Drupal Web Developer Career Series Part 3: Career Waypoints

This is installment three of our four-part blog post series that encapsulates 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; Drupal Career Trailhead; Embark on a Path to Success. It will be listed with other career resources for reference at the DrupalEasy Academy Career Center.

Waypoints

DrupalEasy Academy resident Drupal talent developer Mike Anello mapped out the absolute must-do exercises, activities and attitudes you need to create a thriving Drupal career no matter where you start from.

Do a Drupal Doublecheck

The first important step, according to Mike, is to make sure you understand what is ahead, and are well equipped for it. Start off by taking inventory of your assets, and make sure your personality and your goals align with what Drupal requires and what it has to offer. The nature of Drupal as an open source framework generally means keeping up with the technology and the community, so committing to stay engaged is going to be something you need consider. Mike cites five traits you need to be successful, regardless of your tech saavy:

  • Self-motivation
  • Discipline
  • Organization
  • Humility
  • Generosity

OK, so it would seem that many of these characteristics would be requirements for almost any vocation. But for Drupal (and any open source project) you need the full complement of these attributes if you aspire to greatness. (And really, shouldn’t we all?) Self-motivation keeps you learning, discipline keeps you focused, and organization keeps you and your projects effective. Humility, since in the Drupal space the ultimate measure of your success is what you do and what you contribute, is pretty vital. You don't want to raise doubt about your motivations, so let other people do the promoting. Generosity…that is you promoting other people’s accomplishments and sharing what you know with others at Camps, on IRC, at meetups and through blog posts.

Get Smart

So, you have the five traits, and you're ready to get started. Time to learn the technology. Depending on your personality and the depth of your IT knowledge, you'll have to decide how you are going to get the education you need to succeed. There are a plethora of resources and training available, so choose one, or combine them to ensure you get what you need in a way you are comfortable with. Training options include:

  • Self-paced
  • Instructor-led workshops
  • Mentored learning
  • Career training

Self-paced options, like books or video subscriptions offered through resources like Build-a-Module and Drupalize Me let you draw specific information on topics as you need it. You can find schedules and offerings of instructor-led workshops on the topics you’re looking for at seveal places, including Blink Reaction, Acquia, and of course, DrupalEasy. Mentored learning is a form of on-the-job training that companies provide to people they have a lot of confidence in; a grow-your-own approach.  To find these opportunities, you have to really put yourself out there, and/or have existing connections. 

Career training is for you if you’d like a formal, comprehensive, instructor guided program.  DrupalEasy's in-person and live-online career programs include a complete curriculum designed so students master stackable skills; get comfortable with co-working activities and community building opportunities; instructor office hours for extra help; and access to a plethora of learning resources

and community support over multiple weeks.

Sustain Your Lifestyle

Drupal by design promotes a variety of events and virtual options to support the project, so it is no surprise that work within the Drual community also goes beyond the traditional work options of yore. You can set your sites on one or more types of work arrangements, including:

  • Contractor/consultant
  • Part-time employee
  • Full-time employee
  • Entrepreneur

It’s hard to say what type of positions the majority of Drupal professionals hold, but we have found that the graduates of our career programs go about 50/50 for independent versus employee-based options. As a contractor or consultant, you of course have a lot of freedom, but, in addition to some pretty strong motivation and self-discipline traits, you also have to be able to market and sell yourself. Full time and part time employment, especially in today’s Drupal hiring market, offers tremendous stability, options for how large of an organization you are comfortable with, and potentially virtual and remote positions. Starting your own Drupal shop is a great goal that is most often decided a bit after your have explored another path. If you have the drive and ambition, it can be quite fulfilling.

Nestle into your Niche

Most of us come to Drupal with some core skills like coding, project management, or design. You should really consider taking the Drupal path that will best leverage your existing interests and skills, and then fully embrace it. Become a designer with terrific theming skills. Dominate Drupal projects with your penchant for program management. Transform your dalliance for data into mad migrating skills. The key is to maximize what you know and what you are good at into a specialty that will help position you as an expert in that area. Drupal niches include:

  • Front-end development
  • Back-end development
  • Data Migration
  • Theming
  • Project Management
  • Training
  • Commerce
  • Performance and Scalability
  • Module development
  • User Experience

Contribute and Capitalize

Mike believes that Drupal Community engagement is as important to your Drupal Career as knowledge and experience. It’s important to understand that how you leverage the community is key to your success. You have to have an honest, pure motive. Meetups, camps and DrupalCons are great opportunties to learn and contribute, not just glad-handing, card-trading chamber of commercesque functions. IRC is an exchange mechanism, it is not a means to just get...you have to give. Mike's four aspects of community that you need to pracrice for Drupal success:

  • Learn
  • Network
  • Share
  • Be (a little) selfish

Without the first three howerver; the fourth is not realistic. As you start out on a Drupal career path, learning and networking will be the prevailing activities, and is made possible by the good souls a bit further down the path. Hop on IRC and go to some meetups to get technical support, meet your peers, and build relationships. Once you get to the point where you can share, (it will happen sooner than you think!) answer some questions, present at a meetup or volunteer at your local/regional camp. With all of these karma points, you can start leveraging all the learning, networking and sharing you’ve done for some personal benefit. The key, again, is to take less than you put in – all in the spirit of community.

Progress to Success

Mike’s final message is the Drupal Career Success equation that he stresses at the opening and close of all of his Drupal Career training programs:

Knowledge + Experience + Community = Success

 

This list is an equiation, because the elemets to success are cumulative, not an either/or situation. You need all three. Your Knowledge, enhanced by your inherent Drupally traits, Experience using your special abilities that you devote to a specialty, and a wholesome approach to being a contributing, beneficiary of the Drupal Community all play a role in your resulting level of success.

Next week: View from the Summit (Perspectives from key exectutives of five companies on three continents that are recruiting, including their takes on what aspiring Drupal professionals need to know.) Go to Drupal Career Online to learn more about DrupalEasy Academy's live, online career training session starting in August.

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