A few days after joining WebstanZ, I was asked if I'd be interested in going to Lille a few months later to take part in the annual European Drupal World Convention. Being new to both the agency and the product, I hesitated a little. But very quickly, as "Head of operations" and "Project Manager", I saw all the potential added value: meeting this famous open source community, learning about the product in all its details, discovering how other agencies work, but above all creating links with the team. Spoiler alert: it was a blast!
The convention, sessions and volunteering
Nearly 1,500 people (plus me) from all over the world gathered for 4 days at Lille - Grand Palais to talk about just one thing: Drupal.
Hundreds of sessions aimed at specific audiences: programmers, business managers, project managers, etc.
I was able to take part in a dozen of them. Some were perfectly suited to my profile, others were far too far removed from my interests. Perhaps I should have prepared the agenda better, by pinpointing the sessions with the greatest potential; I’ve a mixed feeling: all the time I wasted on unsuitable presentations could have been put to better use in other ways. I guess that's a first timer's problem...
Indeed, each session contains the essence of a subject on which the speaker brings his expertise and has been working for hours. That's how much useful information it's vital to bring back to the office on subjects such as the modules integrating Artificial Intelligence into Drupal that were to be found everywhere, good agency management practices (Architecture Decision Record - ADR) or current standards on website accessibility. Fortunately, most of the presentations were recorded and can be watched later... I'll just have to dive in again.
To experience the event from a different angle, I thought of signing up as a volunteer. Giving a few hours of my time to the community seemed the least I could do. So I was appointed to help the contributors for 2 hours and the visitors at the stands for a further 2 hours. Nothing too complicated, just supporting the organization by providing information to whoever needed it or clearing a few tables. As well as feeling useful and contributing to the event, I was able to meet a number of programmers specializing in modules. They came from India, Peru, Spain and the Ukraine, and were all keen to share their knowledge and passion for their profession.
The community and its contributions
So that's what it's all about. A community gathered around Drupal, but above all around a founding concept: open source. Everyone involved likes to pass on and share, whether it's their source code, best practices or processes; this state of mind is apparent in every conversation, in every intervention.
When I worked for other companies, I took part in this kind of convention, based on proprietary technologies. The commercial aspect and the competition made these meetings very tense. Money was at the center of everything. I'm not saying that money doesn't exist in the Drupal community - everyone bases their business on service, but it's not paramount. This makes exchanges much more pleasant and fruitful.
Another unthinkable aspect of other conventions: I was able to take part in a "contributions day". A large number of programmers involved in Drupal gather around to work and code together - and free of charge - on improvements to the core system and modules.
A real power of development and intelligence is centralized in this time-space. And even non-programmers can participate! For example, I was able to contribute by translating French labels to facilitate localization of the future version of Drupal. As a project manager, others were able to help organize contribution projects. Each specialty can be shared to the benefit of the community.
Team building, people and sponsored events
For this event, WebstanZ invited all its employees to come along. After a few brainstorming sessions to get everything organized (transport, accommodation, stewardship, ongoing customer projects, etc.), no fewer than 20 colleagues represented the company's colors on site. What a crowd! And what a state of mind!
I could feel a real effervescence, a real team spirit and a superb desire to spend time together. In addition to being able to attend a very large number of sessions thanks to them, I'll remember above all the enormous richness of the exchanges I was able to have with each of my new colleagues. After those long days, a drink at the B&B, a restaurant in old Lille, a Belgian Night in a crowded bar with a few beers, a quick breakfast or an Uber ride back in the night... what better way to talk about real things with the people around you?
During all these privileged moments, I've learned so much about the beautiful people I've been working with for the past 6 months. This time with everyone, which we very rarely take on a day-to-day basis, DrupalCon offered me on a platter. And that's worth all the gold in the world.
These four intense days brought me much more than new knowledge (and a lot of fatigue). I was able to experience things from the inside, with passionate and exciting people. Inspiring session speakers, programmers who sweat their code as they share it, business managers who get their shirts wet, and organizers with a mission: to bring the community together.
And above all, I had confirmation of one essential thing: I know why I get up every morning to come and work at WebstanZ..