Building community

Building a feeling of community often starts with just one person. Those people are natural dot-connectors. They seem to have an inherent gift for rallying people together around a common cause. But what about those of us who weren’t born with those enviable talents? What can we learn from those that were?

Let me introduce you to a master instructor at community building. If you’re involved in our Atlassian Community, you probably already know Fabian Lopez as a dynamo contributor and leader – someone with a commitment to lifelong learning and building bridges, one person at a time. If you don’t know him yet, get ready to be inspired. Here, he’s going to share some of his best advice for inspiring people and rallying them to action, whether they’re in the same room or half a world away. 

Creating human-to-human connections 

By day, Fabian utilizes Atlassian tools as a program manager for DSS, Inc., a health information software development and systems integration company. By night, you can find him volunteering for Warfighter Made, a nonprofit serving ill, injured, and combat-wounded service members and veterans, while also hosting community events for Atlassian users in Florida, California, and Argentina in his role as Community Leader.

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Our most engaged community members, better known as Community Leaders, are a volunteer army of users who share knowledge, drive product improvements, and foster engagement in our online space and at in-person or virtual events. Fabian has held this title for 11 years, and has developed a special knack for making folks feel like they’re connected to something bigger than themselves. 

Focus on the person in front of you

How does Fabian go about building community? Whether it’s online or in-person, making human connections is the key. “I think it has to be casual, has to be transparent, honest. It has to be a welcome environment,” he says. “[It] has to be a place where people can relax and chat and say, ‘I don’t know. I never had a chance to learn about it. Can you teach me about it or can you help me with this problem?’

“If you can establish that kind of relationship, like friends helping friends, that to me is the main goal,” Fabian says. “It’s not about who is best, who is better, who can learn more or show off more, it’s about who can help … the others to learn.”

He recalls a time when he was poised to cancel an in-person Atlassian Community event because the attendee count was low, when all of a sudden a woman who had driven 40 miles to connect and learn from her fellow members showed up. She and Fabian went on to chat for an hour, her asking questions and him sharing some Confluence pro tips.

This may have looked like a failure on paper, Fabian says, but for the two of them, it was a “beautiful experience.”

“I try to always focus on the individual in front of me.”

Building a volunteer army

While not a member of the military himself, Fabian has seen the impact that injuries from service had on his family members and his neighbor. He has also seen how Warfighter Made helped them find a new purpose in life.

“… [It] touched my heart, and that’s why I say, if I can do a little bit to change that and give them an opportunity to teach them about tools or using that lesson … it’s a way to, basically, kind of follow up and pay it back.”

He soon went to work, parlaying his experience with Atlassian tools into building a service desk with Jira Service Management for the organization, which allowed them to streamline donations, volunteer-application processing, event coordination, and sponsorships. Fabian also introduced Jira as a project tracking tool and Confluence as a collaboration platform.

“In every opportunity, while interacting with the Atlassian team and the ecosystem, I was able to find new ideas in how to foster collaboration to help others and to see the importance and synergy of teamwork — from the Atlas Camp to the Team events, every minute spent was an investment, too. With this project, I finally have the chance to share some knowledge for a very compelling cause — to assist those that are close to the veterans.”

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To generate awareness for Warfighter Made, Fabian also began activating established Atlassian Community groups in Temecula Valley, CA, and San Diego to support a kickoff event that featured a limo-bus ride to a wine tasting event. He then extended his reach to Palm Beach, FL, where he designed and presented a series of workshops in which 25-plus volunteers learned about Atlassian tools and how they could best be used to support veterans in the program.

“We were planting seeds for future users and also giving them the opportunity to learn new skills,” says Fabian.

Translating the magic of in-person networking to virtual

When COVID-19 halted all in-person gatherings, Fabian refused to slow his momentum and quickly pivoted his programming to a virtual setting, thereby setting an incredible example for his fellow Leaders. Always one to think outside the box, he began to integrate new formats to help combat Zoom fatigue — think: a guest celebrity chef from Spain — in addition to the typical knowledge-sharing around Atlassian tools.

“I was able to maximize [my efforts] by having simultaneous events, so that was kind of the benefit of the online, and also opening doors to other people from other countries and places, too — [we had] a lot of international presenters from Europe in our events.”

He also proactively mentored new Community Leaders over the past year, sharing his learnings and presenting at their community events. He also reactivated the Cordoba, Argentina, chapter with two co-Leaders, who hosted two events within 48 hours of the group’s launch.

How to make meaningful connections in Atlassian Community

Fabian’s advice is simple for those who are new to the Atlassian Community and aren’t sure where to begin. “By attending events, you can start making connections,” he says, because you never know how or when your experiences might inspire or remove blockers for others.”

Every week, you’ll find a bevy of event topics that span continents and timezones — without geography as a barrier, you can get comfy in the front row for sessions on Jira migrations, agile execution, and automation.

Online groups are also a great way to find people who have similar interests — the Welcome Center will help you orient yourself before moving on to conversations around diversity & inclusion, jobs & careers, enterprise, and more. One of Fabian’s favorite groups is the Spanish-language group that he moderates. 

No matter where you show up for your community, Fabian’s advice is to leave your ego at the door, be respectful, and remember that it’s always a two-way street.

“Giving opportunities, I think that’s what community is for: people to grow as a human being and also always be involved in the way they can receive and give it — has to be a bi-directional relationship in all aspects.”

To learn more about our Community Leaders program, click here.

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