Viviana Menzel is co-organizer of JoomlaDay Germany, a member of Joomla’s CMS Maintenance team and, together with Christiane Maier-Stadtherr, team leader of the Frontend Template Working Group. Would you like to know how this Argentinian biology graduate ended up in Germany building websites for a living? Read her story below!
Thanks for participating in this interview, Viviana! Could you introduce yourself?
“Hi, my name is Viviana Menzel, I’m 48 years old and I was born and raised in Córdoba, Argentina. I studied biology and during my thesis, my tutor told me that he wanted to send me to Germany to do my PhD. Germany and the German language (I was bad at learning languages) were not really in my plans, but he insisted so long that I started a German course. In 1997 I graduated from the university and I applied for a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and I got it! I got the decision in April 1998 and I left Argentina in June! My scholarship included a German course at the Goethe Institute for 4 months where I learned a lot. It was a great time because I got to meet people from all over the world.
In October 1998 I started with my PhD research in Giessen (near Frankfurt).
The plan was to stay here for a maximum of two years (it was a so-called 'sandwich scholarship', research in Germany, write the thesis in Argentina), but it came differently. My tutor offered me another scholarship to stay longer and graduate in Germany. And I fell in love with someone who is now my husband and father of our 3 children.
Shortly before the birth of our daughter, I abandoned research.”
How did you get involved with Joomla and the J! Community?
“I can’t say I’m a techie person, but I was never afraid of computers, so I was soon 'the expert' in my lab (in Argentina and in Germany too). My tutor sent me to a course: 'How to build websites with Dreamweaver' and I was in charge of the websites of our lab.
After I left research 2006 a friend of ours was searching for a good CMS for his website. With my husband, we did some research and I tested Typo3, Drupal and Joomla. I liked Joomla the most and I started to build a website for our friend. And then other ones.
I learned a lot in several Joomla forums and with the tutorials from Hagen Graf (cocoate.com), but I had no idea what the Joomla Community was.
One day I found out about the JUGs and that it was a group in Frankfurt. That was my first real contact and I got to know Alexander Metzler and Alexander Schmidt (he had a great tutorial for creating Joomla templates, Blank, https://docs.blank.rocks/). Through the newsletter from the JUG I heard about the J and Beyond Conference taking place in Königstein, Germany, not far away from where I live, so I went there. And I was flashed! That was 2014 and my engagement in the Joomla Community started there and then.”
What do you do for a day job?
“Since 2008 I have run my own small agency and I create websites mostly with Joomla. So Joomla is my job :-)”
Do you use Joomla in other ways?
“Yes, my own website is done with Joomla and I have several websites from private projects also created with Joomla.”
Are you currently involved in the Joomla community?
“Since 2019 I co-organize JoomlaDay Germany (together with Nadja Lamisch and Christian Schmidt). I’m part of the Joomla Overrides project (j-over.de, a collection of free overrides). I’m co-lead of the Frontend Template Working Group (our improvements for the Cassiopeia template were just merged in Joomla 4). And since October 2020 I’m a member of the CMS Maintenance Team.”
How did Joomla change your life?
“Joomla had and still has a big impact in my life, it allows me to work independently from home and that is great when you have small children (although now they’re not so small anymore). It is not (yet) a big business, but it is mine and I can decide how, when and for whom to work. It keeps me active and eager to learn new things. And the Joomla Community has become kind of a big family for me. I hope we will be able to meet in person soon again.”
What did you learn and/or gain personally from being a J! Volunteer?
“Being a volunteer is sometimes boon and bane. It is a great experience, I like to do things, to organize, to help others. But it is also a big responsibility and it takes a lot of time. Joomla can be a fulltime job… sadly not paid. Being a volunteer gives self-confidence and you learn a lot of great people that results in new friendships. I’m thankful for the possibility to help in the Community.”
Do you have a cherished Joomla-related memory?
“As I visited my first Joomla conference, the J and Beyond 2014, my first contact was with people from Spain and they told me there was an Argentinian guy somewhere. Some hours later I met Alejandro Pascoli and he took the role of a 'big brother' ;-) And he gave me an alfajor, my favourite sort of alfajores! I was so thankful, I hadn’t had such an alfajor in ages! What is an alfajor? Two round cookies with different sweet fillings between them, in Argentina usually dulce de leche. The one I got from Alejandro was filled with chocolate!”
More about alfajores here: