Pantheon Community

WebOps Wednesday AMA: John Richards II

Hello, I’m John Richards, a Developer Advocate here at Pantheon and I live in St. Louis with my wife and a clowder of cats. I enjoy innovating simple solutions for complex challenges which is what led to my love of coding.

I started at an agency building custom PHP websites and applications in 2007. In 2013, I began developing WordPress themes and plugins as I took a job at Washington University in Saint Louis. Once you start doing WordPress, it doesn’t take long to discover the fabulous community around it and soon I began attending WordCamps. When WordCamp US came to Saint Louis last year, I became an organizer and loved it. I really wanted to do more community work, so when I saw Pantheon looking for a Developer Advocate I jumped at the opportunity.

Apart from coding, I enjoy playing board games with friends, trying new food, and spending time reading with a cat curled in my lap. I joined the public speaking club Toastmasters International in 2014 and with it began to cultivate a passion for communicating. I’m always looking for advice and feedback on how to improve my presentations.

I’m a sucker for personality tests even if I question their accuracy at times. I’m a ENTP 7w8 who enjoys learning where others land. I’d be delighted if you shared your result along with a question, but no pressure, if it isn’t your thing.

Ask me anything, or choose from the topics below:

  • PHP development
  • WordPress development
  • Organizer for WCUS
  • Board games
  • Cats
  • St. Louis
  • Trying new types of food
  • Toastmasters and public speaking
  • Reading
  • Higher Education
  • Personality tests: Myers-Briggs / Strengthsfinder / Enneagram / Big 5






Hi @JohnRichardsII, I’m glad you are on board with Pantheon! Could you expand on any commonalities and differences between the way websites are built and maintained in your agency experience vs. in higher ed?


Hi @JohnRichardsII! Welcome to the team. :grinning:

Do you have a favorite go-to WordPress theme? Why?

Are there any WordPress plugins that you add to pretty much every site? Why?

If I were coming to your house to play board games what would you suggest? What one or two games are worth the hassle of packing to bring to an event?

What would your perfect meal look like? (What food, drink, people, etc)

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When I first started in higher ed, I was shocked at the difference in timelines. Instead of projects being measured in weeks it was now months. The first impression is often that higher ed just doesn’t work as hard. Over time I realized that the amount of work wasn’t so different, instead it was the long discovery at the start and then approval process at the end that was extending timelines. When charting the RACI matrix for a project each group was exponentially larger than what I had encountered during agency life. Because the projects lasted so long, multiple would run concurrently but then WIP became a challenge. This is why we found it so important to begin moving away from traditional waterfall approaches and begin adapting agile WebOps practices.

On the upside, working is one specific vector allowed us to really focus our skills so we could begin offering a layer of strategic insight on how individual sites fit into the larger university landscape. It was so rewarding when we reached a point where we were being brought in before departments have even decided on what they wanted so we could be a strategic partner in guiding that discussion to what would be most beneficial for them and the larger university ecosystem.


I’d have to go with _s. Most of my WP experience is in building custom themes so it was crucial to have a good starting point to save time. At WashU we modified _s to include our default brand styling and build tools which a fellow developer cleverly named antipasto.

ACF is amazing for custom development. Being able to spin up complicated fields on the fly and not need to remember all the syntax is such a timesaver. Just make sure once you have built them that you convert them to PHP or Json so you don’t have to recreate all those changes as you transfer the code through different environments.
– As an aside, I’m watching with interest on how the value ACF brings changes as Gutenberg gains wider adoption.

My favorite co-op game is Spirit Island but it takes a while. So if I know we had the time I’d absolutely try and get it played. For travel I like social deduction games that are light on components. The Resistance is a blast and plays a wide range of people. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is another great option.

I worry I have had my perfect meal and now I feel like Alexander crying when there were no more worlds to conqueror. That meal was a Szechuan hot pot that I made in my Instant Pot for a bunch of friends while at a board game retreat. We started with a course of veggies and mushrooms so all my vegetarian friends could take part. After we worked through the noodles, tofo and bok choy we then moved onto the meat courses. We had lamb, beef, cuttlefish balls, and much more. I wasn’t able to get the tripe thawed in time for use, so maybe the perfect meal will be scaling it up with more friends and including a round of tripe at the end for those with adventurous tastes.

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Thanks for answering questions today! The Community team recently had an off-site trip and took personality tests to learn more about each other. Turns out, I’m an ISFJ, basically as opposite of you as possible!
I also love food an awful lot and enjoy trying new things. What’s the most recent thing that made you think, “WOW! This is amazing”?


One thing looking at personality tests did for me, was highlight how many friends I have who have very similar personalities. I’m making a concerted effort to try and build relationships with people who think fundamentally different than I do and it has been eye opening.

I had a Ćevapi from Balkan Treat Box and it was magical. St. Louis is blessed to have the largest Bosnian community in the US. One of the side benefits is that they share their beautiful culture and cuisine.

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Attention DevRel team: @JohnRichardsII is going to be catering our next DevRel off site. :joy:


Hi @JohnRichardsII :wave:

We are super excited to have you on DevRel! Thanks so much for jumping in to host our AMA this week! I am seriously geeking out over your paawwwferct kitties :heart_eyes_cat: My favorite photo in the bunch is the third one down–looks like Doris is smiling! I am sadly allergic to cats so my obsession only goes as far as viewing these previous pets. However, make sure to showcase these beauties at our next meeting!

On to other things–I see you’re super passionate about personality assessments. Same here! I am an ENFJ :clap: Literally so fitting! If you want to read more about my personality you can do so here. Apparently I am a protagonist :woman_shrugging:

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Hi, @JohnRichardsII! Welcome to the team!

I too love Spirit Island. And reading. And kitties. <3

What are some of the things have you learned from Toastmasters? I’m definitely intrigued but haven’t signed up yet.

(And I’m usually an INFJ or INFP.)

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Thanks @McKennaR, and I am absolutely stoked to be a part of the team. Getting paid to extravert while empowering others is a dream job for me.<3

The first 3 cats have crashed a few meetings already but Algernon is my grue who only comes out at night after everyone goes to sleep so I doubt he’ll make an appearance.

I need to hang out with you more, I could learn from your reliability to help keep me from getting distracted. Squirrel!! :chipmunk:


YESSSSS! I’m 1000% for hot pot at our next off-site


Yay, a kindred spirit!!! :smiley:

The 2 most important things that Toastmasters offers are a community focused on improvement and opportunities to speak to a live audience. It is completely possible to get those elements elsewhere but for many, including myself at the time, those two things are very hard to come by.

It is a fact that the more you learn from feedback and the more you practice the better you will become. Toastmasters increases how often you can do that, thereby accelerating skill growth. Each club has a different culture so it can be worth trying a few out before committing.

Your role is the advocate, a perfect fit for advocating on our users behalf’s. Glad we have your perspective on the team.

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plans trip to St Louis only for Bosnian food

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We should do a WCUS dev-rel food outing, but waiting till October will be hard.


Yay! Personality matches the job description! :sunglasses:

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I am TOTALLY down for this.


Hi @JohnRichardsII!

I live in STL and I’m curious, what are some of your favorite industry meetups?

I would love some restaurant recommendations, too!


Yay STL represent :smiley:

The WordPress meetup group is awesome, and it is largely due to a few committed members there that we were able to get WCUS to come to STL.

If you are interested in project management topics I got a lot out of my visits to the Lean Kanban meetup.

The people who run Google Developers Group are phenomenal, so it is well worth crashing a couple of their events.

Not officially tech related, but the board game meetups I attend are skewed very tech heavy.

I frequented meetups with much more regularity a few years ago, so thanks for the reminder to re-engage. Do you have any you would recommend I check out?

As for restaurants, there are so many great places. Any specific location or cuisine you are looking for?

I have a lot of experience on the Delmar Loop so if you are near there I’d recommend checking out one of these delicious places.
Seoul Taco: For a while the Mexican Korean fusion there was a weekly tradition for me. I just went yesterday. There is just so much flavor packed into every single item they serve. Everyone I bring here always wants to go back.
Salt = Smoke: My favorite thing about visiting Nashville and Texas use to be trying the barbecue, but Salt + Smoke ruined that by bringing the best brisket to me. Do yourself a favor and order the brisket 1/2 burnt ends & 1/2 fatty brisket. Ask for their special white barbecue sauce on the side to go with your fries because the meat is so good it doesn’t even need sauce.

If you are looking for a sandwich while near the hill try Gioia’s: The secret menu’s Spaceball was the most obscenely delicious sandwich I’ve had the pleasure of eating.

Do you have any restaurants you love?


I am SO late to respond to this–but hey I love me a good squirrel chase :laughing: There is always something we can learn from others around us–especially those who don’t have the same personalities!

Also, yes to all the kittiesss! As I currently sneeze my face off. It’s fine, I’ll recover!