Photo: from Caleb Thorne
Through Drupal over the years I have been fortunate to meet and get to know many brilliant minds. Kindred spirits brought close by technology even if we lived a world apart, meeting once or twice a year at Drupal Conferences or camps. Through these occasional events, we forge strong meaningful connections which persist via the ether.
Rick Nashleanas was one such bright light. A key figure in my personal story, a kind-hearted gentleman with a bucket load of enthusiasm. He was the one who encouraged me to become involved with Drupal on a global scale. Few times in life do you meet someone like Rick. I feel privileged to have known him. A fantastic mentor who helped me believe in myself, contributing to my gaining confidence to take on big new challenges. But I wasn't alone. Rick made his business Monarch Digital into an elevator for young people embarking upon a career in Drupal, providing an incubator for upcoming developers to realise their potential. And as global chair for DrupalCon he was the catalyst for many others to become active participants in contribution be that code or community.
Anyone who had the good fortune to meet Rick was surely better for it. A beaming smile and enthusiasm by the bucket load. With great integrity, always put people first. So when I wrote a blog at the weekend about how we might open more opportunities to people with Drupal it was obvious, though I hadn't contacted him in a while, that I would reach out to Rick. He always had sage advice. That's perhaps why Caleb Thorne called him a real-life Yoda. It was with great sadness I received a response from his wife to say he had passed away.
Whilst Rick has passed away, for me his light will never go out. I live each day better for knowing Rick, his radiant smile will remain a constant reminder in my mind that each day is an opportunity to do good. His legacy is strong through the very many people he inspired.
Take a moment to think back to the moment you first discovered it was possible to pursue a career in Drupal. Cast your mind even further back to how you actually heard about Drupal. For many of us, myself included, it was serendipity. A coincidence which changed the course of your life for the better. We read the right article, happened across a meetup, spoke to the right person. Sound familiar? More likely this than thinking at University or school that was the career path we were targeting.
Today Matt Glaman explained how he came to be stood in front of 500 people keynoting at DrupalCamp London. Working as a bar person, hobbyist Drupaler by night, back in 2013 he had no idea being a Drupal developer was a real job. Matt had the good fortune to meet Mike Anello, an inspirational member of the Drupal community. This triggered a chain of events which combined with self-motivation lead to Matt speaking to Ryan Szrama (another Drupalist with infectious enthusiasm) and ultimately working full time for Commerce Guys.
Open Source Software like Drupal (and the communities surrounding them) drives opportunity which can change people's lives. Matt's keynote left me wishing we could move to a situation where we as a project we are not so dependent upon coincidence. It's far from the first time I've felt this way. Vijayachandran Mani was living in rural India. He worked in Drupal for 4 years before really understanding open source or what the community and contribution was. Only when by chance Vijay stumbled across a blog by Dries Buytaert did he discover there were huge employment opportunities for him in India using Drupal. This ultimately resulted in Vijay moving to the UK and becoming a top 20 contributor to Drupal 8 core.
What about all those people we nearly hooked, the ones that weren't in that right place at the right time? The ones not quite brave enough to speak to us at a conference or meetup. How can we reach more of them? Where is the place they can discover role models just like them?
Considering Drupal is celebrated far and wide for its community, for me Drupal.org is a faceless place. It does not represent the warmth and diversity of our events. The welcoming nature of all we do. Wouldn't it be nice if we humanised this place. Create a special area where some of us could tell our personal story. Of how we came to do the jobs we do, the impact we generate in the real world through open source software. How we work often in modern and distributed ways, creating imaginative solutions for public services, charities, governments, non-profits and business. That being a Drupalist is a real and valuable career path. A place where those with potential to get involved could realise there are others just like them working in Drupal, role models if you will.
I see there being many parallels to this idea and the new industry landing pages the Drupal Association have realised. Not only should Drupal promote itself better to business but also future contributors and those embarking upon a career in digital. I'd welcome your thoughts on this idea.
Thanks to Elliot Ward for allowing use of his photo from DrupalCamp London. You can see his other images from the camp here.