a lot of background noise to contend with, and I’ve done my best to make the audio as easy to listen to as possible.

Useful links



Elementor Acquires Strattic


Text Expander


Notion Calendar

Miriam’s Twitter

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