Joost de Valk Steps Down as WordPress Marketing Lead

Joost de Valk has announced that he’s stepped down from the WordPress Marketing and Communications Lead role. The position was created and awarded to de Valk earlier this year. Not only was it a new position, but it also expanded the leadership roles in the WordPress project.

Despite making progress, de Valk didn’t feel as though he was fulfilling the leadership aspect of his role. “My experience over the last few months made me feel that while I was doing things and getting things done, I certainly wasn’t leadership. I don’t want to pretend I have a say in things I don’t have a say in,” he said.

Not having a clear definition of what marketing means and having people within the project on the same page contributed to his decision.

“There’s a stark difference between where I thought I would be in the organization in this role, and where I am actually finding myself now,” de Valk said.

“Even things that every outsider would consider marketing (release posts, about pages) are created without even so much as talking to me or others in the marketing team. Because I felt left out of all these decisions, I feel I can’t be a marketing lead.”

He also cited a lack of clarity surrounding his position, “I’ve been asked dozens of times on Twitter, Facebook and at WordCamps why I now work for Automattic, which of course I don’t but that is the perception for a lot of people,” he said. “On other occasions, I seem to be the token non-Automattician, which I’m also uncomfortable with.”

Due to taking a toll from failing to fulfill the position, de Valk plans to take an extended vacation during the Summer and when he returns, focus 100% of his efforts on Yoast and his Chief Product Officer role.

Matt Mullenweg commented on de Valk’s article thanking him for being willing to try new things and for his passion, impatience, and drive to improve WordPress.


30 responses to “Joost de Valk Steps Down as WordPress Marketing Lead”

  1. It was good of Joost to give it a try and to have the presence of mind to step down when it was clear it wasn’t working out.

    I’ve suspected for a few years, since the Theme Review team tried to implement new processes, that there were serious organizational issues with WP org. The only one who can fix those is Matt. It would take something like appointing an Executive Director of the WordPress Foundation and giving that person a budget and authority over the Foundation’s workings and WP org. I believe that the Drupal Association, for example, is responsible for

  2. “Even things that every outsider would consider marketing (release posts, about pages) are created without even so much as talking to me or others in the marketing team. Because I felt left out of all these decisions, I feel I can’t be a marketing lead.”

    Considering that he was given the position of Marketing Lead without letting the person who had the position before him know they were no longer the marketing lead, this behavior by Automattic seems normal (if not expected).

      • Considering that for all intents and purposes, Automattic controls all of the going-ons of

        It is not as if can make any important decisions such as the marketing of WordPress without any input from the head of Automattic.

    • Given Joost’s criticism of the role, it puts any successor in an awkward position if there’s no real changes to it.

      One can see the appeal to Matt of appointing employees to positions of nominal leadership – they’re more likely to stay silent publicly about how limited their input is.

      Who’d want to be the new token non-Automatttician in a powerless role?

  3. I’m a long-time user of WordPress, but I don’t consider myself “in” the “community.” (For example, I didn’t even know that Joost had taken that position.)

    BUT – as someone who has worked in a variety of roles in organizations, big and small, that post by Joost says a lot. “I was called a leader, but I wasn’t actually in leadership.” Yep, many of us have experienced this, and it is incredibly frustrating.

    Good for Joost for naming it. I hope that whomever is IN leadership listens – especially before they put someone else in “leadership” without actually putting them in leadership.

  4. I think the problem is not Joost or Matt. It’s the way that the role is defined. When I first read the announcement from Matt, I thought it was great. But then I saw it was just title, not a list of actions and responsibilities.

    And as WordPress is an open source, the whole community or the WordPress Foundation don’t have an united guidelines to be acting properly in cooperation to achieve a target. It’s quite fragmented between teams. And it’s not look like an organization.

  5. Credit to Joost for accepting the challenge, and trying something new given the huge success he’s already achieved. It just didn’t work out this time.
    There are many lessons from this development that hopefully will serve all parties moving forward.

  6. I have taken a position like this and stayed around for 4 years. The same things that Joost was having a hard time with, I found myself in the very same unfulfilling sentiment. I also walked and went on running my own business full time.. Much happier and in better health.

  7. I do not think we as community have words to thank all the a8c support in, however in the last 5 years a8c has grown from 200 to 700 or 800 employees and almost everyone at a8c is contributor, volunteers or non a8c folks do not grow at the same speed, even many regular volunteers with time end up working in a8c, wish is not bad because it gives them more time to collaborate in the project however that reflects for those who are unaware of the current structure or are new on wp that in its majority is dominated by employees of a8c. I believe that for good health and to avoid misunderstandings a more transparent, diverse and inclusive structure like the one WPGovernance suggest would help.


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