Previously in The Women of Drupal series, we talked with Adrianna Shukla, Acquia’s senior marketing web operations manager, about how she got her start in tech, her experiences with Drupal migration, speaking at DrupalCon, the future of Drupal, and her two adorable rescue dogs, Chai and Latte. Catch up and read Adrianna’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 get more involved with Drupal, women represent about 17 percent of the community. While that’s drastically better than the representation of 1.5 percent in the broader open source community, there’s still a long way to go.
We started Acquia’s Women of Drupal blog series because we think 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 a little credit to the women who make the community what it is.
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This week we speak with Aubrey Sambor, a developer at Acquia, who discusses how she became a developer in the 1990s in high school through creating a website of her poetry, her appreciation for the diversity of the Drupal community, and dating a fellow Drupalist.
Ben: So, I saw that you went to Mount Holyoke? Is that the first time that you got into tech?
Aubrey: Yes, I went there! I started doing web stuff when I was in high school, in 1998. At the time, I found out that a friend had created a website that had her poetry. I remember thinking I didn’t know 17-year-olds could have websites. She told me about GeoCities, so I created my own website with my own “awesome” poetry on it. I taught myself HTML, and then when I went to college, I studied computer science.
Ben: What about Drupal or open source in general?
Aubrey: My first experience with open source was with WordPress first. I didn’t get into Drupal until about 2008. I worked first on Drupal 5 when I was working as a designer.
Ben: Is there a project or contribution that you’re working on right now? Or is there one that you are most proud of that you’ve done?
Aubrey: I do a lot of little contributions like the media module, mainly front-end work because I’m more of a front-end developer. I’ve done CSS contributions to Drupal, and I’ve obviously built a bunch of sites in Drupal. I do a lot of contributions now, and I’m actually dating a guy who maintains the media modules.
Ben: You’re dating a Drupalist?
Aubrey: Yes, he works here, too!
Aubrey: Yea, we’re in the Drupal Connections blog.
Ben: So, what are some of the challenges that you have faced if you want to speak about them?
Aubrey: Well, I look younger than my age. While I’m 38, the assumption is that I’m in my 20s and that I’m new to the community.
Ben: The purple hair?
Aubrey: Probably something to do with it, yes!
Ben: But you’re a Drupal expert.
Aubrey: Yeah, and I know what I’m talking about. It is unfortunate that as woman, sometimes you feel like you need to be 100% right with everything you say, because I doubt that most men feel the same way. Men might not have to always anticipate that people are going to assume that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
There’s also the worry that you’re coming across as too “aggressive”. I definitely feel that way because I try to be honest and to the point. It’s definitely a concern I have because I’m like, “I’ve got to say it this way, but I can’t seem too direct or too aggressive.”
Ben: You got to be heard but you don’t want to seem too — yes, exactly. That’s the finest line ever to balance. What advice would you give your younger self or a woman starting out open source or Drupal?
Aubrey: It’s always hard for me to say what advice I would give my younger self. I just did it for fun. I didn’t really think about experiencing certain challenges as a female developer at that time. I didn’t realize it was that big of a problem until, honestly, a few years ago. It’s something I’m educating myself more on. I would say, as a woman, in the community, perhaps to be aware that these issues do exist and other people do experience them. Even if you don’t experience them yourself directly, realize and recognize that other people definitely do. The Drupal community specifically has actually been a lot better with it in general to me.
Ben: Is that because Drupal is generally more diverse than other tech communities and there are more women in Drupal?
Aubrey: I believe there are more women in Drupal, and I feel like there are a lot of communities in Drupal that are committed to cultivating diversity and inclusion. I belong to a couple of those groups in Drupal.
Ben: Like what?
Aubrey: Like the diversity and inclusion community that’s on the Drupal Slack. I’ve actually done a little bit of contribution to the diversity and inclusion website for them, too, which is drupaldiversity.com. It provides lot of resources for people, particularly in underrepresented communities, to learn about Drupal.
Ben: What does Drupal look like in five years or in ten years or in one year even? You said you’re super interested in decoupled. What are some examples of decoupled that you think could be huge or useful?
Ben: At the consumer level, what can people be excited to use decoupled with, without even knowing they’re using it?
Aubrey: It will give you a more seamless experience. I know some of the built-in Drupal UI can be aesthetically less than pleasing, but if you’re using decoupled Drupal, you’re able to rewrite all so that it will give a better user experience and will move away from anything that looks like a default Drupal website UI. Again, that would be the main benefit for the front end, at least. However, the back-end of Drupal will stay the same.
Ben: Well Aubrey, thanks for your time. It was great to talk to you!