Leadership Interviews: Elisa Foltyn
"Joomla is an amazing and powerful system, and has a great community" Elisa Foltyn stated in her manifesto prior to her election as Joomla’s Vice President. Elisa studied marketing as well as media design and has lots of experience in web development. She knows Joomla, she knows the community and she knows how to get the message to the whole world, which is exactly what she would like to see happen for Joomla.
In her role as VP she merely wants to represent all of us – the Joomla Community – rather than being a leader. Things Elisa would like to improve? "Communication between volunteers, volunteer management and collaboration," she says. "We should encourage people to work together, give credit where credit is due, and celebrate success."
Congratulations on your new Board position, Elisa! What made you decide to run for VP?
In the past I have been nominated several times, but in the period between my last nomination and now I have experienced that working as a volunteer in Joomla was not always pleasant for me. I personally had no desire to deal with that anymore. And for a position on the Board you need to have a certain initiative and commitment, and above all a thick skin which did not apply either. So I decided to step back a bit, although I never left Joomla professionally. Watching from the outside looking in made it easier to reflect over the less pleasant aspects of Joomla and put them in perspective, and that made me realise bilateral communication can help.
Participating in Joomla's Forum for the Future (FftF), in January 2020, reignited my desire to participate. The FftF recharged my passion and once again showed how beautiful the community life can be. How much understanding there is in spite of hurdles, that some Joomlers have fantastic singing voices, and that everyone has the same goal: to make Joomla better.
I've always been active in several teams, but being a member of a single team for me doesn't work too well. I am too interested in too many topics, so I would love to be in all teams at once. And that again does not work too well within the space time continuum :-) The position as VP gives me the possibility to continue my role as a bee hopping from flower to flower, pollinating and facilitating teams, all in a more official capacity.
How do you see your role as VP, especially since your term will only last six months?
I see myself as a regular, average Joomler, as a person from the community and not as a leader - I am not a good "Leader", I have been able to prove this many times in the past. ;-)
I find it difficult to motivate people to do something because I ask them to, I don't know how to "enforce a will". I do know that if I want to achieve something, I have to get involved myself. So I choose to lead by example and I want to help others to be a good example too.
My term of office is limited due to the transition period, I intend to prove myself through my actions and get re-elected after these initial 6 months. I don't hang on to the badge, I hang on to the Joomla Project, the Joomlers. I want Joomla to be successful and fun, and I love to be part of that, with or without an official title.
What would you like to achieve during your term? And why?
My primary concern, which I also mentioned in my manifesto, is to improve communication in the project. Some areas in our communities' communication look to me sadly as if our cooperation had completely run into a wall. I have sought professional external advice and would like to continue this business consultancy and involve the board in the consultancy as well. I can't change anything on my own, but I can present and discuss concepts and help in this area.
I think someone professionally involved in intercultural communication and in leadership communication can help to steer us in the right direction again. This task is too serious and too big to be solved by a quick idea. In my honest opinion it will be a really hard task, but solvable. I have seen similar focus in other Departments, for example in Production. Since I am not a lonely warrior, there is absolutely hope to work on that together.
My second objective is to help improve the usability of Joomla. Teaching a class of seventeen children, ages 10 to 16, for a whole week about Joomla and building a site installs some unexpected insights. There are recurring concerns, questions and misunderstandings about the product. My initial personal observations were confirmed and extended at this year's kids4opensource.de initiative from the German community, where several Joomla Volunteers took it upon them to teach Joomla to children for a whole week. I think it is important to welcome and care for fresh blood and at the same time this teaching activity brings us a lot of valuable feedback for the future of Joomla. We shouldn't ignore that.
How can we help?
Any idea of how to improve collaboration and communication helps. And it also helps if you ask yourself every day: is my behaviour in line with the core values of Joomla? For those who don’t know them yet, or, forgot them, our core values are:
Nobody is perfect, but it is always possible to apologize and grow personally from day to day. If you feel unheard, talk to your team leaders and departmental coordinators. Try to solve conflicts 1:1 and not through social media or public rant. Although we are a great community and friendship is one of the most important factors for everyone's participation, think professionally and ask yourself whether certain actions would make sense in a company or not.
What are the first thing you do in your new role as VP?
Currently I am taking part in my first board meetings and checking out my new setting. I don’t have a position with specific obligations, there was no handover or so. I am kind of a jolly person and ready to support the board here and there. My first unofficial task was teaching 32 Joomla Kids how to build websites with Joomla - but that actually would have happened without my post as well. I am looking forward to the next tasks and adventures with my favorite CMS. I also recently joined the Conflict Resolution Team to help to manage and sort out overdued issues and to help find independent persons to take care of the outstanding topics.
Women are often underrepresented in the Open Source and technology fields, do you consider Joomla different in this regard? How do you see equality in Joomla?
Equality does not refer only to gender for me. I am not quite a fan of focussing on a gender topic. The community should be open, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, origin, background or skills level… I see a lot of possibilities for improvement in terms of equality. Especially when you look at issues in GitHub. If every voice would be equal the handling of opinions would be handled differently.
To reply to your question, I see a lot of women in Joomla and in leading positions. I personally don’t think we need quotas. In Joomla I had never the feeling that an election is based on gender, it’s more based on the commitment and the qualification of the volunteer, and I can just encourage literally everyone interested in Joomla and its community to get involved.
How did Joomla change your life? What do you consider the highlights of your Joomla history so far?
One highlight was my first Joomla Event - the JoomlaDay Germany in my Hometown Nuremberg, where I got to meet all the faces behind popular Extensions and the Community Leaders in 2013. They were like superstars for me and they should know they still are. If you’re not involved in the community (yet), you have absolutely no clue how approachable our community is, that seems to be a well guarded secret. Sometimes it almost feels to me as if we don’t want to grow because of the fear that the cozy group will never be the same again. We should not worry about that and certainly not stop the growth at all! I went to Wordcamp Germany last year, just to check out what others are doing and must say: a large community can celebrate big parties as well ;-)
The other highlight was to write a Joomla related book with David Jardin. Having a Joomla compendium in my hand with my name on the cover feels actually really cool. And while writing on the contents I actually also learned a lot.
Joomla changed my life so that it’s my main source of bread and butter - friends always highlight that they barely know a person who loves her work like I do. That is the truth: I love to provide solutions based on Joomla.
Anything else you would like to say to our readers?
If you ever have a question or want to talk about something or have an idea, just contact me and I will take my time to respond and to discuss with you. I’m really interested to know what’s going on in our community and I’m open to new ideas and suggestions.
Also I want to tell you that anyone who would ask you a weird question on a Forum or Social Media might have the potential to be a board member in 2034 too ;-)
I would have loved to find an even better example in archive.org but unfortunately I can’t: this screenshot shows a question in German, a few months after I began with joomla. The content does not matter so much (besides my "Mööööööp - Does not work" maybe) .