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About Saad:

Saad is the director of product marketing at DigitalOcean (Cloudways). He has spent more than 10 years at Cloudways. Growing the company from Zero to over 100,000 customers. His core competency lies in content strategy, product marketing, field marketing and branding.

Koji je vaš posao?Director, Product Marketing
Kako se zove vaša kompanija?Cloudways by DigitalOcean
Šta radite sa WordPress-om?Hosting
Opišite WordPress zajednicu u samo nekoliko riječi.WordPress community is the most vibrant communities which is not bound by location, ethnicity or race. Being an opensource community, people help each other in their personal projects as well as contribute to WordPress. WordPress is due to its community.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Welcome to WPCoffeeTalk with your podcast barista Michelle Frechette. We interview people in the WordPress community from all over the world. Every guest is asked the same questions and every guest has wonderful and varied answers about their history and their hopes. Special thanks to our espresso level sponsors, Bluehost, WS Form and Omnisend. And now on with the show.

[00:00:31] Speaker B: Welcome to WPCoffee\ Talk. I’m your podcast Barista Michelle Frechette serving up the WordPress stories from around the world. And today my guest is Saad Khan, who’s the director of product marketing at Cloudways by DigitalOcean. Welcome, Saad. It’s so good to have you on the show.

[00:00:48] Speaker C: Thank you Michelle. Thank you for having me on the show and think it’s one of my a bucket list back in the day when I first met you in person at the WordCamp. So yeah, it’s really good to be on the show.

[00:01:03] Speaker B: It’s so good to have you here and tell us. So I don’t think everybody knows all of my guests. So in case there’s people who haven’t met you or don’t know you, tell us just a little bit about yourself and what you do.

[00:01:16] Speaker C: Okay, perfect. So I’ll start with like my name. My full name is Muhammad Saad Khan and I live in Karachi, Pakistan and I’ve been married for like almost six years now and I have a five year old daughter, a school going daughter. Yeah. And the most important thing is that by profession I’m a digital marketing guy and have been working in the web hosting industry for more than ten years now and specifically with Cloudways as I was the first person hired in the marketing team back in 2013. And I think I started building different kind of teams back in the day specifically around content marketing because we were a bootstrap startup back then in 2013 and that was the only channel that we afforded at that time. So I started building the content marketing team back in the day. And in the beginning what I realized is that to work with WordPress people, specifically with the developers and data agencies and designers, it was important to actually get to know WordPress. So I did that and then I started hiring more WordPress developers and designers into the marketing team and that, that actually helped us grow over the period of time as a product. And yeah, I think these are the things, these were the humble beginnings of my career as well because back then I was just writing content and uploading it on WordPress. But then I got to know like how actually WordPress is being used in different domains, like building websites and for blogs and different kind of websites. Yes.

[00:03:07] Speaker B: Oh, very good. Very good. And so you probably know and work with my friend Moise over at Cloudways, too, who is such a kind person. And I have to say, the folks at Cloudways by digitalocean, you are always so kind to me, invite me to be parts of your, you know, as a speaker at your events online and things like that. So I think we’ve developed a lovely relationship over the years between me and Cloudways. So thank you for that, for sure.

[00:03:34] Speaker C: Yes, yes, yes. You actually mentioned Moeez. So Moeez came into Cloudways almost, I think, in 2016 or 17. And I actually, back then, I started a program that was around, like, bringing the management graduates from different universities in Karachi, Pakistan to actually train them into digital marketing and then integrate them into cloud based marketing teams. So it was very. He is very dear to me, very dear to my heart, as he was my student. And then he actually is working for us for more than, like, five years now, maybe more than that. And he has been leading a really good team.

[00:04:18] Speaker B: Yeah, he does a good job, for sure. Well, I have. I know you’re not drinking coffee today, but I will show you my mug and my coffee. So I have my stand for what you stand on mug, which was one of the campaigns from GivewP. So I’m drinking coffee with cream and sugar this morning. It’s a, it’s a creamer called irish creamer, and it’s got like some mocha and things like that in it. So. But as I was telling you before we started recording, I tipped it over a little bit and I spilled coffee. It’s amazing how it still looks like a full cup of coffee, but it’s all over my keyboard, it’s on my mouse, it’s all over my desk pad. I hit my other pair of glasses with it. I’ll have a very big cleanup project after we finish recording today. So. So think of me later.

So tell us, how did you get started with WordPress?

[00:05:08] Speaker C: So, like I told you in the beginning, I was just a writer back then, when I graduated from a university, and then I started writing for different kind of, like, companies.

I really liked writing back in the day, and then I discovered WordPress as the tool to actually upload the content and then publish it on that specific website. But then as soon as I joined back in 2013 and the Cloudways project was being started, I started looking into, like, how I get into, like, for the people, like, going into the people of WordPress. How, what kind of like people are they? And then learning about WordPress, like how it works. Because for me, it was very important to understand the people who are building websites or, or blogging specifically so that I can understand like how I can be able to like, make them use our product as well. So that’s where the actual journey in the WordPress hosting industry started.

And I started like hiring people who were like WordPress developers because I learned that and I have a really interesting story around it. Like, I used to go into like different kind of Facebook groups, especially built for WordPress, and different kind of page builders and hosting, etcetera, and I used to pitch the product that, that we were building. But what happened is that a lot of people like, came to me that you are selling the product, you are not allowed here. So, and I actually took that feedback in a really good way because I learned that people do not want them to be sold. So they want to like, see that, how you are helpful within the community. They want to recognize you as a really good person who can be able to like answer different kind of questions, different kind of solve different kind of problems. And that’s where I started, like going deep into like, what kind of problems people are facing and how can I help them. And I also like, started hiring people who have like WordPress development background. They were either building websites or they were just blocking about different kind of like WordPress related topics. And that actually helped us to learn about how people in WordPress talk to each other, where they are actually, and what kind of way is the best way to actually attract them. And one of the key things that we started back in the day was to interview a lot of WordPress related people who are doing either like agency owners or developers or designers interacting with WordPress. So that, and that process actually helped us learn a lot because the people were telling their own stories and how they are trying to like build their businesses or their careers around, around the WordPress industry. And that was, that was very inspiring for me because we from, like from 2013 to 2018, we actually did more than 100 interviews in the WordPress community. And that really helped us in terms of like, introducing our products very subtly to those people and they started sharing those interviews into their own networks. And that really helped us to actually being discovered by other WordPress professionals. And yeah, I think that was one interesting thing that we did and that really helped us.

[00:08:54] Speaker B: Very good. Well, when you look at websites kind of across the Internet, I’ll say, what do you think are some things that we as web designers, developers and builders don’t focus enough attention on, that would make our websites better for the end user.

[00:09:11] Speaker C: Can you repeat that question, please?

[00:09:13] Speaker B: So when we build websites, there are things that we should focus more attention on, that our site visitors would make their visit to our sites better. So, for example, some people say maybe accessibility would be something that we don’t focus enough attention on. What do you think that we in general should be spending more attention to make our websites better?

[00:09:38] Speaker C: Oh, that’s a very interesting question. Because I think for me, like in this specific industry, being in the digital marketing industry and being a product marketer specifically, for me, the user experience is the most important thing and that I personally believe a lot of people overlook. First, understanding the audience is the key, and then talking the same language they wanted to hear, making the site simple to navigate, understanding what would be the next step in the user journey, and most importantly, learning and iterating for great results. I think these are the most important things for me. And user experience is being one of the key outlooks for Google as well when it comes to core web vitals and different kind of performance scores. Because that’s where we can be able to build a website that can help people to actually discover the website. And it’s fast and they can be able to easily navigate to different portions of the website.

[00:10:47] Speaker B: I think you’re right. I think the user journey gets often overlooked and it’s like, well, it’s all there. If we just put everything there, it’ll figure it out. But it’s very important to pay attention to even the order of things in your main navigation makes a difference as to how people will click and look for information. It’s a very good point.

As you think back over your WordPress journey, what’s something that you wish you had learned in WordPress earlier so that it made life a lot easier sooner?

[00:11:18] Speaker C: That’s a, that’s a very interesting question. I think we started investing more into the community later in the, in the journey of cloudways. Like, what we realized is that it’s just not about like, meeting people online. It’s more important to go and meet and listen and get feedback when you go into, specifically into the event.

And the best way to do it is to like go and meet them in Wordcamps. And that’s where I actually convinced my founders that we need to be in the community. Either we start with a very small booth in a word camp, and that’s where we started back in 2019 when we actually put up our first booth back in Berlin, Germany, at Wordcam Europe. And that is one of my really great memories because I actually met a lot of people that I’ve interviewed over the period of time, like more than 100 people. And it was really inspiring to see everyone. Specifically, I was able to meet Matt Muilenburg in that event and took a picture with him. It was really interesting. I had a really good conversation as well. And what we did is that a very interesting thing that we did back in 2019 is that we had like people in the Europe that we interviewed, almost like 50 to 60 of them, and we created a magazine out of it content, and then we created a printed magazine. And then what we did is that we took that magazine and meet those people in person, give that magazine to them so that they can hold it in front of them that they have been printed. Because it was very interesting. And yeah, I think it was one of the things that we started late as far as the other web hosting providers or other players in the industry were doing. But since then on, we have been contributing in the Wordcamp events, specifically all the major events like Wordcamp Asia, Wordcamp Europe and Wordcam us. And I’ve been to, I’ve been going there ever since. And it’s always nice to be with the community.

[00:13:51] Speaker B: I love that. I’m definitely a community advocate for sure. I love our community.

When you think back over the different wordcamps that you’ve attended, tell us about something that happened that maybe was inspirational or pivotal for you in your WordPress journey. Something that really you mentioned meeting Matt, for example. But tell us about another example of things that really, like something that really spoke to you or was really inspirational.

[00:14:17] Speaker C: So for me, the open source culture, and then what happens in those Wordcamps is the contributor there. I think it is one of the most important things thing in an event, specifically in a wordcamp. And when you go and actually see the people who have been contributing to this project and the love that you see, like every single, like if you are sitting in marketing or in the hosting or in the community, you see how much invested people are. And that’s the beauty of WordPress as well. Like when people actually, without any compensation in their mind, they actually contribute with their, with their all heart and brain and try to like make really good software. Obviously, for a lot of people around the world, I think it’s almost like 43% around the world, it’s being used as a website platform. So I think it’s just because of these people who have been contributing not only in Wordcamps, but also in general to the WordPress ecosystem.

[00:15:30] Speaker B: I was afraid to attend contributor day earlier on because I thought I don’t know how to code and so what could I possibly do? And then of course, the first time I was like, okay, put on your big girl pants and go to a contributor day. I realized that there’s so much more to contributing than just core code. And so obviously now I contribute every time there’s a contributor day. And I’m part of multiple teams for WordPress because I was brave enough to finally go to a contributor day and discover how much there is and how many ways you can be involved in the community. So, yeah, I think that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. So tell us a little bit about Cloudways. Cloudways hasn’t always been part of Digitalocean, so that’s something that’s more recent in the last few years. And tell us a little bit about your team and what you do as far as product marketing.

[00:16:28] Speaker C: So, like, it’s a very, very interesting question because when I started with Cloudways, I was the only person, and then I started building from there on, like, from content marketing to SEO to social media, and then affiliate, and maybe I started with like Os, who is like, is a very key member of our team, and he actually built the affiliate team for us. And then what happened is that down the road, for example, like back in 2018, when our first CMO, Santi Costa, joined, both of us realized is that because the team was growing, it was around like 30 odd people at that time.

And the strategy was fragmented because, you know, that there were different teams and there were like different kind of leaders, and there were like second layer of leaders. I was the first one, and then there were like second kind of second layer of leaders. So the strategy was fragmented and was needed that someone can centralize the whole process of strategy and then educating different kind of people how to work and what kind of like steps to take to grow the brand. So that’s where we started the team. I actually hired my first product marketing manager back in Greece, and then what I did is that, and the second goal, first goal was to like centralize the whole strategy and then communicate that strategy to different teams in a structured way. The second goal at that time was like, because we were building the second set of products for Cloudways. Cloudways was just Cloudways back in the day. And then we were thinking of like integrating Cloudflare. We were thinking of like integrating safe updates as an add on. And then we were also building Cloudways Autonomous and I’m the current lead of Cloudways Autonomous as the new product which was being built on Google Kubernetes engine. And we had to like Build, build a specific GTM strategy to actually go into market with this new product and the other products that are coming in.

And these are the two key reasons we started the product marketing team and now it’s like almost three people in my team. One is the product marketing manager and then there are like two product marketing associates that have been working with me and we have like we have been working on two very interesting products for this year as well, to be launched hopefully in next two to three months. And this will bring a lot of value to the WordPress hosting industry specifically.

[00:19:23] Speaker B: Very nice. It sounds like you really enjoy what you do and you enjoy working with your team, which is a wonderful way to spend every day. If you have to work, then enjoying what you do makes a big difference for sure.

[00:19:36] Speaker C: Yes, yes, yes. And the reason why I stayed for like ten years, it’s more than ten years I’ve been here and the reason why I stayed here because I continuously get a lot of new challenges and that’s what I really like. And I’m a really creative person and I really like to like work on the new things and on the how part as well, like how, how it should be done rather than just focusing on the why part, but also like how, how it should be done so that, so that it gets to the people that we are building for and they can be able to use it eventually and we can be able to interact with them, going into the events, learning about their feedback and improving the product over the period of time.

And the beauty of WordPress community is that they are very candid. They will not hold back. They will just say things straightforward, that if it’s working or if it’s not. And that really helped me to actually convey that kind of a message to the management that if the product is really good or not, if it’s working or not. And that really helped shape our product strategy as well as like go to market strategy.

[00:20:56] Speaker B: Very good. Well, let me move into our rapid fire questions. They’re not really rapid. I just call them that. I don’t know why, but anyway, perhaps because they’re briefer answers, I guess is why? But so the first question I have is what are two or three must have plugins that you would recommend to somebody building their own website?

[00:21:18] Speaker C: I think one of the key plugins that I would recommend and we use it internally as well, on Cloudways is the blog vault for backups and migration. I think it is one of the most important growth levers that we had because it really simplified the overall migration and backup experience. The other one is around like performance and I would say WB rocket is the best one, although we have breeze on our side. But I think WB rocket is the, is the best plugin in the market as far as the performance is concerned. And when it comes to like security, I think I would go with Sukhuri and they have been in the industry for a period of time and they have a really good security plugin.

[00:22:07] Speaker B: Very good. Have you had a mentor at any point in your WordPress journey, whether it was official or unofficial? And who was it?

[00:22:16] Speaker C: Okay, that’s a very interesting question because I would say that if I talk about WordPress, I think I met a lot of good people, but specifically I would recommend Santi. Santi Costa was the first CMO at Cloudways and he is very dear to me because he really helped me understand like how to connect the dots, how to, what are the right questions to ask and how to approach people in a really good way, how to communicate really well, what are the key things that would help me grow in the, growing my career. So I think I would, I would name Santi and he is always dear to my heart.

[00:23:05] Speaker B: I love that. That’s wonderful. So other than Santi, who is somebody that you admire in the WordPress community and why?

[00:23:13] Speaker C: Okay, so let’s let me recall some, someone because I have been in touch with a lot of people in the WordPress specific industry. And back in the day, if you know Robbie McLaw who is the founder of Beaver Builder, and I still remember because, because back in the day when we were starting with WordPress, we were trying to like find some people who can help us give the feedback on our product. And Robbie came in as one of the people at that time and he really helped me. I specifically understand the WordPress ecosystem and how things work. So I would recommend him.

[00:24:01] Speaker B: Very good. I like him very much. He has also been on WP coffee talk before and every time our paths cross, he’s just a wonderful human being for sure.

What is something that you’d still like to work to, what is something you would still like to learn in WordPress but that you haven’t learned yet?

[00:24:21] Speaker C: I think because I’m a non technical person so I can like write on WordPress, I can be able to like upload different things, but I really want to like experience how to, how to build a website because I haven’t done that by myself yet, but I really want to learn and I’m aiming to like start some like course, maybe some basic course so that I can like use Gutenberg specifically because I have heard that it’s easier to actually build websites through Gutenberg and it has progressed a lot over the period of time since its launch. And I think it’s one of the key things a lot of people will discover WordPress eventually in the future as well.

[00:25:11] Speaker B: I agree. What is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in WordPress and what did you learn from it?

[00:25:19] Speaker C: So I think I touched upon that is that I didn’t know how to approach people in the WordPress community and I was just selling my product and it’s not the way to do it. People specifically, when it comes to WordPress people, they are like, I call them semi tech people and they really like to like test things by themselves rather than just like being bombarded by the marketing jargon. They really want to like test things out. And this is what I learned over the period of time is that it’s very important to be there, to be present.

Like either it’s a Facebook group or in a small community, or it’s a word camp, but it’s a small event. You need to be present wherever the discussions are and then you can be able to like build your effort and obviously build the rapport of your brand as well.

[00:26:22] Speaker B: Very good. What’s your proudest WordPress moment?

[00:26:26] Speaker C: I think the proudest one was like meeting Matt Willenbeg. I think I met him like two or three times, but the first 1st time that when I met it was very, very, very interesting moment. I can still remember I was shaking at that time because we have been following him since I started with Cloudways since 2013 and I never knew that one day I will be able to meet him in person. But it was very, very interesting because that person actually builds such a large community and such a large software company that human mind cannot understand. I think statistics are behind him. Like 43% of the web is being built on WordPress and he’s such a nice person. Whenever I have met him, I think it was one of the proudest moments that I had.

[00:27:28] Speaker B: That’s wonderful.

If you weren’t working in web and technology, what’s another career that you might like to try?

[00:27:36] Speaker C: Okay.

I might have been playing table tennis as a professional because I used to play table tennis back in my school days and then I actually won a lot of regional championships as well, in Karachi. And then I also played for my college. I was a captain there. And yeah, I think I must have been in any sports like table tennis.

[00:28:10] Speaker B: So for those of us who are not, like professionals, that we would, some of us would refer to that as ping pong. Is that correct? Tabletop. It’s like saying to somebody who plays disc golf, calling it Frisbee, I’m guessing, is like, oh, no, it’s so much more than that, Michelle.

That’s wonderful. I’ve never been good at table tennis. By the way, what’s something on your bucket list?

[00:28:35] Speaker C: So if it’s in general, I think since I started traveling specifically for wordcamps, I usually travel two to three times a year. I think I discovered that I really like to travel. And one of my bucket list is like, to, to get us a article maybe in the next year, and travel across Europe. I love Europe since I have been to different kind of like cities for world camps.

And I would love to do that. That’s where I think I feel a lot of happiness when I, when I travel either solo or with my family.

[00:29:20] Speaker B: Very nice. I like traveling, too.

Show us or tell us about a hidden talent that you have that the WordPress community might not know about.

[00:29:34] Speaker C: That’s very tricky question.

[00:29:37] Speaker B: Maybe it’s a special interest you have, too.

[00:29:40] Speaker C: Yes. So I really like to make puzzles because since my daughter was like two years old, this is one of the things that I always brought home. Either I’m coming back from a trip or I’m shopping in a mall. I always try to find different kind of puzzles. I like to build it with my daughter and with my wife as well. And we usually do that at least in a month. I try to bring a huge puzzle and try to build it with them, and it’s very interesting. And it really helps my mind to actually think about, like, solving different kind of problems and really energize my mind as well.

[00:30:27] Speaker B: Very nice. I like to do crossword puzzles myself every day. I do at least one or two crossword puzzles. So it does it. When you kind of do something different than what you do on a day to day basis, it opens your mind to different things. And it can be relaxing, too, which I love. So. So if people are looking to connect with you or Cloudways, how do we find Cloudways? How do we find you online and in social media?

[00:30:52] Speaker C: I think if you are looking for cloudways, I think you can just be able to, like, go to any search engine and search about cloudways. and then for me, if you are, if you are looking for me directly to connect with, either you can find me with my name on LinkedIn or you can find me on Twitter with Invincible Saad as my Twitter handle.

And I’ve been very active on Facebook, on social media, and then on Twitter as well.

And, yeah, very good.

[00:31:30] Speaker B: We’ll put all those links in the show notes. So anybody that’s looking to connect with you can come to, find Saad’s episode. We’ll have all of those in there, as well as in a transcript of today’s episode. So thank you so much for taking some time to meet with me and to tell me a little bit about your journey and your story. It’s always wonderful to meet people, especially when I get to talk to people. It’s like it’s my Saturday morning, it’s your Saturday evening, and we have the ability to connect through the Internet. So thank you so much for taking some time to meet with me today.

[00:32:03] Speaker C: It was, it was really, really, really a pleasure for me because I have been meeting you as well in wet camps, and it’s an honor to be on your podcast and on your show. I think I really like it always, and hopefully we can be able to catch up in Wordcam Europe for a selfie.

[00:32:26] Speaker B: I look forward to that very much. Very, very much. Thank you. Well, to everybody else, enjoy your day, and we’ll see you on the next episode of WP Coffee Talk.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of WP Coffee Talk. Please share it with others who you know would enjoy hearing from the people.

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