A dozen years of Drupal

published on December 31, 2018

Last week was my twelfth Drupalversary!

The first half dozen years as a volunteer contributor/student, the second half as a full-time contributor/Acquia employee. Which makes this a special Drupalversary and worth looking back on :)


The d.o highlights of the first six years were my Hierarchical Select and CDN modules. I started those in my first year or so of using Drupal (which coincides with my first year at university). They led to a summer job for Mollom, working with/for Dries remotely — vastly better than counting sandwiches or waiting tables!

It also resulted in me freelancing during the school holidays: the Hierarchical Select module gained many features thanks to agencies not just requesting but also sponsoring them. I couldn’t believe that companies thousands of kilometers away would trust a 21-year old to write code for them!

Then I did my bachelor thesis and master thesis on Drupal + WPO (Web Performance Optimization) + data mining. To my own amazement, my bachelor thesis (while now irrelevant) led to freelancing for the White House and an internship with Facebook.

Biggest lesson learned: opportunities are hiding in unexpected places! (But opportunities are more within reach to those who are privileged. I had the privilege to do university studies, to spend my free time contributing to an open source project, and to propose thesis subjects.)


The second half was made possible by all of the above and sheer luck.

When I was first looking for a job in early 2012, Acquia had a remote hiring freeze. It got lifted a few months later. Because I’d worked remotely with Dries before (at Mollom), I was given the opportunity to work fully remotely from day one. (This would turn out to be very valuable: since then I’ve moved three times!) Angie and Moshe thought I was a capable candidate, I think largely based on the Hierarchical Select module.
Imagine that the remote hiring freeze had not gotten lifted or I’d written a different module? I was lucky in past choices and timing.
So I joined Acquia and started working on Drupal core full-time! I was originally hired to work on the authoring experience, specifically in-place editing.
The team of four I joined in 2012 has quadrupled since then and has always been an amazing group of people — a reflection of the people in the Drupal community at large!

Getting Drupal 8 shipped was hard on everyone in the community, but definitely also on our team. We all did whatever was most important; I probably contributed to more than a dozen subsystems along the way. The Drupal 8 achievement I’m most proud of is probably the intersection of cacheability and the render pipeline: Dynamic Page Cache & BigPipe, both of which have accelerated many billions responses by now. After Drupal 8 shipped, my primary focus has been the API-First Initiative. It’s satisfying to see Drupal 8 do well.

Biggest lessons learned:

  1. code criticism is not personal criticism — not feeling the need to defend every piece of code you’ve written is not only liberating, it also makes you immensely more productive!
  2. always think about future maintainability — having to provide support and backwards compatibility made me truly understand the consequences of mistakes I’ve made.

To many more years with the Drupal community!


Ted Bowman's picture

Thanks for all the work for Drupal and the community! Also thanks for all the detailed blog posts and presentations along the way.

Glad that luck worked out the way it did. It also has been great to work with you for the last couple years. I have learned tons and had a lots of fun.

Mike Herchel's picture
Mike Herchel

Congrats on twelve years! The D8 caching system is simply amazing. Thanks for your work on that as well as everything else. Here’s to twelve more!

Jeff Geerling's picture

Congrats on this milestone! I remember back when you were hired off to Acquia, and support for Hierarchical Select had to be (understandably) put on the back burner for a while. At the time I was heavily relying on that module for the biggest site build I had done in Drupal up to that point!

Your work on performance and cacheability has made it so Drupal 8 doesn’t explode on modern servers (I can’t imagine running it with no caching whatsoever—Drupal 7 was just barely able to do so on moderate traffic sites!), so thank you for pushing forward on that front as well!

Joseph Olstad's picture

Nice to hear about your story Wim, maybe I’ll share mine some day however the story is still being written.

Lolandese's picture

A big thanks for all your amazing contributions over the years for the benefit of all.

You are surely an inspiration for me and many others.

marcoscano's picture


And thanks for all you do in the Drupal community, it’s a great source of inspiration and learning for us all.

Here’s to another dozen years!

Blaine Lang's picture
Blaine Lang

Hard work, diligence, skills, positive attitude, willingness to learn, take positive criticism are all demonstrated by your past 12 years and your contributions. We are lucky that you found Drupal and it’s been rewarding for you. Thanks Wim for your significant contributions.

Paul Johnson's picture

A fascinating insight into your career path and how right from the start your self motivation has contributed to future success.

I hope that similar bright individuals stumble across this post and are inspired to follow in your footsteps. Thank you for taking the time to record your self reflection.

Wim Leers's picture
Wim Leers

I saw that you shared a link to this blog post on LinkedIn, including some very interesting commentary:

Are you studying at University? This short reflective piece https://wimleers.com/blog/12-years-of-drupal by developer Wim Leers has some valuable advice in that whilst in higher education you can sew the seeds of your future success, for Wim this lead to working for The Whitehouse and Facebook.

The privilege of having so much available time between a formal course programme to immerse yourself in experimenting, gaining experience even if it turns out to be a failure or not for you (because all you lose is time that you have plenty of!) is a rare opportunity many fail to realise.

Whilst my university days are long behind me, the experience I gained beyond the lecture theatre and theory, the time I spent expanding my education through self motivation to freelance, work for free and explore I would say were more valuable long term than a degree alone. They shaped the person I am today and the career I have had.

I especially recognize that second paragraph, so I’ve emphasized that :)