Interview with Carol Pettirossi: Reflecting on DrupalCon Pittsburgh and being a Woman in Drupal

Jun 23 2023

It is common knowledge that women are an underrepresented group in the tech industry and the Drupal community is no exception. We are very fortunate at ImageX to have some formidable talent on our team who identify as women and we’re pleased to have supported some of those individuals to attend DrupalCon Pittsburgh. Carol Pettirossi, Software Architect, sat down with Nadine Nykolaichuk to reflect on her first DrupalCon experience.

Carol shares her thoughts and insights regarding various DrupalCon sessions, key challenges faced by women in tech, how Pittsburgh compares to other places she’s travelled, and so much more.

Nadine: Hi Carol, how was your experience at DrupalCon Pittsburgh? What was the best moment for you?

Carol: My experience at DrupalCon was very good. To be honest it was different from what I was expecting, but it was very good. It's hard to say I have a “best” moment, but there was one moment that I recall when I thought “Oh my, what's happening here?”. 

Some colleagues and I were walking around the different booths looking to connect with different developers, in particular female developers, and looking for the best swag of course.  Finding developers in the expo hall turned out to be an unexpected challenge, as many of those on the booths were sales and marketing focused.  

However, when we went to one booth to pick up some swag that caught our eye, there was a woman who said“ Oh, you should play hockey with us!” it turned out that she was a developer — and also from Brazil! That was a truly serendipitous moment. We made a great connection and she offered to help me with my plan to grow the Brazilian developer community, specifically Women in Drupal there.

Nadine: That’s awesome, can you tell us share more about your plans to build a “Women in Drupal” community in Brazil?

Carol: Plans are in the works. Initially, we were considering a ‘Women in Drupal’ developer's group separate from the Brazilian Drupal community. But what we’ve observed is that it's very difficult to find women working with Drupal here in Brazil. 

So what we are thinking is to build Drupal meetups for the entire community, for all developers, and everyone working in Drupal. At these meetups, we are going to look to prioritize sessions from those identifying as women, in order to have increased representation and spread awareness. Then from that, we can build a Brazilian Women in Drupal community.

Nadine: DrupalCon had a Women in Drupal Luncheon with a Women in Tech Keynote. If you were able to attend, what did you think?

Carol: Yes, I was able to attend — in my opinion the luncheon was too short. While many of us were trying to connect and interact with other women to share insights, the keynote had already started. So really, we had maybe just ten minutes to connect and network. 

As for the keynote’s content, it was not exclusively for those identifying as women. It was a session that could have benefitted others besides women, since most of us already know the stats shared and the struggles we go through working in tech. 

It would be fantastic if a Women in Tech keynote could be part of the main programming, then the luncheon dedicated to networking.

Nadine: In your opinion, what do you think are the biggest challenges for women in tech, specifically within Drupal?

Carol: I guess there are two things and they're related. Many of us don’t ask enough questions to other developers or other team members because we feel that we are going to be judged. 

As a result, we then spend a lot of time trying to learn on our own because we don't want to be criticized for not being informed about something or not having the knowledge. 

I’m sure it’s related to imposter syndrome because we feel that we do not know enough so even if we are experts and can teach others, there’s that feeling like there are people out there who know more. For this reason, I feel like support groups including people at different levels of experience can be really helpful and act as safe spaces.

Nadine: Looking at the programme, DrupalCon had an extensive session track for developers. Were there any particular sessions, workshops, or speakers that you found especially interesting?

Carol: The most interesting topic for me was the session by Jess (XJM). She's famous in the community and is a core committer. She shared tips about code review — how to do code review in patches, how to test them, and what we should avoid in a patch. It was also nice to finally put a face to a name since she doesn't have a photo on

Nadine: As a software architect, you must have plenty of insights to share. Would you consider submitting to be a DrupalCon speaker in 2024? If so, what would your session cover?

Carol: I was talking about that with my colleagues Tallitha and Gabe, who were also at DrupalCon. We decided that we have a lot to share and having experienced the event, we’re now aiming to be speakers in 2024. It's very hard to get a speaker session but if we did, we would have plan something as a team because we are all a little shy and doing it together would allow us to encourage one another.

We were thinking about sharing some use cases. Maybe about how we used the Webform or how we used multiple and different integrations for interactive widgets on a client’s site to grow their user/client base. Or as Tallitha is a QA Specialist, we could speak more about how QAs and developers could work together in a positive, collaborative way, instead of against each other which is sometimes the case.

Nadine: You’ve worked for a number of years with Drupal, starting back with Drupal 6, and now we’re on Drupal 10!  The platform really evolves quickly, could you name some of the latest improvements that have been particularly impactful for your work? And is there anything you’d like to see in Drupal that is not yet there?

Carol: Since I started with Drupal 6, I experienced first hand the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. That was the most impactful, I think, for everyone, because it was a big change in technology and architecture from procedural work to Symphony, to a more object-oriented paradigm. I was used to procedural programming so I had to learn a lot and I'm still learning every day. 

The new Single Directory Components in Drupal 10 are also going to change a lot in how we do things in templates. This component approach will make it easier to do code reviews and maintain the code as well. So the Single Director Components is a big change, in my opinion, because it affects all projects. 

In terms of things I would like to see, there was that project presented at Pitch-burgh — the innovation contest at DrupalCon. “Decoupled Layout Builder'' by Kim Pepper was about making previews available in decoupled Drupal. This is very important because decoupled Drupal is not always the best option for editors. 

We have a lot of marketers and clients using their own sites, and they want to preview content first but don’t have that option as it’s something that is missing in decoupled Drupal and, hopefully, with the budget that the Drupal Association and other companies raised, this will finally happen. So yeah, I'm really excited about that project!  It was great to see that ImageX was one of the supporting organizations of Pitch-burgh also, helping invest in these amazing projects.

Nadine: That sounds great, were there any new technologies, frameworks, or tools that were showcased at DrupalCon that caught your attention? Do you think they could be relevant to your current or future projects?

Carol: Yes, there was actually a session about using Figma, Storybook, and exports to code. We are already working with Figma and SDC (Single Directory Components), so I guess we could use something like that between our design and development teams, for instance, exporting components with the colors and sizes. That's a good idea and two companies are already doing it, so that gave us a little bit of insight into how we can move forward.

Nadine: Outside of the conference, did you have a chance to explore Pittsburgh? What was your highlight? 

Carol: I did have time to go to an event that was happening along the river. It was an art and music festival. There was a band with a soul and jazz vibe that was playing, called Red Baraat, which was so great because I don't get to see a lot of live music with that type of style in Brazil.

Also, one of my colleagues and I went to the Heinz Museum. And surprisingly, it's not just about ketchup!  It's a very nice museum and we wished we had had more time there.

The city is beautiful! I also discovered a fun fact that Pittsburgh officially has the most bridges in the entire world! 


We are grateful to Carol for her time and for sharing her experience with us. We hope to continue to see her and other women in tech empower and support each other to inspire and encourage future generations of young girls to pursue careers in this sector. 

Stay tuned for more insightful articles, and see you all at the next DrupalCon!

Reflecting on DrupalCon Pittsburgh 2023 With the Drupal Community:

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