The Women of the Drupal Community: esmerel

We talk with Acquia Principal Technical writer, Lynette Miles on the importance of Drupal documentation and becoming an expert.

The Women of the Drupal Community

In October’s Women of Drupal feature, we spoke with Annertech Managing Director and DrupalCon Trivia Night creator, Stella Power on founding Ireland’s leading Drupal agency, balancing work and home life, and gaining confidence through the Drupal community. 

The latest annual report “Who sponsors Drupal development?” by Drupal founder and Acquia CTO Dries Buytaert showed a 1% increase in Drupal contributions by people who don’t identify as male; however, the total recorded non-male contributions are still only just 8%. Progress happens when we all make the effort to support those leaders in tech and Drupal who are paving the way for a more inclusive future.  At this year’s DrupalCon Amsterdam, Acquia partnered with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that works to provide girls the resources, educational training and opportunities to excel in technology professions. While we are seeing more women getting involved in tech, it’s essential to keep growing Drupal’s diversity of ideas and working toward equality and inclusion. 


This month, I had the pleasure of getting to know Lynette Miles (esmerel). Lynette is a Principal Technical Writer (Team Lead) at Acquia and co-author of Drupal’s Building Blocks, an acclaimed reference book that offers tutorials, advice and even sample “recipe code” for web professionals looking to get the most out of some of Drupal’s most essential modules. Along with her husband Earl Miles (merlinofchaos), who is a founding member of the Drupal Association, Lynette has been an active contributor within the Drupal community and essential member of the Acquia documentation team.

Here are her thoughts on the ins-and-outs of technical writing and the importance of having a strong support team.

Paige: How did you get your start in tech? 

Lynette: I got my first tech job in 1996, at an ISP called Netcom. I did email technical support and then moved up to the second level help desk. A couple of years later, I moved on to another tech support job at a company that got bought by then Lucent Technologies. I was there for 10 years as a support rep, team lead, readiness manager, documentation editor and all kinds of stuff.

Paige: How did you first discover Drupal? 

Lynette: I know this guy – he wrote a couple of modules folks may have heard of: Views, Panels, CTools. He lives in my house and he’s a good cook. He writes code sometimes.

Paige: What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?

Lynette: I wrote about 75% of Drupal’s Building Blocks enabling me to check “Publish a book” off my bucket list.

Paige: What are some challenges you've faced throughout your career? 

Lynette: Like anyone who presents female, I’ve gotten my share of people who are flatly boggled that I know anything about technical stuff, much less that I know more than them. I’ve seen a lot of people who feel like they’re a subject matter expert (SME) on one thing, and that means they’re an SME everywhere. 
I also see a lot of people who feel like because they are an expert on a subject, and they speak English, that makes them good at writing about that subject. It doesn’t. Many people think writing documentation is easy. Writing something and calling it “docs” is easy. Writing good documentation is hard.

Paige: What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work? 

Lynette: I know my team provides information that helps our customers be successful. I know my team helps deflect calls from the support team, saving the bottom line. My team mostly comes from a support background – we know when things are going to be a problem for customers, and we are passionate about defending our customers and support team. Knowing that our customers use my team’s work every day to be successful is pretty awesome. I was at BADCamp this year and a customer said, “Your docs are so good that I was able to pass the Acquia Site Factory exam and my company doesn’t even use Site Factory!” 

Note: Shoutout to the amazing Amy Qualls (domesticat) for her leadership on the ACSF documentation.   

Paige: What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?

Lynette: I’m not as involved in the community as I used to be. My husband and I used to go to DrupalCons pretty heavily, but Denver was our last one. We had kids, and they used to have school schedules. Now we’re homeschoolers, but we’re spending more time doing non-Drupal stuff with friends in the community when we have vacation time. I used to be pretty serious about working in the Views queue before it moved into core (thank goodness), but my time is pretty limited for community stuff these days. 

I can’t; my kid has gymnastics.

Paige: How do you think we can help empower women in tech and work toward better gender inclusion? 

Lynette: I think people just need to let people show you what they can do because it’s not defined by what you look like or what your body is – it’s about what your mind will let you get done. 

Paige: What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?

Lynette: You’re an expert at what you do, too. That’s why you’re in the job you’re in. If you’re not the expert, learn who is and listen to them. You’ll never go wrong by knowing someone who knows more than you do and can help you know it. 

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