Name: Heather Rocker
Drupal.org ID: hrocker
Location: Atlanta, GA
Job Title: Executive Director of the Drupal Association
This past April, the Drupal community celebrated a major milestone: the 20th birthday of Drupal’s creation and all the progress the community has made since. For 20 years Drupal Association Executive Director Heather Rocker has also been highly involved in the technology world, and she continues to be an important advocate for building a more inclusive tech community. Before becoming the global Executive Director of The Drupal Association, Heather served as Director of the Women in Technology Foundation, CEO of Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta and a board member with GeorgiaFIRST Robotics.
Heather works with other Drupal’s to engage the global community in supporting Drupal’s vision of an inclusive, open web that welcomes contributors from all walks of life. We're so excited to have Heather share her journey with Drupal as part of our Women of Drupal blog series. See some of the most important lessons she’s learned from her career in tech, how we can unlock new opportunities for collaboration and discover what’s next on Drupal’s horizon.
How did you get your start in tech?
I studied industrial engineering at Georgia Tech, so my exposure to the world of technology started early. My father was a civil engineer and encouraged me to study engineering as a gateway to a variety of career possibilities. My first job out of college was in the energy industry, working on power supply planning. I had the opportunity to serve as a technology consultant at the start of the “green power” movement here in the southeastern United States.
How did you first discover Drupal?
While I was somewhat familiar with open source as part of my management and technology consulting career, I didn’t know about Drupal specifically until I was approached as part of the executive search for the Drupal Association. I now consider myself a champion of Drupal and the positive impact we have on the world as both a product and a community.
What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?
It’s difficult to narrow down given the wide scope of what we do at the Drupal Association, but I am especially excited about the launch of Discover Drupal, the first strategic initiative of our new Drupal Talent and Education program area. The goal is to unlock opportunities for people who have been underrepresented in the Drupal community. What started as a conversation with community members in 2019 is now a reality. I’m immensely thankful for those that contributed their time, talent and treasure to make it happen! Student interest in this program outweighs our current funding, so this is a wonderful opportunity for you and/or your organization to sponsor and support the next generation of Drupal talent.
What are some challenges you've faced, technically or career-wise?
Being a woman in tech has always presented challenges. As I sat in classrooms surrounded by young men, professors questioned why (as a woman) I would “bother” to study engineering. I had managers early in my career refuse to assign me to projects because “those folks are used to working with men and won’t take you seriously”. Those experiences shaped my desire to create sustainable change, and I’ve worked for the past 20 years in both my personal and professional life as an advocate for women and girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
I’m inspired by our community, especially the people that contribute in a variety of ways to make Drupal. The endless innovation possibilities of Drupal and the Drupal Association’s mission to empower that innovation through connections and collaborations keeps me passionate about my work and what is ahead of us.
What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?
My role allows me to be involved with many aspects of Drupal which is really interesting and invigorating. My week can include things like working with engineering to expand the Community Roles feature for contribution recognition, brainstorming with the Events Organizers Working Group to increase the visibility and awareness of local Drupal events, strategizing an enhanced end-user journey on drupal.org to support Drupal adoption, and collaborating with the community to create our first DrupalFest series of events in celebration of Drupal’s 20th birthday.
How do you think we can help empower women in tech and work toward better gender inclusion?
Mentorship and advocacy. Mentorship is a key factor in career success, which is why you often see it as an official component of any organization or program supporting women in tech. Women also need advocates or sponsors as part of their network. Mentors can provide advice, but advocates are necessary to champion the success of women in tech, ensuring we have an increasing number of women in leadership and decision-making roles. I recently hosted a Women in Drupal workshop during DrupalCon where we discussed how to build your “power circle” of support, and I’m happy to host it again (plus many more on the subject of empowering women in tech) if the community is interested! :)
What does the future of Drupal look like in your opinion? More adoption, new features, any major changes?
The planned migration to GitLab exemplifies how Drupal is changing for the sake of innovation. Moving toward modernized and widely used contribution tools can dramatically improve the Drupal contributor experience and encourage new contributions to our project. Our Drupal Association engineering team has a plan to build on our existing GitLab integration and accelerate the replacement of Drupal.org features with their GitLab counterparts.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
- Build a network
- Nurture that network of relationships
- Utilize that network to find mentors
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor or member of the Discover Drupal project or donating to help unlock opportunities for people who have been underrepresented in the open source community, learn more about Discover Drupal, here.