Monday November 13, 2023
Pooja Derashri: Improving Others, Improving Ourselves
Pooja Derashri is a co-founder of WPVibes, an India-based plugin development agency. Since 2017, she has been actively contributing to various WordPress teams, most notably the Training team, to create and maintain WordPress learning resources.
Pooja’s passion for helping others and making meaningful contributions has propelled her further in her WordPress journey. She was chosen as a Team Representative and became a release lead twice, all while enriching her WordPress know-how.
Read on to see how Pooja has proven that helping others succeed can lead to your own success.
Entering the WordPress World
Pooja first dipped her toes into the WordPress world in 2013. Fresh into her first job, her first project was a small WordPress-powered eCommerce website. She was tasked with adding a homepage slider and customizing a product page’s Add to Cart button.
At that time, coding was an unfamiliar territory for Pooja, so she turned to plugins. Shortly after, the ease of using plugins sparked her curiosity.
“I started diving deep into WordPress’s code structure. I found it interesting and decided I had to explore further,” recalls Pooja.
Fast-forward to 2017, Pooja took her WordPress engagement up a notch by contributing to the community. Her first contributing experience was at WordCamp Ahmedabad 2017. She attended Contributor Day, where she took part in the WordPress TV team.
After that, she contributed in other ways. She ventured into the Polyglots team, where she helped with Hindi translations.
Pooja didn’t stop there. She extended her contributions to the Training team and involved herself more in meetups and WordCamps.
In the last two years, she has been a Team Rep for the Training team, making her presence felt in various facets of WordPress.
“I never wanted to limit my contributions. I’ve always wanted to explore beyond what I’ve been doing, for example in core testing,” she says.
Over time, Pooja became intrigued by the idea of being part of a release squad. Therefore, she started attending beta releases, release parties, and contributed to testing multiple WordPress versions.
When WordPress 6.3 was announced, she saw her chance, so she expressed her interest in joining the release squad. Recognized for her consistent contributions, she was selected as a Test lead in the WordPress 6.3 release squad, marking her first experience in such a role.
Currently, Pooja continues her stride as a Test lead for WordPress 6.4. For Pooja, this is just the beginning. Her WordPress origin story exemplifies the beauty of starting small but dreaming big – and how it can open doors to various opportunities down the road.
Shaping Knowledge with Learn WordPress
In WordPress contribution, the Training team is responsible for managing and maintaining Learn WordPress. It’s a website with resources to learn, develop, and contribute to WordPress.
Before Learn WordPress went live, WordPress users had text-only documentation as their primary source of knowledge base.
With Learn WordPress, the Training team elevated the learning experience by offering text-based articles, tutorials, and video content. People can now choose how they want to learn WordPress, whether by reading or watching videos.
The Training team had been curating the site’s content and working on its development since 2013, a monumental seven-year journey until its 2020 launch.
Pooja has been deeply engaged with the WordPress Training team since 2019, even before the Learn WordPress website officially launched.
Pooja contributed to its pilot version, taking part in shaping and managing its content. She enjoyed working on it because it aligns with her philosophy of helping however she can.
“I always love to help people make contributions. I want people to get more involved, and I will try to help in any way I can. This is the core spirit of the WordPress community – people help people,” Pooja says.
Being an active participant in the Training team, Pooja caught the attention of then-Team Reps Hauwa Abashiya and Courtney Robertson. They approached her to take on the team rep position, while also helping her to learn how the team works.
Pooja was both surprised and delighted to accept this responsibility. The role was not just handed to her, she was nominated and later elected by team members, affirming her strong standing within the community.
As a Training team rep, her tasks include representing the team, collaborating with other teams, as well as raising, managing, and addressing any issues that occur within the team.
After serving the Training team for two years, she is now ready to expand her experience even more. Pooja will take the mantle as one of the Test team representatives for the 2023-2024 term, while still helping the Training team from time to time.
Being a Woman in Tech
Coming from a small village in India, being a startup co-founder is not a popular career choice, especially for a woman.
“In my hometown, it’s still uncommon to choose a career in the IT field. People are more encouraged to pursue educational professions. On top of that, people generally see tech jobs as not for women,” says Pooja.
Despite this, Pooja and her husband, Anand Upadhyay, took the bold step to quit their jobs and launch WP Vibes, a plugin development agency, right from their small-town home. She becomes a beacon of change in a field often noted for its lack of diversity.
Pooja acknowledges that building the business is no small feat. However, she emphasizes that geographical limitations are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
In today’s world, even if you’re working from a small town or are a stay-at-home mom, the internet has democratized access to global opportunities. “The sky and internet connection are the only limits,” Pooja says.
Pooja is a strong advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in tech spaces. As a woman and as a part of the WordPress 6.4 release squad – a release helmed by folks from underrepresented gender groups – she is thrilled.
Pooja is confident that this new release will set another benchmark for success and send a powerful message: “Women are not lesser than. We can do many things. We have knowledge. We have passion.”
Her advice for people of underrepresented genders questioning their place in tech is simple but profound: “Stop overthinking and start reacting.” Pooja knows firsthand that overthinking can be a barrier to action. She encourages everyone to take the first necessary step to achieve their goal by breaking through self-doubt.
The Power of Community and Contribution
For Pooja, her journey with WordPress isn’t just about improving technical proficiency, it’s also about the community and the doors it opens.
Two of her most memorable moments with the WordPress community encapsulate this spirit perfectly: being featured in the People of WordPress article series and receiving the Kim Parsell Memorial scholarship for WordCamp US in 2022. Though visa issues kept her from attending, receiving the award was an honor.
2023 marked another milestone for Pooja – she was one of the organizers of the inaugural WordCamp Asia, where she worked with the Speakers team. “It’s a busy but rewarding experience. I’m happy WordCamp Asia will be an annual event,” she beams.
To start contributing, she suggests getting in touch with the local WordPress community. “Get more involved in local meetups or WordCamps. Ask them about their contribution journey. They will tell you how you can get involved, and you can learn from their experiences.”
It’s possible to do self-onboarding just by reading the contribution Handbook, but engaging with the community will give you the full experience of being a part of the WordPress ecosystem.
Pooja also emphasizes that WordPress isn’t just for coders. “Every small contribution makes a big difference. There’s always room for everyone’s skills,” she says.
Pooja points out that there are so many areas in WordPress development other than coding. For example, if you don’t have technical knowledge, you can join the Polyglots team to translate WordPress into local languages or the Training team to create learning resources. If you’re interested in the more technical aspects, join the Test team.
If you’re still unsure how to start, just reach out to the community. Everyone will be more than happy to help you start contributing.
Pooja’s involvement in the current 6.4 WordPress release showcases the collaborative nature of the WordPress community. Unlike in the WordPress 6.3 release, where she worked in a team with two other Test co-leads, this time, she is a solo Test lead.
“I handled similar tasks to the previous one. However, being a solo Test lead is challenging due to a more substantial responsibility, time management demands, and the need to make critical decisions independently,” Pooja elaborates. “But I had incredible support from Birgit Olzem and Anne-Mieke Bovelett, my Test team cohorts, who helped me a lot in preparing the Call for Testing post. And special thanks to Anne McCarthy, who helped me a lot in making tough decisions, like what to include and what to remove from the testing post.”
Birgit, Anne-Mieke, and Anne are all experienced contributors in navigating a WordPress release cycle. They are all willing to help newer release leads succeed in their roles.
“In the 6.3 release, I was learning about the role of the Test lead and how to fulfill its responsibilities effectively. I hope that in this 6.4 release, I will fulfill my duty better,” Pooja says.
Pooja’s story emphasizes what makes WordPress so unique – its openness to anyone willing to contribute, no matter their background or skillset. It’s not just about building websites or writing code, it’s about building a supportive and diverse community that propels everyone forward.