Episode 263  on May 7, 2018Behind the Screens

Behind the Screens with Michael Miles

Senior Technical Solutions Manager at Genuine and Developing Up podcast host, Mike Miles tells us how websites are like sandcastles, how he's brought that strategy to his team, and spice racks.

Transcript

Chris:
In this episode I'm going behind the screens with Michael Miles. He's the Senior Technical Solutions Manager at Genuine, and also podcast host for the Developing Up podcast. Hi Michael.
Mike:
Hey, how's it going Chris?
Chris:
Wonderful. So give us a little introduction, and tell us how you're working with Drupal.
Mike:
So, I've been working with Drupal for almost a decade now. I'm about to get my you know decade award, or whatever you get. I see some people with jackets. But, what I do at Drupal is during my day job I do a lot of Drupal architecture, for large scale Drupal projects and platforms, and then outside of that I also run the Boston Drupal meet up, and I'm one of the organizers for the New England Drupal camp. So I help out in those ways, and sometimes I do modules and trivia modules back, but mostly it's through camps and meetups and help running those.
Chris:
So do you have your hands directly in the code, or are you more of a higher level?
Mike:
I do both. I have a lot of higher level with clients come, and when we determine Genuine is a full service digital agency, so we don't just do Drupal, but when we determine Drupal is a good fit, then I step in take business values, business needs, and architect those into how we build them in Drupal. Then I get my hands dirty, and I have a great team of developers who they really dive into the code and build. So I don't get to code as much as I'd like to nowadays, but when I do it's a lot of fun.
Chris:
So as a Senior Technical Solutions Manager, what are some of the big challenges that you've run into recently with that role?
Mike:
Some of the challenges recently, to name some specific technologies, I've been doing a lot of platforms on Acquia's site factory. Which Ken, it boils down to a big multi-site, and there's a lot of complications that come with that, from writing install profiles, to really config management as being the big thing to wrestle with. You know cross sites, and re-using config, and then abstracting problems. From thinking about how am I going to build this for one site, more of how am I going to build this for x number of websites, and thinking about your problems in that perspective. That's really a challenge.
Chris:
So out of the clients that you have, are you sharing any sorts of those resources or tools between sites, or building stuff that'll work across multiple clients?
Mike:
Not much directly across multiple clients. But definitely when you learn how to do one thing on one client your team pulls that to the next one, so it becomes easier. Like the first time we had a client who wanted to build with Site Factory, we had a lot of learning on our team to do that, and the next client that came along with that, we had something to start with and we knew where to go. So the thing you carry across is the knowledge less of the code, but sometimes we can still use features. I hope Mike Potter doesn't listen to this since he's using features. But when you can use features, that can help for standard content types, but a lot of it's just the knowledge you get on best practices, and how to apply them.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So when you stand up a new site for a client, is it build, hand off and walk away? Or do you handle any maintenance, or do you work integrated with another client, or with a team?
Mike:
All three. So, what I like to do the best is, when we have a client and they have in house resources who either are good at Drupal, they haven't done Drupal before, they're moving to Drupal. Its bringing them into the project and training them. We had this example, I'd stand a client Kronos two years ago. They were dot net. We brought them into Drupal. Their dot net team, we trained them as Drupalists. Now, they're developers here at Drupal Con, and have matched some of my developers in skill, and I love building up that experience, that knowledge, so that's a lot of fun, but then yeah, some clients they want it one and done, and then others are like, “Great, this is built, help up maintain it.” But the best one is when you build up the team and then you watch them grow.
I like to build relationships with our clients, and just keep it going year after year, and build more cool things with them.
Chris:
Excellent. So you started out as a developer?
Mike:
Yes.
Chris:
So now, you're in more of a leadership role. How has that transition been for you? You said you're not in the code as much as you like to be, but you seem very passionate about leading and teaching people. So tell me about that transition.
Mike:
I am, yeah. So, the transition is not easy. I'm still learning how to do it. I've been in my role, the senior technical solution's manager role, for a year, but I've been on manager for three or four years now. People are a little bit more complicated than code. They're not ones and zero's so you can't treat every scenario as the same one, every person as the same thing. So that's been the real lesson. Getting to know people. What motivates people differently, and then working with their strengths, and helping them build up their weaknesses.
That's one of the reasons with my podcast, why I started it. Developing up, was about learning. Code is one piece of your development career, and there's so much more that goes around it. From working on a team, for how to communicate, and so I wanted to learn how I could better that. So I figure talking to other developers is a great way to do that. Crowd source, open source the knowledge, and just learn from people's experience, read as many books as I can, and just not be afraid to fail, and stumble, and then admit that, and then grow with my developers.
Chris:
That's incredible advice, not a lot of people will admit that, that's what they need to do, or that, that's what they've done. Admitting your failure, showing we're all human.
Mike:
Yeah, it shows ... I think it shows personal growth. If you can't admit a failure, you're going to hit a wall where you stagnate, because you can't admit that there's a way you can get better. But if you learn to over come that, and I like to think about ... Especially in web development that, we're only building sand castles, so that means, every five years, anything you built is probably going to go away, and someone else is going to rebuild it. So you don't have to over stress about building it the best way possible, just the best with what you know at the time, and learn from that, and grow from that. You don't have to worry and sweat for the small stuff, and just make those mistakes, admit them, and learn with your team how to get over them.
Chris:
I love that analogy about the sand castles, because that really is ... Nobody's got a website that they're planning to build that's going to last 16, 18, 20 years.
Mike:
Right. It's like five years at the most.
Chris:
Right.
Mike:
It's industry standard.
Chris:
Wow. I really like that. So tell me a little bit more about your podcast Developing Up.
Mike:
So, Developing Up, we're in season two at the moment, so our tagline is, “Because your developing career is more than the code you write.” So what we talk about every episode ... For season two I've been sitting down with other developers and talking about something that's non tactical in subject. So the last episode was about leadership. We've done things on imposter syndrome, on how to give code reviews, how to work in an interview situation, or how to say, “Yes, no, or I don't know.” It's really for anyone who's a junior developer, a senior developer, or just the things beyond the code that you have to pay attention to. It's hard to know that coming into development. You figure, “If I write good code, I'm going to progress in my career.” That's not always true. You have to build up these other skills.
So, I wanted to get better at that personally, so I figured this was a great way to do it. Now it's helping me get better at talking to people. So, that's a little more personal reasons for doing it, but I think it delivers a lot of value to a general development community, out there. It's technology agnostic, and it's skill that could be transferred to anybody.
Chris:
Wow, that's great. So, you said “We,” a few times, do you have a co-host?
Mike:
Season one I had a co-host. My old co-worker Jake Rainis. Season two it's just me. I like to use “We,” to make it seem like the podcast is a bigger thing than it is. Hopefully one day it'll get bigger. I can imagine a whole community, but that's a whole lot of work that I don't have time for. So I use the royal we. It's mainly me.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). What are some things you've learned from doing the podcast? If you could pick out one or two things that have been really rewarding, or ah-ha moments when you've got them?
Mike:
I'd say the biggest rewarding thing is that, everyone you talk to has a passion for what they do, but they have a passion in a different way. So, people are passionate either about the code they write, or the culture they're in, or the technology they use, and talking to other developers, you see that. When it comes through these non technical talks, it's just like they've latched onto one piece on what they think they need to grow in, and what they're passionate about doing. Whether that's being agile with how you react to situations and using ... I talked to someone the other day who has an improv background. So how'd they apply that to their development skills? It's just like, you learn all these tricks that you wouldn't learn just going in alone, and I love that opportunity.
Chris:
Wow, that sounds amazing. So, where would people find your podcast?
Mike:
People would find my podcast at Developingup.com or on Twitter @DevUpPodcast.
Chris:
All right, I'll be definitely checking that out, and adding it to my feed, that sounds really interesting.
Mike:
Thank you.
Chris:
So if you could give one piece of advice to somebody who's struggling in that area, about what you're talking about, the content of your podcast, they're not sure how to get their skills up. They're struggling with that passion piece of it. What's that piece of advice you might give to somebody?
Mike:
My advice, especially if we're focused on the Drupal community, or Drupalists, is reach out to your community. No matter what technology you work with, there's a community behind it. You've found it somehow. Connect with that community, go to local meetups, go to conferences, network with people, that can be hard to do, but just have one conversation with someone, build a connection, and they're going to support you. You're going to find people with the same passion as you, and you're going to be able to use that knowledge and those connections that you built to make yourself better, and just leverage those connections.
Chris:
And all it takes is just starting with one person?
Mike:
Yeah, just ... You don't have to go to a conference and be like, “I'm going to meet everybody.” Just focus on, “I'm going to meet one person I've never talked to before. Have one conversation.” Set the bar low, and then your expectations are going to be met and exceeded.
Chris:
Yup. I agree completely. So let's flip this a little bit.
Mike:
All right.
Chris:
If you were to wake up tomorrow, and the internet was gone, so I guess that means no more podcast, because there's no distribution.
Mike:
I could have a radio show.
Chris:
There you go, you'd do the same with radio. You'd just have to find a different topic to interview people about.
Mike:
Yeah.
Chris:
So, if you could think of what do you want to be when you grow up, what would you like to do, outside of the internet?
Mike:
Oh, I would say, at the moment it's probably woodworking. I do a lot of woodworking, and building furniture out of my garage. I like to think I could be good at it, so at this time it would probably be woodworking. It's a different set of skills, but I think for someone who's a developer, it applies the same mindset, just in different ways. It's a lot of fun to do.
Chris:
Yeah. Do you use any of the furniture you make? Is it in your house?
Mike:
I do, I've built a built-in book cases, I've built spice racks, I've built tables. You know, they all find a place somewhere in the house whether my family likes it or not.
Join the conversation
newsletter-bot