Show Notes

In this episode Michelle welcomes Samah Nasr to the Underrepresented in Tech project as cohost and partner. Get to know Samah in this episode and why she is passionate about diversity and representation.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to the Underrepresented In Tech podcast, where we talk about issues in underrepresentation and have difficult conversations. Underrepresented In Tech is a free database with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech.


[00:00:10] Michelle: Welcome back for a brand new episode of Underrepresented In Tech. And drum roll, please, because I wish I had, like, sound effects that I could do the drumroll, but drumroll, please. In your head. Hear that snare drum. Because my new co-host is here today, Samah Nasr.


Samah, I’m so happy that you’re joining me. 


[00:00:45] Samah: I’m so happy, too. Like, this is one of the best days of my life, honestly. Like, I’m really, really happy to be here. I cannot wait to, to move forward. And at the same time, I remember when we had the conversation, I cried and I was really happy.


[00:01:02] Michelle: And that made me cry because I was really happy.


[00:01:05] Samah: And I told everyone, literally, like family members, friends, everyone, like, I was. I’m really honored. Yeah. So.


[00:01:13] Michelle: Well, I am so grateful that when I asked, you said yes, and that we were, and I say co-host, and you are co-hosting the podcast, but you’re partnering with me in the project going forward, which I think is just a wonderful thing. So Allie did such an amazing job, like, helping me, partnering with it, not helping me, partnering with me, and shouldering the responsibilities that we had with Underrepresented In Tech in the past. And going forward, I wanted to find somebody like you who didn’t just want to show up and be a voice, but also wanted to be like, how can we help keep this project moving forward? Let’s partner up on it. And so when I asked him, you said yes. It was like my heart sang, so I was so happy. So welcome.


[00:01:59] Samah: I’m so honored and flattered. Like, when you asked me, I could not believe it. It took me like 10 seconds to sink in. And I, I know when Taco talked to me about it, he didn’t tell me the whole thing. He just, like, told me, like, ah, when you talk with Michelle, let me know. And I was like, I said something and then I was like, did I do something? Oh, yeah. I love her. I’m gonna talk to her. And when you. Oh, my God. I still remember. I, my sisters watch me dancing, and I called my brother, I called my husband, and I was told a friend and some people asked me, what you’re going to do, and I said, doesn’t matter. I’m going to be with Michelle.


[00:02:38] Michelle: Well, so let me set it up a little bit. So tell people, like, how this timeline happened. So you actually joined us on the episode where we all said goodbye to Allie and we surprised her, which was wonderful. And I got to thinking, like, I should, I should, like, I knew I needed a new co-host. I knew I wanted to give myself, like, the first quarter of this year to kind of get into the groove. And over the last week, we produced four episodes that I recorded in January and February. Talking to some amazing people, kind of setting ourselves up. And then in the March newsletter, I was like, I have a new co-host. Guess who she is. You’re not going to guess and I’ve been teasing that out a little bit, but I had the idea that you would be just the perfect person to partner with. And, and so I went over your head and I messaged, I messaged Taco. Taco from Yoast. If people don’t know who he is, he’s an amazing man. The Taco, the tallest man in WordPress, I think.


And so I messaged him, and I’m like, hey, I have an idea. If you have five minutes, could we jump on a call together? And he’s like, I’m free now. And I swear, I think it was like 11:00 p.m. his time.


I asked for something and he’s like, ooh, I want to know what it is. So let’s get on a call together. And I said, as you know, Allie is leaving, has left Underrepresented In Tech. And I don’t know if people know, but Yoast was sponsoring Underrepresented In Tech. Her time with us, I think we put that out several times. And so I said, I’m not asking you for money. I said, but I am going to, but I do have an ask. I said, I would like to invite Samah to be my partner in the project going forward. I said, but I don’t want us to have to do fundraising. I don’t want us to have to get sponsorships. I want us to have the freedom to do the work without having to worry about how are we going to pay for it, too.


Because Allie’s time, Allie was independent. She was a freelancer, and it was important that on our project, she was paid for doing that. My time is already subsidized for the work that I do with StellarWP, because my community project work encompasses all of these projects. So it was important to me that if I asked you to be my co-host and be my partner in this project, that Yoast and Newfold would allow you to do that in your workday. So that you weren’t being extra burdened without compensation. And he said, I’d like to say yes, but Yoast is now owned by Newfold, so I have to ask them first. I said, of course, of course. That’s why I’m posing it. And so he says, but I’m pretty sure it will be fine. And he did return, like, I think the next day and said, you can ask her. And then I had to try to track you down because you were so busy. I like, I emailed you and I ended up in your spam. So I messaged you on a Slack that you don’t check into very often. But finally I’m like, it’s been two weeks or a week. Two weeks. So I messaged Taco. I’m like, could you ask her to check her email and meet with me?


[00:05:41] Samah: I remember he asked me and he said like, oh my God, this is what, like, I usually check making WordPress once in a while, but, and then like, I don’t know what happened that to me that time because like, I don’t know, maybe I was in vacation mode, you know, like, but then when he asked me, I said me, I always replied to her like, oh. And then I was like looking around like, oh my God. And yeah, yeah, I remember when he, when he asked me, I was like, I want to get more information. But he said like, okay, talk to her first. And immediately I still remember when I told him, I don’t care, I will work in the middle of the night. I will work in my weekends, I will work in public holidays. I will even wake up at 03:00 a.m. 04:00 a.m. For it. And even like, and I was telling Taco, if I have to work extra time, then I will do it. And he told me, no, no worries, make it. And how much is amazing that Yoast and honestly, Taco was really supportive. He mentioning this amazing podcast in my goals for this year. So it was really amazing that he support me, encouraged me to go for it, and at the same time, like Newfold and yours especially, I’m really happy. And everyone here was, congratulations. And I don’t know, it’s amazing. I’m really happy. And at the same time I’m really nervous because it’s like my first time as a co-host. So I want to be like awesome and chill.


[00:07:15] Michelle: You already are awesome and chill.


One of the things that’s important when two people have a podcast is that their personalities match so well, right? And that they’re you know, that we both see positive things in the future. And so, like, every time we talk, it’s a wonderful conversation. So that’s why I was like, this.


[00:07:34] Samah: Is going to be easy.


[00:07:35] Michelle: It’s going to be awesome.


So let me ask you some questions to introduce you to people who may not know you.


[00:07:42] Samah: For sure. Go for it. Yeah. 


[00:07:43] Michelle: So what do you, what do you do at Yoast? I mean, I know what you do at Yoast, but what do you do at Yoast?


[00:07:47] Samah: What I do at Yoast? Officially I’m a project manager at community team and officially I consider myself the person who makes things impossible to possible.


I love working under pressure and I don’t know. Yeah, but also at the same time I help community team in planning for events like WordCamps. We attend other events and also at the same time I can say I’m proudly responsible for the Yoast diversity fund and the Yoast Care fund. I consider them as my babies.


At the same time, we have a lot of internal projects within Yoast.


One of them I’m really proud to be one of the organizer, which is WIN Europe, which is women in Newfold. We are having this empowering women group.


I’m helping organizing meetup to empower each other to share a discussion and it’s amazing to be part of WIN Europe. It’s really, how can I say it? It’s like amazing experience to see your colleagues meeting other colleagues from other companies. And we talk to each other like I don’t want to talk a lot because it’s like very safe environments. Our topics is really for the group. But the last three meetups was so educational, like they were so awesome.


But for me I love also Diversity Fund and Care Fund. This is like my passion that Yoast also I am one of the organizers or the planning for Yoast contributor days at Yoast, which is also one of my dearest tasks to my heart.


[00:09:38] Michelle: And yeah, I’ve gotten up at three in the morning to help with those before this.


[00:09:43] Samah: This time I’m planning for something amazing. And actually, I will be honest, it was Taco’s idea.


We are. Of course you will be. We will be so happy to have you. But we do not have to wake up from early morning because we’re going something really crazy. We have the people here, we’re going around this amazing city. We have the headquarters in Yoast called Wycher, we have the castle. We have a lot of amazing things that will take photos and in the afternoon then the photo table team without Michelle like, it cannot happen. So you’re. We love to have you there as a table lead.


And then in the afternoon we’ll do some work because we feel so guilty. I love it and I’m so happy every time you wake up, like 03:00 a.m. 04:00 a.m. To party and you look so fresh, you know, like…


[00:10:35] Michelle: It’s the coffee, it’s the coffee.


[00:10:37] Samah: I drink a lot of coffee for me, I sleepy at night. So yeah, this is what I’m doing at Yoast and I’m happily doing it more than five years and a half. And also the last thing, I also contribute to the Polyglot team with WordPress. And I’m really happy that Yoast is part of Five for the Future and they sponsor me or they let me contribute during working hours, between two, up to 3 hours per week.


[00:11:09] Michelle: That’s wonderful. That’s awesome. And now several hours a week on Underrepresented In Tech as well.


[00:11:15] Samah: Which is the best. This one I would like anytime.


[00:11:20] Michelle: So tell us a little bit about your background. You mentioned your family.


Why is, you know, what in your background has brought you so much passion about underrepresentation and inclusion?


[00:11:32] Samah: It’s first, I’m like, I came from very strong female, powerful women family. I can say probably my mom was the first woman to go to education after 18 years old, where she grew up. And at the same time, my two sisters are amazing. They’re my sister like all the time with this amazing prize, the diversity and supporting women. She works with the UN and {____}. And my other sister, she’s like fashion designer, trying to bring the cultural and empowering women who lost a lot in their life to give them work and to let them be depending on themselves financially and not for aid or other people.


I don’t know why I love diversity, but I think it’s enhanced every aspect of our lives. And also that’s why I love about Yoast, because diversity and inclusive, it’s in the heart of Yoast. It’s like every time when someone asks, like, does Yoast present or support diversity? Of course. It’s like in our core values, it’s in our day, life at work, in everything we do. We’re so inclusive. This what I want to say about our company. But this big family, so inclusive, so diverse. And also at the same time, why should we not support diversity? And especially in sharing knowledge, sharing information, it’s so amazing. And sharing experiences and listening to each other, I think that will make us grow, um, more human and. And it’s awesome at the end. So, um, my background, I always been. I don’t want to say the.


I don’t want to say, like, I want to say the black duck or the new thing. But wherever I grew, I was like, I was different because I am. I was born in country.


My roots is I’m Palestinian. I was a refugee in Syria, and that was really struggle a lot.


It was really different because I was having stateless status and I worked with the Red Cross. Then I traveled around the world, and then I met my husband. Then I moved to the Netherlands. So it was always, I have to explain where I’m coming from or how I have. I don’t have a trouble, I don’t have a passport. I have a travel document, which is a fun story.


But also, at the same time, I don’t know. Those things make me fall in love more, empower me more as a woman. And every time when I see in someone need help to, let’s say, Diversity Fund someone who needs help to speak at WordCamp or an event, and then that’s like, for me, I imagine myself, like, I get help a lot when I grow professionally and personally. And I would love to give back to other people. And I’m really happy that your let me do that because helping people to speak at events, removing the financial burden, it’s really awesome. And you see them grow and shine on the stage, and that’s something makes me very happy.


[00:14:57] Michelle: I love to hear that. I absolutely love to hear that. One of the other things that makes you attractive to me as a co-host and partner in this project is that you’re not in the United States, to be quite honest with you, because we, Allie and I, you know, we did get a lot of pushback from people in Europe especially, but I will say white, primarily males in Europe who say that “diversity is different here. It’s not as important here,” but from people of color and underrepresented statuses. That is not true for people in Europe. And so I think it’s important that we hear from across the pond, as we say. Right? So over in Europe, hear this here from somebody there who values diversity and values inclusion, because it’s just as important everywhere in the world. And so for me to have somebody who can say, yes, Michelle, it’s important here, too, is important. Right? So I make waves. Sometimes I make waves where I go. And my most viewed tweet has over 30,000 impressions. And it’s one where I said, hey, basically, I’m not seeing much diversity for WordCamp Europe last year. And I got a lot of hate. I got a lot of support. So much support. I’m not saying that it was all hate, but there were five or six very loud people who wanted to meet with me when I was in Europe and tell me I was wrong, who told me that, whether it’s true or not, I have a loud voice in the community and I should learn how to use it and keep it quiet. And I’m like, I am a woman on a mission. I am not going to be silenced about the things that are important.


[00:16:45] Samah: Good for you. Right?


[00:16:48] Michelle: And I had to block some people on Twitter because their hatred of me just because I said, hey, 25% of the people have been announced, is it going to get better? And it wasn’t like, you know, fire and brimstone from me going, what are you doing? Kind of thing.


But it, but it opened up a lot of dialogue. And even, there were even women, and I don’t think women of color so much, but there were women who even said, it looks different here. Michelle, I don’t understand why you’re doing this. The United States has its own problem. Yes, the United States has a problem with diversity and inclusion. Absolutely. But so does every other nation in this world.


[00:17:25] Samah: I totally agree with you because I believe the salary gaps, and I will speak about something in Netherlands, people have to pay a huge amount of money for daycare. And most of the time women stay at home when they have kids because, or they work less working hours because the money is ridiculous to pay for the daycare. It’s almost salary of one person. And I believe we should not say it’s in Europe different from the states, from Africa, from Asia, because all of us, I believe we want big community in WordPress. Let’s be honest, we’re not dividing Europe and the states.


And at the same time, I think maybe some, if we respect each other opinion and instead of, how can I say, focus on if there’s no diversity, how we can improve it. Because I think there’s a lot of communities in Europe can add a lot of diversity for the speaker line. Also, at the same time, I cannot see the difference between the state and Europe because WordPress community, I always see it as a whole. I don’t see like there’s different continent in some place. Of course I will. Let’s be honest, in Asia, the diversity maybe seems different, but not at all. It’s all connected somehow with each other. Absolutely. I’m sorry about it. Like the people, you know, I think.


[00:18:59] Michelle: When you have a strong voice and you’re speaking about things that make people uncomfortable, which includes inclusion and diversity. If people have been against it or they just have their eyes closed to it, it makes them uncomfortable. It’s supposed to. I want people to be uncomfortable. Nobody makes change without discomfort. And so, you know, I like to say I have broad shoulders, right? Can shoulder a lot of things. I have thick skin, so you can shoot the arrows at me, don’t shoot them at the people behind me. And so if I can use my voice and my platform in WordPress to open doors for other people, then by all means, call me whatever you want to, as long as change is happening. So it’s good. And I love that you have those same, similar ideas, but that you can bring a perspective from another place in the world. I think it just, it’s helpful, right? It’s helpful for us in general. 


So what do you want to see happen with the podcast and with the project? I think we’re doing good things. Have you had ideas? And it’s okay if you don’t yet. We’ll just, we can discuss another week too. But are there things you’d like to see us add or change or things that we could do to enhance going forward?


[00:20:11] Samah: Honestly, I don’t have a lot of ideas because like, I was, I will be honest with you, yesterday I only slept 5 hours because I’m so excited about today.


[00:20:20] Michelle: Oh my goodness.


[00:20:21] Samah: Super excited. And I wake up in the morning, I did my hair because I want to look pretty. I don’t know.


[00:20:26] Michelle: You look gorgeous.


[00:20:27] Samah: And it was raining all over me today, so it was a waste of time. I, I don’t know. I would love to see, uh, more, uh, I would love to celebrate more contribution to WordPress.


We have the [Yoast] Care Fund and I would love to able to share more information about it. And then we have amazing talk with people who really contribute to WordPress. I know from my head there’s WordPress in Masaka, in Uganda that are teaching kids how to, or let’s say people, kids in high school, to teach them how to use WordPress, to empower them and to, so I believe together we can reach more bigger audience. And I don’t know, I was just like, now my head is going all over the place with crazy ideas. My place is like, oh, me at this idea.


Yeah. I don’t know, maybe in two weeks I will have a clear idea. But now just into my head that I would love to celebrate more contribution to WordPress, to, to maybe focus over the sense of belonging to WordPress. Because I think that is really was some of the topic in community summit that Bridget was like talking about. And it was. I felt it because I went through it the first one year of contribution. I felt so alone. So I back up for half a year and then I said like, oh no, I’m going again. I’m going to make it.


But yeah, I think it’s better two weeks to have a better clear idea and I can explain myself better.


[00:22:12] Michelle: I love that. And that’s the wonderful thing, is that we don’t necessarily have to have the answers every week to raise the questions. But one thing I will say you and I discussed right before we started recording is we are bringing back the video aspect of our podcast. So people, if they are listening now, but they want to see us talk to each other because we’re animated and gosh darn it, we’re good looking ladies. But you’ll be able to find our podcast also on our YouTube channel where we will have, you know, where you can watch us talk, which I think is what. And we have great backgrounds, like, I’ve got my dad’s guitars, I’ve got my photography. You’ve got a beautiful yost mural behind you.


[00:22:50] Samah: And there’s amazing Yoast booth, which is designed to have a meetings or recordings. So that’s why my voice is clear.


And I’m really happy because a lot of my colleagues today, we have a video team. They came up, help me and set up everything and, oh, wonderful. And I’m not really good, like using a couple things. The microphone they taught me and I. And I did it good all by myself. I’m super proud.


[00:23:17] Michelle: It looks good and it sounds great. So, yeah, they, they did a good job and you’ve done a wonderful job.


[00:23:21] Samah: They did. And next time, I’m not gonna do my hair, I’m gonna be so natural. Just be me.


[00:23:29] Michelle: It’s all about keeping it real here at Underrepresented In Tech.


[00:23:32] Samah: I don’t know, I just remember I said, like, I’m gonna look nice. And it was raining cats and dogs. And then I was telling my husband before I go, like, oh, today I’m gonna do the podcast. And he told me, I’m proud of you. And he was cheering me and he was waving from me. And then, and then I was like, all like lots of boots and with umbrella and like trying to not get wet. And then I said, like, she only gonna see from here, like, so why I’m really dressed up.


[00:24:00] Michelle: But anyway, there’s there’s an old saying that says men plan and God laughs. So it’s like.


And I think that all the time I’m like, oh, I gotta get dressed. And that’s when it will rain, right? Or like I’m gonna, I’m leaving early. Well, that’s when the trains are going and you have to stop. And you, you’re like looking at your watch, I’m gonna be late anyway. So all of those things.


[00:24:24] Samah: And you know what? This weekend, the weather is like amazing. I’m really pissed off like this. And before I joined, like because I’m in Wijchen, we have a couple of buildings for Yoast. Our headquarters here and I was moving from one building to another. The sun was shining. You can wear your glasses. And I was like, oh my God, that’s awesome.


[00:24:47] Michelle: My goodness. Well, I am very excited. I don’t know what we’re going to talk about next week. I never know what we’re going to talk about next week. Part of it will be what happens in the world and how we respond to it and things and issues and current events. And sometimes it’ll be that we invite speakers, or guests to come and talk with us. We’re going to give it a couple weeks. If you are somebody who wants to come on the show, you have a topic you’d like to talk about, you can DM either one of us. My twitter is always open @MichelleAmes. You can find us on make WordPress, you can find me on Post Status Slack, any of the places. You can also use our contact form on the website  at, any of those places if you have something. I can’t promise that we will bring every person on as a guest. Sometimes people want to promote something and it’s not in keeping with our standards and what we want to discuss. But if you have something interesting to talk about, we will consider bringing a guest on now and then. And we would love to have you so you never know what you’re going to get from week to week, but we hope that you’ll continue to listen and be along the ride with us.


[00:25:50] Samah: And I promise I reply to my slacks faster.


[00:25:55] Michelle: You better. Well, now I’ve got your WhatsApp too.


[00:25:57] Samah: So the thing is like at Yoast Slack, I reply less than 1 minute and if I have rule, if I don’t reply to someone message more than five minutes, I always start, I’m sorry for late reply, but because then I notice maybe I have like ten slack things. I mean it sometimes can be overwhelming. So maybe that’s I’m only focusing, but I promise I’ll reply to Slack faster.


[00:26:24] Michelle:  Okay, I appreciate that. I’m sure other people will too. So, Samah, welcome. Welcome to the project and to the podcast. And thank you so much for agreeing to partner with me.


[00:26:34] Samah: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for asking me.


I’m really happy.


I’m really happy today, and I’m nervous and make amazing and great things, and I cannot wait to move forward. And yeah, I cannot wait to see you personally. Hopefully coming up, I will be there. I will be there.


[00:26:54] Michelle: Fantastic. All right, we’ll see everybody else next week on Remember, you can join our database where people are found for jobs. I have stories where people message me and say, I got a job or a gig or, you know, I was a guest host. I was a guest on a podcast because of Underrepresented In Tech. So if you’re an underrepresented person and you’d like to join, it is free to join If you’re looking for people to include in your project or to hire part-time, full-time, you can search the database. It is also free. We did not tax anybody so that underrepresented people can be included in projects and in work. So The podcast will always be there. And yeah, you can find anybody to work. So we’ll see everybody next week on another Underrepresented In Tech.


[00:27:43] Samah: Bye bye.


[00:27:46] Outro: If you’re interested in using our database, joining us as a guest for an episode, or just want to say hi, go to See you next week.


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Michelle Frechette

Michelle Frechette


Samah Nasr

Samah Nasr