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DrupalCon Diaries: A First Timer’s Experience

Meet Emily Slocombe, Cloud Systems Engineer

Emily Slocombe
In case you’re headed to DrupalCon Prague later this month, or waiting next June for Austin, check out an engineer’s perspective on attending her first DrupalCon.

It is not unusual to walk by Acquia’s Operations and Hosting area in Burlington MA, and see Emily Slocombe, Cloud Systems Engineer, appearing on Max Headroom (our company's roving remote hangout cam). Coming on board in May 2012, Emily in short has the Ops chops of steel, biking stamina to be admired, and pet bunnies to swoon over. In February 2013, she (and the bunnies Miso, Rolo, Truffle, and Captain 'Percy' Perseus) relocated from our Massachusetts office to the Portland, Oregon location.

If you had to explain to your mom what you do now, how would you describe it?
Uhm, that is really not an issue. She's been in tech since the 80s. She enjoys referring to us as Emily 1.0 and Emily 2.0 (I am 2.0). If I am describing my job to let's say, my *hairdresser*, I might say "you know the really big web sites? I make sure that the stuff under them is working well. I make things go."

So, tell me about your first DrupalCon experience.
I spent most of my days in the company support war room, popping out a few times to visit the DevOps track. I did some things in the evening too, with Acquians. After it was all over, I slept for a very long time.

What surprised you?
Not much. It was exactly what I expected. I have been hearing tales of DrupalCon for a while. The bar for surprise was set high.

What DrupalCon sessions did you attend and what did you get out of them/why?
Here is what I remember going to. I went to the first keynote and then:

Put the "Ops" in "Dev": What Developers Need to Know About DevOps
I chose the 'dev in ops' talk mostly because it was Rudy Grigar presenting. Hearing the audience questions was kind of a bummer. So many people seem to be developing far away from the infrastructure they will be running on and their relationships with their ops/devops are *strained*. (Video)

Testing your Drupal Infrastructure
Barry Jaspan's talk was really good, and I'd like to make it required viewing for new Ops members. (Video)

What's New in Drush 6
Drush... quick Drupal! so cool! I had no idea! (Video)

High Performance Drupal with MariaDB (a MySQL branch)
I'd like us to revisit the Galera tests Pim van der Wal (my colleague) did. I've talked to Pim a bit about this. I also learned of some features which made me really jealous of MariaDB (we are Percona)... like killing by user, easily, in the shell. (Video)

Logging Everything (and Staying Sane)
I have been hearing this same talk since ApacheCon 2001 in Santa Clara, CA with minor variations. These problems never go away, and I still attend talks on this topic. (Video)

Where were you doing before coming to Acquia and what did you do?
Just before I started at Acquia, I was at Nokia. I was fully buzzword compliant and working in Big Data. My Hadoop clusters did cool things like crunch data from the NAVTEQ mapping cars.

What are the highlights of your current job?
I suppose the highlights can be best expressed in the nicknames I've gotten since starting at Acquia. I am stupid enough to take on some areas that others in Ops dodge. My colleague coined a bunch of them. "Mongo Girl, MySQL Girl, ded-35 Girl, Varnish Girl... " There are a few.

Critical events happen. What goes on through your mind as you navigate them? How do you keep calm under pressure?
A certain type of personality is required to thrive in Ops. I think most people in Ops are basically adrenaline junkies. We enjoy working through critical events. Our customers and coworkers depend on us being quick, efficient, and accurate. It feels great to fix things for people. When I need to keep calm, I generally look at a bunny (picture or real). It calms me right down and makes me happy.

What will you take away?
I need to be a better citizen at Acquia. Acquia and Drupal are doing some very important things, and Ops is kind of an island at times. At the very least, we can work better with Hosting-Engineering and Support. How this all gets done? I have no clue, but in proper Acquia fashion – have a Google doc I am brainstorming in.

Emily is a senior engineer within the Acquia Operations team and a core contributor to operational excellence. She and the team are seeking fellow engineers to join the adventure in all offices: Burlington, MA / Portland, OR / Reading, UK . If you are currently looking for a new DevOps gig, either now or sometime in the future, let us know. Please reach out via our Careers site even if just informational! Bikes, bunnies, and other modes of transportation or pets welcomed.

Emily's Bunny

Keep calm. Hop on!
Captain "Percy" Perseus
Credit: @howrad

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