I awoke today to the news that Perl’s long-time lead maintainer, Sawyer X, has resigned from the project. I wish to briefly and publicly express my gratitude for all he has accomplished for Perl over the years—and, unbeknownst to him, how he has positively affected my own life as well.

Sawyer had performed the crucial (and entirely volunteer) service of leading Perl’s technological development for many years, as well as acting as a public face and ambassador to the project at conferences and online events. However, I see one of his most important actions as one that stood apart from either of these roles: in late 2020, he co-founded the Perl Steering Council, a new, multi-person executive body that guides the Perl project’s ongoing direction.

One benefit that PSC brings to Perl, demonstrated today, is that the project can survive the sudden absence of one leader without becoming headless. While Sawyer’s departure feels like a blow in some ways, I also feel relieved knowing that PSC will keep the project afloat through any coming transition—and I feel grateful for Sawyer at making sure the council began to operate in full authority before he left.

As for how Sawyer’s work affected me personally: In the eternity-ago of February 2020, I noted a grant proposal I’d made to The Perl Foundation. It had its inspirational roots in an address that Sawyer had delivered to 2019’s annual Perl Conference, which laid out a number of challenges that the Perl community had to face in order to keep the language relevant and approachable—with better documentation chief among them.

My long-time friend and colleague Adam watched the same address, and encouraged me to answer that call. I ended up corresponding directly with Sawyer on the topic, where through email and video calls we hashed out the right project-scope I should seek. He insisted I think small, aiming for far more modest and achievable targets than I, straining the leash, had initial patience for. Of course he was correct, and that grant proposal to fix the documentation for a single function proved exactly right-sized for a lead-in project.

And that led to the style guide project, which led in turn to two parallel follow-ups: my own nascent leadership of Perl’s documentation project, and my first full-time job as a technical writer. I haven’t written much in public about either of these developments yet; the first remains under construction, and the second—well, that’s just my day job now. But three months in, I couldn’t be happier with the complete career transition it represents, and I have our Mr. X to thank for that.

So: thanks for everything, Sawyer.

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