Let me drop a quick bomb as I start this entry: Almost a year after I signed up to the Reps program, I quit.
Here’s the thing— First, I am an industrial engineering student (not in the computer/ IT studies) and I was the only girl.
When I joined the Reps program, my only Mozilla-related experience was using Firefox as my primary browser ever since. I didn’t know that there is a community and you can contribute to the organization. Back then, I was involved with a university-wide organization so I have a pretty solid experience and network to run student-targeted events. So in my first year as a Rep I just organized Mozilla presence at events, by myself.
In that year though, unknown to me, the MozillaPH Community has already been formed and is starting to gain momentum. The early members back then was of course, searching for those listed as Mozilla Reps from the Philippines. I also joined the mailing list so I’ve been reading what’s been going on, but I never participated and I almost never interacted with them. I never attended meet-ups because other than the locations are far from where I live it also primarily because… they were all men.
Come on, I was an 18-year old girl still living with my parents and what will I tell them when I leave to attend a meet-up, “I will just attend a meet-up with guys I met online.” Yes, I am already 18, but Asian parents? Nope, not happening! I even have a hard time asking for permission to go out with friends, what more with men I met online? Other than the gender concern that I have, what convinced me further was that perhaps I don’t belong because hey, yes I might be a little techie (I’m still an engineering student after all) but at the end of the day, IT is still a different world from what I am pursuing.
I told my Reps mentor that I will quit (apparently I didn’t follow his instruction correctly) and I told the only Rep from the PH that I have interacted with about it. For some reason (which is probably him not grasping that I really said I will quit), that Rep still invited me to an event, WITH A TWIST. It was located in the middle of my way from school to home and it is in a mall with a very convenient train station on a line that I take on a daily basis. They all live far from here but they are all going. I ran out of excuses to not attend. I decided that fine, I will attend this and tell them that I am quitting. (And of course I attended this without the knowledge of my parents LOL)
And who would’ve thought, that event that I was so hesitant to attend was what caused me to stay.
Let me explain what happened here. First of all, I was so happy to see that there is another girl in the group (surprise!) and she is from the same university as I am (surprise surprise!) so that made me at ease initially. And then, these guys are such crazy ones. I got comfortable with them immediately because they are so friendly and funny as hell. I had a nice dinner with them (it was supposed to be a MozCoffee) and at the end of the night, I was that happy girl smiling with new friends that I met.
And it all started there. I was so eager to organize an event for Mozilla immediately. I started with helping coordinate an event for the Summer Code Party campaign because that’s where I can relate the most to as I know basic web design.
And then everything happened so fast. From a shy girl who isn’t given permission by her parents easily to someone who flown with acquaintances that my parents don’t know… to SINGAPORE! Who would’ve thought? It was my first time to ride a plane, first time out of my country and I am traveling with new people to meet strangers? I still can’t believe until now that my parents allowed me to go, I didn’t even beg them to let me. (I just have to give a contact info of a person I was traveling with, lol)
And the list of the places I went with this bunch goes on.
Our community let me lead things from events, to functional roles where I started with leading the Women and Mozilla (WoMoz) initiative in the PH, then to leading the Education Team (Webmaker), headed the biggest event yet of MozillaPH and lo and behold, these people even made me the MozillaPH Community Manager! Well that escalated quickly.
It took me a while to actually get involved with the global community. Of course as a typical Filipino, I was so shy to interact with foreigners. Somehow my doubts were cleared as I attended global events because everyone was so friendly and respectful of each’s difference in culture. I started with just interacting with some employees to help me with the stuff I’ve been working on for our local community and then one thing led to another, and somehow I got involved with the Firefox Student Ambassadors program. And people who know me might be tired of hearing this but this is really where I had the best time of my life so far as a Mozillian.
I grew up in a culture where questioning the authority and speaking up your mind takes A LOT of courage. Not to mention that there are gender roles to be kept in mind. I was raised in an environment where as a girl you are not expected to be able to do some things because they aren’t lady-like. I always find those a hindrance to developing ideas and doing what I really want to do, because there are always doubts and hesitation. It is here in Mozilla that I experienced an open, judgment-free and respectful community so everyone can collaborate and make things happen easily. Back then I was so worried how I will fit in being a girl and not in a related industry, well look, it didn’t even become an issue at all! The community never made me feel that I have to be treated differently because I have those ‘handicaps’, because it never was considered that way. We value our diversity. The mission attracted me, the people captivated me, and it is this culture that made me stay.
Five years ago, I never would have imagined that I will be involved with Mozilla and it would become a crucial part of my life in the years that will follow. And all these wonderful things happened because I gave that MozCoffee a chance. Isn’t it so amusing how that one instance where you have to decide could’ve changed everything? Where you are just a yes/no away from two totally different paths of your life? Well I learned, just say ‘yes’ to new possibilities. It is better to learn a lesson by doing it than regret because you did otherwise.