Drupal Web Developer Career Series Part 2: Trailblazer Stories and Advice

Published July 3, 2014

This is the second of four (ok, it was three, but there is so much good information!) weekly blog posts that encapsulate the advice, tips and must-do elements of career building in the Drupal Community from the panel of experts collected for DrupalEasy’s DrupalCon Austin session; DrupalCareer Trailhead; Embark on a Path to Success. It will be listed with other career resources for reference at the DrupalEasy Academy Career Center.

Gerardo Gonzalez with Civic Actions, James Rutherford with Mediacurrent, and Mike Herchel, newly with Lullabot, joined the session as our our trailblazer panel. The idea behind this grouping of Drupal success stories was to provide perspective on different career paths, one of which we thought would most likely be a scenario with which most people just starting out on the Drupal path could associate. Each was invited to share the career fulfillment story from his unique career starting point and provide advice for those in the audience who might share similar beginnings,  

Gerardo’s story demonstrated the path new college grads with CS degrees might take if they are drawn into Drupal early on. He came to Drupal well-armed with a master’s degree in computer science, albeit focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning. He was introduced to Drupal about three years ago when he started working at a small media company as an iOS and PHP developer, and wound up building the web presence of that organization from nearly the ground up. He was exposed to the full-stack and complexities of web development, including Drupal. He quickly found a data modeling niche, and developed the Entity Construction Kit (ECK) module.

There is no doubt that Gerardo’s education (and his dedication to becoming an expert in his speciality) condensed his path to success in Drupal. He discovered the web could deliver fulfilment for his future, and once he found Drupal, the die was cut. His cornerstone piece of advice is to get involved and learn as a means to reach specific goals. The driving force to success is skills and abilitity, so find ways to work on real-world projects, work in groups and use other people's code to build your expertise and “know the problem space of the next level.” His greatest advice to the crowd…”The best resume is knowing stuff!!”

The seasoned developer who shifts to Drupal persona was characterized by Mediacurrent Lead Drupal Architect James Rutherford. He has more than eight years of experience in Drupal, but his IT interests started much earlier...running his own dial-up BBS in grade school. It is no surprise that he went on to earn Bachelor's in IT (with in an emphasis on Java and JSP for web applications) and started his first job with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), which at the time used a custom Java-based CMS.

The Drupal trial-by-fire for James started when GPB decided to switch to Drupal 5, which is when he made the transition as well, giving him the experience and the opportunity to later join Mediacurrent. For James, and others who decide to focus their development talents in Drupal, the keys to success are all centered on self-motivation: immerse yourself in the community, speak at public conferences, attend meetups and DrupalCon, stay active on Drupal.org, and always put effort into growing yourself as a professional.

The hobbyist to Drupal professional trailblazer on the panel was aptly filled by Mike Herchel, who was mere weeks into his new position as a back-end developer for Lullabot when DrupalCon kicked off. Mike started out as an IT manager for a small construction firm after earning his associates degree, but that's not where he discovered Drupal. Mike is also an avid road-tripping, tailgating Florida Gator fan. He saw the need for a way to connect the community, discovered Drupal, and launched GaterTailgating.com. He built more sites, including being heavility involved in recent Florida DrupalCamp sites, and eventually his interest grew into his vocation.

Mike’s advice to the hobbyist and others, not surprsingly, is “Just build web sites.” He says find a way, for your hobbies, through freelance, or by figuring out a way to integrate it into your current job to use Drupal and build your experience as you build sites: The way to learn (and build your portfolio) is to do. He also says to participate in the community in any and every way you are comfortable. And if you’re not comfortable, do it anyway and get comfortable. If you want a career in Drupal, put yourself out there. Join (or start) local meetups, go and get involved in regional camps and most importantly – present! By doing these things, he advises, you will find your niche, get experience and cred...all while reaping the added bonus of meeting fun, inspiring people.

Next week: Drupal Career Waypoints (insight from ultimike, our own resident career expert!) Go to Drupal Career Online to learn more about DrupalEasy Academy's live, online career training program.


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