Name: Stephanie Bridges
Drupal.org ID: pixlkat
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Job Title: Senior Drupal Developer at Acquia
DrupalCon 2020 is a few weeks away, and this year is the first time DrupalCon will be holding a fully virtual, global event. DrupalCon Global 2020 offers a great opportunity to showcase Drupal’s values of inclusion and community and the mission of the Drupal project to build a web where everyone feels empowered to create. In our Women of Drupal series we seek to highlight the important contributions of women in tech and advocate for greater representation and equality in Drupal and other open source projects. While we’ve made great strides, currently only around 17% of the Drupal world identifies as non-male, so we know we still have work to do.
Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Stephanie Bridges, a senior Drupal Developer at Acquia with an impressive career in programming and web development. Stephanie shared her journey on establishing herself as a leader in a male-dominated work environment and her passion for creating new, innovative solutions for clients in industries from higher education to the New York City MTA. Read on to see Stephanie’s thoughts on Drupal’s evolution and her efforts to help everyone prepare to migrate to Drupal 9.
How did you get your start in tech?
I did everything “backward” -- had a family first, then went back to school as a “non-traditional” student. I’d taken a programming course at a community college and really enjoyed it. So when I decided to go back to school for real, I enrolled at Iowa State and majored in Computer Engineering in the 90s. I never expected to be doing what I am now though; I kind of fell into it by accident.
I was at a small startup doing C/C++ programming (in Windows…) and decided I needed to be in a different environment; I applied for several IT positions at the university and got an offer for one for which I really had zero experience. I was the “web and database administrator” for the department, which was at the time all Microsoft servers/applications. I’d never set up IIS or MS SQL Server, so I got to learn on the job. It was a great environment, and the department chair was very supportive and allowed me the freedom to explore different technologies and implement solutions based on my research. I got to implement a lot of web-based solutions for tasks that had previously been performed using desktop applications or by printing out paper forms. It was my introduction to backend web development.
How did you first discover Drupal?
I’d been working for a university department supporting their database and web application infrastructure and needed to find a more modern solution for the department’s public website. I’d looked at Drupal prior to the release of D6 and installed it and said to myself, “Ok, now what?”. D6 had just been released so I tried again, and this time figured out the “Now what?”
I learned how things worked by creating my own custom CCK field from scratch. I was lucky to have a good mentor at the time who answered my questions by gently pointing out the correct place in the documentation (or his book) where I could find the answers.
What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?
Most of my Drupal work has been with custom code for specific clients; I rarely seem to find time to do much contributing back. Some of the custom work I’ve done recently has been migration-related; finding ways to successfully migrate content from client’s less than optimal API endpoints on a recurring basis is one example. Another client project that I was excited to contribute to was the NYC MTA subway sign application. The Drupal application consumed several external feeds and sent the data to AWS IoT which was used to provide the data to the signs to display.
What are some challenges you've faced, technically or career-wise?
I’ve never been intimidated by being the only female in the room, either when I was a student, or when I worked in IT at the university. My biggest challenge has been getting non-technical men to take me seriously. One of the department chairs I worked for at the university regularly invited one of the male IT support people to any meeting we had to discuss the department website project so he could ask them if what I told him was correct.
What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
I like challenges and learning new things, both of which are in plentiful supply when working in tech. I really enjoy being able to solve someone’s problem and see them make use of my solution.
What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?
In the past, I’ve presented at local Drupal Camps (both in Iowa and Pennsylvania) and got the opportunity to present at DrupalCon LA in 2015 to showcase Los Angeles’ move to Drupal (and ACSF).
How do you think we can help empower women in tech and work toward better gender inclusion?
I think it is important for women in tech to be visible -- we need to actively participate in outreach efforts like local K-12 STEM programs so that young women can see “people who look like them” succeeding in a tech-related career. It’s difficult to truly get better gender inclusion when young women are discouraged before they begin.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
Don’t sell yourself short -- don’t be afraid to take risks and do what you are passionate about. Things that seem impossible when you are just starting out turn out to be not nearly so scary once you’ve gotten through 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?
I think Drupal is becoming more of an enterprise application. Support for JSON: API out of the box, and more robust ways of constructing content with Layout Builder and technologies like Cohesion are signs that Drupal is serious about being more than just a content management system. I’m really excited about the work done to make upgrading from one version of Drupal to the next less painful; upgrading from D8 to D9 should be nearly as easy as upgrading from one minor release to the next. There have been many improvements made to the migrate suite of modules to help users upgrade more easily from D7 to D9 - this is a big win as the complexities involved in upgrading from D7 to D8 have kept many people from upgrading or even choosing to move off Drupal completely.
If you’re attending Global DrupalCon 2020 what are you most looking forward to?
I haven’t signed up yet, but if I do, I would be most interested in the sessions about where Drupal is going, and the contribution opportunities.
Stephanie clearly has high expectations for the future of Drupal and for the community as a whole. For anyone interested in shaping the future roadmap of Drupal, you can share your thoughts in Dries Buytaert’s 2020 Drupal Project Survey. Plus, get involved with the Drupal community and hear more about the people behind the project at DrupalCon 2020!