Liquid Web's Director of Customer Success for GiveWP on building community, stepping outside of what’s comfortable, and forging weird and wonderful paths.
Michelle Frechette learned early on to look for growth opportunities and to extend her hand to others, encouraging them to join her along the way. Born in Indiana, Frechette has spent most of her life in Hilton, New York, a suburb of Rochester. She is the oldest of six children and 40 years older than her youngest sibling. "Maybe not your average family," she says, "but we make it work!"
Frechette was a shy child who blossomed in high school thanks to performance. "I was a theatre kid, choir singer, and band member. I was never afraid to take the stage, try something new, or put myself out there in new ways, like running for student council or being a singing telegram," she says. "Auditioning for plays hooked me on the feeling of not just wanting to do something, but just doing it. It was exhilarating! Taking that one chance gave me the confidence to take more opportunities as they came my way."
It was following opportunities that led Frechette to the tech field, where she has now worked for nearly a decade, getting her start by working on a website for a nonprofit. "My friend's husband built the shell of the website, but we had to populate the content and learn how to use it. That was 2012." From there, she learned how to build WordPress sites and even ran her own digital agency. "I had been using GiveWP on a client's site," she says, "and I loved how it worked. So I was lucky to start working with GiveWP in January of 2018."
Frechette is the Director of Customer Success for GiveWP, the premier fundraising plugin for WordPress, and one of the brands under Liquid Web's StellarWP umbrella of WordPress tools. "My team and I demo GiveWP to interested organizations, helping them ensure that Give is the right tool for their online fundraising," she says. "Then, after they purchase, we help them get up and running with tips, emails, Facebook group content, phone calls, or Zoom meetings to answer questions."
The role is an excellent fit for her, as she's deeply motivated to help others. In addition to the work she does at Liquid Web, she organizes and speaks at WordCamps, is on the board of Big Orange Heart, and serves as the co-founder of underrepresentedintech.com and other endeavors to benefit the WordPress and tech communities. She is also the host of the podcast WPCoffeeTalk. "I have received so much from the WordPress community, and it's a great joy and honor to be able to give back and pay it forward," she says. It's no surprise then that what drives Frechette's love of tech is the people. "It's the most diverse group of humans I've ever been in a community with," she says. "They're creative yet analytical; some are introverted; some are extroverted; their backgrounds and locations are varied."
A genuine love of community drives Frechette. "Some of my richest experiences in life have come because I befriended people that others overlooked," she says. In addition to reaching out to others, an essential part of Frechette's journey has been learning to recognize chances for growth as they arrive and saying yes to them. "I try not to ever to turn down opportunities—especially ones that push me outside my comfort zone—because I'm always eager to learn."
The person who has most significantly influenced her career journey is her daughter, Lydia Frechette-Hogan. "As a single mother, I wanted to make sure that I always modeled a strong woman who could empower others, influence change, self-advocate, stand up for those less fortunate, and stand up to those who would seek to tear me down," she says. "I wasn't always able to do that, but it was a good north star to set my direction on. Through that journey, I found WordPress, worked to help others, and did the best I could within any role I was fortunate enough to hold."
Frechette knows the future for women in tech is bright. "Watching women lead tech companies like Marieke van de Rakt at Yoast and Natalie McLees at Simply Schedule Appointments is inspiring. Add to that the women in medical research like Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, leading nanotechnologies to fight cancer; and Kellie Girardi, the first woman astronaut payload specialist set to go into space with Virgin Galactic, and you can see more and more doors are opening. To be part of the path that opens the way for more women in technology is something I aspire to."
Her advice to women considering a tech career is to find groups and organizations that can support their growth and development. "Find a mentor. Take classes. Look for support groups, coaches, meetups, mastermind groups. Do what inspires you. Find a way to make it happen," she says. “There is a path for everyone,” says Frechette. "I'm not just a woman in tech. I'm a woman in tech with a disability, with chronic anxiety, and who is a lot older than most women in tech are," she says. "There's nothing 'average' about my technology journey, and that's a good thing! I hope that the weird and wonderful path I've taken inspires other women who think they're 'too old' or 'too disabled' or who struggle with mental health to see that they can do it. They can work to be who and where they want to be. I'm living proof."
When she's not at work, Frechette loves taking her cameras out for long drives in nature. "My favorite wildlife to photograph are birds and deer, both of which are plentiful in Western New York.” She has also photographed bees, turtles, butterflies, and flowers. "Getting home and popping the SD card into my laptop to see what I've captured is so much fun!"
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