When I was growing up I always wanted to be an expert in something – anything really. Most recently I’ve focussed these efforts on Drupal. I’ve started maintaining a few contributed modules as an extension of my full-time work as an engineer at Acquia. The Drupal community is amazing and has really opened my eyes to the power of open source. I started attending Drupal user groups, Drupal camps, and Drupal conferences — I’m even writing this while wearing a “Drupal” sweatshirt. I’m still by no means an expert, but I have become “comfortable”. I’ve also come to recognize that I’m in a Drupal bubble — one that may be limiting my growth as a developer.
I managed to get funding to attend the nearby php[world] conference, and while I originally intended on focusing on the Drupal tracks, I soon realized that this was just the place to step outside of the Drupal bubble for a few days.
At this conference I got a breath of fresh air in terms of approaches to common development problems. I attended sessions on topics common to all of us such as standards, testing, caching implementations, and source control. At each session I heard solid advice that I’ve heard inside the Drupal community, but also insight from a different approach outside of Drupal. I started feeling the old excitement of tapping into the richer knowledge of programming and all thanks to visiting a different point of view.
Why should you step outside the bubble?
Getting different perspectives make you a better developer.
Let’s face it – most of the problems in programming have been approached before. The beauty is in how we solve these problems. The broader your understanding of a problem, the more elegantly you can approach a solution. Some frameworks approach problems the same, but many do not — we need to be learning from each other’s successes and struggles.
Providing different perspectives makes for a better community.
As the tech world is generally learning, diversity in a community provides its own benefits such as improved creativity, innovation, and faster solutions. You can be part of that diversity. Just by coming from your own point of view, you provide a new perspective.
Broadening your community keeps it in perspective
Most of us aren’t the top contributors in our space — many of us even struggle with imposter syndrome and feel that we aren’t keeping up. The more you experience the community around you the more you begin to realize your value within it, building confidence as you begin to see where you can help and how you provide value.
Time is precious. With two kids, a full-time job, and several volunteer responsibilities, it’s hard enough for me to make it out to Drupal meetups, but I’ve made a pledge to myself to take baby steps to engage outside of the Drupal community. For me, that will be getting to the local PHP user group meetings every other month or so. For you it could mean finding a new chat room to follow, getting involved in standards organizations like PHP-FIG, or getting involved in PHP itself! If you already run a user group – thank you! Try inviting someone from a different group to come speak. Why not have a session about the similarities between your framework or CMS and another? Whatever you do, be sure to start today, and get out of whatever bubble you happen to be in!