Episode 266  on June 4, 2018Behind the Screens

Behind the Screens with Trasi Judd

Four Kitchens' Director of Support & Continuous Improvement Trasi Judd breaks down the support side of web development, how she manages her team and clients, why Drupal, and her passion for painting.

Transcript

Chris:
On this episode, I'm going behind the screens with Trasi Judd from Four Kitchens. Trasi, you're the Director of Support and Continued Improvement here at Four Kitchens, so introduce yourself to everybody and tell us a little bit about what you do here.
Trasi:
Hi, I'm Trasi Judd. I've been with Four Kitchens for about two and a half years. I started out in project management, and I was project managing all of our support client engagements, and eventually decided that that department needed to grow. So I've been growing it for the last two years, and we currently have four developers and a project manager and me.
Chris:
So what sort of support are you doing?
Trasi:
Basically, anything working on a live site, whether Four Kitchens built it or we're inheriting it from another Dev Shop, or internal development from within the client side. We work on security updates, bug fixes, all the way up to feature enhancements, adding a blog to a website, anything that is working on a live functioning site.
Chris:
And so this is a separate department than the development side of Four Kitchens. This is sort of taking something that already exists and help keeping it going.
Trasi:
Right. You know, if you think about it, your website is not a point in time launch and then it's done. Your market evolves, your user needs evolve, you attack new market spaces, you update the way you do things based on feedback. So we help you evolve your website over time just because your market's gonna demand it.
Chris:
So you said you've helped this department grow within Four Kitchens. How have you done that? What are some of the things you guys have done since you came on till now?
Trasi:
Mostly really developing strategic relationships with these clients. We have ongoing relationships. It's not like a point project that then launches and then we don't see them again. These are often sustained relationships like with a retainer. And then supplemental budgets for small projects. I work with them to build out a road map for what they're trying to accomplish with their business goals over time and then we set up projects to help them achieve those things. I think developing that partnership basically extends their internal team using us. It's really expensive for them to hire all of the skill sets that they would need internally when you just need tiny bits and pieces, you know? You need a designer for 15 hours, and you need a UXer for 12 hours, and then you need front end and back end, but not full time. This allows them to tap into a wide range of skill sets to get the project done without having to support salaries of four humans.
Chris:
Wow. So what have you gotten out of DrupalCon? You've been in the community a couple years now. Is this your first DrupalCon, or have you been to one before?
Trasi:
No, I went to Baltimore last year.
Chris:
Okay. How is your impression of DrupalCon and how does that work with what you do with the support side?
Trasi:
I always learn something new, but the more I come the more stuff I feel like, "Oh, I already know that. Oh, we've already experienced that. Oh, we already have some solutions to those things." So I think just over time it's nice to feel like it's a world that I get way more than the first time I came. I was very wide-eyed and still trying to take it all in, so anyway I really enjoy being here.
Chris:
What's a piece of advice you might give to somebody who's thinking about coming to DrupalCon or is here for their first time?
Trasi:
I would say to go around and talk to people about that they do, because everyone has a different angle about how they deliver their services. There's tons and tons of agencies here that do something just a little bit different and finding the right partnership based on philosophy and how they attack their project. I think that those discussions come from casual conversations in the booths.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you said you got your start in project management, and then moved into the support role. How hands-on are you with the technology now? Or are you still very much in that sort of project manager type of role with this department?
Trasi:
I spend about half my time still as a project-manager, product-owner role with some key clients. My other project manager does as much as she can until she's full, and then I handle everything else. I am still very hands-on and tactical. I'm aware of what's going on our Jira board for all of our clients. I provide status reports every other week to all of the clients, so I have to know what's going on across the board with them. I don't tactically manage every single one, but I'm aware of all of it.
Chris:
With a lot of the things that are coming up in the ecosystem now, we're seeing a bigger JavaScript push in core with D8, how much of that are you taking into account as you move your services forward? Do you have people coming on to get caught up on a lot of the JavaScript pieces, or how much are you doing between seven and eight with the support side?
Trasi:
We're just starting to get into that. We're soon to be taking on one of our existing clients that's going to launch sort of a headless situation with front-end React. My team doesn't' really have that skillset, so I'm gonna have to just tap into our platform development side to get access to those skills. It's one of those things, like a super-fledgling area that we're gonna have to work up to. I can't really support a full head count in that particular skillset unless they have a bunch of other stuff, so right now I just borrow from the other side.
Chris:
Excellent, so where did you come from before you decided to get into the world of Drupal, and what was your ... what made you decided that Drupal was the right choice?
Trasi:
I didn't really actually decide Drupal was the right choice. I came really from many years of software product management, so not so much website building but software building. Internal teams, where you use Agile to continually iterate an internal product. But a friend of mine who actually is a director on staff, that I've known for six or seven years thought I would be a really good fit for Four Kitchens. So I came over and started project managing. A lot of what product managers do in small software companies is very similar to the project management in these kind of situations. So I was a natural fit for that and it just sort of evolved into me running the support organization. Like naturally, kind of organically. But the more I get into Drupal, the more I really dig this industry and I really understand, and embrace, and love what Drupal does.
Chris:
Okay, so the community is obviously a big piece of Drupal. Hence the podcasts, and hence why we're all here at DrupalCon. What's your ... If you could just use one word. If you could pick one word to describe the community. I know I didn't ask you this before, so I'm gonna throw this as a curve ball in there. What one word would you use to describe this community?
Trasi:
Collaborative.
Chris:
That's a good one. I like that. You definitely see that from wandering the halls, people talking, putting things together. Collaborative. That's a good one.
Trasi:
Well I mean, look. You're at a friend agency, but kinda competitive agency to me and the fact that we can exchange ideas about how we do business with each other, and we're not closed and secretive with what we do, I love that. I think there's enough business for everybody. I don't think we need to be competitive to each other.
Chris:
That's a very great point. I hadn't even thought about that part of it until you just put that together there. Yeah, I think it was our COO, Seth Brown, who coined the term "friend-petitor". Because it is. We, Four Kitchens and Lullabot, have a great relationship as well as other agencies in the realm. But we do. We have the same customer base that we're going after in terms of trying to get work, but we do share more than we try and take from each other. I think that's a very solid underpinning of what the community is about.
Trasi:
Agreed. I think that what's useful to see here is that, like I said, there's different philosophies. There's different approaches, and it's more about trying to tie into what the client needs and the way they see things because that sort of resonance makes for a better project. I don't think it's about, "You do it better than we do it." I think that it's, "You do it different from how we do it," and clients will resonate with one or the other, or someone else.
Chris:
Yep, that's an excellent point. To turn away from the work a bit, if you were to wake up tomorrow and the internet was gone and we no longer had to do website support, what would you do with your time?
Trasi:
I would paint murals.
Chris:
Paint murals? That's a new answer for me. Elaborate on that one a little bit.
Trasi:
Well, I'm actually kind of a fine artist at heart, and decided when I was in high school that it was a little bit too driven by intense emotion for me. Any sort of brilliance in art. I didn't want that to be my career, because I was afraid that I would be a crisis creator in order to create brilliant art. I went to the left side of my brain and went down the business management track instead. But I still have that piece of me that really needs to be artistic, and I've very often turned to painting murals on walls.
Chris:
Wow, that's incredible. Is there anything in public somewhere that someone might be able to see?
Trasi:
Hard for other people to really see, but inside my daughter's elementary school I painted a giant tree. Then all of the parents bought different elements for me to paint on it and I embedded their names into leaves and animals and flowers and birds. All that money went to go towards maintaining the tree on the property because they didn't have enough money to make sure that they were well trimmed and cared for.
Chris:
Wow! That's amazing. That's such a cool story. I knew you had something hidden in there. Everyone thinks, when I ask them about the podcast, "I don't really have anything good to say. I don't know if you'd want to interview me." Everybody I talk to says that. There's always a good story in there. You just gotta know how to get to it. That's fantastic. Okay, so finally you know the module ecosystem fairly well in Drupal?
Trasi:
Yeah.
Chris:
What is your spirit module?
Trasi:
Probably the book module, because there's so much nested hierarchy out there that needs to be taken care of. It's perfect at allowing you to do flexible, nested hierarchy.
Chris:
I like that. That's a good one. All right. And I always end the podcast by sharing a little gratitude or thanks with somebody who maybe gave you a push along the way or inspired you with a talk, or a post or something like that. So is there anybody that you would like to say thank you too for helping you along the way?
Trasi:
Probably Brené Brown, because her guidance around empathy and interacting with other human beings is kind of core underpinning for how I interact with my team. I don't think that anything has been as helpful as the advice that I've read and heard from her.
Chris:
Excellent. Thank you very much, Trasi. This was a wonderful interview. Appreciate the time.
Trasi:
My pleasure. Thank you.
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