An interview with Malachy McConnell

Technology consultant, mathematician, programmer… …and WordPress trainer.

Max and Crunchie

Malachy is running Prompt’s London ‘Successfully Wrestle with WordPress in a Weekend’ courses. Here we catch up with him to find out more about what he does and the story behind his love of WordPress…

Firstly, please tell us a little about yourself

I was born in Edinburgh, I studied Physics at Herriot-Watt University and then Mathematics at Reading University. I like haggis, rugby and anything to do with numbers – including many different kinds of coding. I spend a lot of time with my West Highland terrier called Crunchie – that’s her in the picture with me.

And when did you start coding?

When I was a child our family had a Sinclair ZX81, a simple microcomputer wholly manufactured in Scotland, so I grew up learning Basic. Later in life I wrote software for  nanotechnology development, and gained experience with FORTRAN, Pascal, Visual Basic, 68000 Assembly, DOS batch, Linux Batch, MATLAB, HTML/HTML5, PHP and JavaScript. For me, maths and coding have always gone hand-in-hand. There’s an underlying commonality to coding languages, which I see as logic and maths. It’s always fascinating to learn new languages and methods – whether it’s coding or using a new package such as WordPress.

So why do you like WordPress so much?

There are so many reasons. Firstly, it can be very easy to set up and use. During our new weekend course we teach students how to set WordPress up on their own web server, as well as how to run it hosted. Both options are straightforward. Once installed, there is so much choice and flexibility for presenting content, and such a large number of templates, features and plugins that can be used to easily customise a website or blog. WordPress really has come a long way since it was ‘just’ a blogging platform. There’s so much that can be done with it now simply by writing what they call ‘short codes’, which are basically ways to provide WordPress with quick creative instructions.

What’s the hardest thing about working with WordPress?

All of the great elements that make it feature-rich and full of choice also demand a lot of decisions to be made by users, and sometimes this flexibility can be daunting. Fortunately, I’m very used to dealing with users that sort of know what they want, but become overwhelmed by the choices WordPress throws at them, and can help a lot in getting them unstuck!

Why do you like teaching?

I’ve always enjoyed sharing ideas and concepts. I’ve lectured in nanotechnology at universities and presented talks on hardware and software design. But I really relish the opportunity to sit down with individuals or small groups and to show them how to accomplish their goals, which means classroom style teaching really suits me. I show people WordPress features every day, whether it’s clients that want to know how to use a certain function that they are unsure of, or just helping people in the office or remote desktop assistance for my American colleagues. I’m also told that I’m very methodical and relaxed, which I think always help when you’re trying to show someone something new.

What’s the most fun thing you’ve designed with WordPress?

wordpress logoI’ve used WordPress to build lot of fun and interactive sites. The content that goes on to a site is really up to the client, but I enjoy the collaboration over how design can transform a shared online experience. Personally, I’m very proud of a plugin that I wrote which I call the ‘chameleon’. It works as an underlying code for other plugins used by WordPress programmers, and if anyone would like to have a copy, then please email me as I’m more than happy to share it!

Finally, tell us something unusual thing about yourself

I was one of the youngest people in Britain to have a plastic optical lens implant following an accident involving me, a wood screw and momentum when I was 12 years old.  Fortunately a series of operations, each lasting several hours, saved my sight.
I really enjoyed my WordPress training course with Prompt Communications. The trainer, Malachy McConnell is an excellent teacher who is patient, clear and calm, and I learnt a great deal from him during the course.

I want to have control over my own website and training with Prompt has made this possible. I am very grateful to have worked with Prompt and would highly recommend this course. Thank you to Malachy and Prompt Communications!
Mai Lee, founder, Mai Lee Beauty Academy, 8 April 2013