Wim Leers: A dozen years of Drupal

Last week was my twelfth Drupalversary!

The first half dozen years as a volunteer contributor/student, the second half as a full-time contributor/Acquia employee. Which makes this a special Drupalversary and worth looking back on 🙂


The d.o highlights of the first six years were my Hierarchical Select and CDN modules. I started those in my first year or so of using Drupal (which coincides with my first year at university). They led to a summer job for Mollom, working with/for Dries remotely — vastly better than counting sandwiches or waiting tables!

It also resulted in me freelancing during the school holidays: the Hierarchical Select module gained many features thanks to agencies not just requesting but also sponsoring them. I couldn’t believe that companies thousands of kilometers away would trust a 21-year old to write code for them!

Then I did my bachelor thesis and master thesis on Drupal + WPO (Web Performance Optimization) + data mining. To my own amazement, my bachelor thesis (while now irrelevant) led to freelancing for the White House and an internship with Facebook.

Biggest lesson learned: opportunities are hiding in unexpected places! (But opportunities are more within reach to those who are privileged. I had the privilege to do university studies, to spend my free time contributing to an open source project, and to propose thesis subjects.)


The second half was made possible by all of the above and sheer luck.

When I was first looking for a job in early 2012, Acquia had a remote hiring freeze. It got lifted a few months later. Because I’d worked remotely with Dries before (at Mollom), I was given the opportunity to work fully remotely from day one. (This would turn out to be very valuable: since then I’ve moved three times!) Angie and Moshe thought I was a capable candidate, I think largely based on the Hierarchical Select module.
Imagine that the remote hiring freeze had not gotten lifted or I’d written a different module? I was lucky in past choices and timing.
So I joined Acquia and started working on Drupal core full-time! I was originally hired to work on the authoring experience, specifically in-place editing.
The team of four I joined in 2012 has quadrupled since then and has always been an amazing group of people — a reflection of the people in the Drupal community at large!

Getting Drupal 8 shipped was hard on everyone in the community, but definitely also on our team. We all did whatever was most important; I probably contributed to more than a dozen subsystems along the way. The Drupal 8 achievement I’m most proud of is probably the intersection of cacheability and the render pipeline: Dynamic Page Cache & BigPipe, both of which have accelerated many billions responses by now. After Drupal 8 shipped, my primary focus has been the API-First Initiative. It’s satisfying to see Drupal 8 do well.

Biggest lessons learned:

  1. code criticism is not personal criticism — not feeling the need to defend every piece of code you’ve written is not only liberating, it also makes you immensely more productive!
  2. always think about future maintainability — having to provide support and backwards compatibility made me truly understand the consequences of mistakes I’ve made.

To many more years with the Drupal community!