Developer turned Community Liaison for the Drupal Association, Rachel Lawson fills us in on why this is an important role for her and the Drupal project. Plus, a motorbike tour of Europe and Asia?

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It's been really good for my own personal growth [...] and my ability to be confident. I've grown that through working with people in the community.

This Episode's Guest

Rachel Lawson

Rachel Lawson

Having worked the last five years as a Drupal freelancer, getting involved in the Drupal Community as both a Sprint Mentor and member of the Drupal Community Working Group, Rachel has now moved to dedicate all of her time as the Drupal Association’s new Community Liaison.

Transcript

Transcript

Chris:
Back at DrupalCon Seattle and today I'm talking with Rachel Lawson from the Drupal Association.
Rachel :
Hi, how are you doing?
Chris:
I'm good. How are you?
Rachel :
Really well, thank you.
Chris:
So you are the Community Liaison for the Drupal Association. Tell me about what you do in that role and why that is a role that you wanted to take on.
Rachel :
It's funny actually because when the role was first discussed I was working for the community working group at the time and Megan Sanicki brought it to us. The job title had originally was community manager and it was, I thought, whoa, no, actually I don't think our community would be all that entirely happy with that term. So I suggested liaison because actually what the role is spending time understanding the Drupal community and assisting them with doing the things that they want to do, how they want to grow the product, how they want to make sure everybody in the world gets to know about it and work together. So it's more of a liaison between the Drupal association and with the community and making sure we do things well.
Chris:
How does that look to you on a day to day basis? What sort of things do you do as a community liaison?
Rachel :
Mostly slack and kind of working on materials, working with individuals all around the community. It means that occasionally I get to actually go places. So obviously we're here in Drupal con in Seattle, which is marvelous. Spending time with people, lots and lots and lots of conversations. And it also means occasionally I can get off to Drupal camps where that's possible. You know, I mean the reality is we only have so much budget in the DA, so I need to spend it wisely. So I've just come back from combining two Drupal camps into one trip to try and make the most of money. So I've been out to Drupal, camp, Goa on the coast in India, which was a real eye-opener. My launch learned so much about the community in India, was incredibly impressed by what I saw there and excited and came back via Drupal mountain camp in Davos in Switzerland. Although that did mean going from, oh actually I only know the temperatures in centigrade because I live in Europe so I went from like 30 degrees centigrade to minus five overnight. Just kind of crazy.
Chris:
Yeah. Definitely. I'm getting better at my Fahrenheit to centigrade conversions. That's a big disparity. Wow, that sounds like an amazing trip. Like you said, one extreme to the other. Why, is this role important to you? Why is this something that you wanted to do?
Rachel :
I think for many years I've been in the Drupal community for maybe 12 years. I keep saying 10 years, but I must have been saying it for a couple of years now. So I've been in the community for a long while. It's been really good for my own personal growth and I mean that more than professional growth. Definitely personal growth and my ability to be confident. I've grown that through working with people in the community. So anything and everything I can put back into that is personally a big deal for me. And this job is just a way of doing that. And yet also being able to pay my mortgage.
Chris:
That's great. Combine those two things, your passion and get paid for it. So what was your role in the community before you decided to take on this position with the DA?
Rachel :
So I was a developer but I've been employed to do that and as a freelance too, I kind of almost feel like saying I'm cheating developer site, builder stroke developer kind of level, really. It would be the honest truth. Although I've been a core contributor for a few years and I've been mentoring at sprints and so on for awhile. But yeah, and then I got involved in the community working group for a year until, because of the incompatibilities of being a community liaison and being in some things secretive like the CWG I had stepped down from that role.
Chris:
I see. Do you still have time that you can get in and work on the code or is that sort of a past life thing now for you? Or is it more like you try and fit it in on the sides?
Rachel :
I guess it's fitting it in on the sides. I do manage occasionally. Usually it's something quite simple these days. I'm really quite pleased to see my name on the Umami Wall we have here on the DA booth. So I've done a few little bits here and there on there. We just kept me entertained. I think it's important that if I'm in this role liaising with the community, that I can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. It's important to me, whether it's important to anybody else, I can continue to say, yeah, yeah, I'm contributing. Yeah, I think it's true.
Chris:
Yeah. What is one thing you think that as a community we're doing really well and where do you, one area, you think that the Drupal community is a little behind and that we could stand to improve?
Rachel :
I think in terms of really well, and I think it's something that we're getting better at all the time these days, is how we collaborate. The fact that there are groups out there that have grown from grassroots and have come up with some really great ideas. One of the great ideas that I can think of right now is the DD&I group started putting issues into a project module on drupal.org as a way of managing their work but also recognizing the work of others. And that was a purely grassroots thing. So one of the things I was then able to do was say, hey everybody, go do this. Create a module for your group or camp or whatever and give credit where credit's due. And the fact that we are community state those groups are communicating and helping others is something that I think we've always had a skill at but it's really stepping up these days.
Rachel :
I think if there's something that we can continue to improve is focus. And I was really pleased to see Teresa's slides today. He had a, what I think is probably his most powerful slide today at the Driesnote was the slide that had a focus and it just went, one, two, three, do this, that and the other. That other things that we need to be concentrating on in 2019. If every part of the community looked at that and said, okay, well, if that's the project focus, what's our group's focus based upon that? That's how we make a really big step forward is by all working on the same thing at the same time for the same reasons. That will make this project really, truly special.
Chris:
That's a really good example. It was, I thought, a very, like you said, very directed, very focused, very easy to follow because of that presentation. When you can see sort of clear that the path in front of you and see where you're going, it makes a bigger impact that way. I like that. All right. We'll start to turn this a little bit here. I know your time is very precious, being a member of the Drupal association, especially at a conference like this. So I will let you go as soon as I can here. If you were given a full month off, fully paid to do whatever you want, what do you do? Oh,
Rachel :
I already have you have a plan. Many people will know that I am entirely obsessed with motorbikes. I have an unnecessarily large BMW and I have a plan. I really want to take that time and possibly a little bit longer off at some point soon. And travel from the UK where I live. I'm the only Drupal association employee in Europe, but travel from say London, which is near where I live, to India, going through Europe and around Europe, through Turkey, Iran. I know someone who can get me into northern Iraq. Yeah, it's a long story.
Rachel :
Tajikistan, slightly a bit in China, down into Pakistan, down into India. But on the way interview in which in the same way that you're interviewing people now, but interview people that are involved in open source and particularly Drupal about why they do that and why they'd spend the time committing into this thing that is then just given away. Because it's a special type of person. We should all be proud of what we do and being able to highlight people all over and in places that we don't often hear from. Dries highlighted Ashkar in Pakistan. I want to go there. I was chatting to him. He did joke that, because I said, how would I get into such and such and he says, oh no, go to Islamabad not Peshawar. Yeah. And we'll have a camp whenever you turn up.
Chris:
Ambitious, impromptu Drupal camp.
Rachel :
Why not? But then yeah, go to camps and stuff like that. All around Europe and down into Middle East and then into Asia. Why not? I think it would be, I think it would be really special.
Chris:
Yeah. I'll tell you what, when you get that plan together, let me know. I'll tell you everything you need to know about setting up a simple podcast recording and we'll do a combination. You get the interviews, I'll put them up on the website and then publish them out and we'll have a whole, a real around the world behind the screens.
Rachel :
That would be amazing.
Chris:
You keep me in mind when that comes together. I'm looking forward to that. All right, let's go rapid fire. Five questions, yes or no, this or that types of questions and we'll wrap this up so I'll let you get back to the meeting that is impending upon us here. Okay. First question, dog or cat?
Rachel :
Dog.
Chris:
Star wars or star Trek?
Rachel :
Oh, Star Wars.
Chris:
Peanut butter, crunchy or creamy?
Rachel :
Neither, I hate peanut butter.
Chris:
All right. All right. Would you rather attend a school of Hogwarts or own a wardrobe that takes you to Narnia?
Rachel :
Narnia.
Chris:
Finally, if 100 hippos and 100 rhinos fought on a mixed terrain of land and water, which group wins?
Rachel :
Hippos.
Chris:
Why Hippos?
Rachel :
No idea. They just scare me more.
Chris:
I'll take it. I'll take it. Good answer. All right, and I always wrap up with a little gratitude. A little thanks. Is there anybody that comes to mind that you would like to say thank you to that maybe gave you a little hand along the way?
Rachel :
George DeMet, actually. A lot of the way that I go about things was because of the people. In fact, the whole of the CWG, because a lot of the way I go about working now is because of things I learned when I was working with that group and I will be eternally grateful to them.
Chris:
That's wonderful. Rachel, thank you very much for taking a few minutes today. I really appreciate it.
Rachel :
Thank you.

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About host Chris Albrecht

Chris Albrecht
His backend brings all the nerds to the code. Skilled in Drupal development and architecture, you can often find him running through the Colorado wilderness and hosting the Behind the Screens podcast.