After working at Nascom for a very brief time, I will soon start working at Acquia! I’ll be working on the Spark project as a Senior Software Engineer in the Office of the CTO (OCTO), reporting directly to Dries!
Why I left Nascom
I chose Nascom because I felt it was the best fit for me. I really preferred working for a Belgian company. Nascom seemed to have it all1, but in the end, it was not a good match. I still stand by my choice of Nascom being the best possible choice I could have made, when limiting my choices to Belgian companies. They’re great. But the spark was missing for me.
Having worked at Facebook, I have grown accustomed to a [certain]7 mindset. It’s definitely not that Nascom had a lot of pointless process, it’s that they’re a project company, not a product company. I prefer the challenge of improving “one thing” over working on many projects for which 90% of the problems are alredy solved and the remaining 10% are either glue code or trivial challenges (this is an oversimplification, of course). This of course proves that Drupal core + contrib are doing what they’re supposed to do. We’re eliminating ourselves, as Dries already wrote in 2007:
[…] any business that disintermediates traditional middlemen by taking advantage of the internet has a good chance of being successful. Products or online services that eliminate middlemen can be incredibly successful. It’s a recipe for success.
With that in mind, what can Drupal eliminate?
Of course, the funny part is that by doing so, eventually, we’ll eliminate ourselves … But that’s a good thing, as it would free up a ton of spare time. ;-)
Right now, I want to be challenged, to learn as much as I can.
Until my time at Facebook, I’d mostly been hacking on school projects and on (most of the time: relatively complex) Drupal modules for clients. I never built entire Drupal websites due to likely scope creep which would make this work on the side impossible to combine with school projects’ deadlines. Building entire Drupal websites was the obvious next step, so I expected to like that as much as building Drupal modules. That was a miscalculation.
And there you have it. That’s the reason I decided to leave Nascom — after only one week. I felt extremely bad about leaving them so early — it seemed like I hadn’t given them a proper chance yet. But I’d been working on some of their largest projects in my first week already, so I saw the complexity in those projects. Or rather, the lack of complexity. Which is a proof of their solid craftmanship: after all, less complexity implies less risk, which implies a more stable result, more timely delivered to a more satisfied client. That’s the very nature of project companies: limiting complexity and risk to deliver what their clients expect.
I’m the first to admit that quitting after one week is bordering on insanity. But on the other hand: I was certain of my assessment. Staying longer would benefit neither them nor me: what if I quit in the middle of several projects? That would leave them in a bad state and would make it harder for me to look for a new job. So I tried to limit the damage by quitting quickly.
Why I’m starting at Acquia
My main goal for my next job: a technically challenging job, not necessarily involving Drupal, in an environment that operates according to The Hacker Way (i.e. has the “right” culture, more or less a “start-up culture”). Having talked to hordes of Belgian companies before, I firmly believed I had to look beyond Belgium’s borders to find this …2 Hopefully I’d find something where I’d be able to work remotely, because moving was still not an option.
A few weeks after I had left Nascom, I was contacted by Acquia again. Our previous talks (in February) had come to an end due to the fact that moving to the U.K. or the U.S. are no options for me. I want to stay in Belgium. This time around however, it turned out to not be a problem, because I would be working directly for Dries, in his Office of the CTO team.
Angie “webchick” Byron explained what project “Phoenix” (now “Spark”) was all about. They deemed me a good match for this particular project (“improving the authoring UX of Drupal”) and checked whether I was interested in it.
Of course I was interested! :) Especially because this is one of the key areas in which Drupal has been somewhat lacking, and for which it is often criticized. I’ve done some UX work myself, with my Hierarchical Select module (also see the live demo), which is the project I spent most of my
free time on.
Immediately after having talked to webchick, I postponed talks with all other companies. I even risked losing an excellent offer I’d already received.
I made this bet, because this position at Acquia was perfect. It’s about as close as one can get to a dream job. I’d get paid to continue to do what I used to do in all of my available free time until a while ago: help move Drupal forward3 and thus empowering others4. I’d love nothing more than Drupal to gradually become better and better5. It would be hard work, but work I’m very passionate about. So it was worth the risk.
After some further talks and Acquia reviewing other candidates for a while, I was then offered a position in Acquia’s Office of the CTO! Hurray!
A crucial reason for Acquia to allow me to work remotely is because I worked remotely with Dries in the past: I’ve worked for Mollom, with Dries, in the summers of 2008 and 2009! That went very well and apparently has resulted in sufficient confidence in my capabilities and work ethic to allow me to work remotely.
So, there you have it. I’ll be working for Acquia, a hot U.S. start-up, from Belgium, on Drupal, directly for Dries, with Angie “webchick” Byron, Gábor Hojtsy, Alex “effulgentsia” Bronstein and others (Acquia is still seeking applications to join the Spark team!), on the project I’ve been most passionate about for the past five years: Drupal.
I’m absolutely thrilled!
I will do my very best in helping Drupal to kick more ass!
I’m sure some companies that operate according to this culture exist in Belgium, but they’re even rarer than in the U.S. If there are any, I haven’t seen them yet. On top of that, they would most likely be in the Ghent area (that’s more or less Belgium’s “web tech hub”), which would imply a horrible commute. ↩︎
The Drupalistas among you whom have been around since 2007 and were active in the 2007–2010 know how much of my unpaid, free time I spent on Drupal. At several points in that period, I was one of the most active people in IRC and one of the contrib committers with the highest commit frequency. I still have screenshots somewhere of that. Back in the days of the “old”
d.o, we had a “Most active contributors” block — more than once I had contribution sprees that put me at the top, which gave a strangely satisfying as well as awkward feeling. ↩︎
This reminds me of the fact that TeX’s version number converges to the number pi as it approaches perfection. I doubt this will ever be possible for Drupal since the internet will always continue to evolve, but I’d gladly be proven wrong :) ↩︎