Kalamuna's Senior Communications Strategist, Shannon O'Malley, dishes on that sweet donation wall at @BADCamp, and how she transitioned from corporate advertising to open source evangelist.

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This Episode's Guest

Shannon O'Malley

Shannon is a harbinger of diction, hailing from the magical land of Snake Mountain to bring order to content chaos. With a single stroke of her pen, Shannon has the power to transform unfocused words into strategic poetry that will live meaningfully on all devices.

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Transcript

Chris:
Okay. I'm here going behind the screens with Shannon O'Malley of Kalamuna. Hey Shannon.
Shannon:
Hi there. Hey Chris.
Chris:
Tell me a little bit about what you do with Kalamuna and what brings you out to BADCamp?
Shannon:
Sure. Well, my formal title at Kalamuna is Senior Communications Strategist, but we all do a lot here, 'cause we're so small. There's maybe I think 15 of us about, so I handle, outside of BADCamp, I do content strategy for our clients and then the part of my job is managing the Kalamuna brand, helping out with all things, Kalamuna communications, whether that's helping us write a blog post. I help the team write their blog post, doing super media strategy, writing the super media, partner communications, with partner marketing, or anything like that. I do a lot of that kind of stuff for the [inaudible 00:00:48].
Chris:
Is this what you went to school for? Is this what you trained for? How did you end up working with Kalamuna?
Shannon:
Sure. Definitely not, well, a little bit what I trained for, but never imagined that I would end up ... I didn't even know what Drupal was when I was in college. I don't have a coding background, I've never been a developer. I didn't know what Drupal was until three years ago. I came up as an advertising copywriter, so that means that I worked for eight to ten years working in the creative department of ad agencies, coming up with ad campaigns. All the cultural pollution that you see on the highways of the bill boards and TV ads and campaigns and everything, I was one of those people who came up with those ideas and wrote them and sold them to big companies. I've worked on campaigns for Volkswagen, PayPal, electronic arts, a lot of really huge companies.
After a while, I wanted to do something new and working in a corporate world it's a lot. It's a lot of 2 A.M. nights with 8 A.M. mornings, so I wanted to do something else. I do my own projects on the side and working in the corporate world doesn't really help you do your side projects, so I was just at a fork in the road and I knew that Andrew Mallis, the co-founder of Kalamuna, he's a friend of mine and I knew he was looking for somebody to help him with writing and coming up with concepts for websites and the backend thinking about communications.
He knew that I did that that stuff, so we worked on a project or two and then he told me, "Hey, me and these guys got together and we're really getting this company called Kalamuna together and we need help with our brand, like what is it, what does it say, what are we about, how do we manifest it through communication channels. I was, "Okay, "I can do something about that. I can help you out." I wrote the original Kalamuna brand and since then, that was three years ago, I've just been helping out on getting the word out, and helping steer us in terms of communications. That's how I ended up here at BAD Camp. BAD Camp for me as an advertising person, it's a media buy. Most developers here seem to think of it as, and it is this, it's a great educational resource. I love how the open-source community works together to building this thing called Drupal and share information and stuff.
I think for the developers, it's an educational opportunity. It's a networking opportunity, let's share what we know about the JS nodes or whatever these things are. I don't know about them and hook up with colleagues and share information and learn from them, but it's also an opportunity for these different companies to get the word out about who they are and get people interested in them and just reinforce their identities to the community. At the camps, I always have a hand in helping us do that.
Chris:
Yeah. And, you guys are something awesome at the camp here where you've got a wall set up with a series of gift cards taped to then, with the denominations hidden, and anybody can come pick a gift card off the wall, scratch off the back, find the denomination and donate that amount to the charity of their choice. We pick the charity, but Kalamuna is providing the donation.
Shannon:
Yeah, that's right.
Chris:
That is one of the most cool, amazing things I've seen at a booth at any conference or camp. What gave you the idea to come up with that?
Shannon:
Cool. Thanks. Yeah. And, another part of it too, is that people can write down the charity that they gave to and write it on a colorful sticker and put it on our wall. Right now, here at the camp, what you see is this big grid with all these different colors and names of all these great organizations that do good work across the World, and so we're also giving people an opportunity to promote those organizations. If you're into [NPR 00:04:22] or the [SPCA 00:04:32], or whatever, we want to help you amplify your cause to the wall, so that's another thing that it's doing. But to answer your question as to how it came about, again, I think of these camps not only as an educational opportunity for the developers and everyone else who comes, but it's also an opportunity for us to get the word out about who we are. It's like a media buy. It's like buying an ad in a magazine to talk about who you are.
Here, there's an opportunity for us to, we're growing, so we're hiring, which is awesome. We work for mission-driven organizations like Green Biz, other organizations that work for gender equality, the environment, schools. We have a lot of higher ed clients, too. We want people to know that, that's what we're about when they're thinking about what's their next gig gonna be. We want to connect with like-minded people who want to live their values at work, who care about causes and are passionate about them.
When it came time to think about what our presence was gonna be at BAD Camp, we all agreed that the best foot forward for us was this values thing. Yeah, you can do Drupal. Yeah, you can work remotely. There's a lot of cool things about working at Kalamuna, but we think that really differentiates us is that at least here at the camp, is that we work for companies that align with our values, and we want you to do the same. It's hard to remember, but myself and Ken Lowe, Ken Lowe is technically our Office Manager, but he has an MSA in painting, so he understands concepts, right? What are the ideas behind the artistry. Also, our senior designer, Thiago de Mello Bueno, has a similar background in graphic design and the arts. We all got together and tried to start thinking, well, what's an interesting experiential marketing thing that we could do that shows people in an interactive way that we're all about the cause. The technology is second to the message, to this idea. Let's help make the world a better place. I know that sounds cliché, but that's what we're in it for.
We got together, we started talking and we just had all these really ideas, and like brainstorms and we kept on revisiting different vectors. "Oh, maybe we could do this." Ken, actually, had this idea of doing an advent calendar thing where we had a wall of boxes that people could open and then take a ticket out and the ticket would present them something good that they could do that day. It was something like that, hey here's an idea, go do this. It's really easy and you'll feel good about it. I really loved that interactivity of that, that an individual could come up to this wall and have a conversation with us about this weird art piece, right, and then have this engagement where they would open a box and find something cool in it.
That's not what our wall ended up being, but then because it was basically a production like nightmare. We were like, Oh my God, how do we get 300 boxes, how many people are gonna ... We can't delete a thousand boxes. How do we get them there? That's like, Oh my God, we couldn't really evolve it to make it, I don't know, production ready. Then, I was like, when we talked more and more about it and I was like, how do we make this 2D, how do we make this doable? How do we make this cost effective and how do we make it doable, but still keep that thing where people could come up and see what we're about, and actually contribute and do something cool that's not just about us. We didn't want it to just be about us. The open-source ethos is I'm learning is all about working together to do something cool, so that feeling fed into this, too. We're not some evil corporation, "And I can do this marketing thing and then like, we're gonna take your money, and harvest your emails." That kind of thing.
Why don't do something cool that can people can really participate in and feel cool about it, but then also get the message across that we work with mission driven organizations and we're gonna do that in every venue that we can. BAD Camp being the one that we can execute on that here now, so, that's how it came about, as a group brainstorming. We had some ideas and we just evolved it for the parameters that BAD Camp presents.
Chris:
Yeah. You guys did an excellent job. It's the first time of ever seen anything like that and I hope you can continue to do it.
Shannon:
Cool.
Chris:
Cause I think it is doing exactly what you said. It's exemplifying the values behind Kalamuna and then to a lot of companies that share those values. I think that one of the things that really makes the community very strong. It was so cool to see that, now I've got my name up there. I donated. I got a $5 scratch off on mine for the Alzheimer's Foundation in honor of my Dad, so that's up on the wall.
Shannon:
That's great. That's cool.
Chris:
Yeah. Very cool.
Shannon:
Yep. It's also interesting to see what everyone is giving to. I have ideas that I want to give to, I go, I really like MPR. We've had a lot of people give to organizations that benefit victims of the North Cal fires, which is awesome, Redwood Empire Food Bank, and Sonoma County Habitat for Humanity, which is awesome, 'cause it's like important, timely topic right now. But, it's been really cool to see how people really put themselves into it. They have their own organizations that they want to give to that I've never heard of, so now when I look at the wall and I see all these colors, I see all these names of these cool charities. I'm like, oh, I want to look into them. What do they do? It's just to cool to see the breadth of all the good work that not only the organizations are doing, but also, that these individuals are doing by donating to those causes. It's really interesting.
Chris:
I love with interactivity, maybe you didn't think of that in the onset, or was that part of the planning was that there would be an interactive piece, like you guys would be learning from the people, too, about all these organizations? Or, was that just a happy, like at all these new things I've found as it evolved?
Shannon:
Well, for me, that was an extra thing that I'm finding here at the camp. The only preconceived thing about that, that I had was, oh, we're gonna get the names of these nonprofit organizations that we've never heard of, and maybe if they hear that we're helping money go to them, they'll want to know about us, which is cool. Just an awareness thing, like, "Hey, here's this we're a web development shop. We also do designer strategy for mission-driven organizations and we're facilitating donations to you. If you hear about us, maybe we could talk." That was always a tertiary, oh well cool. But, the main thing is to have these one-on-one interactions with these folks at the camp to show them, hey that this is what we're about. We want to empower you to be force. That was actually the name of this campaign that we're doing on social, too, is we want to empower people to be a force. Whatever that means. That's like put your heart out for the environment, or donate to SPCA. Whatever it is, we want you to do it.
Chris:
Yeah. That's very cool.
Shannon:
Thanks.
Chris:
Aside from the work part of it, I always like to talk to people about who is in the community? What makes the people that make the community? With the way you came in to Drupal, and it was you had no idea what it was when you showed up, ...
Shannon:
No.
Chris:
But now it seems like you've really found a place where you can really express yourself and it's a much more rewarding position that maybe creating the billboards in the corporate world that you came from. If there was somebody who's maybe struggling with trying to find themselves and find something that might give them that same opportunity to I guess get within themselves a little bit more, is there any advice you would give to somebody who's trying to get that next step, to get a little bit more out of their career?
Shannon:
Well, in respect to this world, the Drupal community and the open-source community, and I know they're not necessarily the same, but for me coming from the corporate advertising world, they are. I found that in this venue, unlike the corporate world, there's just a little more ease and a little more latitude for play, for ideas. The corporate world has a lot more structure and hierarchy, and here, it's just there's less of that. There's not a lot of, "Oh, that person works at this place, so you've gotta kiss their ass," or "That person works, oh my, did you hear about that person ...?" There's less of hero worship and weird fear and hierarchy that you see in the corporate world.
Here, if you're into something in the open-source world, if you're into doing something, you can make your own path, I think in an easier world than in a corporate, 'cause I don't know openness to different kinds of people and different ideas. It's just wackier. I don't know how to say that, 'cause there's definitely super great opportunities in the corporate world. I don't want to totally knock it, but it's just a different sensibility here that's hard to describe where I think you really can pave your own way. If you want to be an expert in something and really teach yourself and get your platform out there, you can do that here. If anyone wants to do that, I think this is a great place to do it.
Chris:
Find the local camps to meet up and just dive in and let your mind go in the lateral direction, instead of the north, south direction, like the corporate world, like you were saying the hierarchy. This is more ...
Shannon:
Yeah. Whether it's design, UX development, whatever. You can teach yourself a lot of shit and go your own way. I don't mean that just for me, but I've seen my colleagues at Kalamuna do that. They teach themselves all this stuff. They connect with people who are interested in what they do and they develop knowledge and become experts at what they do. They're esteemed for it by the community. It's really cool, like you can really bootstrap yourself in this world. It's cool. I like that a lot.
Chris:
Yeah. Very nice. I like this question just to turn everything off and get to the other side of things. If you woke up tomorrow and the Internet was gone ...
Shannon:
Ha-Ha-Ha. Oh no.
Chris:
Yep. Job's gone. You don't have to go to work. What would you do?
Shannon:
Ha-Ha-Ha.
Chris:
The other way to think about this questions is what do you want to be when you grow up?
Shannon:
Oh gosh. Oh, wow. I'd probably ... I feel like I have a real west coast, like North Cal, Bay Area sense about that. I think I would probably do gardening and write short stories, neither of these things make money really. Ha-Ha-Ha.
Chris:
That's the point.
Shannon:
Yeah. I think I would do those two things.
Chris:
Very cool.
Shannon:
I think I would help ... I would like to want to do something with literacy, help kids read or learn how to write short stories or how to write fiction or something like that.
Chris:
I like that. That's a good one. Finally, is there anybody that you would like to say thank you to or share some gratitude with, maybe, gave you a little boost along the way?
Shannon:
Yeah. Sure, definitely. I mean, the first person that comes to mind is Andrew Mallis, who is one of the co-founders of Kalamuna. When I came onto the company, I don't think he knew ... I mean I knew what he did, and he knew what I did and when knew that we could help each other. He took a chance on me and wanted to work with me on different stuff. We come from totally worlds and different disciplines. I still don't really completely understand, I never will, what he does as a solutions architect or a co-founder of a web design company. I don't think he will ever completely understand what I do with campaign concepts and brand stewardship, or whatever you want to call it, but we get along and we work it out. I'm just thankful to be able to work for a company that is so open and allows for so many different points of view to co-exist. It's really cool.
Chris:
Shannon, thank you very much for taking a few minutes to talk today. This has been great and keep that up with the group. That stuff is so cool. I can't wait to see more of it.
Shannon:
Cool. Yeah, thank for asking me about it. It's cool to talk about and see that so many people are into it and they're participating. It's like, yeah, we're doing something good. All right.
Chris:
Yeah. Absolutely.

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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.