In 2008, I was working at a job I really LOVED, but it was a small company and I had to admit, I wasn't really expanding my skills or developing in terms of my career. One of the things I did in my role was develop sites in Drupal and other CMSs. I was also lecturing part-time at third-level (an IT, teaching intro programming and digital tech), and I knew I loved teaching very much. Out of curiosity, I went to a Drupal event down in Galway even though I didn't think I was "hard core" enough to attend a real developer event.
Soon I was helping Stella Power and Alan Burke to coordinate another DrupalCamp in Dublin and really loved helping others learn how to use Drupal. Teaching comes naturally to me and I was happy to seek other ways I could teach and train others in Drupal. Scor (Stephane Corlosquet) told me I should go along to the DrupalCon, and I thought that was a bit crazy, but I decided to anyway! At DrupalCamp Szeged, those in my Irish Drupal community staged what felt like an Intervention. They sat me down and told me I undervalued my skills, and I could be in a better job doing more of what I loved. They encouraged me to apply for a new company - Acquia. Again, I didn't think I was "hard core" enough.
However to my surprise, I was offered a contract -- though I didn't start working for Acquia until 2009. Now, in 2015, I'm reflecting a bit on that experience. I really have the community to thank for where I am today, and I don't think I recognize that enough. I've mentioned the great things a community can do for you. Community is like your family, they will care for you in a way that a company can't. My bosses at the time couldn't have told me: Hey! You really need to leave us if you want to develop and grow. However, the casual network I built through participating and contributing in community events helped my learn more about myself, and also created opportunities.
Though it's really not all about what my community did for me and it's not about what community can do for you. Community is about US. The community relies on contributing. Contributing is giving back, leaving breadcrumb trails for others and giving as much as or even more than you receive sometimes. These interactions form the bonds that act as your network and safety net.
My advice to anyone who is new to Drupal: Any investment you can make into your local or regional community is worth it. Even the small amount of time you can contribute at events, fundraising, planning, design, etc.-- this comes back to you ten-fold. I say this as much to you as to myself! As I write this, I realize that I missed my own community DrupalCamp last autumn, and I do regret that very much. I think I've fallen out of contributing a bit, as my work has become more intense and my personal life more complex. However, I realize it's really important to stay connected and stay contributing. When the time comes - your community is broader and bigger than your local neighborhood, it's more diverse than your company, and it's full of potential and possibility.
And you're welcome to it. To find your local group, visit Geographical groups on g.d.o.
Photo via add1sun