”On August 11, 2017, I got an MLH Newsletter from Chi, titled “What did MLH and GitHub announce at Hackcon? Reading that email further, a section caught my attention “Become a GitHub Campus Expert”.

Hello everyone, I’m Yashovardhan Agrawal, the MLH Hackathon Community Manager in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) Region. I want to share my journey from that single newsletter to my full-time job at MLH through the awesome GitHub Campus Experts program. This experience taught me the value and importance of forming inclusive communities, which I now teach others about at MLH!

I started college at The LNM Institute of Information Technology in August 2016, a year before that newsletter. I had no idea what I was going to do in the Mechatronics Engineering division I had been admitted to, but I accepted my offer simply because I had heard a lot about the college’s “coding culture”. Even after enrolling, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do until I went to my first hackathon – LNMHacks.

LNMHacks 1.0 changed everything. In one weekend, I went from being someone who didn’t know what a hackathon was to a freshman winning first place! I could tell that everyone was thinking, “How can a freshie beat the seniors in a coding competition?!” This experience literally changed my life and introduced me to two of the driving forces of my career: Open Source and Hackathons.

At the Google Summer of Code Mentor's Summit in Sunnyvale, California

From that point, there was no turning back. I got involved with communities like coala and JBossOutreach which educated me on open source culture. These open source organisations are focused on getting newbies involved and getting them to a point where they can help share knowledge within their own communities. 

My experience in the coala community made me a much better developer. A developer who cares about documenting things to make them accessible to everyone, especially beginners. The coala community also gave me the opportunity to be a Google Summer of Code mentor. Being a mentor taught me how to manage and support a project, get beginners involved, and make a product that takes the organisation forward. In parallel, I worked on the JBoss Community’s Google Code-in programs where I helped various high school students all over the world get involved in open source.

While this was all going on, I became one of the first GitHub Campus Experts. For a while, I was the only active expert in India. This turned out to be a great opportunity since I could grow immensely and have an impact on the growth of the Campus Experts community. I learned about everything from running an organisation to public speaking to technical writing. We also got experience with different technologies and open-source tools. These new skills, and the support I received from the GitHub family, had an immense impact on me and my career. This experience changed the way I look at the tech industry and what I wanted to work on. 

“The kind of growth one experiences in a community is something totally different. When the community grows, an individual involved grows along with it; even a small contribution from a member can bring upon drastic results.”

Team Hackference India - People from Bangalore ❤️

Although I was involved in structuring and forming a lot of communities, I never thought about Developer Relations as a career option until I met my awesome friends from Bangalore. We got along so well talking about different aspects of hackathons and their community culture. We decided to work together and organized India’s first open-source hackathon and Developer Relations conference – Hackference India. This is when I started getting involved with professional communities that helped me understand a company’s perspective, and how deeply communities impact the cultural and marketing aspects of their organisations and products.

While it had only been a few short years since getting that newsletter from MLH, hacker communities had become a major part of my life. When I got the news about Major League Hacking coming to India and the APAC region, I was beyond thrilled! Joe Nash, my former manager in the GitHub Campus Experts program, introduced me to MLH to talk about the opportunity. Joe had previously worked with me to support events in APAC via GitHub and knew pretty much everything about LNMHacks. Together, we planned to make LNMHacks the first MLH event in India!

Little did I know that I would get to spend that event with Joe and Swift (the CEO and co-founder of MLH) in person in India. It was amazing and introduced me to the MLH Coaches program, where I could get paid to support hacker communities. I decided to become an MLH Coach and continue serving hackathons in my area. I wanted to be part of MLH even more when I found out how deeply they care about the community they formed and their outsized impact on hackers. This was mainly because I wanted to learn what it takes to make a company that can revolutionize the way people look at student hackathons, making MLH events a trend everyone wants to participate in.

My experiences as a community member and organizer have shaped me into who I am today. For me, this whole experience came full circle when I was given the opportunity to establish MLH in India as a full-time Hackathon Community Manager for the APAC Region. I can definitely say that a simple newsletter changed my life! 

The responsibility I’ve been given at MLH is directly related to the things I’ve learned in the past. The efforts new GitHub Campus Experts put in to improve their communities and actively helping each other showed me how passionate the Indian hacker community is. On the other hand, my open source experience has shown me that student developers have so much enthusiasm to make something worthwhile. But, I also know for a fact that the student hacker community here is newer than in the US or EU. Sometimes I feel like a lot of people here are stranded, and if given enough opportunities they can do something no one could have imagined before.

As someone who got a lot from being part of this community, it’s now my job to make this place better for everyone. Managing this community which will grow and change the face of the Indian hackathon culture is a challenge, but a fun one, and I’m definitely ready to take it on! 

Hit me up at yash@mlh.io or directly on twitter @yashovardhan. Can’t wait to talk to you all and remember that I’m here to help you.

Happy hacking 🙂