Previously in The Women of Drupal series, we talked with Aubrey Sambor, a developer at Acquia, who discussed how creating a website of her poetry in high school sparked an interest in web development and her work today in Drupal. Catch up and read Sambor’s story here.
With a global community of more than 1 million members, Drupal finds its strength in its diversity of users, developers, strategists, editors, and sponsors.
According to the Women In Drupal group, which provides guidance for women to become more involved with Drupal, women represent about 17% of the community, in comparison to 1.5% in the broader open source community. While that’s a positive sign of progress, there’s still a long way to go.
We started Acquia’s Women of Drupal blog series because the Acquia team believes that by sharing stories about the challenges — and the rewards — of contributing to the Drupal community, we can encourage aspiring Drupalists to forge their own paths and help gain greater representation among the community. Not to mention, we also want to give credit to the women who make the community what it is.
This month, Adrianna Shukla, Acquia’s senior digital marketing web manager, spoke with Jenn Sramek, director of learning services, about her work on the Learning Services team, and how her work in nonprofits led to a career in tech.
AS: What is your role at Acquia?
JS: My role at Acquia is director of learning services. The role has provided the opportunity to use my knowledge from professional services (PS) enterprise application development and partner delivery enablement relating to where our partners need support and I am then able to leverage this knowledge to further develop our training materials for Acquia customers and partners. I spend most of my time strategizing how to work with content and prioritize it and ensure all of our customers know what we can do to help them make things easier when working with Drupal or Acquia products.
AS: What excites you about this work?
JS: There are so many opportunities for dramatic changes. I had come to realize not much innovation had occurred in Learning Services in a while. When I assumed the role, my manager and other team members were very open to my ideas about how it could be improved and renewed, including liaising more closely with the product team. The openness they had for my ideas is one of the aspects I really value about the role and the team I am a part of. It is an exciting time in terms of the possibilities for transforming Learning Services.
AS: How did you get your start with tech and specifically your introduction to Drupal?
JS: I was actually late getting into tech. I went to college when there was one shared computer lab on campus, except for the library. I did not begin to use a computer for my schoolwork until my senior year. I then joined the Peace Corps where I had no computer access. I worked for a decade in nonprofits and through these experiences, I developed an aptitude for technology, and became the person everyone would go to for tech-related questions. I eventually transitioned to becoming a manager for the website projects of nonprofit organisations; and then, in 2005, I began to work with CivicActions. CivicActions, an Acquia partner that specializes in working with government and nonprofit customers, was one of the first companies to exclusively adopt Drupal as a CMS in 2004. At the time, the Drupal community was much smaller, and the number of companies that had officially adopted Drupal was still relatively small. I developed relationships with the community, yet there were not a lot of project managers at that time working in Drupal. Some years later, I was at a business summit that Acquia held in San Francisco and eventually joined Acquia in 2011.
I attended DrupalCon Europe in Barcelona in 2007, and I recall there were so few other women in attendance at the conference from among the 450 attendees. So, it is gratifying to see women now hold many more technical positions. There is still a significant gap; this year at DrupalCon, the percentage broke down as 70% women, 30% women. There is a sincere effort to ensure there is greater representation of women among speakers and panelists, so people from underrepresented groups made up 50% of speakers.
There are a lot of other open source conferences as well that women in Drupal can contribute to. Open Source North and O’Reilly’s OSCON are two conferences I have spoken at outside of the Drupal community. Both conferences have actively recruited women to be speakers and panelists. It has been a valuable opportunity to talk about Drupal at these conferences, as Drupal has become a model of what some other open source projects aspire to.
AS: What do you think the future of Drupal will be?
JS: From my perspective, I believe Drupal will continue to be successful because it is powerful and open source. Customers who adopt open source technology tend to grow to appreciate the collaboration and contribution that is the foundation of the Drupal community. I have observed how many nonprofit and government sectors have been able to achieve their aim of transformation through Drupal. Also, Drupal has a focus on internationalization (language), and on accessibility, ensuring the Drupal platform is accessible for every person, based anywhere globally, to work in their own language. There is a mature view of what Drupal needs in terms of translation and the project is still able to capture those who are dedicated volunteers in these areas. Generally, as Drupal becomes more simple to use, and we get better at teaching it, the combination will be magical — the faster people can learn about something useful, the more likely they are to use it.
AS: What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out in the tech community?
JS: I would say, certainly in the Drupal community, to not be afraid to contribute even if you do not have traditional “technical” expertise. I stood on the sidelines for quite a long time, as I thought I could not contribute because I did not code. Now, there are many more opportunities to contribute in varying ways, whether it is through documentation, QA testing, or project management. I eventually found my own way to contribute as a project manager, but if I were to do this over again, I would have become a contributor earlier. I waited for someone to pull me in, but I came to realize you really have to pull yourself in — you just have to raise your hand to say you are available to help, and you will find many people who are excited to collaborate and are seeking your skills in whichever capacity you are able to contribute.