Episode 267  on June 18, 2018Behind the Screens

Behind the Screens with Nick Switzer

Elevated Third's Director of Development, Nick Switzer, talks transitioning from coding to conversation, why you should support your local Drupal camp, and his lost career as a smoke jumper.

Transcript

Chris:
On this episode, we're going behind the screens with Nick Switzer, Development Director at Elevated Third. So Nick, tell me a little bit about yourself, and how things are going at Elevated Third?
Nick:
Things are going great. I've been with the company about eight years now, coming up on that in May, so I really had the opportunity to see a lot change, and I think we've had a lot of exciting stuff happening, just with really moving into Drupal 8, and what that's capable of. It's really been able to push us forward a lot in terms of clients, and our individual skillsets.
Chris:
What sort of work are you doing at Elevated Third? Is there a particular niche that you guys focus on?
Nick:
Yeah, absolutely. We find our sweet spot is really in the B2B enterprise area, and I think especially when Drupal's more than just a website. So we really like to make it more of a marketing hub and integrate with powerful enterprise tools like Marketo, Pardot, Salesforce, and really make Drupal work as a marketing hub for our clients, rather than just like an individual brochure website.
Chris:
So are you doing mostly Drupal 8 work now? Or are you still splitting the fence between 7 and 8?
Nick:
So all of our new site builder, exclusively Drupal 8, we've been doing it that way for about two years at this point. We of course have some legacy Drupal 7 sites that we maintain, but we're pushing hard on Drupal 8, and doing everything we can to contribute back to the community and get things ready, so that more people feel comfortable with it.
Chris:
Excellent. How many people are on your staff?
Nick:
Total at the company, we've got 31, and we've got 11 people total on our development team.
Chris:
Excellent. And so you are the Development Director.
Nick:
Yes.
Chris:
What does that title entail? What's your day like?
Nick:
Yeah, absolutely. As you might expect at a small company, it's a little bit of everything. My background is technical, so I still do work on projects in more of like an architect lead type role. I also manage our entire development team of 11 people like I mentioned. So a lot of people stuff, a lot of just sort of one-on-one conversations, making sure everyone's well taken care of and happy. I think also, just kind of helping set the direction and strategy of the company with the rest of our leadership team, to make sure we're all aligned with where the company's going.
Chris:
So that's quite a change, going from working in the codes, to working with people. How has that transitioned in for you?
Nick:
Yeah, absolutely. It's been really interesting. And I think I was really fortunate to kind of stumble into an opportunity with Elevated Third where I was able to do what I love, and then then work my into a more client facing leadership type position. Yeah, I think it's been great.
Chris:
So would you prefer to be working with people, or in the code? If you had to pick one, which way would you go?
Nick:
You know, when I first started in this position, I probably would say working in the code. But I think it's really grown on me a lot, and I really love the people side of it. So I think, obviously you can't wake up every day and be really excited about having conversations eight hours a day, but I think, I love helping people and talking to people, and just kind of hearing all the different stories that people have around Drupal. So yeah, I love it, I love talking to people.
Chris:
So your development background, was that back end or front end?
Nick:
Great question. Again, at a small company, it had to be a little bit of everything. My preference was definitely front end. So I really focused a lot on pushing our front end tools forward. I mean, years ago, with things like Bundler and RVM, pushing forward now more into more progressive tools like NPM and Gulp. So yeah, front end UX with a little bit of back end sprinkled in there, kind of when I had to, which seems to be the case everywhere in Drupal.
Chris:
Yeah, that seems to be a common trend. Maybe a little less now in Drupal 8, but with Twig working in the themes instead of PHP.
Nick:
Absolutely.
Chris:
Yeah, everyone's got a little bit of both sides in there.
Nick:
Definitely.
Chris:
So in addition to working with the people at Elevated Third with your team, your company has stepped up really big in the last year, alongside Aten who's also ... you guys were a Denver company-
Nick:
Absolutely.
Chris:
... Aten is as well. And the two of you guys together have provided so many resources to help DrupalCamp Colorado grow. And we got a good head start on that this year. So tell me a little bit about how things are going with DrupalCamp Colorado.
Nick:
Yeah, absolutely. It's been really great this year. I think we're noticing that the Drupal community in Denver and Colorado, just really needed a little bit of an excitement boost and some new blood. Because I think organizers had been doing a fantastic job, but just needed help. And so we jumped in, and I think we had a really productive retrospective after last year's camp. And I think we've really been trying to take that feedback that we got from organizers and the community to heart, and really just produced something that is an event that's going to be as useful as possible to everybody, and ideally really grow the Drupal community in Colorado.
Chris:
So why is that event so important for business like yours, and like Aten's, as well as the individual members of the community?
Nick:
Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I think as we're all aware, I mean as I hope most people who work with Drupal are aware, or will soon learn about, the community is everything with Drupal. And I think when you're a business, like the community provides really your bread and butter, in the sense that it's the code base we work with every day. But it also provides people. If there's no Drupal community, there's nobody to build the sites. And I think we really see that as our responsibility as someone who, quite frankly, we consume a lot. We want to give back and contribute to the health of that by getting new people interested.
Nick:
I think there's a lot of ways you can contribute back outside of just like sitting down and writing code. And I think we're really trying to push that forward in terms of putting together a great camp bringing new blood in, and just getting people who may not developers excited about Drupal. Which, you know, I was really excited in Dries' keynote to hear that it seems like where the Drupal association is aligning as well. That we're really trying to branch out and appeal to marketers, and agencies, and less technical folk, which I think is fantastic.
Chris:
So we have ... and I say we, because I'm also from Denver, and I'm very excited the way the camp is coming together this year. Your company has donated some time to help with the organization, is that correct?
Nick:
That is true.
Chris:
So how is that working the people you have on staff? How many people, how many hours are you able to help out with? And how are you making that work as a company?
Nick:
Yeah, definitely. It's been a bit of a passion project for me. So the company has sponsored ... I couldn't really give you a specific number of hours that we've used on the clock. We have sort of a contrib R&D budget that we set aside on top of normal client budgets, just to make sure we can schedule time for this stuff. But really, I've been totally blown away with the passion that everyone around our office has brought. And honestly, I'd say 80-90% of the work has happened completely outside of company hours.
Nick:
And you know, that's everybody from myself leading Project Management and Development, to three to four members of our Development Team on the site build, and even a few of our Business Development Team, who are getting involved with sponsorship outreach and organizing the summit. And I think it's great to just see that come to life, and people really take to heart that you don't have to be a developer to really care and contribute to Drupal.
Chris:
That's a great message.
Nick:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.
Chris:
So many people think that the contribution is just in the code, or you have to be typing something, writing it down and sharing it. There's so many other ways you an participate in it.
Nick:
Absolutely.
Chris:
And I can speak from ... I work for a big company, but we are distributors, we don't have a stake in the city, that being an office where we are all living. So all your employees are located in Denver, correct? Your not distributed at all?
Nick:
We are, yeah, that's exactly right.
Chris:
So if you could give a piece of advice, or putting together the camp and how other organizations, other companies might be able to participate in helping their local camp. And some advice you might give to somebody in that realm.
Nick:
Yeah, definitely. I think it was something I wanted to be involved with for a really long time. And Jon Clark told me something last summer I think that, he used kind of a goofy work, he said it's a do-ocracy. And I think that really resonated with me. Because I think for a long time I was really hesitant to get involved, because it felt like I'd be stepping on toes. But when it came down to it, people just need help. And I think when you can see someplace, you can provide support and step up and provide that support, then you can kind of immediately prove yourself, and just grab something and make it happen. And I think, I've been blown away by just how supportive everyone has been of that, and things have really just snowballed from there. Because I think when you do that, you can provide inspiration to other people to step up and do the same thing.
Chris:
I definitely see that. I've noticed in our meetings that I've been able to attend, different people that I've never met before, but are coming up, they have website designs that they've been working on that just look amazing. So everybody from all these different realms has stepped up to offer a little bit. And I think when everybody does just a little, so much gets done, and you don't have so much of the burden on yourself. Each person is not taking that entire weight. I think that's some great advice to have.
Nick:
Yeah, totally agree.
Chris:
All right, well, let's flip this around a little bit. We talked about the work, we talked about the camp. I'd like to know, if the internet went out tonight while you were sleeping and never came back on, what would you do with your time.
Nick:
Oh man, that's a tough one. I've always had a crazy dream about when I was a kid, I knew a lot of firefighters, and we had a friend who was a smokejumper. And I've always thought that would be the most amazing profession, obviously impossible, or nearly impossible to get into, but something that I would absolutely love to do.
Chris:
Wow. I love the unique answers I get out of that question.
Nick:
Yeah, I can imagine.
Chris:
That's fantastic, wow. And then so, you have a lot of experience also in the Drupal community, so everyone's got their spirit animal. I want to know, Nick, what is your spirit module?
Nick:
Yeah, boy, it would probably be a different answer if you talked to me in a couple weeks, but lately I've been a huge fan of groups for Drupal 8. But I used it on a really big project recently, and I think coming into that I was a little stressed, just about the state of the module. But it's been fantastic, and we've patched it a little bit, but it's worked great. I think I've been blown away by just how well it's kind of carried forward the spirit of organic groups from Drupal 7, but really like, I think step things up a lot, and really fit the idea of groups into Drupal's overall vision of architecture.
Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Excellent.
Nick:
Yeah.
Chris:
And then finally, is there anybody you'd like to say thank you to, share some gratitude with, who gave you a little boost along the way, or inspiring presentation or sessions?
Nick:
Yeah, definitely. I think for me, our CEO at Elevated Third, Jeff Calderone, has been been fantastic. He's always got really wise words of support, and I think he's always open to talk, and I think gives not just me, but other people at the company the opportunity to do things like, give back to the Drupal community. And I think having somebody really supportive like that is just so instrumental in not just my career, but I think pushing the Drupal community forward. Because I think when people genuinely care about each other, and doing the right thing, and just actually doing good work, I think it creates a really fantastic collaborative space. And I think that's what he's really inspired me to do in the Drupal community, and Colorado, and hopefully around the world eventually.
Chris:
Wow, that's great. Well Nick, thanks a lot for taking some time, and I look forward to seeing you out there at ... oh, we haven't even mentioned the date. Drupal Camp Colorado is August 3rd, 4th, 5th, right? That first weekend in August.
Nick:
Right, that's correct.
Chris:
All right. Well thanks a lot, and have a great rest of your DrupalCon Nashville.
Nick:
Absolutely, thank you.
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