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Jul 31 2019
Jul 31

Approaching 20 years old, the Drupal Community must prioritize recruiting the next generation of Drupal Professionals

Kaleem ClarksonFerris Wheel in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia

Time flies when you are having fun. One of those phrases I remember my parents saying that turned out to be quite true. My first Drupal experience was nearly 10 years ago and within a blink of an eye, we have seen enormous organizations adopt and commit to Drupal such as Turner, the Weather Channel, The Grammys, and Georgia.gov.

Throughout the years, I have been very fortunate to meet a lot of Drupal community members in person but one thing I have noticed lately is that nearly everyone’s usernames can be anywhere between 10–15 years old. What does that mean? As my dad would say, it means we are getting O — L — D, old.

For any thriving community, family business, organization, or your even favorite band for that matter, all of these entities must think about succession planning. What is succession planning?

Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die. -Wikipedia

That’s right, we need to start planning a process for identifying who can take over in leadership roles that continue to push Drupal forward. If we intend to promote Drupal as the solution for large and small enterprises, then we should market ourselves as a viable career option to lure talent to our community.

There are many different way’s to promote our community and develop new leaders, one of which is mentorship. Mentorship helps ease the barrier for entry into our community by providing guidance around how our community operates. The Drupal community does have some great efforts taking place in the form of mentoring such as Drupal Diversity & Inclusion (DDI) initiative, the core mentoring initiative and of course the code and mentoring sprints at DrupalCon and DrupalCamps. These efforts are awesome and should be recognized as part of a larger strategic initiative to recruit the next generation of Drupal professionals.

Companies spend billions of dollars a year in recruiting but as an open-source community, we don’t have billions so

… what else can we do to attract new Drupal career professionals?

This year’s Atlanta Drupal Users’s Group (ADUG) decided to develop the Drupal Career Summit, all in an effort to recruit more professionals into the Drupal community. Participants will explore career opportunities, career development, and how open source solutions are changing the way we buy, build, and use technology.

  • Learn about job opportunities and training.
  • Hear how local leaders progressed through their careers and the change open source creates their clients and business.
  • Connect one-on-one with professionals in the career you want and learn about their progression, opportunities, challenges, and wins.

On Saturday, September 14 from 1pm -4:30pm. Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta-Buckhead 3342 Peachtree Rd., NE | Atlanta, GA 30326 | LEARN MORE

Student and job seekers can attend for FREE! The Summit will allow you to meet with potential employers and industry leaders. We’ll begin the summit with a panel of marketers, developers, designers, and managers that have extensive experience in the tech industry, and more specifically, the Drupal community. You’ll get a chance to learn about career opportunities and connect with peers with similar interests.

We’re looking for companies that want to hire and educate. You can get involved with the summit by becoming a sponsor for DrupalCamp Atlanta. Sponsors of the event will have the opportunity to engage with potential candidates through sponsored discussion tables and branded booths. With your sponsorship, you’ll get a booth, a discussion table, and 2 passes! At your booth, you’ll get plenty of foot traffic and a fantastic chance to network with attendees.

If you can’t physically attend our first Career Summit, you can still donate to our fundraising goals. And if you are not in the position to donate invite your employer, friends, and colleagues to participate. Drupal Career Summit.

Dec 20 2018
Dec 20

To Zach Sines and Taylor Wright, It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Kaleem Clarkson2018 DrupalCamp Atlanta Group Picture

Thanks to all of the presenters and participants who attended 2018 DrupalCamp Atlanta (DCATL). We are excited to provide you with a little holiday gift. The Session Videos are now live. View here

I would also like to thank the awesome DCATL team that I had the pleasure to work with:

  • Sarah Golden — Acquia
  • Nikki Smith — Sevaa
  • Zach Sines — Manhattan Associates
  • Taylor Wright

As with any event, this year’s DCATL had some interesting twists and turns that we were able to overcome. The biggest and most noticeable one, of course, was the construction that was happening at the hotel. Two weeks before the event, I met with the hotel event staff to discuss our setup. On my way into the hotel, everything looked as I expected and it was business as usual. When I entered the lobby I noticed they were putting up a temporary wall that blocks off the hotel bar. During our discussion, I was informed there was going to be some construction going on during our camp but was ensured that the event space wouldn’t be impacted.

The DCATL team arrived at the hotel to load in and everyone was mortified when we saw the front of the building. No more than 10 minutes after we arrived, I received a message from one of the trainers asking, “are we still having the conference?” We immediately started thinking about how we can alleviate the situation, so we took a picture of the building and sent an email out to everyone stating that the interior of the building was okay and that we were still going to have an awesome conference.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. 10 days before the camp, we were still short on the financials and were kind of sweating it out (although we had reserve funds to cover the costs) thinking of ways that we could reduce costs without getting rid of too much programming. I received a phone call from an employee at Turner, asking if they could be a Diamond Sponsor and would also like to sponsor the after party. WOW! I couldn’t believe we were getting bailed out in the last minute, phew!

After the camp, I got a chance to have lunch with a mentor of mine and we talked about where are the next generation of Drupalers going to come from and what purpose camps serve today vs ten years ago. So based on our discussion here are my top two goals I would like to propose to the DCATL organizing team.

Another topic we discussed was how Acquia Engage has taken a different approach by showcasing their clients and providing opportunities for Drupal shops to schedule meet and greets talk with their clients. During the opening session at DCATL I asked the audience, “raise your hand if you have invited a client to attend or co-present at DrupalCamp Atlanta.” Out of all the attendees maybe 2 raised their hands.

When looking at some of my Drupal colleague's user profiles so many of us over 10 years. This means we are getting old folks :) But more importantly, where are the next generation of Drupalers going to come from. The state of Georgia has 114 colleges and 326,609 students. I know it takes a lot of energy but we have to figure out a way to use our camp as a pipeline for nurturing the next generation of Drupalist.

For the past 5.5 years, I have had the pleasure to work with Zach Sines and Taylor Wright as board members of the Atlanta Drupal Users Group (ADUG). Both Zach and Taylor were key stakeholders in the restructuring of the organization. Zach took on the writing of the bylaws that states how people are elected, what are the rules for participating, what are the roles and responsibilities of each officer and so on. Taylor has a ton of finance experience so he took on the responsibility of cleaning up our financials and paying all of our bills. These two have been by my side, even after heated discussions and have been what I like to call my nice translators. Sometimes I have the tendency to be too blunt and they were always there to translate my bluntness into that beautiful southern hospitality.

Zach in the Green on the Left. Taylor in the Green on the Right

Earlier this year, both Zach and Taylor informed all of us that 2018 will be their last year serving on the board. Not to get too mushy but I am going to miss them both a lot, I mean a ton. Not just for their expertise but hearing their voices on our monthly calls and some of their hilarious stories. But what is great about Drupal is that you build some lasting relationships and now I consider these two my friends. Thank you for all the work you have put into running these events, and I know this is not goodbye its soo you soon.

With our current vacancies, the Atlanta Drupal User Group (ADUG) is currently looking for new board members to join our team. While the serving on a board can sound intimidating we are really just a bunch of Drupalers who want to give back to the community. All of our meetings are held on a video call. If you are interested or know some who would be a great fit, please feel free to contact us.

Nov 02 2018
Nov 02

You Can’t Put a Price Tag on Visibility, Creditability, and Collegiality

Kaleem Clarkson“pink pig” by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Organizing a DrupalCamp takes a lot of commitment from volunteers, so when someone gets motivated to help organize these events, the financial risks can be quite alarming and sometimes overwhelming. But forget all that mess, you are a Drupal enthusiast and have drummed up the courage to volunteer with the organization of your local DrupalCamp. During your first meeting, you find out that there are no free college or community spaces in the area and the estimated price tag is $25,000. Holy Batman that is a lot of money!

Naturally, you start thinking about how we are going to cover that price tag, so you immediately ask, “how many people usually attend?” Well unless you are one of the big 5, (BADCamp, NYCCamp, Drupal GovCon, MidCamp or FloridaCamp) we average between 100 and 200 people. Then you ask, “how much can we charge?” You are then told that we cannot charge more than $50 because camps are supposed to be affordable for the local community and that has been the culture of most DrupalCamps.

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

Why Don’t We Treat DrupalCamps Like It’s the Enterprise Solution?

Drupal is the Enterprise solution. Drupal has forgotten about the hobbyist and is only concerned about large-scale projects. Drupal developers and companies make more per hour than Wordpress developers. These are all things I have heard from people within the community. So if any of these statements are valid, why are all the camps priced like it is 2002 and we are all sitting around in a circle singing Kumbaya? In 2016 for DrupalCamp Atlanta, we couldn’t make the numbers work, so we decided to raise the price of the camp from $45 to $65 (early bird) and $85 (regular rate). This was a long drawn out and heated debate that took nearly all of our 2 hours allotted for our google hangout. At the end of the day, one of our board members who is also a Diamond sponsor said,

Courtesy of Amaziee.io Labs

If a camp roughly costs $25,000 and you can only charge 150 people $50, how in the world are DrupalCamps produced? The simple answer, sponsors, sponsors, and more sponsors. Most camps solely rely on the sponsors to cover the costs. One camp, in particular, BADCamp has roughly 2,000 attendees and the registration is FREE. That’s right, the camp is completely free and did I forget to mention that it’s in San Francisco? Based on the BADCamp model and due to the fact the diamond sponsorship for DrupalCon Nashville was $50,000, getting 10 companies to sponsor your camp at $2,500 will be no sweat. Oh and don’t forget Drupal is the enterprise solution, right?

With all of your newfound confidence in obtaining sponsorships, you start contacting some of the larger Drupal shops in your area and after a week nothing. You reach out again maybe by phone this time and actually speak to someone but they are not committing because they want some more information as to why they should sponsor the camp such as, what other perks can you throw in for the sponsorship, are we guaranteed presentation slots, and do you provide the participant list. Of course, the worst response is the dreaded no, we cannot sponsor your conference because we have already met our sponsorship budget for the year.

At this point, you feel defeated and confused as to why organizations are not chomping at the bit to fork over $2,500 to be the sponsor. Yep, that’s right, twenty-five hundred, not $25,000 to be the highest level, sponsor. Mind you many Drupal shops charge anywhere between $150 — $250 an hour. So that means donating 10–17 hours of your organizations time to support a Drupal event in your local community. Yes, you understand that there are a lot of DrupalCamps contacting the same companies for sponsorship so you ask yourself, what has changed from years past?

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00 pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

What Do Companies Expect to Gain From DrupalCamp Sponsorships?

At DrupalCon Nashville, I got an awesome opportunity to participate in a session around organizing DrupalCamps. It was really interesting to hear about how other organizers produce their camp and what were some of the biggest pain points.

Group Photo — DrupalCon 2018 Nashville by Susanne Coates

During this session, we were talking about a centralized sponsorship program for all DrupalCamps (that I personally disagree with and will save that discussion for another blog post) and an individual asked the question,

Needless to say, they caught me completely off guard, so I paused then replied,

“DrupalCamp Atlanta has between 150–200 people, most of them from other Drupal shops, so what is it that you are expecting to get out of the sponsorship that would make it worth it to you? Why do you sponsor any DrupalCamps?”

Have Drupal Companies Outgrown the Need to Sponsor DrupalCamps?

On the plane ride back to the ATL it got me thinking, why does an organization sponsor DrupalCamps? What is the return on their investment? I started reminiscing of the very first DrupalCamp that I attended in 2008 and all the rage at that time (and still is), was inbound marketing and how using a content strategy and or conference presentations can establish your company as thought leaders in the field, therefore, clients will find your information useful and approach you when its time to hire for services. Maybe this is why so many camps received a ton of presentation submissions and why it was easy to find sponsors, but that was over 10 years ago now and some of those same companies have now been established as leaders in the field. Could it be, that established companies no longer need the visibility of DrupalCamps?

The Drupal community thrives when Drupal shops become bigger and take on those huge projects because it results in contributions back to the code, therefore, making our project more competitive. But an unintended consequence of these Drupal shops becoming larger is that there is a lot more pressure on them to raise funding thus they need to spend more resources on obtaining clients outside of the Drupal community. Acquia, the company built by the founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, have made it clear that they are pulling back on their local camp sponsorships and have even created their own conference called Acquia Engage that showcases their enterprise clients. Now from a business perspective, I totally understand why they would create this event as it provides a much higher return on their investment but it results in competing with other camps (ahem, this year’s DrupalCamp Atlanta), but more importantly the sponsorship dollars all of us depend on are now being redirected to other initiatives.

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00 pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

Why Should Established Companies Sponsor a DrupalCamp?

The reality of the situation is that sponsoring these DrupalCamps are most likely not going to land your next big client that pays your company a $500,000 contract. So what are true reasons to sponsor a DrupalCamp:

  • Visibility
    When sponsoring these DrupalCamps most of us organizers do a pretty good job of tweeting thanks to the company and if the organization has presenters we usually promote the sessions as well. In addition, most camps print logos on the website, merchandise, and name after parties. Yes, its only a little bit but the internet is forever and the more you are mentioned the better off you are. But you are from a well established Drupal shop so you don’t need any more visibility.
  • Credibility
    Even the companies who are have been established need their staff to be credible. There will always be some amount of turnover and when that happens your clients still want to know if this person is talented. And if your company is new, being associated with Drupal in your local community does provide your company a sense of credibility.
  • Collegiality
    I saved the best for last. Collegiality is highly overlooked when looking at sponsoring camps. Most companies have a referral program for new hires and when the time comes for you to hire, people tend to refer their friends and their professional acquaintances. There is no better place to meet and interact with other Drupalist than a DrupalCamp. What about employee engagement? In a recent focus group I participated in with a Drupal shop, many of the staff wanted more opportunities for professional development. These local camps are affordable and can allow staff to attend multiple events in a year when you have small budgets.

I must end by saying, that there are so many great Drupal companies that I have had the pleasure to work with and if it were not for the Acquia’s of the world Drupal wouldn’t exist. I understand that CEO’s are responsible for their employees and their families so I don’t want to underestimate the pressures that come with making payroll and having a client pipeline. The purpose of this post was to explain how it feels as a volunteer who is doing something for the community and the frustrations that sometimes come with it.

Oct 27 2018
Oct 27

If the community is a top priority then resources for organizing DrupalCamps must also be a top priority.

Kaleem Clarkson“Together We Create graffiti wall decor” by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

Community, community and more community. One of the common themes we hear when it comes to evaluating Drupal against other content management systems (CMS), is that the community is made up of over 100,000 highly skilled and passionate developers who contribute code. And in many of these application evaluations, it’s the community, not the software that leads to Drupal winning the bid. We have also heard Dries Buytaert speak about the importance of the community at various DrupalCons and he is quoted on Drupal.org’s getting involved page:

My First Encounter with the Drupal Community

With this emphasis on community, I tried to think back to how and when I first interacted with the community. Like so many others, my first introduction to Drupal was at a local Meetup. I remember going to this office building in Atlanta and the room was packed with people, plenty of pizza, soda and, of course, laptops. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere where we introduced ourselves and got a chance to know each other a little bit. Then the lights dimmed, the projector turned on and the presentations kicked off, highlighting some new content strategy or a new module that can help layout your content. After that first meetup, I felt energized because until that point, I had never spoken with someone in person about Drupal and it was the first time that I was introduced to Drupal professionals and companies.

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers Meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

DrupalCamps Play An Integral Role in Fostering Community

After attending a few meetups, I joined the email list and I received an email announcing DrupalCamp Atlanta was going to be held at Georgia Tech and the call for proposals was now open for session submissions.

2013 DrupalCamp Atlanta photo by Mediacurrent

I purchased a ticket for a mere $30 and added it to my Google calendar. On the day of the event, I remember walking in the front door and being blown away by the professionalism of the conference as there were sponsor booths, giveaways, and four concurrent sessions throughout the day. But it wasn’t until I was inside the auditorium during the opening session and saw the 200 or so people pile in that made me realize this Drupal community thing I heard about was for real. Over the next couple of years, I decided that I would attend other camps instead of DrupalCon because the camps were more affordable and less intimidating. My first camp outside of Atlanta was Design4Drupal in Boston, DrupalCamp Charlotte, DrupalCamp Florida and BADCamp were all camps I went to before attending a DrupalCon. All of these camps were top notch but what I really loved is that each camp had their own identity and culture. It’s exactly what I think a community should be and for the very first time, I felt that I was a part of the Drupal community.

Why Establish the DrupalCamp Organizers Council?

As provided in my previous examples, one of the advantages of Drupal comes from the great community and DrupalCamps are an important aspect in fostering this community. Running any event can be challenging, but to pull off a respectable DrupalCamp you have consider so many things such as the website, credit card processing, food, accepting and rejecting sessions, finding a keynote speaker, the afterparty, pre-conference trainings, oh and did I mention the website? You get my drift, it's a lot of work. Many of these tasks just roll off my tongue from past experience so ask yourself;

  • Where can I share my knowledge with other people who organize camps?
  • What if there was some way that all of us DrupalCamp organizers could come together and implement services that make organizing camps easier?
  • How could we provide camp organizers with resources to produce great camps?

During the #AskDries session at DrupalCon Nashville (listen for yourself), Midwest DrupalCamp Organizer Avi Schwab asked Dries the following question;

“... giving the limited funding the Drupal Association has, where should we go in trying to support our smaller local community events?” — Avi Schwab

Dries then responded with:

“That’s a great question. I actually think its a great idea what they (WordCamp) do. Because these camps are a lot of work. ...I think having some sort of central service or lack of a better term, that helps local camp organizers, I think is a fantastic idea, because we could do a lot of things, like have a camp website out of the box, ... we could have all sorts of best practices out of the box .” — Dries Buytaert

DrupalCamp Slack Community was the first time that I was provided a link to a spreadsheet that had the camp history dating back to 2006 and people were adding their target camp dates even if they were just in the planning stages. As a camp organizer I felt connected, I felt empowered to make better decisions and most of all I could just ask everyone, hey, how are you doing this?

Are you interested in attending the first online DrupalCamp Organizers meeting, on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST)? RSVP Here.

Earlier this year I volunteered for the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion Initiative (DDI) and was inspired when I heard Tara King on the DrupalEasy podcast, talk about how she just created the ddi-contrib channel on the Drupal slack and started hosting meetings. All jazzed up and motivated by that podcast, I reached out to over 20 different camp organizers from various countries and asked them if they would be interested in being on something like this? And if not, would they feel represented if this council existed?

Here are some quotes from Camp Organizers:

“I think a DrupalCamp Organizers Council is a great idea. I would be interested in being a part of such a working group. Just now I’m restraining myself from pouring ideas forth, so I definitely think I’m interested in being a part.”

“I am interested in seeing something that gathers resources from the vast experiences of current/past organizers and provides support to camps.”

“I definitely would appreciate having such a council and taking part. I’ve now helped organize DrupalCamp four times, and this was the first year we were looped into the slack channels for the organizers.”

“I really like the idea — what do we need to do to get this started?”

What are the Next Steps?

Based on the positive feedback and the spike in interest from other camp organizers I have decided to take the plunge and establish our first meeting of DrupalCamp Organizers on Friday, November 9th at 4:00pm (EST). This will be an online Zoom video call to encourage people to use their cameras so we can actually get to know one another.

The agenda is simple:

  • Introductions from all callers, and one thing they would like to see from the council.
  • Brainstorm the list of items the council should be advocating for.
  • Identify procedures for electing people to the Council: ways to nominate, eligibility criteria, Drupal event organizer experience required etc.
  • Outline of a quick strategic plan.

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

Evolving Web