Ruth Cheesley

Ruth Cheesley

Ruth is an open source advocate with over 18 years of experience using and contributing to many different open source projects.

Having served on the Community Leadership Team of the Joomla! project and built a full-service digital agency, she now works as the Mautic Project Lead at Acquia, supporting the community who build and maintain the world’s first Open Source Marketing Automation platform.

Ruth is a lover of cats, a keen runner and is based in the East of England.

Read more and check out previous and upcoming presentations at Notist.

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The working years

Published in General

While I loved working at Ipswich High School for Girls, I was keen to put my healthcare knowledge to use (and find a better paid job if possible!), so I was delighted to be offered at job at NHS Suffolk as the Infection Control Team Data Analyst.

I knew very little about infection control when I joined the team, but let me assure you, once I left I knew all there was to know about Clostridium difficile and MRSA!  This was a really great job, giving me the opportunity to develop my techie skills while learning how large corporations worked.  I was responsible for writing board reports, presenting data for others to use at high-level meetings, and sorting out the information flows we had coming into the organisation so that we could validate and verify the information.

The business venture

At this time I also started running my business - then Suffolk Computer Services - providing Joomla! website design and IT Support for small businesses.  I honestly didn't expect to get much trade, but within a few months I had a steady trickle of customers and my first IT client (who we still support now).  At this time, it was simply another way of getting in a bit more money to keep the bills being paid - and I never thought I would ever be doing it full time!

Buddhism discovers me!

I'd had an interest in Buddhism for a long time, but for some reason I felt compelled to act on this interest in the winter of 2009, and I started attending newcomers nights at the local Buddhist centre.  Immediately I felt like this was what I was here for - some kind of realisation that I had always known it, but never really known.

I went on my first retreat within a few weeks - the Young Women's Retreat at Taraloka - at which point I was absolutely certain that I was Buddhist, this was for me, and that I needed to make some big changes in my life.  First to go was excessive drinking and bad language - which in retrospect were much easier than the more subtle things I'm working on now!

Health catches up with me

Within a couple of years working at the NHS I started to get pain in my thumb which was identified very quickly through occupational health as being relating to hypermobility (something I was diagnosed with during my Physiotherapy training but never caused any bother).  I was put in a splint and given instructions to rest and ice, but progressively things got worse, with shoulder and neck pain swiftly following, and later complete and utter exhaustion.  I don't know what caused this but I think it was probably a combination of a lot of conditions coming together, but the result was being signed off for four weeks. 

Some days I was able to get out and about, other days I was barely able to get to the loo.  A friend was kind enough to drive me to the Buddhist Centre each week which, at times, was my only outing.  The only thing that kept me going at that time was the Buddhist teaching that all things are impermanent and subject to change - and that included my pain, fatigue and general inability to function.

After this period of illness it quickly became apparent that I would not be able to sustain working in my role at the NHS, and I handed in my notice.  A friend was forming a company which needed someone to manage the day to day operations, for three days a week, so I jumped at the chance.

Redundancy and opportunity

Unfortunately three months into the job, the company lost several contracts and was unable to sustain my employment, so I was made redundant.  Faced with a tough decision of trying to find work, or starting my business on a full time basis, I went for the latter.  At the same time, I had decided to re-brand the business because I wanted it to reflect more my ethical values and the way I wanted to run the business, and hence on 14th September 2010, Virya Technologies became my full time employer!  Subsequently I went on to form a Joint Venture business with Marco Dings, called Virya Group.

Around this time I founded with Matt Meyrick the Joomla! User Group Suffolk (JUGS) for local Joomla! users to meet, talk and share knowledge on a monthly basis - a group which is still thriving to this day!  I also helped to form the Suffolk Internet Marketing & SEO Specialists group with Sam Parnell & Max Shelley, and the Mautic Meetup Ipswich.

Moving on

After nearly seven years of running my own businesses, I moved on to work at Cambridge Assessment English as the Digital Communications Manager in the Digital & New Product Development team for nine months (great job, not so great commute!) - check out some of the exciting stuff they play with at - they're building the future of English language learning and assessment!

I am now working in a fantastic role leading an awesome Open Source community as Mautic Project Lead at Acquia.



Published in General

After being rejected during the application process for joining the Royal Navy (due to asthma), I was encouraged to explore my strengths by my PE teacher, and started a new course at the University of Essex in Colchester - BSc(Hons) Sport and Exercise Science.  My main interests were in sport psychology, but at that time there were no courses at this level which offered the opportunity to specialise.

A change of heart?

At University I found a great opportunity to explore my interest in technology, and quickly 'fell in' with the geeky crowd via CompSoc and the Multiplayer Gaming Society.  LAN Parties, Karaoke and many mad evenings ensued, and part way through my second year I faced a real dilemma - I was living with three guys who all studied computer science, and their courses seemed way more interesting than mine (plus they only had 8 hours of lectures a week compared with my 25 hour week!).

Again, I didn't listen to my 'intuition' and ploughed on with my Sport Science degree, while working part time as an IT Student Assistant and full time over the summer periods fitting out computer labs, installing networking in the student accommodation blocks and later working on the University Helpdesk.

Going forward

On graduation I was something of a lost sheep.  I'd got a degree in Sport Science but no idea what I wanted to do with it.  I worked in a few gyms but didn't really enjoy it or see it as a long term job.  I applied for an MRes in Sport Science and was offered a place, but I also applied for an MSc Physiotherapy which was an NHS funded, 2 year, accelerated course - again a new course at the University.  The interview was quite possibly the most daunting experience of my life, with 80 being called to interview from a pool of applicants in excess of 200, and 20 places on the course.

I was somewhat shocked to receive the letter telling me I had a place on the MSc Physiotherapy course!


I really don't think I have ever worked as hard as I did during my Physiotherapy training.  The course was relentless, with 9-5 Monday-Friday lectures and practicals, several hours of study per night, placements all over Essex, and two part time jobs to fund my study.  While I enjoyed the placements I also found them absolutely exhausting and didn't feel like I was really engaging with the process of becoming a Physiotherapist - almost like I didn't really want it.  To be honest, I didn't really know what I wanted, but this was an option that presented itself to me, so I followed it through.

In 2006 I graduated with a massive debt and no job - due to the fact that the health service was in financial meltdown; Agenda for Change caused the restructuring of every position in the NHS and stopped people moving jobs; and more Physiotherapy training places were created without a concurrent increase in Junior positions.  The net result of this was that I spent the best part of two years trying to practice privately and voluntarily (I was lead physiotherapist for Ipswich Cardinals American Football Team for several seasons!), alongside working nights in bars and days in offices.  Exhausting, demoralising, and really quite depressing at times!

Getting geeky

Finally I was fortunate to get my first stroke of luck.  A temp job came up at Ipswich High School for Girls as an IT Technician, and I was asked to start immediately.  What an amazing place to work!  I loved every minute of it, and as I was trained as a first aider I was often asked to accompany trips, including Skiing in Austria, Choir tour to Italy, and more.  Here I picked up a bit of my web design knowledge when I was asked to redesign the school website from its frame-based Frontpage website to a more modern, up to date website.

I first encountered Joomla! during this period, so again I am very grateful to have had this opportunity, as it's most definitely shaped my future!



Published in General

As a child I was always interested in technology - whether it be playing on a second hand Commodore 64 (don't you just love those tape drive loading screens!) or learning to write basic programs on my mum's Amstrad 9512 (in the days of white text on a black screen, and no mouse!).

I was fortunate to grow up in a family which encouraged happiness over academic achievement, yet knew when a swift kick up the backside was required to get me out of the 'can't be bothered' phases!

The sea beckons

Originally interested in joining the Royal Navy as a Marine Engineering Officer, my academic studies were in areas which I found really quite tough, because I thought that was what I wanted to do - if only I had the sense to follow what I enjoyed, I think I would have enjoyed my late teens a lot more!   On completion of my GCSE's I was fortunate to be part of the 'Nepal '99' programme - 13 families from our school worked together for two years fundraising for the trip of a lifetime, a three week adventure in Nepal.

First taste of travelling

After a lot of hard work, we set off to Nepal for a trip which would really open my eyes to so many things.  I no longer lived in my 'bubble' but was aware of the billions of people around the world suffering every moment of every day - and I also first encountered Buddhism during this trip.  I think I knew from this point forward that I wanted to do something to make a difference in the world, but how I was going to do that took quite some time to pan out!

Immediately following this adventure, I was again fortunate to attend a Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) programme in Finland - a week long funded trip to the university and various technology institutes in and around Tampere - including the Nokia factory - which I found to be inspiring and exciting, to see other women becoming experts in their field and sharing their knowledge with other women.

Gap year

I later went on to spend four months out in Nepal during a Gap Year before University, teaching English at Oasis Vidhya Mandir in Besi Shahar, Lamjung District, and then spending a month in Kathmandu learning Nepalese.  This time had a profound impact on my life and was an incredible experience in so many ways!

I owe a lot to my family and my school teachers for giving me these precious opportunities - it was not something that everybody was able to experience and without it I would not have experienced so many things I now hold to be central to my life.


New site, new me?

Published in Blog

Well, I've been 'on the web' since the early 90's when my school IT teacher had to remind me I had a home to go to (and my mother made me get a job to pay the dial-up internet bills!) but I never got around to creating a proper website for myself.

I have a personal blog where I mostly talk about Buddhist stuff, but after attending #kpiday I realised I really needed to create a site to tell people who I am, what I do, and what I'm interested in.  So, here it is!

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