Dean Jones on partnerships, music, and “having the right mindset and energy”

August 5, 2021

After only four months at OntheGoSystems, Dean Jones has already been recognized by coworkers as being proactive, a quick learner, and a great addition to the Partnerships team.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Dean. Where are you from and what is your family like?

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and have been living here for my whole life.

My father was born in Johannesburg and my mother in Cape Town. Since my father is Jewish (his mother was born in Lithuania), my family followed mostly Jewish practices and I did all my schooling at a Jewish school in Cape Town.

My mother’s side is Christian, so I still managed to get a taste of some other traditions. I have never been particularly conservative with my approach to traditions and religion, but rather like to use it as a way to bring the family together during important times of the year.

Brother takes a family selfie after Sunday lunch. I often cycle to my parents on the weekend.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

My main hobby is music. I started playing guitar when I was still in school and have also been collecting music since then.

I am also involved in the electronic and club music scene here in South Africa and internationally. I run my own independent record label, produce my own music and host events when the circumstances allow for it.

Outside of this, I really enjoy keeping active and being outdoors. At the moment I have a weekly routine of boxing, yoga and cycling or hiking. For me, this is super important for many aspects of life whether it be creativity, stress management or just general wellbeing!

Spinning a few records at a local station called Hamshack Radio

What were you doing before joining OntheGoSystems?

Prior to working at OTGS, I was working with a friend of mine who started a tutoring company for local university and high school students. I had some freelance experience in graphic design and WordPress website design and he needed someone to help him take the business online – which became even more challenging when Covid hit.

I was there for around 3 years and got involved in many aspects of the business from design and web to general business management and marketing. We were a very small team but always managed to make things work under any circumstance!

It was a great challenge for me and forced me to really step out of my comfort zone. The company is still active today, and I am proud to say I was a big part of its growth and journey.

How did you hear about OTGS? When did you join?

As I was approaching the 3-year mark at the abovementioned company, I began to feel like I needed a bit of change. Although I wasn’t actively job-seeking, I always kept my eyes open for anything that looked interesting and in line with my skill set.

Since Olivia O’Prey was already a friend on Facebook (through a mutual connection we had when she spent time in Cape Town), one day when I was scrolling through my feed I noticed the job she posted regarding an opening in the Partnerships Team at OTGS. I thought I would take a look at it, and to my excitement, it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I had also already used WPML for freelance projects, so this piqued my interest even more.

The timing was perfect, and the job spec felt right up my alley. Within a few days, things seamlessly came together and, as they say, the rest is history… At the end of July, I finished my 4th month at the company!

What exactly do you do for your job?

Working on the Partnerships team is quite multifaceted and requires a strong ability to multi-task and understand fundamentals in a variety of interconnected areas:

Creating and maintaining relationships with WordPress theme and plugin authors

This is a critical part of making sure that WPML remains users’ translation plugin of choice. So long as we can be compatible with the majority of themes and plugins in the WordPress ecosystem we can be fairly confident that our product will remain one of the most popular choices for users.

In order to do so, we need to make sure that we have good communication with authors – especially when it comes to resolving technical issues. I am often in contact with the Compatibility and Support teams to make sure we are addressing key technical issues that need to be resolved. This requires a good understanding of how to prioritize tasks and how to get the best results and cooperation from authors.

Identifying marketing opportunities

General strategy: Olivia and I are always thinking of the ‘bigger picture’ when it comes to marketing our products. Sometimes this requires a strategic approach (particularly for long-term goals and projects), whilst other times it requires thinking spontaneously (i.e. when communicating with authors and affiliates).

Working with affiliates: I manage all of our affiliate queries and also make sure the program is running efficiently – which means checking referrals every month, onboarding new affiliates, and engaging in projects to improve the general success of the program.

Working directly with customers: Occasionally, I deal directly with customers who reach out via email and I also keep an eye on relevant social media channels to make sure comments and messages are being handled accordingly.

Coordinating ongoing compatibility with popular themes and plugins

Creating tasks for the Compatibility Support team: Whenever a theme or plugin needs to be tested by our team, I create detailed tickets for them and make sure the author is always kept up to date as progress is being made. Sometimes this stems from a Go Global application, whilst other times it simply comes directly from an author or internal report.

Keeping the website and docs up to date: Since we have compatibility listings on our website, I make sure that these entries are kept up to date in accordance with testing, re-testing and errata. Occasionally authors need assistance with documentation or we want to create blog posts that highlight specific items. In such cases, I will usually be involved in doing the groundwork which the Content Team eventually finalizes and publishes.

Assisting theme and plugin authors: In between all of this, I am always liaising with authors to ensure that their expectations are being managed and that they also cooperate as we require. 

I think this is everything… But the role is fluid by nature, so if you ask me again in a few months, my description might be a bit different! That being said, this is one of the things that excites me about the role – I enjoy dynamism!

Hiking Skeleton Gorge in Cape Town

What qualifications are needed to do your job well?

I am not sure there is a specific ‘qualification’ I could think of. The only related formal training I’ve had was from an HTML/CSS course I did some years ago. Besides that, I have a degree in Fine Art and am predominantly self-taught when it comes to everything else.

So I would say for this role, it’s about having a mind that enjoys a good balance between creativity and analysis. My experience with web and small-business management has helped with aspects of the role, but I think my ability to think creatively, communicate well and handle deadlines is what’s helped the most.

It’s definitely more about having the right mindset and energy rather than the right ‘qualification’ in my opinion.

Which teams or team members do you work closely with?

Compatibility Support for testing tasks, Content for proofing and content creation and System Support for general website-related stuff. And my manager Olivia, of course!

What’s the most challenging part of your job, and how do you overcome it?

In my role, there are many moving parts that need to be handled with care. Often tasks overlap or there are weeks when everything seems to happen at once. It’s very easy to get scatterbrain and lose focus on what’s most important.

I am getting better and better at finding ways to subdivide my tasks and make sure I prioritize them correctly. I have multiple lists and tables in different places as this helps me visualize things better.

There is also a loose kind of ‘weekly routine’ that I like to follow to maintain a bit of structure and flow to my work.

Finally, I like to run my task schedules by Olivia as it’s great to have a reliable second set of eyes!

What’s a typical day like for you working remotely?

It’s hard to say exactly since I feel like it changes almost daily! But in general, it’s inbox first. If there are any emails I can action straight away I will do so before the day really kicks off.

Once I have cleared the inbox a bit, I will take a look at my various task lists and see what is most suitable to work on for that given day. Sometimes it’s one bigger/long-term project that requires a large portion of the day; other times it’s a case of just getting a bunch of smaller tasks out of the way.

In between this, there are usually meetings (scheduled and/or unscheduled) and other ad hoc bits that come in that need to be slotting into my task list.

I should also add that I love to eat food and drink tea… so this usually happens a number of times in between all of the above!

When the weather is nice, I also like to catch some rays by working outside. I almost always work from my house, so it’s nice to have a change of scenery every now and then.

Catching some sun while I work and my housemates cat keeps me company

Are you involved with WordCamps or any similar opportunities?

Not at the moment, but it’s something I would like to get involved in – especially when we can travel properly again and actually meet in person!

In your experience, what are the best and most challenging things about working remotely?

The thing I enjoy the most is that I don’t have to compromise too much on my lifestyle. I can cook healthy food, enjoy the sun and listen to music as loud as I want – all whilst getting my job done! Usually one would have to sacrifice (at least some of) these things. I also love that I don’t have to sit in traffic!

However, these perks come with great responsibility. It is very easy to get distracted since no one is looking over your shoulder. If you aren’t disciplined, you can start to let your tasks slide – so it’s always important to check in with yourself to make sure you are being truly efficient with your time.

The only other challenge is that sometimes it can get a bit lonely. When you are in an office or shared workspace, there is a nice social dynamic that gives you extra energy – but when you spend most of your day alone, sometimes you lack a bit of that extra oomph when you need it.

In my experience, though, I would say the pros far outweigh the cons of remote work!

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I am itching to travel again! Hopefully next year I can spend some extensive time in Europe. And to add to the previous question, I feel like this is when you truly feel the perks of remote work! I think I will be able to grow even more as an individual and as an employee when I get the chance to do this again, so I really look forward to it.

I get a lot of inspiration from being in other places, and I think this will give me a great burst of creative energy that will positively impact my personal and professional life!

Find out the perks of remote work for yourself!

OntheGoSystems is 100% remote and has been that way from the beginning! Keep an eye on our Jobs page for openings to join our international team.