Name: Katherine Baima
Drupal.org ID: katherine baima
Location: Boston, MA
Job Title: Product Manager
At this year’s DrupalCon Global, Drupal founder, Dries Buytaert opened his annual DriesNote presentation by emphasizing that the need to further increase representation throughout the Drupal community. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are founding values of the Drupal project and continue to be essential to improving collaboration and unlocking the creative potential of the web. “We need to take meaningful action to improve and commit to making a real change.” Dries said.
As was clear from the wide range of global attendees, contributors and sponsors at the first global DrupalCon, there is no single path to a career in tech. Open source projects like Drupal succeed by building a space where everyone is welcome and able to make their voices heard. We believe that there should be no barrier to entry to contribute to Drupal. Too often people shy away from contributing or sharing their ideas if they feel they don’t have the traditional developer experience or educational background.
For this month’s Women of Drupal spotlight, we spoke with Katherine Baima, the Product Manager for Acquia’s Digital Asset Manager within Drupal Cloud. Katherine shared how she turned a natural curiosity into a passion for product management and solve problems as part of a powerful cross-collaborative team. Keep reading to see what Katherine believes Acquia and the tech community as whole can be doing to foster stronger diversity and accessibility and why she wants everyone to know that there’s no such thing as a “stupid question.”
How did you get your start in tech?
I have an unusual path. I was knee-deep in academia and critical literary theory when I graduated from university and seeking jobs in publishing, entertainment or really anything firmly in the cultural zeitgeist. My first job out of school was an entry-level Product Management position and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the field. I have no direct coding experience, but have absorbed a massive amount of technical knowledge after three years of Product Management and working closely with engineers.
How did you first discover Drupal?
Here at Acquia, actually! When I made the pivot from startups to established industry leaders, I did quite a bit of research into Acquia and Drupal. The open source philosophy spoke to me, and it has been a pleasure getting to know the Drupal framework and, crucially, the involved and enthusiastic community behind it.
What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?
I am currently involved with several projects which crucially involve Drupal support:
- I own the maintenance and development of the Media: Acquia DAM module, which allows Acquia DAM users to integrate their assets directly with Drupal and their CMS. We’ve made a great number of patches to the module this year and will continue to make great strides in the 2020-2021 year.
- I work with the Drupal Cloud product team on cross-product, cross-team initiatives which aim to build on and strengthen Acquia’s position as the leader in an open digital experience.
- I am a contributor to an engineering project at Acquia which provides better support and maintenance for key contrib modules that Acquia products and teams depend on.
What are some challenges you've faced, technically or career-wise?
I’ll be candid!
Career-wise: product teams tend to be dominated by men with strong business acumen or technical expertise. I am a woman early on in my product career who has had to quickly absorb concepts on the fly, so in some ways I have had to work twice as hard to excel in my role. The most helpful thing is having a manager and a team who you can ask the “stupid questions” to and who will really help you to get the context you need.
What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
Curiosity! I think a good product manager has a natural curiosity for the “why” of things, and must have the creative ability to think outside of the box, to consider underlying factors, and to distill problems and questions down to their root issues.
Collaboration. Product managers are often referred to as the “CEO” of their products, but in a SaaS landscape (and particularly in a DXP suite), you cannot work in a silo. One of the most exciting aspects of working at Acquia is that I get the opportunity every day to collaborate with half a dozen teams, and the brain trust we have across practices and departments is truly world-class. It’s a pleasure to work alongside such brilliant colleagues and collaborate to solve real pain points for the real people we serve.
What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?
While not a Drupalist myself, I am a firm believer in understanding the framework you're operating in. If you hear of any good events, let me know!
How do you think we can help empower women in tech and work toward better gender inclusion?
At Acquia: I'd love to see something like an annual diversity report, since I think real accountability comes from transparency and real targets. Not just for women, but for all minorities and discriminated peoples.
1. Organizations across tech need to actively seek out women in boot camps, on college campuses, in networking events, and really make it a priority to have structured, formalized funnels to beef up diversity (in general, not just gender-based).
2. Everyone in tech needs to take implicit bias training and take it seriously. In my opinion. There are too many barriers not visible to the people facilitating them -- even something subconscious like a manager “seeing themselves in you” is going to impact your career development, and that can be a significant challenge if you are not from the normative backgrounds we see dominating in this industry.
3. I’d also note that we need to think about “women in tech” more broadly. I am very happy to be included in this “Women of Drupal” initiative because I am not a Drupalist, I am not an engineer of any sort, but there are so many opportunities across the business of technology that touch Drupal, that touch engineering, but do not directly require you to write code. How many humanities majors out there would be amazing fits for Product, Project, Product Marketing, Customer Support, etc.? I don’t think the wider world of tech opportunities is easily visible, and diversity is made more difficult because of it.
What does the future of Drupal look like in your opinion? What new developments are you most excited for in Drupal 9 and beyond?
Gosh, if I know specifics -- this is where my lack of direct Drupal involvement hits us hard ;). Broadly speaking, I am passionate about accessibility, diversity and inclusion. I know that the Drupal Association is making great strides in centering these concepts in the community and am thrilled to see it.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
1. Swing hard. Take risks. We grow from challenge.
2. If you are hungry, if you work hard and if you are ready to learn, any skill sets you’ve got in analysis and communication and problem-solving will translate to whatever career path you want to follow.
3. Ask the “stupid questions.” Three other people are thinking the same thing and are just waiting for someone else to ask. I cannot count how many times I’ve asked what seemed like a stupid question only to find that it was a crucial question to ask.
Going forward, the Drupal Association will continue to continue to review and update the community Code of Conduct and regularly publish diversity data so we can hold ourselves accountable to making a meaningful change. For more on what you can do to share your perspective and take part in the movement, check out the Drupal inclusion resource page.