Drupal is one of the largest and most successful open source projects, and much of our success is due to the vibrant and thriving community of contributors who make the platform what it is – the individuals who help put on Drupal Conferences and events, the documentation writers, the designers and usability experts, the developers who help write the software, and countless others.
Participating in open source communities is a rewarding experience that will help you advance and develop, both personally and professionally. Through participation, you gain an opportunity to learn from your peers. You are constantly challenged and exposed to new and interesting ideas, perspectives, and opinions. You are not only learning the current best practices, you are also helping develop innovative new solutions, which will improve the tools in your arsenal and take your career to the next level – not to mention contributing to your personal growth. (One of the five Drupal core committers for Drupal 8, Angie Byron got her start only a few years ago – as a student in the Google Summer of Code – and has rapidly advanced her skills and career through open source participation.)
Participation gives you significantly better insight and awareness. By attending Drupal events and engaging online, you place yourself in a better position to understand and leverage the solutions that are already available, know where and how to find those solutions, and have a clearer sense of how you can leverage them to achieve your goals. With this knowledge and experience you become capable of executing faster and more efficiently than your peers who don’t engage.
The Drupal ecosystem is vast and constantly evolving. Sometimes, even the most active and engaged Drupalists don’t know where to look: no individual has all the answers, and from time to time we all need a little help from our friends. Another great advantage of being a contributor is that, when you need it, you will probably get better help – and faster. Although we do rely on each other for expertise and guidance, all of us have a limited amount of time, so contributors are much more likely to help the folks who are also contributing way before they assist an individual who is not.
One of the most important benefits of open source software is your ability to change and enhance the software systems you rely on. While you can make those changes locally, it is ideal for your changes to become part of the systems themselves. As a participant, you have a much stronger voice and more input on where we go as a community. While the Drupal Community has a proven track record of being open to new ideas and people, your ideas are much more likely to be considered by others, your changes far more likely to be incorporated – and faster – when you are an active participant.
Getting engaged and contributing is also very beneficial for organizations and businesses. The same professional benefits apply to an organization's operational capabilities and success. By leveraging existing open source solutions, your organization can build better software, execute faster, and drive down your long-term support and maintenance costs. Views, the most popular D7 contributed module, was originally funded by large organizations; because of their open source approach, each of the funding organizations eventually received a huge multiple on their initial investment – in upgrades and enhancements added by others.
Open source can also help your organization attract and retain top talent – individuals want to work for organizations where they can learn and grow, and where they’ll have an opportunity to work on innovative and interesting projects and problems. Many of the large organizations I work with solved their talent recruiting problems once they became more active in the community. Participation and engagement are the secrets to maximizing the value your organization will receive from your investment in open source systems and teams; it’s the best way to establish and build your brand in technology communities.
While there are many professional and organizational benefits to supporting and participating in open source communities, you will also have a lot of fun in the process, get an opportunity to meet some amazing people, and build lasting personal and professional relationships. Drupal is a global Community: you have the opportunity to meet and connect with people and events all over the world – to become part of something larger than yourself.
All you have to do to get started is jump in.
Don’t be intimidated!
Challenge yourself to attend at least one Drupal event in the next year, and have one core patch added into Drupal.
If you are willing to learn and help others, there are people willing to help you. In addition to software developers, we need support with documentation, translations, quality assurance and testing, marketing, graphic design, usability, accessibility, advocacy, event coordination, and more. Even those short on time can assist, by contributing money and funds to support others, by offering space to host an event, etc.
No matter how much time and effort you put in, you’ll always receive more than you give. To learn how you can get started, visit https://drupal.org/contribute or find a local Drupal event near you http://www.drupical.com/.