For this month’s Drupal 8 Interview we were excited to catch up with Eduardo Garcia. He is the CTO of both WeKnow and anexus. WeKnow is a Drupal and Symfony consulting and training firm. Anexus is a company that supports the development of Drupal Console.
Most people in the open source and Drupal community know him as Enzo. His companies are mostly distributed and he likes to think of himself as a distributed person because of his love for travel. He is a native Colombian who lived in Costa Rica for more than 14 years. He currently resides in Australia with his family.
How long have you been working with Drupal and what version did you start with?
I am coming up on my 10th anniversary. I started with Drupal 5; my first project was for the Japanese car company, Mazda USA. It was a marketing website: public relations, news, and marketing releases for Mazda inside the United States.
I was learning, training, and leading the project. It's a similar process to how many people first get started with Drupal, not in perfect conditions. When I started the project, it was a month behind, but we delivered the project with only a two week delay. It was a good experience considering all the problems we had. I hated the process, but enjoyed the platform... despite all the problems we had; if in better conditions, you can create better products and have better interactions and reuse the knowledge you have and train people at the same time. I enjoyed that and this is why I decided to have my professional life be around Drupal.
How did your role evolve over the years to where you're at now?
The first two or three years I jumped from Drupal developer to a team lead. I was the person charged with providing technical leadership as to how to tackle a problem, provide solutions for the tickets, how to implement solutions for the clients, and was also responsible of training people.
At this same time I decided to try to build a Costa Rica Drupal community. I wanted to fill a void, I was maybe the second person using Drupal in Costa Rica, so I decided to build a community.
It was hard to engage with universities and companies. We created our first camp, this year is our 9th Drupal Camp Costa Rica, and it is the oldest and largest in Latin America. It is very international, we sometimes have 300-400 attendees depending on the location, we always have 25-50% people from USA, Europe, and all over Latin America coming to Costa Rica… because, you know Costa Rica... and Drupal.
When did you first start working on Drupal 8 sites?
It was about two or three years before it was released. Everybody in the community was concerned about the jump in technology. All these new things, I was worried about people being left behind in the process... As my role as a technical lead and a CTO of my own company, I was worried that maybe the move in the community will leave my own company behind.
So I decided to take action. I was very concerned about the whole Drupal ecosystem and joined the Drupal Console team. At the time it was led by Jesus Manuel Olivas and David Flores in Mexico. The Drupal Console project at that moment was in the beginning phase, it was a tool to help you ramp up in the learning curve from the inside out. I had to take unstable code and implement generators to try to accelerate the adoption in Drupal 8.
When did you start mentoring people and training?
About two years before the Drupal 8 stable version was released. We worked with the idea that we need to reduce the scary moment of change.
Some people choose to contribute to core, which is of course the most important team in terms of development. We chose to tackle the problem from a different perspective. There were a lot of people who needed to become involved in the change and they needed something to try to help them. Learning all the new things can be complicated, but they can use Drupal Console to help them generate code by themselves and learn from there. The minimal tools are provided to create functional code and then the user is in a better position to learn the concepts and code.
What were some of the challenges you had when you first started working with Drupal 8?
That's a tough question, perhaps working with Symfony. Good changes are sometimes the most challenging changes. With Symfony, the whole idea is that we need to leave the island and use the bridges that Symfony console brings to us. Really, more than that, using something, not just in theory, the real implementation is the most difficult part. It’s like swimming, the first time you drop into the water it is scary and difficult. But after a few hours you are used to the water; it’s like a jump of faith.
What are some of your favorite things about working with Drupal 8 as opposed the earlier versions?
The same things. All the things that were scary are all the things I later enjoyed. I can now use more integration with less code. With Drupal 7, I would have to write lots of custom code, using the modern development practices allows me to create more fancy and professional integrations that in Drupal 7 would require more human effort.
If you could improve anything in Drupal 8, what would it be?
The first time user experience, Dries talked about this in his driesnote. For someone with zero Drupal experience, a marketer, CEO, or someone trying to illustrate the platform, it’s really hard for them to get it running by themselves.
I want to emphasize to the community that Drupal needs to be made more accessible and have relevant content for users in other countries. Localization and multilingual needs to be seriously addressed. As a traveler, it is difficult to sell things to people that is not in their native language.
What advice do you have for people who are new to Drupal 8?
They really need to embrace the concept of using tools outside of Drupal. That will allow people to have an easier path into the code and more enjoyable journey into Drupal.
What is next for you, do you see any evolution?
On the company sides of things, we are working on trying to automate the process, using Drupal itself, using Symfony, and decoupling themes. We have been doing a lot with decoupled stuff and starting to play around with some artificial intelligence ideas. Maybe it sounds crazy, but why not?
What’s next for Eduardo?
Drupal Camp Costa Rica’s 9th anniversary is August 3-4 in Liberia, Guanacaste. The camp takes place just over 30 minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. This year promises Drupal (of course), front-end, back-end, business, projects, UX and more!
Eduardo has been asked to keynote at this year’s Drupal Camp Singapore in July. Follow Drupal Singapore on Twitter to keep up to date with their community.