Leadership Interviews: Philip Walton, Vice President
The future of Joomla looks bright and sunny, if you ask our new Vice President, Philip Walton. In his capacity as Marketing / Outreach Department Coordinator, he put lots of effort into making Joomla grow. He is and has been working on making our community more welcoming and safer for everyone. What else does he want to achieve in his new role as VP? Read this interview and you know!
Philip, congratulations on your election as Vice President! Why did you decide to put yourself up for this position?
Thank you Anja. I'm chuffed to have managed to beat None of the above in yet another election, and I commend them for the good grace and silent manner with which they conducted themselves.
My move to marketing was to fill a vacancy when the marketing team collapsed and we needed to get our message of Joomla 4 out to the world. Marketing is not my first love but I realised that without someone doing the release articles, Joomla 4 was not going to get the coverage it deserved and as a native English speaker I thought I should roll up my sleeves and see what could be done.
You’ve been a DC for two years before you ran for VP; first Marketing and after that, Outreach. What do you consider your biggest accomplishments so far?
When I joined it was a turbulent time in OSM. We had gone through a difficult patch.
My biggest accomplishment follows on from my days as the CMS release team lead: finding people who are more competent than me to take over. My assistant in CMS release was Sigrid Gramlinger; she is now joining me on the board along with my former Marketing Assistant Louise Hawkins who became marketing lead when I moved to Outreach and then took over Outreach; she is also joining the board.
Encouraging replacements is important to the growth of any organisation. I feel this is one of my most important achievements: identifying and nurturing a successor who can take it further and bring their many talents to the role.
What will happen to the Outreach department when you’re no longer leading it?
It will go from strength to strength. Louise Hawkins, the new Outreach DC, is a natural at marketing, she clearly understands marketing but also has qualifications in marketing. Outreach is taking it that one step further. As Vice President I will still be there to do the work, such as pushing out the release articles and taking on any task that she needs help with, but I am also very happy to leave it in her very capable hands. I need to pass on some knowledge but she is already taking the role and making it her own.
We also have an excellent Magazine team leader who is doing an amazing job making the team a fun and productive place to work in.
In your manifesto, you state your primary task will be supporting the President. Since you’ve been on the board already, you probably have a good idea of what that entails. We don’t have a clue, so could you explain to us what supporting the President means?
The President is the outward face of Joomla, the dynamism and energy, the person who meets and greets, who pushes the Joomla brand to the world. That's a big job and the Vice President needs to be there to take up the slack and perhaps add some focus.
Crystal Dionysopoulos and I will be meeting once a month to align and go through the projects and road blocks. I will be focusing on the Joomla community, meeting and listening to their issues which I will feed back to the President.
Crystal and I will also meet in board meetings every two weeks and will be doing the Ask OSM (Open Source Matters) Anything sessions, but more on that later.
In the manifesto you also address some challenges within the Joomla community, most of them coming down to better communication and ways to sort issues. How do you think we could overcome these issues?
We have already started. There is the Ask OSM Anything sessions on the first of every month (two sessions, at different times of the day). This will hopefully provide an opportunity for those who feel they need to connect directly to the board to have their say. It's also important that it's a two way communication. Sometimes there are reasons, historic or cultural, why something is done a certain way and it's not always possible or easy to make that specific change, but with good communication it is possible to give members the reasons why and help them feel that they have been listened to and that they have agency.
We are all working as volunteers, so the time we do put in needs to be valued and as productive as it can possibly be. We do need a cultural shift which has been happening over the years, but must continue. People should not be vilified or made to feel foolish in our community. Some of the long standing members have a duty in such an organisation to nurture and encourage and that starts at the top of the board. I want to lead by example and be fair and courteous in all communication. This allows for us to then call out those who are not being as welcoming, not showing other members the courtesy they deserve.
I really want Joomla to be a fun and educationally rich environment spreading best practice, not only in code but in conduct.
What is the first challenge you’re going to work on? How can we all help you with that?
Joomla 5 is arriving very soon and so at the moment we need all hands to help with that. But I have some international conversations to have with members to see if we can make some things work better. That's already happening: I am writing this while on a train to Salzburg to JoomlaDay Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH), to meet all the DACH Joomla members.
Feedback in recent years is that the culture in our everyday communication is much better, that is because people have called out those who bring the community down and have challenged them to set a better example.
The area that is now being mentioned is GitHub. The feedback from many is that our GitHub repositories are still a place where new and old find confrontation, and find it hard to contribute for fear of insult or rude behaviour. It is such a shame to regularly hear this and so we need to find ways to out this rude behaviour but also to encourage helpful and good behaviour with all the exchanges that happen in our repositories.
Those that come up in conversation have so much to contribute and would be welcomed with open arms but for the attitude and manner they show to those they should be engaging with.
GitHub is open to the world to see so when people are short in temper or keyboard warriors they reflect badly on the whole community.We can all help make this change but if you are specifically affected, then I would really like to hear from you and see how we can make your coding experience much more engaging.
You also state future growth is possible, and that it will take the whole community to achieve this. How will we get that going?
Well a sneak peak at W3Ctech shows that our recent upsurge and decline again is going into a leveling out phase; this is excellent news. So we have pushed back our decline by years and now it looks like we may be about to grow again.
With the new people in the positions I have already mentioned, and a really great product about to fill our download portals, I feel we will soon see that gradient moving skywards. When people realise that Joomla 4 to Joomla 5 is not a migration but an upgrade, so more than just an update but considerably less than a migration, they will have confidence.We will still get the security and performance boosts from insisting on newer mysql and php versions. I'm really excited for the next few months.
In your opinion, what does Joomla need right now? And how can we make that happen?
People, people, people. We are so reliant on the people we have and we need more to share the work and grow the community. We particularly need those with soft skills to help encourage and put the right people in the right job.
We also need more people to help with translations and country liaisons so that we can make Joomla 5 and the news about Joomla 5 available to a much wider audience
Is there anything else you want to share with us?
Yes: that some of the people I have met along this journey have become good and close friends. That I now have an international community that I can share not only Joomla, but many, many other aspects of life with.
If it was not for Joomla I would not have cycled from Munich to Berlin the other year. So Joomla is not just about a Content Management System but a community, a group of individuals who have a common focus and can have a lot of fun and make an international difference along the way.