Interview with Surabhi Gokte, Community Manager at Srijan Technologies
Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with technology and moved from a Developer role to a Community Manager position?
I started my career towards the end of 2015 as a Drupal Developer intern in Srijan Technologies, thanks to Campus Placements. Soon after getting a permanent job in the company, I moved to the role of a Quality Analyst.
In 2016, I also started participating as a volunteer in Drupal Camps, the first one being DrupalCamp Delhi 2016. Gradually, I realised that managing such events is something that I love, I started participating more, DrupalCamp Goa, Mumbai etc.
Later around 2018, I got a chance to volunteer for international events like Drupal Developer Days, Drupal Europe etc. My contributions to Drupal are mostly such non-code contributions. Though I am not a Drupal techie I am attached to the community as it gave me my first job! This makes me feel that I owe it back and hence this :-)
Recently, I have taken up the role of a Community Manager as I realised this is something I would love more than anything, thanks to the Drupal Community for making me realise. It has been just two months and I have learned so much. Now that my passion has turned into my profession, I have learned that it is not only about "event management" anymore. It is challenging but interesting and exciting as well.
You've been actively championing the Contribution sprints (a flagship event of Drupal India Association), tell us more about this!
As I mentioned earlier, I have always been a non-code contributor to the Drupal Community, I love organizing events like Cons, Camps. Sprints etc. As I changed my role, I also became a part of the Drupal India Association (DIA) which since Global Contribution Weekend in January 2020 had a plan to organise Code Sprints every month on a regular basis.
Along with Sharmila, I took the responsibility of organizing it but we had a COVID hit before I could work towards it. So, we planned to go virtual and since April we've done 100% virtual code sprints. It gets a bit difficult to virtually connect with people for sprinting days to understand how it is going for everyone, but nothing is impossible.
We made the agenda and planned to do regular check-ins both verbally and non-verbally (i.e. through Slack channels, emails, etc.). The same was done by the mentors for those days. We, the organisers, were always available on a running Zoom call for the sprinting days. We would relay it to each other in order to take breaks. This helped the contributors believe that we all are connected and sprinting together and it's not just them.
Tell us about your favourite Drupal event
This is very difficult to state as all the events that I have worked for until now are a special and important part of my journey. But to name, I would like to say DrupalCamp Goa and Drupal Europe are the two that are most close to my heart.
In Goa (India) we have done two DrupalCamps until now, one in 2018 and the other in 2019. The first one was the first-ever DrupalCamp in Goa. This planning of doing the first-ever Camp in Goa was already happening when I moved to Goa in January 2017 but it had no pace; simply too many discussions. After hearing about it in mid-2017, I planned to jump into the conversation too. Soon, together with the team, we were able to successfully do the event. I learned so much more about managing an actual event as a core organiser. That is why I feel I am so attached to this event in particular.
Drupal Europe also is very very special as it is not only the first event which I approached for volunteering in an international Drupal event but also it was happening in place of "DrupalCon Europe" for that year. It was completely community-driven and also multi-cultural. I loved working with the team and I never felt that I was far away from them.
I can also talk a bit about Drupal Developer Days Lisbon 2018. This was the event which gave me my three "firsts" - My first international event I volunteered for, first event as a speaker and first trip out of my country. This makes it again, special :)
I can keep on telling stories from each event I have been a part of as all of those have given me some of the beautiful memories with so many wonderful people of the Drupal Community but I cannot go on talking about all of them here, maybe some other time!
What has your experience of being part of the Drupal community been like?
Wonderful, marvellous, fantastic, exciting, great, awesome and what not!
If it would not have been the Drupal Community, I would not have come to the position I am now. Working with the community and doing regular non-code contributions have made a new career path for me which I would have never even thought of choosing otherwise.
The experience with the community has given me learnings, lots and lots of learnings. I have been able to develop my personality into a much better version compared to my earlier self.
The Drupal Association of India has been making impressive strides regarding inclusivity. What has been the driver for this?
The feeling of giving back to the community makes you contribute more. And when you want to contribute more, you get involved more.
When you are more involved, you gain more knowledge which helps you understand all the aspects. Inclusivity is also one aspect of Drupal Community and one can understand about it when one gains knowledge about it.
We, at Drupal India Association, understand the importance of inclusivity as we have gained knowledge about it while working with the Community and how it helps with equalising the environment
As someone in a Community Manager role, working directly with people, what can you say about changes you've seen regarding inclusivity in the Drupal Community during your career?
Understanding of how Contributions actually work rather than just writing code and submitting patches for the issues
Picking novice ideas first and gradually growing towards Core
Existence and importance of Non-Code Contributions
What is your own opinion (or experience) of inclusion and diversity within the Drupal community?
I believe, first one should try to understand the real meaning of Inclusion and Diversity. It should not be taken for granted just because it exists.
Ask yourself these questions:
Are you just checking the box because you want in?
Are you just checking the box because you feel sorry for yourself?
Are you doing anything for others who are there with you?
Be true to yourself and answer. These answers will help you know what your stand is and that is how you understand the actuality about it.
What challenges have you overcome in your career?
I have faced challenges in justifying my contribution to the community.
When a Drupaler is contributing via code, it's visibility is way more than that of a non-code contribution. It can be quantified and timed. And that is how one can justify its contribution. But, with non-code contributions (like organising a local DrupalCamp), it becomes difficult to quantify and very difficult to timebox.
In the beginning, I have gone through that phase where my non-code contributions were not really visible. It became challenging for me to separate my volunteering time and professional work. I wasn't able to convince my fellow teammates that my work at the office is not (or will not be) impacted just because I am involved so actively in contributing to the Drupal Community. But, everything has a right time. And my time came!
What advice would you give to a woman starting out in tech that you wish you'd been told?
Take the first step and then never stop!
"If you are just starting out, it is important for you to understand that you will not be able to pick the best choice on the first go. You will have to try every direction and look out for what suits you best. Learn and grow with every step and try to understand if this what you love or you should try out anything else."
What does your role in the Drupal community look like over the next few years?
I don't think there are levels to the role of a Community Manager, there is only maturity that you get with experience. That is how you can grow as a Community Manager. And so, in the coming years, I see my role to be more impactful and influential.
Thank you to Surabhi for her inspirational words! We're proud to belong to the Drupal community together.