Previously in the Women of Drupal series, we talked with Fatima Sarah Khalid (sugaroverflow) about the importance of building better representation in tech, what it’s like to be the only woman in the classroom, and why community is just as important as code. Catch up and read Fatima's story, here.
If you follow Acquia’s instagram account, chances are you marveled at Shannon Vettes’ (svettes) recent Takeover Tuesday. Shannon provided a glimpse into her daily life; she is based in Paris and works as a senior program manager for all of Acquia’s factories products. She’s also been apart of the Drupal community for over seven years, and has been a longtime contributor to the project.
I had the opportunity to spend time with Shannon during her last visit to Acquia’s headquarters in Boston. We enjoyed an early morning coffee on the office roofdeck, and talked about what it’s like to have a bubbly personality in tech, pioneering program management for Drupal initiatives, and how to become “the person you want to meet.”
Gigi: How did you get your start in tech?
Shannon: I’m originally from Wisconsin. Small town, small school. Even from a young age, I loved the idea of making something work. That was really my inspiration to get into tech. I started learning to type on Mavis Beacon. Anyone who’s over 30 probably knows what Mavis Beacon is. Anyone under, I doubt it. I’m dating myself now.
When I learned to type, that was an accomplishment. I learned to create small programs, and I started to get really excited about computers. Later on, I learned that I liked design and UX too. My path through technology has been varied. I went from field to field to figure out which one I liked best. I landed in program management because I like all of the aspects of what goes into making multiple projects successful as a whole. There is an interpersonal aspect of helping people work together and think strategically that I really enjoy.
Gigi: What does it mean to be program manager?
Shannon: Being a program manager means working across the whole organization to coordinate the work that it takes to successfully bring a new product into the market. When we make something, we don’t just want to say, “Engineering is complete - ship it.” That approach can cause a lot of problems. We need customer success and sales teams informed and trained, security and compliance requirements validated, and documentation and external training needs to be written or updated. There are a lot of things that are impacted by a new product or feature, and I’m here to help it go well.
Gigi: How did you first discover Drupal?
Shannon: It all started with a tweet. Someone I followed retweeted a note from a small-business owner. He was describing how amazing it is to have a great colleague, who is talented and works well with your team. I tweeted back and said, “100% agree with you. Nothing better than having a strong team with a united vision that are all ready to rock on something, with the skills to accomplish the goal.” It turned out that he was a starting a Drupal shop, and was looking to build a team. He hired me as a remote program manager after we had some interviews in Paris. In the end, it was a wonderful experience. It’s a great company, called Blue Spark.
My Drupal experience really started at DrupalCon Chicago. I went and it was wonderful. I loved the culture, the experience and the positivity radiating from everyone. It’s such a beautiful vision to be a part of when everyone in the community is committed to building something together.
I ended up meeting Angie Byron (webchick) when I was there. I remember asking her, “Hey, who’s helping project manage D8?” She was like, “That’s a good idea. We should to that.” I ended up working on developing program management for each initiative, which was a new concept for the community. I wanted to answer questions like, “What do we mean by initiative? How can we make things better and faster? What risks are we managing or monitoring? How is our work being perceived by the community? ”
We ended up developing roadmaps, making initiative pages to communicate progress and plans, identifying and mitigating risks, and more. It was such a great experience and taught me so much. It was a lot of work, but we all brought our skills to the table and accomplished a lot. I felt appreciated, acknowledged and that I helped them, which is all you can really ask for if you’re trying to volunteer for something.