New Interview: “Everyone kept telling me that piano teachers didn’t make a lot of money and I had to go to university to get a high salary job.”

A few weeks ago, I did an interview with CMS2CMS, a site migration service. In it, we talk about how we got Caldera Forms its current following, what I do, and what my workspace looks like. The photo of my workspace is not appropriate for kids. Can you find why? 😂

My favorite part of it was where we talk about my bio line, “I’ve been building websites since I was 14.” People don’t usually ask about this, and honestly, I have a mixed relationship with that factoid myself. I didn’t realize until much later on in life that that was a big deal. It wasn’t like I was 14 and everyone was celebrating how I made a website. As it says in the article — 

My interest in websites wasn’t about an interest in computer science, it was about an interest in money. Plus, it was also for an entertainment factor, and it was something for myself – I was a teen with a little brother and was being raised by an immigrant single mom who couldn’t really make ends meet most months, so I didn’t have cable television, vacations, or summer camps. My fun was a refurbished Gateway laptop and my library card and if I wanted spending money, I had to earn it!

My first website at 14 was a brochure site to promote myself teaching piano to neighborhood kids. I taught myself to play piano at age 7 using one of those keyboards that play little songs and have a light-up keyboard. My cousin had one. Then, at music class in my public school, I actually learned what I was doing, but of course, piano lessons were so expensive – so I figured, maybe I could earn the money for them.  I kinda just learned how to do it through Google, because I wanted to put a URL with more info on a Craigslist listing. In the end, I got two clients through it!

Then, I figured out my library would sell old books and CDs for 50 cents, so I just started buying them and selling them on eBay. Then I started selling random junk I found: around the house, garage sales, etc. This led to one of my friend’s dads giving me a bunch of old programming books to sell, so I started selling those on Amazon and also getting exposed to that world. I also had a family member who would bring back Peruvian artisan jewelry to the US every time she traveled home to our country, and sell them at the local swap shop. She gave them to me to sell and I figured I would have better luck selling those on my own website rather than eBay, so then I figured out how to make an e-commerce store.

During all of this, no one in my life was like, “oh wow, you should be a programmer!” or “oh wow, you should be an entrepreneur!”, it was more like, my mom thought the shipping boxes in the living room were annoying and ugly, and my high school boyfriend questioned whether I would make more money per hour just working at a restaurant like everyone else. They weren’t trying to be mean, they just didn’t know. Everyone in my life saw I was doing something interesting, but no one knew enough to help me with it. I picked up nuggets on how to use the internet to my advantage from every person I knew, even though both they and I may not have realized it at the time, and that’s how I got myself through University, through my first job interviews, learned to cook, etc.

I believe there’s still a huge disconnect in our society’s understanding in regards to the opportunities that the internet has created for people (or could create for people!) – and we need to close that gap.

This story is also why I’m really passionate about information access, net neutrality, and diversity in tech. It wasn’t until later – like way later, once I had started working on Caldera Forms with Josh – that I told this story, and someone in the WordPress community said, “Wait, and no one said like hey, maybe if you got really good at this, you could make a lot of money?” and I was like “no, everyone kept telling me that piano teachers didn’t make a lot of money and I had to go to university to get a high salary job.”

Check out the rest of this funky interview on the CMS2CMS blog.