A lot of people have been looking to hire talented Drupal developers but can't seem to find any. I know because every single day, I get e-mails from people asking me if I know any good Drupal developers looking for a job. Alas, I don't, so please stop e-mailing me.

The problem is that the demand for Drupal talent exceeds the supply. As such, most of the Drupal developers I know are maxed out.

So for months, I've been advising people to hire developers with a formal education in computer science and to train them to become Drupal developers. Hire good Java or PHP developers, and let companies like Lullabot get them up to speed with Drupal. It strikes me as the winning strategy.

But still, it begs the question: how can we grow the pool of Drupal talent and help Drupal companies scale? But also, how can we raise the bar for Drupal professional services firms?

These are important questions to ask so let's collect some ideas and prioritize them by importance, viability and ease of execution.

Comments

Jeff Eaton (not verified):

I think you're on the right track with the 'hire good developers and train them in Drupal' suggestion. Folks can come up to speed on the Drupal APIs and conventions given some trainig and some time.

Identifying more places in the Drupal 'code-o-sphere' where new developers can practice their skills is important, too. I got my start hacking around with (bad!) contrib modules and polished my skills. It's one of the reasons that keeping the quality of contrib code up is a double-edged sword: users who need modules need reliable code, but new Drupal devs are also using it as a place to learn and experiment.

Ron Johnson (not verified):

It does not encourage me a great deal to finally understand that Drupal is a great 'engine' but the people who can build you the carriages are in extremely short supply :).

Why is this I wonder? Is there more money developing in .NET or some other commercially availably system than keeps developers from venturing into cutting edge module creation? Recently at the Yahoo conference I heard the scary warning that the modules all the 'Drupalites' are developing are vast and if the core is not updated and incorporates the majority of these modules, soon they will outnumber the core and therefore stifle future core releases.

My assumption is that Drupal is a great concept - but has no foundation in which to survive in the business world. I know we all despise the software behemoths and their exploitation of users etc etc. But one thing they do right is have a support system in place for new products (developer training, certification, etc) - if they didn't they would be where Drupal is right now. Let's not waste this brilliant product that exists for us to create an exciting new Web future - someone organize the troops and get training started en masse, get certification (so people like me can find a developer that suits my needs easily) and create a global open source product infrastructure that enables us to create a new web future for the world.

Anonymous (not verified):

Maybe this is why:

I visited a Drupal developer meeting last year. I raised the topic of structuring developer educations and to have certification levels.
I was laughed at. No hard feelings what so ever, but I think the developer community itself rejects 'commercial' thinking.

Regards,

Kees

Joachim (not verified):

That's probably because certification levels are never worth the paper they're printed on. I've seen far too many people supposedly certified to do foobar and they haven't a clue; they just ticked some boxes and learned to repeat a few things parrot fashion.

Anonymous (not verified):

How much money does a Drupal developer earn?

Anonymous (not verified):

I am currently working as a Drupal developer having very little prior knowledge of Drupal before taking the job. I knew what Drupal was and had started learning before I scored this summer job (the Pro Drupal Development book rocks!) In fact I had not even ever had formal training or let alone work experience in PHP or MySQL. I believe the main reason I was hired is that I am a computer science major and during the interview was able to show that I am able to learn new things quickly. I also had the advantage of being the only person within 50 miles that had heard of Drupal. ;)

For the first two weeks of work, I just hung out in the #drupal-support IRC channel and would attempt to answer people's questions. In attempting to search for an answer and watching some of the Drupal seniors answer the questions, I learned a ton. Anyone looking to pick up some Drupal knowledge fast, just hang out in #drupal-support for a while and watch how problems are solved.

BryanSD (not verified):

Early this year, Bert Boerland, talked about the need for a site focused on Drupal services.

Speaking of the market, there will be a drupalcodersexchange.com site where demand and supply of Drupal knowledge will be traded. Too many people –including me- have had this idea for years but there is still not such a site while the demand for such a service is enormous. So yes, there will be a marketplace for Drupalcoders in 2007

Fearing cyber-squatters would take domain name Boerland suggested or similar domains, I went ahead and registered:

  • drupalcodersexchange.com
  • drupalcoderexchange.com
  • drupalexchange.com

As I said in my comment to Boerland as well as at CMS Report, I registered the domains for the Drupal Community and want nothing in return. If the Drupal Association would like to have any of the above domains transferred to them...feel free to contact me and I'll make it so.

My preference of the three domains would be DrupalExchange.com. Whether these domains or another is used, I think there is need to have a Drupal Association endorsed site intended for Drupal developers, theme developers, hosting companies, and Drupal merchandisers to sell their development talents, services, or products. Perhaps a small fee could be charged to support hosting, management, and support to the Drupal Association.

At one time I thought something like using drupal.com for something like a "Drupal Marketplace" would be good. However using drupal.com solely for commercial purposes really, in my opinion, obscures the real power behind Drupal...it's open source community. Nothing turns open source users away from a community more than a site peppered with commercial advertisement.

xamox (not verified):

Dries,

I have to agree with you on this. I almost considered setting up a site that was almost like LinkedIn for Drupal developers. Consultants and companies could be rated, display projects they have worked on, modules, patches they have committed, etc. They could also maybe list links to patch reviews, etc.

Now I know the Computer Science degree is a good route to possibly take, but I think that may shun some of the other stunning developers out there that may not have a degree. I personally am very close to obtaining my degree in software engineering and have worked with numerous people whom have graduated with a degree or are close, and I have met a lot of non-college based people who build websites who don't have a degree that seem to know 10x what people with degrees know.

I also kind of half joked about the idea of the Drupal Dojo having a belt system, just like a martial art would. Where as the further along you move along the Drupal learning curve the higher belt ranking status you obtain. Some people actually thought it was a good idea, some said it would brew competition and Drupal tries to remain organic. Another option maybe to create a Drupal certification, this might actually fit very well with the Drupal association and core 6 rolling out. Just something to think about.

-xamox

Itkovian (not verified):

I don't think that having a degree in CS should be a requirement. From my own experience, I know that some who don't have a degree are good coders, and have an excellent grasp of what it's all about, while others who do have a degree (with honours) fail to grasp some essential things. I think that CS studies are not inherently about coding, but more about giving people a formal education, and try to activate their brain. For some it works, for other it doesn't. I have a CS degree, and I still learn things every day, I would have expected to have been taught during my studies.

I think that a developer should be accepted based on what they wrote. This is why open source is good for developers. So perhaps one should not rank the developer, but his code. People can then verify for themselves - independently - that the developer is good - or not.

Dries:

Whether someone needs a CS degree or not is somewhat off-topic. It is not really what this post is about, or what I'd would like to learn from it.

But yes, I agree, people don't necessarily need a CS degree.

Xamox (not verified):

Xamox,

I love the belt idea. I don't think it has to be competitive. The idea of belts might help to structure learning materials that are targeted at developers at specific level.

I'm a web designer that uses Drupal all the time. I'm not a programmer. If there was a beginner level section of the Dojo I would definitely be involved and work may way up the ranks and slowly learn to program. If there was a way to learn programming and Drupal at the same time this would help the community.

A lot of materials are targeted at people that are already good programmers, but just don't know Drupal. It would be great to have some resources that walked newbies through actual code and explained some php basics along the way.

Just a suggestion. Thanks.

- Sean Hodge

Wim Leers (not verified):

I started by installing and configuring modules. After a week or so of messing around, I already submitted my first (simple) core patch. I was able to do that because of the good documentation, by looking at the database, by using devel.module's query logger and by hanging out in #drupal-support and trying to help people.

I don't claim to be nowhere near as good as eaton, kbahey, pwolanin, webchick, and so on, not even as good as chx, of whom we all know that he can't code (j/k chx ;) :P). But I can build (almost) anything I want. Probably there are often more efficient ways or more advanced than the approach I will have taken. But that's how you learn to write better code: by refactoring it.

I have the feeling though that advanced (programmatical) Views, CCK field types and OG are "the highest level" in Drupal. And while these things are definitely doable, they require a fairly large amount of studying the module's code. Before you grok them, you cannot even start developing against their API's.

I must also say that hanging out in Drupal core's issue queue just before the code freeze is beneficial. You'll see how much a good design is valued and that nitpicking on every detail is A Good Thing. If the idea is good, but either of these is not, it won't go in.

yaph (not verified):

I think a site such as proposed by BryanSD would make sense and I agree that drupalexchange.com is a good name for it. I don't think that certification would be useful except for those who "sell" certification. I have never been asked whether I have some kind of certificate in job interviews I I don't know of anyone who was asked for it.

There should be a strong focus on the portfolio of those who offer development services. The company I work for found me on the Internet because of projects I worked on. They didn't even ask me whether I studied or not, and I did not study computer science but communication and linguistics so expecting a cs degree doesn't make much sense to me.

Most of the developers I know who studied cs told me they really started learning programming as they started working as a programmer so a degree in whatever subject does not necessarily imply any kind of qualification.

What I definitely reject is some form of job auction. There are so much crappy sites where developers can bid on jobs. This not only negatively affects what developers can earn for their work but also may negatively impact the software project as a whole because bad payment for development often results in bad software and one of the huge benefits of Drupal is that not only the core is a great piece of software but also many of the contributed modules are very very good.

Roger Lopez (not verified):

Education is very important. No, you don't need a CS degree to be a Drupal developer, but it certainly helps. The barrier to entry for PHP is very low, but the depths of what can be accomplished are enormous. I have noticed, not just in the Drupal community, but with PHP developers as a whole, that there is a wide disparity between those that code with PHP versus those who truly understand the concepts and principles behind the code. I am completely self-taught in PHP, but the concepts I learned in school are indispensable, especially when it comes to Drupal's hook mechanism and performance issues.

So I suggest when looking to hire someone take this into consideration. There are definitely capable developers out there who don't have a formal education. Likewise, there are degreed people out there who have no idea what they are doing. If you come across a competent candidate with a CS related degree, they will most likely pick up Drupal much quicker and come to a much fuller understanding of the platform.

yaph (not verified):

I would never disagree that a good education is a good foundation to work as whatever. And I do not doubt the theoretical knowledge in the field of CS helps to understands things such as design patterns, algorithms, etc.

What I wanted to point out though is that a focus on the work done by someone is a much better criterion to assess his or her skills than a degree in whatever science. Of course people offering services should have the possibility to say something about their educational background.

Benjamin Melançon (not verified):

Drupal has an economy around it now that will allow people who ordinarily might not have a chance at well-paid professional work to develop the skills and earn a good living without jumping through the artificial hoops of university degrees or education.

I would be very interested in supporting, well, Drupal (knowledge) outreach to people who probably won't be able to go to college.

As for a site for the exchange of Drupal services, I think this is greatly important not even so much to help people find Drupal talent as to monetize demands for certain improvements (in-flow registration, anyone?). I think this would add greatly to the Drupal ecology, enabling more people to get paid to hack together solutions in contrib while they develop better Drupal coding skills, and giving core developers an easy way to moonlight, too.

It looks as if for this sort of site to happen some folks will have to just do it (a while back Agaric registered PowerToDrupal.com, heh), building on Walt Esquival's work and the use of ChipIn, and I'd like to be among a group that intends to run it as a not-for-profit and hand it over to the Drupal Association when the concept is proven.

Jeef (not verified):

I'm somewhat new to PHP and Drupal. I've taken an existing Drupal site and re-themed it. If also had to do a little functionality with the site. I've added some modules and various other little scripts and things. Most of everything I've picked up has come from asking people in #drupal-support, also by Lullabot videos and the Pro Drupal Development book from Apress. I learn a lot faster with video training. Video training for Drupal is very good but I'm getting into the deeper things with Drupal and would like more advanced videos.

I'm kinda stuck to reading through tons of articles, trial and error, and reading books to go any farther. Videos with a visual of things is so much faster for me.

More in depth videos would be cool.

Drupal Dude (not verified):

I have been using Drupal for close to a year. It has been a lot of trial and error... but I've learned a lot.

Videos would have been helpful... so I started a new site http://www.drupaldude.com

The site is dedicated to helping new Drupal developers through videos. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Drupal Dude

KarenS (not verified):

One route to making someone into a Drupal coder is to get them monitoring the issue queues of a few modules that are interesting or important to them. Dig into the code to understand how it works. Try to find solutions for problems or ways that requested features could be added. Patches are nice, but it's also helpful when someone can say that they tracked the source of a problem down to a specific function or process. Even if you don't come up with a solution that is used, you learn more about how Drupal works in the process, and you get to know and be known by other Drupal developers. That's how I got started in Drupal (and I think that's how quite a few other developers got started.)

The corollary is that to find a good Drupal developer, look for someone who is active on the Drupal site. They don't have to have created new modules, but if they have a pattern of making suggestions and improvements that are well received by the developer, or making helpful contributions in the forums, you probably have someone who has the ability to do a lot with Drupal. It's not hard to do this, you can just go to their user profile and click on some of the links in their tracker to see what kinds of contributions they are making to discussions and issues.

It would also be great to have some sort of apprentice system -- I'd gladly take on some apprentices and try to teach them 'The Drupal Way', and they could help provide backup support for some of my modules, or even maybe eventually take over maintenance of them, so it could be a real win-win situation in many ways.

Ken Rickard (not verified):

Corporately, we're following three paths, all of which are productive.

  1. Hire talent and let them learn on the job. We simply get the best people we can.
  2. Interns, interns, interns. A college student with a free summer can get up to speed with Drupal development. Programs like Summer of Code are proof of this. We recruit whenever possible and always reach out to local students who show an interest in Drupal.<,/li>
  3. Work within your industry to promote Drupal. Groups like http://groups.drupal.org/newspapers-on-drupal can draw talent to your project and the Drupal community.

The only barrier I've ever seen to Drupal adoption is from coders (always ones with CS degrees or specific certifications) who disagree with some foundational elements of Drupal for "religous" reasons akin to Mac v. PC v. Linux loyalties. [Example complaint: Drupal isn't OO, so it can't be any good. Then the developer never bothers looking.]

Then there's the infamous attitude: "Open source software is developed by untrained hacker kids in their basements. I'm a professional software developer and my personal project will always be better."

I like the way Rasmus killed that myth in his Sunnyvale talk on PHP security.

Christoph C. Cemper (not verified):

Great post Dries. I agree fully concerning the over-demand, as I have a hard time finding good people here in Austria as well (in fact I still haven't).

@Ken I think you hit the nail - it's religion... I find all those "damn professional" J2EE coders dumped out of the universities here that are not able to setup a webserver - hence need an "infrastructure manager" to prepare their development environment. *lol*

@all others: a Drupal freelancer portal might be a good idea, but I already have a VERY hard time finding good talent on ESTABLISHED freelancer portals with 1000s of coders signed up... PLUS you DO need a good approval/arbitration process in place to avoid "scammy" situations for either party (mail me in private or check my project management blog if you want to hear my experiences with various platforms - don't mean to bash here...)

Best,christoph

Henri Poole (not verified):

Ron Johnson wrote: Is there more money developing in .NET or some other commercially availably system that keeps developers from venturing into cutting edge module creation?

This is a great question and points in an important direction. Maybe it's not just the developers. Maybe we also need to look at the firms that provide services for potential customers and employment/contracting opportunities for Drupal Developers.

  • Are there any big (or small) firms making money with Drupal?
  • In what ways are they doing it and what do they need to grow while maintaining or increasing profitability?
  • How can we attract more firms into our community?

Customers need professional integration and support. When prospective firms go to find a Drupal consultant, they find many great people working part-time, but there just aren't any large firms providing professional services around Drupal - or at least I haven't seen them.

Developers want reliable work - working on things that they enjoy. When developers search to find a place to work with Drupal, they find small firms without much infrastructure for personal or organizational growth. Small firms, small budgets, context switching, and for most people: little enjoyment.

Is anyone courting the large professional services firms and systems integrators to find out what they need from the Drupal developer community?

If not, perhaps the Drupal Association (or some other group) might want to develop a strategy around growth of the business network and not just the code. This could include attracting larger firms into our community, as well as programs to assist our smaller firms with their growth challenges.

Larry Garfield (not verified):

That's one of the biggest changes in the last 2 years, I think. Most of the "big" Drupal shops are less than 2 years old now. (Big in this case being high profile, not 100s of people.) Others, like Palantir, the one I work for, are older but only recently started focusing on Drupal. There are a fair number of people now who do Drupal for their day job. Just not enough, apparently. :-)

Now, most of those "big" companies are in the 5-20 range in terms of number of employees. That's not itself an issue. Lullabot manages to handle Sony and MTV. Palantir deals mostly with museums and universities. I'm sure most of the other Drupal firms have similar big-client success stories.

I'm sure there are programmers who don't want to work for a small firm like that. I'm not one of them, though. :-) A lot of people (and I'd venture to say a disproportionately large number of open source developers) prefer smaller companies. To each his own.

Dries:

If not, perhaps the Drupal Association (or some other group) might want to develop a strategy around growth of the business network and not just the code. This could include attracting larger firms into our community, as well as programs to assist our smaller firms with their growth challenges.

I'd be interested to learn more about how you think the Drupal Association could help. If you provide some concrete suggestions, I'll bring them to the table at the next board meeting.

zoon_unit (not verified):

Dries,

Maybe the question should be asked in reverse: Why are more Drupal developers needed in order to expand the base of Drupal users?

The truth is, Drupal still requires too much coding and module work to be a powerful platform. If powerful, flexible features could be initiated in Drupal without the need for coding, then there could be far more Drupal DEVELOPERS, and the CODERS could focus on programming and module development.

Drupal is headed in the right direction, but there's a lot yet to accomplish. Coders tend to write features that help them code, not to make it easier for non-coders to use the product. But the non-coders are the bottom half of the pyramid who drive demand for the product.

So, to meet demand for coders, why not substitute web developers instead? This requires a new focus on Drupal features.

  1. Theming: this is the key function of web developers and the weakness of Drupal. Focus on building an easy theming system, (yay for changes in Drupal 6) and develop some seriously good themes. Frankly, Joomla wins here. Far too much time is spent theming a Drupal site. Reducing this complexity will increase the productivity of developers tremendously. Dries, with your connections, why not seek out some of the web design heavyweights and challenge them to build Drupal themes? Hook them up with a couple of quality coders to develop a new, easier theming system.Expand the approach of Views and CCK. These modules allow web developers to function as coders without the need for PHP and coding experience, or knowledge of the Drupal API. Expand the power of these modules and you will also reduce the need for modules. Coders should focus on making these modules more user friendly and efficient.
  2. Build an interactive form designer that functions much like Views and CCK.
  3. Choose a "core friendly" WYSIWYG editor and make sure it's a seamless, easy install. (It doesn't have to be IN core, but it should be as easy to install as enabling the module.)
  4. Bring out 4-5 quality install profiles to jump start developers new to Drupal. Many people abandon Drupal during the "intro-frustration" phase. I've seen 60% of Drupal newbies drop out of the Atlanta Drupal User's Group out of frustration because of the learning curve.

In other words, you can try to find more coders and developers, or you can make the existing ones more productive so they can handle a larger customer base. A strange thing then happens. Productive, powerful software automatically attracts more developers and coders because of community buzz.

Since open source software is written by volunteers, it takes the strong focus and influence of the "benevolent dictator" to steer his troops in the right direction.

Dries:

zoom_unit: I think you nailed it. A coding exchange is useful, but I don't think it will drive enough new talent to the project. It doesn't make for a sustainable solution in the long term either. As you wrote, it's Drupal itself that needs to attract new talent. The way to do this, is to make the project more accessible to certain classes of people (designers, people that are technically less adept, etc).

I've been encouraging the Drupal community to work on the items on your list (and more) during the Drupal 6 development cycle. Maybe I need to be more explicit about it and push harder, because we aren't quite there yet. Maybe I didn't do a good job explaining the importance or the advantages for the Drupal community.

Nonetheless, it seem to me that, slowly but certainly, Drupal's collective mind starts to realize the importance of some of these items on your list. Something is brewing, and hopefully that translates to important improvements in the Drupal 7 release. Let's push for it.

[email protected] (not verified):

Another vote for zoon_unit's suggestions.

Numbers 2. and 3. on the list are crucial for me. I want a CMS/CMF to help me manage all types of content - not just regular text pages but also images, file uploads, forms, and also provide ways of manipulating and responding to form submissions. For others I guess audio and video would be vital too.

The less time I spend on configuring TinyMCE and working out how to organise file uploads and link to uploaded content in a multisite Drupal installation then the more time I have for contributing to Drupal.

Benjamin Melançon (not verified):

Both Henri Poole (and others) and zoom_unit (brilliant points) are right.

A central pot for pooling funds for contrib and core improvements (which in my perhaps unusual perspective should be a main thrust of a coding exchange site) could:

  • help people put money where their mouth is to make Drupal better
  • mentoring/apprenticeships could also be built into this model
  • build the ecology of Drupal developers who could be quite confident of steady freelance or contract work (including the above), let alone a full-time job, from a few core patches – that's the kind of information that would be used to vet coders, rather than a corporate-style certification program. Not that this isn't already the case, but potential developers don't know that.

It's an idea whose time has clearly come, from the number of people who've toyed with it. Agaric's web site hasn't worked in IE since 2006, and people want to pay us to do a Drupal training. Drupal is hot. Right now the funding model is biased against core, but by no means is all important work strictly volunteer. We need to help aggregate (financial) support for common needs such as zoom_unit highlights (and have it find developers), and we need to make visible the living that can be made.

OK, the next time I talk about this I promise to have actually done something... so with my current schedule you'll never hear from me again! People who want to work together on this, from a not-for-profit angle, drop Agaric a line.

chx (not verified):

I have no CS degree. I have listened to a few semesters of it, and I have a math teacher degree so I am not far -- but no, a CS degree is not necessary. A university degree is --if it is good-- it's more about how to learn -- it's a universal thing.

About a Drupal job portal -- sure. Look at the services forum where the other day someone posted one of those fabolous "we can code in any language on the earth incl. Drupal, we only have one guy who can properly speak English and we lack any creativity whatsoever". All those boards are festered with [email protected]#$%^&* and I do not think we need to bother with another Drupal specific one.

If anyone thinks that wishing foo or bar would make Drupal more attractive is just blind to the situation -- the Drupal community is already exploding the problem is not making it more attractive.

Colonel Nikolai (not verified):

I'm a Java Developer with over 10 years of experience that stopped writing Java in April and has since fallen in love with Drupal. I still love Java, and there is still a critical mass of awesome innovation in that world, but I started to see a big ossification in the Java community, mostly due to the J2EE debacle. Drupal truly seems like it embodies a lot of the promise of IoC in a dynamic language that Java is just barely getting right today. I'm on my third module and I disagree with Ron Johnson about modules overwhelming the core. I've converted a 4.7 module to a 5.1 (without hardly knowing what I'm doing) and it wasn't that bad. I, for one, don't want a large J2EE-like "unsinkable" Titanic of an application server. That's what the Java people thought was right and it was so wrong. A bigger, wider core doesn't mean a better one. In fact, modules that "overwhelm" the core may be better: look at the Apache web server itself, of which PHP is "just" a module.

Khalid - 2bits (not verified):

I also toyed with the idea of setting up drupaljobs.com or something like that.

Employers/recruiters will be able to post their job openings and job candidates can post their resumes and then apply for jobs that interest them. Of course, this is easy for me, since I wrote the job search module.

Anyway, regarding the shortage of Drupal skilled people, there seems to be a shortage of tech workers in general, not just Drupal. See Web 2.0: technology industry has trouble filling positions in the USA and Canada.

For Drupal, there are other factors that make skilled resources for it scarce. Things like:

  1. It is not only a CMS, but a CMF too, and hence requires significant "domain knowledge", whether in features or the API. Things like nodes, hooks, taxonomy, ...etc. are peculiar to Drupal.
  2. Contrib is vast: no one person knows it all anymore. Selecting the appropriate module for a certain task requires some research into what is available (e.g. aggregation, users as nodes, ...etc)
  3. It straddles several technologies: it is not only PHP and SQL, but also CSS and javascript, not to mention the LAMP stack as well.
  4. It is moving quickly (for many good reasons beyond this comment), which requires those who work with it to keep up with the ever changing API. Such dedication require a lot of free time to be sunk into Drupal (the project and the community, not just the product).

So, as usual, for corporations looking for talent, then have these options:

  • Rely on contractors who can fill the need quickly, and do some in house knowledge transfer. These are in short supply, but do exist.
  • Find someone who is Drupal ready and hire them. This is not easy, but for specialized talent, it never is.
  • Invest into someone with the basic knowledge (LAMP, ...etc), and soft skills who can learn fast, and train them.

Some corporations do not want the cost of the second option, looking at tech talent as a cost rather than an asset, but that is how most corporations think.

It will take time, but it will happen. It is a chicken an egg (people don't want to come to the product until there is money to be made, and since there are no people, the demand is higher than the supply).

Anyways, these are my thoughts, hope there are some good points there.

mixel (not verified):

I think we should take Drupal education and research serious. To me it looks also a university task. Two years ago we started a research project on using Drupal. In the last year I have been transforming a programming course at the business informatics lab at the “vrij universiteit brussel”. I’m planning to optimize the course for web development and use Drupal as the framework. For the next 5 years I plan to work on both education and research using Drupal.

jtj (not verified):

I think the lack of developers may come from the steep learning curve (as has already been said, custom themes are too hard). I was hired at my day job to build a Drupal site (and maintain already built Drupal sites) in October of 2006. I had barely heard of Drupal. It's been quite the learning process (the Drupal Handbook sucks, the Pro Development book is wonderful).

On the other hand, I've recently started building my side projects with Drupal (in March 2007) and transferring some static sites that I've maintained for years. The reaction from clients is unanimous. Non-techies love being able to update their own sites and I love being able to add new features in minutes.

The problem: I'm in California and I've already got an email from a guy in Boston who offered to pay me to build his company's Drupal site. I declined as the site is huge and, well, I already have a job.

Elliott (not verified):

A simple, quick reference solution to plug into a more well thought out network like Drupal Association might be an online test that a Drupal developer could take, and in return get a chicklet they could put on their website, kind along the lines of the Drupal Learning Curve Model.

Developers could put this chicklet or badge on their website, and someone looking to hire them could click it and verify that they can accomplish certain tasks, and determine a pay rate agreement based on that criteria. Meh?

Roshan Shah (not verified):

Dries,

I do see that there is immediate need to bridge the gap(if at all that can be bridged) which is just getting wider.

  1. I think a consortium of top companies can work on a strategy to incubate in BIRC (Brazil, India, Russia, China) and tap on the manpower there immediately. Maybe some of the senior people will have to move there for 6 months to ramp up.
  2. Drupal Association should push for getting Drupal in Universities.
  3. Drupal Magazine would be a good one for entry level professionals - We lack structured documentation big time (it has improved but the code contribs are too ahead of the documentation).
  4. Give Drupal Developers an engine to announce themselves on http://www.drupalguru.com. We just did some work there but would be happy to enhance the site. It was anyway intended to be given free to the community.
  5. Companies with maturity need to develop processes and checklists so that less skilled workers can do bulk of the work and only lead developers and architects should run the new business.

We are reaching out PRE-GRADUATE in 3rd and 4th Year and bringing them in - part time to work on installer profiles, third party integration, etc. We are also building Drupal Upgrade checklists.

There is a clear shortage of overall IT and non-IT manpower. It seems that the whole world has just hit full gas on economy and suddenly the global workforce demand has skyrocketed.

Key here is how to get a non-techie work with techie and make him passionate about Drupal. Blogs, Case Studies, Newspapers, Site Owners who run Drupal Sites should talk about Drupal in newspaper press releases, media interviews, etc.

Roshan

Anonymous (not verified):

I agree with the point of view that the learning curve for drupal is steep but that to an extent is because there is a lack of specific courses for the package. I previously had 8 years experience with a large company in the UK developing a framework in ASP and VB and found the initial transistion to Drupal to be hard.

Now just over a year later I am skilled enough to quickly solve issues within our custom modules and identify the code changes necessary to avoid making changes to either core or contributed modules where ever possible.

I want to get more involved with the core Drupal project and have started to look through faults and provide solutions where possible. However a lot of my requests for additional information etc and posting of patchs have no been responsed too by the people who raised the faults. So maybe there are more people like me out there who have tried to involve themselves but have failed.

After reading this thread I'll start checking out #drupal-support and see what I can do there!!!

slantview (not verified):

We have 18 full time Drupal developers. We have struggled with fast growth and trying to get PHP developers up to speed quickly.

The approach we take now is a mentor approach and group training. We have developed in-house documentation and training materials for teaching the way of Drupal to the newbies and assign them to one of the lead developers. They basically mirror the lead for a period of up to 2 weeks and ask lots of bad and some good questions. During the next weeks after the training we give them smaller projects to work on and do code reviews and there is a slow ramp up period before they are actually ready for prime time.

This approach has been working out quite well and as we have more and more developers here we have more collective knowledge as well. The ramp up period has taken anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to get people really up to speed.

We have had a zero turnover rate for the last 12 months. I believe that giving people training and rewarding for hard work has kept everyone here after they are fully trained. (I'm sure the 42" LCD TV and Wii system doesn't hurt either :D )

The other thing that really helps is to get people involved in the Drupal community asap after they start. We try to push people to take some ownership and involvement in the Drupal community.

If you can't afford to do in house training, I would highly recommend the great people at Lullabot to do training for you. The learning curve is steep, but the payoff for learning before hacking is that you can make quality code in a very short amount of time and become a Drupal rockstar in no time. ;)

Steve

Drofnar (not verified):

I like this discussion a lot, and am in very close agreement with Zoon's points. because that approach doesnt just solve the developer problem, its the road ahead that drupal will eventually make, the question is just how long will it take to get there.

The other area where the discussion led also interests me a great deal. Clearly a lot of us in the community are longing to leverage drupal itself as a platform to build a learning community, specifically a learning community about drupal, very self referential as drupal is the perfect tool for building a "learning 2.0' style community.

By the way I think the best job exchange there could be would be one where people transparently see what drupal people are capable of doing (In my mind all drupallers - even experts - are interested in learning or pushing the envelope - which is a kind of learning itself).

What has been rolling around my mind for many months has been the idea of building a really revolutionary learning/open source community that both solves drupals learning needs and exploits drupals unique value.

Moreover a learning community that is part of the web 2.0 movement - a more social and networked nature, leveraging rss, blogs, tags, and wikis. Moreover a learning community that see's multiplayer/social gaming as a powerful learning mechanism.

has anyone stumbled across PuzzlePirates? http://www.puzzlepirates.com . Im sure you all know of world of warcraft (WOW). WOW is much more graphically sophisticated, but puzzlepirates is much more socially sophisticated in my opinion. simple graphics, but meta and meta meta levels of social activity surround the basic gameplay. Dont be fooled by the name or the game. Its not about the simple games at all its about the social life and politics that revolve around them.

I can envisage a parallel concept being wonderful as a drupal learning community, but also a very powerful tool to solve some of the dilemmas discussed here.

Imagine instead of puzzlepirates (apologies if you haven't tried it - highly recommend as a research exercise if you are interested in future of learning), where people join together and form crews on ships to sail and pillage, and then ally with other crews to form fleets and navys.

replace the simple pirate puzzles with drupal puzzles (bugs or documntation) as the base upon which the game revolves around. Then imagine instead a learning/game community based around people volunteering to join "module crews" and setting sail to pillage bugs together and to capture customers - people who cry for help & support on the forums". imagine people getting rated for their experiences in solving bugs and patching code, writing documentation.

Imagine these module captains helping newbie developers board their module and helping them get started hoping to find that next talent for his crew, and promoting him up the ranks. Imagine crews or fleets made up of crews battling to help solve the most problems or score the highest ratings for their modules user interface or performance or downloads

Its competitive collaboration to enhance drupal, it can be used to regulate and direct energies towards solving drupals needs that without the game elements channeling collective energies, can be avoided becasue they may be less glamourous.

Its pretend competition (for the fun) and real collaboration towards the greater drupal community goals.

It will provide a great space for learners, to learn with support and fun. A great place for module owners to bring in support, a great place for developers to show their skills off, a great place for people to find people to hire. And best of all this might be the best way of actually focusing people on the very needed task of collectively exploring the growing maze that is drupal contrib, collectively and competitively assessing, categorising, documenting and rating the contrib modules.

Thats just the tip of the iceberg. Stepping back a bit I remember someone was thinking of a gaming module some time back. But we wouldn't even have to go as far as creating a "imaginary gaming world" context. The real world drupal context is good enough for me. Just taking things like the drupal dojo a few steps further in terms of building a more social/collaborative/competitive game element around it would be fantastic. Having different dojos and levels of apprenticeship and tasks and ratings for it, allowing dojos to compete and ally for the fun of it and to drive peoples energy towards solving real drupal community problems.

This really is possible, technically its no issue. In terms of outcomes, Im sure drupal would benefit in terms of better support, better learning, better developer/job matching, better module quality (and removing module overlap/redundancy). and finally the drupal community would be doing something really new and cutting edge in terms of demonstrating the power of open source community to collaborate, learn and deliver amazing things while learning and gaming.

Drupal wont just be great software for collaboration and community. The drupal community itself will have a leading edge showpiece of how to make great collaboration and community happen

DaveNotik (not verified):

Hi!

Great, timely post and it's good to know that so many of us are thinking hard about the real challenges facing this community. Thank you for consistently giving this community stellar guidance, Dries.

I think this situation is both a blessing and a curse.

For those of us skilled in Drupal development there is no shortage of work, and that's a good thing. We can bank on Drupal's popularity and a lot of our marketing is done for us because many folks already know they want Drupal. We can build out our firms with each new project, which means we can afford to pay more people, and that's good for this ecosystem.

On the other hand, there are a whole bunch of folks who know they want to utilize Drupal but ultimately don't because they couldn't find anyone to help them. Others simply know they want a community website and no one's available to step in to tell them that Drupal is perhaps the best solution. That's a loss.

Our approach has been right in line with Dries' suggestion. I don't think Dries meant a computer science degree per se, he meant someone who understands how to program, how to build web applications in general. That person can learn a system like Drupal and they'll be happy to, especially knowing that Drupal is increasingly a valuable addition to their resume! It's not a hard sell, and you'll be bringing another bright person into the community to boot.

At Digital202, we have a distributed model. We tell our clients we have a focus on online communities and social networks, and a distributed model that lets us work with great people around the world to get things done.

Just yesterday I was training a new individual -- from a place called 10th of Ramadan, Egypt no less! -- and I was elated to hear that he purchased the Pro Drupal Development eBook and had read it through in a day ("up to the security section", he told me). He dived in and has already learned tons. We have other trusted relationships around the world, including long-time Drupal greats.

To summarize: I do understand that some firms are trying to build local teams, and many clients want you to be local, but don't stop in your backyard to find great talent if you don't need to! And don't just look for Drupal folks -- reach out to good developers and talk to them about Drupal.

Only good things for all of us in this community in 2008 and beyond.

Best,

--D

DaveNotik (not verified):

And with respect to zoon_unit's suggestions above, I agree that making Drupal easier to deploy, easier to theme, easier to set up -- these are all very important.

I do happen to think Drupal does a nice job already, it's on the right path. The theme system in particular is more powerful (and perhaps even more simple) than most people know -- so it's just a matter of bringing people into the fold, helping them understand that.

--D

dew2105 (not verified):

I definitely agree with not limiting yourself to your backyard. From an economic standpoint it's ludicrous to limit your talent pool. Also, from a collaboration standpoint, we really can work effectively on a distributed basis (even though they aren't Drupal, look at 37signals).

I'm interested in seeing how Drupal grows over the next few years. I think the early majority is just catching on.

Roshan Shah (not verified):

Drupal certainly can help you build a big services business. We went from 2 people in March 2006 to 56 today - http://www.flickr.com/photos/bpocanada with most of the development pushed to India.

It is always a challenge to hire and train new people and we realized that it is not productive to train one to two people at a time so we started hiring in 10s.

The demand has still kept growing but it was hard to find technical talent. We ensured that we only selected those with 60% or more in academics with Bachelors or Masters in Computer Science/Engineering.

Other smaller firms in India now have approached us for getting trained in Drupal and we are now coming out with a separate Training division - OpenKick Technologies.

We have Saturday Showdowns where we discuss new modules, have Drupal Quiz competitions between teams and usability challenge.

Our marketing now is lot more automated powered by Integrated Drupal and RoR solution.

So certainly, I believe that with right approach and focus one can certainly build Big Business in Drupal.

Roshan

Jason Archer (not verified):

It is important for the devlopers to step outside their comfort zone and take the step necessary to shows what Drupal can do for small/med sized business - big business will take notice.

VoiceHero (not verified):

I think the challenge lies partly in the structure of the Drupal community - although, Drupal is successfully winning awards for its great capabilities, there is a lack of professional marketing driven efforts to spread the word and gain credibility. Not only would that increase opportunities for developers to make a good living from their skills, it would also mean less coziness in some regards.

Talking to potential partner and freelancers for projects we work on lets us draw the conclusion that the best approach is to train skilled developers becoming familiar with Drupal and at the same time starting to separate the business function - Drupal is great in separating content, design and technology and thus enable users to focus on their respective core competence, I think the Drupal community should apply that very approach to their own structure - marketers market drupal, new business people acquire new business, developers develop, designers design etc.

This would not only professionalize the community, but also let us gain massively on credibility with large corporate clients, some people perhaps don´t like these clients, but they have the cash to pay for all skills involved a appropriate rates and that doesn´t mean you can still dedicate time to pro bono or community projects.

This is, as I can see, what Acquia is doing. It caused quite a lot of discussion and is probably no easy task to avoid conflicts of interest, but you need to start somewhere. Nothing endures but change :-)

Imran Khan (not verified):

Great to know that the world out there is so nice for Drupal Developers. When I started website development work last year - More out of compulsion- I was least interested in CMS. I wanted to do everything that has my own "stamp". But as I landed on a Drupal project three months later, I started to feel the power of Drupal. And during this last 1 year I have become more wise (atleast in site dedvelopment arena)and know what it all takes to be among the niche people.

Though I haven't got experience like you people, wht I feel honoured of is that I learnt everything on my own (ofcourse with pro Drupal and online help) without anyone around me and teaching me anything from scratch.

Lets see where it takes me :-) I still feel some void in between and want to be part of a bigger project. So if anyone of you, feels I can be one of you, plz let me know.

You can get back to me at [email protected]

WOW Gold (not verified):

I just love Drupal.

I first worked with it about 3 years ago and I became a fan after the first day. I can't stop using it since.

It just makes things so much easier.

I think is great to incentivate people to develop Drupal add-ons and stuff because they really are helpful.

Drupal is in my opinion, simply the BEST

peterzoe (not verified):

Hi all,

for the last six month I have been working on a concept and solution design for a platform that tries to connect projects, people and knowledge in an integrated way (using drupal, of course). codename drupaleo. I will be presenting what I have thought about and done at drupalcon in hungary (google drupaleo). The goal is still set to have a beta version of drupaleo run by that date. I could use some developing/content structuring (and probably financing) support in the future, so if you are interested meet me at drupalcon or send me a mail.
I could not understand by reading this post if any platform for drupal talent has already started yet, so please let me know if this is the case.

looking forward to meeting you in szeged, peter.

James Jeffery (not verified):

I'm not sure how Drupal stands in the professional world, but I do know the Drupal developer can make money.

I freelance, most of my sites are in Symfony, but since switching to Drupal I can do more jobs in a shorter amount of time. For small jobs, I can get £300 a day easily. Thats a brilliany wage!

You can also use Drupal for Facebook Application Development, and if you monetize on traffic, there is money from that.

I'm heavily involved in Internet Marketing. I launch article sites, sales pages, online books etc etc. So I'm also making money monetizing on traffic that way. All with the help of Drupal.

If an individual knows HTML, CSS, JavaScript, LAMP at an advanced level, and also knows how to use Symfony, Zend, WordPress and Drupal at an advanced level then they are set for top paid jobs (as long as they can work in the commercial environment).

I hope Drupal grows. I've used Joomla! and dislike it.

seutje (not verified):

Anyone looking to pick up some Drupal knowledge fast, just hang out in #drupal-support for a while and watch how problems are solved.

- QFT

I don't have any degree of higher education, prior to my current job, I hadn't even heard about Drupal (which is kind of embarrassing, being Belgian and all), and my PHP knowledge was almost non-existent. But within a few weeks I managed to set up a taxonomy-based ubercart site with over 5000 products, which is still being used today.

Granted, looking back on it, there are a bunch of things I could have done better, but without the awesome documentation, marvellous people in #drupal-support and the clean coding style, I probably wouldn't of gotten anywhere.

But personally, I think a degree in higher education can possibly make it harder to find a job. I dunno if it's the same everywhere, but over here, an employer has to pay a lot more for someone with a degree in higher education, even if that degree is totally unrelated to the tasks that will be performed. And if an employer has to choose between 2 people who can both do the job, but one requires him to pay a lot more, I don't think it'll take him long to decide... I probably wouldn't of gotten my current job if I had a degree in higher education, but I can only speculate on that...

Pachydermus (not verified):

Drupal needs to get a little flexible to support commercial applications. Legacy applications that at some point got so complex that they can't be upgraded from say 5 to 6 or 6 to 7 are the ones that are going to need the really knowledgeable Drupal developers. Trying to get D.o to help out only gets you laughed at. Drupal.org is so into Drupal as a solution (belly button staring) that the customer solution is forgotten. There's going to be more and more of a need from companies who want specific things done to their legacy version that isn't available off the shelf on d.o. Think about it as Microsoft having to support IE6 because so many companies still have them on their intranets. That's the reality of dealing with corporates.

Kevin (not verified):

What is a Drupal Developer?

Someone who writes mods?

Someone who installs and configures Drupal to match a need?

Someone who themes HTML/CSS with Drupal?

There are a lot of terms and yet no definition.

I think that for Drupal to flourish like it needs to, it should work harder on centralizing community. Making one place to for education and learning along with some Drupal propaganda.

Also, to attract more end users to Drupal there needs to be more case studies done. More 'evidence' that Drupal just isn't for coders, as has its reputation has always been.

There also needs to be more of an effort to provide education that isn't SOOOO technical. Real people using real words. Lullabot stuff is great, but there needs to be a basic level to it on videos that aren't a monetary investment to the end user. Prove its easy to use.

Theming also needs to be revamped OR taught well. With people on the web so fixated on looks, Drupal theming needs to be taught to designers in a way they understand OR the theming 'layer' needs to be reworked to something easier to understand.

Not everyone is a coder and not everyone has that mindset; we shouldn't alienate those don't code.

thetoast (not verified):

Someone who writes mods? Yes.

Someone who installs and configures Drupal to match a need? Yes.

Someone who themes HTML/CSS with Drupal? Yes.

I've been into Drupal for 4 years and from my experience you have to be able to do all that, if you want to be any good.

decibel.places (not verified):

With the adoption of Drupal by some big players (such as the White House) demand has risen to a feverish pitch in 2010 and recruiters report to me that they cannot locate anybody to fill positions in NYC, DC, Atlanta, London etc.

Drupal dev requires more than solid PHP and programming skills. The best Drupal sites are assembled from existing modules with proper configuration and minimal customization. It takes time to become acquainted with the thousands of contrib modules and understand some of the subtle distinctions among similar ones, to learn how to troubleshoot them - and to learn the ones to avoid.

A smart developer may be able to "learn on the job" but that takes time too. Why would an employer hire someone to train them and lose them once they have acquired skills?

I think that employers need to rethink their staffing strategy. Rather than seeking an in-house employee, they are more likely to find offsite contractors who can work on a per-project basis that can serve their needs.

Dan Shumaker (not verified):

The obvious answer is money. Drupal programmers should charge more for their contracting work. Word will get around that they are making $150K per year and, lo and behold within several years there will be a glutton of Drupal programmers. Supply and demand. Works every time.

Sorry if this has been said before. I didn't read through all the posts.

Yonas Yanfa (not verified):

I'm a Drupal developer with four years Drupal experience, as of 2012, and a bachelors of Computer Science from a well-known university in Canada (UW).

Despite this, I've been having a hard time finding part-time Drupal work.

There seems to be too many employers looking to hire top-notch developers for off-shore rates. These employers have completely unrealistic expectations and I'm tired of trying to negotiable my rate when their offer is as low as $10 - $20 USD/hr.