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Team building: How to spot a budding Drupalist

As a training manager, my job is to help Acquia’s clients develop the skills on their teams through training. I spend time listening to the team leads and matching their requirements to our courses, or our partner's online training services. Over the next couple of months in our training newsletter, I'll be writing advice on how to build and skill up your Drupal team. I'll also give you insight into how we're developing programs for some of the largest agencies and organizations to build their internal Drupal practices. You can sign up to the training newsletter below.

Switching a team to Drupal

Sometimes, our clients are switching from relying on all external development. They’re trading off from paying exorbitant set-up and license fees of proprietary software to building a Drupal team in house. One problem is that Drupal has grown at such a rapid pace it can be hard to find someone with the right skills to start with. And of course, everyone wants someone with experience.

A viable alternative is to develop someone with “transferable skills” through internal training and mentoring. We did this successfully with Acquia U, and the Acquia U graduates are now part of our client advisory, professional services and engineering teams. Watch a video about Acquia U.

Our partners, My Planet Digital, also run a similar program for "fellowships" which gives opportunity for professional development to budding Drupalists and developers. In fact, they used materials from our training catalog in their internal training program.

However, these 3-6 week programs represent a significant investment of time and energy. You want to be careful who you invest in, right?

Choosing your team

Acquia U Team

So how do you choose exactly who to bet on?

Jacob Singh here at Acquia emphasized that, first and foremost, we hired Acquia U participants for the person-qualities over technical skills and experience. Motivation, enthusiasm, eagerness- these are qualities you can’t teach. You may find that the person specification, so-called "cultural fit"- and someone’s demonstration of willingness to learn will get you even further than prior experience.

With that said, if you can find someone with those key qualities and transferable, relevant experience, then you’re that much further ahead. OK, we admitted that that Drupal specific skills are are a premium right now. Instead, you could choose someone with relevant experience in other areas. These skills can also indicate that while your potential hire isn’t a Drupal star right now, with some investment of mentoring and training, you’ll be well on your way to expanding your team.

Transferable skills

So, as you’re looking to hire someone, what are the transferable skills? On you can see a list of transferable skills to help you identify budding Drupalists. I prepared these with my colleague, Kieran Lal, over a year ago, but they are still relevant.

A potential new hire might be front end developers with experience writing CSS, HTML and JavaScript, with some exposure to PHP who have experience with responsive design, but little experience of Drupal. Front-end Skills of a successful front-end web developer include "Conducting observational user testing" or knowledge of "Methods to ensure browser & device compatibility." Or they might be back-end developers with who know how to build applications in PHP and secure user authentication across multiple properties, but have only tried Drupal in their spare time. Skills of a successful back-end web developer include "Migrating data, scripting migration of data" or "Implementing, managing or using a backup system and disaster recovery." (If you’re someone who has built similar Drupal teams, please feel free to edit and improve the documents on!)

The skills you look for depend on the skills in need on your team. Their prior experience doesn’t need to be Drupal-specific. You can match relevant transferable skills to the team needs you have. To develop their skills, you can provide them Drupal training and help develop your budding Drupalist. Of course, Acquia can also provide training, mentoring and guidance as well to develop your internal Drupal practice. (Had to get that plug in there!)

An open-source frame of mind

One thing not mentioned on those docs pages- would be to spot people who have a history of involvement in open source projects and contribution. They will do really well in getting the most out of using Drupal. Individuals who are still in the early stages of their career may tend lean towards a notion of: "I CAN WRITE THE BEST CMS EVER". Whereas someone with more experience will lean towards leveraging the efforts of thousands of other developers. Those potential team members will also likely be the type to find ways to make the best of your own internal projects as well. Open source contribution teaches practices of good documentation, commenting, and leveraging what has been done already.

In our new Training newsletter, we’ll be giving you tips on how you can develop your internal Drupal team and build an internal Drupal practice. I’d love to hear what questions you have.

Sign up to our monthly newsletter for updates!

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