Türchen 16: 6 Ways to be Inclusive in the Magento Community

Dec
16
2017

Am I the only one who finds themselves saying “Yes, absolutely, I’ll contribute a blog post!” and then sits at their laptop with wartime flashbacks of university papers wondering what on earth to choose as a topic? For the 2016 Advent Calendar, I wrote about what happens when the Magento community works together. 2016 was, in many ways, the beginning of being able to say, “Look at what we’ve accomplished together!” and put some pretty impressive numbers around community efforts. When I look back at 2017, and think about a central community theme that has tied us together throughout the year, one thing stands out: inclusivity.

Many of us in the community have significant moments where someone in the Magento community has impacted our lives or our careers. Magento is 10 years old now (!), and we’re still growing. As we grow as individuals, and as a community, it’s important to remember how we felt at that first event we attended, while submitting our first contribution, and even when sending that first tweet. It’s our responsibility as individuals to reach out to the new faces and make sure that they feel welcome, to let them know, “You can sit with us.”

I’m unbelievably proud of the members of our community who have started, and continued, the conversation around diversity and inclusion throughout this past year. It is oftentimes uncomfortable to step forward and challenge ourselves and our peers. However, as my friend’s mom always says, “If you want to change the world, change your corner of it first.” With Magento certified individuals in over 75 countries (across six continents), and events in over 30 of those countries – our corner of the world is not small.

As Tom Robertshaw pointed out in his article Quantifying the Community, “One of the downsides about groups (as we know from our psychology classes) is that, as soon as we group together, there becomes an in-group and an out-group. It doesn’t even need to be done intentionally to have negative and competitive effects, but it does happen. While in and out-groups can happen unintentionally, inclusion doesn’t happen organically. It’s purposeful. Not only is it purposeful, but inclusion is crucial, and it takes a team.

Maybe you’re wondering, “How can I make an impact? What’s my role?” Here are six ways you can help:

1. Be Accessible

If you’re a speaker, don’t hide. Instead, invite people to come talk to you after your presentation. Perhaps follow Sonja Riesterer’s lead and share something unrelated to your talk that people can connect with you on. I can personally talk about most things for an abnormal amount of time, but if you follow me on Instagram, it won’t take you long to notice a significant interest in hiking, whale watching, and Pokemon Go.

In case you were wondering, you don’t need to be a speaker to be accessible. (Earth shattering, I know.) This past August, Eric Holscher wrote an article on The Pac-Man Rule at Conferences, which Sonja quickly brought into the Magento community. The rule is simply this: When standing as a group of people, always leave room for one person to join your group.

I would encourage you to take this rule one step further. If you see someone still hovering outside your circle, even with the empty space in place, motion for them to join.

2. Create Space

At first glance, creating space sounds like a redundancy of the Pac-Man Rule, but it’s not. To create space for others, we need to look for opportunities to advocate for those around us. I have a friend who makes it a personal mission to suggest someone in an underrepresented group as a speaker in the event she is invited but unable to present. Think about who could bring other opinions and voices to the conversation.

3. Be a Mentor

For the 2017 installment of Mage Titans Italy, Rebecca Brocton, Andra Lungu, and Alessandro Ronchi launched a mentorship program for new speakers. Because of this program, 20% of their speaker submissions were from women and 50% of all proposals came from people that had never presented at an international Magento event. That’s pretty powerful.

There are countless resources out there on mentorship, so all I’ll say on that front is that if you enjoy reading and mentorship is important to you—consider checking out Mastery.

If you’re interested in making yourself available as a mentor, there are two sites that come to mind: php-mentoring.org, started by PHP core dev Liz Smith, and Commerce Hero. There are many other mentorship programs out there as well, technical and non-technical, including offline programs—depending on where you’re located.

4. Educate Yourself

Our biggest obstacle to inclusion stems from our fear of diversity. As Alessandro Ronchi mentioned in his article What’s Wrong with Diversity?, Diversity is “an opportunity to grow and to be enriched by elements, ideas, qualities & cultures that are different from ours.”

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, there are people so terrified of doing the wrong thing, that they never try to do the right thing. In preparing for my Building an Inclusive Magento Community presentation, I spent more hours than I should probably admit reading, asking, and listening. I say this not to brag, but to illustrate that I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I want to learn.

If you find yourself wanting to learn as well, I highly recommend the book Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People as a starting point. Ultimately, you’ll need to determine where you’re at to decide where to educate yourself from there. If you’re interested in my personal notes and research, you can find them all at: http://bit.ly/InclusiveMagentoCommunity

5. Say Hi to Someone You Don’t Know

As Sonja Riester mentioned in her article An open, approachable Magento Community: Are we as open and welcoming as we should be?, “We all attend these events to learn from other people, and share ideas.” Meeting someone new could open doors that neither of you knew were there. You never know who could be your next best friend, business partner, or simply the reason you stop banging your head against the wall trying to solve a problem. Worst case scenario? Nothing happens.

At events, I would encourage you to challenge yourself to meet at least three new people while you’re there. If the thought of meeting three new people is enough to send you into an anxiety attack, at least aim for one. If anyone you meet is someone you might want to keep in touch with, don’t forget to grab their business card, Twitter handle, or email address!

5. Follow People Who are Different From You

I realize we don’t all attend events. Luckily in the Magento community we have many opportunities to connect with others online as well.

In 2017, I’ve made a conscious effort to follow people different from me, partially more to educate myself and help to eliminate the bubbles I find myself in. While I would encourage you to do this outside of the Magento community as well, there are ways to do so even within the community.

This year, the Magento Masters span across 12 countries with a variety of backgrounds and roles from development to marketing to business development. Every year, I find that many haven’t met each other before. My brain essentially operates under the assumption that if I know two people, they must also know each other, so this is a bit mind-blowing for me. However, the reason I share it is because, even within the Magento community, we have so many sub-communities that can be bridged and by following these 20, you may find yourself finding out more about others in the community whom you may not have otherwise found.

If you’re looking for others to follow and are not sure where to start, I’ve made a Twitter list of the 2017 Magento Masters, as well as a broader Magento Community list with active contributors and others I’ve encountered along my own journey.

If you’re not on Twitter and unsure where to look, check out my post on How to Get Involved in the Magento Community, or just reach out and ask me. I’m always happy to help you connect.

Thank you to Fabian Blechschmidt and Claudia Teubner for organizing the 2017 Firegento Advent Calendar and for including me, both on the blog and in the community.

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