WordPress is open source software, maintained by a global network of contributors. There are many examples of how WordPress has changed people’s lives for the better. In this monthly series, we share some of the amazing stories that are lesser-known.
Pooja Derashri shares the story of how she went from being an introvert from a small village in India to becoming a developer and working on international projects, thanks to the WordPress community.
As her interest grew, Pooja started following some WordPress-based groups on Facebook, where she first heard about conference-style WordPress events known as WordCamps. She later joined her first WordCamp in Ahmedabad, India. This three day event in 2017 opened up a new world—the WordPress community—and what would become a life changing moment. “WordCamp Ahmedabad has one of the best WordPress communities in India,” she said, “and everyone, including organizers and attendees were so humble and welcoming.”
The thirst for learning
A fascination with how things worked and a desire never stop learning were traits that shone through in Pooja from a young age. She moved from Banera, a rural village in India, to a nearby city, where she lived with her uncle while completing her higher education. With her enthusiasm for learning, she decided to become an engineer. When thinking back on that time she says, “Being from a rural background, people in my village tended not to be keen on the idea of sending their girl child to another city for further studies. Fortunately, that was not the case for me because my parents were immensely supportive of me and my interests. They’ve always encouraged me to believe in myself and fulfill my dreams. With their support, I pursued my engineering in electronics and communication.”
Discovering the opportunities in web development
On completing her engineering training, Pooja was not sure what to do next. One of her friends suggested that she should explore web development. The idea intrigued her, and she sought out learning resources to study. She also secured an internship as a PHP Developer to give herself the chance to learn alongside professionals in the field.
Getting started with WordPress
“I found WordPress surpassed other platforms. The vast knowledge base made it easy for me to learn.” – Pooja
This internship led Pooja to her first job where she discovered a range of content management systems. Her view of the opportunities offered by these systems changed when the manager assigned her a small project using the WordPress platform.
She recalls: “I found WordPress surpassed other platforms I had worked on earlier. The vast knowledge base made it easy for me to learn.” She soon became comfortable managing WordPress, working with plugins and themes, and wanted to learn it more in-depth.
Pooja soon joined WPVibes as its first team member. Being part of a new startup gave her a lot of experience and a chance to be involved in new processes. As the company expanded they started providing custom plugin development services per the client’s requirement and created some free and paid plugins. Pooja said, “We found it very exciting and productive. Today, we are a team of 10.”
Encouragement from the WordPress community
Contributing to WordPress increases your knowledge
At the event, she was able to listen to speakers from India and abroad, many of whom shared their journey with WordPress and how it had changed their lives. “One of the most inspiring sessions was by Rahul Bansal,” she said. “He talked about contributing to WordPress and giving back to the community. He also explained how contributing to WordPress can help you to enhance your knowledge. It inspired me to contribute to WordPress.”
The WordPress community of Ahmedabad continued to inspire Pooja and her husband Anand Upadhyay, and they later started a Meetup group in their home city of Ajmer as part of their contribution to the community. They continue to be involved in supporting local users through the Ajmer Meetup.
At the next WordCamp Pooja attended, she joined its contributor day, which brings users together to give back to the open source platform and global community. Most of the contributors she met were interested in giving time to the WordPress CMS. She decided to venture into a different path and took her first steps by joining the WordPress TV group, where you can explore videos from WordPress events across the world. She also discovered the joy of translating into her local language, and is a Polyglot contributor for the Hindi language.
In 2019, she was selected as a volunteer for WordCamp Asia in Bangkok, Thailand, and it became an impetus to become even more involved with the community. She was very excited about this role, and to be part of her first WordCamp outside India. Sadly, due to the global COVID pandemic, the event had to be cancelled. Her enthusiasm has not diminished and she is eagerly waiting to support in-person WordCamps in the future and meet even more members of the global community.
Her determination to be part of making WordPress and sharing skills has only increased, which has led to contribute to the WordPress Training team. This team manages lesson plans and prepares content to support people who are training others to use WordPress. The team recently joined a few other teams to launch Learn WordPress, which brings learning materials together for users of all levels, and Pooja contributed to two different teams during the project.
Message to the WordPress Community
Pooja is eager to share her belief in the power for good in the WordPress community. “There is a huge community to help you with your learning, so start learning and try to give back to the community. It doesn’t matter if you are not comfortable with programming, there are many different ways in which you can contribute.”
“What I have learned in my life is that it doesn’t matter from where you came and what background you have. All that matters is your hard work and positive attitude towards life.”
Read more stories in the People of WordPress series.
Thanks to Abha Thakor (@webcommsat) and Nalini Thakor (@nalininonstopnewsuk) for writing this story, and to Surendra Thakor (@sthakor), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Meher Bala (@meher), Chloé Bringmann (@cbringmann), Olga Glekler (@oglekler), Christopher Churchill (@vimes1984), Larissa Murillo (@lmurillom), and Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld) for work on the series this month. Thank you also to Pooja Derashri (@webtechpooja) for sharing her #ContributorStory.