Previously in The Women of Drupal series, we talked with Shannon Vettes (svettes) 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.”. Catch up and read Shannon's story, here.
Baddy Breidert (aka baddysonja) is a founder, a mom, and a European Champion in robotic soccer. Born and raised in Reykjavík, Iceland, Baddy now lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and two children. It’s also where she works as the CEO of 1xINTERNET, a Drupal shop she co-founded with her husband in 2011.
Baddy has been helping to organize Drupal Europe, where more than 1,000 Drupalists are expected to gather next week. I recently caught up with Baddy to talk about growing up in Iceland, why she’s excited for Drupal Europe, and what it means to be a working mom.
Gigi: How did you get your start in tech?
Baddy: When I was in high school, my math teacher asked me, “Hey, Baddy, have you thought about going into computer science?” My response was no, because I had always thought I might go into business. I also didn’t know how to program. Still, my teacher pushed me to consider it.
When I got to university, I registered for my first computer science class and it felt like all of my classmates already knew everything. There was a question, “Who knows C++?” I didn’t have a clue what C++ was, and everybody put their hands up. Then it was, “Who has created some kind of a software?” Everybody but me put up their hands again. I got home and thought, “I can’t do this. I don’t know anything.” The only thing I could do was work hard, and I was able to catch up with the others after a few months.
Gigi: It’s really interesting. In our “Women of Drupal” series, Fatima and Alanna have also referenced a teacher or role model who encouraged them to get into computer science. It can be very motivating when someone celebrates your potential.
Baddy: Totally. I am very thankful to my math teacher for his encouragement. Back in 2000, there weren’t many women in tech to look up to, so it didn’t cross my mind that computer science could be something for me. In Iceland we try really hard to highlight diversity in all industries. Today, I work with both high schools and universities in Iceland to highlight women in tech and to help create role models. In my opinion, this is the best way to attract people to our industry.
Gigi: How did you first discover Drupal?
Baddy: When I moved to Vienna in 2007, my business partners and I were building something that is very similar to what Dropbox is today. To build this we needed a powerful open source technology and we decided on Drupal. Back then we didn’t have a clue that there was an active community behind the project. We started using Drupal because we thought it was powerful and liked all of the modules you could take advantage of. It wasn’t until 2012, after we actually founded our company, that we really realized how important community and collaboration in Drupal is. It is not only more fun, but working together on Drupal creates real value for us as a company and for the community.
Gigi: What was it like to get to know the community after you had been using the software for sometime?
Baddy: We went to our first Drupal Camp in Germany, and I remember thinking, “Wow, there are actually a lot of people here in Germany that are also working with Drupal.” It was really interesting to just go through that process and to see others. After that, we said, “OK, let’s check out this thing called DrupalCon.”
When we were at DrupalCon Amsterdam 2014, one moment really sticks out. We didn’t know anybody, so we decided to sit and each lunch in the back of the exhibition hall. Then suddenly, Dries walked by and said, “Hey, how are you doing? Are you having fun and enjoying the conference?” Then he just thanked us for being there. I think we even did a selfie. It was a small moment, but it made me realize that we can talk to everyone at the conference. We shouldn’t be afraid. If Dries can come by and talk to us, why shouldn’t we be able to do the same with everybody else?
This moment stuck out. Now when I go to conferences, I always try to walk around and spot people who might feel a little lost. Because, otherwise, you just come to the event and you think, “Nobody talked to me,” and then you go home. It’s really important that we, in our community, help each other to have the experiences we are looking for.
Gigi: What Drupal projects or contributions are you working on and/or most proud of?
Baddy: In 2017, we organized the first Drupal Camp in Iceland. We called it the Northern Lights Camp. We made a website, sent a couple of tweets, and then people started to sign up. In the end, more than 80 people came from abroad to meet in Iceland and to have a conversation about Drupal. That was a really nice experience, because we didn’t expect Drupalists from abroad to come.
Because I’m not coding anymore, most of my contributions surround helping to organize events. So the Northern Lights Camp was definitely a highlight. I also help to organize the Splash Awards, which highlight Drupal projects in the German business community. This is something I’m really proud of. We’ve done it twice already, and we are planning the third now. At Drupal Europe, we will host the European Splash Awards.
Then of course there is Drupal Europe, which was born from a series of BoFs at DrupalCon Vienna and other Drupal Camps in 2017. It has been amazing to work with the community to create this conference and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.
Gigi: What keeps you inspired or passionate about your work?
Baddy: For me, it's not about having the largest company or making the most money. It’s really about having a balanced life. I have two kids. My husband and I run our company together, and its important to be able to spend time with our kids and at the same time, have a successful career.
Growing up, my mom was always working. She was (and is still) really successful in business and is my role model. I think that she taught me that I can do both. I can have children, have a home, and still be successful in my job. But it takes a lot of teamwork and you have to have a good partner. You need a partner that supports you in that and a family that understands it. When I get asked, “Are you working 100 percent?” my favorite answer is, “Yes, just like my husband is working 100 percent.” I’m also very lucky to have a partner that understands that and has helped me through this. You have to be able to have your family and do still the things that you want to do. That is very important for me. The fact that I am supported in doing what I want to do - that keeps me inspired.
Gigi: It sounds like your mom set a wonderful precedent for what it can mean to be a working mother. I don’t know if everyone has an example like that to look up to.
Baddy: Yes, it did. I’ve had multiple conversations with my mom around the topic, and she has even asked me if I missed out on something in my childhood. I never suffered as a child of having working parents. We still had dinner together, went on vacations together and most important just enjoyed each other company. My parents taught me that you need to give 100% and that there is “no free lunch”. My parents are some of my closest friends and I often ask for their advice when it comes to raising children, in addition to handling certain situations at work.
I certainly felt like I had the cool parents when I was younger, and that is something I want to give my children as well. I want to show them that I am living my dream but at the same time, being their mom.
Gigi: What does the future of Drupal look like to you? Is it adoption, features? What makes you excited about the future?
Baddy: I’m really excited about the work that is being put into the new releases of Drupal 8, and the applications and solutions that are coming out of this work. I think the future for Drupal is really bright, but we have to continue to find ways to promote Drupal, especially in Europe. If you think about it from a business perspective, more and more organizations are using open source and Drupal, because it can grow with your business. We need to find a way to celebrate this success, in addition to getting more organizations to actively contribute to the project.
I think it is amazing to have a product that is so mature. From being able to build decoupled architectures to an improved back-end experience and layout, we have a much stronger project now. I think we need to bring this message outside of our little world and be proud of the success. But its hard, and I’m struggling with this at the moment in Germany. Some of the largest enterprises in Germany are using Drupal and have been for years. We just aren’t telling the story.
Gigi: I know Drupal Europe is coming up soon. What are you most excited for at the event?
Baddy: I think it's important for the European community to come together. We will be starting off the conference by highlighting projects from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Norway and Austria through the European Splash Awards.
Then we are all looking forward to the Driesnote that will take place on Wednesday morning. This comes right after the famous Prenote, which I’ve participated in since my first DrupalCon.
For the first time in Europe, we will also have the open-web lounge, which is a place where we invite other open source technologies to come and have a cross-platform discussion. To discuss things like privacy, security, community and governance, and how it’s being done in other communities. What can we learn from others, how can they learn from us.
But to be honest, I’m most excited about finally meeting all the Drupal Europe volunteers in person. For 10 months now we have been doing weekly calls, and some of us have never met in person. I can’t wait to see all the people who made this happen and celebrate the contribution they have all made to Drupal in Europe.
Gigi: What advice would you give to your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
Baddy: I would work to engage with others more quickly. For a long time, I was doing things alone with just my friends and partners. We didn’t see the potential of whats happens when you engage with others who are passionate about the same things you are.
I also think that too many young people just follow what somebody else is doing. Try to think out of the box. Go and see if there’s something else that interests. [laughter] Whenever I talk with a young person who doesn’t know what to study, I say, “Think about how great it is to create something that makes things better.” To create something that makes an impact. Just don’t go and work in a bank [laughter].