Leadership interview: Philip Walton, Marketing & Communications DC
Listen, understand and help solve the existing problems: that’s what Philip Walton planned to do once he got elected as Joomla’s new Marketing and Communications Department Coordinator (and had started doing already in the weeks before). JCM had the pleasure of interviewing this highly committed brand new DC, who is, according to his Manifesto, happy to roll up his sleeves and get on with the job - but he may need you and me and a couple of others to become a ‘unified force’ and really get the job done.
Volunteer Engagement Team, Google Summer of Code Joomla Team, Events Team, CMS Release Team and the PBF Organization Working Group… that’s a lot of teams you’re in already. When and why did you decide to run for Marketing Department Coordinator?
I had just joined the Google Summer of Code team as lead when the first opportunity came up and I thought long and hard. I decided I was committed to that and needed to stay and see if we could get our places in the GSoC project. When the first vote for Marketing DC failed to bring forth a candidate the teams could get behind, we had just had the most successful application and won the slots in the project we wanted. The assistant team lead, Shivam Rajput, had done a lot of the work so I knew I could change my focus and the project would be fine without me. I consulted with a few and then got my application together.
How do you expect your role in those other teams to change now you’re DC?
That's a really interesting question because I want my role to change and part of that was already happening before I went to marketing DC. While in Production on several occasions I found myself writing the communications regarding incidence and trying to connect the ideas and decisions in Production with the wider Joomla audience. I asked to stay in Production as a marketing coordinator. I see my role in all of the teams that I am part of changing into a conduit role, to better connect the teams and the message that Joomla sends out. I hope that the Joomla community will be better informed, closer to the decisions and reasons for those decisions.
Being in multiple teams, now and in the past, will no doubt have brought you interesting insights on how to work as a team. What positive aspects of these teams do you expect to bring into Joomla’s marketing teams?
Listening first to understand the workings and get to know why things are done a certain way. To expect change to take time but also to expect change to happen if it's for the right reasons. The teams I have left have all got better leadership in place. Some of that just needed encouragement to bring on new talent. Often the best for the job are shy to put themselves forward so that encouragement can be vital in bringing on new leadership. Also knowing that the time is right to move on and allow others to take that role further than I could. I hope I left the role in better shape than I started so the same applies to marketing. Identify new talent, furthering the talent we have got and sort out the stumbling blocks that are hindering the department's growth. Often miscommunication between teams can contribute to the blockages, being in the teams and having the access to bring the people together will be a help.
How did Joomla change your life?
It stopped me from writing my own bad CMS! I had been writing my own when I came across Mambo and then ditched my own systems in favour of this revolutionary and award-winning system. I have based most of my work on it ever since. Joomla has provided a job for me and my staff and allowed me to do more in less time than I would have been able to.
New people in leadership are very valuable since they’re relative outsiders (no matter how long they’ve been in their community). You’ve had your first board meeting(s) by now. Did this meet your expectations?
My first and as I write this, only OSM meeting has been a budget one so I have had just days to read through all the previous documents and talk to my predecessors in the role. They, and in particular Sandra Decoux, have helped me to get up to speed. It was a long meeting and I came out to see blog posts demanding all the board resign, allegations of corruption, complacency and making many “them and us” assertions. I have never had any financial or other advantages while in a team. Being on the board I see nothing changing in that regard from when I was in a team or before I became a member. But I understand that meetings behind closed doors are an invitation for imaginations to go wild and when one member of an organisation does misbehave then it seems to add credence to all the conspiracy theories. I'm not sure what expectations I had but the meeting was not what I expected. I think in my mind it would have been more structured, formal. It will be interesting to compare it with other meetings and see if that and the next few are just aberrations due to the recent bad news or if they are the norm.
What do you see as the most important role for marketing within Joomla?
Getting the Joomla4 message out as the release candidates turn into a stable release. There's a lot to coordinate and thankfully the small teams in the marketing department are doing an amazing job already. I don't think people realise the hours that are being put in. The speed of turn round on some of the material has been fantastic. Marketing needs to grow and we need to do what it says on the tin, market, with clear, attractive and simple messages that people resonate with. We need to reach new audiences of developers, charities, companies and web agencies and show them what is capable with this fabulous tool.
We need to expand the envelope of our outreach into new mediums. Link up with both the magazine and documentation to make sure that the messages put out are backed up with the documentation and stories that are relevant and helpful.
What are your short term goals? And long term?
The short term is helping to get the brochure, launch page, newsletter, video and other marketing campaigns worked out and made. The shop needs to be brought up to date with the J4 products and promoted. All in a very short time scale. Long term, well there are elections for the post I believe in 4 months because of the rotation. I am joining at the end of a term, so the long term would depend on a second election and that would depend on the team members being happy with the job so far and me being happy with my place in OSM.
And what do you consider your biggest challenge?
This is more under the long term goal if elected. And there are two big challenges. One is to build the teams back up, people power. Only when we have a larger pool of people willing to roll up their sleeves will it be possible to expand on what we do. But so far it's been very encouraging that people who had left saying they would like to come back on board. There are also new people coming to the project through Google Summer of Code (GSoC), Summer of Open Source (SoOS) and the volunteer engagement team.
The second is cultural. We need to address the ivory tower perception by practical means. So for example, I would like to see all the meetings of OSM and the departments in Joomla have open meetings. So members can view what is being said, being done, and how the money they bring in is being spent. It's a very different feeling when viewing a meeting to reading a one-line summary in the minutes. A lot seems to be unnecessarily covered by NDAs, this is an old and outdated corporate way of working. There are areas, security, commercial sensitivities that could be covered in private before the meeting but it has to be clear as to why and reasons given. OSM is charged with looking after the interests of Joomla and Joomla community members are interested in seeing how that is executed and the reasons behind decisions.
And our biggest challenge, as Joomla?
I think the previous one, if addressed properly, will help the culture to become more open, honest, trusting and understanding. I can watch my members of parliament talk and represent their constituency (the people who voted for them in parliament) every day, same for my council so the same should be said for OSM; the matters we deal with there are not as important as running a country or even a local council. If it can be done and with ease at such high levels then it can be done in Joomla. When I see my MP in the local pub I can chat with him on the matters he spoke about in Parliament, it really does make it feel open and accessible. Much less them and us.
With more cohesion between members and third-party developers, we can then tackle the other issue: falling usage in a growing market. Only as a unified force can we really address that issue.
What are you working on right now?
Right after the election, I got my second vaccine jab. The next day we launched J4 RC so that weekend and beginning of the week was a lot of writing and proofreading, liaising with the production department and me breaking the article once live, a real learning curve. Budgets! Sponsorship, setting up TV interviews and the marketing campaign were the last few weeks. So a full-on first few weeks in the job. My usual work has taken a back seat so at the moment of writing I am coordinating the RC2 launch with the truly impressive marketing and translation teams and then I must catch up on some company work and housework.
How can we help in achieving your goals and addressing the challenges?
We have lost good people over the last few years with what has happened in the leadership. People were pushed out who should not have been, people were ignored when they tried to speak out. Acknowledging that and then asking those that are willing to return. Taking up roles in marketing and the wider community would help.
To remember when on Social Media that we are all wanting the same outcome, a successful Joomla. It means proper open communication, not negative tirades and passive-aggressive comments. We need to remember we are talking to - and about - people, not robots. That what we read and think is not often a true reflection of what the other person said and thinks but our projection. Aiming for a positive outcome will get you much further than starting a conversation in a rude and aggressive manner.
I have been heartened that there is a change in the air when several people independently said that the atmosphere in some teams and in GitHub has improved, that they look forward to joining in rather than dreading what was being said. There is no place for feeling anxious joining in communication channels. It's down to us all to point it out, say it's unacceptable, but also to try to see what the critics are saying and address issues if they are genuinely and correctly put.
Is there anything we forgot to ask?
Yes, you forgot to ask what Flo thinks of it all.
She was concerned that the increased workload was going to mean a cutting down of strokes and perhaps the occasional forgotten food time but so far so good. The automatic food dispenser is fast becoming her best friend and as I am now sitting down writing more articles there is even more chance to lap sit and walk the keyboard just at the most inappropriate moment.