Who You Know Is As Important As What You Know; Aubrey Sambor | FLDC

Aubrey Sambor presenting her session “Putting the ‘C’ back in CSS” at Design for Drupal Boston in 2019.

Drupal Camp Florida is here in a few days! As an in-kind sponsor, we are looking to receive a few interviews from the members of the Florida Drupal Camp. You will be able to read about the speakers’ Drupal journey and what their training and session will comprise of. Our Next interview was with Aubrey Sambor!

Aubrey is a Senior Front-end Developer at Lullabot who enjoys building accessible websites with clean and current CSS. For her, being a senior front-end developer entails taking on a mentorship role and assisting others in learning and growing. In this interview, she discusses her experience and love for CSS. Aubrey will also take over a session at the Florida DrupalCamp 2023, covering much about CSS.

Alethia Braganza, sub-editor at TheDropTimes (TDT), reached out to Aubrey via slack and carried out a written interview, sending in a set of questions via email. Below is the completed interview.

TDT [1]: I am intrigued by how you developed an interest in coding. Your Lullabot bio states that you were initially introduced to Geocities. How did your interest take off from there?

Aubrey Sambor: Back in the late 1990s, I learned that a few of my classmates had started their own websites. I thought I couldn’t make a website without having some sort of advanced college degree, so I was overjoyed to learn I could create one myself using Geocities! I bought a book on HTML 4 and spent the summer before my senior year of high school teaching myself how to make my own website. I started with the basics, and now I’ve been writing HTML and CSS for 25 years! (I’m also eternally grateful that this website, devoted to my angsty teenage poetry, is nowhere to be found on the internet.)

TDT [2]: You have over 14 years of Drupal experience under your belt. And there is no doubt about the considerable shift in this industry. In your opinion, how have you witnessed and adjusted to the change? Could you perhaps describe which of your contributions was your absolute favorite?

Aubrey: The biggest change to Drupal that I’ve witnessed in my Drupal career was the move to Twig, starting with Drupal 8. Truly separating PHP from markup was something I wanted in Drupal for so long. I’m also happy about IE11 support being dropped with Drupal 10! Writing modern CSS in Drupal? Yes, please! As for my contributions, I’m proud of contributing to the core at all! I’ve made a few contributions to the Media module, and I even maintained a couple of Layout Builder-related modules when I worked at Acquia.

I’ve participated in a bunch of meetings for Olivero and Project Browser, and I was part of the session selection committee for DrupalCon Minneapolis before Covid happened. I’m happy to be part of the Drupal community and help however I can! I’m also on the planning committee for NERD Summit, a conference held at UMass Amherst in March, and have volunteered at Design 4 Drupal Boston. I love supporting local camps!


TDT [3]: What does it mean to be a Senior Front End Developer at Lullabot?

Aubrey: To me, being a senior front-end developer means stepping into a mentorship role and helping other developers learn and grow. I’ve found that the further I’ve gotten in my career, the less code I write on a day-to-day basis. However, I still find my days fulfilling by helping others with best practices, pairing to figure out solutions together, and attending meetings so that other developers don’t have to. Being a senior developer means keeping up with what’s going on in the Drupal and broader tech world and bringing it back to the team. It means working with stakeholders, designers, content authors, and project managers. It means taking on more responsibility, which is scary but rewarding.

At Lullabot, being a senior developer also means demonstrating your Drupal and overall technical knowledge while also being friendly, collaborative, and innovative while staying humble and working as a knowledgeable part of any team. I try to attend as many conferences as I can, proudly sporting my Lullabot swag and singing our praises to everyone around me!

TDT [4]: You have extensive knowledge of HTML and CSS dating back to your early beginnings. Can you tell us about the evolution of HTML and CSS through time and how your experience with these technologies has influenced your approach to designing accessible and modern websites?

Aubrey: It has been fascinating to see the evolution of HTML and CSS over the years. I remember the days of HTML 4.0 and not having to close my <p> or <li> tags, XHTML where everything needed to be formatted just so or else my site would break into a million pieces, and the advance of HTML5 with fancy new elements such as <main> and <header>. 

The CSS space has been even more exciting over the past few years! Flexbox and then CSS Grid ushered in a new era for front of the front end development, and new CSS goodies such as cascade layers, :is() and :where(), and logical properties promise to make the CSS scene a pretty fantastic place to be.

I’ve been interested in web accessibility since about 2004 when Mark Pilgrim published his now-defunct ‘Dive into CSS’ series. However, I didn’t fully ‘dive in’ until my dad became a quadriplegic in 2010. He couldn’t move from his shoulders down, so I saw how difficult it was for him to use a computer and navigate websites using speech-to-text tools. I now work to make the web a more accessible place for everyone, and I use my knowledge of semantic HTML to do the best I can.

TDT [5]: In context to Florida DrupalCamp 2023, you and Adam Varn will take on a session on CSS. Could you brief us about the talk you would deliver at FLDC and what the attendees can expect to take away from it?

Aubrey: Adam and I wrote a post last year for the Lullabot blog, ‘CSS Features; We’re Thankful For and CSS Features We Need.’ Since we both love talking about CSS, we decided to turn it into a talk!

We’ll be going over new CSS goodies such as :is(), :where(), :has(), and container queries, plus talk about features we really, really want, such as subgrids and the color-contrast function. Attendees can expect to take away a newfound enthusiasm for CSS and all the awesome things you can do with it now and feel excited about what’s coming up!


TDT [6]: You stated your active participation in Drupal camps and cons, as well as a variety of sessions that you have taken over. Why is it necessary for one to engage in these activities, especially in Tech? In your opinion and extensive experience, what benefit would this have on a person’s career?

Aubrey:  In my career, who you know has been almost as important as what you know, and I believe attending Drupal camps and conferences is the best way to meet more people in the Drupal community and grow your network. I do believe networking is an important skill to cultivate as a developer, and I’ve learned many things by talking to many different people in the community. Networking doesn’t need to be people in suits making awkward small talk around appetizers–in the Drupal community, networking looks like participating in Birds of a Feather session, chatting with people in the hallway or lunch line, or walking to get coffee or to the conference afterparty. Once you know one person, you’ll get to know so many other people! I also believe that volunteering or speaking in local camps helps with growing your tech career.

As I mentioned above, I am part of the planning committee for the NERD Summit, have helped organize Design 4 Drupal Boston, and I’ve spoken at Design 4 Drupal, New England Drupal Camp, and the now-defunct DrupalCamp New Hampshire. Not only have I met people by participating in these camps, but I’ve also furthered my knowledge while preparing for these talks. I think everyone can benefit from attending and participating in camps and conferences, so if you have a local camp nearby, I’d encourage you to attend and get involved if you can!

Disclaimer: The information provided about the interviewee has been gathered from publicly available resources. The responsibility for the responses shared in the interview solely rests with the featured individual.

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