6 minutes reading time (1283 words)

Leadership Interviews: Benjamin Trenkle and Harald Leithner


This month we're thrilled to include a double interview with the newly elected Joomla Department Coordinators: Benjamin Trenkle and Harald Leither. The aim of these interviews is to let the Community know a bit more about the Project Leadership and their plans for the future of Joomla.

Benjamin is a newcomer to the Open Source Matters' Board of Directors and has taken the lead of the Production Department. Harald instead has already served as Director in the past, being one of the past Production Department Coordinators, and he comes back to the Board as Operations DC. 

Harald, thanks for stepping up to leadership roles and congratulations for your election. We’re looking forward to knowing a bit more about you and your vision for the departments you lead. Could you let us know more about you?

[Harald] In the meantime, I’m feeling like a longtime member of the community even if I use Joomla since it was Mambo ,I just joined the Community several years ago. I live in Austria and have run a company for 20 years doing IT stuff. I was the release lead for Joomla 3.9.3+ and I'm the release lead with Niels for Joomla 5.0. I already was a board member as Production Department Coordinator. I like IT infrastructure so operations is an interesting area for me where I can use my knowledge.

Benjamin, this is your first time on the Board of Joomla. What convinced you to step up as Production Department Coordinator? 

[Benjamin] A lot of things came together which make it a fit this time. During my time as Release Lead for 4.1 I really enjoyed building structures and standards. After Marco's term ended and the position was vacant, I had the feeling that I could help Joomla by running for this position. I also got a lot of positive feedback from people around to do this job.

In my opinion, we all are still on the edge if we’ll have a good future with Joomla or if we as Joomla become more and more irrelevant. I see everywhere positive signals that we could have a chance and very slowly things change positively.

Looking at the teams in Production, how well some are performing or inactive teams become active again I also see a positive movement there.

Last but not least, (from an outside view) after years of internal problems, fights and standstill in the board, I also have the feeling that now there are members who also want to be part of the positive change. Especially now with Harald as Operations DC, looking at what Harald did in the background the last years for Joomla, the perfect person is now in this very important position: keeping our backs free to do the production work by releasing us from the burden of struggling with the infrastructure on a daily basis.

So I hope that I can contribute a small part of my skills to help the future of Joomla!

Harald, welcome back as Operations Department Coordinator. You’re not new to the Board, given that you have been the Production DC in the past. Same questions, why did you decide to run for the Operations DC position?

[Harald] The Operations Department is a really important part of Joomla. It’s hidden in the background and as like the IT department in a company you don’t  recognize it as long as everything works. But running is not always the best situation. If you look at the time Wilco Alsemgeest took over he did so much in the department to make it sustainable. He created documentation and cleaned up many areas. One of my businesses is hosting servers and websites, so infrastructure is one of my favorite topics. Providing this knowledge to my favorite CMS is an honor.

Which will be the primary focus of your tenure as Department Coordinator? Which is the highest priority of your Department right now?

[Harald] Since Wilco left the department in an excellent state I see only a few topics. The first and foremost is JED4. We are all waiting long for a replacement for the current JED. And I try to motivate the team to bring the project back on track. Another topic is our chat system. Updating our properties to Joomla 4 is also on the roadmap. Last but not least I think it’s time for a new template for joomla.org.

[Benjamin] Over the last years one of the biggest flaws in Joomla! was that we weren’t respectful enough regarding work people contributed to the project which led to a lot of disappointment and burning out people. I also had the feeling that we were a bit lacking a vision of who we are between all these WordPresses, Drupals, WIXes and other page builders. There is also an underlying mood of “they vs. us”. When people (which is absolutely fair) ask, what do “they” do in the leadership position for “us”?

So I see the highest priority to show the people what “we” do and how everyone can contribute to be part of the “we”. Implement transparency and make the community accessible for all. The second focus should have the vision for Joomla. We need one. If after my term both points are implemented, I think it was a successful first step.

Beside these two major focus points I would also like to help teams to standardize processes, get rid of one person dependencies and welcome new contributors to the community, because every person counts.

Which will be the major challenge of your tenure?

[Benjamin] I think the biggest challenge is to get trust back from the community. We were fully aware that we did not always learn from our past mistakes and didn’t communicate a clear vision for Joomla. Of course it takes some time but I hope we can show the people that it’s not a “we vs. them” but an all together. Everyone has the best intention for Joomla but we need to collaborate to succeed. Working together, bringing people back, transparency and honest communication should be our own measurement. Doing that will be challenging but a needed way to go.

[Harald] As in every volunteer driven organization it’s important and hard at the same time to motivate people. Our members are doing everything for free so I try to find out their needs and how I or someone else can help them. Recruiting new volunteers is also important. So if anyone is interested in helping operations to maintain one or two joomla sites or other server topics please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Is there anything we forgot to ask but should have asked you?

[Harald] I just want to say thank you to Wilco who did a really good job as Department Coordinator.

[Benjamin] I would like to highlight that all these leadership roles are nothing without the community and all the active contributors on GitHub, in forums, chats, stackexchange, JUGs, translators, supporters and everyone else I forgot to list.

Everyday I’m amazed at how many positive things are happening for Joomla. But we’re all human and making mistakes, so we should be lenient to each other. I have the feeling nobody is here to damage Joomla. It’s just not always clear why some decisions have to be made. So if you’re not happy with something, please reach out to people, communicate and be supportive.

Joomla has compared to all the other systems one really big strength: the community of volunteers and we should not destroy this strength internally.

If you would like to be more involved into Joomla, be it marketing, infrastructure, development or anything else, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, as everyone is welcome.

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