Name: Beverly Lanning
Drupal.org ID: bemarlan
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Job Title: Technical Architect
As it says in Drupal's statement of values, “We believe that the Drupal project benefits from a diverse contribution pool, and we strive to foster a welcoming and inclusive culture everywhere Drupal exists—at events, online, and in our workplaces” However, a large gender disparity still exists in the community, with only 8% of Drupal contributors identifying as non-male according to the latest surveys. In order to keep moving forward and attract more diverse contributors to the Drupal community, we believe in propping up diverse leadership and making sure all members are given a voice. Our ongoing Women of Drupal series shares unique perspectives of women working in the tech and Drupal space whether that’s site building, contributing code, leading projects or planning events.
Previously, we heard from Third & Grove Associate Architect Marie Kiryanova on learning English through computer languages and the reward of sharing your knowledge with others. For our first Women of Drupal spotlight of 2020, I had the pleasure of getting to know Beverly Lanning, a technical architect for Acquia and skilled web and UX developer. She shared insights on the importance of trying out different areas of tech to find your passion, overcoming stigma and gender discrimination in STEM and the power of creating on the right CMS.
Paige: How did you get your start in tech?
Beverly: The moment I knew I wanted to work with technology was when I booted up a smartphone for the very first time (circa 2011). I was captivated by the user experience and the amount of power I held in my hands. I began taking free online coding classes in the evenings and convinced the company I worked for to take me out of software support and put me in a web coordinator role where I hand-coded marketing emails. I learned as much as I could and took off from there.
Paige: How did you first discover Drupal?
Beverly: In one of my first jobs, the company’s website was still a static site, while other microsites were built on multiple different content management systems (CMS). In addition to rebuilding the company website, our team wanted to adopt a CMS that could become our new standard platform. We were sold on Drupal because of the community, documentation and accessibility standards it offered as well as the ease to manage multiple sites at once. Plus we were really fond of the freedom Drupal gave to write custom modules and themes.
Paige: What Drupal function, project or contribution are you working on and/or most proud of?
Beverly: Sticky Toolbar is the first module I contributed to drupal.org. Although the function of the module is basic, I was thrilled to finally have the courage to publish my own code in the form of a contrib module.
Paige: What are some challenges you've faced, technically or career-wise?
Beverly: Working in tech can be overwhelming as there is no clear direction. What’s a front-end developer vs a back-end developer? Can I do Dev-Ops too? If I chose a platform am I “stuck” with it forever? I think the most important thing you can do is get a wide exposure to different technologies and work on the things you find most enjoyable without worrying about your job title. The title will find you eventually.
One of the most disappointing moments of my career as a whole was having a department Vice President tell me he felt I’d be a distraction to his male-dominant team of developers (being a young female). Overall I’ve had an incredible experience with diversity and inclusion, so never let a few moments like that define your career forever.
Paige: What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
Beverly: The limitless possibilities with technology and data are exciting. I look forward to the day that a medical student and a computer science Ph.D. student cure cancer together, or the day that I can reliably 3D-print my own home. Small contributions being made now give me the experience I need to make the largest impact later.
Paige: What are some other aspects of the Drupal community that you're involved in?
Beverly: I occasionally contribute modules, patches and review security applications on drupal.org.
Paige: How do you think we can help empower women in tech and work toward better gender inclusion?
Beverly: I think removing the stigma that technology is a man’s game is the largest piece. Bringing awareness to the fact that there are many successful women in technology is the first step to debunking that myth.
Paige: What does the future of Drupal look like in your opinion? More adoption, new features, any major changes?
Beverly: It’s hard to make a CMS that fits everyone’s taste, especially when it comes to front-end architecture. Working to get React incorporated into Drupal core and publishing documentation on progressive and fully-decoupled Drupal applications tells me that Drupal core hears the concerns of the community and is working to provide reliable alternatives to Drupal theming. I believe headless Drupal applications will become more common and will power more than just websites.
Paige: What advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
Beverly: Find a mentor. I’ve found that fellow developers are extremely open to personal mentorship and are willing to help beginners more than you think. This person can help you stay on track with developing your technical skills and can help you find a job when the time is right. Don’t be shy to reach out to someone and ask them to be your mentor, even if you don’t know them very well.