When your passion becomes your profession: Lessons learned

A presentation at Open Source North by Ruth Cheesley

Back in 2019, I started working as the Community Manager for Mautic - the world’s first Open Source Marketing Automation platform - after being a long term contributor, and in May 2020 I stepped up to lead the project.

I used to think that it would be incredible to be paid to work full time for Open Source, and I still do!

But - and there’s always a but! - when your passion becomes your profession there are also a lot of challenges and hurdles along the way.

How do you keep that passion alive when it has become something you have to do, rather than something you choose to do when you want? How do you maintain separation between your working life and your personal life, if your passion was contributing to the project that you are now paid to work on?

In this talk I will speak frankly and openly about some of the challenges I have faced, and share suggestions for how I am working with them on a daily basis.


The following resources were mentioned during the presentation or are useful additional information.

  • Blog post: My first two weeks at Acquia

    This was the post I made to share with the community what my role was about, what I was hoping to achieve, and to share my initial goals.

  • Dealing with Disrespect

    A really great resource if you find yourself on the receiving end of disrespect in your community, and for managing issues that might arise related to poor behaviour.

  • The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded

    In this updated and expanded version of the international bestseller The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins offers proven strategies for conquering the challenges of transitions—no matter where you are in your career. By walking you through every aspect of the transition scenario, Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides the tools and strategies you need to avoid them. You’ll learn how to secure critical early wins, an important first step in establishing yourself in your new role. Each chapter also includes checklists, practical tools, and self-assessments to help you assimilate key lessons and apply them to your own situation. Whether you’re starting a new job, being promoted from within, embarking on an overseas assignment, or being tapped as CEO, how you manage your transition will determine whether you succeed or fail. Use this book as your trusted guide.

  • Getting Things Done

    In today’s world, yesterday’s methods just don’t work. Veteran coach and management consultant David Allen recognizes that time management is useless the minute your schedule is interrupted; setting priorities isn’t relevant when your e-mail is down; procrastination solutions won’t help if your goals aren’t clear. Instead, Allen shares with readers the proven methods he has already introduced in seminars and at top organizations across the country. The key to Getting Things Done? Relaxation. Allen’s premise is simple: our ability to be productive is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve stress-free productivity. His seamless system teaches us how to identify, track, and-most important-choose the next action on all our tasks, commitments, and projects and thus master all the demands on our time while unleashing our creative potential. The book’s stylish, dynamic design makes it easy to follow Allen’s tips, examples, and inspiration to achieve what we all seek-energy, focus, and relaxed control.

  • Measure What Matters ∣ OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth

    The revolutionary movement behind the explosive growth of Intel, Google, Amazon and Uber. With a foreword by Larry Page, and contributions from Bono and Bill Gates. Measure What Matters is about using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a revolutionary approach to goal-setting, to make tough choices in business. In 1999, legendary venture capitalist John Doerr invested nearly $12 million in a startup that had amazing technology, entrepreneurial energy and sky-high ambitions, but no real business plan. Doerr introduced the founders to OKRs and with them at the foundation of their management, the startup grew from forty employees to more than 70,000 with a market cap exceeding $600 billion. The startup was Google. Since then Doerr has introduced OKRs to more than fifty companies, helping tech giants and charities exceed all expectations. In the OKR model objectives define what we seek to achieve and key results are how those top­ priority goals will be attained. OKRs focus effort, foster coordination and enhance workplace satisfaction. They surface an organization’s most important work as everyone’s goals from entry-level to CEO are transparent to the entire institution. In Measure What Matters, Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates, to demonstrate the focus, agility, and explosive growth that OKRs have spurred at so many great organizations. This book will show you how to collect timely, relevant data to track progress - to measure what matters. It will help any organization or team aim high, move fast, and excel.

  • DevRel Collective

    The DevRel Collective exists as a place for DevRel professionals, Community Managers, and others to share resources, learn best practices, support one another, and be amongst our peers. We participate in and nurture communities as our jobs, but we, too, need a community of our own. This is that place. We are over 1,800 professionals (and growing all the time!) from all walks of life and all over the world.

    If you’re a DevRel Professional and are looking for your people, here we are! Join us!

  • Women in Tech Slack

    A safe, confidential space for women who work in technology to chat and support each other. Please consider joining whether you are new to the tech industry or you are a long-time practitioner.

    Not a programmer? That’s fine! Our group does not exclude people who work in technical writing, software testing and QA, graphic design, user experience, project management, customer support, or other areas that are sometimes invisible in the discourse on women in tech.

  • FOSS Governance Library

    A huge library of resources relating to open source - everything from legal policies and code of conduct templates to press kits and patent policies.

  • The TODO Group

    TODO is an open group of organizations who want to collaborate on practices, tools, and other ways to run successful and effective open source projects and programs.

  • Open opportunities at Acquia

    We have a whole range of opportunities that are currently open at Acquia! Come and work with us!