training

Acquia U graduates

Do you remember what your first day on the job was like? Maybe it begins with an orientation by an HR administrator; where is the coffee, how do I get on the intranet, where is my nerf gun. For many software companies it goes more like "Here's a link to the wiki, version control creds are in your email, try not to screw anything up." As a self-made scrapper, I can totally respect a DIY orientation. Many consider it the first test, is the person ready to take initiative and figure things out for themselves? My first day at Acquia three and a half years ago was in this vein.

Planning for growth

As an organization gets larger though, the processes and roles become more complex and harder to adapt to. To react to this reality and to continuing hiring and developing stellar talent, we embarked on a new project 6 months ago called Acquia U.

Kay Van Valkenburgh and I took eight aspiring web developers and gave them six weeks of intensive training followed by two 6-week on-the-job training rotations through different departments at Acquia.

Basic training

The training portion of the program is rooted in the Agile development methodology where the participants choose, execute,

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Acquia U week one highlights

The group had a really busy week. Everyone from the Services department was on hands at Acquia - So they got a chance to meet with Dries, Peter Guagenti (VP Services) as well as Bryan house (VP Marketing) and many others.

In addition, as the group was cramming to get their work done, we got iced by the PS team.

With all that extra-curricular activity, they were crammed to get their assignment in. The assignment was simple:

  • Build a Drupal Gardens site as a portfolio of your work.
  • Interview 5 Acquians (selected at random).
  • Publish their interviews / photos on your site.
  • Build a view with list and tabular displays that can filter by department.
  • Make a block which showed a random Acquian.

The results where absolutely impressive. A few of these people (including Andrew - the first one below) were using Drupal for the first time! The group has since moved on, their portfolios have been moved to Acquia hosting.

Here's a few screenshots and links - check it out and get to know some Acquians and how the Ubies did on their first assignments.  

Please show the Ubies some love and comment on their blogs / follow them on twitter.

http://andrew.drupalgardens.com/interviews

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The making of a Ubie - Inside Acquia training

As you may know, Acquia has been growing quite fast. Since I joined the company in the fall of 2008, we have gone from about 25 employees to around 200 today. It has been a fantastic ride for everyone, and we see no signs of slowing. The tough part of growth for us has been keeping up with the demand for talented Drupalists. From what I understand, Acquia isn't unique in this requirement.

To fix this problem, the only option is to train. We do this in several ways:

These are all great for the labor shortage in the Drupal ecosystem as a whole, but doesn't explicitly solve our problem of needing to staff our client advisory, professional services or engineering teams (all hiring btw).

Acquia U

Enter Acquia U. Acquia U's goal is to take people who are recent grads or web developers who are new to Drupal and train them to become members of Acquia's technical teams.

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Lazy Programmers

The best programmers are lazy programmers.  Drupal, more than many other systems holds that maxim to be true.  Why do lazy programmers have an advantage?

Because Drupal is not a traditional software framework.  It is a framework, but it is a community first and a framework second.  There are over ten thousand existing modules to choose from and thousands more blog posts and online resources to copy code from.  Add to that a thriving community on IRC channels, forums and commercial support companies like Acquia and there are many ways to find solutions.  The last thing you should resort to is writing custom code.

Custom code is expensive to maintain, risky to a project and creates a dependency on the people who wrote it.  So while it is necessary to write some code on the vast majority of large Drupal sites, strive to practice configuration before coding. You can accomplish a lot just by picking the right modules and configuring them to suit your needs.

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Getting paid in candy: How Acquia is building the next generation of Drupalists

My employer Acquia is a commercial open source company.  That means that they make money (commercial) off of software they don't own (open source) and there are more than one of us (company).  It should be clear then that Acquia's survival is totally dependent on the success of the software it provides services around, Drupal.  

Drupal has been doing exceptionally well as of late.  In fact, Acquia just relased "the showcase"; it is a website detailing over 1000 high profile Drupal sites.  To name drop a few, The Whitehouse, Amnesty International, NCAA, The Economist, www.jacobsingh.name, and many, many more.  Drupal is charchterized by having a very robust community of thousands of developers, rapid innovation, successful conferenceslocal community organizing and a thriving ecosystem of service providers.  

The main thing threatening Drupal's growth right now is a lack of expert Drupal talent to meet the demand.   We now compete with the very largest proprietary systems and software companies in all industries.  We have the tech, it's proven, but we need enough people to execute.

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How to reach 90% and make it stick: Lessons from Acquia's DrupalCon training