[Techie Tuesdays] The Mozilla evangelist on the train – Story of Priyanka Nag

Priyanka Nag is not an engineer, because she likes to stand out from the crowd. And how do you do that? – By doing BCA. Strange? But true! How this rebel from the convents of Kolkata grew up to be one of the top Mozilla evangelists in the country, is a story worth reading.

Brought up in Kolkata, Priyanka first got exposed to computers in 7th standard. Her first exposure to programming was through LOGO for drawing. Computers were mostly for fun until she got her first computer at home. But having a computer was not enough as she could not do much apart from playing Dangerous Dave and Prince. When she asked her parents to get internet at home, she was given an option to choose between cable TV and Internet. She made the obvious choice of internet. Unfortunately her internet hours were limited as internet was considered evil. She was curious about this wide spread notion of ‘evil internet’ and her curiosity led her to explore why is it considered so. She ended up spending more time online, clogging phone line(it was a dialup connection) for hours often resulting in phone bills upto Rs.15000 and getting a sound scolding very often.

Once while experimenting with the network, Priyanka broke into her ISP server and was able to navigate through the folder structure and see the logs of all the customers. After she had explored enough, Priyanka accidentally pressed shift-delete and the entire folder was gone in a flash. Priyanka recounts the story with excitement.

Priyanka Nag, Mozilla Evengelist

Priyanka Nag, Mozilla Evengelist

She says moving to Pune for her graduation was one of the best decisions of her life. As she did not have many things to do in the new city, Priyanka found her respite in technology. “Getting a new laptop was a big encouragement for me and it became my best friend, I used to spend my time learning programming languages and other things.”

Bitten by Microsoft bug

How Priyanka became a die hard Microsoft fan is a story in itself which she reminisces candidly,

“While doing an Internship as a part of an exchange program at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, I got to know about “world skills by NASSCOM”. It was my birthday and I didn’t have much to do in Singapore. So instead I filled the form for the competition. It was just for timepass.I came to India and went to Delhi for the interview and got selected. For next four months, I was trained by a MVP in Microsoft office packages. It was about building enterprise solutions such as building an entire ticketing system in MS Excel apart from using different Microsoft office tools.”

Microsoft vs Open Source

Priyanka graduated with a Gold medal in her batch, and moved on to do Masters, it was during her post graduation that Priyanka got exposed to open source in a rather interesting way.

“Our HOD was the chairperson of Open Source initiative, and I joined the research lab to try it out. On my first day, I had a three hour long argument with my HOD whether Microsoft was better or Open Source. Of course, I was a die hard Microsoft fan back then. Finally, he persuaded me to try out Open Source. I sat through the entire night downloading and installing ubuntu and by morning I was convinced that it was pretty cool”

When one of her seniors invited her to a Mozcafe(Mozilla Meetup) meet, Priyanka wasn’t sure whether her sunday would be worth it. Once she reached the meetup venue, Priyanka was wondering why these people are so enthusiastic about something for which they are not even being paid. And that evening was the beginning of journey with Mozilla.

“That was the best evening I could have probably spent,” remembers Priyanka.

Journey with Mozilla

Priyanka is a Mozilla evangelist, and credits all her exposure to the world to her association with Mozilla. As an evangelist Priyanka’s role involves planning and conducting open source events around the world. The first time she spoke on stage was about “Women in Tech”  at MozCarnival (A Mozilla event) with an audience of over 200 people.

Recently Priyanka spoke at FOSDEM 2014 – the Europe’s biggest Open Source tech conference on the topic Women and Technology. Priyanka has also been a part of Wikimedia’s Outreach Program for Women where she contributed towards documenting noteworthy local templates, gadgets and styles in various projects. She says, “one of the best things I learnt there was never to spend more than 30 minutes on a problem. When you are stuck with something, just call for help instead of staring at screen.”

Making a conscious choice towards embracing open source is a very hard decision for anyone and it was no different for Priyanka. After she interned with Purple Gear Software Pvt Ltd, Priyanka decided that corporate life was not meant for her. So she decided to leave the comfort of cubicles for a free world. Priyanka says, “I cannot work for people, I prefer working with them.” Fortunately the call for scrollback came at the right time and she joined the team as an evangelist.

Evangelism in Duronto Express

Once while travelling in Duronto express, there was a guy sitting opposite to her who was constantly talking about chrome – chrome is fast, chrome is bug free, Firefox is slow. Slowly it reached her saturation point and she started speaking about the the benefits of Firefox and started evangelizing it. It went up to a point where she started distributing Mozilla badges to people in her compartment.

Future plans

Talking about her future, Priyanka says she wants to be the best Open Source Evangelist in the world. Her vision is to build better web for everyone and open source gives the freedom to do so. She says, “why be a consumer when you can create stuff for people.”

Say Hi to Priyanka here.


Aditya Bhushan Dwivedi

Aditya Bhushan Dwivedi

A Software Engineer by education, Aditya has been a Workshop Consultant with The Times of India and later on was a Cloud developer with CSC India Pvt. Ltd. Apart from coding, he has a keen interest in analyzing stock market movements and often forgets the outer world once he starts reading. You can follow him on Google+ and Twitter at @adi_bhushan. You can reach out to him at aditya@yourstory.com".