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Jun 18 2018
Jun 18

I’ve been running events since college, for work and for fun, and for groups of 3 to 3,000. You’d think there’d be a difference, but the amount of energy it takes to run an event, surprisingly, is the same. It’s crazy how well these things scale.

Regardless of size, an event planner goes through a very predictable flow from event conception to event end.

We started planning Texas Camp in September of 2017. Knowing we were going to organize the event again for 2018, we scrambled to finalize the venue and update the sticker. By the time BADCamp rolled around, we had shiny new Texas Camp stickers to distribute at the nation’s largest gathering of Drupal people - all potential camp attendees.  

Because we knew when companies do their budget planning, we were ready with a brand new sponsor prospectus by December. By the second week, a cheerful call to sponsor was in many Drupal company inboxes.  

We worked to get the website launched in January, so attendees could plan ahead and to get everyone excited. Let me tell you this - when building a spankin’ new React + Drupal site, plan for extra time.

By the time we did launch in February, we had missed a few big camps, but still had plenty of time to get the word out on the call for sessions.

From February to April, we worked hard to get the word out about all the different ways people could get involved with camp. Sponsorship, speaking, volunteering, or simply just attending. Early-bird tickets were on sale and the sessions submissions were trickling in.

Texas Camp organizers attended DrupalCon Nashville and spread the good word of Texas Camp to anyone who would spare a few minutes. Those who promised to submit sessions were gifted a Texas Camp sticker, along with lavish promises of fame and glory.

Because we want Texas Camp to be known as an inclusive camp, we reached out to different groups, including the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group, to help get the word out to a broader, and more diverse, audience. I’d like to think our efforts here helped us pick up more diverse speakers than we might have gotten through our usual channels.

At the end of April, the craziness began. Although I am a seasoned session selection overseer, this was my first time actively participating in the selection as a team. It’s not an easy task, not only considering the length of time it takes to read sessions!

We had a few mandates: no repeat speakers, diverse topics, variety in experience levels, and oh yeah, the selection was done fully blind to the presenter. All personally identifiable information (pronouns, speaker names, company names, etc) was all painstakingly struck from the submission pile.

At the end of the two-week selection process, the team gathered and made the final selection. Some speakers with multiple sessions had been ranked high enough to make the session cut, so the better of the two, or the session with most topical conflict with other highly ranked sessions, were made into backups.

After session selection, things started moving really fast. We had one week to confirm speakers and another week to make a schedule. Once that newsletter went out announcing the final schedule, the official countdown to Texas Camp had begun.

Week 4: Guess what you’ll need and order everything. This gives you enough time to re-order if anything goes wrong. It’s too early for real attendance numbers, so any amount you order is the best guess.

Week 3: Things will start to arrive. Your office will be filled with an insane number of soda flats and bizarre equipment. We had a silver 4-foot metal trough we had to explain on a few client calls. Speakers will begin canceling. New sponsors will appear out of the woodwork - which is a GREAT thing. Last minute sponsors allowed us to blow the budget on breakfast tacos!

Week 2: You’ve printed everything you can think to print and pray the sizes match and the colors turn out right. The final “Texas Camp is next week!” notice has gone out to attendees. Speakers are thoroughly annoyed at the number of reminders to RSVP we’ve sent.

Week 1: The blessed “eye of the storm”. The week before the event. It’s too late to do anything meaningful. All you can do is hope you’ve done enough ahead of time and remembered everything. Especially if the week of ends in a 3-day weekend for Memorial Day. An unexplained spike in registrations. It looks like we’ll hit 150!

The week of: It’s time for final inventory audits, calling and confirming with all the venues and updating catering counts with vendors. Always add more vegan meals than you have data for! Rally the organizing team and caravan the soda flats and registration supplies to the venue.

Make eye contact and remind each other that you can do it and that there will be coffee in the morning. Charge the iPads. Remember to print the special diet food tents for the morning.  

During camp: Have a stupid amount of fun. See people you haven’t seen in a year. Celebrate the CMS that drew us all together. So many people, at Texas Camp we nearly hit 200! Eat an inordinate amount of food. Watch some amazing talks. Sing karaoke.

After camp: Go home. Swear to never do it again. Take a vacation. Get a sunburn. Reconsider.

The week after camp: Begin researching venues for the next year.  

Apr 18 2018
Apr 18

For its second year, Team Austin is helping organize Texas Camp, the state’s largest annual Drupal gathering.

Texas Camp is three glorious days of Drupal, non-Drupal, and some of the finest folks around. We’re growing this camp to be as fun as it is educational, so both the left and right side brains get some stimulation. 

Day 1 - Thursday, May 31st

We are offering three trainings by some world-class instructors for the incredibly low price of $25 for the day. These trainings will sell out, and you don’t have to attend camp to go.

We’ll also have a day of sprints on different Drupal initiatives. Come early and contribute!

Day 2 - Friday, June 1st

We’ll kick off Friday with a Keynote by Nikki Stevens of Kanopi Studios. Nikki is former lead of Drupal’s Diversity and Inclusion working group and also the 2016 winner of the Aaron Winborn award. She’s studying for her PhD in data and software engineering ethics, making her uniquely qualified to give her talk on Breaking the Binary: The Politics of Code and Inclusivity in Technology.

Day 3 - Saturday, June 2nd

Our very own Michael Schmid of Amazee Labs will do the honors of keynoting Saturday. As the CTO of Amazee Group, the CTO of amazee.io, the CEO of Amazee Labs Austin, and a contributor for Drupal Europe, he’s got his hands full of all things Drupal. Michael will share his take on the Drupal Roadmap and big picture plans for Drupal’s future.

What’s missing? You!

We have an amazing event planned, but something is glaringly missing. You! You too can be part of this great event by attending, sponsoring, or submitting a talk.

Our call for 60 minute sessions is open until Thursday at midnight. Yep, just one day away. So get crackin’!

Plus, bonus, stars, and rainbows, speakers get an exclusive invite to the speaker dinner and a ticket to the event. And that sounds like true love to me.

Not sure what to talk about? Ping us @drupaltexascamp with your ideas.

We hope to see you there!

Nov 03 2016
Nov 03

The Amazee Labs Austin team is proud to announce the launch of our Drupal 8 flagship site. While not our first Drupal 8 site, it is our biggest (yet), and the one where we learned the most. It’s been a wonderful eight months and we are so pleased to share this site with you.

Science Driven Solutions

The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M Corpus Christi is dedicated to advancing the long-term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico.

Due to outdated site architecture, the old website was structured so that the content for Harte’s seven Research Departments was siloed, making it look like the departments operated in isolation. In reality, the opposite is true.

Unique to HRI is the Harte Research Model, which actively encourages open collaboration among departments to holistically solve problems. Science Driven Solutions. It was our mandate to bring this amazing effort to light and to help share the Harte story.

Image collage of Harte Research Institute

Our Challenges

  1. Modernize and simplify the site so that staff, students, and visitors can easily find content
  2. Increase prospective student applications and affiliate (sponsor) interest by beautifully showcasing Harte’s work and activities
  3. Simplify the editor experience from an outdated and complicated Joomla interface

Before/after animation

Specifications

  • Drupal 8
  • Configuration Management
  • Composer
  • IA & Wireframing
  • Responsive Design
  • Twig
  • Search API, Solr, and Facets
  • Page Manager
  • Taxonomy
  • Paragraphs
  • DropGuard
  • Hosting by amazee.io

Project Team

  • Stephanie El-Hajj, Project Manager, Amazee Labs
  • Kathryn McClintock, Lead Developer, Amazee Labs
  • Andrew McClintock, Senior Designer, Amazee Labs
  • Brandon Williams, Developer, Amazee Labs
  • Maria Comas, Developer, Amazee Labs
  • Tyler Ward, DevOps Engineer, amazee.io

Our wonderful client team: Gail Sutton, Kristen Dwyer, Nikki Buskey, and Emily McCauley

But Wait, There's More

I know you’re interested in what’s under the hood on this fantastic site, and you’re in luck. In the coming weeks we are excited to be sharing with you exactly how we made this site a reality. We'll take a closer look at how we setup Search using SOLR in Drupal 8, tackled content modeling, and then polished the heck out of it.

To make sure you don’t miss a single post, follow @amazeelabs_atx on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.

Oct 27 2016
Oct 27

The Austin team made quite the splash at BADcamp this year. While it was my fourth BADcamp, for the rest of my team, it was their first time attending. Bonus: we were all speaking!

While grateful to the organizers for the opportunity, it put our little team in quite a state. Have you tried planning a sprint while 80% of your team is working on (or preoccupied thinking about) their slides? Fortunately, because of our Scrum structure, we were still able to adapt and deliver new work to happy clients. More on that below!

If you weren’t able to make it to sunny Berkeley this last weekend and think you missed out on all the great Drupal 8 sessions, you’re in luck. Thanks to the efforts of one stellar community member, 62 sessions were recorded and are now available online. Thanks Kevin!

For your viewing pleasure, the Amazee session video round-up:

Brandon kicked off Saturday sessions by tackling the complexities of the issue queue with The Little Issue That Could: Debugging and Contributing Patches on Drupal.org.  

Maria and Kathryn each led their own Drupal 8 talk. Maria - in her first camp session ever! - dug into the importance of knowing the different vocabulary and terms used in Drupal and in documentation for finding the right module or patch for your problems in Entities in Drupal 8: A Visual Overview. See if you can spot Matthew!

Kathryn reviewed the wonderful range of options available for developers in The Right Tool for the Job: Content Layout in Drupal 8. From Display Suite to Panels, Twig, and more, if you’re implementing stuff in Drupal 8, there’s so many goodies you owe yourself a listen.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I shared the Amazee story of converting three global offices to a single workflow process and how the Austin team has adopted, and adapted to Scrum at From Specification to Collaboration: One Agency’s Move to Scrum. There was a lot of great follow up and questions afterwards and I wish there was more time to get the BOF going I think we all needed.

One big happy Amazee family

Our remote team members, Johanna and Tyler from amazee.io, also joined us at BADcamp. It was a great impromptu Amazee team reunion. If we’re lucky, they’ll put in talks for next year. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the stuff these guys can do with DevOps. At least that’s what they tell me.

Amazee team picture at TigerlilyFrom left to right: Xavi Ros (honorary Amazee for the night), Kathryn McClintock, Stephanie El-Hajj, Tyler Ward, Maria Comas, Johanna Bergmann, and Brandon Williams

The friendliest bunch

It was a great few days of reuniting with friends and making new ones, something BADcamp always delivers on and is one of the reasons I keep going back.

New BADcamp friendsFrom left to right: Kendall Totten, David Needham, John Nguyen, Stephanie El-Hajj, Chris Shattuck, and David Hunt 

Drupal community rocks! A humble, smart, and fun bunch. #BADCamp @chris_shattuck @KendallTotten pic.twitter.com/G4kXPgNgmQ

— Gilberto Medrano (@craftalia) October 24, 2016

Events like this make me love being part of this vibrant community and why I love spending my free time helping run local Drupal events of my own. Wait, what's that? A not-so-subtle mention that we've officially announced Texas Camp? I think it was. 

See you all next year!

Oct 17 2016
Oct 17

I had a wild aha moment last week while I was away at my first PM conference. I work in web and I'm a project manager. I thought I “got it”. Except, I guess I didn’t.

It wasn’t until I was surrounded in a ballroom of my peers, hearing Brett Harned's Army of Awesome rallying cry, seeing the words blown up on a screen that I realized, Oh my god. I'm not a glorified secretary.

I may not be the one coding, designing, or deploying a product, but what I do matters. It makes a difference. I'm part of my team in a tangible way. And a there are others like me. 

Similar to DrupalCon, the Digital PM Summit is a conference that travels around the US from city to city each year. This year it landed in San Antonio, a hop-skip and two-hour drive from my home in Austin, Texas.  

As a seasoned event manager, I tend to have a pretty agnostic relationship towards attending conferences. Speakers present their topics. Attendees politely paid attention, or didn’t. The draw of a glowing macbook is hard competition against topics which don't directly apply to me and the work I do.

But this time was different. For once, I not only understood the scheduled topics, I wanted to attend them. For once, I had trouble choosing. I was even excited to talk to strangers, not something that comes easy to me, because we already have something in common.

My world was rocked.

Over the course of three days, speakers and attendees shared tools, processes, tips, and horror stories of life in the PM trenches. It was quite cathartic and therapeutic to be surrounded by people who understand and empathize, because they live it, too.

Talking to other digital project managers this weekend was invaluable, and something I didn’t realize I was missing out on. Turns out, I wasn't the only one. While a handful of the attendees were newbies, like me, many others remember their first Digital PM Summit fondly. All these same warm-fuzzies I was feeling was part of the reason they come back.

Here’s a few of my biggest takeaways, many of which were reiterated by different people, in various situations, throughout the course of the event:

1. The struggles and challenges I face as a PM are normal. I'm not on fire, and nobody is dying.

2. Early and honest communication helps solve and prevent problems.

3. Problems aren’t always external. Internal scope creep is real. 

4. Nobody's figured out how to virtually replicate an in-person whiteboard brainstorming session.

5. Project Managers should carve out time for themselves and often don’t. 

6. The importance of empathy, building relationships, and treating people like humans. 

Side note: If you haven't seen Derek's DrupalCon Dublin session on perfectionism or read Brené Brown's work on vulnerability and you work with people, do yourself a favor, and get caught up. 

As you can probably gather, DPM was quite a touchy-feely event, something that's also not the most comfortable thing in the world for me. I think that twinge of discomfort helped me appreciate the honesty and open dialogue even more.

For me, this event was professionally and personally beneficial and I've come home better prepared to work with my team, to engage with my clients, and to better appreciate and respect the work that I do. That we all do. 

If you're a PM, and you haven't heard this at all or lately, you are awesome. Your work matters. And you are needed.

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

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