It was a long time coming. When I originally launched scottdeeter.com, I was attempting to get a job as a Drupal developer. At that time, I had built a few static web sites, mostly on a volunteer basis. Some had a few PHP whiz-bang feature that skirted being application-like, but most were just flat old brochure-ware.
Drupal wasn’t in my vocabulary until several years after I started working at San Francisco State University. Even then, nearly all of my exposure to it was on the support side. I learned how to fix login issues, update modules, troubleshoot basic problems with the site when they arose, like so much Whack-A-Mole, but it never fell to me to actually make something.
It wasn’t until a few years after that, after I moved to North Carolina, that I tried to build a site with Drupal.
I had gotten a job at UNC Charlotte in the Student Union Activities and Recreation department. The job was yet another desktop support gig, but it came with a twist, I got to work for Mark Shropshire. There are few folks in the world as excited about Drupal and as willing to talk about it as Shrop. I would get him talking and take notes! He taught me enough to get it installed locally on my Mac, and so I did. That was when I started to play.
When you are toying around with a new technology, it helps to have something you want to build, so I set out to build myself a blog. I had built a WordPress blog for a theatre company back in California and thought Drupal would be roughly as easy. It wasn’t. Theming turned out to be much more complicated than I could have imagined, involving an understanding of Drupal’s inner workings that went well beyond where I was. I ended up settling on finding a theme that looked familiar. The theme that seemed so appealing was Tarski, a WordPress theme that had been ported to Drupal.
Tarski made sense to me, and as I poked around its files I discovered could manipulate parts and get different results. Right around the time that I was starting to make some headway getting it to appear close to what I wanted, I had an opportunity to apply for a Drupal developer job at the Student Union.
For all Shrop’s love of Drupal, the development needs of the department were becoming greater than what he could make time for in addition of his numerous other responsibilities as manager of the SUAR IT department. They had already gone through one round of candidates and didn’t find anyone that fit the department’s needs and were considering opening a second round. I didn’t put my name in the first time. I thought there would be less-than-no chance of me qualifying, so why bother? But after finding out how lackluster the first round of candidates were, I thought I might have a chance!
I made the decision to talk to Shrop. But I needed to have something to speak to what I could do, so I got my blog project to a point that I could call finished, secured the scottdeeter.com domain, put it up on a fresh Linode VPS, and went to talk to the Man.
The talk was different than I had imagined–better in some ways, wose in others. He seemed receptive to the idea, but said they needed to re-open the search. I would have to apply like anyone else, after all, they had to keep it fair.
I thought that surely some ace Drupal developer would see the posting and swoop in for the kill the moment that they posted the second round. Little did I know that the rate wasn’t competitive and that was enough to keep more talented devs at bay. It didn’t matter to me though, it was more than I was making at the help desk!
Although they only kept the second round open for a week, it took several weeks for the announcement to be made. I was on pins and needles during that time. But I wasn’t idle during that interim. I took the WordPress site that I had built for the SF theatre troupe and rebuilt it in Drupal. It looked decidedly more put-together than my blog. No worries, I’d redo that blog eventually.
Eventually, they ended up making the announcement. I got the job! I spent the next year learning what I could about Drupal and about what work Shop had done thus far and how I could help with it.
I thought I learned a lot that year, right up to the point where Shrop surprised us all by leaving the university after seventeen years. To hear him tell it, it sounded like he was about to run off and join the Drupal circus. My education had to gain a lot more momentum to handle the onslaught of questions and requests that were going to fall on me once he left.
Again, I thought I was learning a lot. With Shrop gone, I was the go-to Drupal guy at SUAR. It seemed to be going great, right up till three months later when my opportunity to join the Drupal circus came along. I didn’t hesitate to say yes when I got asked if I wanted to go work for the Classic Graphics development team. I knew many of their developers through the Charlotte Drupal Users group. It sounded like they had their hands in some pretty interesting things. It sounded like I would have the opportunity to learn a lot.
That was a year ago and the rate at which I have been learning isn’t showing any sign of letting up. If I were ever to see my comfort zone again, it would probably look as odd to me as the last time I saw my childhood home: smaller than I remembered and not anywhere I’d want to live again.
In all that time, I managed to scrawl a few blog posts here and there, but never once got around to making scottdeeter.com look any better than what it was, the first Drupal site I ever built.
Last weekend, apropos of nothing, I got the itch to mess around with changing it. I swear I was just going to play around in Sketch, try a few different font faces, maybe play with a couple footer layouts. Nothing serious… The next thing I knew I was installing the Context module so I could featurize my layout along with my views and menus so I could keep them all in Git.
True, the design is nothing fancy; I never claimed to be a designer. But it’s not bad. At the very least, better looking than its predecessor.