Say hello to Angie Byron (she/they). She only joined us in the middle of April 2023 but is already making a big splash as our new Director of Community. She tells us about her background, her role at Aiven and her plans for the future – oh and her insights as one of our newest members of Proud Crabs, our LGBTQ+ community.
From PONG and punk to Drupal and DevRel
Like so many of us, Angie took a typically sideways route to Aiven. Growing up, video games were her passion, and they still are – starting with PONG and Atari 2600 all the way up to Nintendo Switch™ and mobile today. That was also where her interest in databases was hatched – in her childhood, she catalogued all video game references she could find, storing her handwritten notes in three-ring binders.
But Angie’s biggest early influence was the punk musician Donna Dresch. Long before social networks were a thing, Donna and her brother set up a forum and chatroom for queer punk rock kids.
The chatroom also doubled as a gaping XSS vulnerability, where you could type in HTML tags and it would render them out, so Angie taught herself programming this way. Tiring of the limitations of Geocities with its manual updates, she discovered PHP and MySQL, thus beginning her journey as a web developer.
Her first big community role in the business was Sr. Director of Community Development at Acquia, an enterprise startup focused on Drupal, where she spent ten years. That was followed by a stint at MongoDB as Principal Community Manager and then Lead, Community Programs. Aiven was a natural next step. It leverages both of those previous experiences, providing a data platform and the services around it, but with all the underlying technologies that power it being open source.
Developing the DevRel role
With Angie joining the Cast, she can add her in-depth knowledge and best-practice experience to the DevRel team’s extensive capabilities, and channel these into building a community around Open Source Data Infrastructure, with Aiven at the heart.
The Community Team is part of Aiven’s Developer Relations team, and Angie’s task is to cultivate a growing community inspired by Aiven’s vision, focused specifically on technical practitioners.
The plan is to liaise with those who use Aiven and Aiven’s underlying services every day, discover their pain points, and help connect them with knowledge and expertise to both solve their problems and partner with them on initiatives.
Making a softer splash
Angie’s arrival coincided with Crab Week – Aiven’s company-wide offsite, but she was warmly welcomed by all, so never felt that she was being made to sink or swim. Her biggest takeaway has been the universal authenticity she has encountered. As she puts it:
“I’ve been struck by how much each and every member of the Cast lives and breathes our values, even down to things like our travel policies, our performance management framework, and of course in 1:1 and group interactions as well.”
The onboarding experience proved to be a real winner for Angie, especially flying to Portugal to learn about the company vision and strategy at Crab Week. Other big pluses for her included the 1:1 pre-meetings, the background reading material and the self-directed courses, which covered everything from Aiven’s background and values through to the required legal framework.
She also cited the advice of Ian Massingham, Aiven’s Chief Marketing Officer, during the Crab Week Leadership Panel to NOT try and make a big splash to start with. Instead, it’s best to really immerse yourself in Aiven and absorb as much information as you can about the people, challenges and opportunities. Then the plans you do make are well-informed and you can gain better alignment.
Improving support for the LGBTQ+ community
For Angie, Aiven has already made the most important move, which is announcing explicitly via our Proud Crabs ERG (Employee Resource Group) that Aiven is a safe space for LGTBQ+ people and that no one needs to hide who they are here.
One thing she would love to see in the future, given the global nature of Aiven, is some concerted thinking for facilitating and supporting queer folks all around the globe in connecting to their local communities and with each other. An example of that could be through fundraising efforts, such as donations to local LGBTQ+ charities, or virtual events to augment the activities going on around Helsinki Pride.
Taking your first sideways steps
There are also initiatives that new Cast members can follow themselves. Angie advises newcomers to deliberately take time to meet others from outside their function, to discover how other parts of the organisation work.
One way of doing this is via Aiven’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which are employee-led diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. As Angie points out:
“Folks from all leadership levels and across all departments congregate there to learn and support one another, and both team members who directly identify as the impacted group (e.g. women, queer folks, or neurodivergent people) as well as allies are welcome.”
Angie is an active member of all ERGs at Aiven. She is especially looking forward to “body doubling” sessions in the Neuro-D group, and the idea of low-pressure tech talks within the Lift (women) group.
Our thanks go to Angie for sharing her story!
Interested in joining the Cast? Check out our open positions. And keep your eyes peeled (sideways) on the blog as we continue to meet more of our clawsome Cast of Crabs.
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