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DrupalCamp Austin and the Business of Drupal
I've been working with custom PHP MySQL apps for quite a few years. Early on I was building grant systems for nonprofit and State Arts Agencies in the United States. About 4 years ago, I fell into Drupal quite by accident at a little think tank that my then employer, The Western States Arts Federation, had organized in Vancouver. Several of the participants were employees of Bryght. I began to drink the cool aid. While at WESTAF I was responsible for the build of a couple of Drupal sites and found myself more and more drawn to the modular LEGO-like way you could snap pieces together to create something new. It was just about at that point that I starting going to Drupal meetups and transitioned to a Web Producer position with a Drupal shop. This was the beginning of my seeing Drupal as my bread and butter.
Fast Forward to November 2010. I've been to Drupalcons in Barcelona, Boston, Washington, Paris, Copenhagen, and San Francisco. I was involved in helping set up the original Drupalcamps in Colorado when you could count the participants on two hands and that has grown to several hundred. Austin was the first camp I attended outside of Colorado and I was impressed. Six out of the Seven Vintage Digital Co-op members attended.
I approach each of the meetups, cons, and camps as a place to potentially grow my understanding of Drupal as a profitable platform. They give me a chance to meet with leaders in our community, with other Drupal Professionals, and interact with different shops of different sizes. The sessions often validate and sometimes surprise me. In Austin, I attended nine sessions including Jeff Robbins' keynote. I wrote about each of the sessions on my personal blog. They are really just notes with video from the event - but if you have interest you can see them on dogstar.org tagged with drupalcamp austin. I was happily met with a few new community modules, mostly surrounding SEO, that I hadn't heard of before. I enjoyed the panel on Managing A Drupal Business. Panels like this allow people to validate what they think they know by hearing similar stories from other businesses.
I am seeing more and more of the office managers, accountants, content creators, marketers, and account managers at these events. This should be encouraged and more business track sessions ought to be solicited. As Drupal continues to mature and ease itself into the Enterprise we need to grow with it widening the pool of talents beyond project managers, developers, and themers. We need to thinking in strategic ways and leverage those who have traditionally not been within our community. All of what I'm seeing is encouraging.
It is easy to discount the social time at the camps and conferences. However, meeting people in a looser way at places like Austin's Dog and Duck Pub is also very important. These are the times that professional contacts are made, deals are often brokered, and jobs are offered. Conversations can be had that help you avoid technical and project oriented pitfalls that other developers have found themselves subject to. You might find out about an RFP that a friendly competitor isn't going to bid on because they are out of bandwidth.
Austin was an inexpensive way to feed the need for professional development and to continue to forge and support relationships. I, personally, am looking forward to more camps.