Women in WordPress: Pooja Derashri’s journey in contributing to WordPress

9 min read
Pooja Derashri

WordPress is more than just a tool for creating websites; it's a platform that connects people worldwide. It is a gateway to fostering communities and empowering individuals globally. My experience with WordPress has been a thrilling adventure journey full of opportunities to learn and give back.

At the outset, I never imagined the profound impact WordPress could have beyond website creation. Immersing myself in this community has been an incredible learning experience. Yet, more than that, it's been about extending a helping hand and embracing a sense of unity.

Every step in this WordPress journey has unfolded new horizons and opportunities to contribute. It's a dynamic space that transcends mere web development, fostering connections and empowerment among diverse individuals on a global scale.

My early life

I hail from Banera, a small village in India where I completed my primary education surrounded by familiar faces and close-knit community vibes. To pursue higher studies, I moved to a nearby city under the care of my uncle. It was there that I set my sights on becoming an engineer.

Being from a rural background, people in my village discouraged the idea of sending their daughter to another city for further studies. Still, I was fortunate to have incredibly supportive and loving parents. Their unwavering encouragement allowed me to dream and believe in myself. Their belief in me was the driving force that led me to pursue a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering. And yes, this path is entirely different, significantly contrasting with my current profile.

Discovering opportunities in the technology world

Even after completing my electronics and communication engineering degree, I felt uncertain about my future in that field. I was at a stage, not knowing where to go next. At first, I considered pursuing a master's degree, but the thought of more studying felt overwhelming.

I tried applying for jobs, but luck wasn't on my side. That's when a friend suggested me to explore Web Development. Intrigued by the idea, I began searching for learning materials. Eventually, I landed an unpaid internship as a PHP Developer. Despite being unpaid, I saw it as a golden chance to learn from seasoned professionals.

Encounter in the WordPress era

After a three-month internship, I got my first job. Before encountering WordPress, I explored various CMS like Joomla, Magento, and ExpressionEngine. However, my boss entrusted me with a small WordPress project, which captivated me from the start. Compared to other platforms, WordPress stood out—it was intuitive superior, and its extensive resources made learning effortless. Soon, I got comfortable with managing WordPress, experimenting with plugins and themes, and diving deeper into its functionalities and core structure.

The next chapter in my life began When I was about to get married to Anand Upadhyay, who shared my passion for web development. This feeling boosts my confidence to continue my interest in this field. During our courtship period, he started a web development company, WPVibes, in Ajmer, India. After tying the knot, I became WPVibes' inaugural team member. Being part of a startup was enriching, and I engaged in diverse processes in the company.

Our journey began with web development, swiftly evolving into custom plugin services according to clients' needs. Transitioning from a service agency to a product business (plugin development) was both thrilling and rewarding.

Today, WPVibes boasts a team of ten, a small but mighty group that signifies our journey of growth and innovation. Our plugins, now exceeding 200,000+ active installations across websites, speak about our commitment to providing valuable solutions.

My contribution journey and involvement in the WordPress community

While exploring WordPress groups on Facebook, I discovered WordCamps. My first WordCamp in Ahmedabad, back in 2017, revealed the incredible warmth and love of the Indian WordPress community. At WordCamp Ahmedabad, I had the privilege of listening to speakers from diverse backgrounds, including Rahul Bansal, whose session on contributing to WordPress deeply resonated with me. His insights about giving back to the community and the value it adds to one's knowledge left a lasting impression on me.

Inspired by this experience, although my schedule was tight at the time, the enthusiasm from the Ahmedabad WordPress community motivated Anand and me to initiate a WordPress meetup group in Ajmer to contribute back to this amazing community.

In the next WordCamp Ahmedabad 2018, I attended the contribution day. Most of the contributors were inclined to contribute to Core, but I decided to choose a different path. I joined the WordPress TV team and uploaded a few WordCamps videos, which was my second Contribution to the WordPress project.

WordPress TV is a platform where you can explore videos of WordCamp sessions and other WordPress events. You can learn more about it here.

My journey expanded as I found more avenues to contribute to WordPress. I joined the Make WordPress Training team back in 2019. This team creates and manages educational material for the Learn WordPress website. I began my journey by working alongside experienced team members, which was a pivotal step for me.

Being part of the team from its early stages, I contributed to the Learn WordPress project's initial launch in 2020. Over time, my efforts were acknowledged, and I was honored with nominations for the Team Representative position in 2022. And I proudly served as a Make WordPress Training Team Rep for two consecutive years. This experience taught me valuable lessons about collaboration, dedication, and the power of teamwork in achieving common goals.

I am also a Hindi locale's General Translation Editor (GTE). There, I help validate/suggest strings in our native language for all WordPress projects. 

I've been involved in WordPress events like WP Translation Day 2021, WordCamp India (online), WordFests, and more. Additionally, in 2022, I was part of the official Meetup Reactivation Supporter (APAC) group. There, I helped reactivate meetup groups that were not active after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diversifying my contributions, I played a significant role in co-organizing the inaugural WCAsia as part of the speakers' team. I learned a lot by working with experienced team members at this grand event. Our team handled everything related to selecting speakers/emcees, announcing speakers, and making schedules. Working with everyone on the team was an excellent experience.

I continued my contribution journey and have been involved in several past releases by testing the Beta/RC. And being part of the release team was a huge honor for me. It all started with contributing significantly to the WordPress 6.1 release. Then, I got a chance to lead the test team for the WordPress 6.3 and 6.4 releases, which took my journey in unexpected directions.

Joining as a co-test lead for 6.3, I learned how the test team contributes to the WordPress release. I was a Test lead for WP 6.4 release, which was focused on encouraging participation and shared ownership for those who identify as gender-underrepresented in the WordPress open source project. It was a great initiative taken by the WordPress community.

In this overall process, I learned a lot about the test team and how it works, and then I got nominated for test team rep for the 2023-2024 term. Currently, I am contributing as the Make WordPress Test Team Rep.

Beyond these roles, I am also a program supporter (formerly known as Community Deputy) for the community team. There, I help guide event organizers and maintain the well-being of the WordPress community. Our team, made up of people from around the world, ensures that new and returning organizers are taking on only a little and are following the Codes of Conduct to keep the community healthy and thriving.

For our local community, I'm a co-organizer of the Ajmer WordPress Meetup group. We regularly set up meetups to increase awareness about WordPress in our city.

I've facilitated Training Team Tables at Contributor Days in various WordCamps that I have attended in recent years. I also spoke at a few WordCamp events and anticipate many more exciting opportunities in the future.

My commitment to the community was recognized when I was honored with the prestigious Kim Parsell scholarship in 2022, which gave me the opportunity to attend WCUS. That could be an experience that further enriched my dedication to WordPress and its vibrant community. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it due to some visa issues.

I used to be quite introverted, finding it challenging to step into the spotlight and connect with a global audience. However, the community became my guiding light, and the overall community helped me to grow and come out of my comfort zone. Thanks to the incredible support I received, I now count many friends in the community from across the globe. With their help, I could confidently step onto podcasts and stage to share insights about WordPress and other topics without hesitation. That is the power of community, which helped me to overcome from my fixed mindset.

My hopes and dreams for the future

I envision a future where my journey in technology, particularly within the WordPress community, continues to evolve. Personally, I aspire to deepen my expertise, exploring new areas within tech while fostering inclusivity and mentorship for aspiring individuals, especially women or underrepresented groups, venturing into this field.

For the WordPress community, my dream is to see it flourish as a nurturing space that embraces diversity and innovation. I hope to contribute significantly to its growth, advocating for accessible learning resources and avenues for diverse contributions. My ultimate goal is to foster a community where everyone feels empowered to harness the potential of WordPress, regardless of their background or expertise.

My message for other women in tech

In my journey, I've learned that our origins and background can't define us. What truly matters is our dedication and a positive approach.

To all the women aspiring to build a career in tech, especially those venturing into WordPress, here's my message for you: The tech world, including the vibrant WordPress community, is ready to support your learning journey. Embrace this opportunity and consider giving back. It's not solely about coding. There are diverse ways to contribute meaningfully, irrespective of your comfort with programming. There are countless paths waiting for you.