All The Feels — My DrupalCon Retrospective

Rachel Lawson
Oct 1, 2017 · 6 min read

I am happy to see that many people are doing a really good job of writing up about what happened at DrupalCon Vienna 2017. I can’t do a better job than that already done so I’m going to try and take a different approach and talk about how all the things that happened made me feel. Buckle-up, this might get emotional…

As has become my little personal tradition, I rode my motorbike to DrupalCon again. It costs a little more but it does give me time to think and prepare for things; especially this time as I had found myself involved in a lot of things that would require me on the “big stage”. Now, people tell me I look comfortable on stage but I can assure you it is very much not the case. I was certainly struggling with nerves in the week before DrupalCon and the time spent travelling helped me to get it all in perspective.


I was also nervous of attending the Drupal Association’s Summit pre-DrupalCon on Saturday. I really didn’t know what to expect and what would be involved. I had reconcilled in my head that the reason I was there was via my work on the Community Working Group and Mentoring but still, I was in with a very different crowd than I’m used to.

As it happens, I was made to feel very welcome and it was immediately clear that everyone there very much understood the Drupal Community and was working hard to ensure its sustainability. The first day felt somewhat strained but, looking back, it was clear that we were storming as a team and the second day was really productive.

Paul Johnson does a far better job than I can describing the actual events of the DA Strategy Summit

I’m sure there were times when I was really quite direct with the team about the relationship between the DA and parts of the community and I think it was appreciated and taken on. I left feeling that Dries and the DA do want to work with the wider Drupal community to make a sustainable future for us all.


I spent way too much of Monday getting my bike repaired. €400 — Ouch! From afar, I was really encouraged to hear the engagement of key opinion leaders in our community getting together and starting to make things work for large Drupal events in Europe into the future. There are two threads as far as I understand right now; one to look at what to do in 2018 and another to look further into the future. This seems like a good situation to me.

I’m also highly encouraged that Megan Sanicki has put together a specific group to look at the long-term solution. Megan appears tohave been very wise and selected a list of people that bring all the different skills required for such a venture.

Of course, when teams are created, they all do go through the “forming, storming, norming, performing” stages and we’re going to have to let them get on with that. Having them announced here where they could accelerate some of those stages was a great move. Well done Megan 👏


I did get a chance on Monday to spend some time with Dries in rehearsals for the #DriesNote and Q&A. I had already decided that I wanted to concentrate on “human” questions as I think how people think and work has a greater influence on the project than choosing a javascript framework or whatever. We talked through a couple of areas of possible questions and it certainly influenced what I asked on the day.

This week was actually the first time that Dries and I have spoken face to face. There’s never really been the need or opportunity before and I’m really glad we managed it this time. I hope the opportunity strikes many times in the future.

The actual day of the #DriesNote was so nerve-wracking for me. I never find it easy doing these things in front of many people. I enjoy it when it is done but it is always “hard”.

Getting miked-up with the “Brittany-Spears” mike, felt very “real” and the nerves were at their highest. Whilst the buildup was going on, we had to stand up a few times and the transmitter slipped out of the back of my skirt and was dangling behind me. Help! I had to get out of the room and untangle. Strangely, because of this panic, it helped me forget about the thing itself and calm me down. Then, because I needed the extra stress, I was told just before going on I didn’t have 15 minutes after all — I had five. We sat down in the seats and I realised that I couldn’t see the timer; the seats were not quite in the right place. Oh well — I’ll just had to guess!

I got some good feedback after the event and I hope to find a way to ask more of the questions that people have for Dries. We have a couple of ideas forming and we will see what happens. I’m left feeling happy that it’s not over.


One of the roles of the Community Working Group is to supply the Code of Conduct contacts for the event. Adam Hill & Myself volunteered for this and, whilst I obviously can’t talk about specific things, it did mean that we spent time having to consult with each other and the rest of the CWG about things we have heard or had reported to us. It’s hard making decisions about things and people we know and care about.


Throughout the week, we were also getting ready for the Mentored Core Sprint on Friday. There are a number of Mentored Core Sprint Leads who each take a different role to make it as successful as possible. emma jane gave me some really good advice once about “letting go”. I tried really hard to make sure each Lead knew they had the mandate to run their job how they saw fit but those of us who have “been around a while”, like xjm, Cathy Theys & (to lesser extent) me would support them. It worked brilliantly and I’m so happy. Thank you Emma 😘

Not going on stage in the closing session to talk about the Mentored Core Sprint the next day but getting the team to do it together was possibly one of my favourite moments of DrupalCon. 👏


I know feeling Imposter Syndrome about being asked to take part in the The Imposter Monologues is ridiculous — it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen! I’m glad I did it, though.


With all this going on, Antje and I had a talk to do, too! Improving Usability for Sitebuilders and Administrators is something we have been slowly working on for months and months. I felt a huge sense of both pride and happiness that so many people wanted to see how we can improve Drupal to help those that use our UI more than anyone. There was not even anywhere left to sit on the floor!

One thing, though, Antje: Why am I having to type npm install to view/edit a presentation? 🤷‍♀️


Being on the CWG, I also sat in the panel for our Fostering Community Health with the Community Working Group talk though, luckily, that didn’t involve any work for me. I think I was a little frustrated that, while some in our community have very strong views on the work we do, the actual attendance at the session was low. The questions and converstations we did have were good. I just wish we could encorage more to get involved in a positive way.


The day of DrupalCon that always excites me the most is Friday — The Mentored Core Sprints. I LOVE watching so many people taking those first (often frustrating and difficult) first steps into our community. It’s a really special time for me.

I’ve never known everything go exactly to plan at a sprint, it’s just not the way it goes, but the team did an amazing job and it was as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen. We had a fantastic number of great mentors volunteer their time to the day and I’m left in awe of them. Thank you so much to every single one.


There are always special little moments through the week that get me. Here’s a couple:


So now I need to start thinking — do I break a habit and actually turn up at a North American DrupalCon? 🤔

Let’s see…

Rachel Lawson

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Personal blog of a biker (mtb & motor), web dev, lover of all things BMW Motorrad & Drupal. Yorkshire born'n'bred but currently enjoying the NW Norfolk coast...