Name: Felicia Haynes
Drupal.org ID: fmphaynes
Location: Augusta, GA
Job Title: VP, Account Services, Phase2
The free press and the world wide web both represent a right to accessible information, education and the freedom of expression for all. Media and technology offer people from all backgrounds the opportunity to connect with others and share their voice. Today, many media and news sites rely on digital platforms to bring their messages to a global audience. Drupal was founded on the principles of being an open community built on sharing ideas and making meaningful connections. The importance of giving everyone the opportunity to contribute is why we continue our Women of Drupal series and advocate for the inclusion of underrepresented groups in the Drupal community.
For this month’s Women of Drupal blog feature, we spoke with Felicia Haynes, Vice President of Account Services with Phase2, a leading digital experience agency and Acquia partner. Felicia merged her passions for journalism and technology by using Drupal to transform traditional publishing and news outlets for a digital-first world.
How did you get your start in tech?
I was a reporter, but I wanted to do something new. I was offered a job as the editor of “Quest for the Presidency,” a website covering the 2000 presidential election for Morris Communications newspapers. I had no idea what I signed up for. It was an amazing experience and great fun as a journalist, but I ended up wed to my laptop updating the site constantly when the election was disputed. After that, I continued to work with the same team building websites for newspapers, magazines and radio stations, eventually becoming the manager of the web development and design team. I fell in love with the digital world.
How did you first discover Drupal?
Morris Co. was pretty groundbreaking for the time. We were always looking for new ways to improve our websites and help the newsrooms move to a digital-first world. We even had a small team that just experimented with new technologies.
They tested out Drupal in 2005 (Drupal 4.6) to use for publishing a weekly news website, Blufftontoday.com. It was successful, so we went all in.
My team worked with others to launch Savannahnow.com in 2006 on Drupal 4.6, one of the first daily newspapers to use the CMS. We tried to rethink everything a news site should be, and publish it on an adaptable CMS. It was the first Drupal site I launched, and the start of a new love affair.
What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?
I’m most proud of helping bring together media companies and Drupal with my work. Drupal is such a perfect platform for news and media for so many reasons. Using Drupal has allowed news organizations to connect with and serve their communities in increasingly difficult times for journalism.
The flexibility and adaptability of Drupal, along with its evolving and improving feature set, means the journalists can do more with fewer resources. I had the privilege of helping launch so many organizations’ digital presence using Drupal as the base over the last 15 years. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What are some challenges you've faced, technically or career-wise?
Tech is (and definitely was when I started out) a male-dominated industry. I have had to learn to speak more forcefully to be heard and to have thick skin. Early in my career, I was not taken as seriously as my male counterparts and I was not compensated in the same way.
I think that is changing and people in the Drupal community have been integral to that progress. I am lucky to work for a company that has a fantastic culture and actively embraces and pursues diversity in all forms.
What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
I am passionate about serving people's needs; gathering information and helping others find solutions to problems is why I do what I do. As a former journalist, I have a passion for the freedom of information and speech. I believe that technology is a powerful tool to support that.
What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?
I enjoy speaking about what we have accomplished or learned at conventions and meetups, and hearing what others are doing. The Drupal community is so vibrant and has grown so much over the years. It’s fun to see what is new and is exciting for everyone; it’s also great to see new people, companies and industries embracing Drupal.
How do you think we can help empower women in tech and work toward better gender inclusion?
Support women coders, managers and leaders. Seek them out. Encourage little girls that love computers. If you run an agency or organization, support your team with flexible work environments. In the last few months, we’ve all learned how important it is to be able to balance family and work responsibilities. Developing a permanent, healthy remote work culture will help support women in tech and make this an attractive environment for smart, passionate women to make their mark.
What does the future of Drupal look like in your opinion? More adoption, new features, any major changes?
Drupal will continue to roll with the times. Its flexibility and adaptability have been its biggest strength (IMO) and those traits will carry it forward as a central core of digital experience. I see Drupal becoming the hub of a digital experience; the brains at the center helping pull all the pieces and technologies together in a powerful way.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
1. Find your voice. Find what you are passionate about, and don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Keeping silent and missing an opportunity is way worse than hearing “no.”
2. Never stop learning. Curiosity will take you far. There is always something new on the horizon that will improve your work, give you a new perspective on how to solve a problem, or help you find a whole new career path.
To learn even more about how Phase2 creates impactful digital experiences, check out our Partners in Digital Experience interview with their team on experimental personalization!