Hari Shanker of Automattic

Hari Shanker – Program Manager at Automattic

I am Hari Shanker, an Open source Program Manager at Automattic. I consider myself a community-oriented person, dedicated to supporting and contributing to the open-source ecosystem.

I reside in the vibrant city of Kochi, located in the southern state of Kerala, India. Although I was born and raised in Thiruvananthapuram, I moved to Kochi in 2016 and now call it my home.

The Journey Began

My journey has been exciting because it revolves around my love for WordPress. It all began in 2006 when I was a college student wanting to start a blog.

Social media was still in its early stages, with platforms like Orkut gaining popularity. While exploring the digital world, I came across blogging and started my journey using platforms like Blogger.

However, I soon realized I needed a more powerful and flexible platform for my blogging needs. That’s when I discovered WordPress, an open-source software that fascinated me.

Before WordPress, my online presence was limited, and I had limited experience with HTML and CSS for building websites.

Excited by the possibilities that WordPress offered, I switched to self-hosted WordPress for my blog. I also began freelancing with WordPress, which fueled my passion and provided me with income during college.

It was an incredible experience because I could apply what I was learning in computer science at college in the real world, using this technology I loved.

As my journey progressed, I took on different roles, including content writing, journalism, project management, freelance, web development, and professional education.

I even ended up working in banks. Eventually, my passion for WordPress led me to my dream job at Automattic (the company behind WordPress) as a Happiness Engineer.

Joining Automattic was a long-time goal, dating back to when I first learned about the company’s existence in 2009-2010 during the early days of WordPress.com.

After working as a Happiness Engineer for four years at Automattic, my role shifted to a community-focused position in 2020. I currently work full-time in the WordPress community, contributing to WordPress.

Being sponsored by Automattic to work in the WordPress community has been a fulfilling role for me. Currently, I am a Community Program Manager in the WordPress open-source project.

Working with the Make/WordPress Community Team, focusing on improving the project’s contributor experience and supporting the Five for the Future Program, focusing on bolstering the overall WordPress contributor ecosystem.

Throughout my journey, I’ve realized that the WordPress community is my true calling. Even before joining Automattic, I was fascinated by open source and the community surrounding it, which naturally led me to WordPress.

The fulfillment I get from supporting others and seeing their gratitude is beyond words.

My transition into a community-focused role was an interesting one. Initially hired for technical support, I gradually organized events and engaged with the community.

After joining Automattic, my passion for WordPress led me to my local WordPress community in Kochi as an organizer. Within no time, I organized several local WordPress meetups in Kochi.

Even ended up working with the local community to organize three editions of WordCamp Kochi from 2017 to 2019 and a grand regional WordCamp called WordCamp Kerala 2023.

In short, I loved working with the WordPress community, and when my employer offered me a chance to contribute to WordPress full-time, I grabbed it with both arms.

As I shared before, working in the WordPress community as my full-time job is my calling, and I couldn’t be happier today.

The most rewarding moments of my career revolve around the satisfaction of helping and supporting others. From supporting customers in my banking days to empowering Automattic users during my days as a Technical Support Engineer, I have enjoyed helping others.

Until 2022, my focus was on building and growing WordPress events by supporting WordCamp and Meetup organizers. These days, my efforts are focused on supporting the global WordPress contributor community by making the process of WordPress contributions the best it can be.

I’ve had the privilege of supporting folks in all my roles worldwide, as a Technical Support Engineer supporting customers and as a Community Organizer supporting volunteers. I consider their appreciation to be my greatest reward.

My journey with WordPress has had its challenges, but the joy and fulfillment I experience from being part of the community are unparalleled.

The Need for “Community”

During the global pandemic, the world transitioned from in-person to online events, drastically changing how we connect.

As someone who experienced this shift firsthand, I had the opportunity to witness the immense importance of community.

In open-source projects like WordPress, transparency and open discussions are essential. I learned that every experience, even difficult ones, can be valuable learning opportunities.

For those interested in community involvement, I encourage embracing the calling and starting by organizing meetups and WordCamps.

Hari Shanker at WordCamp Kerala

Hari Shanker at WordCamp Kerala

These experiences provide practical training and help develop skills in negotiation, project management, and interpersonal interactions for plans; I will continue to follow my passion and constantly challenge myself to learn and grow.

The pandemic has emphasized the actual value of in-person events. I eagerly looked forward to the revival of meetups and WordCamps, as they serve as the foundation of the WordPress community.

These gatherings foster connections and provide opportunities for personal and professional growth. Ultimately, the community drives WordPress forward, and I wholeheartedly embrace that driving force.

Myself with my Brilliant Team

Hari Shanker With Colleagues From Automattic

Hari Shanker with Colleagues from Automattic

There are a lot of friends from my local community including Aditya, Alex, Ajith, Aravind, Bigul, Hitha, Jose, KC, Nebu, Nithin, Sajith, Yogesh – and many others who have become an integral part of my life.

My local community is a constant source of strength for me, and while I have only mentioned a few names, many more hold a special place in my heart.

Beyond my local community, I am also grateful for the incredible team I work with. My teammate Naoko and my colleagues Angela, Chloé, and Josepha are some of the best human beings I have known and are very close to me.

Additionally, I have worked with outstanding individuals in my previous team, such as Rocío, Cate, Julia, Isotta, Devin, Harmony, and Erica.

These colleagues, who are part of the Automattic family, are deeply passionate about the community and inspire me every day. But there are many more people I could name, folks who constantly impress me with their skills and kindness.

Advice for Business Owners

I believe the open-source community should continue working on sustainability to mitigate the threats of closed-source competitors.

While closed-source platforms may offer attractive products, the risk of losing one’s work and being subjected to sudden changes or closures is a valid concern, where open source emerges as a winner.

I also believe in the power of open-source communities and hope to see more enterprise and individual users embracing WordPress rather than relying on closed-source platforms.

Let’s keep the spirit of open source alive and build a sustainable and empowered community.

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WordPress & Beyond

Over the next five years, I see WordPress thriving and evolving. I anticipate that WordPress will become even more user-friendly, with the block editor maturing and offering advanced content creation and customization capabilities.

Completing Phase 3 and the potential progress into Phase 4 will bring collaborative features, making it easier for multiple users to work together on a website.

I also expect to see broader adoption of WordPress by both enterprise-level organizations and individual users, further solidifying its position as the leading content management system (CMS) globally.

Users must consider open-source’s long-term implications and benefits when evaluating different CMS options.

How I Keep Myself Updated

To stay updated with the latest trends, I have developed a few habits that help me stay informed and connected. One of the primary ways I keep myself updated is through reading.

Although I took a break from reading, I recently rediscovered my love for books. My goal this year was to read 12 books, but I have already surpassed that and read 30+ books so far.

When it comes to staying updated about open source and related topics, I seek out specific books on open source philosophy.

Currently, I’m reading “Working in Public” by Nadia Eghbal, which is published by Stripe Press. This book provides valuable insights into the world of open source.

By reading books on open source and related subjects, I can deepen my understanding and stay informed about the latest trends and practices.

In addition to books, I actively follow various online resources within the WordPress community. WPTavern is an excellent source of news and updates, and I read every post they publish.

WordPress.org/news is another excellent starting point, as it is the official source for WordPress-related news.

I also enjoy listening to podcasts; the official WordPress podcast is a must-listen. WP Engine’s Torque Magazine is another resource I rely on to keep myself updated.

Moreover, I find inspiration and valuable insights from HeroPress, a platform that shares the personal stories of individuals within the WordPress community.

While not a news resource, HeroPress offers a unique perspective and serves as a source of inspiration. They also have a podcast finder, which helps me discover new podcasts related to WordPress and other topics of interest.

During my free time, I make it a point to read books before sleeping. I am enjoying “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, along with other books that interest me.

Writing is also a passion of mine, and I regularly blog and express my thoughts through written content.

By combining these habits of reading books, following reputable WordPress blogs, and listening to podcasts, I am able to keep myself updated and stay connected with the latest happenings in the WordPress community and the wider open-source world.

I Have a Life Other Than the Work

While I consider my work highly rewarding, I prioritize my personal life and have various activities that bring me joy and fulfillment.

I love traveling; it is my favorite hobby. I have had a chance to travel to different cities worldwide as part of my work, and I enjoy it.

My favorite destination is  New York City, one of the best places on Earth, second only to the city of Kochi, where I live.

I also enjoy reading, writing, journaling, and engaging in self-reflection.

Making an impact in the world is one of my life philosophies, and I try to help others whenever possible, contributing to the community in my way.

I Reward Myself by

I reward myself by indulging in activities that bring me joy and fulfillment. One of my favorite ways to reward myself is by traveling.

Traveling to new destinations, meeting new people, and partaking in various life experiences that travel offers feed my soul.

Another significant source of reward for me is spending quality time with my family. Their love and support are invaluable; being with them rejuvenates my spirit.

Donating to causes I believe in is also a rewarding experience, as it allows me to contribute to the betterment of society.

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