In the tech world, contributing to open source is often understood as providing pull requests to the software code. However, these code contributions are not everything that is done. Nor are they everything that is needed. While code contributions are a vital part of open source projects, it’s the multitude of non-code contributions that turn a software project into an ecosystem.
I am one of the people who have been working in the Magento space for quite some time but who have never touched the software code.
In a recent Twitter conversation, I was asked how you can become a Magento Master if you are not a developer. First of all, the best person to answer this question is Sherrie Rohde, the Master of the Magento Masters program. So I can only describe what I do or what I see others do.
In the world of an open-source software, the ways to contribute for non-developers* are a bit less obvious.
*I will use the term non-developer because it shall include anyone who does a job that cannot be described as being a developer. Due to the myriad of skills out there, that may be less tech or pretty techy but still not developing, I think it’s better readable to use this negation. If you have a better term for this group of people, please let me know.
It can be a great motivation to strive for something, like an award. Be careful though. When comparing yourself to others, many people feel like they are falling short. Why is that? The Imposter Syndrome is a constant companion of many people. Or we can only see the success of others, while we know our own failures far too well. What’s more, usually it is only the result that is visible, not the effort made to achieve it (hence the question how to become a Magento Master when you are not a developer). Countless hours spent on platforms, on blog posts, blood, sweat and tears put into the organization of an event – they can go very much unnoticed. While I sincerely hope that the Magento community shows support and appreciation of your contributions – no matter how big or small they are – it cannot be guaranteed.
Also, your definition of success does not have to match any other person’s definition of success. It’s an abstract concept, an idea based on your experiences, your culture, and more. Your definition of success may change over time.
It’s important for your own well-being that you put your effort into something that you enjoy doing – even if people will not applaud you. For example, just because everyone is currently hyped about videos doesn’t mean you have to post videos. For more, watch David Manners explanation of this on Kalen Jordan’s live stream.
And now: follow your passion
#1 (Co-)Organize events
If you generally like human beings and feel that there is a value in bringing people together, you could start organising events.
I did my first baby steps as a co-organiser of the Magento Meetup in Hamburg. There, I started to make bigger steps like being the one to speak a few words as an opening, hold talks myself, organise other speakers and whatever else is needed for an event, e.g. get everything in place (food and drinks, chairs, tech, WIFI passwords) and promote the event. Without attendees, your event is just a date in your calendar.
As a co-organiser, you have the chance to learn from your fellow co-organisers and grow into the network. It’s like someone teaches you how to cycle and pushes you on your bike when the uphill is a little to steep.
Also, there is absolutely no shame in staying a co-host. In a non-dev world, too, redundance is good. Have you ever heard of the Bus factor? You will be happy there is a co-host when you feel sick; and they will do the same.
As a co-organiser, I now get to work on the Magento Meetup in Aachen and MageUnconference.
If this is your first attempt at organizing an event, start small and local, and build from there. Build connections, analyse the demand that is there. It’s better to wait with hosting Meet Magento Milkyway until you know what you are in for.
#2 Share knowledge online
When I first started working with Magento, there was a lot of
Anyway, whenever I had a question and googling didn’t bring up a good answer – that is: an understandable, working solution – I would write my own blog post about it (after I found the answer). Sometimes this only meant putting something I read in English into a well structured post in my mother tongue. That you should use quotes and add sources should go without saying.
I’m a writer at heart, so blog posts have always been my favourite way of communication. If you are the cineast, go make screencasts or videos. If you have an enthralling voice, start a podcast. And if you have fast fingers and a well-trained auto-correct, go on and tweet like there’s no battery limit.
#3 Share knowledge offline
Blog posts can be a great basis for a talk. Also, if you like to connect more directly with your audience than through the comment section of your blog, giving a talk is right for you. One of the best parts of being a speaker is that you are often invited to some kind of speakers get-together or similar activities surrounding an event. Unfortunately for the rest of the attendees, speakers often group together.
Try not to be that kind of speaker. Hang around the stage after your talk. Invite your audience to approach you afterwards. I put down some more ideas about this here.
For your first steps as a speaker, I’d recommend a local meetup. The organisers usually know their audience very well, so they can give you tips on how to address them, what kind of topics they are interested in, etc.
If you feel like exploring more stages, you can register yourself online, e.g. in Magento’s speaker directory on Mobilize or, for the ladies, at speakerinnen.org, a website to promote more women as conference speakers.
#4 Contribute to Magento
You don’t need to be able to code to contribute. The official translations can always use some help. With each new feature of Magento 2 comes a new set of strings that need to be translated. While it may look like an easy task to do, translating is a tough job. E.g. when the context is missing and one word has multiple translations in your language, how do you pick the right one? Your ecommerce experience and knowledge of Magento’s admin panel will help you. Fortunately, the Crowdin platform allows upvotes for translations, edits and to finally accept them.
Maybe you don’t code, but you still spend time with the Magento DevDocs? Similar to translations, the documentation continuously needs to be updated. Correcting Typos, formatting, a more understable choice of words – all of these improvements can be done without being a developer. There is a page inside DevDocs teaching you how to contribute to DevDocs (very meta, I know).
#5 Enrich the conversation
Based on an open-source software that was released more than ten years ago, the Magento ecosystem we see today has evolved from being mainly about code to being all about life. There are many topics we discuss.
For me, it’s (currently) inclusion, especially at events.
If you care about people’s physical health, support that cause and take part in the Magerun movement.
If mental health is something dear to you, I’d recommend to connect and join forces with those already promoting it.
Educating new colleagues, building a business, Magento specific SEO, the best ways to travel, how to build your career and have a family and staying sane, dealing with deadline stress…
Whatever else you care about that would help us in the Magento community to live better lives and be better human beings is valuable. Let your voice be heard! If you already are an expert in a field, you can offer guidance and be mentor to someone.
This is one step I often skip in my head but it’s actually one of the most important steps. If you want to contribute, it’s important that you understand what you contribute to. Get to know the people in the ecosystem. Get to know your potential audience. Find out what they are working on, what issues they face, where they could use your help.
You can network online, too. Follow people on Twitter, engage in conversations online, IRC, Slack, Forums. There are a lot of possibilities.
Don’t look for sales but for meaningful connections with other humans. Help people get in touch with those who have the answers to their questions. It helps if you don’t think of the network as construct where you are placed in the middle but rather like a cluster where each individual can connect to anyone. Make it your mission to help others out.
Lastly, promote yourself
I know this isn’t really a way of contributing. But if you have just written the best blog post ever, let it be known. Use whatever channels you have to make people aware of your work. If this feels too pushy for you, remember that your followers (if not bought at Fivr) follow you because they are interested in what you do. And if it feels too much like showing off, think of it as helping others discover the solutions you offer.
However, especially in more personal channels, don’t overdo it. Even though many social media platforms will learn to show your content to those followers who interact with it, you will get a more actionable feedback if you ask a friend for their opinion specifically.
Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments! And if you are actually a developer looking for a way to contribute to Magento, reach out to David Manners.