In last month’s Women of Drupal feature, I interviewed recently elected 2019 Drupal Association At-Large Board member Leslie Glynn on the importance of being a mentor and treating people with kindness and respect. Read more about the amazing ways Leslie supports the Drupal community, here.
Recently Drupal founder and Acquia CTO, Dries Buytaert, released his annual report “Who sponsors Drupal development?” which looks at the individuals and organizations who give back to Drupal in some way. The data showed that only 8% of the recorded contributions from 2018-2019 were made by contributors who do not identify as male. While this is a 1% increase compared to the previous year, there continues to be a wide gender gap in the Drupal community. Drupal and the open source community promote acceptance, freedom of ideas and constant innovation. That’s why we all must continue to work toward the inclusion of more women in the tech space and celebrate those members who support their success.
This month in our Women of Drupal interview series, I spoke with Stella Power, Founder and Managing Director of Annertech, Ireland’s leading open source digital agency. Stella has been an involved member of the Drupal community for over 13 years and maintains many modules including Commerce Realex, Commerce Donate and Code Review. She is a member of the international Drupal Security Team, and in 2010 she co-founded the Drupal Ireland Association.
Soon, Stella and her team of “Annertechies” will be attending DrupalCon Amsterdam from 28-31 of October 2019. Stella is excited once again to organise and run Drupal Trivia Night. She loves watching hundreds of enthusiastic Drupalists come together to test their knowledge. As the curator of the trivia questions, Stella says her hardest “tie-breakers” are usually seeing who can name the exact date (down to the day!) of a specific code release.
Thankfully, this time she wasn’t the one quizzing me, and I got to ask her a few questions of my own:
Paige: How did you get your start in tech?
Stella: I’ve always been a bit nerdy to be honest. I was big into science and maths in school, and my parents were very supportive. I studied physics at university, but by the end of the four years, I didn’t really want to do that as my career. Luckily a large part of my course was computer programming, so once I graduated I went straight into working in tech, first as a software developer and later as development team lead, before eventually starting Annertech.
Paige: How did you first discover Drupal?
Stella: I used to do a lot of photography and ceramic art and needed a website to showcase my portfolio. That’s when I discovered Drupal, and very quickly I had a new hobby. I started contributing patches, helping in the issue queues and taking over maintenance of modules. Drupal was very much a hobby for me for about two years before I went to my first DrupalCon in Szeged.
DrupalCon Szeged was a life-changing experience for me. I was working as a programmer in a large tech company at the time but not really enjoying it or liking the company culture there. I took a week of my annual vacation to go to DrupalCon where I was immersed in Drupal and met some really amazing people, many of them working full-time in Drupal. I realised then that I could do the same. The following week I came back and quit my job, and founded Ireland’s first Drupal agency, Annertech.
Paige: What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?
Stella: That’s a hard question. I’m pretty proud of being one of the founding members of the Drupal Ireland Association, but I think I’m most proud of Drupal Trivia Night. My colleague, Alan Burke, and I started it way back at DrupalCon Chicago, and it’s still going strong. It’s like a DrupalCon tradition now! I still write most of the questions for each Trivia Night, even when I’m not going to be there. I remember at the first Trivia Night, we only had about 20 people there, if that, but now there’s usually about 300!
Trivia Night at DrupalCon Dublin 2016
Paige: What are some challenges you've faced, technically or career-wise?
Stella: I think the biggest challenge for me has always been maintaining a good work-life balance. I just love what I do and throw myself into everything that I’m involved in. People often ask me how I get motivated to work, especially considering that I work from home most of the time. However, my problem is more switching off from work. There’s always one more email to send, or one more task to complete, and I have to repeatedly tell myself that it can wait until tomorrow. Having young kids does help actually — when they’re at home, they really do demand your attention. However, while I’ve gotten better at having a better balance recently, it’s still something I have to work hard at.
Paige: What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
Stella: When I founded Annertech, I was inspired by everyone I met at DrupalCon Szeged. Here were people working with Drupal as part of their job, doing what they loved and creating fabulous websites. It got me to thinking, “Why can’t I do that too?” And so I founded Annertech. Today, it’s pretty much the same — I love what I do and when you love your job, it’s very easy to stay passionate about your work. I also have the added bonus of working with a fantastic team that helps keep me inspired and motivated.
Paige: What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?
Stella: I’m a member of the Drupal Security Team, and I used to do a lot of coding. I maintain a lot of different modules on Drupal.org, but running a business keeps me pretty busy, so I don’t get to do so much in the way of coding anymore. These days most of my contributions revolve around organising events, whether it be local meetups or being a Track Chair for DrupalCon.
I’ve also had the opportunity to speak at a number of DrupalCons, including the upcoming DrupalCon Amsterdam. I always remember my first speaking experience at DrupalCon Szeged — it was completely nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time. I don’t think it gets any less scary, but at least I know now that I can do it.
Paige: What does the future of Drupal look like in your opinion? More adoption, new features, any major changes?=
Stella: I think Drupal is evolving for both our customers and our community. It feels less like it’s for hobbyists and more enterprise-ready. For example, I’m not sure that I would have gotten involved with Drupal if I was only starting out now. There’s so much choice out there if you just want a simple website. I think we’re seeing the effects of that now in Europe too with fewer new people participating at the local community level.
However, I see it as a natural progression of a product that is continuing to develop and is growing more powerful, and that creates lots of opportunities. The flexibility and power of Drupal enable us to build much more complex platforms that can help transform organisations.
Paige: What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
Stella: Be confident. Lots of people are talking about imposter syndrome now, and that’s great. It’s all too easy of a trap to fall into. You put others on a pedestal and doubt your own abilities. So my advice would be to trust yourself, be confident in your abilities and keep working toward your goals.
At the end of our conversation, Stella once again showed her commitment to welcoming as many people into the Drupal community as she can, urging me to “Come to Europe!” so I could experience the excitement of Drupal meetups in person. While a flight to the Netherlands is sadly not in my future anytime soon, anyone lucky enough to be at DrupalCon Amsterdam this year should definitely connect with both Stella and the Annertech team.