Chris Greatens, VP of Drupal Engineering at Bounteous: No need for a crystal ball with Drupal
Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.
This time we talked with Chris Greatens, VP of Drupal Engineering at Bounteous, who shared with us his Drupal story. Give the interview a read and find out how inseparable the software and the community are to him, as well as what makes Drupal the ultimate future-proof framework.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?
I have been working at Bounteous and with Drupal since 2009 when I built my first site in Drupal 6. The moment I was exposed to Drupal was a game-changer for me. I realized how powerful and efficient it was to leverage Drupal to build platforms that could empower marketers and content creators, as well as let the technologists focus on the problems that make real impacts.
And, while the technology is amazing, the community is even more so. My personal contributions have been mainly focused on Drupal events, from helping organize and volunteer at camps like MidCamp to helping select sessions and speaking at DrupalCon. Those types of interactions allow me to combine two passions: Drupal and learning (and helping others learn).
As VP of Drupal Engineering at Bounteous, I work with an incredibly talented and dedicated team that gives back to the community by maintaining modules, participating in Core initiatives, organizing events, and creating thought leadership.
2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?
My first time using Drupal was when I built a multisite platform for a healthcare client. I was amazed at how much functionality was built into Drupal and how it accelerated the development process.
With Drupal being open-source, it was great to be able to look at the code and see how well-built it was. It was not long after that project that another project came up that Drupal was a perfect fit for and it seems like I have been saying that ever since.
Asking which convinced me to stay is akin to asking me which is my favorite child. To me, the software and the community are so tied together that it’s hard to pick between them. But, if I were to pick, I would say the community. The Drupal community is so welcoming and I’ve made so many great friends and met so many amazing people.
One of my favorite weeks of the year is DrupalCon. So many people from the Drupal community converging at one place makes for a great week. While the software is great, without the community Drupal doesn’t exist.
3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?
Drupal has had a tremendous impact on me and one that I really didn’t expect. When I started working on my first Drupal site over a dozen years ago, I assumed it was just another technology.
Like many developers, I have learned and used many different technologies throughout my career, but many of those technologies either no longer exist or have faded in popularity. Drupal is different. It was started 20 years ago and is growing stronger every year. This has allowed me to dive deep into Drupal and really learn the ins and outs of it.
However, I think the biggest impact is really on a more personal level. Through the Drupal community, I have gotten to meet some amazing people. One of the ways I enjoy giving back to the Drupal community is by speaking at events.
In 2019, I spoke at DrupalCon Europe in Amsterdam and it was such a positive experience for me. I remember being at one of the social events after my session and having several people come up to introduce themselves by telling me they were at the session. Through the conversations, I learned some technical nuances, but a lot about them and where they were from. It reminded me of the saying, “Come for the software. Stay for the community.”
4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?
When I try to explain Drupal to someone else, it really depends on their level of technical knowledge. When I explain Drupal to a less technical person, I describe it as the center of a company’s digital experience. When built properly, a Drupal platform empowers marketers to get their message to their audience quickly and efficiently and it allows them to reuse the content across digital channels.
When I describe Drupal to a more technical person, I use the term framlication, which a colleague came up with. Drupal is part framework, which allows you to expand and enhance the provided functionality to accommodate a variety of business requirements, and part application, which allows you to take advantage of an array of built-in functionality just by configuring the platform. It, in many ways, is the best of both worlds.
5. How have you seen Drupal evolve over the years? What do you think the future will bring?
There are so many ways that Drupal has evolved since I started using it in 2009. To me, the main way that Drupal has evolved is from a platform that you could use to build a website to a platform that can be the hub of an enterprise’s digital experience.
Some of the key features have come out recently, like easy upgrades to the next major version and ease in exposing content via JSON. Now, a Drupal solution can be built that the organization can depend on to deliver content to all of its digital channels without having to worry that it will need to go through a major upgrade in a few years.
I am not very good at predicting the future, but Drupal gives me the tools to not have to. A Drupal solution can be built so that it can expand and adapt to meet future requirements, so you don’t need to predict the future.
6. What are some of the contributions to open-source code or to the community that you are most proud of?
From a personal perspective, it’s hard to pick out one. While we’re taking a break this year, I really have enjoyed helping the Midcamp team the past couple of years. The organizers are a great group of people that really know how to pull off a great camp. It’s been interesting to learn from them and see what really goes into running a Drupal camp.
From a Bounteous perspective, I have really enjoyed watching the team make contributions to Drupal. The level of participation has grown tremendously over the past few years. One particular project is the TB Mega Menu module. We took over maintenance for the TB Mega Menu module over a year ago. It’s been great to see that project come back to life through the team’s efforts.
7. Is there an initiative or a project in the Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?
There are a couple of initiatives that we’ve been involved with that I am really excited about. One of the initiatives is our apprenticeship program. Last year, we started a partnership with DrupalEasy to provide a scholarship for one person for each session of the Drupal Careers Online program.
This is a great way to provide an opportunity for someone looking to get started on a career with Drupal. We also supplement the course work with teaching the apprentice how we approach Drupal and find projects that let them apply their knowledge. The goal is that at the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice is offered a full time position at Bounteous.
Another initiative I am excited about is A11yTalks (Accessibility Talks). A11yTalks is a monthly meet-up featuring conversations around digital accessibility and inclusion. With deep roots in Drupal, guest presenters cover topics that bridge the gap between developers and accessibility professionals.
Conversations at each event provide a friendly, safe environment where all participants engage in productive dialogue. A conscious effort is put towards including PwD (People with Disabilities), BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, women, and other marginalized groups in tech to the speaker line-up.
8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor.
There are lots of things that excite me beyond Drupal. Sometimes I feel like there’s not enough time in the day to get to all the things I want to try or do. From a technology perspective it’s been exciting to see what’s happening with headless. That’s not really new, but there is a lot of innovation happening in the headless space so there is a lot to learn.
From a personal perspective, I have a lot of hobbies. Recently, I have been learning card magic and teaching what I learn to my daughter. It’s a great way for us to spend time together and to learn together.