Working in Drupal is a real job, really?!

Photo by Elliot Ward

Take a moment to think back to the moment you first discovered it was possible to pursue a career in Drupal. Cast your mind even further back to how you actually heard about Drupal. For many of us, myself included, it was serendipity. A coincidence which changed the course of your life for the better. We read the right article, happened across a meetup, spoke to the right person. Sound familiar? More likely this than thinking at University or school that was the career path we were targeting.

Today Matt Glaman explained how he came to be stood in front of 500 people keynoting at DrupalCamp London. Working as a bar person, hobbyist Drupaler by night, back in 2013 he had no idea being a Drupal developer was a real job. Matt had the good fortune to meet Mike Anello, an inspirational member of the Drupal community. This triggered a chain of events which combined with self-motivation lead to Matt speaking to Ryan Szrama (another Drupalist with infectious enthusiasm) and ultimately working full time for Commerce Guys.

Open Source Software like Drupal (and the communities surrounding them) drives opportunity which can change people's lives. Matt's keynote left me wishing we could move to a situation where we as a project we are not so dependent upon coincidence. It's far from the first time I've felt this way. Vijayachandran Mani was living in rural India. He worked in Drupal for 4 years before really understanding open source or what the community and contribution was. Only when by chance Vijay stumbled across a blog by Dries Buytaert did he discover there were huge employment opportunities for him in India using Drupal. This ultimately resulted in Vijay moving to the UK and becoming a top 20 contributor to Drupal 8 core.

What about all those people we nearly hooked, the ones that weren't in that right place at the right time? The ones not quite brave enough to speak to us at a conference or meetup. How can we reach more of them? Where is the place they can discover role models just like them?

Considering Drupal is celebrated far and wide for its community, for me Drupal.org is a faceless place. It does not represent the warmth and diversity of our events. The welcoming nature of all we do. Wouldn't it be nice if we humanised this place. Create a special area where some of us could tell our personal story. Of how we came to do the jobs we do, the impact we generate in the real world through open source software. How we work often in modern and distributed ways, creating imaginative solutions for public services, charities, governments, non-profits and business. That being a Drupalist is a real and valuable career path. A place where those with potential to get involved could realise there are others just like them working in Drupal, role models if you will.

I see there being many parallels to this idea and the new industry landing pages the Drupal Association have realised. Not only should Drupal promote itself better to business but also future contributors and those embarking upon a career in digital. I'd welcome your thoughts on this idea.

Thanks to Elliot Ward for allowing use of his photo from DrupalCamp London. You can see his other images from the camp here.

Comments

Paul, you've hit on something which I've thought for a while about the d.o homepage. With such a diverse and dynamic community it would be good to see the people that power Drupal and to hear how they got started. What if people could submit their own videos and have them collated in a sensible way on d.o? I'd certainly find it an very interesting area of the site and would go some way to humanise the community.

Great post. Cheers, Barry

Hi Paul,

Great blog post. Thanks for writing it. I agree with Barry, it would be great to have a 'Why I use Drupal!' or 'How I discovered Drupal!' section on Drupal.org.

Every meetup/camp/conference I go to I come away having made another friend or two - we have such a great range of people and experiences.

Paul,

Thanks for writing this up - I think there's a really important lesson here - that there is no single background from where all successful Drupal contributors spring from. I have a couple of non-computer engineering degrees (Aerospace and Mechanical), I put to good use on my way to finding Drupal. I've had students who are now full-time Drupal professionals who have been gym teachers and hospice nurses. One of my good friends in the community used to be a police officer. There is no common background.

I love this topic - so much in fact that on our podcast we always ask our guests "what was your tipping point Drupal moment?" - this normally leads to learning about their journey to Drupal.

-mike

Hear, hear. I have a very similar roundabout journey. In fact, even though I started Ubercart in 2006, it wasn't until over a year later at DrupalCon Barcelona 2007 that I realized there were folks making a career out of it. I'd been isolated, partially through a misunderstanding of d.o at the time and through some poor experiences in IRC, but meeting the community in person was incredible.

Thanks for sharing Matt's story!

Paul this is a great post - I came to Drupal after a number of years implementing proprietary content technologies. Quite lucky I retained my hair through all that!

I love your idea about humanizing our project's home site. One thing I want to call to everyone's attention is that the Drupal Association doesn't just live on love or good will. It needs to be funded, and what may shock many of your readers is that a very small fraction of people that make their living implementing or using Drupal actually pay for an annual membership.

If every single 'drupalist/drupalista' kept current with an annual membership, I think this kind of phenomenal idea could be funded in short order.

Just my 2ยข

-J

Hi Joe,

Thanks for chiming in, as a long-standing member of the community you see things from an informed perspective. The surprisingly low membership of the Drupal Association by regular Drupalists is a topic I have been vocal about. I too was shocked to discover it was in the low thousands. If more people stepped up The Drupal Association would have the resources to deliver initiatives like this.

Over on Twitter https://twitter.com/pdjohnson/status/838064249452834817 there is a good exchange about this idea. I am pleased you are liking it.

Paul

All those comments are great. But I can see that we can take it at least one step further: How about we also explain the different approaches on how to become x,y or z in the Drupal community?

There are not probably many people outside the Drupal community that know what a Site builder is, or that you don't need to have a CS degree in order to become one. Or that becoming a themer is not a huge learning curve and your enthusiasm can drive you a long way. If we also spend a little time explaining that to the world, we could bring even more people to the Drupal community.

Yup,

nail hit on the head there. Speak to 10 Drupalists and you'll unearth 10 more fascinating stories of how they came to be in their job role. The more we can signal that this open source creates opportunities to work which never existed before and you don't always need formal education to get there - the better!

PJ

Hi Paul, great post and a really great conversation to kick off.
I've blogged not a response necessarily, but rather picking up on some of your themes.

For others, Paul and I and others have been chatting on twitter and we thought it would be cool to get say 10 blogging on this connected theme from our own point of view and then collate for drupal.org to give a response. A way to broaden the conversation.

My blog post is: Working in Drupal is a real job, what's the title?!

Great share Paul. What you say is completely true, I speak from experience. I'm one of the large numbers of people who hadn't ever heard about Drupal even after completing my Bachelors in Computer Science. Now, though I'm a Drupal Community Expert for Cloudways and let me tell you, discovering Drupal and its community is 'enlightening' to say the least.
As far as drupal.org is concerned, in my opinion, its community section is a little bland. For a newcomer to Drupal, the lack of a centralized social communication page seems confusing. I suggest a more robust and more interactive social feed or platform to enhance engagement and let Drupalers feel more at home. Just my 2 cents :).

P.S: Happy to see the Drupal is gaining traction in my native country, Pakistan. :)

It makes me particularly happy to hear that Drupal is growing in Pakistan, and other such regions. Drupal is making it possible to break down traditional boundaries and barriers.

PJ

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